1) West of Denver, the 1860s mining town of Empire is the launching point for this northwesterly Rocky Mountain jaunt. The town boasts The Original Hard Rock Café, which opened in 1934 and was named for its “hard rock” mining customers. Today, the 1898 building houses the café, the town hall, an antique store, and the police station. Other great antiquing opportunities can be had at East Park Avenue Antiques, as well as Annie’s Gold Antiques and Collectibles.
2) Continue over Berthoud Pass (be careful on its many hairpin turns) on U.S. Route 40, which crosses the Continental Divide at 11,307 ft. You’ll pass Winter Park, Devil’s Thumb Ranch, and Granby which all merit visits of their own, but your destination is Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and Spa, where you can soak in 21 mineral pools that are open year-round. The hot springs have a way of depleting your energy, so continue through Byers Canyon to the local’s watering hole and restaurant, The Parshall Inn, in the don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it town of Parshall. The area’s gold medal waters offer exceptional angling opportunities, so don’t forget your fishing pole.
3) A quick hop over to the cowboy town of Kremmling puts you in the center of Colorado’s high country ranching community, which everyone can take part in during Kremmling Days in June, and also at the 99th Middle Park Fair and Rodeo, held each August. If neither of these events line up with your itinerary, not to worry—the Rusty Spurr Ranch offers daily cattle drives and trail rides in the summer. If you’re hoping to bring some cowboy wares back home, don’t miss the opportunity to shop at Ghostwood Interiors, which features barnwood crafted furniture.
4) Steamboat Springs is next and hosts rodeos, as it has since 1898, from June through August. For a blowout, check out the 112th Annual Cowboys’ Roundup Days held over the 4th of July. If you’re in need of a new hat or pair of boots, F.M. Light and Sons can get you outfitted—they’ve been doing it for more than 100 years. And when you’re ready to find a good-timing crowd, look no further than the Ghost Ranch.
5) Westward still lies Craig. Few visitors make it beyond Steamboat, but Craig offers a few surprises. Not only is it the starting point of Sombrero Ranch’s famed Great American Horse Drive (April 20–May 4, this year), but it is also home to the Museum of Northwest Colorado, where an impressive 50-year collection of cowboy artifacts is on display, along with exhibits on the Moffat Road Railroad and the Victory Highway, the post-WWI project completed in memory of our veterans, spanning from sea-to-sea on U.S. Route 40.