Best Off-Season Secret
At a Glance: While January is the time for widespread travel to the Colorado Rockies, most visitors fly to Denver (somehow, you can still land January flights from across the country for less than $200 roundtrip) and immediately hit Interstate 70 in order to b-line it to the slopes. But Rocky Mountain National Park, about a 1.5-hour drive from the Denver airport, is far less frequented, yet still stunning and enjoyable in winter. Picture sprawling meadows blanketed in white snow, surrounded by pines, alpine lakes and looming, snowy peaks. The resident elk, which you’re likely to find in summer and fall on every street corner in the nearby town of Estes Park, can often be seen at their most serene in January tromping through the deep snow. It's not uncommon to catch sight of a moose forging through a lake or the Colorado River, which runs along the west side of the park.
What to Do: You never know what kind of weather you might land here in January. If it’s snowing, head to RMNP. It you get a 65 degrees and sun day, head to Fort Collins, a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Ranked one of America’s bike-friendliest towns, do a brewery bike tour or pedal around town (rent a high-end ride at Trek) at your own leisure. On the flipside, if you get snow, take a guided snowshoe tour with Femme Trek, the woman-owned and operated service that offers women of all levels a space to try something new and challenging, and connect with nature and one another. For more extreme adventurers, KMAC Guides are the area’s go-to for backcountry skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and ice climbing. Although there is no longer a ski area with chairlifts nearby, Eldora Mountain is only about an hour’s drive away and offers excellent terrain for every level if skier or rider and a more classic/retro vibe (look out for striped onesies) than Colorado’s larger resorts.
Where to Eat: Estes Park is home to a couple of great restaurants (see: Bird & Jim and Dunraven) foodies and craft beer aficionados should head to Fort Collins rife with restaurants and shops. For breweries, the tour at New Belgium’s will yield a generous portion of free samples, while the lesser known Horse & Dragon produces what might become your all-time favorite winter sipper (Sad Panda stout). For a truly inspired dinner, the intimate Little on Mountain is a great choice, as is The Regional. Located slightly off the beaten path, Jessup Farm grows its own herbs and produce onsite in the warmer months and is well worth the short drive for its brunch alone.