A 12-Day Colorado Summer Itinerary

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Southern Colorado contains some of the most inspiring landscapes in North America, with the San Juan Range alone having 13 peaks that are more than 14,000 feet high. This itinerary will take you from the wild country around Dolores, in the extreme southwest of the state, to the glamorous resort town of Telluride, enclosed in its dramatic box canyon. From there, you will head to Crested Butte, an atmospheric fragment of the Old West, before embarking on a 200-mile drive across the Rockies to a wilderness lodge on Cheyenne Mountain, high above Colorado Springs. For those who have only visited Colorado in ski season, a summer trip will come as a revelation. During the day, you will hike and ride to high alpine pastures and wade through tumbling trout streams, while in the evening you will sit with a glass of wine next to a smoldering log fire, covered by an astounding dome of stars.

Read our editor’s full trip report to Colorado.

Highlights:

  • Take in the stunning scenery of the Rocky Mountains
  • Soak in the rustic luxury of historic log cabins
  • Sip cocktails in former saloons and enjoy fine Western cuisine
  • Relax in natural hot springs in a 19th-century bathhouse
  • Spend a full day fly-fishing for trout
  • Go on a high-elevation trail ride or guided hike
  • Explore the historic district of Telluride
  • Take a 4x4 off-road trip over the 13,114-foot Imogene Pass
  • Mountain bike and go whitewater rafting in Crested Butte

Day 1: Dolores


Fly to Durango and pick up your rental car. Drive for two hours (80 miles) through the stunning mountain scenery of southwestern Colorado to Dunton Hot Springs.

This idiosyncratic resort was created from an old mining town and is situated in a pristine valley. The current owners bought Dunton in 1994 and set about renovating the entire town, which took seven years. Each of the 12 original hand-hewn wood cabins is individually decorated. For example, Vertical Log features a spectacular Native American robe hanging on a wall, while Well House comes with a woodburning stove and is augmented by a private indoor plunge pool fed by spring water.

On arrival, check into your cabin, relax and admire the view. Alternatively, head over to the property’s natural hot springs to soak away the fatigue after a day of travel. The calcium bicarbonate springs range in temperature from 85 to 106 degrees and can be enjoyed inside a 19th-century bathhouse or in outdoor pools.

Have dinner in the Saloon, which nowadays features an open kitchen. Guests can eat at a communal table in traditional Western style or separately. Menus feature local and regional ingredients, many of which come from the resort’s own farm.

Day 2: Dolores

Bathhouse, Dunton Hot Springs, Dolores
Bathhouse, Dunton Hot Springs, Dolores - Dunton Hot Springs


At Dunton, as you might expect, there is a huge variety of outdoor activities. For example, you may wish to spend a full day fly-fishing — with a picnic lunch — on a private 9-mile stretch of the West Fork of the Dolores River. The Dolores holds a good population of trout in the 12- to 16-inch range, with some over 20 inches. Not only is the fishing good, but the scenic backdrop is inspiring.

In the evening, back at the resort, pay a visit to the spa, which specializes in natural treatments using essential oils. Services include hot stone massages and body scrubs.

Day 3: Dolores

Yoga deck, Dunton Hot Springs, Dolores
Yoga deck, Dunton Hot Springs, Dolores - Jack Richmond

Some guests may wish to begin the day with a yoga session. Private instruction is available, or you can join a class of up to six people.

Today, venture on either a guided hike or a trail ride up to a high elevation. For example, the Sampson Gulch Trail is a three-hour ride along the historic paths of sheepherders and cattlemen; it ascends 1,500 vertical feet to a high mountain meadow with a stunning view of the 13,290-foot Dolores Peak. On the way down, the trail meanders through Aspen forests. Alternatively, go on a three-hour desert ride that culminates in a lunch and wine tasting at Sutcliffe Vineyards.

Day 4: Telluride


It is a drive of a little more than two hours from Dunton to the town of Telluride. The road passes close to the prominent 14,250-foot peak of Mount Wilson, which dominates the Lizard Head Wilderness of San Juan National Forest.

Telluride is one of the country’s leading ski resorts, but it is also a vibrant place in the summertime, both the old mining town itself, enveloped in a dramatic box canyon, and the Mountain Village, 1,000 feet above.

Located at more than 9,500 feet, the Madeline Hotel & Residences has recently been remodeled and is now part of the Auberge Resorts Collection. Many of the 83 rooms and suites have spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. (There are also 71 one- to four-bedroom condominiums.)

After registration in the exceptionally stylish lobby, head to your well-appointed One Bedroom Suite.

In the evening, go for dinner in the new Timber Room, which features a dramatic cocktail bar, a huge fireplace and an outdoor terrace. The menu offers a selection of small plates such as elk tartare, halibut carpaccio and buttermilk-fried rabbit. Those whose appetites remain unassuaged by such delicacies can migrate to the “Feast” section of the menu, which includes more-challenging items such as a 32-ounce dry-aged bison tomahawk and a 32-ounce wagyu bone-in rib-eye.

Day 5: Telluride

King Balcony Room, Madeline Hotel & Residences
King Balcony Room, Madeline Hotel & Residences - Auberge Resorts Collection

This morning, explore the shops and cafés of the Mountain Village, and ride the free gondola network to scenic viewpoints. Later, visit the hotel’s spa, or just relax on the pool deck and enjoy the mountain panorama.

In the late afternoon, take a 15-minute gondola ride down to the town of Telluride, a National Historic Landmark District. Founded in 1878 as Columbia, the town was renamed Telluride in 1887 for the gold tellurium compounds that had been discovered elsewhere in Colorado. The historic district contains numerous large Victorian buildings, including the New Sheridan Hotel and Sheridan Opera House, as well as side streets lined with clapboard houses. After a cocktail at the Historic Bar of the New Sheridan Hotel, which has remained unchanged since 1895, head to Rustico Ristorante, a classic, long-established Italian restaurant with excellent food and a spacious patio.

Day 6: Telluride

Fly-fishing in Telluride
Fly-fishing in Telluride - Auberge Resorts Collection

Today, spend a full eight hours in the great outdoors. You may wish to go on a private guided trout-fishing trip (with gourmet picnic) on the South Fork San Miguel River, or visit the dramatic Bridal Veil Falls at the head of the Telluride box canyon, followed by a mountain hike. Alternatively, you could take a 4x4 off-road trip over the 13,114-foot Imogene Pass.

Having worked up an appetite in the fresh air, dine at Black Iron Kitchen, back at the resort. The restaurant serves well-prepared dishes such as Rocky Mountain elk chili and rack of lamb with wild herb mustard, which are both delicious and sustaining.

Day 7: Crested Butte


From Telluride, it is a three-hour, 157-mile drive northeast to Crested Butte. Another restored silver-mining town, “CB,” as it is known locally, is set in White River National Forest at over 10,000 feet above sea level and has only about 1,500 year-round residents. The main street, Elk Avenue, is lined with modest structures built in a style often described as “Old West Victorian.” Most have façades that make the place feel like a movie set.

Located in the center of downtown, Scarp Ridge Lodge has five stylish guest rooms, which feature exposed wood beams, jute rugs and baths with steam showers and cast-iron soaking tubs. (There is also a bunkroom with a connecting bedroom that can accommodate up to seven children in two- and three-story bunk beds.) All lodgings have in-room oxygen systems that help mitigate the effects of the high altitude.

Though the property lacks a restaurant, it does encompass an indoor saltwater pool, a gym and a rooftop hot tub. The lodge also owns two on-mountain cabins with dining areas and fireplaces.

Having unpacked, sip a cocktail in the bar, a former saloon, with its zinc-topped counter, beamed ceiling, thick rugs and comfy sofas. The walls are hung with black-and-white photographs of the local area and enormous elk and moose heads. Afterward, try one of the local restaurants. There are several excellent places to eat within walking distance. For example, Elk Ave. Prime is a fine steakhouse, with wood beams, fireplaces and walls adorned, appropriately, with racks of elk antlers. The menu offers wagyu rib-eyes as well as USDA prime fillets and strip steaks.

Day 8: Crested Butte

Fly-fishing near Crested Butte
Fly-fishing near Crested Butte - Eleven Experience


The mountains around Crested Butte have some of best mountain bike trails and whitewater rafting in North America. There are activities for all abilities and levels of fitness. Guided trout fishing on the Taylor River, as well as the famous Gunnison River, is available.

In the evening, try another local restaurant: If you are in the mood for a casual dinner, then Sherpa Café offers tasty Nepali, Tibetan and Indian dishes, such as spicy curries and stews served with warm naan and chapatis. The setting evokes the Himalayas, with Buddhist prayer flags hanging on the walls.

Day 9: Crested Butte

Hiking in Crested Butte
Hiking in Crested Butte - Eleven Experience

Today, you may wish to take a guided hike to a high elevation. If you are fit and sufficiently adventurous, more demanding sports, such as rock climbing in Taylor Canyon, are an option.

Day 10: Colorado Springs


From Crested Butte, it is a spectacular four-hour, 180-mile drive across the Rockies to Colorado Springs. For most of the way, Route 50 is a two-lane highway, with four-lane stretches on some of the steeper gradients. The highway crosses a succession of high passes, culminating at the 11,312-foot Monarch Pass on the Continental Divide.

Five miles southwest of downtown Colorado Springs, The Broadmoor is a famous 784-room resort that opened in 1918, having been the brainchild of mining magnate Spencer Penrose. Nowadays, it operates three satellite camps, or “Wilderness Experiences.”

One of them, The Ranch at Emerald Valley, a hideaway set at 8,200 feet on Cheyenne Mountain, is accessible by a dedicated shuttle service along a steep and circuitous dirt road. The property comprises a 100-year-old main lodge and a cluster of 10 log cabins, dating from the 1920s and ’30s. (It is important to reserve one of the larger accommodations, such as Copper Cabin, Lakeside Cabin or Hill Cabin.) The interiors are traditional and masculine in style, with leather sofas and armchairs, wooden floors covered with kilims, massive river-rock fireplaces and well-appointed baths with walk-in showers faced with large stone tiles.

The ranch is arranged along one side of an artificial pond, fed by a stream, which then connects to a second larger pond at a lower level. From the surrounding lawns, a series of rocky ridges and peaks is visible over the trees. After a long day of travel, relax on the dining terrace with a glass of wine and savor the atmosphere of deep tranquility. Food at the ranch is well prepared and sustaining, with dishes such as braised bison short rib with mashed Yukon potatoes, tomato jam and bourbon jus, and seared steelhead trout with braised greens and sweet chile-butter sauce.

Day 11: Colorado Springs

Stables, The Ranch at Emerald Valley
Stables, The Ranch at Emerald Valley - The Broadmoor

After a mug of cowboy coffee next to the fire pit in the courtyard, followed by a hearty breakfast, go on a trail ride through the surrounding forest up to viewpoints over the surrounding wild terrain. The ranch has superb stables and a large selection of horses.

In the afternoon, fly-fish for trout in the property’s two ponds — one is really a small lake. The water is so clear that 30 feet out from the bank trout can be seen cruising past. Most of the fish are around 14 or 15 inches in length, but much larger specimens are landed occasionally.

Day 12: Colorado Springs

Today, either venture on another trail ride, or go for a strenuous guided hike. Alternatively, you may wish to read in a rocking chair on your veranda or in one of property’s peaceful gazebos.

After lunch, resume your pursuit of the property’s trout, go kayaking, practice archery, or soak in one of the two large hot tubs.

Enjoy a final evening of “rustic luxury,” with a fine meal, a bottle of wine from the extensive list and perhaps a digestif beneath the stars.

Day 13: Return home

Take the 30-minute private shuttle transfer to the main Broadmoor resort. From there, head to the Colorado Springs Airport (20 minutes away) for your flight home.

Ready to book a trip?

Contact our travel advisors to start planning your vacation, or call (800) 375-4685

By Andrew Harper Editor Andrew Harper editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.
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