COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — While frigid air and frosty conditions grip much of Colorado, some quadrants stay relatively dry and balmy come winter.
Consider this your guide for a possible escape.
Mountain bikers rejoice: the Royal Gorge region finds itself along a banana belt that ensures a warmer climate.
Over the past decade, Cañon City has seized the opportunity to expand singletrack that’s typically more rideable than the dirt north in Colorado Springs. The Oil Well Flats and South Cañon networks put the area on the map, while nonprofit Fremont Adventure Recreation has more recently been focused on building trails on the north rim of the Royal Gorge. Check that group’s website for up-to-date trail conditions.
Those places can be hiked, too. Another option on foot is Tunnel Drive, touring historic rock passages above the Arkansas River. Another option, of course, is Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. The iconic bridge and attractions stay open year-round. The Royal Gorge Route Railroad offers Christmas-themed train rides.
Winter could be prime time to book a reservation at the revamped Desert Reef Hot Springs closer to Florence. Cañon City’s neighboring town calls itself Colorado’s Antique Capital and also has vied to be the culinary capital, with a surprising mix of cuisine clustered in the little downtown.
The Western Slope desert has been a mountain biking destination since the 1990s, when a ragtag bunch of riders saw great promise in the surrounding sage fields and canyonlands. Fruita saw its fortunes reverse as a base camp for the Kokopelli and Lunch loops, along with 18 Road and greater Rabbit Valley trails.
The famed red rocks of Utah across the border seem to overshadow the similar magnificent formations making up Colorado National Monument.
“Winter is an amazing time to come,” Arlene Jackson, the preserve’s chief of interpretation, told us. “We get a little bit of snow. The road is rarely closed over the top.”
The 23-mile Rim Rock Drive spans between Fruita and Grand Junction, with plenty of overlooks and hiking possibilities along the way. Equally endless are the possibilities in Grand Junction, including the golf courses that stay open during winter.
On the other end of the valley, you won’t find the fruit trees blooming, but you’ll still find amazing flavors around Palisade’s restaurants and wineries.
Lake Pueblo is a destination of water in the summer. In the winter, it’s a destination of land.
Mountain bikers cherish the rocky terrain by the shores. For hikers, Arkansas Point is an easy-to-reach precipice with panoramic views. Campgrounds stay open through winter, granting you a longer stay to spot bald eagles that soar here from mid-December to March.
In town, the Arkansas Riverwalk is a must-do. Pueblo calls the 32-acre waterfront venue its gem, a restful retreat near downtown that’s inspired by San Antonio.
Afterward, you can warm up with the legendary slopper. Gray’s Coors Tavern is believed to be the birthplace of the burger smothered in green chili. The tradition is to wash it down with a schooner of beer. Another local institution is Pass Key, home of “the best Italian sausage sandwich in the world.”
For history buffs, check out El Pueblo History Museum and the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum.