Travel Tips from a Colorado Wild Rider

barn flag

If you’re like me, you take time to prepare for a trip. I check the weather and plan accordingly. Okay. Obsessively. But just like the weather forecasters in your area, they all have trouble predicting too much in advance.  (The one on my iPhone is way off.) The temperatures soar when it’s supposed to be cool or storms roll in when you plan to camp on the beach.

If you’re coming to Colorado, I’ll make it easy for you. No matter how warm it gets, the dry air will feel cooler. I can never complain about the same 90 degree temperatures to my mother who may be experiencing the same heat in Wisconsin. Remember, it’s never the heat, it’s the humidity.

The Denver area and Front Range are a mile high in elevation, so the sun is intense year round. Bring a hat and sunglasses. And don’t forget sunscreen. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to get sunburned here than at sea level. You want to avoid that nasty farmer tan when sticking your elbow out the window and driving on I-70 to the mountains.

Breck storm

This is the land of 300 sunny days. Most mornings will be cloud-free, but don’t be fooled. Moist cool air from the mountains often collides with the heat of the day creating thunderstorms late in the afternoon or evening. This is not a good time to hike or bike in the foothills or mountains since storms can produce numerous lightning strikes. These are the Rocky Mountains and lightning loves to ground itself by striking the tallest object. That could be you, even if you are only five feet tall and are only halfway to the summit. Start your hikes early, especially in higher elevations. Pack shoes and clothes suitable for the terrain and bring a refillable water bottle.

When exploring towns during the day, wear casual and comfortable attire. You will see a wide range of styles from T-shirts and shorts to sundresses.

Frisco

People dress up a little more in Denver, especially downtown and in Cherry Creek. You may spot women in dresses and a few men in suits, but most men don’t wear ties. This is the Wild West where casual Friday runs through the week. In the evening, a few women may sport high heels and dresses, but fashion runs the full gamut. Men wear dress shirts and pants and call it, “Good enough.”

Our warm summer days are always followed by cool nights. Many homes still aren’t equipped with air conditioning for this reason. All you have to do is crack a window. I grab a light sweater when I go out here in Boulder, just in case a breeze picks up. The air conditioning in restaurants can be pretty uncomfortable too.

In the mountains, it is easy to point out the tourists. They shiver in short-sleeve shirts and shorts when walking down Main Street in Breckenridge on summer nights. That may be perfect for daytime when it’s in the 70’s and 80’s, but at night, temperatures can drop into the low 40’s. The higher the elevation, the cooler it gets. I always pack jeans, a light jacket, and a raincoat. Most wear casual attire, but nothing surprises me in Vail and Aspen because, Vail and Aspen.

DSCN6637

While traveling in the mountains, you may find yourself two miles above sea level. It’s okay. Don’t freak out. Our house in Breckenridge is around 10,500 feet. Yep. I get in shape just sleeping up there. Drink a lot of water. It will ward off high altitude sickness. Take it easy the first day and watch your alcohol consumption. Dehydration is your enemy and I want you to have a great time when visiting my fair state. Don’t climb any fourteeners until later in the week, after you’ve acclimated.

I met a young guy on my trip back from New Orleans who planned to hike Pike’s Peak the next day. He lived at 8 feet below sea level. Hmm…

So there you have it. The environment is very different here because of the altitude. Now that you’re prepared, I’m sure you will love your visit to Colorado!

Do you have any travel tips you’d like to share from your neck of the woods?

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About Susie Lindau

I am a Boulder, Colorado writer and artist who loves adventure both real and imagined. Come with me. It's always a Wild Ride!
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64 Responses to Travel Tips from a Colorado Wild Rider

  1. I wouldn’t mind seeing the sun 300 days of the year, though I prefer the humidity. In Melbourne: carry clothes around with you for all weather. There’s no avoiding it!

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  2. I don’t know why I was so unaware of most of this. Apparently I know nothing about Colorado. It sure is handy having you to educate me because I am one of those people that would dive in head first and pay for it afterwards.

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    • susielindau says:

      Hey! I just noticed your comment. Sheesh!
      Yep. The high altitude is very different out here. The higher you go, the less oxygen there is and the cooler it gets. I love it!

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  3. Colorado looks extremely picturesque! We have a very similar summer climate in parts of New Zealand – my home town Napier is scorching hot, with quick burn times, during summer days and chilly at night. Kind of odd as it’s coastal. It also appears to be the one place in New Zealand that nobody has turned into Middle Earth, so my travel tip would be don’t bring any green Tolkien cloaks. :-)

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    • susielindau says:

      I’ll leave my cloak at home! I would love to visit sometime. It does look fantastic in movies.
      Are there mountains in Napier? The high altitude is responsible for all kinds of weather here. We just started our monsoon season, where it heats up and then storms in the afternoon. I am always grateful for the moisture as long as we don’t get in in feet!!! Remember last September? We got 16 inches in a few days. Wow.
      Thanks Matt!

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      • The bay is ringed with ranges that top out at 6000 feet but is otherwise mostly sea level. The weather has something to do with the way prevailing winds interact with tbose hills.

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  4. I’ve always imagined Colorado to be a beautiful place and have several friends that live out that way. I really need to visit this beautiful, “wild” state you described. :-D

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  5. Susie – Thank you for a wonderful informative informational. Colorado’s State Map is one we always pull out when we’re thinking about fun and remembrances of special times in the states. Tom and I both love the many different aspects of your beautiful state and we hope that just as soon as he recovers from this latest heart surgery, we may be able to start traveling again after having so many dreams on hold for over 4 years. Thanks for another beautiful blog. Sheri

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  6. If I ever visit Colorado, I would definitely need to refer to this post again, Susie, or more likely, due to my CRS (Can’t Remember Shit), I would just tell you I’m visiting and ask for a refresher guide. Great advice.

    You hit two nerves: a big yes on how the humidity is so much more worse than the heat and the sunburned elbow. I suffered that indignity back in 1979 when my brother and I took a weekend trip driving down from San Francisco to LA. My elbow was so fried it even blistered.

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  7. The Rider says:

    Happy 4th of July to all you Americans! Great blog post again, love all the Lamborghinis! Would love to visit Colorado one day…

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  8. What a great tour and list! These are the kind of tips you don’t get from Frommer’s. We can always count on the Wild Rider to set us straight! :) Someday I will visit. :) Happy 4th Susie!

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    • susielindau says:

      Definitely! Come on out. You would LOVE it! You won’t find any humidity here.
      I had to laugh today since the forecast on my cell predicted high temperatures in the low 80s. Today, it dropped to a high of 70. They can’t even predict 24 hours in advance!!!! I doubt that it hit 70 in Breck. :)
      Happy Fourth!

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  9. Having never been to CO, I didn’t know that you can almost set your clock for the afternoon cloudbursts. South FL used to be that way, about 30 years ago, until the climate change changed that. Now, it can rain anytime and does. I’ve read and heard about so many good things about living in CO. Your “travelogue” and “travel tips” makes it sound really lovely. You’re a lucky lady!

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    • susielindau says:

      I remember that about Florida. Climate change has really messed with the weather.
      I am very lucky! It was gorgeous today until 3:00. Now it’s raining. It will clear up and the sun will shine for the fireworks. It always does!
      Happy Fourth of July!

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  10. tomwisk says:

    If you’re going to visit New England, start at Long Island Sound and zig -zag your way to Maine. When you start getting chased by RCMP you’re in Canada. Buy Canadian booze and repeat going south.

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  11. Been there, done that! Only I came in the middle of winter, so cold was cold. (I haven’t been by since the 99 world cup {skiing}, though!)

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  12. I have been to Colorado several times and you are absolutely right – dress in layers. I’ve seen people skiing in July. Colorado is incredible for weather and beautiful scenic places. (Except for Denver. Denver’s kind of ugly IMHO.)

    I too like to plan excessively when I travel and, like you, have been unable to rely on any electronic device to accurately predict what to wear.

    I also live at a fairly high elevation and sometimes when friends from lower down dome to visit, they complain about altitude sickness. I have never experienced this, but I hear it’s yucky. I think I’m immune because every day I travel from just over 3,500 feet to 200 in about 30 minutes from home to work and back. I think my body is just used to adjusting rapidly. And I never have any trouble with I go over the summit to Tahoe (nearly 8,000 feet).

    Thanks for the fun photos.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

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    • susielindau says:

      Very cool Patricia! You get the best of both worlds! You live in a gorgeous part of the world. :)
      We used to live in downtown Denver in the late 80’s and could never see myself living there again, but boy has it changed. I love it now! LODO (lower downtown) is booming with Coor’s Field and all the new retail, restaurants, and the new train station. I’ve been taking a class and drove down to Cherry Creek. It has changed too!

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  13. Love the Denver area. Great weather, and the BEER! I’ll be there again in September on biz.

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  14. Don’t go outside at all in the summer in Texas. As for Colorado, I found one more useful thing: message a writer friend you’ve always wanted to meet and arrange to get together for dinner. Looking forward to Tuesday evening.

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  15. I live in the Northern CA/NV area and it is 300+ days of sun here too. Layering, sunscreen and big hats pretty much all year round. The one thing in the 9 years I have been here that I cannot get use to is the WIND – 35 to 55 to 75 mph GUSTS! Beautiful countryside though to explore and adventure in :)

    Happy 4th – Be Safe and Have Fun!

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    • susielindau says:

      We get wind up to hurricane force here too. The highest, at over 100 MPH, sheers light fixtures off houses and blows semis off the road. That usually hits in the spring and fall. When we get high wind in the summer, it takes a lot of trees with it. I think those are usually “wind sheers..” It sounds like very similar weather!
      Thanks Renee! :) Happy 4th of July to you too!

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  16. Great tips!

    After traveling to visit family in Kansas and dealing with the most horrid humidity (and frizzy hair) I came back to Colorado praising myself for moving here!.

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    • susielindau says:

      That is such great news! I know you’d said it was a tough adjustment at first. Now that I’ve discovered the ultimate weapon against frizz, the straightener, I don’t have as much of a problem. The heat and humidity can really drag me down as soon as the air doesn’t move. I’ve played singles tennis in 100 + heat in Colorado and survived. I don’t think I could in Wisconsin!
      Thanks for reading Emily and for the tweets!

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  17. Excellent advice, Susie. I wonder if Colorado would present the problem I always have when I visit Montana – dry skin, as in chapped lips and hangnails? On the coast we have more humidity, as you’ve mentioned.

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  18. claywatkins says:

    Great post – would love to visit Colorado. Will keep your list in mind for future vacations. As for where I am – northern Michigan – always pack a sweatshirt, a swimsuit and a light jacket – you never know whether July will be hot or cold, or just right.

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    • susielindau says:

      Great advice!
      We are headed to Mackinac Island for a wedding in August! It’s going to be a planes, boats, and automobile kind of trip. Where are you in Northern Michigan? Maybe you could give me a suggestion on where to stay on the way back!

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  19. Cassandra says:

    Sounds absolutely lovely. I’ve spent all of 3 days in Colorado (in Aspen for a conference) and have always meant to get back out there. Someday…

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    • susielindau says:

      Aspen is one of my favorite places! Like Breckenridge, it is an authentic mining town. We toyed with driving over there today, but I think we’ll go when we can stay over. I hope you get the chance to come again!
      Colorado is calling!!!!

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  20. What a lovely tribute to the state I love working in and visiting (wished I lived there!!)
    It’s so funny…I’ve completely quick checking the forecast because I know, at some point, it will be sunny and perfect–no matter what time of year. The people are kind and quirky and I call it my second home. Ahhhh…..I hear the mountains calling :-)

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  21. We have a very similar climate in Calgary. Landing in Denver feels and looks like landing in Calgary. Today is going to be our hottest day so far this year. 30c which is about 89f. It will surely bring on a thunderstorm!
    Diana xo

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    • susielindau says:

      Nice! Is Calgary a mile high? Denver is in the low 70’s already. It is a cool 53 degrees here in the mountains, but I’m at 10,500 feet! It will warm up.
      Thanks for stopping by Diana!

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      • I had to look it up Susie! Calgary is 3,438 feet (1,048 meters) high. It’s not that high compared to Mt. Everest, but yes, it’s pretty high. Seems Denver wins at 5,280 feet!

        Our transCanada highway runs from East to West through the Rocky mountains. The highest point of the highway is just at Calgary city limits.

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  22. laviedeparis says:

    Very useful tips there!

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    • susielindau says:

      Thanks Lavie! I woke up this morning and checked the temperature. It is only 53 degrees! It will warm up to 80 today in the mountains, but it will wear a jacket for a few more hours. :)

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  23. I had no idea about some of these… same with Bay area weather… pack a jacket at night..

    Remember, it’s never the heat, it’s the humidity

    yes mam and dying from it here right now … it was 40 degrees Celsius this week with that wet stuff.. Because the house was built of stone still trying to get rid of the heat,

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    • susielindau says:

      I always thought stone houses kept cooler, but I can see where they could absorb the humidity. I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Bay area when it was warm. Have a fab weekend Linda!

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  24. Cathy Ulrich says:

    Great post Susie. And all of it excellent advice for those visiting out wonderful state!

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  25. Well, after reading this I’m ready to load up the Airstream. Note to self: get an Airstream.

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  26. marcymckay says:

    Hey Susie – I always pack a mini-umbrella when traveling to Colorado. And, when in Vail or Aspen, I always prepare myself to hear several different languages spoken as I walk down the streets Thanks! :)

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