Southern Colorado is a haven for adventure-seekers. With skiing, whitewater rafting and numerous fourteeners, there is something to get your adrenaline racing any time of the year.
If you have just one weekend to stay in Southern Colorado, the trick is making the most of your time—and maximizing your experience. Here are our suggestions for what to do during a weekend getaway to Westcliffe, Colorado, when the weather is warm:
Hike to Macey Lake: This 13-mile round-trip hike makes for a long day that’s rewarded by views of the towering mountains and a quiet alpine lake. Begin your trek on the Rainbow Trail before gaining more than 3,000 feet in elevation on your way to the lake. Some choose to camp there while others have enough energy to complete the roundtrip in one day. Either way, go into this hike prepared with plenty of food, water, and rain gear.
For the most experienced hikers, up your adventure quotient by scaling one of the Fourteeners surrounding South Colony Lakes Basin: Depending on the snow melt and how far your vehicle is able to get up the trailhead, it is a roughly 10-mile roundtrip hike just to reach the South Colony Lakes Basin. From there, hikers have their pick of three Fourteeners: Humboldt Peak, Crestone Peak, and the Crestone Needle. All are very challenging, so be sure to study trail descriptions before attempting.
One thing is for sure: Whether you set up camp in the Basin overnight or opt for a warm bed in Westcliffe, you’ll want to start your morning early—the afternoon thunderstorm threat in Colorado is nothing to be taken lightly, especially above treeline.
Go whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River: Renowned as one of the premier rafting destinations in the world, the Arkansas River offers everything from mild to wild rapids—and the guided or individual experiences to go along with them. We suggest heading to Buena Vista (70 miles from Westcliffe) as an entry point and hopping out in Salida (60 miles from Westcliffe).
Brave the zip line or skycoaster above the Royal Gorge: For an experience that merges a natural wonder with a major adrenaline rush, head 45 miles northeast of Westcliffe along Colorado Highway 50 to the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. There, the Cloudscraper Zip Line flies 1,200 feet above the rushing Arkansas River—or, the bravest among us may consider the Royal Rush Skycoaster, a 50 mph free-fall 1,200 feet above the river. (That ends with a fun, safe “swing” unlike any other.)