Western Slope/Rocky Mountains Gay Resource Directory
Western Slope / Rocky Mountains
Aspen is known for being the Rocky Mountain playground of the rich and famous, but this authentic mountain town goes far beyond glitz and glam.
The town is consistently rated one of the world’s top ski areas by ski and travel publications, and ski-in, ski-out lodges are the norm. Experts slide around on Aspen Mountain, locals gravitate towards Aspen Highlands, beginners and freestyle park denizens end up at Buttermilk, and families love Snowmass.
Despite its winter reputation, the town is a year-round destination. Spring brings about abundant wildflowers in the alpine meadows, the Maroon Bells (one of the state’s most iconic mountain views) offer excellent hiking with breathtaking views in the summer, and dense, golden aspen groves are a sight to behold in autumn.
The area also beckons mountain bikers, kayakers and rafters, and rock climbers to explore its wonders throughout the warmer months.
The town also draws travelers to its urban cultural scene, which belies small-town charm. Art aficionados rub shoulders with wine connoisseurs and concert-goers, culinary epicures and fashion mavens vie for reservations at hot-spot restaurants, and people flock from around the world to high-profile events like the FOOD & WINE Classic and the Winter X Games. And for anyone wanting to lay their head in Aspen, accommodations run from posh to economical, ensuring everyone feels welcome.
Beaver Creek boasts the ambiance of a modern resort coupled with the unhurried feel of an alpine village, where visitors the world over enter the gates and leave everyday life behind all year long. World-class skiing and resort amenities, golf and drop-dead gorgeous Rocky Mountain views make this town in the Vail Valley the ideal place for a serene getaway.
Every December, athletes and spectators alike migrate to Beaver Creek Resort for the Birds of Prey Men’s World Cup, one of the world’s premier ski events. But that is only a slice of what the area has to offer. With three distinct mountain areas that range from gentle, manicured slopes to open intermediate trails to the steep bumps, 1,815 total acres of terrain cater to skiers and riders of all abilities.
The village itself offers up plenty of off-mountain activity with a great collection of shops, restaurants and spas, and at the center of it all, an outdoor ice rink. Take in a show at the beautiful Vilar Performing Arts Center, which features a wide variety of performance acts throughout the year. An abundance of kid-friendly activities earned it the honor of No.1 in family programming by SKI Magazine readers.
The activity doesn’t stop when the snow melts. During the green summer months, guests can explore the beauty of the natural environment and native wildlife on foot or bike via expansive trail systems, take in spectacular views on a scenic chairlift ride or Top of the Mountain Tour, enjoy summer concerts and festivals, or tee off at three championship golf courses.
Breckenridge’s quaint main street could be a painting of the mountain resort of your dreams. The oldest and largest town in Colorado’s famous Summit County started out, like many, as a mining town, and locals aren’t about to forget it — the 250-plus buildings on the National Historic Register attest to that.
Things to See & Do
Take one of the 12-block downtown walking tours or check out the 1875 Edwin Carter Museum, thought to be the oldest museum in the state. Also take time to stop by the church built by “Father” Dyer, an itinerant Methodist minister who visited town frequently, often using snowshoes to get around.
Four mountain peaks make up the resort, providing 2,358 acres of amazing skiing and enough variety to suit even the most seasoned skier. Nordic centers cater to cross-country skiers and snowshoers, as well. In summer, you can ride the ski lift up to hiking trails with unparalleled views. For outdoor pleasure there’s also cycling and golf. There are even jeep tours that take you to area ghost towns. Summit County sports a challenging paved bike trail system, connecting Breck with other nearby towns.
Diners will find a mix of cuisine, from seafood to Mexican and Italian to continental, as well as a range of places to stop in for a quick bite or sit and savor several courses. Lodgings range from romantic bed-and-breakfast inns to luxe ski resort hotels. There are also many budget-friendly options available for families.
Festivals punctuate the annual calendar, from the Ullr Fest (celebrating the Nordic god of snow) and the Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships in winter, to the annual summer music festival in the newly renovated Riverwalk Center.
Whether you go for the masses of wildflowers in summer or the snow sports of winter, be sure to walk down the quaint Main Street, do some window shopping and admire the well-preserved architecture.
Durango was founded in 1880 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, when they extended their line from the town to Silverton in order to haul precious metals from high-country mines. Today, when the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad blows its whistle, tourists climb aboard for a 45-mile trip through the still-wild San Juan Mountains to Silverton, where they can lunch and shop before re-boarding for the trip home.
If it can be done outdoors, it can be done here. This is a huge mountain biking community, and the Iron Horse Classic race draws cyclists from all over the country each Memorial Day weekend to race the steam train. Animas River Days celebrates top-notch whitewater rafting on the nearby rivers. If you like fishing, bring your pole! Backpacking and camping are prime activities in the San Juan National Forest and the Weminuche Wilderness Area. Not far away is Vallecito Lake reservoir where you can rent a cabin, fish, hike and spend lazy days on a high-mountain lake.
Every autumn, people head to the town for a lavish display of fall colors, to partake in foliage-related activities and celebrate the Western culture and traditions of the area. They also play golf on one of several local courses in summer and ski at the nearby Durango Mountain Resort in winter. Then soak those weary bones at Trimble Spa & Natural Hot Springs, where you’ll watch the moonrise over the cliffs while relaxing in the steamy waters. The town also can be a starting or ending point on one of the state’s most dramatic drives, the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.
Lodging ranges from traditional hotels and comfortable cabins to unique bed and breakfasts and memorable guest ranches. And the city boasts more restaurants per capita than San Francisco. You will find something to satisfy every taste bud. A trip wouldn’t be complete without a pint from one of several microbreweries and brewpubs.
The largest city on Colorado’s Western Slope and the heart of Colorado wine country, Grand Junction sprawls across the Grand Valley, perfectly situated for exploring the wonders of northwestern Colorado — and wonders certainly abound.
To the east is the Grand Mesa with lakes, forests and terrific fall-color displays. To the west is the Colorado National Monument, a little Grand Canyon of red rock formations, steep drop-offs and high vantage points, including the 23-mile Rimrock Drive. To the south is the lush Western Slope agricultural oasis, fostering everything from wine grapes to peaches that feed more than 20 Grand Valley wineries and local farmers’ markets, respectively. To the north are the Little Book Cliffs, sheer rippled walls of stone that descend from the mesa top to the valley floor. If you are fortunate, you can hike up the Book Cliffs and see a band of wild horses that roam freely.
The great Colorado River flows from the Rocky Mountains down through the city and into Utah. Here, you can take mild to wild river raft rides, with several areas on the river offering class-IV rapids. Nearby Rattlesnake Canyon is worth a trip to see spectacular red-sandstone arches.
Charming and booming with local businesses, the streets of downtown are filled with art galleries, clothing boutiques, antique shops and a variety of restaurants — many with delightful sidewalk dining. Main Street also features one of the nation’s largest outdoor sculpture collections, with more than 100 pieces of art lining the sidewalks.
Because the city often has milder weather than the rest of Colorado, several fine local golf courses boast that you can play here all winter.
The mild winters played a large role in persuading those who would become the first permanent settlers to stay here in the 1880s. To learn about the city’s beginnings, visit the Museum of Western Colorado, which includes a dinosaur museum (there have been several major digs locally).
Annual celebrations include the downtown farmers’ market, held every Thursday evening during the summer, and Colorado Mountain Winefest, the state’s largest wine festival, which takes place the third weekend of September.
Some call the mountain town of Ouray the Switzerland of America, as it’s situated in a river valley at nearly 8,000 feet, surrounded by the snow-capped San Juan Mountains. You almost expect to hear yodeling echo from these high hills.
Established in the late 1870s during gold and silver strikes, Ouray survived those boom-and-bust days because it’s such a wonderful place to relax. Natural hot springs feed the town pool, where both locals and visitors come to soak in the therapeutic waters. It’s said that Chief Ouray, the Ute Indian after whom the town is named, visited the pool often and held ceremonies in the local vapor cave.
Several waterfalls make for spectacular photos, and a popular activity for visitors is to take a short hike up to Box Canyon Falls, where the water cascades 285 feet from top to basin. The town’s canyons, in fact, provide the location for one of the most popular winter events: ice climbing. Each January, Ouray proudly hosts the Ouray Ice Festival at their avalanche-free Ice Park, which features the easy access climbers relish.
Surrounded by deciduous trees such as quaking aspen and scrub oaks, the town also becomes a spectacularly colored canvas each autumn, drawing visitors who want a closer look at the brilliant foliage.
A tour of the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine offers a look at what it was like to be a miner, as do displays at the local museum. One may also enjoy a historic tour either by carriage or walking with a ghostly tour guide.
Historic buildings, a wide range of affordable and comfortable lodgings (some with their own hot spring pools), unique artisan shops and galleries, and delicious, diverse restaurants keep visitors coming back.
In the last few years, an extraordinary $1 billion has been invested in new developments, renovations and on-mountain improvements in Snowmass, including five new restaurants, luxury resort lodging, the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center and the Elk Camp gondola, which takes you to an altitude of 11,325 feet where the views stretch on for miles.
Snowmass ski resort itself is a good intermediate mountain with long runs and plenty of options for families. A well-maintained, admission-free Nordic trail between Snowmass Village and Aspen offers 80km of winter trails. One interesting wintertime activity is a day with sled dogs from nearby kennels.
Golf is available at the Snowmass Club. Nearby, the Fryingpan River is a must-visit for anxious anglers. Climbing, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding — you name it — it’s all available in this full-service community and the surrounding wilderness. Each June, the town hosts the Snowmass Balloon Festival, during which about 50 participants race while spectators enjoy a champagne breakfast and classical music at the launch area. The Anderson Ranch Arts Center exhibits local artists’ works year-round and offers a diverse menu of workshops each summer.
In 2010, Snowmass made headlines when the bones of a juvenile Colombian mammoth from the Ice Age were discovered beneath a town construction site. When scientists and experts from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science arrived to excavate the site, they discovered even more ancient creatures, including other mammoths, mastadons, well-preserved plant matter and other elements of the Ice Age ecosystem.
Ooh! That’s what most people say when they enter this town wedged in a picturesque glacial canyon at the base of the dramatic San Juan Mountains. Once a remote mining area, today Telluride has become a destination (and home) for artists, skiers, celebrities, second homeowners, hippies and just about any other type you could imagine. But that’s what makes it so special.
A restored Victorian main street is delightful for shopping, snacking and people-watching; you can sign up for a walking tour or guide yourself with a map available from the visitor’s center. The Telluride Historical Museum is also a good resource for a quick town history lesson — from mining to ski-boom trivia.
Almost any outdoor adventure is at your fingertips here, although because of the rugged and steep terrain, many opt for popular four-wheel rides rather than mountain bike spins. One hair-raising route is Imogene Pass to Ouray where you’ll pass the old Tomboy mine and fort at 13,114 feet in elevation. A hike every visitor should consider is straight out of town to 365-foot Bridal Veil Falls (Colorado’s longest free-falling waterfall). Stream fishing is great along the Dolores or San Miguel rivers. Of course, world-class skiing is available up the road or via a free pedestrian gondola to the town of Mountain Village and Telluride Ski & Golf Resort. The free gondola runs in the summer and fall for easy access up the mountain and to Mountain Village.
Telluride has been coined the City of Festivals, the title pretty much guarantees that you’re likely to stumble on some happening any summer weekend. This mountain community’s most famous fest is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, which draws national acts to the outdoor amphitheater each June.
The town lies about 25 miles from Camp Hale, which spawned the famous 10th Mountain Division of mountain-trained soldiers during World War II. The Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame honors the memory of those soldiers, who played a pivotal role in the war.
Luxurious condos, first-class ski resorts and cozy lodges surround a village sporting dozens of restaurants that indulge visitors.
The town is home to a number of big annual events, including a food and wine festival, the World Alpine Ski Championships, a huge July 4th extravaganza, nationally renowned summer music and dance festivals and a locally loved rubber ducky race.
Former president Gerald R. Ford made his home here much of the time. His philanthropy created the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, a must-see. Also check out the Nature Center for an all-natural attraction.
At Vail Pass, visitors can find a handful of scenic and easily accessed lakes in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. The hike up Mount of the Holy Cross is no easy task, but one of the most popular in the area.
As big as skiing is in the winter, it is replaced by top-notch hiking, cycling and golf in the summer.