A river runs through it. Steamboat Springs, Colorado, that is. Nestled high in a mountain valley, with the Yampa River and three scenic lakes nearby, Steamboat is a popular destination year-round for outdoor enthusiasts. Originally the summer hunting ground of the Ute tribe, it was discovered by fur trappers in the early 1800s. Named for the chug-chug sound made by mineral hot springs, the area has retained its authentic western charm while growing up into the 21st century.
Unique Things to do in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Whether it’s winter or summer, Steamboat has something for all to enjoy. In the summer, choose from hiking, mountain biking, tubing, hot air ballooning, or horseback riding, to name a few. In the winter, it’s all about the snow—skiing, and snowshoeing or skating. After an active day, relax in the mineral hot springs and soak the soreness away. Here are three unique things to do in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Steamboat Springs Rodeo
Dating back over one hundred years, the Steamboat Springs Rodeo is not to be missed. With the rodeo grounds situated at the base of Emerald Mountain, the weekly summer event draws scores of both locals and visitors. In a celebration of the area’s ranching heritage, watch talented cowboys and cowgirls test their equestrian skills in riding and roping. There’s even an arena event for the youngest set to participate in—a classic sheep chase.
Need some boots or a cowboy hat before you hit the rodeo? Be sure to stop in at F.M. Light & Sons. With shelves brimming with western wear, they’ve been “outfittin’ the West for over 100 years.” Owned and operated by the fifth generation of F.M. Light descendants.
Fish Creek Falls
These magnificent falls are just a short jaunt from downtown Steamboat. Open year-round, it’s just five dollars to park and then you have a choice of two trails to take to see the falls. The easiest one is just one-fourth of a mile on a paved, well-maintained path.
The longer path is a bit more strenuous, so plan accordingly. But either way, prepare to have your breath taken away. At almost 300 feet high, the falls are a spectacular sight to behold. The falls freeze over in the winter, and intrepid ice climbers can be seen scrambling up the falls.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Steamboat in the winter, then skiing is the thing to do to experience their trademark Champagne Powder®. Yes, it is a thing. Coined by a local rancher in the 1950s, it describes snow that is dryer than that found in other locations. It tickles the nose like champagne bubbles.
With two mountains beckoning, budget-friendly Howelsen Hill Ski Area is the oldest continuously operating ski area in North America. Located just across the river in downtown Steamboat, it is easily accessible. The other place to go is Steamboat Springs Ski Resort, located about ten minutes from downtown Steamboat.
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More Fun Things to Do in Steamboat
If you’re still looking for things to do in Steamboat, try one of these!
- Eat at Taco Cabo. Just do it. With a riverside patio nestled against the Yampa River and boasting authentic, hand-crafted Mexican classics like Chile Colorado, and Carne Asada, it is well worth the visit.
- As long as we’re on the subject of food, another must-stop eatery is Powder Day Doughnuts. Seriously. Try the apple fritters or heavenly-glazed. But go early, they sell out quickly!
- The Steamboat Art Museum is a hidden jewel right on Lincoln Ave. Its mission is to reflect “the culture and heritage of Northwest Colorado,” and it does a superb job of that. Free admission and a truly delightful place to linger.
- A former horse pasture, the Yampa River Botanic Park is a six-acre serene riverside oasis of paths, ponds, and gardens. Open dawn to dusk, May-October.
- Like to fly fish? With easy access to the Yampa River right in Steamboat Springs, anglers will enjoy casting for brown or rainbow trout. Need a guide? Use a local outfitter, like Steamboat Flyfisher.
- Soak your cares away year-round in the Old Town Hot Springs. Right in the heart of downtown Steamboat, these natural hot spring pools were used by the Ute tribe and by early settlers to the region.
- Follow the Steamboat Brew Trail. Starting in downtown Steamboat, head west, and sample the handcrafted beers and unique cuisine at three different breweries along the way.
- Feed your sweet tooth at Powder Day Donuts. Amazing donuts and a spunky staff. Highly recommend!
Visiting Steamboat Springs—Final Thoughts
Steamboat Springs has much to offer its visitors. Far from the rush of city life, its crisp mountain air invites you to slow down a bit, savor the great outdoors, and relish its western heritage.
Be sure to check out all the great destinations in our Unique Things to do Series and take a step out of the ordinary on your next trip.
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M.R. Smith is a freelance writer living in the Rocky Mountain West. With a master’s degree in professional writing, M.R. is also a teacher, author, and poet.
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