Get away for a day: Discover mud-season escapes off the beaten path
Ryan Summerlin May 8, 2014
VAIL — Mud season can seem like a sad face in a text message after a months-long conversation of LOLs and OMGs. After the ski lifts close and the fun of winter fades like your goggle tan, you may be wondering how you’re going to kill time until mountain biking/golfing/hiking/rafting/seeing-free-concerts/pool-lounging summer awesomeness begins.
In May, the Vail Valley is often covered in mud and slush, but other locales close to here are already dry and sunny and without a stray snowflake in sight. This time of year is the perfect opportunity to head out of town and experience a different side of Colorado.
Taking a day trip to Denver or trekking out to Moab, Utah, can be nice, but you’re likely to run into your neighbors there doing the same thing you are. Here are some more creative options to escape the mud and get away for a day or two this spring.
Swing over Glenwood Canyon
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is open throughout May and the drive from Vail clocks in at just over an hour.
If you haven’t been before, you get to ride a gondola up to the park, which has an old-timey Western feel, giving you the urge to burst into a saloon and challenge someone to a draw. Swoon over stalactites with a cave tour inside the canyon or ride the roller coaster perched at the very top.
If you’ve been to the park before there’s a new ride to look forward to. Tentatively set to open Saturday, the Glenwood Canyon Flyer will swing you 1,400 feet above the Colorado River, which is either your idea of a good time or completely terrifying. Either way, there’s something for all ages at Glenwood Caverns, and the quieter crowds during the off season make it an ideal time to go.
For more information on the Glenwood Adventure Park, visit www.glenwoodcaverns.com.
Take to the air at Noah’s Ark
Operated by Noah’s Ark, the Browns Canyon Adventure Park just opened last June and is Colorado’s first aerial adventure course. There are multiple challenge courses, zip lines and a giant swing. John Williams, business manager at Noah’s Ark, said the courses vary in difficulty and park is open to kids ages seven and older.
“It’s very vertically challenging, but it’s also very physically challenging,” Williams said. “It’s a great place for families to come together.”
Browns Canyon opens at the beginning of May and is located in Buena Vista, about and hour and a half drive south of Vail on U.S. Highway 24 East. For more information, visit www.noahsark.com
Climb at Rifle Mountain Park
Like with hiking, now is not the best time to try scrambling up our local rock faces. If you head about 90 miles west to Rifle, however, the weather is warmer and ready for rock climbing. Rifle Mountain Park has roughly 250 routes for both beginner and advanced climbers.
What makes the park a world-renowned climbing destination is how easy it is to access compared to places like Yosemite National Park in California, said Wayne Edgeton, assistant recreation director for the city of Rifle.
“It’s really close to the road,” Edgeton said. “Most of the routes are 60 to 70 feet, 9 to 12 bolts, and not many of the routes crest out to the canyon. (You can climb) whatever your arm pump can stand.”
For guided rock climbing tours at Rifle, contact www.glenwoodclimbing guides.com. For more information on Rifle Mountain Park, visit ww.rifleco.org.
Kick start concert season at Red Rocks
Speaking of rocks, Red Rocks Amphitheater begins its concert season at the end of April, and there are a slew of top acts performing throughout May. If you’re a dubstep fan, then it’s best to get tickets now for Bassnectar’s two nights of shows, set for May 30 and 31. Or check out the Global Dub Festival featuring Krewella on May 16. If pop is more your thing, Lana Del Rey brings her sultry sounds to the area on May 19. Other musicians rockin’ out at Red Rocks this spring are Gramatik, Brantley Gilbert and Toby Mac. For a full list of concerts this summer, visit www.redrocksonline.com
Drink the day away in Boulder
Boulder has great shopping, a surplus of hippies and hordes of fixed-gear bikes. It also has an abundance of breweries. With 17 different breweries in the area, you can sample as many local craft brews as your gut can hold. Boulder Brew Tours offers both walking and driving tours and promises “plenty of beer,” said owner Lee Olliffe.
“One of the first breweries in Colorado started in Boulder,” Olliffe said. “People get to learn about the brewing process, meet some brew masters, and taste some fantastic beer.”
Walking brew tours are $29 per person, driving tours are $39 per person. For more information, visit www.boulderbrewtours.com
Tour high-altitude wine country in West Elks
For a two-day trip, heading west is best. Instead of touring the popular wineries in Palisade, head a bit farther south to West Elks American Viticultural Area (AVA), home to Colorado’s North Fork Valley wineries. Located in Delta County, West Elks AVA has more than 10 wineries, including Terror Creek Winery, the vineyard located at the highest altitude in North America.
Joanna Gilbert, co-owner of Leroux Creek Inn and Vineyard, said the region has a rustic feel not found in most other parts of the state.
“(It) reminds people of old-time Colorado,” Gilbert said. “It’s very untouched. A lot of people come here and say the area reminds them of Sonoma 40 years ago.”
Gilbert and her husband, Yvon Gros, lived in Vail for more than 20 years before moving west and opening their winery.
Gros said as with peaches, the cool nights and hot days of the area balance the acidity in the wine and give it a distinct taste.
“Our vineyards are small, so the quality of wine is pretty high,” Gros said. “The winemakers here are very attentive and add a personal (touch).”
Most wineries in West Elks AVA open the first week of May. For a map and more information on doing a biking or driving wine tour, visit www.westelksava.com.
Mountain bike without the mud in Fruita
Another ideal weekend destination out west is Fruita. Fruita is home to some of the best mountain biking in the state, and May is much drier and sunnier there than here at home. Fruita boasts 320 days of sun a year and has more than three hundred miles of single track biking trails. Eric Diehl, assistant manager at Colorado Back Country Biker in Fruita, said his favorite spot to ride are the trails managed by the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association.
“You’ve got the river on the right (as you’re riding), so you’re seeing a lot of wildlife,” Diehl said. “It’s just more scenic (than other trails).”
For beginners, Diehl recommends the 18 Road or Rabbit Valley trails. A hidden spot not many are aware of are the Uncompahgre Plateau trails, which are south of Fruita. Diehl said the only people you’ll see at Uncompahgre are “cowboys and cows”, because the crowds haven’t’ discovered it yet. For bike trail maps in Fruita, visit www.copmoba.com.