The Best Time to Visit Colorado

Denver, Colorado overlooking the Rocky Mountains

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Colorado offers a little something for every traveler. The best time to visit Colorado depends on whether you love summer or winter activities more. But Spring is a great time to visit the state as crowds are smaller, prices are lower, and ski resorts are still open. Whether you prefer the great outdoors over the city life or something between, The Centennial State is the perfect vacation spot for just about everyone. Each year brings with it events, festivals, and other activities you might not find in states that don't have four seasons.

Weather

Colorado is a four-season state with a particularly hot, dry summer and cold, wet winter. Spring and fall see mild weather with possible temperature fluctuations due to the Rocky Mountains cutting through the state. Summer sees severe afternoon thunderstorms, which bring high winds, damaging hail, and flash floods. Winter has cold temperatures, plenty of snow, and a blizzard every so often, even in the heart of the metroplex.

When visiting Colorado, bring layers to ensure you are comfortable no matter the time of year. Make sure to check the weather in advance, especially during winter. Spring and fall see temperatures go from the high 90s to low 40s Fahrenheit in less than 12 hours on some days. The last thing you want to do is visit Colorado and not be dressed to deal with the temperature changes.

Crowds

Colorado tends to be busier during the summer and winter months. With dozens of National and State Parks to visit and more than 20 ski resorts, the section of the Rocky Mountains in the state are one of the most visited areas in the United States during winter and summer.

Planning ahead is paramount to booking rooms, camping spots, and avoiding the overcrowding on hiking trails, river runs, and the slopes. If you visit Colorado at the start or end of the summer and winter months, you'll avoid the crowds that slam the mountains during peak seasons.

Tourist Attraction Availability in Summer

As summer ends, many RV parks and campgrounds close their gates to travelers. National Parks and State Parks close their gates or reduce their hours. Rafting, kayaking, and other water sports companies close for the off-season, too.

When planning a summer trip to Colorado, make sure if it's at the end of the season, the activities you want to book will still be open. If you want to come during peak season, book as far ahead as possible, such as January and February, to ensure you get a camping spot or a rafting trip you want.

Tourist Attraction Availability in Winter

Winter is a different story in Colorado when it comes to what stays open as the weather warms up. Many ski areas, such as Breckenridge, Vail, and Arapahoe Basin, will extend their ski seasons as they will continue to make new snow until it's too warm. The beginning and middle of the ski season, especially after heavy snows in the mountains, will make the mountains too crowded to enjoy a day going up and down the slopes. You might wait an hour or more to just get onto the lift to the top of your run.

By visiting when it's slower, or even visiting a local resort, such as Loveland, you might avoid the insanity of crowds that come with kissing and snowboarding in the state. If you take the risk and visit at the end of winter, you may get deals on airfare, rental cars, rooms, skiing or snowboarding equipment, and more.

Price

Summer and winter will see the highest prices on all travel costs because of the influx of out of state visitors. Even locals feel the price increases whether you're in the mountains, the corners of the state, or in the heart of Denver itself. Whether it's airfare costs, accommodations across Colorado, or just the events, festivals, or activities you want to take part in, booking earlier will always save you the most money.

If you can avoid the tourist seasons of summer and winter, you'll be able to budget a trip to Colorado much more effectively. Even visiting the mountains on the shoulder seasons can save you hundreds of dollars in accommodation costs. Consider visiting Aspen, Vail, and Telluride in August and September if you don't like skiing or snowboarding to get the quaint town feel without the crowds for half the price.

The Best Time to Visit Multiple Destinations

  • Best Time to Visit Denver: The summer is the best time to visit the Mile High City. For more information read our complete guide to the best time to visit.
  • Best Time to Visit Estes Park: The Spring months are the best time to visit Estes Park. You'll still need to book accommodations in advance, but things will be less crowded, and you just have to bundle up to stay warm.
  • Best Time to Visit Museums: Avoid Mondays, Fridays, and any free days. Avoid the weekends, if possible. Splurge for adult only nights and other special events for smaller crowds. You can find the free days on each museum's website.
  • Best Time to Go to Sporting Events: Sports are a big deal in Colorado. Buy tickets in advance and use apps the day off during the weekdays to see less crowds and cheaper tickets. Forget about going to Broncos games as a visiting fan – even when they're doing badly, football is a big deal around Denver and costly.
  • Best Time to Go Leaf Peeping: Local news stations will showcase when the leaves are showing their peak colors. Try to go a few days before, if at all possible, and make sure to plan for an all-day trip. You'll be stuck in traffic no matter the time of day you go. If you can go during the middle of the week, you'll be better off.

Key Holidays, Festivals, and Events

  • National Western Stock Show (January): For over a century, this event draws people from all across North America. It highlights Colorado's western roots with two weeks' worth of events from bull riding, livestock judging, and everything a cowboy or girl could want.
  • Cherry Creek Arts Festival (July): One of the biggest culinary and performing arts events in the west, people flock to Cherry Creek to take in more than 200 artists and live music. More than 350,000 people attend each year.
  • Oktoberfest (September): One of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the country, the city of Denver and surrounding areas, put on events celebrating German culture and beer. From music, dance, food, performances, and more, you'll find something new every year during the celebrations.
  • Aspen Film Festival (October): For more than three decades, this film festival has set the standard for showcasing directors and films that might not have an audience otherwise. Special guests, screenings, and more await those who venture to Aspen for the event.
  • Great American Beer Festival (October): This event sells out in seconds, every year, with people scrambling in Colorado to get tickets. With more beers on hand than any other festival in the world, the GABF is the must-visit event for beer enthusiasts. More than 2,700 beers from all over the world are on hand for those brave enough to venture through the crowds.

Spring

Spring is a slower season in Colorado, no matter the destination. While ski season will extend into spring depending on late snows, you'll find temperatures ranging for the low 20s to high 70s degrees Fahrenheit with mild weather throughout. A late snowstorm or blizzard might pop up, but otherwise, spring is the perfect season to visit anywhere in Colorado to avoid crowds and see lower accommodation prices.

Events to Check Out

  • Cinco De Mayo Festival: Denver's annual festival is one of the largest celebrations of the day in the west. From Mexican art, music, dancing, food, and more, enjoy Chihuahua races and green chili galore.
  • Taste of Vail: A foodie's dream in the heart of Vail Village. Chefs and restaurants across the country flock to Vail to share culinary delights visitors will enjoy in one place.

Summer

Summer is one of the busiest times in Colorado. Whether you're visiting a National or State Park, want to check out Denver's varied attractions, or feel the need to cheer on your favorite sports team in town, summer is the right time to visit the state. Temperatures fluctuate between low 50s and low 100s Fahrenheit during the summer months with afternoon thunderstorms drenching the metro area. Crowds will peak at this season in the mountains and cities scattered throughout the state, with tourist pricing in full effect for those looking to stay for a while.

Events to Check Out

  • Greeley StampedeSince the late 1800s, Greeley has hosted one of the best fourth of July events in Colorado. With big-name bands and musical artists to rodeo culture and bull riding, this free event is perfect for the whole family.
  • Telluride Jazz FestivalTelluride's brought some of the best jazz musicians around the world to town for a celebration of this popular musical style.

Fall

Fall, like spring, is a mild time to visit Colorado. Temperatures will fluctuate between winter lows and summer highs. Snow can start as early as the end of September, so pack accordingly. Leaf peeping season is in full effect, so if you're interested in trekking to the mountains to see the Aspens change colors, you'll run into the most crowds on the road.

Events to Check Out

  • Emma Crawford Coffin Races and ParadeThis unique event in Manitou Springs is a Halloween tradition. Each team has an Emma and Runners, dressed in costumes racing towards the finish line to pay their respects to the dead.

Winter

The Rocky Mountains are almost as crowded in winter as in summer. The difference is the skiers and snowboarders come to the various mountain towns and take over. Temperatures can fluctuate in winter from the low negatives to high 50s or 60s Fahrenheit, depending on how much snow falls across the Rockies. The mountain towns are the worst over the weekends, so if you can visit during the week, you'll get much more out of your visit.

Events to Check Out

  • Georgetown Christmas Market: An annual tradition for Colorado families for years. Georgetown turns itself into an old town with Christmas flair the first two weekends of every December.
  • Estes Park Winter Festival: Ski and snowboarding events, some with professionals showing off what they can do on the slopes. Ice castles, food, beer, and more await those venturing to Estes for this fun event.
  • Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland: This event celebrates the life of cryogenically frozen man, Bredo Morstoel. His family abandoned him in Nederland, and this Halloween-esque event hosted in winter is a unique experience for everyone in Colorado to visit just once.
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