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Northwestern Loop Tour
Discover Colorado's many staples in cities like Craig, Dillon, and Glenwood Springs. These scenic Colorado communities feature popular ski areas, annual fairs and rodeos, Old West museums, and even the Vapor Caves – plus a side trip to see some dinosaur fossils.
Set along Interstate 70, Clifton is found in eastern Grand Junction just north of the Colorado River.
For Colorado history at its best, try the Museum of Western Colorado for 1,000 years of Centennial State history. Exhibits showcase Adobe pottery, LaFrance Fire Truck, a life-size Uranium Mine, and Thrailkill Firearms. Find the Sterling T. Smith Education Tower, and you’ve found the museum.
Head to the Mesa County Fairgrounds at Veterans Memorial Park in mid-September for the annual CPRA Finals Rodeo in Grand Junction. This Colorado Professional Finals Rodeo awards the best rider with the Championship Buckle, and donates to the Mesa County Sheriff's Posse.
Hikers, hit the Colorado National Monument for trails on trails. Plan for Serpents Trail, No Thoroughfare Canyon Trail, Liberty Cap Trail, Corkscrew Trail, and Monument Canyon Trail.
Sidetrip: Dinosaur National Monument!
A U.S. National Monument, the Dinosaur National Monument is located in northwestern Colorado on the Utah border. Set under three hours from Clifton by State Route 139, DNM covers 210,844 acres, and is found on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Head to the Canyon Visitor Center, or cross into Utah for the Quarry Visitor Center and the Quarry Exhibit Hall – where you can see real dinosaur fossils! Other DNM activities include rafting, hiking, and scenic drives.
An hour east of Dinosaur NM o Highway 40, Craig is a northern Colorado city said to be the "Elk Hunting Capital of the World.”
Craig has a full event calendar throughout the year. From the festive Grande Olde West Days to the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous challenge, plus events like the Craig Farmers Market, Do It Downtown Thursdays, and races at the Hayden Speedway, Craig is always ready to party.
For any history buff or fan of the Old West, the Museum of Northwest Colorado is an anticipated stop. This free museum features the Cowboy & Gunfighter Collection, plus exhibits on early Moffat County, kids activities, and a bookstore.
Spanning 2,200 acres, Elkhead State Park offers fishing and boating on the Elkhead Reservoir, plus hiking, biking, horseback riding, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Open daily, Elkhead offers a good chance to maybe spot some elk.
The nation’s highest town, Winter Park reaches an elevation of over 9,000 feet. Just 141 miles southeast of Craig along Highway 40, Winter Park is nestled in the Arapahoe National Forest.
Winter Park yields a tremendous party atmosphere – mostly due to the actual atmosphere. Outdoor festivals and competitions are aplenty here, so see if you can catch events like the Winter Park Jazz Festival, Winter Park Music Festival, Winter Park Beer Festival, the Alpine ArtAffair, and Zoppe Circus.
Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District comprises a ton of activities in Winter Park. Check out the Pole Creek Golf Club, the FVMRD Tennis Courts, The IceBox skating rink, or the 20-foot waterslide in the Grand Park Community Recreation Center.
WP is best known as host to the Winter Park Ski Resort – and alpine ski area set in the western Rockies. The former Mary Jane Resort features 143 ski runs across 3,081 skiable acres – and be sure to hitch a ride on the Village Cabriolet gondola.
About 55 miles southwest of Winter Park along Highway 40 and Interstate 70, Dillon is yet another mountainous Colorado town yielding incredible views.
Lake Dillon – known formally as the Dillon Reservoir – is where you get your cameras out. With a surface area of 3,233 acres, Dillon Lake is accessed by the Dillon Marina – and easily admired from Sapphire Point.
If you’re looking to get some shopping done, check out the Dillon Farmers' Market, or the Outlets at Silverthorne.
Popular Colorado ski areas have Dillon surrounded. Winter sports abound in ski spots like the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Keystone Ski Area, Breckenridge Ski Resort, and the Copper Mountain Ski Area.
The final city on our tour is Glenwood Springs, set a scenic 90 miles west of Dillon through the White River National Forest. Glenwood Springs is found along Interstate 70 – or by the California Zephyr Amtrak route at the historic Glenwood Springs Amtrak Station.
Glenwood Springs features the world's largest natural hot springs pool – best experienced with the Yampah Spa & Salon. Set on the Colorado River, the Yampa Hot Springs or Glenwood Hot Springs feature the ever-popular Vapor Caves – the 125-degree steam cave. Be sure to sweat it out at “Spa of the Rockies.”
There’s a lot to do at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park – ideal for a family trip. Check out kiddie-friendly activities like the Wild West Express, the 4D Motion Theater, laser tag, and plenty more games and rides.
For the older visitors, try thrill rides like the Giant Canyon Swing, or cave tours of the Glenwood Caverns. Commemorate your visit with a shoot at the Silk's Saloon Olde Tyme Photos.
Where to start with outdoor recreation options around Glendwood Springs? Try the Hanging Lake Trail during the summer, or the Sunlight Mountain Resort during the winter.
From Glenwood Springs, it’s an 80-mile drive west along I-70 back to Clifton to complete your tour.