Colorado Encourages Visitors To Make Earth Day An Everyday Mindset By Engaging in Low-Impact Travel Experiences and Taking Steps To ‘Do Colorado Right’
As the U.S. continues to emerge from the pandemic and people look to return to travel in a big way, environmental considerations are also top of mind for travelers now more than ever. The Colorado Tourism Office, along with destinations across the state, has already laid the groundwork for authentic and low-impact travel experiences. The state continues to activate thoughtful new offerings and initiatives to stay ahead of the curve and protect its breathtaking natural landscapes and rich and diverse history and culture.
Colorado already is home to two U.S. cities powered 100 percent by renewable energy, meaning travelers to both Aspen and Glenwood Springs can enjoy a vacation with little carbon impact. Denver is consistently ranked among the most sustainable cities in the country, Breckenridge has joined Vail as two of only three certified sustainable mountain resort destinations in the world and five Roaring Fork Valley tourism organizations have come together to launch a valley-wide tourism alliance (the first of its kind in Colorado) that will focus on activities and programs that promote responsible travel.
As travelers explore The Centennial State this summer, the Colorado Tourism Office is making it easy for travelers to visit responsibly and to Do Colorado Right. The state’s award-winning and educational campaign offers travelers insights on how to enjoy the state by traveling at off-peak times, exploring lesser-known treasures and traveling like a local. As an added bonus, many of these insider’s tips will help visitors take a responsible approach to travel by embracing the state’s Care for Colorado Leave No Trace Principles including Trash the Trash, Keep Wildlife Wild and Be Careful with Fire. This year, the CTO is especially pleased to partner with Cortez resident Phil Henderson, a leader in outdoor adventure education. Henderson led an all African American ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2018 and will serve as a spokesperson for Colorado encouraging backcountry safety in the state.
Below is a sampling of low-emissions travel options, ways to support local food and drink systems, low-impact outdoor recreation experiences, places to sleep sustainably and voluntourism opportunities to give back from across Colorado. Find more information about all of these responsible travel offerings and more on www.Colorado.com.
Explore Low Emissions Travel Offerings:
- Buses and Shuttles: With service launched in March 2021, United Airlines is making it easier for customers to travel to Breckenridge and Fort Collins with convenient year-round ground transportation service from its hub at Denver International Airport. Boulder offers free Park to Park Shuttles on summer weekends connecting Boulder to Rocky Mountain National Park, Chautauqua, Eldorado Canyon State Park and Indian Peaks Wilderness. Book a Groome Transportation shared-ride shuttle to Denver International Airport (DIA), which uses cleaner burning propane-powered vehicles. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) introduced eight battery powered electric buses last year to a fleet offering free rides from a collection of stops between Aspen, Snowmass, Glenwood Springs, Eagle and Rifle.
- Aviation: Atlantic Aviation, launched a new Carbon Offset Initiative in December 2021 in which every gallon of jet fuel for commercial and private aviation at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE) will be offset to be carbon neutral through verified carbon credits purchased by Atlantic Aviation. Denver International Airport (DEN) is the largest solar-powered airport in the country with power-saving and recycling facilities along with the world’s largest and greenest parking lot.
- Trains: Colorado has numerous scenic and historic railroads and train travel offerings. Rocky Mountaineer, the luxury train operator, will run its first full season in the Southwest United States in 2022. The Rockies to the Red Rocks route is a two-day rail journey between Denver and Moab with an overnight stay in Glenwood Springs. The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway reopened in spring 2021 after a multi-year hiatus for reconstruction. Recognized as the world’s highest cog railroad, the Railway is one of Colorado Springs’ top attractions and since 1891, has taken thousands of people to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak.
- Cycling and E-Bikes: This summer, visitors can bike or walk through downtown Denver to experience a route the locals call the 5280 Trail. The 5280 Trail is an envisioned 5.280-mile recreational biking and walking route connecting fun Denver neighborhoods. Locally owned since 1978, Recycled Cycles in Fort Collins is “Colorado’s largest Earth-friendly bicycle store.” Aurora is home to Pedego Southlands — a fully-equipped rental service for electric bikes. Enjoy a cruise around Steamboat Springs on an electric bike from Pedego Electric Bikes and find e-bike mountain bike rentals at Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare or Ski Haus. Aspen Skiing Company opened a Maroon Bells Basecamp visitor center at the base of Aspen Highlands that offers e-bikes for rent as an alternative to taking the bus to the Maroon Bells. Even beginner cyclists can ride the Top of the Rockies scenic byway by renting e-bikes at E-Bike Leadville, which makes riding in the highest town in Colorado more accessible. Explore other e-bike rentals in towns across Colorado as an alternative to driving your gas-powered vehicle to a trailhead parking lot.
- EV Vehicles and Charging: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has set the state on a path to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 and is positioning Colorado as a leader in the clean energy economy, building out a network of fast-charging stations to power electric vehicles and paving the way for even more low-impact travel opportunities in the future. An eighth Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway was certified as a Colorado Electric Byway in December 2021, and the state is committed to electrifying all 26 of its byways over the next several years. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has embarked on a partnership with Rivian to install public charging stations in every state park. The Town of Breckenridge recently installed more than 60 public electric vehicle charging ports with the completion of the South Gondola parking structure. The City of Aspen owns and operates a total of 65 charging stations and 8 public charging stations.
- Colo-Road Trips: The Colo-Road Trips microsite on Colorado.com is a searchable, online collection of hundreds of multi-day itineraries aimed at inspiring travel in less-visited destinations and seasons. It’s a great way for travelers to find their way to lesser-known, fun and inspiring Colorado destinations driving traveler dispersion across the state and helping to limit crowding on public lands. Search by favorite activity, city or time of the year. Each multi-day trip idea includes great places to stay and eat and fun things to do, along with a “Sustainability Activity” and “Insider Tips,” giving visitors the down-low on traveling like a local.
Support Local Food and Drink Systems:
- Food Trails: The Liquid Arts Passport provides consumers with discounted tastings and offers from breweries, cideries, distilleries and wineries across the state. The Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway showcases the orchards, lavender gardens, vineyards, wineries and fresh farm market fruit stands in Colorado’s Mountains and Mesas region. The Boulder County Farm Trail showcases ways that visitors can pick berries, tour farms, pet the animals, buy produce from farm stands, tour a goat dairy and bike to a farm for lunch or dinner. The Roaring Fork & Farm Map is a printed pocket guide to Carbondale’s agritourism offerings that include guest ranches, public gardens and farms, visitor attractions and experiences, along with restaurants and retailers that were identified as specifically supporting the local food movement through menu items or connections with local farmers.
- Farmers Markets: Arkansas Valley farmers work hard on their farms all season to grow a wide variety of produce including sweet corn, watermelons, cantaloupe and much more, all of which is sold at a variety of area farm markets. Boulder County Farmers Markets (BCFM) 2022 farmers market season will kick off on April 2 when its Boulder and Longmont locations will open with a bounty of fresh produce, fruit, meats, packaged goods, plants and more. The Grand Junction “Market on Main” Farmer’s Market is slated to return Thursdays from June 23–Sept. 8. Live music and local produce make this weekly event a favorite for locals and visitors alike. Discover the source of locally grown food at ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch, a 113-acre wildlife preserve and educational ranch in Basalt. In the summer, the ranch’s produce, meat, and eggs are available at the Basalt Sunday Market, or enjoy a farm-to-table dinner.
- Toast to Sustainability: Marble Distilling Co. in Carbondale has partnered with global innovator Siemens to become the most sustainable, zero-waste distillery (and you can sleep at their Distillery Inn). The Colorado Farm Brewery in Alamosa is one of the only breweries to produce 100 percent of its ingredients on the farm where the beer is made. Peach Street Distillers in Palisade utilizes local fruits and grains raised by devoted area growers and often upcycles local fruits that some foolishly deem “too ripe” for market. Tour Ska Brewing’s 100-percent wind-powered facility in Durango, and then stick around for a pint — from the pine-meets-citrus Modus Hoperandi IPA to the ultra-crisp Mexican Logger.
Take in a Low-Impact Experience:
- Amache Site Named as America’s Newest National Historic Site, Granada: President Biden signed the Amache National Historic Site Act in spring 2022, designating the Amache site in Granada, Colorado, as part of the National Park System. This designation, the first in the National Park System during this Administration, will permanently protect the site for future generations and will help tell the history of Japanese American incarceration during World War II.
- Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center, near Colorado Springs: The new Pikes Peak Summit Complex (altitude: 14,115 feet) is the most sustainable high-altitude structure in the country, if not the world. The 38,000-square-foot Pikes Peak Summit Complex includes a newly designed and reconstructed Summit Visitor Center, elevating the experience for visitors who summit Pikes Peak via car, bicycle, foot or rail. The project strives to become the first Living Building Challenge-certified project in Colorado (a two year certification process) and aims to achieve net-zero energy, net-zero waste and net-zero water consumption.
- Rewilding Expeditions, Estes Park: Rewilding Expeditions offers multi-day guided packrafting, backpacking and camping experiences that direct, support and educate visitors on rewilding and conservation efforts aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and wilderness areas in Rocky Mountain National Park.
- Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), Gothic: Located in the tiny town of Gothic outside of Crested Butte, RMBL provides logistical support for field scientists and students, including access to living quarters, research laboratories and protected research sites. RMBL focuses on the importance of preserving and providing access to historical data about the local ecosystems. As scientists address ever more sophisticated questions about a dynamic world, RMBL is a vital resource for discovering nature’s fundamental ecological and evolutionary processes. RMBL offers a variety of opportunities for the public to interact and learn including lecture series, volunteer programs, youth camps and more.
- Rocky Mountain Conservancy, Estes Park: Founded in 1931, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy (formerly the Rocky Mountain Nature Association) is a nonprofit organization supporting Rocky Mountain National Park. Visitors can get hands-on field opportunities or educational programs on topics such as wildflowers, mammals, chords, cultural history, outdoor skills and more.
- Stargazing: Colorado is home to eight International Dark Sky Parks and five International Dark Sky Communities, many of which were newly designated in the last year. Colorado’s self-guided stargazing tour added three new locations to its roster in preparation for the 2022 summer travel season. In addition to the original seven locations, Colorado Stargazing now includes Gunnison, Ridgway and Nucla, Naturita and Norwood. All of these locations are home to an International Dark Sky Designated Place or are designated themself. Just one mile west of La Veta is the Southern Colorado Astronomical Park, a crossroads of ancient and modern astronomy, including a stone calendar and two observatory structures. Smokey Jack Observatory in Westcliffe is excited to offer new public celestial viewing events for its community and guests this summer.
- The Springs Resort, Pagosa Springs: The Springs Resort is home to the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring, known as the Mother Spring. In 1982, Pagosa Springs constructed a geothermal system to harness the Mother Spring’s warm waters which provides heat for local businesses and keeps the sidewalks clear of snow — the water is even used in the brewing process at local Riff Raff Brewing Company.
- Walking Mountains Science Center, Avon: Walking Mountains Science Center provides locals and visitors from Pre-K to gray with opportunities to explore nature, gain scientific understanding, and learn about the many wonders of the mountain environment through natural science and sustainability programs. Walking Mountains envisions a future where everyone understands the science of nature and is inspired to take action as an environmental steward.
- Aspen Meadows Resort, Aspen: Aspen Meadows Resort is the first hotel in Aspen to utilize electric shuttle vehicles for guest transportation, including trips to and from the Aspen airport. The move is part of an ongoing strategy to be the most sustainable resort in Aspen. In addition to the two, new 14 passenger shuttles, the resort has also installed five new electric charging stations with the capacity for six vehicles. The resort has already replaced all plastic water bottles with reusable options, removed single-use plastic from rooms and Plato’s, the onsite restaurant, has been growing a number of herbs and produce for their kitchen.
- Badger Creek Ranch, Canon City: Badger Creek Ranch raises grass-fed, grass-finished beef and lamb and pasture-raised pork and poultry. They also offer seasonal guest lodging and teach horsemanship. The ranch believes that sustainable agriculture means being responsible stewards of the land and are part of a coalition of ranchers and public agencies working to regenerate the Badger Creek Headwaters watershed that flows into the Arkansas River. They are focused on undoing the damage from the poor land use practices of the past by taking steps to reduce soil erosion and restore ecological vigor and diversity to this brittle grassland environment. Carefully managed grazing practices, symbiotic with rangeland health, play a central role.
- Breckenridge Grand Vacations, Breckenridge: Breckenridge Grand Vacations (BGV), which owns and operates several lodging properties in the Breckenridge area, recently announced the signing of a 4.9 megawatt community solar subscription with Pivot Energy. The contract is one of the largest community solar subscriptions in the history of the hospitality sector and a vital component of BGV’s sustainability initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.
- CampV, Naturita: CampV offers several ways for visitors to volunteer and give back to the area. CampV is excited to announce a Heritage Apple Tree Planting Day with the nonprofit Apple Core Project on April 8. Learn about the history of these heritage apples and proper planting techniques. Guests can volunteer throughout the year to help water and care for the preservation of these trees. CampV will continue community trail building every Saturday until the new V connector trail is done. Join the local non-profit WETA as they build these trails and build awareness of the work being done to further the local trails. CampV will also continue to offer customized gardening voluntourism opportunities throughout the spring and summer. Guests can connect with nature on the property through bird and wildlife watching and stargazing (Naturita was just designated an International Dark Sky Community).
- C Lazy U Ranch, Granby: Colorado’s premier luxury guest ranch, C Lazy U, serves as each guest’s private national park with 8,500 acres of adventure. Working in tandem with The Nature Conservancy to ensure lasting protection of the Great American West and its wild nature, C Lazy U Ranch has placed an additional 1,221 acres under permanent easement as of 2020. Actively advocating for environmental friendliness, the ranch sources all of its water from nearby Mount Baldy’s natural springs. Guests are also given a reusable water bottle upon check-in to encourage drinking of the freshwater and eliminate plastic waste. Another sustainable initiative at the ranch is reclaiming beetle kill lumber found onsite to renovate wood floors in guest cabins and build beautiful wood accent pieces.
- Dunes Experiences, Alamosa: Founded by a group of explorers, Dunes Experiences will launch this year at their 320-acre private ranch property near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa. The stylish and modern clubhouse is set up to host events and retreats for private groups of any size starting this summer, and they can curate all activities and visitor experiences in the area. This full service eco-property will scale up their accommodations in 2023 with the “Desert House,” a sustainably built and architecturally designed abode specifically for private groups.
- Monarch Casino, Black Hawk: As part of the Monarch Casino Resort and Spa’s $390 million luxury expansion, the property is creating a monarch butterfly habitat across the property in partnership with the Butterfly Pavilion. Monarch Casino Resort Spa is proud to continue its industry-leading sustainability efforts with the installation of EV charging stations, state-of-the-art Vivreau water systems and eliminating nearly all single-use plastics.
- OPUS Hut, Silverton: Outside of Silverton, hike or snowshoe to the OPUS Hut, a full-service backcountry lodge with solar-powered lighting, indoor composting toilets, in-floor solar-thermal heating, and healthy, natural food served up daily.
- The Pad Hotel and Hostel, Silverthorne: The Pad is a brand new boutique hotel/hostel in Silverthorne that is on track to becoming Colorado’s first B Corp-certified lodging property. Constructed with up-cycled shipping containers and a commitment to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. The Pad’s team incorporated sustainable building techniques, committed to composting, selected a restaurant partner who serves Colorado-grown and -raised food and sources eco-friendly sustainable products as part of their decision to use their business as a force for good.
- SCP Hotel, Colorado Springs: Standing for Soul, Community, Planet, SCP Hotel was born out of a vision to help make the world a better place by serving those who value personal wellness, social good and the environment. SCP merges earth-friendly and socially responsible practices with modern, clean lodging accommodations and nutritious ‘vegan-forward’ food choices. They also give trees back to the forests through their “One Tree: One Forest” program. As of Sept. 30, 2021, SCP’s positive impact includes 234.15 MWh solar energy produced, 362,573 pounds of Co2 emissions saved, 144,114 single-use show amenities saved, 108,978 plastic bottles eliminated and 7.9K pounds of food waste saved from landfills.
- Weston Pass Hut, Leadville: Those seeking a unique off-grid overnight experience can sleep sustainably at the Weston Pass hut, set at 11,950’. This remote escape is built with locally harvested and milled beams and an earth-covered, naturally insulated tundra roof. Hikes from this high perch look out to the tops of the Sawatch and Mosquito ranges, including Colorado’s two highest peaks, showcasing Mother Earth’s splendor.
- Zapata Ranch, Mosca: Zapata Ranch is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed by Ranchlands in a partnership model that emphasizes environmental conservation practices. Located on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley, the ranch borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Home to a conservation herd of bison that run in a single 50,000 acre pasture, the ranch also runs a herd of Angus mother cows. Additionally, the ranch has a 17-bedroom lodge that welcomes guests from around the world to learn about ranching’s role in preserving and protecting these natural landscapes.
Give Back to Colorado with Voluntourism Activities and by Supporting Local Nonprofits:
- City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks: Group travelers can bring friends, colleagues or family members to one-day volunteer projects hosted by the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. Spend the day constructing or maintaining a nearby trail for Boulder locals and visitors alike to enjoy.
- Colorado Trails Foundation: The Colorado Trail stretches 500 miles from Denver to Durango. It’s a pathway for hikers who want to travel the majority of the state on foot, passing over mountains, around lakes and through a number of Colorado communities. Colorado Trail Foundation volunteers are continually working to maintain its varied terrain. The foundation’s volunteer crews make improvements to the trail, and visitors to Colorado are welcome to take part in the weeklong trips.
- Colorado Fourteeners Initiative: Colorado is endowed with 58 mountains whose peaks rise at least 14,000 feet above sea level — more than any other state in the continental U.S. The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative is a nonprofit, volunteer-dependent organization that helps restore and maintain the trails and fragile plant life. Volunteer vacations range from three-day trail builds while camping near the work site to wildflower-seed collection, where the seeds from native flowers will be used to repopulate barren trails.
- Colorado Mountain Bicycle Association (COMBA): COMBA is dedicated to building new singletrack trails and helping land managers maintain current trails. COMBA started out as the Trail Conservation Services in 1991 maintaining trails, and to this day building and maintaining trails is one of their main goals.
- Friends of Breckenridge Trails: The Friends of Breckenridge Trails offers a way to provide a helping hand in the upkeep of fragile habitats, open spaces, and trail systems unique to Breckenridge. Through vital volunteer efforts offered throughout the summer, open spaces, trails, historic sites, and ecologically sensitive areas are maintained and restored, thereby creating fun opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and abilities to make memories and give back.
- Friends of Twin Lakes, Inc.: Friends of Twin Lakes is a nonprofit organization focused on preserving the area’s many historically significant aspects and working with the Forest Service and local governments to build and maintain trails in southern Lake County. Visitors can volunteer to serve on a variety of projects and also donate.
- HistoriCorps: HistoriCorps works with volunteers to save at-risk places like settlers’ log cabins nestled between cliffs and canyons, century-old fire lookout towers still standing watch on state’s highest peaks, or the remnants of delicate mining infrastructure in alpine meadows. For summer 2022, HistoriCorps will be leading a group of volunteers as they restore the historic Devil’s Head Lookout Tower.
- Steamboat’s Taking Care of 2A Trails: Resident riders and trail-focused guests to Steamboat Springs continue to benefit from new trails created using public funding from Initiative 2A. Steamboat Springs’ officials recently introduced new “donation stations” — refurbished parking meters with credit card readers — at 11 popular local trailheads, as well as a portable station on wheels for local events. The stations give visitors and locals a simple way to support the maintenance of local trails.
- Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC): Since 1984, VOC has been motivating and enabling people to become active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources. VOC works with conservation and land agencies and relies on thousands of people annually to provide a volunteer workforce for outdoor stewardship projects.
- Wildlands Restoration Volunteers: From land to water, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers offers a wide range of projects. Whether visitors are into clearing and maintaining trails, picking up litter from waterways or building rock structures to maintain natural habitats, there’s something for everyone.
- YMCA of the Rockies Voluntourism Offerings: The YMCA of the Rockies in both Estes Park and Grandby, have a handful of voluntourism opportunities where volunteers get ample time to enjoy Colorado’s outdoors in exchange for volunteer hours. For as little as 28 volunteer service hours per week (season dependent), volunteers receive free lodging, meals and access to the beautiful facilities. A majority of the opportunities are a four-week commitment.