About Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs, also known as Steamboat or the “boat”, is located in Routt County, Colorado and has a population of approximately 13,000. The town came by its name during early times when trappers heard a chugging noise and thought a steamboat was coming down the river. Upon discovering the sound came from the surrounding natural hot springs, they named the settlement Steamboat Springs.
Today, the small, mountain town is popular tourist destination for both winter and summer activities. While I have visited Steamboat in the summer, winter and fall, this post focuses on things to do during the warmer months.
Where to Stay
During my last visit to Steamboat, I borrowed a friend’s place at the Yampa View Condos. The condos are comfortable and conveniently located less than five minutes from the ski mountain and less than ten minutes from downtown. Her two-bedroom, two-bath unit offered lovely views of the valley below and the sunset!
Where to Eat in Steamboat
Steamboat features a variety of restaurants offering all types of cuisines. Many have outdoor seating, and we took advantage of it at a handful of places including E3 Chophouse, O’Neil’s Tavern & Grill, and Carl’s Tavern.
All three restaurants provide American cuisine including tasty appetizers such as bacon wrapped scallops, fried pickles, ceviche, and beef kabobs. Mains include salads, chicken dishes and more. All our orders were good, and the outdoor atmosphere inviting.
While we didn’t eat breakfast out in Steamboat on this occasion, The Shack, is a delicious diner worth noting.
Things to Do in Steamboat
Go for a Ride
Whether it is on a bike or a horse, taking a ride of some sort is a favorite summer option in Steamboat. Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch offers guided trail rides lasting from one hour up to all day. Afraid of horses, no problem. Rent a bike! Several operations rent bikes ranging from cruisers to ebikes and everything in between.
We rented cruisers from Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare. The staff couldn’t have been nicer. They provided helmets with our bikes, helped adjust our seats, and pointed us in the direction of the Yampa River Core Trail just a block from the shop.
We headed south first and tried to visit the Yampa River Botanic Park, but bikes were not allowed inside, and we did not have a lock. While it was likely safe to leave the bikes outside the entrance, we didn’t want to take any chances.
From there we turned back north and rode to the Snow Bowl Steamboat as we checked out some hot springs, artwork, Howelsen Hill, a skate park, and tubers floating the river. Our whole ride was likely only 10 miles, but it was nice way to get some exercise before leaving later in the day.
Float the River
Speaking of floating the river, this is a very popular pastime in Steamboat. Visitors may rent a tube from riverside vendors such as Backdoor Sports. Entry into the shallow Yampa River is practically next to the shop, and the exit is about 45 minutes by tube downstream. Shuttles operate every so often to return tubers to town.
Visitors may also kayak these relatively calm waters in an inflatable duckie or SUP as fisherman toss their line out for trout. While still cool and best to pick a warm summer day, with spring water flowing into the Yampa, the river is warmer than most in Colorado.
Hop on the Gondola
The ski mountain in Steamboat offers a variety of summer activities to visitors including Mini Golf, the Outlaw Mountain Coaster, and scenic Gondola rides. As a Denver transplant who loves hiking, I would not normally ride the gondola up for $30 to hike down. But many visitors love this, however, and my friends from Texas topped that list.
We showed up without plans and had to wait in line for ticket purchases which were slow on opening day, but it is possible to order online. Once we finally made it on the gondola with my dog Annie, who was more afraid of the cars overhead than riding it, we enjoyed a sack lunch on the summit. There is a restaurant on top of the mountain but check if it is open with COVID regulations.
After lunch, my friends and I walked down the Thunderhead Trail to the base. This single track is the most popular route for hikers. The trail criss-crosses the ski run as it weaves in and out of the shade of aspen and evergreen. A variety of wildflowers line the trail and the wild rose were in full bloom.
It’s a nice 3.3 mile jaunt which takes longer than expected without any downhill signage. I highly recommend asking for a paper map as well as using All Trails. On opening day, none of the trail intersections were marked from the downhill side. Uphill was pretty well signed, but that didn’t always help.
Visit Fish Creek Falls
To me, one of Steamboat’s iconic sites is Fish Creek Falls. It is not often that such a spectacular waterfall is so accessible in Colorado. The 283-foot falls is located just five miles outside of Steamboat. There is a short, paved overlook trail that provides excellent views of the cascade. Bring $5 for parking. Exact change is necessary.
Take a Hike
If the short stroll on the overlook trail isn’t enough, there are additional trails at the Fish Creek Falls parking area. Take a hard hike to the falls or a moderate hike to an old uranium mine. Of course there are many trails to hike in Steamboat, and we spent a lot of time exploring during our four day visit. For moderate hikes, we selected Uranium Mine Trail, Mad Creek Trail, Lake Katherine Trail, and Thunderhead Trail (see above).
Go for a Scenic Drive
We had also planned on hiking to Lake Dinosaur, but we found after driving Buffalo Pass Road for 11 or so miles, we could not go further. The rocky, dirt road was still closed due remaining winter snow. So, before I recommend taking a scenic drive to Buffalo Pass, make sure the conditions permit. In addition, it is best to have a high clearance vehicle.
Lucky for us, we were able to make it to the pass, it was just the descent on the other side which was closed. As a result, we turned our failed hike into a lovely scenic drive. Spectacular views dot the roadside. We weren’t the only ones admiring them, as the road draws many campers. During our scenic quest, we stumbled upon a mountain biking trail called Grouse.
While we didn’t mountain bike, it didn’t stop us from walking to a rocky outcrop which we had all to ourselves. What a great spot!
Soak in the Hot Springs
The same road that leaves out of Steamboat to Buffalo Pass also leads to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. These natural hot springs should not be confused with the Old Town Hot Springs in town. The Strawberry Park Hot Springs have a more natural feel. They include picnic areas, a changing room, a massage area and even lodging.
The pools are open day and night, though no children are allowed after dark. In addition, only cash payments are accepted, so be sure to bring $20.
Watch the Rodeo
The rodeo is a very popular event during the summer in Steamboat. This old ranching community holds Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association events every Friday and Saturday night. Tickets are general admission and may be purchased in advance at participating locations.
The rodeo begins around 7:30pm and the competition lasts about two hours. Having said that, there is pre-show entertainment and a BBQ that begin at 6. For good seats go early and pay for dinner at the arena. The complex is located just across the river from downtown Steamboat next to Howelsen Hill.
Note: Rodeo cancelled due to COVID in 2020.
Clearly there are many things to do in Steamboat. Pick what you like and enjoy this charming, Colorado mountain town. ETB
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