Adventurous Ways to Celebrate Memorial Weekend in Boulder and Beyond

At PaddleFest, you can take a whitewater standup paddleboarding clinic taught by SUP guru Dan Gavere.
At PaddleFest, you can take a whitewater standup paddleboarding clinic taught by SUP guru Dan Gavere. Morgan Mason
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It’s that time of year, when the hills light up with water-drenched green, wildflowers start to poke up their cheery heads, and summer beckons around the corner. Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, rings out from the calendar with a hearty call to adventure.

There’s no need to stick around town for the Denver Memorial Day Parade, because it’s been cancelled this year. Instead, consider other ways to honor veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice serving our country. Whatever your fancy, you’ll find plenty of options to celebrate Memorial Weekend in Boulder in outdoor style, whether by busting out the camping gear, dipping a paddle into swelling snowmelt, or entering a bike event or footrace.

Camping Around Colorado

To many, Memorial Day signals the start of camping season.
To many, Memorial Day signals the start of camping season. Avery Stonich

For many Front Rangers, Memorial Day weekend is a seasonal prompt to head for the hills. Depending on how much snow Mother Nature dumps on Colorado’s peaks in May, a camping trip can be a wet, chilly affair, or a welcome glimpse of summer to come. The holiday falls early this year, so call ahead to check conditions before heading out with your tent. Or pick a spot that’s lower in elevation and quicker to melt. Here are some great camping options around our beautiful state:

Mueller State Park: Colorado’s newest state park sits on 5,000 gorgeous acres southwest of Denver. The 132-site campground is nestled in the forest and offers stunning views of Pikes Peak.

Peak One Campground: Overlooking Lake Dillon between Frisco and Breckenridge, this is a great campground for exploring the bounty of hiking, biking, fishing, and boating in Summit County.

Cherry Creek State Park: If you want to test out a new camper or take the kids out on their first tent adventure, Cherry Creek is a convenient spot right in the city.

Crags Campground: This U.S. Forest Service campground is a great home base for exploring Pike National Forest west of Colorado Springs. Choose from primitive sites or dispersed camping along the creek.

For more ideas, check out the RootsRated camping destination profiles. If late snow mars your plans, you can always visit these five state parks close to Denver.

CKS PaddleFest: Buena Vista

PaddleFest offers water-based fun for all ages.
PaddleFest offers water-based fun for all ages. whitewaterphotography.com

Every Memorial Day weekend, the world of paddling descends on Buena Vista for a four-day extravaganza known as CKS PaddleFest , which includes watersports demos, clinics, professional competitions, and gear swaps—not to mention parties, live music, and more. Advanced paddlers can run kayaks or standup paddleboards through the Arkansas River rapids. If you prefer a more mellow approach, you’ll find smooth water at Town Pond.

And if getting wet just isn’t your thing, then check out the climbing, running, and yoga events. PaddleFest is guaranteed fun for the whole family and a great chance to learn from the pros.

BolderBOULDER: Boulder

The BolderBOULDER attracts 50,000 runners, walkers, and wheelchairs for a 10K race.
The BolderBOULDER attracts 50,000 runners, walkers, and wheelchairs for a 10K race. BolderBOULDER

It's no wonder the BolderBOULDER , Boulder’s famous footrace, was named America’s All-Time Best 10K by Runner’s World . You can run or walk this festive race, which is a hoot-and-hollering good time with 50,000 participants. You’ll barely notice your heavy breathing as you pace yourself past the medley of entertainment that lines the course, complete with bands, belly dancers, drummers, and cheering spectators. There’s even a slip ’n slide.

To get the most out of the BolderBOULDER, read our insider tips.

Boulder Creek Fest: Boulder

The Boulder Creek Fest transforms downtown Boulder into a huge outdoor party.
The Boulder Creek Fest transforms downtown Boulder into a huge outdoor party. Meg Denbow, Boulder Creek Events

Every Memorial Day weekend, the Boulder Creek Fest transforms downtown Boulder into a giant party zone, from 9th to 14th streets and Canyon to Arapahoe. Pedal your bike downtown (parking a car is challenging) and check out the vast array of vendors, exhibitors, bands, food tents, and beer gardens. Or channel your inner carnie by eating cotton candy and taking a spin on the amusement rides. The festival runs from Friday evening through Sunday, so even if you head out of town for the weekend, you can still join in the fun before you leave or after you get back. Whenever you go, the people-watching potential is unparalleled.

Iron Horse Bicycle Classic: Durango

The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic includes a bicycle race against the Durango-Silverton train.
The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic includes a bicycle race against the Durango-Silverton train. WilMatthewsphoto.com

The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic celebrates bicycling all weekend long, with races that offer something for everyone. Attracting 4,000 riders, the event includes road and mountain bike races, a family-friendly tour, kids race, circuit race, time trial, and cruiser crit (costumes encouraged!).

The trademark event of the weekend is the McDonald’s Citizen Tour to Silverton, in which bicyclists race against the historic Durango–Silverton Railroad. Back in the day, two brothers challenged each other to race the train from Durango to Silverton. In 1972, the race became official, when 36 bicyclists pitted their two-wheeled steeds against the steam locomotive in a 50-mile race. This year’s race is sold out, but spectators can reserve a seat on the train for a moving view. Act quickly to nab a spot.

Trail Ridge Road: Rocky Mountain National Park 

Heavy snow years like 2011, pictured here, make clearing Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park a daunting task.
Heavy snow years like 2011, pictured here, make clearing Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park a daunting task. Ann Schonlau/Rocky Mountain National Park

All spring long, plows work overtime to get Trail Ridge Road open for Memorial Day weekend. Sometimes they can, sometimes they can’t—it all depends on late snows. One thing is for sure: Driving this 48-mile road through Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park to Grand Lake is a sight to behold. It climbs far above the tree line to a peak elevation of 12,183 feet, offering sweeping views beyond the impressive snow banks that line the sides in early season.

Mountainfilm: Telluride

Mountainfilm inspires with spirited films, discussions, and other events in beautiful downtown Telluride.
Mountainfilm inspires with spirited films, discussions, and other events in beautiful downtown Telluride. Mountainfilm

If you’re looking for a healthy dose of inspiration for adventure, hop in the car and drive to Telluride for Mountainfilm to catch interactive screenings of films about daring expeditions, conservation issues, inspirational people and cultures, and thought-proving issues from around the world. But Mountainfilm is about far more than just movies. It’s a gathering of the minds, including artists, activists, explorers, scientists, photographers, and filmmakers who engage in spirited discussions. This year’s notable guests include pro skier Chris Davenport, pro snowboarder and climate activist Jeremy Jones, author and filmmaker Sebastian Junger, climber Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, and director Lucy Walker, among others.

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