Home to vast, arid deserts, plunging canyons and of course, the majestic Rockies, Colorado is well known for its diverse scenery. Yet, it is its lesser known luxury lodges which are perhaps the jewel in Colorado’s crown. North America specialist, Anna, returns from a whistlestop tour of its most superior spots.
Not to be confused with Colorado’s fantastic ranches, this little-known accommodation option in the beautiful state of Colorado is perfect for shorter stays, benefiting from beautiful scenery as well as hosting some interesting activities in areas that are tucked away from the crowds. During my recent trip to the Rockies I was lucky enough to visit three of these lodges. All with a certain level of style, yet subtly different to suit individual tastes. What they unanimously offer though is intimate and personalized service in a stunning Colorado setting.
My first stop was at the Ranch at Emerald Valley. Despite its name and offering horse riding, its location confirms that it isn’t in fact a ranch in the true sense of the word. Set high up on a mountain above the town of Colorado Springs, the property affords a fantastic location and is quite easy to get to. A short drive from the famous Broadmoor Hotel takes you to the beautiful forest setting of the lodge, tucked away on the edge of a small lake. On arrival, you will be greeted by the friendly ranch dog, Reba, who is an intrinsic part of the hotel and will become a familiar face throughout your stay. Accommodation consists of a small number of cabins, ranging between one and three bedrooms which are all spacious and cosy, making them ideal for families. With a capacity for only 28 guests, it’s an exclusive experience and before long you will be welcomed in to the Emerald Valley family by the other guests and friendly staff.
Days can be spent hiking or horse riding through the forest, fishing in the lake or practising archery and lawn games so there is plenty to keep the whole family amused. The lodge is well equipped for lazing too, with hammocks strung between trees and a hot tub overlooking the lake, it is the perfect spot for a romantic retreat. This hideaway is the ideal place to spend 2 or 3 days, at the beginning or end of your vacation, giving you space to unwind and breathe in the clean, crisp Colorado air.
My second stop was near the charming mountain town of Crested Butte at the luxurious, and somewhat undiscovered Taylor River Lodge. Located just off a main road, frequented mainly by cows and trucks, means it is easy to navigate to by road. My cabin was small and compact yet welcoming and warm, typical of most of the cabins there. For families, there are two larger homes on site. Taylor River Lodge is all about luxury, pampering and a level of service that anticipates your every want and need. With gourmet dining (usually with other guests, as once again, this is a small place and you’ll make friends fast) and a bath house, the lodge’s many fantastic facilities on site mean you will be thoroughly spoiled throughout your stay.
The lodge also offers fantastic fly fishing and they had me catching brown trout in their stocked pond within half an hour. Only an hour later, down on the river, I was squealing with excitement as I caught my third Kokanee salmon. Salmon are a rate catch and autumn is the only time you will find them there. Whilst the fish are all catch and release, the thrill will no doubt stay with me forever. Taylor River Lodge welcomes children with open arms and a kids’ program runs throughout the summer. From rock climbing to archery, the children will be kept very happy and entertained during their stay and will especially love tucking into delicious s’mores by the camp fire. The limited number of walks from the lodge itself is the only slight issue I had, however the scenery, location and sheer luxury of this place truly makes up for it and confirms it as very special place to spend a few days.
My last stop was Dunton Hot Springs. Set in a former mining village located around 90 minutes from the mountain town of Telluride, the lodge enjoys an original, authentic style in a breath taking location. With a waterfall at the back of the property and plenty of walking trails available on the doorstep, this is somewhere you can head to for a retreat from the real world and indulge in some peace and tranquillity. Whilst I was there the lodge felt more inclined to couples than families, that said, this was out of school vacations and I was reliably informed that many families love the old mining town feel as the children can be let loose to run around and explore. Dunton Hot Springs is so sublimely tucked away, a stay there is like going back in time and is obviously not complete without a dip in the thermal pools. This is a spa experience you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere, and soaking for hours in the natural hot springs under a star lit sky is quite the way to spend an evening. All meals are included in the stay and guests primarily eat together, or for those who don’t wish to mingle, private tables are also available.
Activities are optional and arranged on a private basis; choose from a catalogue of experiences ranging from guided hiking to white water rafting and fly fishing to mountain biking during a stay at the lodge. Otherwise you can simply explore on your own, take in the walking trails or simply sit and admire the view. This is such a tranquil place, almost forgotten, which makes you feel privileged just to be there. Importantly, the family who own the property use it exclusively throughout the summer meaning it is rare to find availability in July or early August. During this time, they have the smaller Dunton River Camp situated a mere three miles away. The camp offers luxury glamping accommodation, with a dining lodge, activities tent and spa tent all on site. Guests there can enjoy a real wilderness setting, spending the days hiking and biking around the local area. For me, Dunton was a treat, a cleverly thought out place which is unlike anywhere else. Staying in a true old mining town is a unique experience that is well worth discovering for a day or two. At less than three hours from Moab, the location of this lodge is ideal for connecting Colorado with the desert, perfect for a little down time on an itinerary packed trip.