There is so much more to Steamboat Springs than ski slopes so visit in summer or fall to see top sights. Located in northwestern Colorado, Steamboat Springs got its name when early trappers heard gurgling hot springs and mistook it for the sounds of a steamboat. The small, thriving town of about 12,000 bumps against Steamboat, a year-around resort climbing up Mt. Werner.
Steamboat Springs is as beautiful in summer and fall as it is in winter. There is enough to keep you as busy as you want, often with activities not available in other resort towns — including tubing andcatch-and-release fishing. On Friday and Saturday nights from mid-June to mid-August, the Pro Rodeo series takes place at the Romick Arena. On Mt. Werner there’s a free Summer Concert Series in Gondola Square, and lots of festivals and bike races.
Steamboat lures hikers and bicyclists with hundreds of miles of trails. There are also two golf courses; the links-style Haymaker is treeless while Rollingstone is fully turfed and treed.
Start with breakfast at Winona’s on Lincoln Avenue. It’s small so get there early, or join the long line out the door. Cinnamon buns are huge and we really like the benedicts, particularly the crab and smoked salmon.
Hiking and mountain biking
Take a morning bike ride or hike. (Ski Haus, Steamboat Ski and Bike, Wheels or the Steamboat Bike Shop can outfit you.) Three favorite trails include the 11-mile Zirkel Circle in the Zirkel Wilderness and the Spring Creek Trail, accessed at the corner of Amethyst Drive and Maple Street. Get directions from bike shops or locals for the Hot Springs Trail trailhead, accessed off Routt County Rd 129. At the end of the trail, soak in a natural, outdoor hot spring (clothing optional after dark).
For bicyclists who prefer to stay closer to the resort, Steamboat Bike Park has a mix of trails and challenges for all levels.
Free mountain hikes
Take a free guided hike (Tuesdays and Thursdays mid-June to mid-August) with Steamboat ambassadors on Mt. Werner. Since they start at the top of the gondola, you have to hike up or purchase a gondola ticket to the meeting place. On Wednesday’s, Fridays and Sundays, look for the gourmet lunch hike served at Thunderbird Lodge.
Back in town try Creekside Cafe for lunch, with great Bloody Marys and terrific Creeksteak or Rubin sandwiches.
In the afternoon, rent a tube from Backdoor Sports and float down the Yampa river. Wave to diners sitting on a deck by the water. The Yampa also provides a special catch-and-release fishing experience. Bucking Rainbow Outfitters on Lincoln Avenue can set you up and provide guides. Bucking Rainbow also rents tubes.
For a messy and delicious barbecue dinner, head to Steamboat Smokehouse (on Lincoln Avenue), you throw peanut shells on the floor. We always argue about whether the hickory-smoked ribs or beef brisket is better. You?
For something more fancy, Cafe Diva on Ski Time Square Drive, has a great seasonal menu and unique preparations highlighting local ingredients like bison, game and fish.
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The Shack is a local favorite for breakfast. It’s small, with really good dishes like Mac’s omelet, Banana Waffles or the Hobo Special.
Since Steamboat is cowboy country, go horseback riding. Steamboat Springs Stables located by the rodeo grounds offer one- and two-hour trail rides. Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch, about 18 miles north of town, offers riding through some of the state’s most beautiful mountain scenery — especially when mountain flowers are blooming. (Ask about shuttle service to and from the resort.) If you’re an experienced rider call several days in advance to discuss preferences.
Then ride the half-mile long alpine slide, near the Steamboat Springs Stables and Howelsen Hill.
Hot air ballooning
Or consider a morning hot air balloon ride; the launch field is off Route 40 by the Fairfield Inn. Watching the crew set up and inflate the balloon is lots of fun. You haven’t heard silence until the burner gets shut off when you’re soaring. Views from the gondola are fabulous. A continental breakfast precedes the flight.
At lunchtime head to the Backcountry Deli on Lincoln. The Fourteener or Grand, both on a baguette, are our favorites.
In the afternoon head to Old Town Hot Springs for a soak in one of eight pools. Area springs, used by Ute Indians before they were “relocated,” are a prime attraction. Check out the water slide, challenge yourself on their alpine climbing wall or treat yourself to a massage.
For fine dining we suggest Harwigs on Lincoln Avenue. We’ve seen some negative reviews, but we’ve not had a problem here. The poached lobster is a delightful appetizer, and we’re partial to the duck and lamb main dishes.
For casual head to Mahogany Ridge Bar and Grill on Lincoln Avenue. We like the Greek Saganaki appetizer, spicy tuna ceviche, and the lamb or duck with a dipping sauce. Steamboat Springs and the resort are filled with good restaurants, including these suggestions.