Over the years, Steamboat’s summer tourism has significantly increased, and we’re seeing more and more people visiting our beautiful town to enjoy all types of outdoor recreation. Whether you enjoy hiking, biking, camping, fishing, boating, or just relaxing by the river, there’s something here for everyone in the summer.
With the increase in summer travelers, have you ever experienced a time when you pack up all of your gear, gather everything for the kids, prepare picnic lunches, and you get to the site where you’d planned on spending the day’s activities, and it’s already packed with people? Some of our most well-known outdoor activity and recreation areas, while beautiful and fun, can get busy, so it’s nice to check out some “off-the-beaten-path” spots that tend to have less traffic.
Hike the Uranium Mine Trail
If you enjoy the famous Fish Creek Falls hike here in Steamboat, another one you can check out is the Uranium Mine Trail. The hike is a relatively mellow, 1.5-mile hike to the old mine, with an elevation gain of about 800 feet. You’ll enjoy stunning views of Fish Creek Canyon as you make your way towards the mine. During the Cold War in the early 1950s, prospectors dug for about 1,000 feet, looking for uranium, which was needed for the United States’ nuclear weapons. Even though you cannot enter the mine, the experience is a unique walk through history. To get there, head up Fish Creek Falls road to the trailhead where you will find the US Forest Service parking lot, and remember your $5 parking fee. If you head back down the road, you will see the Uranium Mine Trail on the right.
Fish Chuck Lewis Wildlife Area
If you love to fly fish but find the downtown stretch of the Yampa River full of fishermen and people tubing, you might find yourself looking for a new “fishing hole.” Check out Chuck Lewis State Wildlife area, near Haymaker Golf Course. Colorado Parks & Wildlife protects this area and the wildlife habitat to provide quality and safe recreational opportunities. Since camping, most hunting, biking, and boat or tube launching is prohibited here, it’s the perfect escape for the avid angler looking to catch their next big brown or rainbow trout. To get here, take Highway 40 to Colorado 131 a few miles south of Steamboat Springs.
Hike to Gilpin Lake at the Zirkel Circle
If you’ve already seen the sights at Fish Creek Falls, Mad Creek Trail, Spring Creek Trail, and other popular hikes within close proximity to town, head into the Zirkel Wilderness area. About 30 miles from Steamboat Springs, the Zirkels offer jaw-dropping views, picturesque meadows, and shimmering alpine lakes. The full Zirkel Circle loop is roughly 10 miles and can be hiked in either direction. Here you will find day hikers, backpackers, and families out for a day of fun. The most well-known of the alpine lakes along this trail, Gilpin Lake, is just over 4 miles from the trailhead. To get here, take Colorado 129 toward Clark, then turn right onto Seedhouse Road. You’ll take Seedhouse Road to the end where you will find the trailhead.
Bike Buff Pass
If you’re seeking the thrill of mountain biking, instead of hitting the trails at Emerald, try the trails on Buffalo Pass, or Buff Pass as it’s become known. With more than 80 miles of trails, there’s everything from technical descents to cruising, fast routes. Take in some beautiful sights along the way on popular trails like 11-mile Flash of Gold, which leads from Dry Lake Campground to the top of Spring Creek Trail. Looking for something a little more technical? Make sure to add Grouse Trail to your route. Here there are advanced and expert options via rock formations and natural features. To get to Dry Lake Campground to park near these trails, take Strawberry Park Road from downtown Steamboat north 4 miles, then turn right onto Buffalo Pass Road.
Paddleboard and Picnic at Pearl Lake
When it’s mid-summer and the days are extra hot and dry, it sure is nice to spend the day at the lake and cool off. Instead of trekking to the well-known Steamboat Lake, check out Pearl Lake, just a few miles south of Steamboat Lake. There are even SUP paddleboards ready and waiting lakeside for you to rent for the afternoon. With a trail around the entirety of the lake, it’s perfect for packing a picnic and hiking the shoreline before spending the afternoon swimming and paddling around the lake. If you wanted to make your stay here even longer, there’s camping nearby, so make sure to check for reservations. To get here, take Colorado 129 for twenty-three miles to Pearl Lake Road.