The Best Things to Do in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Colorado is just as stunning in the fall as it is in winter | © Roehr Photography LLC / Alamy
Deep in the Yampa Valley of the Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll find the alpine town of Steamboat Springs. This Colorado hotspot is just three hours from Denver and is home to a family-friendly ski resort and the geothermal Strawberry Park Hot Springs.
If you’re looking for powder skiing and dog sledding in winter, plus river tubing and hiking during the summer, then head to Steamboat Springs (or “the Boat” as locals call it). Signs as you approach on Highway 40 hint at its cowboy origins, selling stetsons and leather boots. However, on arrival, you’ll find an eclectic mix of ranchers and Denver weekenders, absorbing the town’s laid back vibe.
M264RX View of a Rocky Mountain ski slope; mountains and blue sky in the background | © LanaG / Alamy
Steamboat Springs has trademarked the term “champagne powder,” a term used to describe the exceptionally low water content in snow, which one early skier in the area said “tickled his nose like champagne”. You’ll appreciate the lightweight snow on one of the many deep powder days – it’ll let your legs last a little longer — though they’ll still deserve a soak at Strawberry Park Hot Springs at the end of the day. The area includes list-served downhill skiing, backcountry skiing, and a Nordic center for cross country skiing.
Colorado boasts remarkably good terrain for dog sledding, on trails that wind through the wilderness with views of the snow-draped Flat Top Mountains and headwaters of the Yampa River. Hire a guide, or decide to drive your own dog team. Local outfitters will train you in how to prepare for the outing, whether it’s a full day or just a few hours, and bundle in snacks, warm beverages, and even some time to cuddle with the dogs.
Practice your spins on the ice rink
This Olympic-sized ice rink hits the basics — figure skating lessons, hockey or stick and puck sessions, speed skating — and spices it up with Bumper Cars on Ice. Picture big rubber tubes with a seat in the middle, and handles on each side to control who you crash into next. A 15 to 20 minute ride is included with admission and skate rentals.
Play tennis or pickleball
With indoor and outdoor courts, a pro shop and ball machines, Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball can lure visitors in all year long. Demo a new racquet, join a new players clinic to learn the basics of pickleball or dial them in during fitness drill sessions. You can even hook the kids — or pass them off on someone else for a bit of a break — with a session of their own.
Soak in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs
PKHC4D Bathers soak in the warm water, Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs, Colorado. | © Dan Leeth / Alamy
The interconnected mineral hot spring pools at Strawberry Park are tucked in among the aspens and pines of the Yampa Valley – and you can now visit with Culture Trip by joining our specially curated eight-day Colorado and Utah trip, led by our Local Insider
. There’s a cold water creek right alongside, used to moderate the scalding temperature of the springs when they emerge from the ground. The design aims to capture that natural setting — expect rock walls, wooden railings, and dense foliage. Hikes near Steamboat Springs include a trail that connects to the hot springs, but parking is available on site, as are cabins and covered wagons for overnight stays.
Hike the Yampa River Core Trail
Hiking Trail, Forest
ACXPJ4 Yampa river core trail meandering beside the Yampa river in fall Steamboat Springs Colorado USA | © Chris Selby / Alamy
Cyclists zip by cottonwoods, anglers hike toward the riverbanks with fly rods in hand, and kids plunge into the water in inner tubes, ready to float downstream — the Yampa River Core Trail really is fit for anyone. The paved path connects one end of the town to the next, all alongside the Yampa River. Hikers can start near Walton Pond and walk seven miles along the tree-lined trail, with opportunities to pause along the way at parks and picnic tables.
Amusement Park, Sports Center
Clip in and leap onto the line in this six-segment zipline course, the longest line of which stretches for 1300ft (396m). It’s possible to reach up to 40mph (64kmh) while completing this course, but slow down a bit to take in the views of the Yampa Valley, and the Flat Top Mountain Range. Easy hiking trails allow some time for you to have your feet on the ground so you can recover between the adrenaline rushes, and certified guides will double check your knots are tied and carabiners are locked.
Kayak down the Yampa River
ACXNKE Kayakers in Yampa River Steamboat ski area Mt Werner Steamboat springs CO USA | © Christopher Alan Selby / Alamy
The Yampa River runs right through town, so time on the water often tops the list of things to do in Steamboat Springs. Kayakers find class II rapids in the four mile (6.4km) reach between a put-in near River Creek Park and a take-out by Walton Creek Road (with numerous options to cut that shorter with mid-town haul-outs). That “town run” passes through four distinct rapids, built by the town to create a boating park, which reach class II in difficulty. Local outfitters rent boats, lead tours, and offer introductory programs for those looking to test the waters.
Grab a coffee at the Off the Beaten Path bookshop
Off The Beaten Path Bookstore and Cafe | Courtesy of Off The Beaten Path Bookstore and Cafe / Expedia
Summer afternoons in the Rocky Mountains tend to bring at least a pulse of rainstorms. So, it is a good excuse — if there isn’t a fireside or a hammock calling your name — to stop by Off the Beaten Path and stock up on books to curl up with. The bookshop shelves a selection of books by local authors and on local interests, as well as more widely-known fiction titles. Fuel the search for your next page turner with an espresso or a pastry, also served onsite.
Gallop through grassland on horseback
Natural Feature, Sports Center
Ranch at Steamboat by Mountain Resorts | Courtesy of Ranch at Steamboat by Mountain Resorts / Expedia
Ranchland surrounds Steamboat Springs and hints of the town’s old west heritage still haunt downtown. Try the cowboy lifestyle on for size with one of the numerous ranches and outfitters. They lead horseback rides on scenic tours for an hour, or head out on an all-day expedition through wildflower strewn meadows and over forested hillsides. Some even sell tickets to cattle drives, where you’ll learn the basics of raising a herd of cattle and then help use horses to nudge them along to their next pasture.