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54 Must-Do Colorado Adventures


1) Those Walls are Getting Narrow
Picture scrambling down a canyon with 18 waterfalls before you. Generally, this is the time to turn back. But if you’ve made the transition from rock climber to canyoneer, you’ll plunge forward despite the canyon walls narrowing to the width of the waterfalls. This is the scene on the Pagosa Springs side of Wolf Creek Pass, home to one of the burliest canyons in the state. Make sure to get the proper training and experience before you attempt such a climb—Alpine World Ascents in Boulder offers a three-day crash course. There are plenty of local canyons to cut your teeth on before trying the Wolf Creek waterfall challenge—both the Boulder Canyon and Arapahoe Basin areas are rife with challenges. —JH

2) How Do You Say Scary in Italian?
Grotto may sound like little more than an Italian after drink, but the truth is you may need a little dose to calm your nerves if you are attempting to drop into one. It’s actually the Italian term for a cave. These dark, damp, cool crags are extremely delicate, which is why locations remain extremely secretive unless you’re willing to learn the proper etiquette. We’ll whet your appetite: Fulford Cave is long, with more than a mile of tunnels and multiple levels and rooms to explore. To safely navigate this cave located just outside Eagle, you’ll need a helmet, plenty of light sources and some warm clothing. While no technical skills are needed and spaces are relatively wide open, you must treat the cave with respect. It took millions of years to form and you can ruin the habitat as easily as you dent your bumper. Once you get hooked, find a local grotto chapter and learn the secrets of the trade. —JH

3) Just Add Wings
“So where’s the cliff?” you start to wonder.

Meanwhile, instructor Kelly Davis laughs. Apparently jumping off a cliff, even while paragliding, is dangerous. Instead of launching off a rocky cliff with a sharp drop a thousand feet down, Davis ushers you to a grassy slope with a gentle breeze and starts unfolding the glider. A purple rectangle of fabric about 35 feet by 6 feet, it covers the springtime shrubs. Dozens of strings hang down from the material, and Davis goes through them one by one, meticulously making sure they are knot free. Once they’re set and helmets are on, the soaring adventure is about to begin. The instructor clips in with you harnessed to him. It takes three tries to get into the air—the first two tries end in brush. Finally, the glider cuts through the air, across the Golden foothills. A quick turn, and the contraption lifts sky high, more than 100 feet above the launch site. Davis breaks the silence and asks his student, “Want to drive?”

Taking the controls, you turn quick, causing the glider to do a 180—the wind picks up again, and the paraglider is lifted high in the sky. Davis takes back the controls and starts to slope down. “(Landing is) just like getting off a ski lift,” he says.

Unlike the rocky launch, the glider touches down softly following the 10-minute ride. It all seemed so effortless, which is why pluncking down the $150 to Boulder’s Peak to Peak Paragliding was so worth it. —LJS

4) Ultimate Climb
The Tour de France is just a few weeks away. When the world’s premier cyclists start the three-week tour, they’ll be staring down some of the most epic climbs in the world as they head through the Alps and Pyrenees. None of the thigh-burning mountains they’ll top will have anything on what you can accomplish closer to home. Ride your bike up Mt. Evans, and laugh at the tourists who need the comfort of a car to get to the top of the 14,264-foot peak. There’s a road to the top, one that just begs for road bikers. You’ll feel like Lance once you’ve mastered the 27-mile climb—better yet, you’ll have the entire downhill to savor your victory at 50 miles
an hour. —JH

5) Great Deep Blue
Sure we’re landlocked, but that shouldn’t prohibit you from scuba. Take a lesson at a local outfit such as Erie Scuba, then hone your skills on Carter Lake near Loveland. The clear blue water surrounded by mountains is hard to beat. Once you’re hooked, book a Bahamas trip for some tropical diving and rum drinking. —LJS

6) Second Thoughts?
Just jump. Don’t think twice. In a second, you’ll be speeding toward the ground from nearly 18,000 feet at 130 miles per hour. You can thank Longmont’s Mile Hi Skydiving for pushing you out the door. When you land, your heart will be pumping faster than a jackrabbit being chased in the wild. —JH

7) Rock Paradise
There’s a reason hordes of wannabe rock climbers have flocked to this region over the years: El Dorado Canyon, widely considered one of the best climbing spots in the world. With walls towering up to 700 feet and routes ranging from the mundane to epic—such as the naked edge climb—this is the type of rock that keeps diehards busy
for decades. —JH

8) Freefalling
Aside from knotting a thick rope to a leg and hopping off the nearest bridge, there are few precious opportunities to fling yourself off a perch and not expect to get hurt. Ok, you’d probably break a few bones in that scenario, so please don’t try it, or at least never admit to reading about it here. Luckily, Heritage Square in Golden offers a 70-foot bungee jump. It’s enough of a drop to have you cursing your favorite god all the way down. —LB

9) Leave the Gear at Home
You certainly don’t need ropes to climb—just a nice big pad, climbing shoes and an area ripe with versatile boulders to play on. The Dragon’s Den—in Big Elk Meadows between Lyons and Estes Park—offers endless options for most levels of bouldering enthusiasts. There’s the added bonus of stopping of at Oskar Blues in Lyons for a Dale’s Pale Ale after. —JH

10) Go Bag a 13er, By Yourself
Everybody knows we have 54 14,000-foot peaks. That’s why they are generally the most crowded mountains. Here’s a little secret: The view from 13,894 feet isn’t different than the one from 14,082, except you get the top to yourself. Check out 13ers.com for a list of hundreds of options. Take binoculars so you can laugh at the crowd on the 14er a mile away. —JH

11) Zip Away From Civilization
Zipping around the forests of southern Colorado superhero style is only the beginning of the canopy adventure that can be found hidden in the San Juan Forest. Between Durango and Silverton, in a place accessible only by train, Soaring Tree Top Adventures runs a unique zip line outfit, offering 32 eco-friendly treetop platforms connected by more than a mile of cable. The $329 fee includes the train ride, zipping and a gourmet lunch. —LJS

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