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Colorado is one of the best states in the U.S. to visit if you love adventure and exploring the wilderness. With the Rocky mountains covering over half of the state and a variety of activities, there is something for everyone year-round.
What you are planning to do in Colorado is going to be the main factor in when the best time to visit is. If you are planning to ski or snowboard, you are going to go at a different time than if you are planning to hike or camp. There are also factors like weather and location that will affect your decision.
What to Consider When Choosing a Time to Visit Colorado
Activities you wish to partake in.
Skiing, hiking, white water rafting, and exploring cities are only a few things that you can enjoy in Colorado. All of these activities are enjoyed at different times of the year. Make sure you know what activities you would like to partake in before deciding a time to go.
Where in Colorado you plan on visiting.
Colorado has up to 3 different climates at the same time of year depending on where you are visiting. In the Spring, the mountain tops will still be chilly, Denver will be hot, and the plains will be extremely stormy. Knowing where exactly you are visiting can change the time you visit.
If you want to deal with a crowd.
The busy time for tourists in Colorado is mid-summer. Probably because everyone assumes that Colorado is cold every other time of year and school is out. The national parks and the cities will be very crowded during this time.
The weather and/or season.
The weather is fairly mild in Colorado. The sun is shining at least 300 days a year and depending on where you’re at, it doesn’t ever get too cold or hot. However, for specific activities, such as skiing and white water rafting, the weather can make a huge difference in the time of year you visit.
Best Time to Ski and Snowboard
If you plan to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or any other sport that involves snow in the mountains, the best time of year to visit would be January to April. Although, some of the higher altitude ski resorts will open as early as October and close as late as the 4th of July.
There are 26 ski resorts in Colorado. To plan the timing for your ski trip, check the resort that you plan to visit’s website to see when they will be open. Higher altitude resorts, such as Arapahoe Basin, stay open longer than lower altitude resorts, like Granby Ranch.
Springtime is the ideal time to visit for skiing and snowboarding due to the high volumes of snow that have accumulated by that time and the weather starting to warm up slightly. However, springtime is the busiest season for ski resorts. If you want to avoid the crowds, try visiting between January and March.
Best Time to Hike and Camp
Colorado has over 39,000 miles of trails you can hike and more than 13,000 campsites all over the state. Hiking and Camping are best experienced during the warmer months. This includes any time between May and September. Some people even hike and camp before or after this time of year, but be prepared for cooler and more unpredictable weather.
Depending on exactly where you plan to hike and camp will change the time of year you want to visit. If you plan to camp and hike deep in the mountains, waiting until mid-July to early September would be a good idea. All the way through June to the end of September is a good time of year if you plan to stay closer to the front range.
You may also want to consider what you are wanting to see while hiking and camping. If you want to see wildflowers and trees in bloom, you’ll want to visit in June or July. To see the beautiful aspen leaves turning to their golden fall colors, the end of September is a great time to visit. There’s is a chance you’ll see an array of wildlife throughout the summer as well, including elk, moose, and maybe a black bear.
Best Time to White Water Raft
White water rafting in the Colorado mountains is an exciting activity that can be enjoyed during warmer months. May to August is when you will be able to white water raft. However, depending on how crazy you want the ride to be will dictate the exact time you will want to go white water rafting.
Early May and late August are when the water in the rivers will be lowest. This is due to there not being a lot of runoff from the mountains yet. Lower rivers provide more technical routes and the least amount of crowds. You are also more likely to see wildlife by the river.
Medium water levels tend to occur late June to the middle of August. This is when white water rafting is the most family-friendly. You can even include some little ones that are ages 6 and up. Peak tourist season is also this time of year, so make sure you plan in advance.
The most exciting time to go white water rafting is when there are high water levels. Late May to June is when the water levels are highest. The more adventurous types will love this time of year to white water raft because there are rapid currents and large waves.
Best Time to Avoid Crowds
Colorado is a top destination for many tourists. Rocky Mountain National Park alone is visited by over 4.5 million people every year! It is the third most visited national park in the United States behind the Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon.
Generally, the busiest time of year for tourists in Colorado is Summer. This is equally as true for downtown Denver and the Rocky Mountains. It is when it is warmest in the mountains and outdoor seating and farmers markets in the city are bustling. Specifically, you want to avoid Summer holidays, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. These days typically have people booking out accommodations a full year in advance because of how busy it is.
To stay out of the crowds during warmer weather activities, try to visit during Spring or Fall. It may be slightly cooler than going in mid-Summer, but you most certainly will not freeze. It will still be super sunny during these times of the year, but you don’t have nearly as much of the tourist crowd.
If you are skiing or snowboarding, Spring is the busiest time of year. The weather is starting to warm up, snow is still abundant, and students are out on Spring break. From the end of March to May is a good time to avoid ski resorts if you don’t want a crowd.
Best Time to Visit Denver, Boulder, or Colorado Springs
Colorado’s cities have so much to offer, including beautiful concert venues, exciting festivals, and many museums. The best time of year to enjoy all of these activities are June to September. The only exception is Museums, which can be visited year-round.
If you wish to see a concert at venues like the Red Rocks Amphitheater, you will want to visit when it is warmest. Shows last well into the night at the outdoor amphitheaters, so you won’t want to see a show when it’s still chilly out. July and August are the warmest months in Colorado, but obviously, you will want to plan your trip around the music you are wanting to see.
For the foodies out there, the best time to visit Colorado is all summer long. Colorado has many restaurants that prepare food straight from the farm. There are also farmers markets located all over the place in the major cities. Food festivals fill the parks of cities during Summer as well.
It does get very hot in Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs during July and August with the average temperatures being in the 90’s. If you wish to beat the heat, you can enjoy all of these activities in the city in June or September.
Overall Best Time to Visit
If you can’t decide what activities you are going to participate in or where you are you going to stay in Colorado, the best time overall to visit would be May or June. This is about the time of year that all of the activities that you can do in Colorado overlap and when the crowds are at a minimum.
Most ski resorts will still be open with plenty of snow in May. It is also a great time for calmer white water rafting because the water is lower at this time. However, make sure you pack warm clothes if you plan to hike, camp, or roam the city at night. It won’t be freezing during May, but definitely a bit chilly.
In June, you will still be able to find higher elevation ski resorts are open, such as Silverton, Telluride, and Arapahoe Basin. White water rafting will be at its peak in June with water levels being high. It is a great time to hike and camp as well because of the weather getting warmer and the wildflowers starting to bloom. June is also when most festivals and farmers markets start popping up around the cities.