3 Days Exploring Northwest Colorado

3 Days Exploring Northwest Colorado

Written by Dan Funk on

After moving around the U.S. and studying marketing at Florida State, Dan found his way into a marketing position here at Eagle Creek in southern California. At home in the ocean whether surfing or scuba diving, or out of his element backpacking or rock climbing in the mountains, Dan is passionate about exploring, enjoying, and protecting the outdoors.

3 Days Exploring Northwest Colorado

3 Days Exploring Northwest Colorado

Northwest Colorado is home to some beautiful mountain towns, ski areas, and backcountry forests that are a must see if you have a few days to spare. Eagle Creek Ambassador and Outdoor Photographer, Ben Horton, was kind enough to bring us to his hometown to show us around the gorgeous place he calls home, and adventure ensued.

For a California guy, it's hard not to be mesmerized by the expansive mountains and snow-covered peaks you see in every direction when landing in Denver. From Denver, we hopped on a short flight to Vail and made our way to our homebase outside the town of Edwards, CO.

Day 1

On Day 1 we got an early start and headed east into the town of Vail, which sits right at the base of Vail Ski Resort, the largest ski mountain in Colorado. Sitting at just over 8,000 feet, the town of Vail is a small, quaint mountain village with plenty of boutique stores, ski shops, restaurants and bars to spend an entire day exploring. The main lift up the mountain is right in the center of town, so in winter the town is filled with a mix of skiers, snowboarders, and people simply enjoying the shops and food. With the town sitting at the base of the lift, it’s a treat for the skiers to be able to ride to the bottom, grab a lunch or drink in town, and walk right back to the lift for their next run. After a long day on the mountain, I’d suggest hitting up one of the many bars in town for a post-ski drink and some live music. In the summertime, Vail is a destination for golfing, hiking and cultural festivals, and with Gore Creek running through the town, you also have a popular fly fishing spot easily accessible.

Day 2

On our second day, we decided to get a little off the beaten path, and headed deep into the White River National Forest to Hidden Treasure Yurts. Located at over 11,000 feet, these backcountry yurts are truly a hidden treasure. Far from any cell service, and accessible only by snowmobile or snowcat, these yurts are a great destination to get away from the routine of your everyday and enjoy the outdoors.

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We entered the forest through Sylvan Lake State Park, where we had a classic 1975 snowcat awaiting our arrival. After loading up the snowcat with our duffels, backcountry skis and splitboards, we hit the snow for a solid hour-and-a-half trek to the tree line near the top of New York Mountain. On the way up we stopped through the town of Fulford, which might be one of the most bizarre towns I’ve ever witnessed. In the winter, I couldn’t imagine more than 50 people living in this town, where snowmobiles fill every driveway, and to get your kids to school you have to take one down the snow-covered road each day to drop them off at the bus stop.

Once we finally reached Hidden Treasure Yurts, we made ourselves comfortable and got a fire going inside the Yurt to warm up. Then we hit the mountain for some backcountry skiing before calling it a day. From the yurt, you can skin up the mountain until you reach the top if you’d like, then enjoy the untouched powder as you enjoy your way back to the yurt. The yurt is surrounded by excellent backcountry skiing and snowshoe touring, and alpine hiking and mountain biking in the summer. The 2 yurts that sit up at Hidden Treasure comfortably sleep up to 8 people, has great eating and cooking facilities, and a wood burning stove.

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Day 3

On our final day, we headed over to Nova Guides in Camp Hale to rent some snowmobiles and explore the Rockies in style. Great for beginners and experienced riders alike, this has got to be one of the most fun places to explore on snowmobile. With over 100 miles of trails, and being able to ride up to over 12,500 feet, this was a full day of adventure.

We strapped our heavy-duty duffels, skis, and splitboards to the snowmobiles and hit the trails. Gaining over 3,000 feet of elevation, we rode up to the top of Ptarmigan Peak and took in breathtaking panoramic views of the Rockies. Then we grabbed our skis and boards, and took turns riding the steep cornice bowl off the side of the peak, taking the snowmobiles back to the top for ride after ride. After a handful of fun runs off the first peak, we got back on the snowmobiles and rode over to the next peak, Machine Gun Ridge, where we strapped up the skis again for a quick tour of the spectacular ridge line.

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After 3 days of maybe the best “work” trip of my life, it was time to head back to sunny California. Although it was a quick trip, I am so grateful to have experienced some of the scenery, skiing and adventure Colorado has to offer, and can’t wait to plan my next trip back.