Lazy river floats. Downhill mountain biking. Hot springs soaks. High-altitude hikes. Welcome to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This summer, my family and I had the chance to visit Steamboat Springs for the first time. Sure, this Ski Town USA has award-winning powder for families in the winter, but we were blown away by the number of non-winter activities for our family to enjoy the rest of the year. Here are five of my family’s favorite activities and why Steamboat Springs should be on your radar for year-round outdoor family fun.
Disclosure: This post is part of a hosted stay. All opinions are my own.
Get “Grand” Family Accommodations
We started our Steamboat Springs exploration by settling in to the Steamboat Grand hotel. Located across the street from the mountain, the Steamboat Grand is a perfect place for families to homebase when exploring the town. While the hotel offers a variety of accommodation options from basic hotel rooms to penthouse suites, my family of five stayed in one of the Grand’s condos. I’m not sure what I loved more: that it had a separate king bedroom for my husband and I and a sleeper sofa in the living room for the kids, a dining room table that could seat all of us with ease, or the full kitchen. The condo had plenty of room to allow us all to have our space and the full kitchen meant that we were able to save money by eating in for breakfast and the occasional dinner.
Some of our other favorite features of the hotel were the convenient and complimentary shuttle service to anywhere within the city limits of Steamboat Springs, free WiFi, an outdoor year-round heated swimming pool (and separate adult-only hot tub!) and a coin-op laundry facility which can be key when traveling for multiple weeks with kids like we do in the summer.
Cruise the Town
Steamboat Springs has two great ways to explore the town: by bike and by tube. We hopped on the free Steamboat Grand shuttle and headed to Ski Haus to grab our bike rentals.
The Yampa River Core Trail in Steamboat is a 7.5-mile, non-motorized, paved path that lets bikers, walker, rollerbladers and runners explore the city along the riverfront. I love towns that make it easy to get outside and the Core Trail is just this. It’s practical, bringing you from one end of town to the other, but also pretty, following alongside the river and past the Yampa River Botanic Park. There are markers throughout the trail letting you know where you are, how far you have to go, and key stops along the way.
Another great way to explore the city is on an innertube, floating down the Yampa River. In the summer, the float is mellow and filled with the company of locals and visitors alike. There are multiple put-in locations depending on how long you want to float and shuttles that will take you back up the river when you are done. If you want more adventure, try the river in spring or early summer when the flow is faster and the river is filled with rafters and kayakers.
Explore the Mountain
Steamboat Springs may be known as Ski Town USA, but the mountain has lots to offer when it isn’t covered in snow too. Start with a gondola ride up to the top of the mountain to hit up a yoga class or explore one of the many hiking trails.
Families with young kids will love the Vista Nature Trail – a mile-long loop with easy terrain and informational signs about animal life on the mountain. Older kids will be able to handle the more strenuous Thunderhead Trail, a 3.8-mile trail between the top of the gondola and the mountain base.
Also, be sure to try an evening gondola ride on Thursdays or Sundays for Sunset Happy Hour at 9,000 ft. The family-friendly event includes small bites, drink specials, live music and spectacular views.
You’ll also use the gondola if you decide to explore Steamboat’s 2,200 vertical feet of downhill mountain biking trails. My husband and oldest two boys took on the trails and loved the variety of terrain options like those black diamond jumps for those brave enough, but also paths around for beginners. The trails were well-maintained, not too rocky, and had fun elements like boardwalks and banked turns. A 3-hour downhill bike package ($98 adults, $88 kids) includes a mountain bike rental, a helmet and other protective gear, and a Bike Park ticket for riding the gondola as many times as you want. Lessons for kids and adults are also available.
See Some Steamboat Culture
Another must-do in when you’re in town? The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series. We had never been to a rodeo before and it was quite an experience! From the delicious BBQ and live music before the show, to the physical feats of the riders and the hilarious kid events, it was definitely a Steamboat cultural experience! Check out their website for upcoming events and this helpful guide to the events and lingo if you’re a rodeo newbie like we were.
Hit the Hot Springs
Do you know why this land-locked town is called Steamboat Springs? When the first settlers came to the town, they came upon a hot spring that made a sound like a chugging steamboat – and the town earned its name. Today, Steamboat Springs still has wonderful hot springs to visit like the family-friendly Old Town Hot Springs. Part hot springs, part pool, part watery activity center, part fitness club, Old Town is must-do for visiting families with active kids.
This place is a water activity heaven. Plan to spend at least 3 hours here to get a chance to explore all the options and get your money’s worth. There are eight different pools that are all fed by the ancient Heart Spring. The mineral water comes out of the ground at a delightfully toasty 103°F which heats the adult-only, un-chlorinated Heart soaking pool and then runs into an overflow system which fills the remaining pools which are each cooler and cooler (98-102°F).
In addition to the pools including a shallow kid pool and lap lanes, there are two, 230-foot twisting waterslides, a toddler play area with fun squirting water features, an aquatic climbing wall, and a floating obstacle course which is hilarious for kids and adults alike.
I won’t tell you who won this race between my oldest and my husband, but there’s video proof that there may have been some cheating. By both of them! FYI – The Old Town Hot Springs is BYOT (Bring Your Own Towel) or you can rent one for a fee.
We were really impressed with all this “ski town” had to offer the rest of the year and will definitely put it on our list to visit again!
Click here to plan your own visit to Steamboat Springs, Colorado!
Our accommodations and some of our activities were provided.
Kate Bayless is a travel lover and freelance writer based in Southern California who loves exploring everywhere from remote BLM camp sites to luxury beach resorts to international destinations with her husband and three sons. Follow her adventures on Twitter, Instagram or Contently.