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When you hear “Colorado”, what do you think of? It’s safe to say that the picturesque environment, which boasts rolling hills, mountains, lush forests, and stunning rivers and lakes, is at the forefront of your mind.
Colorado is definitely a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, but even if you’re more interested in keeping indoors, there are still plenty of things to keep you busy. That said, if you’re planning a trip to Colorado, you’ll need to know the best time to visit.
Overall, the best time of year for your visit to Colorado depends on what you want from your trip. This guide will take you through everything you need to know, including the different travel seasons, the best times for good weather, saving money, and more.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive right into it.
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When looking at Colorado, there are two travel (or tourist) seasons that you need to keep in mind – high (peak) season and low (shoulder) season. Each season has benefits and problems, depending on your priorities, but all-in-all, Colorado is a great year-round destination to visit.
Here is a quick look at the two seasons in Colorado to give an overview of what you can expect.
The main tourist seasons in Colorado are typically from June to September (summer and early fall) and then again from mid-December to March (winter and early spring). Each period celebrates both summer and winter activities Colorado is known for offering.
The first stint of the high season, between June and September, is in the warmer summer months. It’s no surprise that Colorado sees a lot of tourists during this time since the weather is nice and warm, and the wildflowers bloom, making the scenery even more appealing. This is an excellent time for outdoor activities like hiking.
Unlike many other places, the winter months see a lot of visitors to Colorado due to winter sports and the stunning scenery and snow-capped mountains. Ski resorts generally open in October, but there is still a large number of people who visit in December and March when snow conditions are best.
Generally speaking, you can expect more people (especially those spring break crowds) and higher prices during the high or peak season.
Shoulder seasons occur between peak seasons, in this case, from April to May (spring) and then October to mid-December (fall and early winter). These times between the peak seasons aren’t as appealing to visitors but come with the bonus of fewer crowds and cheaper prices.
The spring months aren’t great for outdoor activities. In fact, it’s sometimes called the “mud season” since the snow melts and makes the ground pretty wet and muddy, so definitely not a time for hiking. That said, the weather is considerably more comfortable, and plenty of people would prefer the warmer temperatures.
The fall months bring some stunning fall foliage that can’t be ignored, but ski resorts are closed, and the weather is a bit cooler. Camping can still be an option if you can deal with the colder weather. Fall, in particular, is also great for visiting popular tourist locations like Pikes Peak or Rocky Mountain National Park.
Besides the travel seasons, you’ll also want to know the regular seasons of the year. Colorado has plenty of things to offer whether you visit in summer or winter. So, just for a quick frame of reference, here are the months of the different seasons:
- Summer — June, July, August
- Fall — September, October, November
- Winter — December, January, February
- Spring — March, April, May
The weather plays a significant role when it comes to people deciding when to travel to their destinations. If good weather seals the deal for you, the best time to visit would be between May and September (late spring to early fall). This is when you can benefit from the sunnier days and warmer temperatures of the Colorado summer.
Average high temperatures range between 70°F and 88°F (21°C and 31°C), with the hottest months being July and August. Snow might catch you off-guard in extremely rare cases, but for the most part, you don’t have to worry about it. Avoid visiting in winter if you dislike bitterly cold weather reaching as low as 16°F (-9°C) — yikes.
However, no matter how much you plan, Colorado’s weather can sometimes be temperamental. There may be occasional afternoon thunderstorms and snow, even when you don’t expect it, so keep an eye on weather updates before you head out for the day.
Also, remember that where you’re staying in Colorado will also impact the average temperatures slightly. Denver, for example, will be a bit warmer than more mountainous areas with higher elevations.
As you might expect, the best time to visit Colorado for budget travelers is during off-peak times of the year, particularly early spring and fall to early winter.
The shoulder season months come with the end of ski season, so not only are resorts closed, but the melting snow makes the grounds more muddy and difficult for outdoor activities. Since the season is over and there is less demand, you can expect a significant drop in hotel rates and cheaper prices.
Top Tip: Still worried about breaking the bank? Don’t worry — there are plenty of free things to do in Denver or any other city in Colorado that can save you some money.
This goes hand in hand with visiting Colorado on a budget. The best time to avoid crowds is during the shoulder months from June to September and early December to March.
The snowy and summer tourists tend to make their way home, so it’s a prime time to avoid the peak season rush. It’s a great opportunity to explore Colorado, especially Denver, which is usually packed with visitors during winter and summer months.
You should avoid holiday weekends, particularly if you want to visit Colorado Springs or other more “touristy” locales, as those get pretty busy.
One thing about Colorado is that you just have to appreciate the natural beauty of it all. The fall foliage draws in many sightseers and nature lovers, and the best time to see it is between mid-September and mid-October.
The locals call it “Colorful Colorado” for a reason — September and October let you see the tall aspen trees covered in those classic red, orange, and yellow hues of fall. It doesn’t get more beautiful than that.
The best time to see the wildflowers across Colorado isn’t so clear-cut. Depending on elevation and the snow melt, the flowers can bloom between late spring to early summer or even later. However, a generally good time to visit is May, early June, or July.
The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, celebrated in the so-called wildflower capital of Colorado in the Western Slope, is a must-see for anyone looking to view these colorful and gorgeous flowers. The festival usually takes place in July, so you can plan your trip around then.
If you’re planning to travel, the odds are you already have a few activities in mind. Here are just a few of the most popular and the best times to visit Colorado for each one.
With a natural environment like this, it’s no wonder there are a couple of fantastic national parks to visit in Colorado. From Rocky Mountain National Park to Mesa Verde, the best time to visit is between summer and early fall, between June and September.
Summer is the busiest time to visit the parks, but as temperatures start to rise, the weather becomes ideal for wildlife watching, exploring hiking trails, and camping.
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Visits to Colorado aren’t lacking in outdoor adventures, that’s for sure. Trying hiking trails or other activities, like mountain biking or whitewater rafting, are all incredibly popular in summer. It makes sense since the warmest months are June, July, and August.
In summer, average highs range between 84°F and 88°F (29°C and 31°C), which is perfect for admiring the impressive rocky mountains or forests of aspen trees in the great outdoors. Plus, as temperatures rise, you’ll find more prominence in outdoor concerts and festivals like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival or Colorado State Fair.
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Colorado is renowned for its ski season, which usually runs from late November to early April for most places, so this would be the best time to visit overall.
The most checked-out hotspots have to be Steamboat Springs or Vail Ski Resort, but the season dates might differ depending on where you go. Some ski slopes and locations open slightly earlier in October and close as late as July, but it’s best to check beforehand.
If skiing isn’t something you’re interested in, you can still find plenty of other wintery things to do, like ice skating, snowmobiling, or more relaxing things like snuggling near a fireplace at your resort.
Colorado has a plethora of natural hot springs to visit, like Strawberry Fields or Glenwood Hot Springs, making for a wonderful, unique experience. Luckily, the springs are open year-round, so you can technically visit any time, but June and November are the most popular times.
While summer and fall are both excellent times to visit, the summer months (June, July, and August) are much busier, so you’ll have to go to the springs early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
The alternative is, of course, visiting more in the fall months when the temperatures drop, making your hot spring experience much more satisfying.
That’s a wrap, folks — Colorado is a great place to visit year-round. From the Mile High City to Colorado Springs and the Front Range, this state is the perfect place to stay for an unforgettable vacation.
With that in mind, the best time to visit Colorado largely depends on what you want out of your trip. Ultimately, if you want the most out of fun outdoor activities, the high seasons are best (for both winter and summer lovers). On the other hand, budget travelers and those wanting to avoid the crowds should look to travel in the off-season.
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