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20+ Affordable Adventures: Explore Colorado on a Shoestring Budget

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The thought of a vacation can sometimes be daunting to those not wanting to spend a lot of money, but Colorado is home to many amazing adventures and offerings at a reasonable price, making a Rocky Mountain vacation accessible for everyone. From affordable options in world-class mountain destinations such as Breckenridge and wallet-friendly Denver, to camping in the outdoors surrounded by stunning mountain vistas or lying on the beach at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado is the perfect destination for travelers not wanting to break the bank. 

A Beach Vacation at Great Sand Dunes National Park. From late-May to early-August, Great Sand Dunes National Park, home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, offers a beach vacation unlike any other. When the snow melts every spring, the gentle Medano Creek emerges from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that tower behind the sand dunes to create a true beach oasis. For just $15 per car, travelers can spend the day lying at “the beach,” sledding down the dunes or exploring the park’s numerous hiking and horseback riding trails.
 
Affordable Mountain Bliss in Breckenridge. This iconic mountain town doesn’t just offer great skiing in the winter, but also several wallet-friendly options for a family summer vacation. Breckenridge offers over 50 miles of trails and more than 120 trail access points for unbeatable hiking and biking. Breckenridge Creative Arts offers classes including drawing, dance and hands-on crafts at little to no cost. For lodging, Breckenridge Ski Resort’s summer lodging deal starts at just $119 per night for stays starting June 9 through September 10. This summer, visitors will want to check out the new Epic Discovery featuring zip lines, alpine challenge courses and more.
 
Camping Colorado. There is no better way to experience an affordable Colorado vacation or the great outdoors than camping. The state has upwards of 300 campgrounds offering a variety of surroundings and activities. Visitors can check out the Views RV Park & Campground in Dolores that overlooks incredible vistas and will soon offer glamping tents along with campsites for RV’s and tents, or Aspen Acres Campground in Rye, located in the less traveled San Isabel mountain range for a peaceful camping experience at an elevation of 9,200 feet.
 
Denver on a Dime.  Visitors do not need to break the bank to explore Colorado’s Mile High City. Through the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) free days, guests can see many of Denver’s top attractions such as the Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Zoo and many more at no cost on select days of the year. This year, RiNo (River North) Art District and the new Drink RiNo group will sponsor a free bus every First Friday that will have multiple stops at galleries, studios, breweries and eateries throughout RiNo. For frugal foodies visiting the city can try a new chef-driven concept like Avanti F&B – seven different affordable restaurants in one modern food hall, from Japanese to pizza; or Honor Society Handcrafted Eatery – where visitors can get high-quality, healthy, yet craveable dishes at an affordable price.
 
Discover the Outdoors in Montrose. This historic Colorado town on the Western Slope serves as the perfect basecamp to those seeking outdoor adventure. Montrose is home to the stunning Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (only $15 entrance fee per vehicle), which offers amazing views of steep cliffs and spires, hiking, camping and more. The park was also designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2015 because of its exceptional skies, astronomy education programs, and responsible lighting for supreme stargazing. Montrose offers a variety of trails, Gold Medal fishing opportunities and is located at the center of some of Colorado’s most beautiful scenic drives and byways including the San Juan Skyway, Alpine Loop Back Country Byway and more.
 
Exploring Snowmass with the Mass Pass. For visitors looking to get the most bang for their buck, Snowmass offers the Mass Pass, a three or five day activity pass which includes activities such as rafting, horseback riding, bike trips, sunset dinners and more. The pass allows guests to choose three days of activities for $350/guest or five days of activities for $550/guest. The Mass Pass offers over $250 in savings from booking activities à la carte, ideal for guests looking to get more than one great adventure out of their vacation.
 
Family Adventure at Snow Mountain Ranch. A year-round destination, Snow Mountain Ranch brings families together to explore and enjoy the outdoors. With a huge selection of activities, most included at no cost for overnight guests, everyone in the family will find something to do including soaring down a summer tubing hill, indoor and outdoor archery, climbing walls or even a guided hike with a llama.  Accommodations range from hotel-style lodge rooms, yurts, cozy cabins or mega reunion cabins sleeping up to 44 guests. Rates start at $79/night for lodge rooms.
 
Tiny Homes, Huts and Hostels. Skip the traditional lodging and experience one of the state’s more unique options. Colorado has more huts and yurts than any other state in the U.S. Options include the 10th Mountain Division Hut System, named for the soldiers trained in the area during World War II, the San Juan Hut System, Grand Huts Association and more. Join the tiny home movement and escape to WeeCasa, a new tiny home hotel in Lyons, Colorado. With approximately 135-250 square feet of charm and character, these casas utilize the space in the simplest and most efficient way possible. The state also offers upscale hostels such as The Bivvi in Breckenridge or Hostel Fish in Denver.

Visit a Colorado State Park. A great way to save money, while having an abundance of activities to choose from is to visit one of Colorado’s 41 state parks. The parks vary in surroundings from mountains to rivers to prairies and water. Visit John Martin Reservoir in Hasty, Colorado to experience a mecca for bird watching with over 400 species to see. Visitors can spend their vacation boating, swimming, water skiing and more, while enjoying the evening at one of the park’s campsites (campsite fees start at just $10 per night) sitting around the fire pit, cooking s’mores and telling ghost stories with family and friends.
 
Wine Tasting in Colorado’s Wine Country. Grand Junction is Colorado’s Wine Country featuring 22 wineries with year-round tasting rooms that offer complimentary tastings to visitors. One of the best ways to explore wineries in the Palisade and Grand Junction area is on two wheels and the friendly experts at local bike shops will not only set you up with a reliable ride, but they can also supply guidance on all the best wine-tasting routes. Rapid Creek Cycles in downtown Palisade offers maps highlighting local wineries and orchards, and rents seven-speed cruisers with baskets perfect for hauling goodies like bottles of wine and produce picked up along the way.  Full-day rentals are available for less than $40.
 
For more information, please visit www.colorado.com/articles/12-free-things-do-colorado. 
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