Sitting in bumper-to-bumper Denver traffic on your way home from work, you are captivated by those big, huge, beautiful mountains off in the distance. While they make the perfect backdrop for your day-to-day life, how often are you able to make the time to go play in them? It can be daunting to try and plan a getaway. Money, time, and outdoor experience can make those adventurous instagram posts seem out of reach for ordinary people, but we are here to let you know—they’re not! Living in Colorado is like sitting on a goldmine, and if you are unsure of how to begin taking advantage of all the opportunities in your backyard, look no further; here is your how-to guide for the Denver family weekend adventure getaway.
Situated halfway between Vail and Aspen, Glenwood Springs is tucked away like a hidden gem. Driving through the Glenwood Canyon, you feel that you are passing through a gateway into a secret, magical world of Colorado fun.
With a population of 10,000 it’s easy to assume that Glenwood would not have much to do, but this small town offers it all from rollercoasters to whitewater rafting to some of the best food in the valley; and you don’t have to spend an arm and leg to make it happen.
Let’s say your dream weekend would consist of driving down Friday night after work, spending Saturday on the river, hiking Sunday morning, and heading back Sunday afternoon to get ready for the week. From Denver, the drive to Glenwood Springs will take you a little over three hours, depending on weather and traffic. When you arrive, there are several options of places to stay. Of course there are the usual suspects—Holiday Inn, Best Western,and Courtyard just to name a few of our 47 hotels. But if you’re looking for a more local experience, check out the Rio Grande Bed and Breakfast or the Hotel Denver for some historic charm within walking distance of downtown Glenwood and some of the most mind-blowing food you’ve ever tasted.
For dinner, we recommend trying Slope and Hatch. This hole-in-the-wall taco shop isn’t so hole-in-the-wall anymore, after being voted the best tacos in Colorado by Insider magazine, but don’t worry, it’s not touristy, locals can’t get enough of their funky menu which includes tacos like curried lamb tacos and crispy calamari. You may be asked to sit outside if their little shop is packed, but you won’t be complaining—Glenwood enjoys an average of 240 sunny days a year, with virtually no humidity or bugs.
So, it’s Friday night, you’ve just had the most beautiful drive and best tacos of your life, now what? Of course you wouldn’t mind spending the rest of your evening relaxing in your clean, cozy place, but you can do that at home; you came here for vacation. If you don’t feel like hitting the bars or you’ve got little ones with you, hop on over to the Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Open until 10 p.m., the hot springs are a one-of-a-kind experience. The 16 different outdoor geothermal soaking pools range in temperatures and overlook the Colorado river, for unparalleled views and relaxation.
Saturday morning, you’ve got a whitewater rafting reservation! But don’t worry, it’s not until the afternoon. If you feel like getting up and at ‘em, start your day with a pastry and specialty coffee at Bluebird cafe, located in the heart of downtown Glenwood. While you’re there, you might as well check out the shops in the area. Have you ever been to an apothecary shop? Or a gems and minerals store? These are just a couple of unique places worth taking a lap in before your afternoon adventure.
In all of your excitement, you pull into the Whitewater Rafting LLC parking lot and uh oh! You forgot your camera, water shoes, towel, and on top of that, you’re getting a little scared—you’ve never been whitewater rafting before. It seemed like a good idea a week ago, in the comfort of your own home browsing their website, but now it’s very real as you see the raft guides pulling out the boats and paddles you’ll be using shortly. Deep breath. Whitewater Rafting LLC has you covered. Not only do they have an on-staff photographer who knows all the best places to take pictures along your route, they also have all of the gear you could possibly need or want rafting. And your nerves? No worries. Our guides are all certified and extremely qualified to show you their favorite place in the world—the Colorado river.
Not only did you have the time of your life rafting, you got some sun and exercise too! Woohoo! And it’s only noon on a Saturday, how productive of you. You’re really on a roll now, and you don’t want to waste a single minute of this beautiful day, so you walk over to the adventure park next door and take an air-conditioned gondola up to the top of the mountain where you’re dropped off at an amusement park! What?! A mountain-top amusement park? Yup, it’s as cool as it sounds. With rides like the alpine coaster, cliffhanger, and mine drop to get you warmed up, you’re now ready for the granddaddy of them all—the Giant Canyon Swing. Dun dun duuuuun. Named by USA Today as one of the most extreme rides in the country, this thriller will swing you out over the Glenwood Canyon at 50 miles per hour 1,300 feet over the Colorado river. That’s not a typo. If the idea of this ride terrifies you, you should probably try it. If it really terrifies you, there’s always the caves tour down the hill.
Phew! What a day. Tomorrow you’ll be heading back home, but you still have time to squeeze in one more adventure before you hit the road. On your way back to Denver, stop at Hanging Lake, just a few minutes outside of Glenwood and already on your route, for one of the most breathtaking hikes you’ll ever go on. This national landmark can be reached by just over a mile of hiking! Park at the welcome center and hop on a bus to take you to the trailhead.
You did it! The next time you look out over the Denver skyline to those beautiful mountains, you’ll smile remembering a full belly, sore calves, and some of the most amazing memories you’ve created in Colorado.