Steamboat ain’t just for skiers: An off-mountain outdoor guide to the Wild West resort town
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For those who don’t salivate over the thought of carving through fresh powder on skis or a snowboard, being in a place called Ski Town, USA can be intimidating
Fortunately, adventure and fun in Steamboat Springs can be found beyond the ski area boundaries. From tubing at a local ranch to relaxing in hot springs, anyone can find something to enjoy during a visit. Below is a list of activities to make the most of this mountain destination with Western roots.
Skis and snowboards aren’t the only options for downhill thrills. Steamboat has a popular roster of backyard-style sledding and tubing spots that offer some free fun. Sledders young and old often can be seen on two hills in the Steamboat II subdivision, one at the Anchor Way Baptist Church and the other, a steeper slope that may not be suitable for young children, in the Silver Spur neighborhood. Sledders should be aware that parking in the area is restricted, and parking lots are located some distance from the sledding hills.
For the crème de la crème of nearby tubing terrain, check out Saddleback Ranch’s Yeehaw Tubing Hill. Fifteen miles outside of Steamboat, the picturesque ranch has a tube-tow system to get up the hill without breaking a sweat and a lodge to warm up with hot cocoa and other snacks from the concession stand.
The ranch also offers snowmobiling tours, sleigh-ride dinners and horseback rides. For more information and to make reservations, visit saddlebackranch.net.
In Steamboat, man’s best friend also serves as a winter sledding companion. Three local companies offer dogsledding excursions: Grizzle-T Dog & Sled Works, Mountain Paws and Snow Buddy Dog Sled Tours. They take guests through various parts of Routt County, ranging from the shores of Steamboat Lake in the north to the snow-capped Flat Tops Wilderness Area in the south.
The mountains around Steamboat have become popular destinations for snowmobilers from around the world. Riders can enjoy expansive fields of powder and groomed trails. Among the most popular areas are Rabbit Ears Pass and Buffalo Pass. Those who did not bring their own snowmobile or want a guided tour can choose several outfitters in Steamboat.
Walking in a winter wonderland is possible with a pair of snowshoes, which make it easier to tromp through powder and backcountry terrain. Any of the open multiuse trails in the area can be accessed on snowshoes, with popular routes on Rabbit Ears Pass to the east, Steamboat Lake State Park to the north and Steamboat Resort, which also offers guided tours.
Seasonal closures exist on some trails in U.S. Forest Service land, such as the Mad Creek, Red Dirt and Hot Springs trails, so pay attention to signage.
Hiking, biking and climbing
Just because snow is on the ground doesn’t mean summertime activities have to end. Popular hikes in and around Steamboat remain accessible throughout the year, including Fish Creek Falls and the Spring Creek trails. Blackmer Drive on the backside of Emerald Mountain features a wider path for a variety of recreationists. Fat bikers, backcountry skiers and runners often are seen enjoying the hard-packed snow surface alongside hikers.
Fat bikes also are allowed on groomed trails at Howelsen Hill, Catamount Ranch & Club and the Haymaker Nordic Center.
A more tranquil stroll is possible along the 7.5-mile Yampa River Core Trail that runs alongside its namesake river. The cement path weaves through trees and wetlands, making it ideal for wildlife viewing as well as getting around town.
Even climbing is possible amid Steamboat’s long winter with two indoor gyms on either side of town. Love Climbing Adventures, on Steamboat’s west end, offers a more robust climbing experience, with a bouldering wall as well as a rope wall. The second option is at Old Town Hot Springs, a 37-foot rope wall on the first floor of its newly renovated fitness center.
For an outdoor excursion, try ice climbing at Fish Creek Falls. Certified guides at Rocky Mountain Ventures can help lead a trip and provide the gear.
Relaxing in a pool of hot water as snowflakes fall all around is not an experience to be missed. Steamboat has two hot springs options to make winter cozy — one right downtown and the other tucked away a few miles off the beaten path.
The Old Town Hot Springs, accessible along Steamboat Springs Transit’s free bus route, is the more convenient option, especially for families. It features two climbing walls — an indoor one and a poolside one — plus a pair of 230-foot water slides.
For a quieter soak among the mountains, visit Strawberry Hot Springs, 7 miles outside of Steamboat. The rustic, stone pools are spring-fed, with varying sizes for larger groups or a romantic evening for two. Some claim the waters even have healing powers, making it a soothing end to an adventurous day.
After the call of the wild has been answered, check out Steamboat’s bounty of local shops to treat oneself or find unique gifts for others. More than 100 restaurants around town serve up an international smorgasbord of dining options, from upscale bistros to grab-and-go burritos.
For a complete dining guide, visit the Steamboat Chamber’s website at steamboatchamber.com/activities/dining. Many eateries have happy hour deals. To check out a list, visit https://www.steamboatpilot.com/news/steamboat-springs-happy-hours/.
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