Rabbit Ears, Steamboat Springs | Courtesy of Steamboat Springs Chamber
New Adventures, Old Favorites
by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer
This idyllic Colorado town is best known for its champagne powder, but summer in Steamboat Springs is full of rainbows and hot air balloons, making it the perfect time to visit. Plus, the Yampa River, which runs through town, means that the region’s landscape stays green long into the dog days of summer, especially this year.
The river also acts as a focal point for summer recreation, offering opportunities for all types of water sports, including kayaking, rafting, paddle boarding or just floating. The Yampa River Core Trail, 7.5 paved miles along the river shore, makes the entire town accessible by bike or by foot. The river is a big jewel in Steamboat’s summertime crown, but the town offers so much more.
It has been several years since Ryan and I have stayed in Steamboat, and our June trip revealed new restaurants and new activities, from escape rooms to electric bikes to an on-the-slope roller coaster.
An Outdoor Escape
The Crooked Key is one of the only escape rooms in Colorado to offer an outdoor adventure. Accessed through the same doors as Mahogany Grill, The Crooked Key has three indoor escape room games, but now, as the sun warms the sidewalks of downtown Steamboat, there’s an outdoor game called Keys to the City: S.K.I.
It’s a scavenger hunt in which participants are asked to do a series of tasks and answer questions in order to complete the game. Along the way, the buildings and statues in downtown Steamboat tell the town’s story.
I don’t want to give too much away, but we learned through the game that Lyon’s Corner Drug & Soda Fountain, a Steamboat staple since the early 1900s has $1 ice cream cones. So of course we bellied up to the soda fountain bar and ordered a couple of cones during our scavenger hunt, because solving puzzles makes a person hungry for ice cream.
Bike Town USA has a New Way to Bike
During our trip, we rented bicycles from Pedego in downtown Steamboat. Here, patrons can purchase or rent electric bikes. Whether you take a brewery tour like we did, or ride up to Fish Creek Falls, once you’ve ridden an electric bike, it will be hard to go back to 100 percent pedal power.
Electric bikes are fun, plus Pedego’s bikes are equipped with thruster power, which gives your bike a boost of speed to help you get through intersections efficiently or whenever else you need it. While the Yampa River Core Trail is relatively flat, the rest of Steamboat is hilly, and riding an electric bike means easy access to the entire town.
Summer in Steamboat Springs is full of rainbows and hot air balloons,
Mustang Roundup 2019, downtown Steamboat Springs. | Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer
Summer on the Slopes
Slopeside at Steamboat Resort, the Outlaw Mountain Coaster is yet another new attraction in Steamboat, and one of several activities available here. Families will love the miniature golf course, climbing wall, tubing hill, bounce house, ropes course, rocky river and more.
The Outlaw Mountain Coaster is 6,280 linear feet, making it the longest coaster in North America. It descends more than 400 vertical feet through twists, turns, dives and ascents. Two people can ride in one car, a big person and little person, making it ideal for families with toddlers.
The gondola ride to the top of the mountain is closed this summer while the resort installs brand new gondolas in time for ski season, but Christie Peak Express Chairlift provides access to the mountain for hikers, bikers and anyone who wants to take in the expansive view of Yampa Valley.
As we rode the chairlift, screams of delight could be heard from the Outlaw Mountain Coaster below. The views are breathtaking, and as we rose, we watched a red-tailed hawk sail on the air currents in the valley far beneath us. If you travel to Steamboat this summer, a ride on the scenic chairlift is highly recommended for a unique, birds-eye view of the area.
New Eats in Steamboat
Latin music pumps out on the sidewalk as patrons dine in the sunshine of a Steamboat summer at Bésame. This lively new dining establishment is in a spot that will be familiar to anyone who’s ventured here during the past 40 years.
Located in the building that once housed the Cantina, this colorful sister-restaurant to Mambo Italiano serves small, delectable plates of tapas influenced by Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Cuba. Think clams and chorizo, pozole, empanadas and octopus.
A feast for the eyes and stomach, the cocktail list is as creative as the menu, and Bésame’s bright and airy bar has become a fast favorite of locals.
We hit Mountain Tap Brewery for lunch on Saturday. This brewpub, which opened in the summer of 2016, is located on Yampa Avenue, Steamboat’s Restaurant Row. Mountain Tap has a pizza oven that churns out a large selection of pies, but its chickpea salad is particularly well-suited for a warm day. With the garage doors during the summer, the atmosphere is cool and inviting.
We paired our salad with shrimp and garlic rolls and the MacaRUM. This beer is a rummy twist to the brewery’s standard Mountain
As we rode the chairlift, screams of delight could be heard from the Outlaw Mountain Coaster below.
Floating down the Yampa River. | Courtesy of Steamboat Springs Chamber
Macaroon, a nut brown ale aged on toasted coconut – smooth, delicious and not nearly as hefty as the recipe may suggest.
Salt & Lime has been around for a few years, but its Burrito Bar next door is new since our last visit. Here, we ordered a tasty margarita as we waited for a table on the restaurant’s rooftop patio. A sunset, unique tacos and summery drinks – the perfect ending to a summer day in Steamboat.
Along with all that’s new in Steamboat, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention some of my old favorites. While the town has changed, some of the best things remain, like F.M. Light & Sons, founded in 1905. We have a tradition of stopping here to breathe in the smell of leather and browse rows and rows of cowboy boots.
Yampa River Botanic Park isn’t just a place to enjoy the flowers, although shooting photographs at the six-acre garden is one of my most cherished Steamboat pastimes. This venue is well-used and much-loved. It’s the site of yoga classes, live theater, weddings and more. Music on the Green, a free summer music series, is held here every Thursday evening.
A Market and Event to Remember
The 31st Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup took place in Steamboat over Father’s Day weekend while we were staying at Trailhead Lodge, within a stone’s throw of the event’s AutoCross activities.
We discovered that, with a signed waiver, the public can ride along during AutoCross with any willing driver. I hitched a ride in a white 1966 Mustang Fastback, and it was the highlight of my year.
The next day, we wandered through the Steamboat Farmers Market, which is held every Saturday through September 21. This large market has everything from Palisade cherries to locally made culinary salt. We’ve visited several times, and it is a wonderful addition to a summer visit here.
As we walked west on Yampa Avenue, we left the market and entered the car zone. More than 450 Mustangs attend the Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup, making it one of the largest gatherings of this classic American car in the West. On everything from 1960s muscle cars to brand-new Mustangs, the paint and chrome shone brightly in the Steamboat sunshine.
If you are looking for a unique Father’s Day outing next year, this is an event to put on your calendar now. He’ll feel special, and the entire family will have fun in Steamboat Springs.