6 unique accommodations in Colorado

The Centennial State is known for its offbeat offerings, and at 104,185 square miles, there’s lots of ground to cover. Luckily, we’ve done the legwork. From a yurt at a down-home hot springs to a bed-and-breakfast with goats (where you can take cheesemaking classes!) to a working ranch that’s also a nature conservancy, these are some of the most unique spots in the state for an overnight. 

A bison grazes in front of a mountain range at sunset on the Zapata Ranch in Colorado
Zapata Ranch has opportunities to explore the west like a true cowboy © Isabel Butler / Ranchlands

1. Zapata Ranch, Mosca

Whether your travel philosophy is “go big or go home” or “put your money where your mouth is,” Mosca’s Zapata Ranch is truly a gem. Open from March through October, the 103,000-acre property is a working ranch, owned by the Nature Conservancy and run by Ranchlands. Home to two bison herds and a small heard of cattle, the ranch offers guests the opportunity to participate in the day-to-day operations.

Choose to move livestock or learn about holistic management or visit during one of the themed weeks that feature helping brand calves, horsemanship clinics and a western literature retreat. Activities for each stay are customized to best suit guests’ personal preferences – so you can choose between riding through Great Sand Dunes National Park, or planning a day hike to a nearby swimming hole.

Family-style meals with local produce and the ranch’s own bison are included in the cost, as is the glass of wine served alongside each evening’s appetizers.  Aside from that, you’ll need to BYOB. The lodge is located on the site of an original late-19th-century homestead and spans three buildings, with 15 rooms, 23 beds and private baths throughout. 

Best for: experienced riders looking for an authentic ranch stay

Cost: from $1530/adult and $1224/child for three nights 

Hotel exterior at night
The Surf Hotel is on the banks of the Arkansas River with easy access to the Buena Vista White Water Park © Maya Stanton / Lonely Planet

2. Surf Hotel, Buena Vista

Sometimes you want to gather around the campfire after a day of hiking, rafting, and outdoor exploring, and sometimes you want to fall into a cushy bed and let the sound of rushing water lull you to sleep. For the latter, Buena Vista’s Surf Hotel is the answer. Built in 2018 on the bank of the Arkansas River, the 62-room property features minimalist decor with organic touches—think: iron bedframes and crisp white linens, plus macrame wall hangings and heated bathroom floors.

Between the whimsically illustrated menu (try the well-composed cheese and charcuterie board), the classic cocktails with a local twist, and weekly live music, the onsite restaurant is a hipster-leaning haven that wouldn’t be out of place in much bigger market. For maximum relaxation, book a riverfront room, commandeer a rocking chair on the shared balcony and meditate on the soothing sounds of the Buena Vista River Park surf wave. 

Best for: recovering from outdoor exertions in style 

Cost: from $200/night

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The onsite goats add to the charm at the Mountain Goat Lodge in Salida © Maya Stanton / Lonely Planet

3. Mountain Goat Lodge, Salida

B&Bs are a dime a dozen, but how many host a herd of dairy goats onsite and cheesemaking classes in the kitchen? Located just outside of Salida, a cool small town with easy access to nearby Tenderfoot Mountain and its hiking, mountain biking, and skiing, Mountain Goat Lodge offers country-style quarters, a hearty breakfast featuring goat’s milk, cheese, and yogurt as well as farm-fresh eggs (the owners also keep chickens) and lots of hands-on time with a friendly herd.

Cheesemaking classes are held on Tuesdays and Saturdays and cover one or two varieties per session, from chevre and fresh mozzarella to feta and paneer, with plenty of opportunities built in to sample the wares. Come early, and you’ll even have the chance to milk a goat. You don’t have to be a guest to take a class, but if you can’t get enough of the four-legged critters, a sleepover is an added bonus. 

Best for: cheese-curious animal lovers

Cost: from $166/night

A yurt with mountains in the background
Stay in a yurt and soak in the hot springs at Joyful Journey © Maya Stanton / Lonely Planet

4. Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa, Moffat

About an hour north of Great Sand Dunes National Park  in the San Luis Valley, Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa stands in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, boasting three mineral-rich, non-sulfuric pools untouched by chlorine or other chemicals. A tranquil setup with local appeal, it’s the polar opposite of the state’s more polished commercial springs. The resort offers $10 all-day soaks on Tuesdays and clothing-optional Wednesday evenings, as well as an array of options for accommodations.

There’s a lodge, RV sites, tipis, and tent and car camping spots, but the yurts let you rough it while still maintaining a bit of comfort. Fully furnished with either a queen bed or multiple twins, each yurt has a seating area and comes stocked with bedding, towels, a fan, and a heater (both of which you’ll need, as the space can get stuffy during the day and cold once the sun goes down). You’ll have to put on your shoes and head outside to use the communal bathroom—a chilly proposition in the middle of the night, but worth it for the unbelievable, light-pollution-free galactic display you’ll witness on the way. 

Best for: roughing it, but just a bit 

Cost: from $135/night

A line of airstream trailers with attached decks at the Amigo Motor Lodge
Book well in advance for a stay in one of these classic Airstreams © Maya Stanton / Lonely Planet

5. Amigo Motor Lodge, Salida

Some people dream of a cottage in the woods or a house on the beach; for others, an Airstream is the ultimate fantasy. For a taste of the nomadic lifestyle without hitting the road, book a trailer at Amigo Motor Lodge in Salida. The property boasts a recently renovated 1950s motel in addition to the four airstreams. The motel is a modern minimalist’s dream, the white walls, birch bed-frames, subway-tiled bathrooms and chic amenities (think: Malin+Goetz toiletries and ridiculously comfortable Tuft & Needle mattresses). 

The four Airstreams parked on the premises have interiors in keeping with the motel’s new aesthetic, plus perks like record players and private decks. Two trailers are pet-friendly, with a $25 charge per stay. They are all fully heated and air-conditioned, with flatscreen TVs and DVD players, though there’s no cable or indoor plumbing. The owners are hoping to add more Airstreams by 2020, but in the meantime, they book quickly, so get your reservation in six to 10 weeks in advance if you’ve got your heart set on one. 

Best for: nostalgic cool kids after the ‘gram

Cost: Airstreams from $90/night

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Be sure to catch a show at Ophelia's if you stay at Hostel Fish © Visit Denver

6. Hostel Fish, Denver

As a rule, urban locales are more expensive overall, so a cheap place to stay can free up funds for all kinds of extracurriculars. A 15-minute walk from the train station and two blocks from Coors Field, Denver’s Hostel Fish is a colorful, art-filled alternative to a staid, traditional hotel. It’s also situated above Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, a self-described “gastro-brothel” with live music Thursday through Saturday and during weekend brunch, and fair warning, it can get loud on the premises.

The rooms are kitted out accordingly, though, with earplugs and white-noise machines, and if you’re looking for a party, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll get a drink ticket for the bar downstairs when you check in, and the hostel runs a weekly pub crawl in the neighborhood for $10 a head; there’s also a shared Google calendar with local events and happenings, so you’ll never be at a loss for something to do. As for the quarters themselves, choose from shared rooms (coed or women only) with bunkbeds, or private rooms with en suite baths, all of which are spotlessly clean and funkily decorated. 

Best for: socializing on a budget

Cost: from $40/ night for a bunk in a shared room, $135/night for a private room

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