It’s summertime in Colorado and we all know what that means…get outside! Days are hotter along the front range, eastern plains, and throughout the western slope. But up in the high country, temps settle in at a comfortable mid-70s to 80s with sunny days and often afternoon storms.
Wildflowers burst out in all their colorful glory, abundant snowmelt makes for epic rafting, dazzling waterfalls, and approachable peaks. And 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 2020:
4th of July Celebrations
Across the state from Denver and the Front Range to small mountain towns like Westcliffe, CO there are many ways to celebrate the 4th of July Independence Day. From home-town parades and star-spangled 5Ks to explosive firework shows, there is always a way to celebrate the holiday weekend. Some of the biggest celebrations reside in the city of Denver, the town of Frisco, Telluride, Aspen, Durango, and Grand Junction.
Visit here for a full list of 4th of July celebrations happening in 2020.
Visit the Wildflowers
July in Colorado means wildflower season, at least in the high country. Starting in late June and into early August, with the peak being the middle of July, all depending on precipitation, outdoor adventures will come across an abundance of wildflowers along most Colorado trails. Everything from the state flower, the Columbine, to the red Indian Paintbrush and magenta Fireweed.
While you are likely to see wildflowers on most any hike you take in July, there are a few 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 abundance of wildflowers. Common flowers you will see 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 – Almost any trail you find yourself on in and around Crested Butte, you are almost guaranteed a wildflower show. Known as the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, Crested Butte sees continuous spring and summer rains over the Elk Mountains, the reason for their colorful display. You’ll see plenty of Columbine, mule’s ear sunflowers, showy daisies, sky pilot, elephant heads, and so much more. Time it right and visit during 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 wildflowers of the Chicago Basin requires a backpacking trip. Or a convenient and often a 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, then you’ll enjoy the scenic drive along the Dallas Divide between Ridgeway and Telluride. Lizard Head Pass is where you want to go to see the show, and if you are up for a hike, there is a 7-mile strenuous hike to Cross Mountain via the pass.
- American Basin – To get to American Basin, a bit of an easier hike-in at 2.1 miles, out and back, is required, but a long drive from Lake City on dirt roads adds the time. Hikers are rewarded with rushing creeks and waterfalls, plus an abundance of wildflowers like 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, admire towering peaks, and dozens of colorful blooms, including parrot’s beak, showy daisies, and wild roses. This trail is a strenuous 8.6-mile, out and back hike.
Hike a 14er
While you can hike a 14er no matter what time of year, depending on your skill level, 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 walk-up routes like Elbert, Bierstadt, Sherman, Lincoln, or Democrat. While there are no “easy” 14ers, these are a great place to start.
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 June through August, but for those, a bit less experienced, but still want the rush of a class-5 rapid, July is the best time to go.
The temperatures are warmer and the water, depending on how much snowmelt the rivers received, is still moving at a fast pace with enough rapids 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 than to spend a hot summer day at the beach. There are many reservoirs throughout the state that include sandy beach spots perfect for sunbathing, swimming, picnics, SCUBA diving, and more. Notable reservoirs include Cherry Creek State Park, Chatfield State Park, Lake Dillion Reservoir, and the Boulder Reservoir. Take a look at our list of our favorite beaches in Colorado for some great lakes to swim and play.
Ride the slopes
After the snow melts, the ski resorts open up their ski runs to mountain bikers, turning the runs into mountain-bike courses. Some great places to start your adventure include Evolution Bike Park in Crested Butte, Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park, Mountain Village Bike Park in Telluride, and Keystone Bike Park. Or simply hop aboard the ski lifts or gondolas and ride your favorite ski run on a mountain bike.
Those are just a few of the highlights that peak summer brings to Colorado! Take full advantage of this long, warm season in the Rocky Mountains. Remember weather changes quickly though, so always dress in layers/bring a jacket.