6 Exhilarating Colorado Adventure Getaways

A rock climber in southwestern Colorado. Courtesy Matt Inden/Weaver Multimedia Group Photo by Matt Inden/Weaver Multimedia Group
By Hillary Richard McNamara

For adventure-loving travelers, Colorado is the ideal place to go. The statistics speak for themselves: Colorado has 54 mountains over 14,000 feet and boasts the highest mean elevation of any U.S. state. The Rocky Mountains spread across Colorado, creating a beautifully diverse landscape both on and off the mountains.

With some of the most skilled guides and adventure outfitters, it's easy to step out of your comfort zone and experience new things. Each of these Colorado adventures delivers just the right amount of adrenaline -- and it's never too early to start getting in shape (or to start working up the nerve) for your next adventure.

Photo Caption: A rock climber in southwestern Colorado. Courtesy Matt Inden/Weaver Multimedia Group
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A yurt in Ridgway State Park near Ouray, Colorado. Courtesy Colorado State Parks Photo by Colorado State Parks
What: Colorado's state parks offer camping with a twist. Try staying in a private yurt, a tent traditionally used by nomads in central Asia. Yurts are round and provide more comforts than typical tents, so a yurt stay in Colorado is perfect for a couple who appreciates rustic yet modern touches while enjoying the great outdoors.

Yurts vary from park to park, but most have bunk beds, a futon, and a dining set. If you prefer a more traditional camping experience, consider booking a yurt without electricity. If you're someone who appreciates modern amenities, make sure to request an insulated yurt with a refrigerator and fireplace.

All yurt stays require guests to bring their own bedding.

Where: Yurts are currently available throughout the state in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Mancos State Park, Pearl Lake State Park, Ridgway State Park, State Forest State Park, and Sylvan Lake State Park. All yurts are within their respective park boundaries.

How To Get There:
Golden Gate Canyon State Park is about 25 miles from Boulder and about 60 miles from Denver International Airport. The entrance to the park is on Golden Gate Canyon Road.

Mancos State Park is about 30 miles from Durango; Pearl Lake State Park is about 28 miles from Steamboat Springs; Ridgway State Park is about 12 miles from Ouray; State Forest State Park is about 75 miles from Fort Collins; and Sylvan Lake State Park is about 16 miles from Eagle.

When: Yurts are available year-round. Advance reservations are required.

Price:
Most yurts cost $70 per night. Some allow pets with a $10 per night pet fee.

More Info:
Colorado State Parks (www.parks.state.co.us), Yurt Camping in Colorado State Parks (www.parks.state.co.us/Reservations/YurtInformation)

Photo Caption: A yurt in Ridgway State Park near Ouray, Colorado. Courtesy Colorado State Parks
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Ice climbers on an ice wall in Ouray, Colorado. Courtesy Matt Inden/Weaver Multimedia Group Photo by Matt Inden/Weaver Multimedia Group
What: If you have ever considered ice climbing, Ouray is definitely the place to do it. The Ouray Ice Park is said to be the first and the largest ice park in the world. Each year, thousands of visitors come to this small mining town to visit the ice canyons and to hone their ice-climbing skills.

Regardless of whether you're a beginner or a serious athlete, San Juan Mountain Guides will be able to take you on a guided climb up ice walls from about 40 to 150 feet tall. Clint Cook, the director and head guide, is one of only 60 people in the United States with an International Federation of Mountain Guides Association certification, so you'll be in good hands.

Where: The Ouray Ice Park is in Ouray, surrounded by the San Juan Mountains (the youngest and steepest mountain range in the Rockies). The ice park is on Country Road 361.

How To Get There:
Ouray Ice Park is about 40 miles from Montrose Regional Airport. The park is about 360 miles from Denver International Airport.

When:
The Ouray Ice Park is typically open from Dec. 15 through the end of March each year.

Price:
A two-day basic ice climbing course costs $340. A private half-day guide for two climbers is $300, and a private full-day guide is $440. All gear is included.

More Info:
San Juan Mountain Guides (www.ourayclimbing.com), Ouray Ice Park (www.ourayicepark.com)

Photo Caption: Ice climbers on an ice wall in Ouray, Colorado. Courtesy Matt Inden/Weaver Multimedia Group
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A team of dogs leads a sled in Durango, Colorado. Photo by Claude Steelman
What: Get taken for a ride and learn all about the sport of dog sledding. Gretchen and Gregg Dubit are a husband and wife team who adopted their first Husky the day they returned from their honeymoon. There are currently 26 dogs on the 30-acre ranch, most of whom are a Husky mix specially bred for speed and strength. The dogs live at the ranch for their entire lives (and during their retirement), so your sled guide can personally introduce you to each of them and outline their unique personality traits. An experienced musher will teach you how to hitch the dogs and drive a sled along a snowy path, providing a wealth of information along the way.

Where:
The Durango Dog Ranch is in La Plata Canyon in Durango.

How To Get There:
Durango town is about 15 miles from Durango-La Plata County Airport and about 111 miles from Montrose Regional Airport. Durango is about 360 miles from Denver International Airport.

When:
Dog sled tours start on Thanksgiving and go through the end of March. The dogs only run once a day (as their exercise), so advanced bookings are necessary.

Price:
A four-hour tour costs $400 per sled. Two adults plus a guide (up to 400 pounds in total) can fit on one sled.

More Info:
Durango Dog Ranch (www.durangodogranch.com)

Photo Caption: A team of dogs leads a sled in Durango, Colorado.
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Snowshoeing through Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort. Courtesy Durango Mountain Resort Photo by Durango Mountain Resort
What: Experience the slopes after dark with a moonlight snowshoe tour. At Durango Mountain Resort (formerly called Purgatory), guests in groups of 2 to 20 can traverse the mountains in a path totaling four miles and reaching elevations of 10,300 feet.

The tour starts at 3:30pm with a chairlift ride to the top of a mountain. A guide will bring you snowshoeing for an hour in daylight, then to the Powderhouse Restaurant where everyone in the group will enjoy a wine and cheese party. After 6pm, you will snowshoe down Purgatory Mountain with a tour guide, who will discuss the history of the area.

Where: Durango Mountain Resort is in Durango, in the San Juan National Forest. The entrance is off Highway 550.

How To Get There:
Durango Mountain Resort is about 40 miles from Durango-La Plata County Airport and about 85 miles from Montrose Regional Airport. The resort is about 400 miles from Denver International Airport.

When:
Snowshoe tours are offered December through March. Advanced reservations are required.

Price:
The tour is $55 per person, including snowshoes, a guided tour, chairlift access, and a wine and cheese party.

More Info:
Durango Mountain Resort (www.durangomountainresort.com or www.skipurg.com)

Photo Caption: Snowshoeing through Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort. Courtesy Durango Mountain Resort
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A helicopter guides a skier through Telluride's peaks. Courtesy Telluride Helitrax Photo by Telluride Helitrax
What: If skiing is too run-of-the-mill for you, try heli-skiing in the San Juan Mountains. Telluride Helitrax will fly you to some of the highest elevations in North America. A helicopter brings you up 10,000 to 13,000 feet, where you will ski down drops anywhere from 1,000 to 2,500 feet. You do not have to jump out of the helicopter.

Although you need to be an advanced skier, Helitrax can tailor each experience according to your specifications. The family-owned operation is ideal for couples and small groups (up to 16 people) and offers the only experience of its kind in Colorado.

Where: Telluride Helitrax is in Mountain Village, which is directly connected to Telluride by a free gondola. The helipad is outside the Peaks Resort in Mountain Village.

How To Get There:
Mountain Village is about 70 miles from Montrose Regional Airport and about 385 miles from Denver International Airport.

When:
Heli-skiing can generally be booked from October through the end of March.

Price:
A single-day heli-skiing trip starts at $999 and a multi-day trip starts at $899 per day. Six guided helicopter ski runs, ski equipment, food, and water, and apr├Ęs-ski activities are included.

More Info:
Telluride Helitrax (www.helitrax.com)

Photo Caption: A helicopter guides a skier through Telluride's peaks. Courtesy Telluride Helitrax
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A snow cat at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Courtesy Tom Stillo/CBMR Photo by Tom Stillo/CBMR
What: It may sound a little unorthodox, but anyone who has ever watched a snow cat reshape a snowy mountain has probably wondered what driving one would be like. Crested Butte Mountain Resort started the Snow Cat Driving Experience solely to satisfy this curiosity. The resort's actual snow cat operators will bring you up a mountain to drive a Prinoth 350 Snow Cat -- a 20,000 pound, 355 horsepower machine that can climb slopes over 45 degrees at a rate of almost 30 acres per hour.

Where:
Crested Butte Mountain Resort is in Crested Butte. The resort is on Gothic Road.

How To Get There:
Crested Butte Mountain Resort is about 30 miles from Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport and about 100 miles from Montrose Regional Airport. The resort is about 320 miles from Denver International Airport.

When:
The Snow Cat Driving Experience runs from December until the resort closes (typically the end of March or first week in April). Classes are held twice a day, four days a week.

Price:
The cost for one-on-one instruction starts at $260 per person. This includes transportation from the Lodge at Mountaineer Square.

More Info:
Snow Cat Driving Experience (www.skicb.com/cbmr), Crested Butte Mountain Resort (www.skicb.com)

Photo Caption: A snow cat at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Courtesy Tom Stillo/CBMR
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