Colorado: thinking about a trip to Steamboat Springs?

I have a love-hate relationship with Steamboat Springs. Or maybe it’s more accurately described as love-meh relationship. I’ve been to the town several times over the years. I remember it as a sleepy town that ski bums filled to the brim in winters. It was the sort of town that “real” outdoor athletes and outdoorsmen flocked to, eschewing the other more popular, touristy ski towns like Vail and Aspen. When I was young, it was both fun and boring. Fun because there were endless trails and adventures to be had. Boring because none of the shops were interesting to me as a dumb kid. As an adult, though, I would’ve been fascinated by these stores. Used bookstores, gift shops, craft artisan shops, photography and artists’ studios, antiques, and clothing stores. 

Today? It’s a fast-growing town. It seems like a mix of resort/vacation and retirement town. There’s a lot of new construction going on. New homes and condos are popping up like crazy. The number of retirees is skyrocketing. There’s a Walmart in town, Kroger’s (King Sooper), Walgreens, and so on. Unfortunately, this means the rents in the downtown area are exploding. Many of the long-time small businesses closed or will close soon. The few businesses that remain struggle. The only businesses that can afford the rent are big-box chain stores or high-end stores. 

There is one store that I really hope can survive for many more years so that future visitors can continue to enjoy this eclectic store.

F.M Light & Sons

F.M. is a perfect blend of practical, functional, and touristy. The store carries almost everything cowboy-related ranging from rodeo shirts, Levi Jeans, rugged jackets, lassos, and jewelry. They also have toys for kids, a dinky souvenir section, and Southwestern-style blankets that may or may not be genuine.

F.M is one of my favorite stores in Steamboat (the second being that pricey fossil shop), and I dearly hope that it never closes doors.

For now, Steamboat is still a great town to visit, particularly for hiking, fishing, or skiing. In a few years, it’ll have lost that small mountain town’s artsy, hipster,  quirky vibe though. Till then, I’ll take advantage of any opportunities to visit the area. It’s a gorgeous region.

yampa river with half-circle bridge mountains in background steamboat springs co jenphotographs

Yampa River

I’m told this river has world-class fly fishing. People haul in trophy-sized trout often.

I haven’t fished since I was seven. As I recall, I caught a sunfish. My uncle fried it and made me eat it. At the time, I wasn’t happy about it because I didn’t (and still don’t) like fish. But in hindsight, it was a good lesson to eat your catches or kills and not hunt/fish for sport.

Waste not!

fishermen on yampa river snow on banks steamboat springs co jenphotographs

Fish Creek Falls

Fish Creek Falls is one of the better known waterfalls in Steamboat, mainly because 1. it’s a 280-foot drop, which is pretty damn tall for Colorado and 2. it’s easy to access.

The trail down to the bottom of the falls is only half a mile. The terrain is somewhat steep, and it can be slippery after rain or snow. In good condition, I’ve seen people make the trek in sandals. That should tell you how easy this trail is. Though the trail is wide and flat enough to accommodate a stroller, I wouldn’t recommend it because there are a couple of sketchy spots. But it wouldn’t surprise me to learn people have managed to drag their strollers up/down this trail. The second portion of the trail takes you up to the top of the falls. This section is challenging in good weather, but doable for most people. Definitely wouldn’t recommend an attempt in winter.

The day before I arrived in Steamboat, Colorado had just gotten hit with a small snowstorm. Though it rapidly melted, there was still snow on the ground in the morning.

A Beefy Draft Horse

On my last day in Steamboat, I went driving around in the ranch region of the Steamboat Springs Valley. Mostly to enjoy the scenery, but also to look for interesting landscapes or subjects. On one of the back roads, I spotted this beast. From a distance, he seemed like a nice, normal sized horse. But then a quarter horse wandered by (not pictured because I was still in the car, grabbing the camera). At that moment, his size became very apparent. “Wow,” I whispered to myself, checked over my shoulder for traffic, and hopped out of the car.

I scrambled over a weedy berm and carefully approached the wire fence. Some wire fences are electrified, and though I didn’t see a warning signs, I didn’t want to take any chances. Standing on a small rise, I was nearly eye-level to him.

He side-eyed me, annoyed that I had disturbed his nap.

For some reason, this photo caught my eye, and I spent around six hours editing it. I still don’t think it’s done. Stay tuned.

draft clydesdale horse in a ranch field white gray dapples steamboat springs jenphotographs

The Conclusions

Steamboat Springs: visit it sooner than later.

Also, check out part two of my trip, which features a bona fide cattle drive!

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