The Traveling Native // The Great Outdoors in Steamboat Springs, CO
Every year one of my closest friend and I make the effort to get together for a few days to spend time with one another and travel. With one of us in Los Angeles and the other in Texas, it is important that we designate some time to pause in our busy lives and check in with one another. We have had the opportunity to share some really incredible moments, like traveling across the country where we went sledding through the dunes in White Sands, NM, dancing into the night at the French Quarter in New Orleans and exploring underground crystal caves in the middle of Texas.
This year, we traveled to my friend's home away from home, a house nestled in the mountains of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The timing could not have come at a better time - the first week of October, where the leaves start turning into bright, vibrant yellows, oranges and even red. Living in Los Angeles, the experience to witness this natural transition into the next season is harder to find. However, on our drive into Steamboat, rolling hills and mountains lined with Aspen and Pine trees shared generously their transformation into the fall season.
With dancing yellow and orange leaves flickering as the wind passed through the trees and the crisp, clean air of pine trees filling our lungs, Lauren and I were both excited to share a long weekend exploring the great outdoors.
I have never heard of Steamboat Springs before Lauren had shared it with me on being a place that her and her family have spent time at over the past 20 years. I am happy that she shared it with me because I fell in love with the comforting feeling of being in a small town surrounded by snow-capped mountains that co-existed with wildlife in such a way that can only be described as an unspoken understanding. One of my lasting memories in Steamboat Springs was just getting outside in nature. Whether it was hiking into waterfalls, soaking in natural hot springs or just exploring in the mountains, these moments were some of my most vivid memories from the trip with Lauren.
The Waterfall // Fish Creek Falls Routt National Forest
We drove out just a few minutes from town into Routt National Forest to check out Fish Creek Falls, accessible by a 1/4 mile hike from where you are able to park. There is a $5 fee (cash) into the park for day use and it is absolutely recommended for families and just about anyone looking to see a magnificent landscape without the concern that the trail will be too difficult. During our time there, the waterfall was a steady flow of water down the rocks, but not enough where it filled the river down below. This was great because I was able to climb up into the rocks without concern. I typically like to climb and hike barefoot - you can feel so much more, as well as, have better gripping and connect on a whole different level with the environment.
Lauren and I explored around the trail and with everything clearly marked through designated walking paths, it was an easy hike down to the waterfall, as well as, up top to the overlook.The glistening of the sun amongst the yellow glow of the leaves surrounded us as we walked in awe of the changing landscape.
It was my first time experiencing fall that way and it was truly an experience I was glad to share with my friend here at the falls. Seeing the waterfall and being able to climb up it was really a nice adventure. During winter, the water freezes over and snow covers the area, whereas in spring, the falls are the most vibrant and alive, gushing down and filling up the entire river. So I am grateful that we came during a time where it was low enough to walk through and explore in a way that we would not have access to any other time in the year.
The Hot Springs // Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Another spot we explored that was about 20 minutes from town was Strawberry Park Hot Springs. This was a highlight of the trip for both of us. Stumbling across directions on Google Maps, this place pulled up as an option that captivated my curiosity about learning more about it. At $15 per person, access to this hot springs was worth every dollar. The drive up the mountain, passing through ranches and open land, it was hard not to be curious about the people who lived in these home and what they did for a living. I find myself asking this question a lot, mostly when I travel to the quietest corners of the states.
When we arrived, I was surprised to see that we were able to find lounge chairs and have access to our own space. It was not crowded in the way that I would have expected it to based on seeing how amazing this place looked online. There are a couple of pools that are designated underneath the running hot springs from above, which you can see trickling down dark stones, steaming as it runs down into the pools below.
The closest pool to the hot springs was the hottest and to the left, slightly cooler with each pool getting colder as it moved away from the source of the hot springs.
Getting into the second warmest hot springs pool was a delight. A warm bubble-bath temperature with algae growing up on the sides, mostly where there were spots to sit in the pool. The bottom of the hot spring pool consisted of small rocks and floated pieces of green algae filled the hot springs; however, clarity of the water remained in tact. We spent our afternoon soaking and just enjoying the warm heat amongst the crisp, cool October air. With the leaves rustling in the wind, deer running through the mountains and the warm water heating our bodies amongst the coolness of the Colorado mountains, saying that this moment in the hot springs was one of my fondest memories is an understatement.
On another note, during the day, bathing suits are required; however, as night falls, clothing is optional and generally are designated for adults only.
The Hiking Trails // Mad Creek & Hot Springs Trail
There are so many hiking trails in and around Steamboat Springs that take you deep into the mountains and amongst the wilderness. We ended up hiking right outside the hot springs, which trails Mad Creek to the left of the hiking trail. With a few mountain bikers, three to be exact, Lauren and I found ourselves exploring with no one in sight for the majority of our adventure.
Sights of clouds coming over the mountains as if it were a rolling hill itself, sounds of chirping birds, a crashing tree and hopping deer in the distance and the smell of clean, crisp, invigorating air from the pine and aspen trees filling our lungs are distinct visceral moments I will also live through my memories of this trip.
Another moment was finding a mostly eaten moose and strangely enough, part of the carcass up on a tree as we walked back on the trail. That is something I also will remember forever.
Hiking in Steamboat during the fall transition was an amazing experience to have. Living in Southern California, the differences throughout seasons is not as drastic, and although it is nice to have weather that stays relatively consistent throughout the year, there is something about the changing of seasons in such a distinct way that makes me seek it more as I grow older. Whether I stay in Los Angeles for the next few years or find myself living somewhere nestled more in nature, all I know is that I am grateful to have the opportunity to share these experiences with great company and being able to continue to explore these great gems of the states.
This post is in dedication to one of my closest friends, Lauren. Thank you for always being there and for being part of some of the most happiest travel memories that I have.