Why You Should Visit Colorado During the 'Mud Season'

Don't let the name fool you

Colorado mud season
••• North of Silverton, Colorado, in the spring. MaryAnne Nelson/Getty Images

The name doesn't sound appealing.

The mud season. 

Sounds dirty and dreary. Not like your dream vacation. But don't let the name fool you. 

The mud season is Colorado's off season — the window of time between when the ski resorts close and when the summer activities pick up again. The weather warms up and melts the snow, before the wildflowers and grass have filled out Mother Nature's carpet. Hence, mud.

 

But springtime (mid-April to late May) is actually one of our favorite times to visit Colorado. 

The effects of the mud season are more prominent in the ski towns, such as Vail, Steamboat Springs and Aspen. You won't feel the impact as much in the city of Denver and outlying metro cities. Spring is the best time of year for other warm-weather destinations, like ​Mesa Verde National Park in southern Colorado, to gear up to reopen all attractions for the busy season. 

However, as the slopes close and the skiers pack away their poles for the season, ski resorts completely transform. 

Here are four reasons for why you should visit Colorado during the mud season.

1. It's cheaper. 

Like any off season, the demand drops off and so do the prices. You can stay in some of the mountains' highest-end resorts for a fraction of the price, often more than half off. You won't have to fight for a good room either.

You can get your pick of the place. 

Not only is lodging severely discounted, but so are restaurants and shops. Find major sales, as ski shops get ready to close down for the summer or as regular shops try to move out the last of their cold-weather gear to make space for cycling and hiking get-ups.

Although many restaurants may only feature abridged menus (and some close entirely during this period, so call ahead), what remains on the menu tends to run cheap.

Expect extra happy happy-hours. 

For example, you can stay at a luxury hotel like the Four Seasons in Vail and enjoy high-end dining at its restaurant and bar. The views, heated outdoor pool, beautiful spa, high-quality fitness center and all of the luxurious in-room amenities don't change. The only difference is you feel like you get the whole resort to yourself.  

2. You get the run of the town.

No long lines to see attractions. No crowds on the streets. No circling for hours looking for parking. No long waits to get into a popular restaurant or bar. 

The ski towns are all yours to explore at your own pace. This is great for traveling families. Best of all, this is the only time of year that traffic on I-70 isn't a complete nightmare. (Tip: Even so, don't try to drive up the mountain from Denver during peak hours.) You may actually be able to drive up the mountain on a Friday afternoon or back down on a Sunday afternoon without bursting into angry, traffic-induced tears. You'll save time not sitting in your car. Instead, use that time to watch the wildflowers pop up on an easy hike. 

3. You can find a campsite. 

Hiking may not be your best bet this time of year,​because temps can still be chilly and the mud makes some paths hard to trek.

(Ask your concierge for tips on which trails to try this time of year.) But many of drive-up campsites are open year-round, and you'll have a better chance of actually scoring one in the spring. 

Mid-week late May is the best time of year to visit Medano Creek and the Great Sand Dunes, a hugely popular tourist spot in Colorado. Temps hit the 60s and 70s, and the creek really begins to pick up. On nice days, especially later afternoon after the sun has warmed the water, you can float down the creek in an inner tube. And if you plan your trip before June, you won't have to fight the horrible weekend traffic, packed beach and overfilled campgrounds. 

4. You can plan a fun road bike trip.

While the backcountry trails may be too messy to ride, April and May is prime time to plan a road biking trip in Colorado.

 

Many cities in Colorado are totally bike-friendly. Fort Collins, Denver and Boulder all have received national attention for welcoming bikers. 

For a scenic ride, take your bike out to River Road in Steamboat Springs, which runs alongside the Yampa River. Or ride up around Rabbit Ears Pass, a favorite destination, especially as the wildflowers begin to awaken. 

If you still want to ride off pavement, rent a fat bike with extra-wide tires and tear through the mud for a messy but thrilling adventure. Or go on an off-roading Jeep tour and make the mud part of the fun.