If you’re coming to Steamboat Springs in the winter, but you don’t ski or snowboard, you may be worried that you’ll have nothing to do. But don’t fret – you won’t be relegated to spending your days watching the snow fall (unless you want to, of course). Steamboat is home to a number of wonderful winter activities that are perfect for visitors of all ages. These activities are also great if you’re looking to take a day off from the slopes. Plus, they’ll give you an easy opportunity to experience all that Steamboat has to offer.
Snowshoeing is not only invigorating, but it’s a great way to experience Steamboat’s natural beauty. There are a number of trails on the mountain that are easily accessible via the Gondola. You’ll also find snowshoe trails at Howelsen Ski Area and Haymaker Golf Course. If you can, we recommend snowshoeing up to Fish Creek Falls. It offers some beautiful winter scenery and as the distance to the first waterfall is relatively short, it makes for a great first snowshoeing experience. To get to Fish Creek Falls, take Lincoln Avenue to Third Street, where you’ll head east. Then take a right on Fish Creek Falls Road and follow it to the end, where there’s a parking lot. The Forest Service charges a $5 per car access fee.
If you’d rather take a snowshoe tour, you’ll have plenty of options. The Steamboat Ambassadors offer free tours on the mountain daily (with the purchase of a lift ticket and snowshoe rentals). You can also take snowshoe tours that include lunch or dinner. Guided tours are especially nice if you’re interested in learning more about the area’s history and ecology.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
If you’re looking to add a little something unique to your Steamboat vacation, you should definitely take a hot air balloon ride. You’ll enjoy some amazing scenery, especially if you happen to book a flight the morning after a fresh snow. Wild West Balloon Adventures is your go-to ballooning company in the Steamboat Springs area. Their flights typically take about 45 minutes and include a continental breakfast, champagne toast, and a personalized flight certificate.
Does your Steamboat vacation coincide with a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary? Why not make it even more special with a sleigh ride through the snow covered forest? At Haymaker Golf Course, you’ll gather for drinks and appetizers at the Lodge, head out for a sleigh ride, and then return for a three-course dinner. Saddleback Ranch offers dinner sleigh rides as well. At Saddleback, after your 30-minute sleigh ride, you’ll enjoy a home-cooked meal, roping lessons, and if time allows, some dancing.
Bar Lazy L Ranch is another great option for a dinner sleigh ride. After your sleigh ride, you’ll enjoy a hearty meal, live music, and additional entertainment once the dinner is finished. Ragnar’s Restaurant is located on the mountain and once the sun sets, take a night trip up the Gondola, where a snowcat-pulled sleigh will be waiting for you. After the ride, you’ll enjoy a five-course gourmet meal and live music. Another on-mountain option for a snowcat-pulled sleigh can be found at Four Points Lodge. In addition to offering a heated sleigh ride, they also offer a five-course meal and live music.
Downtown Steamboat is full of beautifully preserved buildings that will make you feel as if you stepped back in time. You could easily spend several days browsing through downtown’s numerous shops and enjoying its great variety of restaurants. You’ll also find art galleries, museums, and much more. During your Steamboat vacation, take some time to wander through downtown so you can get a real feeling for what makes this wonderful little town so special.
Old Town and Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Want to add a little R & R to your Steamboat experience? Head to one of the area’s hot springs. Old Town Hot Springs is located at 136 Lincoln Avenue. There, you’ll find the famous Heart Spring, a non-chlorinated natural pool with water between 102 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit. This spring provides the water for the other soaking pools on the property, all of which are chlorinated. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is located just a short drive from downtown Steamboat. Situated right on the banks of the Hot Springs Creek, these mineral springs are incredibly picturesque. You’ll enjoy amazing views as you soak in the soothing water. Please note, though, that if you want to go to Strawberry Park in the winter, you’ll need to have a four-wheel drive vehicle or you’ll need to book a shuttle ride.
It may seem like horseback riding is more of a summer activity, but winter rides are just as enchanting, if not more so. Winter horseback rides are peaceful, quiet, and perfect for just about all types of visitors. Saddleback Ranch offers rides that last from one and a half to two hours long. After the ride, you’ll be treated to hot chocolate and a freshly baked cookie. Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch also offers winter horseback rides. They’re located about a half hour’s drive north of Steamboat Springs.
If you love fishing, you won’t be disappointed with what Steamboat has to offer. There are two lakes within an hour’s drive of Steamboat that are quite popular for ice fishing: Stagecoach Reservoir and Steamboat Lake. Stagecoach is a great spot to catch Rainbow Trout and Northern Pike, which is probably why it was chosen as the location for the Steamboat Great Outdoor Ice Fishing Tournament. For those of you who’d prefer to stay a bit closer to town (or right in it), look no further than the Yampa River for some winter fly fishing. The Yampa is a prime spot for winter fly fishing and there are a number of shops in town that offer guided tours as well as rental gear.
Snowmobiles make it easy for you to see a lot of backcountry in a short amount of time. A lot of this terrain is located in places that most visitors to Steamboat Springs don’t get to see. Steamboat Snowmobile Tours has several different tour options available, including some designed for expert snowmobilers. Tours can last from two to six hours and may take place on Rabbit Ears Pass or near the Elk River Valley, depending on your experience level. At Saddleback Ranch, they offer guided tours on their 8,000 acres of private land. Tours may last from an hour and a half up to a half-day (the half-day tour also includes lunch and an hour of snowtubing). Elk Mountain Adventures offers half- and full-day tours as well as a VIP Tour that includes lunch, dinner, and a trip to Strawberry Park Hot Springs.
While you’re likely to see a number of unofficial tubing hills in Steamboat, your best bet for some prime snow tubing action is to head to Saddleback Ranch. Here, you’ll find Yee-Haw Hill that’s not only groomed but that’s complete with three runs and a tube-tow lift system. Free transportation is available from the Mt. Werner Transit Center for tubers who spend at least an hour and a half snow tubing.
Just because the temperatures are a bit chilly doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy a bike ride. In Steamboat, you’ll have a couple options for winter biking. With snow biking, also known as ski biking, you’ll ride what looks like a bike outfitted with skis instead of wheels, put some foot skis onto your boots, and sail down the hill. Fat biking is another option for the winter months. These bikes are just like regular bicycles, except they come equipped with fat tires designed to grip the snow. Fat bikes are allowed during certain hours at the Howelsen Hill Nordic Center, but you should check out their rules before you go. They are also allowed on city trails that are not groomed for Nordic skiing. There are several ski and fat bike rental shops in town and on the mountain. If you have questions about where these kinds of bikes are and are not allowed, they’ll be able to give you all the information you need.