Written by Annie Lindgren for North Forty News

Many of us live in Colorado because we love the mountains and the great outdoors. No matter your hobby, Colorado has a space for it. There are adventure opportunities in all seasons, even during the fire season.

What do we do when all our favorite local outdoor spaces are on fire or closed due to fire danger? How do we enjoy outside time when the air quality is too poor to go outside? Where do we travel when our canyon roads are closed?

There is an endless supply of treasures throughout this beautiful state. A four to six-hour drive can get you just about anywhere in Colorado, though there is much to find within a two-hour drive. Look at maps, apps, or websites, find towns and outdoor recreation spaces you have never visited before, and go exploring. 

There are hiking, cycling, mountain biking, and snowshoeing trails all around the state. Check and make sure there aren’t fires or forest closures where you go, but take the front range closures as an opportunity to branch out and find new spaces. Look for trails towards the east in the plains area. A visit to open spaces near Castle Rock, Monument, or Palmer Lake will remind you of Fort Collins’s foothills. A walk or bicycle ride along the Poudre River trail near Greeley is pretty even in snow. Country roads are peaceful places to explore. 

North of Wellington, you will find Red Mountain Open Space and Soapstone Prairie, both filled with trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Dogs are not allowed due to the buffalo herds that live there. These spaces are closed from December through February, but fall and spring are great times to visit. Stop at a brewery or restaurant in Wellington on your way home.

Don’t forget about Wyoming. Medicine Bow is on fire, but check out other spaces between Laramie and Cheyenne. Vedauwoo Recreation Area, Happy Jack Recreation Area, and Curt Gowdy State Park are all great options within a few hour’s drive. Head further north into Wyoming’s rocky mountains, and you will find a scene just like northern Colorado’s, minus all the fires. Do check the weather of where you plan to go, as Wyoming tends to be… windier.

From Colorado’s mountains to its plains, you will find historic downtowns with fascinating stories to tell. There are old mines and ghost towns to visit, recreation areas to explore, and scenic drives to take. You are likely to find fun for all ages and businesses that would benefit from some local shopping. Get information about the area at visitor centers or on the town’s website. 

Victor Colorado is this author’s favorite, with a well preserved historic downtown and many trails nearby where you can visit mines and relics that allowed Victor to boom in the late 1800s. Visit Cripple Creek while in the area or take the drive south through scenic Phantom Canyon. Central City, Georgetown, Manitou Springs, Woodland Park, and Breckenridge are also fun to visit. 

A weekend trip to the San Juan Mountains near Ouray, Silverton, and Lake City will reveal an endless supply of 4wheel drive roads, mining history, trails, mountain landscapes, and ghost towns to explore. The Maroon Bells area is another favorite and a little closer to home, connecting Aspen, Marble, and Crested Butte. There is much between, like Glenwood Springs and Gunnison, worthy of a weekend trip.  

Visited any of Colorado’s Hotsprings? They are sure to warm you up on a cold-weather day. Website www.colorado.com has a list of twenty-eight hot springs around the state. It also has a list of Colorado’s scenic and historic byways and information on places to visit along the way.

The Great Sand Dunes near Alamosa is open all year round; don’t forget to bring a sled for sledding down the dunes. Take a trip to Denver to check out the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Zoo, the Museum of Nature & Science, or the Denver Art Museum. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is enjoyable even without a live show. Visit the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keensburg to see lions, tigers, and bears. Explore rock formations at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, and see bones at Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison. 

Keep an eye out for events happening near and far, as they are great excuses to get out, experience something new, and contribute to an organization that is no doubt struggling to make ends meet during these times.

In all of the above, make sure you are taking precautions to keep yourself and others safe from COVID-19. Wear your mask, stay distanced, and wash or sanitize your hands. Always check where you plan to go to confirm places are open and that you don’t need to make a reservation. 

As winter sets in, much-needed moisture will blanket our mountain spaces, quieting the conditions that have allowed these fires to burn for so long. Things will open up again. In the meantime, find new places to explore. Outside time and exercise are vital to our mental and physical health.  

Photo by Annie Lindgren of Lake San Cristobal in Lake City, CO

This author has been getting out every weekend, summiting mountains, camping, exploring ghost towns along 4wheel drive roads, visiting hot springs, and hiking to alpine lakes. On a quest to find fresh mountain air, adventure, and cross more mountains off the bucket list. To follow her adventures, find her on Facebook or Instagram @SunshineInkLLC or visit her website SunshineInkLLC.com.

Originally Published October 27, 2020 in North Forty News: https://northfortynews.com/category/new-scene/outdoors/getting-out-tips-for-finding-smoke-and-fire-free-adventure-spaces/