9 Reasons to Drive to Steamboat Springs

Dog sledding, hot air balloons, and more.

Exploring the Rockies is one of the best reasons to live in or visit Colorado, and there are a ton of destinations to choose from when you’re ready to hit the road and get out of town for a while. But only one town offers seemingly endless options when it comes to activities, dining, and outdoor adventure. Steamboat Springs is about three hours from Denver, and the drive itself is filled with scenic vistas. Once you arrive, a whole new world of mountain fun awaits. Whether you want to play in the snow or just soak away the worries of everyday life in the mineral hot springs, this mountain town’s got it all—and we’ve highlighted nine of the best reasons to pack a bag, fill up your gas tank, and head to northwest Colorado where adventure awaits. 

Rabbit Ears Motel sign
Courtesy of Rabbit Ears Motel

You can stay at your own private mountain getaway

Steamboat Springs isn’t a day trip kind of location. To experience a true mountain town escape, you need to stay at least one night (and preferably two or three). There are plenty of hotel options in the area, from the luxurious Steamboat Grand which is a four minute walk to the gondola and the more budget-friendly Rabbit Ears Motel across from Old Town Hot Springs. But if you really want to feel like you’ve snuck away to some other life where you live in the Rockies, opt for an Airbnb like this condo with a fireplace and hot tub, or this one that’s just steps to the gondola, or this private cozy cabin next to a creek. 

Aurum Food and Wine nachos
Courtesy of Aurum Food and Wine

Eat well for every meal

Steamboat has one of the most vibrant dining scenes west of Denver with a ton of options for everything from fine dining to burgers and brunch. Right now, takeout, delivery, and dine-in are all available. If you’d rather skip the dine-in experience, check out this takeout and delivery guide from the town’s Chamber of Commerce filled with choices like tacos and cocktails from Salt + Lime and salads and sandwiches from local favorite Freshies. For a unique dine-in experience, make reservations to enjoy a meal in a yurt at Aurum or inside a gondola at Mountain Tap Brewery.   

Old Town Hot Springs
Courtesy of Old Town Hot Springs

Spend time soaking in one of the most beautiful hot springs in the state

Named for one of the mineral springs that made a “chugging” noise, it’s no surprise that hot springs remain one of the biggest draws to this mountain town. Old Town Hot Springs is a family-friendly option downtown, but if you’re up for a bit of a trek, you have to visit Strawberry Park Hot Springs. The springs are about a 20-minute drive from town over some steep hills and sharp curves, but it’s more than worth the effort to visit this spot where you can soak in the warm waters while surrounded by the natural beauty of the area. Reservations are currently required so be sure to plan ahead. 

Steamboat Resort bridge
Courtesy of Steamboat Resort

There’s a ton to do outdoors in the winter

Almost any outdoor activity you can do in the snow is available in Steamboat. Known as Ski Town USA, the resort is, of course, a world-class place to hit the slopes. But beyond skiing and snowboarding, you can also venture to the three area state parks for ice fishing, fat biking, and Nordic skiing. The town has also added free outdoor ice skating rinks—you’ll just need to bring your own skates. Love to hike? Rent some snowshoes and hit up the area’s groomed trails.

And even more to do outdoors in the summer

Once the weather warms up and the ski resort closes for the winter, a whole new variety of outdoor adventures await. There are tons of trails for hiking and mountain biking, you can fish or go tubing on the Yampa River, or play 18 holes at one of the area golf courses or the disc golf course on the mountain. Not enough options? How about a stroll through the Yampa River Botanic Park, canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding at Steamboat Lake and Stagecoach State Park, or a ride down the Howler Alpine Slide. Basically, if you want to play outside, Steamboat is a prime destination.

Tread of Pioneers Museum exterior
Courtesy of Tread of Pioneers Museum

Get immersed in local history

Sure, you could visit Steamboat and drink at the breweries and ski on the slopes without ever knowing more about the Native Americans who once lived on the land or the town’s Olympic history or its unique ranching roots, but your experience will be a lot more meaningful if you do. Located downtown, the Tread of Pioneers Museum is the perfect place to learn all about the area’s rich history. The recently expanded museum includes a fully furnished 1901 Queen Anne-style Victorian home that will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time along with exhibits filled with interesting memorabilias and artifacts from the past. 

Bundle up for a sleigh ride

Speaking of going back in time, you can experience a winter favorite from times past with the Haymaker Sleigh Ride dinner. Your evening will begin with drinks and appetizers in the Haymaker Clubhouse before you head out on a scenic 25 minute horse-drawn sleigh ride. Once you arrive for dinner, you’ll settle in for a three-course meal while watching the mountain sunset. It doesn’t get more romantic than this. Capacity is limited, but if you’d prefer a private sleigh ride, a two-person option is available, and reservations are required so don’t forget to book your spot ahead of time. 

Wild West Balloon Adventures
Courtesy of Wild West Balloon Adventures

See the Yampa Valley from new heights on a hot air balloon ride

Let the experts at Wild West Balloon Adventures take you on an unforgettable journey. Balloon rides are offered year round, so you can experience stunning aerial views no matter the season. Your ride will leave early in the morning and you’ll get about 45 minutes with the entire experience—including champagne celebration, lasting about 2 - 2 ½ hours. Currently, groups are limited to four people (with possible exceptions for larger groups all from the same family). 

Try out a new mode of transportation on a dog-sledding adventure

For a unique way to experience the outdoors in winter, the family-owned Grizzle-T Dog & Sled Works offers expert-led dog sledding tours where you can experience what it’s like to be pulled by a team of Alaskan Huskies. Owner and Iditarod Musher Kris Hoffman and his family have nearly four decades of experience and, along with their team of guides, will take you on either a 12.5 or 8 mile journey through the wilderness, depending on which trail you opt for. And yes, the experience does include some prime dog cuddling time after you’re done on the trail.

Molly Martin is a Denver-based freelance writer who’s always up for a road trip. Follow her @mollydbu on Instagram and Twitter for more updates on food, fun, and life in the Mile High.