Winter is prime time here in the Centennial State and you don’t need to ski to enjoy the fluffy white snow! I’ve spent the better part of 12 winters here in Colorado. As a local, I’ve got the inside scoop on the best things to do in Colorado in winter besides ski.
I’ve lived in Colorado for almost 12 years. As such, I’ve been all over the state. I’m an absolute expert in Colorado travel. Not to mention, it’s my day job to write about the outdoors so I’ve been around the block and back.
As a local Colorado expert, I’m not only going to share the best things to do in Colorado in winter, but I’ll also give you exclusive local information you can’t find anywhere else. Why? Because I want you to make the most of the snowy season.
About this Guide to Things to Do in Colorado in Winter Besides Ski
There is plenty of things to do in Colorado in winter, even if you don’t ski. In this guide, you’ll find expert, local advice. Not to mention, we’ll cover:
- The best things to do in Colorado in winter
- Family-friendly winter activities in Colorado
- Awesome winter getaways in Colorado
- Free things to do in Colorado this winter
- Local tips for visiting Colorado in the winter
What is There to Do in Colorado if You Don’t Ski
Not a skier? No problem! There’s plenty of things to do in Colorado if you don’t ski.
Once upon a time, I used to ski and snowboard. But honestly, I’ve hardly hit the slopes in the past 5 years. I’m not even a huge fan of winter – the cold just gets to me. I still manage to have an amazing winter season in my home state.
Just because you don’t ski, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in the wintery mountain scenes of Colorado. Plan fun outdoor activities or spend time indoors at museums, theatres, and even climbing gyms.
If you don’t want to hit the slopes, consider checking out one of the Colorado mountain towns that don’t have a ski resort. Typically, the non-ski resort towns of Colorado have great prices for lodging in the winter. You’ll get plenty of solitude, and have access to some of the best things to do in Colorado in winter without paying ski resort prices.
What is There to Do in Colorado in the Winter?
When it comes to things to do in Colorado in winter there are plenty of awesome activities to keep busy. From wonderful light festivals in the cities to remote yurts in the wilderness, you can have a whole season of snowy fun.
A few awesome activities to check out include:
- See the Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanical Gardens
- Go snowshoeing in Colorado
- Soak in a hot spring
- Take a sleigh or dog sled ride
- Book a relaxing hut trip
The Best Things to Do in Colorado in Winter
You can still have a ton of fun visiting Colorado in the winter even if you don’t ski or snowboard. This list of the amazing things to do in Colorado this winter focuses on ways to enjoy the shorter days without buying a ski pass.
1. Head Out on a Snowshoeing Adventure
Colorado is home to some incredible winter hiking trails. Although the snow may shut some areas down in the winter, there’s still plenty of amazing winter trails in Colorado. Rent some snowshoes from a local gear shop and hit up one of the easier Colorado hiking trails this winter for a fun-filled day.
Local Tip: As a beginner snowshoer, make sure you understand avalanche risks. If you aren’t sure, avoid any trails that go through avalanche terrain or stick to flat areas that don’t cross under any steep hills.
Where: There are many amazing winter hiking trails in Colorado. Be sure to check out Mayflower Gulch (outside of Copper Mountain), Herman Gulch (right before Loveland Pass on I-70), Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, and the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail.
Cost: Snowshoe rentals run at about $20 per day, $25 if you need poles (recommended).
2. Take a Thrilling Dog Sled Ride
Ever wondered what it’s like to be a musher on a dog sled team? Now you can ride along with a dog sled team in Winter Park, Colorado. Dog sledding is one of the most fun-filled things to do in Colorado in winter. Learn about the sport and see these amazing animals in action.
Where: Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park
Cost: $195 per person
3. Enjoy Glenwood Springs with a Frosty Glow
One of the most scenic places in Colorado, Glenwood Springs offers up some of the best things to do in Colorado in winter if you don’t ski. Soak in the incredible Iron Mountain Hot Springs after you spend the morning snowshoeing to Hanging Lake. Seeing one of the best lakes in Colorado amongst a dreamy winter landscape is a must-do.
You can scope out the lights downtown during the holiday season or try your luck at the Glenwood Escape Room. You’ll also still be able to visit the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park (just wear warm clothing) and even enjoy ice fishing.
Glenwood Springs offers a great way to get out of town and enjoy some wintery fun.
Where: Glenwood Springs, 2.5 hours from Denver
Cost: budget around $400 for the weekend with lodging
4. Go Fish…on the Ice
Ice fishing is arguably one of the biggest Colorado past times. You can opt to rent your own gear or go out on a guided adventure at one of the many ice fishing locales throughout Colorado.
Worried about the cold? Don’t fret – you can opt to rent a heated tent to stay toasty warm while you try your luck at catching rainbow trout and other Colorado fish friends.
A few amazing places to ice fish in Colorado include:
- Elevenmile Reservoir
- Chambers Lake
- Lake Granby
- Twin Lakes
- Georgetown Lake
Where: Ice Fish Colorado Guides
Cost: $450 for two people on a 6-hour trip.
5. Spend the day in Boulder
If you’d like to get into nature, but don’t want to venture far from Denver, consider a day trip to Boulder. Start the morning off with a crisp hike on the Flatirons Vista Trail – one of Boulder’s best hikes.
Afterward, head to the Dushanbe Teahouse. This famous location is a reconstructed Turkish teahouse that features an array of global teas to keep you toasty.
Next, enjoy a spa treatment at the St Julien Hotel (hello RnR). Afterward, you can shop at Pearl Street or opt to visit the Fiske Planetarium for a well-rounded day of wintery fun.
Where: Boulder, CO just 40 minutes from Denver
Cost: Varies depending on activities.
6. Stay in a Yurt
Escape the mundane days of winter and head to the mountains for a weekend yurt getaway! Pack the essentials and hike in a couple of short miles to the Never Summer Nordic yurts in State Forest State Park. Play games, go for hikes, and enjoy the cozy feel of yurt life in a wintery wonderland.
You can easily snowshoe to this hut, making it an ideal choice of things to do in Colorado if you don’t ski.
Pro Tip: Be prepared to hike out your trash. You don’t need to bring the kitchen sink, definitely ask what the yurt provides prior to heading out. Bring plenty of tasty snacks and some fun games to play.
Where: State Forest State Park or one of the many 10th Mountain Division huts.
Cost: $95 per night for a six-person yurt.
7. Go on a Backcountry Hut Trip
If you’re really into backcountry skiing or you love spending time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, check out one of the many 10th Mountain Division backcountry huts in Colorado.
Each hut is unique, some have wood-fired hot tubs and even dry saunas! Most huts require an advanced reservation, but others are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Pro Tip: Layer up to stay warm over winter. Be prepared for the local and current conditions as you head to your hut and don’t bite off more travel time than you can chew!
Where: All over the Colorado Rockies.
Cost: Varies depending on the hut, but generally not too expensive.
8. Take a Snowmobiling Tour
Learn what it means to go brap brap with a snowmobiling tour in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Taking a ride on a motor-powered sled is one of the most thrilling things to do in Colorado in the winter.
Snowmobile tours take you through wintery trails and lead to stunning vistas of the famous Rabbit Ears Pass. Trail tours range from beginner to advanced.
Where: Steamboat Snowmobile Tours in Steamboat Springs
Cost: $150 per person
9. Ride a Fat Bike
Think you can’t ride a bike in winter? Think again. As one of the best things to do in Colorado in winter, fat biking should be at the top of your list. Beginners can enjoy an array of groomed trails, while experts will have literally limitless terrain to explore.
The Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association is a great place to get your feet wet with the sport. You can rent bikes from various establishments.
Where: Crested Butte must-visit trails: Town Ranch, Rec Path or Riverbend Connector trails. Rent from The Alpineer.
Cost: $60 for a half-day, or $80 for the day
10. Check out the Ice Sculpture Park Near Breckenridge Skil Resort
For a real icy treat, head to the International Snow Sculpture Championships. Every year in the town of Breckenridge, artisans work day and night to create glamorous ice sculptures. Interact and walk through the icy marvels! Seriously, it’s an amazing sight to behold.
Where: Breckenridge, Colorado
When: January 26 through Feb 7th, 2021
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11. See the Holiday Decoration at The Broadmoor
Nobody gets into the holiday spirit quite like The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. This high-end, all-inclusive resort property is a long-coveted establishment that goes all out for Christmas.
It’s one of the best places to visit in Colorado in winter. Head into the main lobby and up the stairs to see one of the most impressive gingerbread displays on the planet.
At night, the grounds come alive with beautiful light decorations, outdoor fireplaces complete with s’ mores and hot cocoa. The best part, it’s free to visit!
Where: The Broadmoor Colorado Springs
Cost: Free to walk the grounds and see the gingerbread displays. Food and drink are extra.
12. Get Lit at the Denver Botanical Gardens
No, I’m not talking about Denver’s favorite 21-plus recreation pastime. Wink, wink. However, if you’re into holiday light displays, there’s nothing more impressive than the Denver Botanical Gardens’ Blossoms of Light festival.
Walkthrough mesmerizing, interactive light shows. Most of the scenes are non-denominational, however, the scene wouldn’t be complete without some carolers to bring the festive vibes.
Where: Denver Botanical Gardens Downtown Denver
Cost: $21 for non-members $19 for members
13. Spend the Day in Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park
At one of the best weekend getaways from Denver, you’ll love spending a couple of days nestled up in Estes Park. With lots of amazing things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park during winter, you’ll have an action-packed wintery weekend.
Spend the day snowshoeing to Emerald Lake, soaking up the views of Notchtop and Hallett Peak.
Catch a sunrise at Sprague Lake or go ice climbing. Consider taking a whirl on the Wintertime Wonders Bus Tour and check out the sights both in and out of the park.
Where: Estes Park, Colorado
When: All winter
Cost: Varies, but plan on spending between $350 $500 including lodging for the weekend.
14. Ride a Scenic Holiday Train in Georgetown
For a wintery wonderland without much effort, take a ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Enjoy a ride with Santa at the helm as you make your way through a fun-filled light festival complete with synchronized music.
This family-friendly winter activity in Colorado is a great way to get into the winter spirit.
Where: Georgetown, Colorado
When: November 7th – 29th, December 1 – Jan 3. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.
Cost: $31 for adults, $22 for children under 15.
15. Go Ice Climbing
Try a new outdoor sport this winter and climb some ice. If you’re into adrenaline rushes, then ice climbing is one of the best things to do in Colorado in winter besides ski.
This crazy, yet super fun sport is an excellent way to see frozen waterfalls up close and personal. Hire a guide or take a lesson and learn how to top-rope ice safely. Ouray Ice Park and the Vail Valley offer world-class ice climbing opportunities for beginners and experts alike.
Where: The best place to learn is the Ouray Ice Park. They “farm” or make the ice themselves and it is a more controlled environment than ice climbing in the backcountry.
Cost: Varies. Here’s a look at guiding services that offer classes in the park. Don’t forget you’ll need to rent: Crampons, ice tools, and crampon-compatible mountaineering boots.
16. Enjoy a Winter Roller Coaster
Thrill-seekers need to check out the Mountain Coaster in Glenwood Springs, Colorado! This high-flying ride is an awesome winter activity in Colorado. Open year-round, you can enjoy this thrill ride any time of year, but winter is extra special as the snowy scenes fly past.
Where: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs
Cost: $42 for adults and $37 for kids but it includes a gondola ride, haunted mine drop, laser tag, and two walking cave tours.
17. Hit Up a Tubing Adventure Park
Skip the long lift lines and go adventure tubing at Keystone’s Mountaintop Snow Park. Perfect for families or date night, this fun-filled ride will have you smiling and laughing your way down the mountain. It’s a great way to spend some time on a ski slope without dropping tons of coin to ski.
Where: Mountaintop Snow Tubing at Keystone Resort
18. Gawk at the Royal Gorge in Canon City
One of my favorite day trips from Denver is to head down to Canon City. Just 2.5 hours south of Denver you’ll find Canon City and the Royal Gorge. Featuring steep cliff walls that plummet down 950 feet to the river below.
At the park, you’ll find the Royal Gorge Bridge (free), a via Ferrata, Skycoaster, gondola, and much more. Keep in mind some of the attractions may be limited if the weather is poor. However, it’s always free to hike the trails.
Avid sport climbers will also want to check out the climbing at Shelf Road nearby.
Where: 15 minutes outside of Canon City, Colorado
When: All winter
Cost: free to hike, $28 to enter the park and extra money for the Skycoaster and zipline.
19. Visit One of Colorado’s Best Winter Towns
Don’t miss out on winters in Colorado. Instead of staying stuck at home, head out on a weekend getaway to one of Colorado’s best mountain towns. These towns come to life in winter with plenty of shopping, eating, and outdoor fun!
There are many different places to visit in Colorado for winter, but these are a few must-see towns:
- Steamboat Springs: Strawberry Park hot springs, go for a snowmobiling ride, hit up a spa.
- Frisco: ice fishing adventures, cross country skiing,
- Crested Butte: Fat biking, snowmobiling, scenic winter driving, great short hikes
- Telluride: Helicopter skiing, fat biking, cross country skiing, ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Park, horseback ridigin.
- Buena Vista: Cottonwood and Mount Princeton Hot Springs, scenic winter hikes, dog sledding.
20. Ring in the New Year at a Ski Resort
So if you DO ski or snowboard, you can partake in a magical light show by partaking in a ski parade at one of many Colorado ski resorts. Snowmass in Aspen and Steamboat Springs both do a torchlight parade down the mountain complete with a fireworks display. Don’t ski? Don’t worry! Being a spectator is even more fun.
Where: Snowmass Mall and Base Village at Snowmass Aspen, Colorado
Cost: Free to watch!
21. Go for a Dip in a Hot Springs
After a fun-filled day of activity, head to a nearby hot spring for a relaxing soak. There are plenty of jaw-dropping hot springs in Colorado from Glenwood Springs to Steamboat Springs. A personal favorite of mine? Strawberry Hot Springs in Steamboat.
Where: Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs
Cost: $10, children are $5. Keep in mind clothing is optional after dark.
22. Experience a Magic Sleigh Ride
Feel the wind in your hair as you travel by horse-drawn carriage on this magical wintery ride. Toutes as one of the most magical things to do in Colorado during the winter, you can take a horse-drawn carriage to a beautiful dinner location nestled in the heart of Rockies. Did someone say romantic?
Where: Two Below Zero in Frisco, Colorado
Cost: $89 including dinner
23. Learn to Cross Country Ski
Glide your way through wintery trails with cross-country ski lessons. Learn in a controlled environment and make a swift move towards nordic skiing. Nordic skiing is a relaxing, yet engaging way to experience the mountains during the winter.
Where: Vail Nordic Center
Cost: Prices vary but rentals run from $25 to $30 per day, plus a $15 day pass. Lessons are $55 for adults and $45 for kids.
24. Marvel at Sandstone Monuments
There is something indescribable about seeing red desert sandstone dusted in snow. With its unique landscape and quaint towns, the western slope is one of the best places to visit in Colorado in winter.
Skip the crowds (and oppressive heat) with a visit to the Colorado National Monument along the Western Slope. Go for a scenic sunset drive, or head out for hike among the sandstone giants.
Where: Colorado National Monument between Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado
Cost: $15 or free with a national park’s pass
Related: Expert Tips for Hiking in the Desert
25. Take a Spin on Some Skates
Take a day trip just outside of Denver this weekend. Head to Evergreen Park for the world’s largest Zamboni-groomed outdoor ice rink. Take a twirl on the ice or join a pick-up hockey game. There are separate areas for skating depending on your activity.
Where: Evergreen Lake House Park
Cost: $7 to skate and $7 to rent skates
26. Relax in Denver
Denver is an excellent place to snuggle up and enjoy winter. Head out on a scenic drive near Denver for some wintery magic, then post up at one of the many amazing Denver eateries (the Source, Cherry Creek, and Larimer Square have excellent dining options).
You can head to an escape room, catch a show on Colfax, or visit the Denver Art Museum for the day. There are plenty of evening events such as indoor crafting at a paint and sip or head to one of Denver’s climbing gyms and learn the ropes.
When: All winter
Tips for Visiting Colorado in Winter
Colorado is a great place to visit any time of year. However, if you’re looking to visit Colorado in winter, it’s important to be prepared. Here are a few Colorado travel tips to keep in mind:
- The weather can be wild in Colorado. Always be prepared and pack extra layers so you don’t get too cold!
- Avalanche danger is a real threat. Understand the avalanche risks before heading out into the backcountry.
- There are traction laws in Colorado. You are required to carry chains UNLESS you have snow tires or a 4WD/AWD vehicle. If you’re renting a car, be sure you’re following the law!
- Winter mountain traffic, especially near ski areas, is a real thing. Remember, the Denver International Airport is far from the city center and even further from the mountains. Plan plenty of extra time to get to the airport, especially if you’re driving on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday.
When it comes to things to do in Colorado in winter, you don’t need to be a ski bum to have fun. These Colorado winter activities offer plenty of thrills for any type of traveler.