Imagine hopping onto a mountain bike beneath the aspens at the top of Grand Mesa, near Grand Junction in Western Colorado, then dropping 6,000 feet as you ride 32 miles of single-track trail toward the Colorado River.
The Palisade Plunge isn’t for beginners, but the route, which opened in May, offers spectacular scenery and plenty of screaming downhill action. And when you finish, you can toast your accomplishment at one of Palisade’s wineries or distilleries.
But the new trail is just one draw for Texans cooking up a trip to Colorado’s cooler climes this time of year. All over the state, destinations are opening their doors and ushering back tourists.
Here are our picks for the best new reasons to go now:
Check out the new Summit Visitor Center at Pikes Peak, which has been in the works for the past three years. The fully accessible building stands atop the 14,115-foot peak and features exhibits that highlight the area’s history, geography and climate. Donut lovers, take note –– you’ll still be able to buy the same fresh-made rings of fried dough that have kept tourists coming back for generations. The historic Pikes Peak Cog Railway reopens this year too, after a multi-year hiatus for repairs.
Looking for an adrenaline rush? Arapahoe Basin’s new via ferrata –– a recreational climbing route featuring metal rungs built into a cliff wall –– is the highest such route in North America. Bring your nerves of steel.
Outdoorsy types will appreciate the starry nights at Mesa Verde National Park, recently named the 100th Dark Sky Park in the country.
History buffs should note that this year the state will commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of the historic Santa Fe Trail, once traversed by the likes of “Wild” Bill Hickok, Kit Carson and Zebulon Pike. Visitors can get a glimpse of what life was like as a trader in the 1840s along the trail at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, or see wagon wheel ruts cut into the stone on sections of the route that cross Comanche National Grassland in Springfield.
Looking for a funky new place to bed down at night? Gravity Haus has opened a location in Vail and plans to open another in Winter Park. CampV, a reimagined historic mining camp, now rents restored cabins, glamping tents and curated Airstream trailers in Naturita. And the Eddy Taproom & Hotel swings open its doors in Golden.
If beer and spirits are your thing, buy a Colorado Liquid Arts Passport, which gets you discounted tastings and special offers.
Closer to Denver, Red Rocks Amphitheater where you can watch a concert in a stadium sculpted by Mother Nature, celebrates its 80th anniversary this summer, and the events schedule features everyone from the Avett Brothers to Jason Isbell, the Black Crowes and Nathaniel Rateliff.
For more ideas and fun itineraries, head to colorado.com.