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5. Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing
Okay, I said no downhill skiing but I can’t go without mentioning snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Colorado has more than 20 official nordic centers and countless more areas for unofficial trips. Official Nordic tracks can be found in any of the ski towns such as Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone, Vail are reserved for skiing and snowshoeing, if you do not want to deal with snowmobiles or other motorized activities.
If you are up for a true outdoor adventure, snowshoeing and skiing can be transported to a destination such as Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen or Emerald Lake near Denver in Rocky Mountain National Park.
If you didn’t bring your own gear you will need to acquire some. Of course, using your own or borrowing from a friend would be free but you rent from places like REI or pick up used on the local swap.
Snowshoeing may be more like a cheap activity than a totally free thing to do in Colorado this winter but not even close to the cost of a lift ticket.
6. Soak in Undeveloped Hot Springs
Colorado is home to more than 30 hot springs. Sure, most are developed and charge a fee like Glenwood Hot Springs but some are undeveloped in public spaces.
You can visit one of the six wild hot springs for free in Colorado this winter.
Undeveloped hot springs are frequented by the locals, so just ask around or check out this book which describes all the hot springs in Colorado.
A couple of the undeveloped hot springs are right off the highway and you can be soaking in the river in a few steps. Penny Hot Springs near Carbondale is probably the easiest to access.
If you are up for an epic adventure, some can only be accessed in the winter by snowshoe or cross-country skiing. Conundrum hot springs near Aspen is one of the most popular and require a permit to camp near in the summer. Which another benefit of visiting in the winter.
7. Walk a Historic District
Frequently you will find a leisurely walk through a cute historic district on the list of things to do in Colorado summertime. But don’t let this stop you from planning this activity on your winter vacation itinerary.
Many historic districts are decorated for the winter holidays and are beautiful to photograph. They are full of quaint shops and yummy treats.
Ouray, known as the Switzerland of America, is has a vibrant main street that is registered as a National Historic District. The district is actually 8 blocks long and 8 blocks wide where Victorian and western mining town style buildings are tucked in a narrow valley in the San Juan Mountains. There is a walking tour all year long that is listed as one of the free things to do in Ouray.
Grab your scarf and hot cocoa and stroll down one of the many historic districts of Colorado.
8. Watch a Winter Celebration and Fireworks Display
Colorado is full of fun and unique winter celebrations. You could spend your entire winter touring different activities and festivals. Here are a few stops to consider:
Denver has more than 6 large celebrations including Downtown Denver Grand Illumination, Parade of Lights, Zoo Lights, Blossoms of Light, Mile High Holidays
Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen has the XGames that are free to watch, has free shuttle service and many giveaways during the event. Steamboat Springs has a 5 day Winter Carnival in February with ski jumping, dog sledding, tubing party, and fireworks show.
Why not dress up to this year’s theme for the Snowdown festival in Durango. The family can enjoy a parade, daily activities, and fireworks.
Vail has a New Year’s torchlight tradition where people ski down the hill with torches and the celebration concludes with fireworks over Golden Peak.
In January, you can catch Estes Park Winter Festival and Rocky Mountain National Park Winter Trail Days on the same weekend.
Some of the longer celebrations will give you a week of fun, free things to do in Colorado this winter without stepping foot, or ski, on a ski hill.
9. Wildlife Viewing
Winter is actually a perfect time to view wildlife in Colorado. The large animals like deer move down to the valley floor and congregate along the rivers. The Colorado River Valley has many herds that can be seen from I70. This is a free activity in the winter in Colorado that you can stay warm in your car if you like or bundle up and hike.
The best places to view wildlife right from your car are Rocky Mountain National Park, Guenella Pass, Walden, South Platte River Trail, San Juan Skyway, I70 Genesee Buffalo Overlook and Mount Evans.
Rocky Mountain National Park can be quite crowded in the summer but in the winter the park becomes quiet and you can take your time driving through.
Winter is a perfect time to spot bald eagles and hawks soaring over the landscape. After all the birds migrate south for the winter the Raptors are left to hunt.
I love when the turkey vultures leave and any large bird I see is a raptor.
Colorado is full of unique and exciting, free wintertime activities. Don’t limit yourself to a vacation of downhill skiing, because there is plenty of fun, free things to do in Colorado in winter. You can afford a family vacation by saving money for your travel fund and reducing the cost of the trip with free activities.
We love to play in the Colorado snow and warm sunshine. We spend the winter outdoors sledding, hiking, or ice skating. The kids get excited spotting deer or elk while we are driving down I70 or watching eagles soar over the river.
We enjoy so many fun, free Colorado winter activities beyond downhill skiing and snowboarding.
You can still ski or snowboard but make sure to include some unique activities too.
Start planning your vacation to Colorado today with the free printable Travel Planner.