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You Are Here:   Home  >  What Do You Want To Do?   >  Favorite Spring Things

ORIC's Favorite Spring Things to Do

Spring in the Rockies is a transitional period. High mountain lakes will generally remain frozen until July. North facing slopes hold the snow and ice longer. Spring snow melt can make stream crossings hazardous.  Snow melt will depend on whether precipitation was below, at, or above average.

Mud season, on average, begins in April and can run through June. Roads can be treacherous in the mud season. There are closures related to wildlife activity. Flash floods, thunderstorms and lightning, rock slides, temperature swings, ticks, and avalanches are other things to be aware of in the spring.

The Bureau of Land Management has 8 million acres of public land for your to explore in Colorado. Colorado Parks & Wildlife has 42 great parks. So, shake off the winter blues with the following spring activities.

Backpacking

You'll want to stay lower in the Spring if you want a snow-free experience. Otherwise, go equipped for winter camping.

Alamosa Region

Craig Region

Denver Region

Eagle Region

Estes Park Region

Fort Collins Region

  • Greyrock National Recreation Trail #946. Low enough to get in some early season backpacking. USFS webpage. USFS quicksheet. See chapter "9. Greyrock Trail" in Pack Guide: The Best Fort Collins Hikes. See chapter "58. Greyrock Trail" in The Best Front Range Hikes. See chapter "1. Greyrock National Recreation Trail" in Hiking Colorado's Front Range.
  • Lory State Park. Good early season place to go backpacking when cabin fever sets in. Backcountry camping by permit on Fridays and Saturdays in April and May. Six backcountry sites, two-mile walk-in, no fires. Park trails webpage. Park trails map.

Grand Junction Region

Montrose Region

  • Dominguez & Escalante Canyons. Red rock canyons that are perfect for a Spring adventure. Big Dominguez Canyon is open year round. It's a good idea to call (970-244-3000) for trail conditions, especially in a wet year. It is fairly wide, has several ponds and a waterfall and is known for it's rock art. For something different try Little Dominguez Canyon. It's narrower and a little harder to get through in the growing season, but water is more abundant. BLM brochure and map. ORIC Trip Map/Description Sheet (II).

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Bouldering

You'll be able to enjoy this sport earlier in the season if you stay east of the Peak-to-Peak Highway and on south facing slopes. But, be forewarned, bouldering can be extremely dangerous and may result in death. Falls are apparently common. Go with the requisite skills and understand the risks you will be taking. There are many Front Range locations. Here are few resources to help you get started.

  • Colorado Bouldering: Front Range. By Phillip Benningfield and Matt Samet, Sharp End Publishing.

Camping

Most developed campgrounds, including National Forest campgrounds, open around Memorial Day weekend, but there are campgrounds that are either open year round or open before Memorial Day weekend or open later. We will point you to the campgrounds that open earlier or later or stay open year round.  We should mention that they may open earlier or later depending on conditions. It's best to phone the ranger district office to confirm the opening date.

It's a good idea to reserve campsites as far in advance as possible and you can make reservations for USFS campgrounds at recreation.gov unless the campground is "first-come, first-served."

Alamosa Region

Boulder Region

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Buena Vista Region

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Cañon City Region

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Colorado Springs Region

Craig Region

  • Dinosaur National Monument. Camping webpage. Split Mountain Campground, Rainbow Park Campground, Echo Park Campground, Gates of Lodore Campground and Deerlodge Park Campground are open year round. They will not have water from fall to spring and may be difficult to access due to snow pack and run-off. Green River Campground: first-come, first-served. Open mid-April to Oct. 1. Call for a condition update.

Denver Region

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Durango Region

Estes Park Region

Fort Collins Region

Grand Junction Region

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Gunnison Region

  • Curecanti National Recreation Area. Camping webpage.
    • Dry Gulch Campground. First-come, first-served. Open mid-May - mid-September.
    • Elk Creek Campground. Map. Open year round. Limited services mid-September - mid-May. Reservations can be made at recreation.gov from May 17 - Sept. 7.
    • Gateview Campground. First-come, first-served. Open mid-May - mid-September.
    • Lake Fork Campground. Map. Reservations can be made at recreation.gov from May 17 - Sep 7. Walk-in from April 1 - May 16 and Sept. 8 - Dec. 15.
    • Ponderosa Campground. First-come, first-served. Open mid-May - mid-September.
    • Red Creek Campground. First-come, first-served. Open mid-May - mid-September.
    • Red Creek Group Campground. Reservations may be made at recreation.gov from May 17 - Sept. 7. Walk-in from April 1 - May 16 and Sept. 8 - Dec. 15.
    • Stevens Creek Campground. Map. Reservations can be made for A Loop from May 17 - Sept. 7. Walk-in from April 1 - May 17 and from Sept. 8 - Oct. 30. 

Montrose Region

Northeast Plains Region

South Park Region

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Trinidad Region

Resources

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Climbing

Many of these areas are accessible as early as April. But, be forewarned, climbing, in its many variations, can be extremely dangerous and may result in death. Go with the requisite skills and understand the risks you will be taking. There are many Front Range locations. Here are few to help you get started.

Rock climber on south facing cliff of North Table Mountain at 
		  Golden

Rock climber on south facing cliff of North Table Mountain at Golden. Photo by Anne & Rob Brumbaugh.

Boulder Region

Colorado Springs Region

 Denver Region

Cycling

Mountain Biking

These are a selection of trails that may be accessible in the spring. It's a good idea to call for trail conditions before you go.

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Boulder Region

Denver Region

  • Buffalo Creek Recreation Area trail system. Huge network of mountain biking trails. USFS brochure/map.  May.
  • Centennial Cone Park trail system. (Jefferson County Parks.) JCP park webpage. JCP trails map. May, maybe earlier. Call for trail conditions.
  • Colorado Trail (part of Segment 1) at Waterton Canyon. Doable inMarch. This unpaved trail follows the South Platte River for approximately 6.5 miles to the Strontia Springs Spillway. From here you'll need a mountain bike to go further. Whole segment is 16.8 miles.
  • Elk Meadow Park trail system. (Jefferson County Parks.) JCP trails webpage. JCP trails map. May, maybe earlier. Call for trail conditions.
  • Lair o' the Bear Park trail system. (Jefferson County Parks.) JCP trails webpage. JCP trails map. May, maybe earlier. Call for trail conditions.
  • White Ranch Park trail system. (Jefferson County Parks.) JCP trails webpage. JCP trails map. May, maybe earlier. Call for trail conditions.
  • William F. Hayden Park trail system on Green Mountain. (City of Lakewood Parks, Forestry and Open Space.) Park webpage. Park map. March.

Grand Junction Region

  • Book Cliffs trail system at Fruita (Bureau of Land Management.. BLM webpage. Usually accessible by May Suggest calling the BLM office in Grand Junction 970-244-3000 for trail conditions.
  • Fruita Fat Tire Festival. End of April.
  • Kokopelli's Trail. (Bureau of Land Management.) Loma, CO, to Moab, UT. May or June. 142-mile multi-use trail. BLM webpage. BLM brochure/map. See description on Latitude 40 Degrees map Fruita / Grand Junction Colorado Trails Recreation Topo Map.

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Biking group on Rim Rock Trail on North Table Mountain at Golden

Biking group on Rim Rock Trail on North Table Mountain at Golden. Photo by Anne & Rob Brumbaugh.

Paved Path Cycling

Cañon City Region 

Denver Region

  • Denver B-Cycle bike rental system. Website.
  • Denver Bike Path System. Denver Bike Map. Check out Great Road Rides Denver by Jay P. K. Kenney for a pretty comprehensive list of bike paths.

Northeast Plains Region

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Summit County Region

Road Biking

Multiple Regions

  • Bicycle Tour of Colorado. 438 mile loop -- Cañon City to Crested Butte and back. Late June.
  • Death Ride Tour. Silverton to Silverton loop via Ouray, Telluride, Dolores, Durango. 232 miles and 16,500 feet elevation gain. Early June.
  • Ride the RockiesRoute map. Telluride to Colorado Springs. 513 miles and 20,400 vertical feet gain. Middle of June.

Denver Region

Resources

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Events

Alamosa Region

Participate in one of these open air  spring events to build your endurance for the summer season.

Boulder Region

  • BolderBOULDER. May 27. 10k run. Website.

Denver Region

  • Cherry Creek Sneak. Last Sunday in April. Cherry Creek Mall neighborhood. This is mainly a 10-mile run. They, however, also stage a 5-mile run, 3.1 mile run, 1.5 mile sneak sprint, a Kid's Fun Run and a variety of other events to keep everyone entertained. Website.
  • National Get Outdoors Day. June 8. Get Outdoors Colorado. Denver's City Park. Dinosaur Ridge.
  • Platte River Half Marathon & Buckhorn Exchange Relay. April 7. Website.

Fishing

Dude’s Fishing Hole at Golden Gate Canyon Park

Dude’s Fishing Hole at Golden Gate Canyon Park. Photo by Anne & Rob Brumbaugh.

Unless you're into ice fishing you'll have to wait until ice-off which at lower elevations which occurs sometime in April or May. You'll also need a fishing license to engage in this great pastime. You can get your license online, by phone at 1-800-244-5613, at license agents around the state and at Wildlife Service Centers. Or you may want to stop in at the downtown Denver REI to get your license and then stop by the Outdoor Recreation Information Center to get tips on where to go. The Annual Licenses are valid form April 1 through March 31.

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Tail Waters

You can fish tail waters year round. Some recommendations:

  • Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam.
  • Big Thompson River below Lake Estes.
  • Blue River near the Dillon Outlets.
  • South Platte River below Cheesman Canyon Dam.
  • South Platte River below Strontia Springs Dam.

Lakes, Ponds, Reservoirs

Denver Region

Eastern Plains Regions

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Geocaching

Geocaching's Colorado webpage. A great springtime activity to hone your GPS skills.

Hiking

The key is to stay low in the spring. It's a good idea to call ahead to get trail conditions before you go.

Multiple Regions

Denver Region

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Hiker on lower portion of Carpenter Peak trail in Roxborough State Park.

Hiker on lower portion of Carpenter Peak trail in Roxborough State Park. Photo by Anne & Rob Brumbaugh.

Canon City Region

Colorado Springs Region

Fort Collins Region

Horseback Riding

You are likely to encounter mud and hazardous stream crossings early in the Spring. Call for trail conditions before you go.

Boulder Region

Denver Region

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Fort Collins Region

Resources

Horseback riders, Chatfield State Park

Horseback riders in Chatfield State Park. Photo by Anne & Rob Brumbaugh.

Hot Springs Soaking

These are great anytime of the year, but not all the hike-in hot springs are accessible in the Spring. Here are a few commercial hot springs to get you started.

Buena Vista Region

Steamboat Region

Resources

  • Touring Colorado Hot Springs. Susan Joy Paul. 2012. FalconGuides
  • Colorado's Hot Springs. Deborah Frazier. 2000. Pruett Publishing,

Hunting

Spring is a great time to plan your fall hunting trip. The big game limited license application deadline is Tuesday, April 2, 2013. If you need help deciding where to hunt Colorado Parks & Wildife hunt planners are standing by at 303-291-7526 Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Mountain Time. You can find their full line of hunting brochures online at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife "Regulations Brochures" webpage.

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Orienteering

Practice your map and compass skills in the foothills before you head out on your summer backpacking trip. Helpful websites:

Paddling & Boating

Depending on where you paddle the season may start as early as April and run as late as September. But, generally speaking, the season starts in May and peaks in June.

Buena Vista and Cañon City Regions

Gunnison Region

  • Morrow Point Boat Tours. Ranger-led tours into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in the Crrecanti National Recreation Area. Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Prepaid reservations required can be made in person at the Elk Creek Visitor Center or by calling 970-641-2337 x205. National Park Service webpage.

Nebraska

Resources

Places to Go

Alamosa Region

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Boulder Region

Central Plains Region

Craig Region

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Colorado Springs Region

Denver Region

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Durango Region

Estes Park Region

Fort Collins Region

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Grand Junction Region

Northeast Plains Region

Trinidad Region

Recreational Trails

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Scenic Driving

Multiple Regions

  • Trail Ridge Road/Beaver Meadow Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. America's Byways webpage. Should be open by Memorial Day weekend.

Denver Region

  • Guanella Pass Road. Colorado Department of Transportation webpage. This 22-mile route runs between Georgetown and Grant via Clear Creek County Road 381 and Park County Road 62. It travels the 11,669 foot mountain pass through wildlife and remnants of historic mining operations. Usually opens by Memorial Day weekend

Fort Collins - North Park Regions

  • Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic and Historic Byway. Colorado Department of Transportation webpage. This scenic route connects the historic towns of Ft. Collins and Walden via Colorado State Highway 14. The 101-mile byway goes into Poudre Canyon, over Cameron Pass and into North Park.

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Spring Skiing and Snowboarding

For those who just cannot get enough and hate to see the season end.

Denver Region

  • Loveland Ski Area. Competes with Arapahoe Basin as the last resort to close for the season.

Summit County Region

  • Arapahoe Basin. Competes with Ski Loveland as the last resort to close for the season.

Spring Snow Melt Schedule

This is a rough guide for what to expect in an average year. Revise it accordingly if it is an above or below average snow year. We also recommend checking SNOTEL for current snow depths at monitoring stations throughout the state. Colorado Department of Transportation webcams and 14ers.com can also be good sources for ascertaining the snowline. Users post photos of road conditions to the trailhead and at various points along the trail on 14ers.com. All of these tools should give you a general idea of what to expect.

  •  9,500 feet and lower should be dry around mid-May.
  •  10,000 feet to 10,500 feet should be dry around mid-June.
  •  10,500 feet to 11,500 feet should be dry around July 1st.
  •  11,500 feet and above should be dry around mid-July.

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Star Gazing

With or without a pair of binoculars. This activity offers you a perfect reason to get away from the city lights. Good locations:

Multiple Regions

  • Any of the more than 150 huts, yurts and cabins in ORIC's index.

Denver Region

  • Mt. Evans Recreation Area. USFS webpage. Scheduled to open Memorial Day Weekend.

Fort Collins Region

Grand Junction Region

Trinidad Region

Utah

Southeastern Utah's desert playgrounds are close and warm up well before Colorado's higher terrain. Just watch out for the spring winds.

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Waterfalls

Spring snow melt produces magnificent waterfalls.

Woodland Lake Backcountry Zone

Woodland Lake Backcountry Zone. Photo by Patrick O'Connor.

Boulder Region

Denver Region

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Eagle Region

Estes Park

Wildflower Viewing

Here are some suggested areas that may be low enough to sport early season wildflowers.

Boulder Region

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Colorado Springs Region

  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Mounment Trails System (National Park Service). NPS trails webpage. NPS trails map. Although best known for it's fossil beds and red wood trunks it is also carpeted with wildflowers. The drive getting there is pretty nice too.

Denver Region

Estes Park Region

Fort Collins Region

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Granby Region

Grand Junction Region

Resources

Wildlife Viewing

Alamosa Region

  • Monte Vista Crane Festival. 719-589-4021. Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge map. - Watch the Sandhill Cranes descend into and lift off from the rye fields. You may see them in late February through the middle of April, but the peak will be in March when the festival is held. So mark your calendar for March 8-10. Visiting the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge also is recommended while you're in the area. 719-589-4021. Map.

Boulder Region

Central Plains Region

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Bald eagle in Addenbrook Park, Lakewood

Bald eagle in Addenbrook Park, Lakewood. Photo by Anne & Rob Brumbaugh.

Denver Region

You'd be amazed at the viewing opportunities within an easy drive from Denver.

Northeast Plains Region

Trinidad Region

  • Lesser Prairie-Chicken viewing area. USFS webpage. Thirty-five miles southeast of Springfield.

Resources

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