This morning we packed up the trailer, stopped for gas and groceries before heading out. Our route took us through Provo Canyon where we saw the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls from the highway. We climbed to Heber City then headed northeast on Highway 40. The landscape changed from forest to chaparral to high desert. The weather was moody as we encountered pockets of rain and ever-changing clouds formations.
Finally! We saw the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado,” sign, however, this corner of the state is pretty must brown and barren. Our drive took us over endless hills and through desolate valleys. We were about 100 miles into Colorado before the landscape started turning green again and farms could be seen. We crisscrossed the Yampa River for a while before we finally made it to Steamboat Springs city limits. Our campground for the next two days was Steamboat Springs KOA located right off Highway 40, north of downtown Steamboat Springs.
Right from the start I was not impressed with this KOA. We were assigned Site 72 which was considered “deluxe” but looked like all the other pull-thru sites. The kids wanted to go swimming but the pool had a group of very active older kids so we all stayed in camp, played some games and cooked up some dinner. With a swarm of mosquitoes waiting to get some blood, we decided to eat our meal indoors. We have a TV now so we enjoyed a family movie before heading to bed.
There was some rain overnight but we awoke to sunshine. We were excited to get out exploring! Our first stop was Fish Creek Falls, the #1 attraction and top thing to do in the summer according to the Steamboat Springs Visitor Guide’s “Boat List.”
The trail to Fish Creek Falls was a only ¼ mile, There were wildflowers in all colors and the roar of the falls and stream added to our anticipation. Within 5-minutes, we had arrived at the bottom of the 280-ft falls. From a historical bridge, we had a wonderful view of the lower falls. Even in July, the clear alpine water was cascading down over the rocks below. Drake and Mia made their way down to the river to throw rocks and dip their toes. It was a lovely and scenic spot to relax.
Note: From the lower falls, a moderate hike with picturesque views takes the more adventurous to Upper Fish Creek Falls and Long Lake, deep in the Routt National Forest.
Tip: There is a $5 fee for parking at the Fish Creek Trail-head, however, we were able to use our National Park Pass to enter for free! Cost for the pass is $80 for a year and gets your family in for free at more than 2,000 federal recreation sites including entrance fees at national parks, national monuments and national wildlife refuges. Also includes standard amenity fees at national forests, grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. To maximize use, I suggest you purchase at the first national park or monument that you visit.
We headed back to downtown Steamboat Springs for lunch. My mind was on Mexican food, but to my delight, there was a Beau Jo’s Pizza. Living in Colorado for a couple of years in my single life, I was introduced to Beau Jo’s; a Colorado institution. They are home to the “Mountain Pie” which comes in both thick and thin crust. You order by pounds instead of sizes so we ordered a 3-pound honey-wheat, thick crust half Hawaiian and half Sausage Combo.
The pizza that arrived at our table was massive and as delicious and I remember. There was plentiful toppings and gooey cheese. We were in pizza heaven. What is the best part of eating pizza at Beau Jo’s? Eating the crust with honey! It is a match made in heaven. Drake and Mia said it was the best crust they have ever had.
Now we were ready to explore the downtown stores and made it to a few before it started pouring rain. Luckily, we had just ducked into F.M.Light & Sons, a famous western wear store that opened their doors in November 1905. I wanted to visit this store as their yellow signs along Highway 40 starting at the Colorado border were intriguing, Inside there were colorful arrays of cowboy boots, clothing for all members of the family and cowboy hats. The kids didn’t mind the extra time in the toy area.
Soon, the heavy rain turned to a light shower so we walked/ran back to our truck. The kids loved the opportunity to splash in all the puddles along the way. We had our towels in the truck since our next stop was Strawberry Park Hot Springs.
Our family has been to many hot springs but none as beautiful as Strawberry Park. You walk down a dirt path to an ancient truck that has been turned into the cashier window. Continuing down from there, the hot spring pools come into view. It was breathtaking!
The hot pools have been created to blend in with nature. Pools are edged in stones and the bottoms are gravel. It’s just like what you would find in nature. Temperatures range from 100-110 degrees. When you get too warm, jump into the river!
We had just gotten into our first pool when it started to rain. Thunder boomed in the distance. We decided we would hang out unless we saw lightning. It really started pouring and steam began to rise around us. It was one of those amazing moments that will always be remembered.
This was the first time Troy and I truly relaxed on this trip. Just for the moment, we could put all of our uncertainties aside and just be. It was heavenly!
Tip: Cost for adults (18+) is $12 on weekdays/$15 weekends. Teens $7, Kids $5, Under 3 free. They accept CASH ONLY. There are no age restrictions, however, temperatures may not be suitable for little ones and swim diapers are mandatory for those not potty-trained. Hot Springs open at 10AM and become over 18 and clothing optional after dark.
When we returned to KOA we couldn’t wait to have a shower. When your kid says the showers are “small,” “icky,” and “moldy” you know that things are not good. Granted it was the end of the day, and I am sure many people had passed through the shower area but there certainly was mold on the ceiling. At least we got clean!
Our family made the decision that we would like to stay in the Steamboat area for one more night and even though it was the middle of the week, Steamboat Springs KOA informed me that we would have to hook up and move to a different site that the one we were in. Since it wasn’t our favorite campground anyway, we decided to take our chances and head out in the morning and leave our next campsite up to fate.
Tip: Steamboat Springs KOA also offers cabins, access to Yampa River for fishing, mini-golf, playground, and bike rentals. There is Wi-Fi, however, I was unable to get a connection from from our campsite.