“Ski Town USA”, aka Steamboat Springs, is a western ski town with charm and character. Most known for Steamboat Ski Resort, there’s both a historic downtown and mountain village situated about a few miles apart.
Downtown Steamboat Springs is a true western town, with wide streets (for accommodating large cattle herds), welcoming locals, and timeless surrounding natural beauty at an elevation of 6,732′. It’s an excellent choice for those who can’t make a decision between a laid-back, relaxing vacation and an action-packed trip full of recreation.
In 2020 there were 13,224 recorded residents, making Steamboat a fairly big alpine community within Routt County. Denver can be driven to year-round in under 3 hours, weather pending on Rabbit Ears Pass. Salt Lake City is 5.5 hours almost straight west.
The name Steamboat Springs came from early French trappers who thought they heard steamboats chugging up the Yampa River. It was actually the town’s hot springs bubbling, but the name stuck.
James Crawford was one of the first residents of the area. He set up a homestead in 1874, and went back to his hometown of Boulder to convince more people to move out with him. A few years later there were five families, and the town continued growing from there.
Crawford ended up being the first mayor when Steamboat Springs was officially incorporated in 1900. The railroad came through in 1909, and the area became a new hub for cattle ranching and shipping. The rail line also meant more people coming through town, some of whom would eventually bring skiing in as a new economic sector.
They say if you come to Steamboat Springs, you’ll never leave or at least keep returning year after year. That’s the Yampa Valley curse. We mentioned it in our article on the best ski towns in Colorado.
Today, Steamboat Springs is a friendly ski town with a true cowboy flare. There is a separate mountain village and historic downtown Steamboat Springs. The mountain village, consisting of Gondola Square and Ski Time Square, is located at the base of the slopes. Downtown Steamboat is a short five-minute drive from the resort.
Steamboat Ski Resort – One of the largest and most popular resorts in the state. Steamboat Ski Area features nearly 3,000 skiable acres, plus night skiing and an alpine slide. There’s also skiing in town at Howelsen Hill, the longest, continuously running ski area in Colorado.
People dream of sipping fine champagne and chasing sunsets during their retirement, but who knew you could ski the stuff in Steamboat, thanks to its Champagne Powder®. The lower elevation of 6,732 feet means warmer temps and a ski resort below the tree line. The summit is 10,570 feet (a good ~1,000 feet under the average for peaks in CO). This means no bowls to ski, but legendary tree skiing.
Hot Springs – There are two hot springs destinations in town. Both hot spring resorts are spectacular and open year-round.
- Old Town is the family favorite, with both indoor and outdoor pools, slides, and a larger swimming pool.
- Strawberry Park is one of the state’s favorites. Its hot spring pools are nestled on a hillside with sand bottoms. After dark is adults only and clothing is optional.
- Read more about the hot springs in Steamboat Springs.
Yampa River – From high atop the Flat Top Mountains, the Yampa River forms and flows down into Steamboat Springs, heading west to Utah from there. In town, there’s a whitewater park that’s popular for river tubing and kayaking.
There are also commercial rafting trips on the Yampa River. Shorter trips are available in downtown Steamboat Springs. Go out for a morning or afternoon of hitting the rapids in the whitewater park. You can also venture west on multi-day trips through Dinosaur National Monument.
Read about the top things to do in Steamboat Springs.
- Four local state parks offer nice campgrounds: Pearl Lake, Stagecoach, Steamboat Lake, and Yampa River.
- Buffalo Pass in the Routt National Forest has a campground as well as free dispersed car camping along the pass. From downtown (heading west) turn right on 3rd Ave, and then right onto Fish Creek Falls Rd. Take 2nd left on Amethyst Drive which turns into CR 36. A few miles up on the right will be signs for Buff Pass/CR 38.
- Rabbit Ears Pass has a campground and dispersed car camping on most dirt roads.
- Read about the camping near Steamboat Springs, Clark, and Oak Creek.
- Yampa River runs right through downtown, offering outstanding trout fishing.
- Nearby state parks all have places for fishing.
- Fish Creek Falls is located a mere 10 minutes from downtown Steamboat. This scenic locale is open year-round for hiking. It costs $5 to park your vehicle for the day.
- To the east of town is Rabbit Ears Pass, with a wide system of trails to explore.
- Read about the hiking trails near Steamboat Springs.
Antlers at Christie Base – The ideal spot for larger groups, as most of the rooms at Antlers can accommodate between 10 and 16 adults.
Chalet Val D’Isere – This is a great place to feel like you’re a VIP at a secluded retreat. They offer concierge services, complimentary breakfast, and great views of the mountains.
Chateau Chamonix – You’re sure to feel warm and welcomed at this ski-in/ski-out spot with complimentary hot chocolate and pastries on those cold mornings. They have several sizes of condos to choose from.
Hotel Bristol – Historic downtown hotel that is within walking distance to many attractions.
Sheraton Resort Villas – With two on-site dining options, a short walk to the ski resort, and luxury touches in every room, the Sheraton is sure to make your trip comfortable.
Strawberry Park – Hot springs lodging with multiple soaking pools and accommodation types to choose from.
Torian Plum Resort – These condo rentals are conveniently located at the bottom of the gondola for a true ski-in/ski-out experience.
Wyndham Vacation Resorts – 3-star vacation rentals less than a mile from the ski resort. Choose from one, two, or three-bedroom accommodation to fit any group size.
Steamboat locals like to eat well, and it shows in the cuisine around town. It’s a large enough town to support your classic fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s. In addition, there are ethnic eateries and plenty of fresh fare to choose from.
Ore House at the Pine Grove – Steamboat’s most iconic steakhouse, offers fine dining in a historic, Old West setting.
8th Street Steakhouse – Grill up your own steaks for a unique dining experience. What better place to enjoy western fare than Northwest Colorado.
Read about the best bars in Steamboat Springs.
This video shows the Cowboy Stampede, the final event of the Cowboy Downhill.
Jan – MusicFest at Steamboat – Six days of live music all over the town, plus lodging and skiing combined onto one special pass.
Jan – Cowboy Downhill – Real cowboys race down the mountain in mid-January.
Feb – Winter Carnival – Ice sculptures, contests, and ski jumping in early February for the whole family to enjoy.
Feb – WinterWonderGrass – Half beer, half bluegrass music festival with a focus on environmental sustainability.
Mar-Apr – Bud Light Rocks the Boat – live band every Saturday in March in Gondola Square.
Apr – Steamboat Cardboard Classic – Closing day sledding competition where every team designs their own colorful cardboard sled. It takes place on the bunny slope into Gondola Square in mid-April.
Apr – Steamboat Pond Skim Closing Day Celebration – Last day of the ski season, come out to test your luck on skiing or snowboarding over a pond at Gondola Square. Get soaked or be a hero!
Jun – Reds, Whites & Brews in the Boat – One day kicking off the start of summer with unlimited wine and craft beer.
Jun-Jul – Cowboy’s Roundup Days – For more than 100 years, Steamboat has celebrated its five-night Independence Day weekend festival.
Jun-Aug – Pro Rodeo Series – Summer PBR rodeo held on Friday and Saturday nights from mid-June to mid-August.
Jul – Hot Air Balloon Rodeo – A colorful weekend in Steamboat Springs in early July with hot air balloons.
Jul – Tour de Steamboat – A non-competitive race open to riders all of ages and skill levels that benefit multiple nonprofits in the Yampa Valley area.
Sep – Steamboat OktoberWest – Steamboat’s western take on this German tradition in mid-September.
Read about the top events in Steamboat Springs.
Activities near Steamboat Springs
Cross Country Skiing:
- Home Ranch Cross Country Ski Resort (19mi)
- Howelsen Hill Nordic Center
- Steamboat Ski Touring Center & Haymaker Nordic Center
- Buffalo Pass (13mi)
- Dumont Lake (21mi)
- Fish Creek Reservoir (19mi) (4×4 required)
- Hahns Peak Lake (30mi)
- Mount Zirkel Wilderness
- Muddy Pass Lake (24mi)
- Rabbit Ears Pass (21mi)
- Routt National Forest
- Sarvis Creek Wilderness
- Yampa River
- Yampa River Preserve (17mi)
Hot Air Balloons:
- Lake Catamount (10mi)
- Bluebird Backcountry Ski Area (26mi)
- Howelsen Hill Ski Area (<1mi)
- Steamboat Powdercats (3mi)
- Steamboat Ski Resort (3mi)
- Haymaker Sleigh Ride Dinners
- Saddleback Ranch Sleigh Rides (13mi)
- Bar Lazy L Ranch Sleigh Ride Dinner
- Elkhead Reservoir (42mi)
- Pearl Lake State Park (26mi)
- Stagecoach State Park (16mi)
- Steamboat Lake State Park (29mi)
- Yampa River State Park (25mi)
- Clark (19mi)
- Coalmont (45mi)
- Craig (41mi)
- Hahns Peak (25mi)
- Hayden (25mi)
- Kremmling (51mi)
- Milner (11mi)
- Oak Creek (21mi)
- Phippsburg (23mi)
- Toponas (37mi)
- Yampa (30mi)
- Fish Creek Falls (3mi)
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