Colorado Summer Activities: 20 Cool Places to Beat the Heat

by Ryan Nicholson | Last Updated:  June 4, 2019

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Looking for ways to beat the heat during the Colorado summer months? Find out our favorite places to stay cool!

From water adventures (yes, there’s water here!) to indoor activities, there are plenty of ways to cool down in the Colorado summer.

There isn’t a lot of humidity here, but we do get plenty of sun and it can be very dry — so it helps to have a plan for staying cool and finding some shade.

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Colorado Summer Safety Tips

Before planning your visit to Colorado in the summer, please remember to take care of yourself!

As we mentioned in a previous post, the square state is at high altitude so you may experience some altitude sickness upon arriving. Remember to wear sunscreen, as the thinner air provides less protection from the sun’s harsh rays. You may get a sunburn faster here than you would at lower elevation.

Watch out for the dry heat! Since the air is very dry, you may not notice that you are getting more dehydrated than normal. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks to keep yourself well-fueled for all your adventures.

Be on the lookout for symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or fainting.

Get out of the sun to somewhere cooler, drink water slowly, and contact local medical services if your symptoms don’t improve.

5 Best Places to Cool Off by the Water

colorado beaches summer activities

1. Boulder Reservoir

On a hot Colorado summer day, you can’t miss the Boulder Reservoir! The Boulder Reservoir is just 15 minutes north of Boulder. You can dive in for a swim, rent a kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or sailboat, or just bring a picnic lunch to enjoy the sandy shoreline.

Open from May 1st to September 2nd, this is a super popular summer destination for locals and visitors. It is well worth the small entrance fee of just $4 – $7 per walker, runner, or cyclist. (Additional fees apply for boat permits.)

2. Lake Dillon Reservoir

Further east and up the mountain side is Lake Dillon Reservoir near the cities of Frisco and Silverthorne. Here you’ll find the world’s highest deep-water marina, and over 25 miles of shoreline.

Boating is very welcome at Lake Dillon, and rentals are available at the Dillon Marina. Bring a sweater! Even in the heat of summer, it can get surprisingly chilly on the Reservoir since the lake is filled from runoff from the mountain snow melting.

3. Boulder Creek

Grab your inner tube, your kayak, (or whatever floats your boat!) and dip your toes in Boulder Creek in Boulder! Picnic opportunities are available at Eben G. Fine Park at the base of the mountains.

Tube season is from May to August, depending on the snow melt. Expect faster flows and colder water in May and June, and a more mellow float later in the summer.

Fun fact: Keep your eyes peeled in July because you may just visit on Tube to Work Day! On July 12th, local employees don their regular work gear — plus life jackets and wetsuits! — for the world’s best traffic jam. Only in Boulder!

4. Pueblo Reservoir

South of Colorado Springs, bring your tent and stay the night at the Pueblo Reservoir. Featuring campsites and fire pits as well as the usual picnic amenities, the Pueblo Reservoir is a favorite for anyone in southern Colorado who enjoys water sports.

Bring your boat to frolic on the water, or let the kids run wild on the playgrounds. This is the largest reservoir on our list, with lots of hidden places to get away from the crowds and enjoy your own little slice of the Pueblo Reservoir!

5. Grand Lake

In north-central Colorado, head up into the mountains to Grand Lake! It is the western gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, and is Colorado’s deepest and largest naturally occurring lake.

You can hike, bike, or ATV in the area, or enjoy your time on the water boating, sailing, or fishing. Grand Lake is beautifully picturesque, so this is a wonderful place to stop and visit.

Fun fact: As Grand Lake is a naturally occurring lake, you’ll find many of our native species of fish populating the lake, including our state fish, the rainbow trout!

Best Rivers for Rafting, Kayaking, and Fly Fishing

colorado summer heat

Drop into the characteristically blue waters of the Blue River for some fishing in north central Colorado, north of Vail.

Check out the Arkansas River (which feeds the Pueblo Reservoir mentioned above!) for great rafting and fly fishing.

Is Colorado state named after the Colorado River? Or is the river named after the state? You can ponder this quandary while drifting down the Colorado River.

(And yes, it’s the same Colorado River that carved out the Grand Canyon down in Arizona!)

Up in Winter Park, Colorado, summertime visitors to this popular ski destination enjoy awesome fishing along the Fraser River. This is your best location for fly fishing, in our opinion!

Top 5 Mountain Towns to Stay Cool

If you are looking for a way to cool down without getting wet, you can always head for the hills! The higher you go up in altitude, the cooler the temperature will be.

Fun fact: For every 1,000 feet you gain in elevation, the temperature cools by 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check out our list of cool mountain towns where you can also beat the heat!

Telluride, Colorado

Visit Telluride, Colorado in southwest Colorado for a true mountain town experience. Summertime highs are around the upper 70s to low 80s, with overnight temps in the 50s. Telluride is a great town for hiking, beautiful scenery, and is completely surrounded by 14,000 foot peaks.

You won’t find many big crowds in Telluride, but you will find some amazing restaurants. In fact, it was the finale destination for season 15 Top Chef: Colorado, so you know the food scene is amazing!

Ouray, Colorado

Totally surrounded by huge mountain peaks, Ouray, Colorado is deep in the San Juan mountains which are known as the Switzerland of America. Enjoy the hot springs year-round (though maybe not if you’re looking to avoid the heat!), or take a drive along the scenic San Juan Skyway.

Silverton, Colorado

Take the train from Durango to the southwest Colorado town of Silverton. Here, temperatures are always cool with July highs reaching only the low 70s.

(On the other hand, in the winter, Silverton regularly gets up to 150 inches of snow every year!) When you visit, you’ll feel like you’ve taken a step back in time! It’s a very cute town, where the largest building is the local church and it seems that everyone has a white picket fence in their yard.

Creede, Colorado

For a real walk through history, visit Creede, Colorado. Known as the last silver mining boom town in the state, the downtown area still features many of the 1890s buildings built when mining was alive and well.

The features of the mining operations are well preserved here, so you can walk around town and see the actual mines! Framed by the towering cliffs that surround the town, Creede is a picturesque place to escape on a summer day.

Crested Butte, Colorado

For flower enthusiasts, visit the wildflower capitol of Colorado in Crested Butte, Colorado! It’s a beautiful town with many indigenous trees and flowers to see.

If you’re into the wildflower scene, you won’t want to miss the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival which is hosted every July. There’s more to do here than just look at flowers, so plan to visit for a day or a weekend and explore this lovely little town.

best colorado summer mountain towns for staying cool

Best Indoor Activities for Beating the Heat

If heading for the mountains isn’t your jam or you want to stay local with a shorter day trip, you’ll love the many indoor activities Colorado has to offer as well!

Colorado boasts many fantastic museums in its major cities, so you won’t have to drive far to get to that sweet air conditioning.

Best Museums on the Front Range

When looking for ways to stay cool in the hot Colorado summer months, our best tip is to find some air conditioning indoors. Here are some of our favorite museums that are both cool and educational!

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

In Denver, take a stroll through the Denver Museum of Nature and Science!

Here, you can explore a prehistoric journey of the evolution of life on earth (including dinosaur skeletons and fossils!), the “wildlife halls,” featuring dioramas displaying many extinct and still-living creatures, as well as more “recent” history in exhibits, such as the Egyptian and Leonardo Di Vinci exhibits.

Some exhibits, like the Leonardo Di Vinci exhibit, are traveling exhibits and may only be in town for a limited time, while others, like the Egyptian exhibit, are around all year. (There are even two authentic mummies right here in Denver!)

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is a perfect museum to visit with kids because there are many hands-on learning opportunities throughout the museum.

In fact, there are even hidden secrets throughout the museum!

Just go to the Denver Museum website and print one of the four scavenger hunt downloads and start searching throughout at the museum. (One diorama painter hid elves in his exhibits, and if you look carefully at the IMAX lobby entrance, there are many Star Wars items hidden in the walls!)

Denver Art Museum

Art enthusiasts will love the Denver Art Museum! Known for its collection of Native American art, the Denver Art Museum hosts a diverse collection of 70,000 works from across the centuries and across the world.

The main building itself is very unique, and was inspired by the nearby Rocky Mountains. There are no right angles, and none of the planes (aka, walls) run parallel or perpendicular to each other.

So, every room you visit will have very unusual shapes because the building itself is not square. It’s like the building is an art piece too!

Golden History Museum and Park

Just east of Denver, in the town of Golden, you can visit the Golden History Museum and Park for free during 2019! A private donor has made free admission possible this year, in celebration of its 80th anniversary.

Check out cabins from the 1800s, a historical one-room schoolhouse, and a flock of heirloom chickens at the History Park! In the museum, you can learn about Golden’s unique history and epic timeline of events.

This is an extra great place to visit while entrance is free!

(And hey, since you’re in Golden anyway, over 21 visitors may also enjoy a tour through the Coors Brewery! Just $5 for Colorado residents and $10 for out-of-towners, the full tour includes three 8 ounce beers and a commemorative glass. Cheers!)

Top Museums in Boulder, Colorado

As we mentioned in a previous post, Boulder, Colorado — host to Colorado University — has three different museums for your viewing pleasure.

Check out the CU Museum of Natural History, home to huge insect and fossil collections.

Visit the CU Heritage Center and the stunning architecture gallery there.

Or stop by the CU Art Museum, which contains a diverse collection of items encompassing over 10,000 years of human history.

The best part is, all three of these museums are free to the public, and only ask that visitors consider making the suggested donation.

best colorado museums for summer

Most Unique Museum in Colorado Springs

In Colorado Springs, visit the May Natural History Museum, otherwise known as the Colorado Springs Bug Museum! This museum contains the largest private collection of insects, including a beautiful collection of butterfly specimens.

Best Ice Cream in Colorado

If you’re like us, your favorite way to beat the summer heat is with some delicious, frozen ice cream!

Check out some of our favorite ice cream spots.

Sweet Cow Ice Cream

Stop by Sweet Cow Ice Cream for some simply moolicious ice cream! With locations throughout Colorado, you’ll be delighted by their rotating menu of ice creams to choose from.

Hosting a party here in Colorado? Consider renting the Sweet Cow truck to serve up scoops at your shindig!

Milkroll Creamery

In Denver, be sure to check out Milkroll Creamery on East Colfax Avenue in Denver. Here they serve up Thai-style rolled ice cream, with fun Asian flavors and toppings like matcha and lychee.

If you’ve never watched Thai ice cream rolls created before, you’ll be in for a treat (and not just because of the ice cream!). They pour the liquid ice cream base onto an “anti-griddle” (Imagine a big pancake griddle that is super cold instead of hot.), which freezes the base into ice cream very quickly.

Then, they use metal scrapers to shave the ice cream off of the anti-griddle, forming these tight rolls of ice cream which are stacked vertically in your bowl and topped with all kinds of delicious things.

The whole process of rolling, topping, and serving your ice cream may take up to 10 minutes, but you will be very entertained and it’s well worth the wait!

Colorado Custard Company

Visitors to Manitou Springs will love Colorado Custard Company’s thick, creamy custard! We shared about this heavenly stuff in a previous post, but we can’t pass up another opportunity to sing the praises of custard.

It’s richer, creamier, and not quite as cold as regular ice cream due to the higher amount of egg yolks and the slower churn which adds much less air to the final product.

You can even buy your custard in bulk to take with you to eat anytime! So, be sure to head out to Manitou Springs and bring home your own tub of that incredible custard.

(While this is not a Colorado-specific brand, we feel that a list of the best ice cream in Colorado would be one short if we didn’t mention Pinkberry. Stop by the Glendale location to grab your bowl of frozen Greek yogurt topped with fruit and other delicious things!)

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We hope you have enjoyed this round up of the best places to go, things to do, and ice cream to eat to help you beat the heat in Colorado this summer!