It’s summertime in Colorado and we all know what that means…get outside! While July is hotter along the front range, eastern plains, and throughout the western slope and high country, typical temps settle in at a comfortable mid-70s to 80s with sunny skies and afternoon storms.
Wildflowers burst out in all their colorful glory, abundant snowmelt makes for epic rafting, dazzling waterfalls, and approachable peaks. Best of all, we kick it all off with the 4th of July celebrations around the state. Soak up the best of summer with these fun things to do in Colorado in July.
Here are some things to do in CO during July 2023:
4th of July celebrations
From Denver and the Front Range to small mountain towns like Westcliffe there are many ways to celebrate Independence Day. With hometown parades, star-spangled 5Ks, and explosive firework shows, every place has its own special traditions for observing the holiday.
Some of the biggest celebrations reside in the city of Denver, and the towns of Frisco, Telluride, Aspen, Durango, and Grand Junction. Check out the full list of 4th of July celebrations happening (last updated in 2023).
There are more than just fireworks and cookouts though, don’t miss all of the festivals in July across the state ranging from Renaissance fairs and music festivals to art shows and rodeos, there is truly something for everyone.
4th of July in Denver
The Mile High City goes all out to celebrate the occasion over the long holiday weekend. Kicking off with the Fan Expo event and continuing the fun with the Cherry Creek Arts Fest, a 5k/10k race, a performance by the Colorado Symphony, fireworks, and home games for the Rapids and Rockies, you won’t find yourself without plans.
Where: Denver, Colorado
When: Fri-Tues, June 30 – July 4, 2023
Your head will be spinning with how many unique festivities are happening during the Greeley Stampede in the days leading up to the 4th. Enjoy one of the daily parades, learn a new recipe at the Chuckwagon Cooking demos, and cheer on the demolition derby all in the cozy Weld County town. Each night there will also be headlining country music star performances on the festival’s permanent concert stage.
Where: Greeley, Colorado
When: Thur-Tues, June 22 – July 4, 2023
Visit the wildflowers
July in Colorado means wildflower season, at least in the high country. Starting in late June and going into early August, with the peak being the middle of July depending on precipitation, outdoor adventurers will come across an abundance of wildflowers along most Colorado trails.
While you are likely to see varieties like the Columbine, red Indian Paintbrush, and magenta Fireweed on almost any hike you take in the warmer months, there are a few treks that are not to be missed. This is our list of the best wildflower hikes in Colorado:
- Aspen to Crested Butte – The famous Aspen to Crested Butte route is popular in the summer but is particularly sought after in July due to its myriad of wildflowers. Common flowers include elephant heads, thimbleberry, showy daisies, and Aspen sunflowers. The trail is 11 miles one way with over 3,000 feet in elevation gain.
- Crested Butte – On almost any trail you find yourself on around Crested Butte, you are almost guaranteed a wildflower show. Known as the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, the area sees continuous spring and summer rains over the Elk Mountains, contributing to their colorful display. You’ll see plenty of Columbine, mule’s ear sunflowers, showy daisies, sky pilot, elephant heads, and so much more. Be sure not to miss the Wildflower Festival in mid-July.
- Chicago Basin – Nestled in the San Juan Mountains within the Weminuche Wilderness at 11,000 feet above sea level, the Chicago Basin offers a stunning display of wildflowers. Access to see the colorful meadows of the basin definitely requires a backpacking trip. The more convenient and often preferred way to arrive at the basin is via the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
- Dallas Divide – If you aren’t much of a hiker, you’ll enjoy the scenic drive along the Dallas Divide between Ridgway and Telluride. Lizard Head Pass is the prime spot for flower peeping, and if you are up for a hike, there is a 7-mile strenuous trail to Cross Mountain via the pass.
- American Basin – Getting to the American Basin requires a short hike-in at 2.1 miles round-trip, however a long drive from Lake City on dirt roads adds on to the time. Hikers are rewarded with rushing creeks, waterfalls, and sweeping meadows of snow lovers, mountain bluebells, Indian Paintbrush, larkspur, and Columbines.
- Ice Lakes Basin – Just outside of Silverton, within the San Juan Mountains, the Ice Lakes Trailhead takes hikers to both the lower and upper Ice Lakes. Climb through tranquil meadows to admire towering peaks and dozens of colorful blooms. Varieties include parrot’s beak, showy daisies, and wild roses. This trail is a pretty challenging 8.6-mile round-trip hike.
Hike a 14er
While you can hike a 14er no matter what time of year depending on your skill level, the summer months of July and August are prime peak-bagging seasons. As the warmer temps settle in and the snow has significantly melted from the mountain peaks, making a summit to some of Colorado’s highest peaks a bit easier and less treacherous.
If it’s your first climb, consider easier routes like Elbert, Bierstadt, Sherman, Lincoln, or Democrat. While there are no “easy” 14ers, these few are a great place to start. Most of the popular peaks have parking lots that fill up extremely quickly during the summer, so be sure to arrive early.
Raft the rapids
For the expert rafters and water enthusiasts, rafting season really kicks off in June when water levels are extremely high due to late spring mountain snow run-off. But July affords a great time for the rest of us who want to ride the rapids. Rafting in Colorado is best from June through August, but for those a bit less experienced who still want the rush of a class-5 rapid, July is the best time to go.
The temperatures are warmer and the water is still typically moving at a fast enough pace to get your heart pounding. Popular rafting spots in Colorado include Clear Creek in Idaho Springs, Royal Gorge in Canon City, Brown’s Canyon in Buena Vista, and the Animas River near Durango.
Spend a day at the beach
Yes, Colorado has beaches, and what better way to spend a hot summer day than with your toes in the sand? There are many reservoirs throughout the state that include spacious beach spots perfect for sunbathing, swimming, picnics, SCUBA diving, and more. Notable ones include Cherry Creek State Park, Chatfield State Park, Lake Dillion Reservoir, and the Boulder Reservoir.
Pack a picnic, bring some towels and an umbrella, and soak in some sun. Take a look at the list of our favorite beaches in Colorado for some great lakes to swim and play.
Ride the slopes
After the snow melts, many of Colorado’s ski resorts open up their runs to bikers, turning the winding trails into mountain bike courses. You can hike up the peak or simply hop aboard the ski lifts or gondolas to reach the top. Some notable parks to consider include Evolution Bike Park in Crested Butte, Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park, Mountain Village Bike Park in Telluride, and Keystone Bike Park.
If you’ve never biked before, have no fear. Many places offer rentals and lessons for beginners so you can start sending some trails this summer. There are options for all levels of riders and plenty of opportunities to cross paths with the pros.
Float the rivers and creeks
By July, the Colorado rivers that are commonplace for tubing and kayaking have slowed down, transforming into a great spot for some lazy floating. With the summer heat at its highest throughout the low-elevation front-range urban corridor, consider heading out to Golden’s Clear Creek, one of the most popular spots for tubing. Or opt to cool down at Boulder Creek.
If you’re intent on staying close to your Mile High residence, hit up the convenient South Platte River. If paddleboarding is more your speed, check out the Corn Lake, Island Acres, and Connected Lakes sections of James. M. Cobb Colorado River State Park.
The river also has multiple sections that are popular for tubing, located around Dotsero and State Bridge, both close to the town of Eagle. Be cautious and know exactly where you will float, as this waterway is long with strong currents in some spots and the potential for hidden debris.
Those are just a few of the highlights that summer brings to Colorado. Take full advantage of this warm season in the Rocky Mountains. Remember the weather changes quickly, so always dress in layers or bring a jacket. If it’s not quite July yet, be sure to make the most of June’s activities. It’s always a safe bet to look ahead to August for things to do in Colorado, as well.