“Ski Town USA”, aka Steamboat Springs, is a western ski town with charm and character. It’s most known for Steamboat Ski Resort, which brings visitors to the area all winter long.
There’s both a historic downtown and mountain village, situated about a few miles apart. Summer is also a favorite time to visit the “Boat”. The town is 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.
Thanks to Steamboat’s lower alpine elevation, it’s a happening place to be year round. It doesn’t get as blistering windy as some other Colorado locations and is a perfect adventure-land for recreation.
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.
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 best ski towns in Colorado.
Steamboat Springs is a ski town with a true cowboy flare. It’s naturally laid back, with a friendly and inviting feel. 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 of possibly fine champagne powder. They have night skiing and an alpine slide too. There’s also skiing at Howelsen Hill, the longest, continuously running ski area in Colorado.
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 too. 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 optional.
Yampa River – From high atop the Flat Top Mountains, the Yampa River forms and flows down into Steamboat Springs, from there heading west to Utah. 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 rafting hitting the rapids in the whitewater park. You can also venture west on multi-day trips though Dinosaur National Monument.
- 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 loads of trails.
- Read about the hiking trails near Steamboat Springs.
Hotels and Lodging:
- Antlers at Christie Base – luxury 4 star
- Chalet Val D’Isere – luxury vacation rental
- Chateau Chamonix – luxury 4 star
- Hotel Bristol – historic downtown
- Sheraton Resort Villas – luxury 4 star
- Strawberry Park – hot springs lodging
- Torian Plum Resort – luxury 3 star ski-in/ski-out
- Wyndham Vacation Resorts – luxury 3 star vacation rentals
- Read about the best hotels in Steamboat Springs.
- Read about top 4 star hotels in Steamboat Springs.
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 McDonalds and Wendy’s, and in addition to fast casual, ethnic eateries and plenty of fresh, western fare to choose from.
Bars and restaurants:
- Ore House at the Pine Grove – Steamboat’s most iconic steakhouse, offers a 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 of town, plus lodging and skiing in one pass, early January.
Jan – Cowboy Downhill – Real cowboys race down the mountain in mid January.
Feb – Winter Carnival – Ice sculptures, contests and ski jumping in early February.
Feb – WinterWonderGrass – three day part bluegrass music festival and part beer festival in mid February.
Mar/Apr – Bud Light Rocks the Boat – live band every March Saturday 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 year 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 celebrate their 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.
Sep – Steamboat OktoberWest – Steamboat’s western take on this German tradition in mid September.
Activities near Steamboat Springs
- 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)
- Lake Catamount (10mi)
- Yee-Haw Hill (13mi)
- 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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