The Best Colorado Hiking, Skiing and Outdoor Destinations According to Wine and Beer Pros

John Olsen Avery Brewing
John Olsen of Avery Brewing at Brainard Lake / Photo by John Olsen

Home to the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), more than 50 mountains that exceed 14,000 feet and countless miles of uninterrupted terrain, Colorado offers residents and visitors a wide range of options to get outdoors. To help you find your next favorite spot, we talked to brewers and wine experts throughout the state.

Avery Brewing Company

Boulder, Colorado

Avery Brewing Company first opened its doors in 1993. John Olson, Avery’s product development and innovation lead, notes that the tap room and restaurant always have some 30 beers on tap, “so no matter what you’re in the mood for, we’re going to have an awesome beer waiting for you.”

When Olson isn’t at the brewery, he enjoys being outside.

“I love skiing, camping and playing golf whenever I get the chance,” says Olson. “There are so many incredible camping options throughout the state of Colorado, many of which are right in Boulder’s backyard, so finding new spots to spend a night or two and hike around during the day has been an awesome way to get outside and enjoy the amazing scenery here.”

One of his favorite spots is Turquoise­ Lake, just outside of Leadville,­ Colorado.

“The lake is absolutely beautiful and there are a handful of campgrounds that surround it, making it easy to go hang out by the lake, fish, paddle board or hike around,” says Olson. Another one of his picks is local favorite Brainard Lake.

“Without having to get too far off the beaten path, you do some camping or just head up for the day to explore some great hiking trails and experience some epic views of the mountains along the Continental Divide,­” he says.

Snowy Peaks Winery

Estes Park, Colorado

Foggy Mt. Ida on the way to Chief Cheley.
Mt. Ida on the way to Chief Cheley / Photo by Tristan Coriell

You’ll find Snowy Peaks Winery and Tasting Room in downtown Estes Park. According to Tristan Coriell, tasting room manager and assistant winemaker, the winery focuses on producing bottles from Colorado grown grapes.

“We use a light-handed approach making the wines at Snowy Peaks, trying to let the grapes naturally express themselves,” says Coriell.

When Coriell is not at work, he enjoys hiking, trail running, kayaking, snow shoeing, mountain biking, motorcycle rides through the canyon and checking out the stars in Colorado’s tundra. His favorite hiking spots are Thatchtop Mountain, Desolation Peaks, Chief Cheley Peak and Mount Fairchild. 

“All of these summits have incredible views and isolation as there are no maintained trails to any of them,” he says.

As far as trail running goes, Coriell recommends the Ute Trail, and for kayaking, Grand Lake.

If you’re visiting Colorado in the snowy months, some of Coriell’s favorite places to snowshoe are Twin Sisters, Sky Pond and Mount Lady Washington.

Infinite Monkey Theorem

Denver, Colorado

Tim Carron of Infinite Monkey Theorem hiking in Arapaho National Forest.
Tim Carron of Infinite Monkey Theorem Hiking Arapaho National Forest / Photo Courtesy of Tim Carron

“Colorado has more than enough to offer,” says Tim Carron, winemaker at Infinite Monkey Theorem. Carron has been with Infinite Monkey Theorem for seven years.

“I spent my first year bartending in the tasting room, then switched over to working production in the cellar where I got to learn the ins-and-outs and ups-and-downs of winemaking and have been doing that ever since,” he says.

The winery tries to source as much fruit as it can from Colorado.

“Our Malbec is always a crowd favorite,” says Carron. “But I personally love our Cabernet Franc every year. It’s a little bit lighter bodied than our other reds and always has a nice hint of chile flavor [and] spiciness.”

But when Carron isn’t at the winery, you can find him outside.

The Best Hiking, Fly Fishing and Outdoor Spots in Oregon, According to Beer and Cider Pros

“I love snowboarding in the winter,” says Carron. “My favorite resorts are Steamboat Springs and Crested Butte. But I’m more into the summer activities in Colorado,” he adds, such as hiking, backpacking and camping. “My go-to area for camping is anywhere in Pike National Forest around Park County. It’s just an hour or so southwest of Denver so it’s easy to access from the city.”

Carron also notes that Lost Park Campground, about 2.5 hours from Denver, has car camping spots and ample hiking opportunities.

But Carron’s top spot?

“The Oh be Joyful Trail near Crested Butte,” he says. “It’s probably the most beautiful hike I’ve done in the entire state.”

Rock Cut Brewing Company

Estes Park, Colorado

Rock Club Brewing Company staff member Laura Shepard paddle boarding on Chasm Lake with the Diamond of Longs Peak in the background.
Chasm Lake with the Diamond of Longs Peak in the background / Photo courtesy of Kirby Nelson-Hazelton

Opened in 2015, Rock Cut is Estes Park’s third craft brewery. Today, guests can stop in and try everything from stouts to ales to sours. The brewery’s Snowy River sour beer “is aged on grape must from Snowy Peaks Winery down the street,” says Kirby Nelson-Hazelton, owner of Rock Cut.

When asked to name her favorite beers on tap, Nelson-Hazelton says, “That’s like asking us to choose a favorite child.”

When Nelson-Hazelton or just about any of Rock Cut’s other staff members are not brewing up something new or serving beer, you can find them outside. The Brewery even hosts monthly hikes for patrons and staffers.

Group of hikers standing atop a rock formation with the Continental Divide in the background.
Group of Rock Cut Brewing Company Hike Club hikers with the Continental Divide in the background / Photo courtesy of Kirby Nelson-Hazelton

“We are all pretty active outdoor enthusiasts,” says Nelson-Hazelton. “Many of us hike, climb, ski, etc.”

If you want to rock climb, she recommends heading to Lumpy Ridge as it’s “some of the best climbing when it’s not closed for raptor breeding season.”

If you’re looking for a place to jog, Nelson-Hazelton recommends the Lake Estes Trail or Hollowell Park in RMNP.

As for hikes, “I would say a solid staff favorite for a hike is Chasm Lake,” says Nelson-Hazelton.

This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

Published on March 30, 2022
Topics: Outdoors