Denver Chef Troy Guard’s Favorite Places to Go Outdoors in Colorado 

Colorado's natural beauty makes it an excellent place to spend time outdoors
Colorado's natural beauty makes it an excellent place to spend time outdoors | © Radomir Rezny / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Alex Wexelman
Staff Writer26 August 2020

Colorado, known for the Rocky Mountains and its 300 days of annual sunshine, is a state where adventuring outdoors is a must. The natural landscape makes it the ideal location to hike, ski and snowboard. Denver chef Troy Guard was born in Hawaii and grew up on the West Coast, and while he still misses the ocean, he’s come to appreciate the unique offerings of the state he’s called home for the past 20 years. He’s kept busy with the 13 restaurants in the TAG group he owns and operates, but when he has some down time, these are the places he likes to explore.

Skiing

“I love Denver. I don’t ski as much as I used to with the kids, but getting up to Vail, getting up to Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Copper are some of my favorite mountains to ski,” the Denver chef says.

Vail

Resort
Map View
© Art Directors & TRIP / Alamy Stock Photo
Vail is a world-renowned winter destination, as it is home to the Vail Ski Resort. Founded in 1962, it features over 5,200 skiable acres (2,100ha) on one of the best ski mountains in the world and the largest in Colorado. The Bavarian-style village doubles in population during peak season, but the mountain’s three sections, the Front-Side, Blue Sky Basin and the Back Bowls, feature 193 trails (18% beginner, 29% intermediate, 53% advanced/expert), so there’s plenty of room for everyone.

Beaver Creek

Ski Resort
Map View

Once considered for the alpine downhill race, the centerpiece of the Winter Olympics (lack of state funding squashed the 1976 bid), Beaver Creek is home to the Beaver Creek Resort, which opened in 1980 and today has 1,815 acres (735ha) of skiable terrain across 150 trails. The village is also home to a spa and features a skating rink in its center.

Breckenridge

Ski Resort
Map View
© colinspics / Alamy Stock Photo

Another flagship destination owned by Vail Resorts, Breckenridge Ski Resort, located in Summit County, first opened in 1961. Today, it is one of the most visited ski resorts in the Western Hemisphere. Composed of five peaks on the southern part of the Tenmile mountain range, the skiable terrain takes up 2,908 acres (1,177ha). Peak 9 is a wide-open trail for beginners, while Peak 10 is best left to the experts. In addition to having the highest lift-served terrain in North America, Breckenridge Ski Resort is also home to 11 restaurants, a historic main street with retail shops and a rejuvenation spa that hosts yoga classes.

Copper Mountain

Ski Resort
Map View

About 75 miles (120km) outside of Denver, the mountain and ski resort Copper Mountain, operated by the Powdr Corporation, opened in 1972. In the last decade, Powdr has reduced its carbon footprint by nearly 50% and continues to stress the importance of environmental factors that make the mountain viable as a skiing destination. Copper Mountain, a resort that encompasses 2,465 acres (998ha), is composed of three villages: East Village, the Village at Copper and West Village. Copper is the official training site for Colorado-based Special Olympic athletes and hosts the more than 225 athletes in the alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and other games that make up the annual competition. The trails are known as being designated by the National Forest Service as the most organized skier layout of any ski resort.

Hiking, biking and other outdoor activities

“Also, I like to go up to Boulder,” Troy continues. “There’s a couple trails up there for great hikes. Also there’s a bike path right through the city right here. When my friends come in town, we rent those little bikes on the side streets and hop on those and go up and down the river. It’s a great sightseeing activity to do. There’s a skate park down there, and one time my friend went in with his bike and it was crazy and fun. I love the outdoors here.”

“And then Red Rocks is a beautiful amphitheatre to see concerts, and I love music,” Troy, who had aspirations to be a musician, says. “Near Red Rocks, there’s a ton of trails out there. You just park your car and go for a hike – make sure you have sunscreen, because the sun’s intense here.”

Biking in Boulder

Natural Feature
Map View

Named the number one city in the US for biking by People for Bikes, a charitable foundation invested in making bicycling more safe, Boulder is home to more than 300 miles (483km) of bikeway. That includes 96 miles (156km) of bike lanes, 84 miles (135km) of multi-use paths and 50 miles (80km) of designated bike routes. One such trail is the Sheep Draw Trail, which takes you along the idyllic Sheep Draw Creek, a 10-foot-wide (3m-wide) paved trail that runs for more than four miles (6km). The skate park at Scott Carpenter Park is open from dusk until dawn and features rails, curbs and bowls. Local skaters consulted on the design of this 16,000-square-foot (1,484sq. m.) skate-at-your-own-risk facility.

Red Rocks Trail at Red Rocks Park

Park, Natural Feature
Map View

The Red Rocks Trail is of moderate difficulty and is a six-mile (10km) trek round-trip. “It’s dry; bring lots of water. And just understand that when you’re hiking, you’re at altitude. Even walking up two or three steps, I can get winded,” Troy says. Trails are located approximately 6,280 feet (1,914m) above sea level, so anyone with a pre-existing health condition should take this fact into consideration. The landscape is stunning and covers rock formations, valleys and a natural meadow. “The trails are gorgeous and beautiful. The people are super nice on the trails as well,” Troy adds. The chef mentions 14ers as a popular choice among climbers. Conquering a 14er requires climbing a 14,000-foot (4,267m) peak mountain, and the 14er site includes a list of more than 50 from which to choose. Mount Elbert, at 14,400 feet (4,390), is the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains and highest point in the state. “I’ve actually been here 20 years, and I haven’t done one, so darn it I need to do one at least. [Hikers] go up there and put their sign that says, ‘Hey, here we are on mount whatever.’ It is kinda like they do on Mount Everest, but I think that’s pretty cool,” Troy says.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Park
Map View
“It’s this great amphitheatre carved out of these giant boulders and rocks, and so the acoustics there are just gorgeous and beautiful, and when the sun goes down, especially when the moon comes up, it’s spectacular,” Troy enthuses about the legendary concert venue. Red Rocks, an open-air amphitheatre opened in 1941, seats close to 10,000 fans who have cheered on acts from Carole King to Jethro Tull, U2 to Fleetwood Mac. If they’re a legendary act (Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Sonny & Cher), they’ve played the stadium. “All the best bands in the world have played there,” Troy says. “The Beatles played there [in 1964], so you know it’s gotta be special. We try to get up there at least a few times a summer when all those great acts come through.”

Garden of the Gods

Park
Map View
You can go down to Colorado Springs to see the Garden of the Gods. It’s amazing,” Troy says. The Garden of the Gods, a 1,300-acre (526ha) sandstone formation, is a public park that was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971. Activities in which one can partake include front-range climbing, jeep and Segway tours, biking with electric bikes available to rent and, of course, hiking on a 1.5-mile (2.4km) round-trip loop. The park is noted for its ecological and animal wonders, including more than 130 species of birds and fascinating rock formations.
These recommendations were updated on August 26, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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