It’s no secret that Colorado is a treasure, from its snow-capped peaks and world-class skiing to its summer wildflowers and Bronco-football magic. For an insider’s take on what makes the state so alluring, we connected with Heather Balogh, whose award-winning blog, Just a Colorado Gal, features stories, reviews, photos and more focused on adventure, travel, and the outdoors. While the reasons are plentiful, with Heather’s help, we chose seven of the best things about living in Colorado.
1. Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)
A jaw-dropping natural playground, RMNP turned 100 years old in January 2015. “To be sure, the park has seen it all,” Heather says, most recently wildfires in 2010 and 500-year flooding in 2013. But the 265,000-plus-acre park remains “a piece of Colorado history” - and a fantastic weekend getaway. For more: Heather’s RMNP birthday blog.
2. Sweet Denver
The Mile High City brims with unique dining and eclectic flavors. One of Heather’s top spots is Little Man Ice Cream downtown. Shaped like “a massive, 14,000-pound, 28-foot-tall milk bottle,” Little Man’s “ice cream is delightful, and the vibe is totally awesome,” she says. “If you go, check out the salted caramel peanut-butter flavor — OMG!” For more: Heather’s Denver favorites.
3. Red Rocks
This “well-known and stunningly beautiful natural amphitheater” near Golden not only hosts blockbuster concerts, but also welcomes visitors for special events such as Film on the Rocks. “The Denver Film Society and the Denver Arts & Venues team up for an epic series of summer films,” Heather says. “They drop down a huge screen on stage, and people fill the bleachers just like they would at a concert.” Tip: Arrive early to enjoy the pre-film band.
4. Pup Perks
From abundant dog parks, to dog-friendly trails, to mountain stores that welcome pups (and even dole out biscuits), four-legged friends are cherished in Colorado. Heather’s dog, Tally, a 9-year-old “mutt that I rescued from the Denver Dumb Friends League shelter,” goes on “most of my outdoor excursions,” she says. “And I buy her very expensive dog food. She thinks it’s a win-win.” For more: Heather’s puppy perspective here and here.
5. Mountain Hikes
“One of my favorite things in the world (as well as half the population of the state!) is hiking the 14ers,” says Heather, referring to the 54 Colorado Peaks that reach at least 14,000 feet above sea level. Of course, the trail options in the Rockies are almost endless. For more: Heather’s 14ers blog and Five Best Trails Within 30 Minutes of Denver.
Colorado tends to spark attraction, especially among nature lovers. When it comes to romance, “not everyone wants chocolates, roses and a candlelit dinner,” Heather says. “For us outdoorsy types, a thoughtfully planned mountain excursion or a sweet-yet-simple picnic is just as romantic. Thankfully, Colorado has a litany of amorous hot spots.” Her favorites include the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge train, sleigh rides, Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Ski Loveland, and backcountry huts such as Ken’s Cabin. For more: Heather’s full take on the love bug.
7. Estes Park
“Estes is one of those towns that reminds me of my childhood [north of Denver],” Heather says, “as I spent many a family vacation tucked away in the cabins of the local YMCA of the Rockies.” On a recent visit, she explored several hot spots, including lodging at Timber Creek Chalets (dog-friendly? check!), spirits at Dancing Pines Distillery, dinner and music at The Rock Inn, and breakfast at The Waterfront Grille. For more: Heather’s full Estes Park blog.