I absolutely love Colorado in the summer – especially the mountains! There’s just something about that drive into the mountains and the cooler temperatures along with the gorgeous views that never disappoint. Since we spend as much time in the mountains as we can each summer, (and I am a frugal mama) I’m detailing a handful of things that you can do for free. Including a few easy hikes your family (likely) won’t complain about. If you’re new here, welcome! I write books set in Colorado, and you can check them out here. I’m also delighted to announce that I recently signed a contract for an upcoming June 2024 women’s fiction book, The Summer of Keeping Secrets, which will be set on the cliffs flanking Lake Dillon, Colorado. Hooray!
1. Ride the Breckenridge gondola for free!
The Breckenridge gondola views are stunning, the ride is enclosed, and it runs for free. Check their website for updated hours (currently listed as 9:30am-5:30pm/last ride up at 5:00.) It will take you to Peak 8. If you want to get off and do some paid activities, there’s a list of options here. Otherwise, you can simply ride the gondola back down. Keep an eye out for moose, fox, beaver and other wildlife below!
2. Easy family hikes are easy to come by in Summit County.
Sawmill Reservoir Trail is around a mile and a half. It climbs slowly parallel to a mountain stream. At the end, you’ll reach a beautiful reservoir. No complaints from our (then) ten-year-old about doing this easy hike. (Located in Breckenridge, Colorado.)
Old Dillon Reservoir sits atop a hill. This hike is a little more work, but you can go as slowly as you like. It also leads to some fantastic views of both the old reservoir and the new, which is Lake Dillon below. (Located in Dillon, Colorado.)
And if you’re in the Frisco, Colorado area, Rainbow Lake Trail is another slow elevation gaining hike that leads to a small, very beautiful lake. Our son likes to cross the stream on fallen trees and usually ends up getting his shoes wet.
3. Speaking of Frisco…
If you haven’t been to this quaint mountain town, definitely spend a little time here strolling down Main Street. It boasts a cute local bookstore and some great restaurants and local shops. It reminds me of a European village, and it’s a great place to bring your bikes (or rent) and either head toward Copper Mountain (a steeper incline) or connect to the bike path that circles Lake Dillon. You can hop on the Lake Dillon bike path (pictured below) in numerous spots, including both Dillon and Frisco marinas. At the marina in Frisco, kids can play in the sand while parents people watch. Lots of paddle boarders and summer boaters come in and out of this spot.
4. Summit County is full of free music in the summers.
You can find out what’s happening for events by checking The Summit Daily, which is free and can be found around town in newspaper boxes. Dillon Amphitheater is, in my opinion, the best spot to catch music because the views are unparalleled. They do a free summer concert series. You’ll need to scroll through both the paid and unpaid concerts to find the ones that are free and match your visit dates. In previous summers, they’ve also hosted movies on the water. No sign of that yet for 2023, but I will update if those details become available.
5. Be sure to check out Breckenridge.
Breckenridge is gorgeous in the summer. There is an area next to the river in town that kids like to climb around on the rocks. (FYI, the current is strong, especially during snow melt.) For a few quarters, you can grab fish food on the bridge and toss it into the water to watch the fish eat. There are numerous historical buildings with plaques throughout. And there’s an easy-peasy trail (really more of a walk) to visit Isak the Troll. Parking details here.
If you’re visiting Summit County this summer, I hope you enjoy! Be prepared for an afternoon rain that often passes through. And pack layers. The mornings and evenings can be cool, and then the sun heats the day. Even seventies can feel hot due to the high altitude. And don’t forget your sunscreen! Sunburns happens quickly at high altitudes.
Do you have a favorite place to visit in your state? Drop it in the comments below!