Steamboat Springs is known for its ski mountains, vibrant downtown, and brand name headquarters of outdoor gear. We have traveled here several times, though mostly in the winter for ski vacations. Summer provided a new backdrop of perfect sunsets, unparalleled views of the river, and a thriving downtown, despite COVID.
The Steamboat KOA was our homebase while staying in Steamboat. It is located on the west side of the city, near the Steamboat bike trail, with the Yampa River cutting through the center of the resort. The free town shuttle bus stops a the resort several times per day, making it an easy “commute” to town and a perfect way to avoid parking during busy seasons.
We made this reservation later than usual, so we had a regular site in the park with a fire ring and table. Both looked rough, but were usable. The sites with large “patios” and patio furniture were lavish and included beautiful shade trees and more substantial fire rings. Grass was abundant throughout the resort that provided full hook-ups, a well-used mini golf course, and a dog run.
We started our trip by going to one of several breweries in the city, riding our bikes along the bike trail less than one mile to the brewery where we ordered a pizza from next door to go with our beer. The pizzas were hot, fresh, and could include some exciting combinations. The beer was cold and the garage doors to the brewery were rolled up to usher in the warmth of summer. After our meal, we rode our bikes further along the trail, into Steamboat Springs, then looped back to the campground. The trail is wide and paved, leading all the way through the city. There are several bike racks and opportunities to eat and shop. The trail follows the river into town.
During our stay, we hiked on the Fish Creek Falls Trail. The parking lot fills, but we still saw spots available in early afternoon when we finished hiking. This hike travels by waterfalls, meanders uphill through forests, and ends with rock outcroppings and an area to take off your shoes and play in an area with ice cold water. The views of the Steamboat area are lovely, but what really makes this hike worthwhile is the waterfalls.
We also tried the adventure of floating down the Yampa River from downtown Steamboat Springs to the campground, which provides an easy pull-out and quick return to the campground. If you are coordinated enough, you can take the bus to the city, complete the float, and land at your campsite. The water flow was very low when we were there in July, but there were plenty of people floating down the river. The scenery is good, meandering by restaurants and open fields, houses and trees. We had a few areas where we had to walk because the water level was so low, but in other times of the year, this would be not be the case.
Steamboat Springs has a plethora of ice cream shops and numerous restaurants. Outdoor dining is available in the summer at most. But one cannot leave this city without shopping at the iconic FM Lightfoot and Son’s store. With hundreds of cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and western ware, plus t-shirts, toys, and souvaniers, this store has been in business for more than 100 years providing all things Steamboat before Steamboat was a ski town.
Steamboat Springs is named this due to the natural hotsprings which sounded like a steamboat as they gushed from the earth. Today, there are two major hotsprings pools in the area. Strawberry Hotsprings is located outside of town and is a quiet, relaxed spot. COVID required reservations that I did not have during our stay. Downtown Hotsprings was limiting time to two hours in their outdoor pools which include several different temperatures, a couple for adults only, and a large lap-pool. During our stay, the water slides were closed due to COVID, but we took our full two hours in the pools.
It is important to mention that Stagecoach State Park sits outside Steamboat Springs and was another option. We wanted to be close to town, so we opted for the KOA and full hook-ups, but those looking to be closer to nature would enjoy a stay at Stagecoach. On one of our winter trips, the skiing wasn’t the best due to a lack of snow and we ended up at Stagecoach to hike. The serene scenery around the reservoir and the friendly park rangers made this a great day-trip. We rented their fat-tire bikes (they are free and have kid sizes as well!) and rode on a snow-packed trail and the roads around the reservoir. This park had several free items to rent for an afternoon including snowshoes and kid backpacks with ranger activities.