A Summer Road Trip Through Southwest Colorado

wine While usually thought of as a winter destination, Colorado has a lot to offer the summer traveler. For the itinerary below, I’d suggest touring the U.S. state via car, allotting at least two weeks, although three or four would be better.

Denver

Although this is technically central Colorado, it’s an excellent starting point for your road trip, especially since you’ll most likely be flying into there. The city is full of great activities that can be enjoyed during the summer, like exploring the numerous museums, taking in a comedy show at Comedy Works, strolling down 16th Street Mall or around the trendy Larimer Square. My top suggestion for a great summer experience in Denver, is sampling some of the artisanal flavors of the city. Visit D’Vine Wine, a boutique winery offering inexpensive vino tastings of unusual blends, and The Truffle Cheese Shop, where you’ll be able to try free samples of rare cheeses and cured meats. For those interested in uniquely flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars, Marketplace EVOO features a giant tasting room, where the owner will help you put together and try the perfect blends. If you’re hungry, Biker Jim’s serves up exotic meat hot dogs, like elk, rattlesnake and pheasant, while the numerous local breweries can give you a taste of Denver’s famous beer scene.golden city brewery Golden

Located 30 minutes west of Denver, this tiny town may look unassuming, but there are actually a lot of worthwhile activities in the area. For some adventure and culture, tubing down Clear Creek is a popular local activity. Moreover, a trip to the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre offers picturesque hiking trails of moderate intensity, with opportunities to get close to the glowing red rocks. Additionally, Golden is the home of the Coor’s brewery, which gives tours Thursday through Monday. I would recommend, however, going to the 2nd largest brewery, and only other brewery, in town, The Golden City Brewery. It’s tiny, and housed in an old carriage house. They serve delicious wraps, and you can order a flight of their brews for about $6. At night, drive up Zion Mountain for an all-encompassing view of the city and surrounding areas lit up in the dark.

waterfall Breckenridge

About 90 minutes west of Golden you’ll find the charming mountain town of Breckenridge. This is one of my favorite cities – not only in Colorado, but also in the world. Summer travelers will love the endless amount of hiking trails available, to lakes, peaks, gorges and waterfalls. Furthermore, the town has an endless amount of boutique shops selling food, art, clothing, accessories, massages and gear. A stop at Breckenridge Distillery, the highest distillery in the world, is a must, as you can try free samples of their vodka, bourbon and bitters. I’d also suggest buying some elk and buffalo jerky from Climax Jerky, to sample some local flavor.

wine Grand Junction

Drive three hours west, and you’ll get to Grand Junction. Here you’ll find Colorado’s undiscovered wine region. Because of its very high altitude, rich soil, cool winds and mild climate, the area is able to make some of the world’s best wines. Furthermore, the altitude allows for fruits to grow close to the sun, bringing out their intense flavors. The area here produces 70 percent to 80 percent of the state’s wine grapes, as it has the longest growing season. This is in part due to the cooling effect from nearby canyons, and milding effect from the Grand Valley. Visit Carlson’s Vineyards, a winery featuring a wide selection of wines and quirky concoctions, and Colorado’s oldest winery, Colorado Cellars Winery.

Additionally, you can partake in some of the state’s most scenic hiking at Colorado National Monument. This red rock canyon is over 200 years old, and features towering monoliths, expansive plateaus and panoramic views. It’s 450 feet tall from its base to its top, and is 5,739 feet in elevation. Common wildlife includes bighorn sheep, eagles and collared lizards.

black canyon Crawford

About 45 minutes south, you’ll come to Crawford. This is a great city to really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, and experience the beauty of nature. Here you’ll find the country’s newest national park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison. There are moderate hiking trails, which allow you to view the famous Black Canyon, which some say is even more impressive than the Grand Canyon. Moreover, this is a great place to stay on a ranch and partake in activities like horseback riding, archery, fly-fishing, trekking and line dancing. When I went, I stayed at the Smith Fork Ranch. While a bit pricey, you’ll have all your meals and alcohol included, and the atmosphere will really help you assimilate into country culture.

canyoning Ouray

Drive an hour south, and you’ll get to the adventure-rich town of Ouray. It’s similar to Breckenridge in that it’s full of scenic hikes, boutique shops and outdoorsy locals; however, Ouray has a bit of a grittier exterior. The city was once an old mining town, which is apparent by looking at the historical buildings, many of which haven’t been changed since the late 1800s. There are many adventurous options for the summer traveler, like canyoning, off-roading, rock climbing and alpine hiking. I’d highly recommend canyoning with San Juan Mountain Guides, as you get to repel down an 80-foot waterfall into a deep, narrow slot canyon. Additionally, there are many unique food shops and boutiques in town. Stop in Mouse’s Chocolates & Coffee for their locally famous Scrap Cookie. After making their chocolates, they take the scraps and save them to add into their homemade cookie batter. Each cookie is a surprise, as you might get nuts, toffee, caramel, turtles or other sweet possibilities depending on what was left over. By the same token, they have unique chocolates like bacon clusters with chardonnay salt and “Dark Hippie Bark,” a mix of coconut, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. For a unique brewery experience, visit the Ourayle House, where you’ll be heckled by Hutch, the owner, who made the bar out of scrap wood in his garage.

If you’re flying back, you can make your way to the airport at Grand Junction, which is about an hour away.

Doing Shots At The World’s Highest Distillery

liquor While trying local spirits is always a fun way to get to know a city’s flavor, the Breckenridge Distillery in Colorado has something special to offer. Not only do they make small batch bourbon, vodka, whiskey, liqueurs and infusions, they’re also the highest distillery in the world.

Their hooch is made at 9,600 feet, using snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains. If you visit their distillery, which is located at 1925 Airport Road, you’ll be able to take a complimentary tour, and watch as the spirits are mashed, fermented and distilled. Additionally, a trip to their downtown tasting room, located at 137 S. Main Street, will allow you to browse their gift shop of mugs, shirts, glasses and flasks, as well as taste their products.

There are three options for the free tasting: Breckenridge Vodka, Breckenridge Bourbon and Breckenridge Bitters. The vodka is very flavorful, mashed with 100% Midwest sweet corn and filtrated with coconut shell charcoal. Moreover, the bourbon has a long finish, and is mashed with yellow corn, green rye and unmalted barley, and is fermented in 100% new American White Oak barrels. The tasty concoction you’ll sample will be at least 2-3 years old. Lastly, you can try the bitters, my personal favorite. Unlike most dash bitters, this version is meant to be sipped. Likewise, it has a neutral grain base featuring 13 herbs, spices and fruits, giving it a delicious tea flavor.

For more information, visit their website by clicking here.

Celebrate 50 years of skiing Breckenridge with great deals on lodging

Skiing Breckenridge is easy with good deals on lodgingBreckenridge is celebrating its 50th anniversary this winter, by offering a number of great deals on lift tickets and lodging alike. Now that winter has finally arrived in Colorado, bringing plenty of powder along with it, it is a perfect time to hit the slopes at last.

As we mentioned last week, ski resorts across the western United States have finally been receiving healthy doses of snow, and Breckenridge is no exception. So far this season, the area has had more than 150 inches of powder dumped on it, and currently Breckenridge has a base of about 51 inches. That means that all of the lifts, and nearly all of the runs, are currently open for business.

To entice visitors to come ski or ride some of the best snow in North America, several of the lodges there are currently running some great specials. For instance, the Village at Breckenridge, which is a ski-in/ski-out resort, is offering up to a 30% discount on double occupancy rooms through April 15. Similarly, the near by Mountain Thunder Lodge has a great weekday rate that allows travelers to book two nights and get a third one free, which also runs through the 15th of April. Even the Doubletree by Hilton is getting in on the action by offering bonus points for their HHonors members who stay there through the end of April. For a complete rundown of these deals, and others, click here.

The snow may have been late in coming this year, but there is still plenty of time left to enjoy the ski season. Breckenridge is truly one of the best destinations around for doing just that, and in its 50th year of operation, there are some good discounts to help skiers and snowboarders enjoy the mountain.

Breckenridge celebrates 50 years of skiing

Skiing at Breckenridge this winterOne of the top ski resorts in all of North America is preparing to kick-off a season-long celebration of a half-century of operation. Colorado’s Breckenridge Ski Resort will turn 50 this year, and the iconic destination has big plans to commemorate the occasion.

The hill will officially open November 11th (11/11/11) and to get skiers and snowboarders excited, they’ve already launched 50 Days of Giveaways on the Breckenridge Facebook page. The prizes they’re giving away are increasing in value each day, culminating with the final giveaway on the 11th. Thus far have handed out gear, food and drinks at the resort, tickets to events, and much more.

The resort will also soon launch its “50 Wishes” campaign, during which visitors to the mountain can submit a wish that they’d like to see fulfilled while they are there. The staff will comb through those requests, and select 50 of them to fulfill at random times throughout the season.

Early season skiers and snowboarders will also have the opportunity to enjoy great savings as well. If you book your stay at the Village at Breckenridge prior to opening day, you’ll receive 50% off the normal rate rate for a condo, which translates to $118 per night, with a minimum of a two nights stay. That’s an incredibly great deal for the chance to stay at one of the top ski resorts in the world. They’ll even throw in 2 free drinks and an appetizer at a local restaurant as well. For more details on this offer, click here.

Last year was a record breaking season for snow in Breckenridge, with the resort receiving an unbelievable 519 inches of accumulation. The long term forecasts for this year indicate that we should expect more of the same, which should make for outstanding skiing and snowboarding once again. With plenty of snow and plenty to celebrate, Breckenridge should be a fantastic destination all season long.

[Photo courtesy Breckenridge Ski Resort]

Photo of the day – Tiny airplane in a big blue sky

photo day tiny airplane blue sky
Today’s Photo of the Day depicts an incredibly small airplane in a vast blue sky. In addition to forcing a recognition of scale, it’s also a downright delightful and uncanny viewing pleasure to look at such a tiny speck of a plane in an enormous sea of blue. The plane in the image is so small that it almost resembles a radar tracking image. Photographer lucyinthesky withdiamonds snapped this image in Breckenridge, Colorado last week.

Been gazing at the sky lately? Got an image of said sky you’d like to share with the world? Upload it to Flickr’s Gadling group pool and it might just end up as a future Photo of the Day.