Colorado is a beautiful state, teeming with wildlife and jaw-dropping natural sights. Before embarking on your adventure, make sure you know what to bring and what to do (and not do) once you get there.
Fast Tips for Visiting Colorado: A Bullet Point Overview
- Go for 3 days to 1 week
- Rent a car
- Bring a tent (if you have 1!)
- Drive to Colorado (instead of flying)
- Go in the summer
- Plan for every weather condition (even during summer)
- Bring a pair of GOOD walking shoes; hiking gear if possible
- Pack all the essentials you’d bring on a day trip—especially if you’re flying in
When in Colorado, Bring A Tent!
- Colorado is clean and full of nature. Camping under the stars for 1-2 nights is actually a worthwhile experience (plus, you save money)! DON’T bring a tent if you’re going in the spring, fall, or (for obvious reasons) winter.
- If you do decide to bring a tent, make sure to bring bug spray AND some form of smart device that has zone repellent technology (essentially, an electronic device that can be placed nearby, doesn’t need to be applied to skin, and will come in handy for keeping bugs off throughout the night)
When En Route to Colorado, Drive!
- Car rentals aren’t cheap. If you have a car and can manage the drive, you should. Plus, you’ll have more space for all your things—including that tent (something you’d probably hesitate to bring on a flight) for some camping outdoors!
When Thinking About Seasons, Go to Colorado in the Summer
- While summers can be sweltering hot (hovering in the 90s), nights are cool. And if you feel like you’re dying from the heat, you can always take a drive to the mountains where temperatures are guaranteed to be lower.
- Fall and spring are a lovely time to visit Colorado as well. Summer is our preferred season because We’d advise against going in the winter, if only because most of what you can do in Colorado (especially if you’re on a budget) is nature-related and therefore, dependent on season.
- Plus, college towns like Boulder empty out in the summer—making for a much more tranquil experience with less crowds.
When Packing for Colorado, Plan for Every Weather Condition
- Colorado has around 60 ecological systems! Here’s just a couple: flat and rolling prairies; foothills, shrublands, woodlands; mountain forests; alpine tundra; semi-arid desert; canyons and sagebrush.
- The diversity in landscape is precisely WHY visiting Colorado is such a treat.
- The downside of this diversity is the weather that comes with the environment. Even in summer, nights are cooler than day by 20-30 degrees. Trust us, dressing appropriately WILL be the difference between a trip you’ll never forget and a trip you can’t forget fast enough.
When Packing for Colorado, Bring a Pair of GOOD Walking Shoes
- If you don’t plan on going hiking while in Colorado, that’s fine. You’ll still end up going hiking in Colorado (even if you’re traveling solo, especially so). Hiking boots are always preferred. They might be clunky and take up a lot of space (especially if you’re traveling by air and only with a carry-on)… but hiking boots are always worth it.
- You’ll be on your feet a lot in Colorado; if you’re visiting for the varying natural sights, you’ll be on your feet on terrain unpaved for the convenience of men. That means hills with steep climbs and fast descents. Fields and forests full of unknown critters, too-small-to-be-seems dips and bumps in the terrain can sometimes make you feel like nature’s out to get you.
- Don’t worry; just wear properly-fitting, supportive shoes, stop looking at your phone, and walk slowly enough to make others believe you’re actually enjoying this (it’s hard to stop yourself from go-go-going, we know!)… and we promise, you’ll be fine!
- Psssst. Hiking boots also double up as semi-rain boots within city limits. If you don’t bring hiking boots, make sure to either bring some sort of waterproof footwear OR 2 pairs of supportive walking shoes/sneakers (so that if 1 takes an eternity to dry out, you’ll be fine).
When Packing for Colorado, Bring Your Day Trip Essentials
- The secret to a well-spent getaway in Colorado is to plan your (let’s say) 4-day trip as if you were going on 4 separate DAY TRIPS.
- What’s the difference? We pack differently for a vacation that a day trip. The expectation of returning to wherever you’re staying (or at least being able to easily), plus (typically) the promise of convenience at a moment’s notice offered by the surrounding city… these factors are chief among the reasons why all of us end up prioritizing that extra outfit or pair of shoes over something we might actually NEED while away from home.
- Do yourself a favor: after packing, simplify. Try to keep things that could get ruined by weather at home—and worry less about style, more about function. There are no street photographers in Colorado and while Colorado’s nature may seem inherently Instagrammable, it’s actually not.
- Colorado’s nature is so widespread, bountiful, and well-preserved, we guarantee you that by the 3rd awe-inspiring/jaw-dropping backdrop selfie, you’ll start to think the entirety of Colorado is one big mass that, while beautiful, is also severely homologous. (Besides, if you’re visiting Colorado for the Instagram clout, you’re in the wrong city).
- When you pack for a day trip, you’re always prepared. Prepared to go, to stop, to change directions. That’s a great way to spend your time while visiting Colorado; having to turn down opportunities that pop up (there’ll be plenty—even on a solo trip) because your phone died or you didn’t have a water bottle is beyond frustrating!
Day Trip Essentials You NEED to Pack for Colorado
An external battery for your phone (etc.)
- If you’re traveling solo to Colorado—and ESPECIALLY if you’re traveling solo with plans to explore nature—then having a charged phone has less to do with answering texts/work emails/social media and more to do with being safe.
- Both Apple and Androids phones can be tracked even without a data connection—and having a charged phone can be the different between ending up lost in nature or dead in nature (we’re exaggerating—Colorado isn’t dangerous; still, safety to a ridiculous degree, especially while traveling, is ALWAYS worthwhile)
A backpack and fanny pack (ideally)
- if not, a bag of some sort that you can one, beat up; two, close/seal fully (as in, with a zipper); and three, transport with ease (to carry your daily essentials with you).
- The more weather resistant the bag, the better
- The lighter the bag, the better
- The more closures/zips on the bag, the better
- Bringing a bag that can be carried by the shoulders, sitting against the back, is highly recommended—especially for our fellow ladies!
- Cross-bodies, etc. offer the convenience of being able to quickly grab whatever it is you need—that’s true.
- It’s also true that putting more weight on either your left or right side (as is the case with a bag that’s carried on the side/slung across the shoulders) WILL compromise your ability to balance.
- Being able to keep your cool and NOT trip head-first into a prickly shrub is 99% dependent on how fast you react to regain your footing.
- Also, carrying weight on one side is just (generally) not a good idea—it wreaks havoc on the back while over-developing your dominant side (causing the side you DON’T carry your bag on to slowly lose muscle mass and strength)
A refillable water bottle
- Colorado is essentially a state of environmental do-gooders—even Colorado’s airports are outfitted with convenient, water bottle-specific refill stations that proudly display the number of water bottles said station has helped eliminate from the environment.
- Most of us are bad at remembering to drink enough water—those of us that make a habit of remembering to drink water only do so (typically) after getting fed up with forgetting (dehydration with a parched throat is something we’re all familiar with).
- Quarantine and the pandemic didn’t make this habit any easier to keep; when we’re stationary, drinking water is rarely on the mind.
- Be assured that you will NOT be stationary in Colorado and if you don’t bring a reusable water bottle with you, you’ll end up buying one (buying plastic water bottles will start to hurt financially at some point.
- Plus, the care that Colorado (as a state, government, and a populace) puts into its natural environment will eventually infect you with a mad guilt… and it’s this guilt that will buy you your reusable water bottle eventually (when you hit your plastic-waste breaking point)… whether you like it or not.
Bug spray, sunscreen
- Both of these are self-explanatory. It’s hard to enjoy much of anything while scratching yourself raw post-bite/crying internally from peeling, sunburnt skin, wouldn’t you agree?
- If you’re one of those people that burns no matter what (AND you’re one of those people that’s actually reapplying sunscreen/using suncare properly), bring some after-sun care (like aloe). Similarly, if you’re a walking insect snack (as in, bugs really, REALLY like you) and you know you’re going to get bitten (at least a bit and no matter the intensity of the precautions taken), bring anti-itch cream.
- Get the super teeny kit that has all the basics—bandaids, antiseptic, antibacterial ointment, etc. Carrying a first-aid kit on you might seem a bit much… until the moment when it doesn’t (because you’ve been hurt and now need to give yourself first aid). As we’ve previously mentioned: always better safe than sorry.
Poncho or rain gear
- Rain jackets, rain boots, and umbrellas are nice. Rain boots won’t get you far in Colorado unless they have traction and grip (honestly, you’re better off with water proof or water resistant hiking shoes)… rain jackets are bulky and only protect your torso… and umbrellas only work until the wind snaps then OR carries the rain sideways (getting you soaked regardless of how desperately you clutch the umbrella)
- A poncho is ideal because it’s often lightweight, covers a large portion of the body (more than just the torso, anyway), and is cheap enough to break/buy several of.
- We’ll always recommend a poncho over every other form of rain gear, especially if you’re traveling for less than a week.
- Weather is tough to predict; in a place like Colorado, weather can change drastically, DOES change drastically whenever the terrain shifts… preparing for the unexpected is always best!
Suggestions for Your Itinerary: A Bullet Point Overview
- Drive, drive, and drive some more
- Visit Boulder
- Visit Denver
- Visit Colorado’s rocky mountains
- Go to a farmer’s market
- Have a picnic by a creek
- Go on a hike
- See live music at Red Rocks
“Things You Should Know” or How to Be a Good Tourist in Colorado
Colorado’s vast expanses of seemingly utopian nature aren’t a coincidence; Colorado’s government and populace work hard to maintain, protect, and preserve. Be a good tourist by respecting their efforts and educating yourself on both what to do and what NOT to do while visiting Colorado.
Don’t pick the wildflowers!
It’s actually illegal to pick wildflowers in Colorado state parks. Why? Because picking wildflowers damages the ecosystem. There are species of wildflowers in Colorado that are so rare that they are actually protected by the state! If in doubt, make sure to ask park staff for a field guide before going on a trail.
Don’t go off-trail!
Trails don’t sprout up in parks and wildlife areas overnight. They are carefully planned by conservations, the State, and various other parties. When you go off-trail, you aren’t just trampling various wildflowers and destroying the small ecosystems of various bugs. You could also be potentially changing the terrain, altering the carefully-planned trails and causing real damage to the balance between nature and humanity that everyone worked so hard to find.