This is adventure central, with world-class skiing, biking, rafting, hiking, wildlife watching and more. Colorado owes its public adoration to the 14,000ft granite behemoths that rise abruptly, crinkled and snowcapped, out of the Great Plains. 

Remarkable in its diversity, beauty and grandeur, Colorado delivers endless powder runs, outdoor adventures, surprisingly cosmopolitan arts and dining scenes, and 300 days of sunshine.

The only thing more challenging than the backcountry vert is deciding when to go.

Editor's note: during COVID-19 there are restrictions on travel and opening hours may vary. Check the latest guidance in Colorado before planning a trip, and always follow local health advice.

A athletic snowboarder jumping off a cliff on a sunny powder day in Colorado.
The light fluffy powder of Colorado's high mountains is the draw in winter © Patrick Orton/Getty Images

High Season: December - March

Best time for skiing 

The combination of light, soft powder and frequent blue skies has made Colorado winters the stuff of legend. There are big open bowls, steep mogul runs, terrain parks, bunny slopes, wide-open glades, cross-country tracks and backcountry ski huts, and groomed runs that seem to go on for miles.

The winter means skiers and shredders arrive in droves. Vacancies are at a premium and ski resorts capitalize on this big time, charging three times more than their summer rates.

Male hiker walking in the wildflower field on Ice Lake Trail, San Juan Mountains near Silverton, Colorado
Hiking, biking and rafting are the summer sports of choice in Colorado © Sumiko Scott/Getty Images

Shoulder Season: June - September

Best time for hiking and biking 

The summer is prime time to enjoy the countless hiking and biking trails climb above the treeline to wildflower-strewn meadows or one of a plethora of scenic drives that wend their way up hairpin turns to cross the Continental Divide.

Meantime, the desert lands of the Colorado Plateau and Southern Colorado bring new energy and new beauty to this diverse state. There are mesas, towers and slot canyons to be explored, rivers to be run, sand dunes to be climbed, desert singletrack trails to be ridden and plenty of wide-open vistas to enjoy come sunset. Much of this land still bears the imprint of the Ancestral Puebloan people, who built houses on precarious cliffs and left a cultural wake for generations to come.

Summer is shoulder season because in some spots you can get tremendous room rates, while others are enjoying a second high season. Vacationers descend in droves on campsites, trails, rivers and crags throughout the mountains.

Urban Cyclists
Spring and fall in Denver are so fun © Daniel Bendjy / Getty Images

Low Season: April - May & October - November

Best time for enjoying the arts 

Bemoaned locally as “mud season”, many businesses close shop to get ready for the summer or winter crush. But the weather is great and the Front Range and cultural centers of Denver and Boulder are ready with experimental theater, fine arts centers, symphonies, street art and interesting foodie scenes that are evolving beyond Colorado's traditional frontiers attitude to the culinary arts.

Early fall is brisk but lovely with great colors; spring means melting snow and very limited outdoor activities; except in the western desert. You can find great hotel deals in the low season. 

Breckenridge, town view from Mount Baldy
The mountain towns welcome huge crowds in winter for good reason © Walter Bibikow/Getty Images


Crowds are at their thickest around New Year and are present through to Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In a good year, the snow is as abundant as après-ski parties.

Key Events: Winter X Games, National Western Stock Show


It's the height of the ski season. Mardi Gras is celebrated and resorts fill for Presidents' Day weekend. Advance reservations are crucial, with discounts available midweek.

Key Events: Carnival


Coloradans swear the sun is always out – and it often is – but March is the beginning of the real sunshine, and spring break attracts families for the start of spring skiing.

Key Events: Frozen Dead Guy Days

Mesa Verde National Park
Spring is a great time to enjoy Southern and Western Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park © Chip Kalback/Lonely Planet


Spring skiing and resort festivals! As room rates dip, midweek deals aren’t hard to find (unless it’s Easter). The Colorado Rockies baseball team starts knocking it out of the park at Coors Field.

Key Events: 5Point Film Festival, Coors Field Opening Day


“Mud season” shuts down the high country, while Boulder and Denver start to warm up. There's great biking in Fruita. Summer unofficially begins on Memorial Day weekend – time for paddling.

Key Events: Cinco de Mayo, Boulder Creek Festival


Summer festivals start, river runoffs peak and Arapahoe Basin finally closes for the season. All mountain passes are open and vacationing families start to hit the major parks and landmarks.

Key Events: FIBArk, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Colorado Brewer's Festival

Whitewater Rafting On Arkansas River In Colorado
Rafting is just one of the many fun summer activities in Colorado © Sportstock/Getty Images


July ushers in 10 weeks of prime time for backcountry hikes and kayaking, now that the snow has melted and water is filtering through streams and meadows.

Key Events: Aspen Music Festival


A great time of year to get into the backcountry. Down mountain, bulls and bronco busters square off at dozens of country fairs.

Key Events: Leadville Trail 100


With crisp fall air and golden aspens, the high country is paradise. It's still a great time for biking and hiking, with some off-season deals at resorts.

Key Events: Telluride Film Festival, Jazz Aspen Snowmass

The colors in the fall are stunning © Pete Saloutos/Getty Images


Mud season redux. The weather is turning, but at least the Denver Broncos are back in action. Discounts can be steep – even in Aspen – and you’ll likely see snowfall before Halloween.

Key Events: Great American Beer Festival, Emma Crawford Coffin Race


Ski season begins throughout the state. Early-season ski deals abound, though you won’t find any bargains around Thanksgiving weekend when the families come back.


While snow cover is still hit or miss, once school lets out airports are jammed, rooms are booked and reservations become a must. Season rates peak during the holidays.

Key Events: Snow Daze

You may also like:

The great Colorado 'fourteener' road trip
How to road trip the Rocky Mountains on a budget
Colorado's best ski resorts are also great for people who don't ski

Buy Epic Hikes of the World

With stories of 50 incredible hiking routes in 30 countries, from New Zealand to Peru, plus a further 150 suggestions, this book will inspire a lifetime of adventure on foot.


Buy Epic Hikes of the World

Explore related stories