THE SIGHT OF the Rockies gleaming behind downtown Denver's skyline is inexorably pulling you westward. We say don't resist.

Sep 1, 2002
Outside Magazine
The Recharge Spot

CRESTONE, A TINY TOWN south of Denver in the San Luis Valley, is crawling with Buddhists, Carmelites, yoga disciples, and interdisciplinarians of every stripe. Soak up the vibe at the Silver Star Bed and Breakfast (doubles, $50; 719-256-4686), a four-room lodge surrounded by piñons and aspens, with sweeping views of the valley and walking access to the trails that scale 14,165-foot Kit Carson Peak.

wheels up, west of Winter Park.

ABOUT FOUR HOURS northwest of Denver, feel your shoulders relax as you cross 9,426-foot Rabbit Ears Pass, about 2,600 feet above Steamboat Springs. In town, find the Steamboat Bed and Breakfast, a butter-colored Victorian house with green trim and seven guest rooms, on Pine Street (doubles, $99-$169; 877-335-4321,

Take an early Saturday morning bike ride a couple of miles out of town for the 7 a.m. balloon departure with Wild West Balloon Adventures ($110 per adult for a half-hour flight; 970-879-7219, Drift 3,000 feet above the Yampa River valley, toast your landing with champagne, and pedal back through downtown to Elk Park. Meet the fly-fishing folks from Straightline Outdoor Sports (970-879-7568,, who'll supply you with a flyless rod and teach you to cast into a pond. The two-hour clinic is free, but you need to make reservations. After lunch, drive 30 miles northeast to the Slavonia trailhead just outside the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area (Routt National Forest: 970-879-1870,, put on your skivvies, and take a nine-mile trail run to Gilpin Lake, over the 9,840-foot saddle behind it, and down the Gold Creek Lake Trail back to your car. Then head to Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs, as relaxing as any martini ($10; 970-879-0342,, which also has a platoon of massage therapists on hand. Go back to your B&B. Sleep.
On Sunday, take an early-morning, 56-mile road-bike ride through ranchland along County Road 129 to Steamboat Lake and back. Then wind down with a little in-line skating on the municipal bike path, which follows the Yampa River for five miles. After lunch, climb the 5.8-5.10 routes of Seedhouse Rock, about 20 miles north of town, under the watchful eyes of the climbing instructors from Rocky Mountain Ventures ($65 per person for a group of two to five, equipment and transportation included; 970-870-8440, As the day fades, head back into town and place your tired and grateful self on the back of a horse from Sombrero Ranch, next to the rodeo grounds ($45 per person, including dinner; 970-879-2306, Ride through the dusk along the flanks of 7,136-foot Emerald Mountain. An hour into the ride, dismount and dig into the guide-prepared steak dinner.

CAPITAL PEAK RISES 14,130 feet from deep in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area (for trail information, contact the Aspen Ranger District, 970-925-3445), about five hours southwest of Denver. Near the summit is an unavoidable, highly exposed knife-edge ridge that plunks even the most cavalier mountaineer onto her butt. If you drop your trail mix here, let it slide.

THERE'S A BRAND-NEW addition to the 600-mile trail system around Winter Park, which a growing corps of mountain bikers believe is the best in the state. The wide, flat spur runs eight miles from Fraser toward Granby—great access for mountain bikers staying at Fraser's Anna Leah, a five-room bed-and-breakfast with a whopping mountain view (doubles, $110-$195; 970-726-4414,, or Devil's Thumb Ranch, near Fraser, a 3,700-acre spread with 14 lodge rooms and seven cabins (doubles, $69-$119; cabins, $139-$279; 800-933-4339,

IN THE FALL, Rocky Mountain National Park's aspens are in golden splendor, and many members of its resident 3,000-strong elk herd are busy mating, strutting, hooting, and hollering. Though the meadows are off-limits from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. to give the elk a little privacy, you can watch from the sidelines. Best viewing times: dusk and dawn (Rocky Mountain National Park: $15 for a one- to seven-day pass; camping, $18 per site; 970-586-1206,