From the desert to the mountains, here are seven spots where you can enjoy the springtime sun.
If winter is one of Colorado's best seasons, some may complain that spring might be its worst. Rainy days and a lot of mountain mud can put a damper on any traveler's plans. With a bit of planning, however, there are plenty of getaways that are sure to put a spring (see what we did there?) in your step. Just a few hours from Denver, you could be sipping wine in a tasting room, enjoying a mud bath in the desert, or soaking up bluebird days on the ski slope.
1. Taos, New Mexico
For sunshine, head south out of Denver four and a half hours to Taos. It's a longer drive than some other spots on our list, but the open desert, gorgeous vistas of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and an on-point dining scene make this funky town a sure bet. If you want to be walking distance to all that the town has to offer, stay at the historic Hotel La Fonda downtown or opt for the pet-friendly El Monte Sagrado Resort. Your first stop should be the Taos Pueblo, where multi-storied adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years.
Then make the 50-minute drive to the Ojo Caliente Hot Springs and Spa, one of the oldest health resorts in the United States. The sulphur-free, geothermal mineral waters fill eleven different pools (with a range of temperatures), and the resort also boasts a must-try mud pool. Fuel up with legendary green chile at Orlando's New Mexican Café or try El Meze, a Spanish restaurant set in an 1840s adobe house with a lovely patio. For a truly unique New Mexican experience, drive to Taos Mesa Brewing. An indoor and outdoor microbrewery with live music, eclectic art, and mountain views provides an experience like no other.
2. Crested Butte
Skiers and snowboarders looking for a spring ski trip should head to Crested Butte. The Crested Butte Mountain Resort doesn't close until mid-April, and the four-hour drive from Denver avoids the traffic-laden I-70 highway. Some of Crested Butte's best expert terrain is at its peak in the spring, so try the recently opened double-black diamond Teocalli 2 Bowl before catching drinks at the ski area's new Umbrella Bar at mid mountain.
The Lodge at Mountaineer Square is the best ski lodging, or you can grab a vacation rental downtown. After a day on the hill, stroll down Elk Avenue, stop for cocktails at local hot spot and distillery Montanya Rum, or take the kids to the sledding hill located next to the Crested Butte Nordic Center. Don't miss the Secret Stash for pizza or Teocalli Tamale for reasonably priced, fast casual Mexican.
If you're sick of the snow, head to Colorado's wine country. You can see big mountains from the quaint town of Paonia, but its lower elevation (5,574 feet) means you're less likely to experience one of the state's notorious spring snowstorms. Bed and Breakfasts rule the town, so stay at the quaint Agape Farm and Retreat before checking out the local wine scene (Azura Cellars and Stone Cottage Cellars are the best). Catch a movie or some live music at the intimate Paradise Theater, grab dinner at the Flying Fork Cafe, and enjoy the slower pace of small town life.
About three and a half hours from Denver you'll find Palisade, an art-focused town with plenty of springtime sunshine. We like to stay at the Palisade Wine Valley Inn before checking out the plethora of tasting rooms in town. You can't miss at the Maison la Belle Vie Winery (go for the reds), or the award-winning Plum Creek Cellars. Peach Street Distillers mixes things up with small batch brandy, gin, and bourbon. Once you've had enough tasty booze, the dining scene in Palisade really shines with spots like Inari's Bistro (try the risotto) and homemade pastries from Slice O Life Bakery.
A bit past Palisade is Fruita, a sunny mountain biker's paradise that's quickly gaining national attention for its well-designed trails and prime spring riding conditions. Head to Over the Edge Sports for trail maps and friendly bike mechanics who can help you get the lay of the land. Campers will love the 18 Road trail head about 20 minutes outside of town, where you can roll out of your tent and be on the trail in just minutes. If camping isn't on your radar, accommodations in town are basic, with the La Quinta offering the best bet. While no one comes to Fruita for the lodging, the influx of adventure junkies has created a surprisingly good dining scene; try pizza at Hot Tomato, Camilla's Kaffe for breakfast, and the Copper Club Brewing Company for a cold one.
Springtime in Breckenridge usually means bluebird days, goggle tans, and a lot of fun skiing. It's a great time for kids to take lessons on the hill, and the town also plays host to Spring Fever, a month-long bash that runs from March 18 through the ski area's closing day on April 17. If you want ski-in/ski-out lodging, head to One Ski Hill Place or the Crystal Peak Lodge. After skiing, hit up the massive patio at the T-Bar, located at the base of Peak 8, for decent snacks and plenty of beer. In town, try Crepes A La Cart for an easy lunch or snack, The Lost Cajun for casual jambalaya, or Giampietro Pizzeria for a classic Italian dinner.
7. Arapahoe Basin
Located just an hour and a half from Denver, "The Basin" comes into its own in the springtime, with sunny days mixing with one or two last epic powder days. This ski area offers a little something for everyone, and the skiing lasts as long as the snow does (sometimes until July 4). On weekends, check out the "Beach," a big party at the base area with plenty of music, crazy outfits, and friendly locals. Grab a Bacon Bloody Mary in the 6th Ally Bar and enjoy the sunshine.
There's no lodging at the ski area, so you'll have to stay 15 minutes away at nearby Keystone Resort, but in the springtime, you're guaranteed rock-bottom shoulder-season rates at hotels like the Keystone Lodge & Spa. Grab coffee at Inxpot in the Keystone Village, and you won't regret a dinner in nearby Dillon at the gourmet hole-in-the-wall Café Profusion for fabulous East Asian cuisine.