Social media has undoubtedly taken #travelgoals to the next level, providing thousands of millennials with an endless database of jaw-dropping images of where to go next. If you’re an aspiring globetrotter who frequently keeps up with travel bloggers, then you’ve probably come across gorgeous images of hot air balloons soaring at sunrise in the Turkish city of Cappadocia. After coming across those images, we wouldn’t put it past you if you decide to add “witness hot air balloons fill the sky” to your bucket list.
But guess what? You don’t have to fly all the way to Turkey to make your hot air balloon dreams come true. Lucky for you, Colorado has a handful of colorful hot air balloon festivals lined up in August & September. Find out which festival is the most suitable for you to make an adventure out of this summer!
Aug 3 – 4: Moffat County Balloon Festival in Craig
Kicking off Colorado’s balloon festivals is the Moffat County Balloon Festival held on the first weekend of August. The event includes a 5K & fun run race on Saturday, August 3rd and a Colorado Cruiser Classic Car Show to follow. In the afternoon, there will be live music by Wyoming artist Randy Burdghardt and Colorado musicians, Kyle Allgood & The No Goods.
The festival is located close to the northwest corner of Colorado, which means you could also take a trip to the border of Utah to check out the Dinosaur National Monument. This preservation of land is solid proof that dinosaurs roamed this region long before our time.
There you’ll find fossils, immortalizing the mysterious reptile-like beings that walked our planet over 60 million years ago. Seeing the bone structures of these life sized creatures is a pretty marvelous sight to see, so if you’re fascinated by all things science, this would definitely be an interesting adventure for you.
In addition to the fossils, you’ll also stumble upon petroglyphs painted and etched on the monument’s rocks by the Fremont Indians thousands of years ago. To learn the park’s secrets of the past, it would be a good idea to book a guided tour. One unique tour for our outdoor explorers is a whitewater rafting tour through Dinosaur National Monument with OARS. They offer a variety of five-star tours that hit all the most exciting spots, all while enlightening you with everything you need to know about the land’s history.
Needless to say, a trip to Dinosaur would be an interesting attraction for history buffs too.
Aug 30 – Sept 1: Colorado Balloon Festival in Creede
Next on our radar is the Creede Colorado Balloon Festival at the end of August, which would be a great trip to take on Labor Day weekend. With the city of Creede located inside the Rio Grande National Forest and close to the San Juan Mountains, you’re guaranteed a stunning backdrop surrounding the balloons lifting off at sunrise. This weekend-long event is great for families, including activities such as a children’s carnival, marathon runs, a salsa cook-off and an ATV rodeo.
After a relaxing day admiring the balloons, one unbelievably epic area to hike is the Wheeler Geologic Area, a short drive away from Creede. The bizarre rock formations inhabiting this land are the result of one of the world’s strongest volcanic eruptions ever, now known as La Garita Caldera. To get to the otherworldly land, you can either take a 7-mile hike from the East Bellows Trailhead or embark on a 14-mile ride on an intense four wheel drive road. For more information, you can refer to the Sangres website laying out detailed information on how to get there.
If you can extend your stay a little longer, you can also visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park, less than two hours away from Creede. Take a hike up Star Dune, the tallest sand dune in North America, standing at 750 feet tall. Sandboarding and sledding equipment is also available for rent outside the park to chase that adrenaline rush down the dunes.
Plus, more adventure lies a few miles south of the Great Sand Dunes at Zapata Falls, a mile-long hike leading to a secluded 30 foot bustling waterfall. Although your stay will occur during the warmer months, what the falls look like in the winter is worth mentioning. Once the temperature drops towards the end of the year, the falls freeze over and give off major enigmatic vibes.
Aug 31 – Sept 2: Labor Day Lift Off in Colorado Springs
Another option for a Labor Day weekend trip takes us to the Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off. Of all the hot air balloon events happening in Colorado this summer, this is one of the largest and most colorful. Hundreds of locals are estimated to flock to Memorial Park, where over 70 balloons are expected to rise up overlooking Prospect Lake at 7:00 AM sharp each day. Those who want to be a part of the action can even reserve a slot to ride one of the hot air balloons at sunrise.
In addition to the bright colored display in the sky, there will also be a donut eating contest hosted by Dunkin’ Donuts, skydiving demonstrations, and a photography contest awarding one lucky winner a Nikon D5600 camera! Other fun activities at the event include paddle boarding on the lake, and even paddle yoga. At sunset, everyone gathers together for a “balloon glow,” where the balloons are inflated on land and burners are ignited, creating a glowing effect that lights up the park as the sky transitions to dusk.
Just a ten minute drive from Memorial Park is Seven Falls, also known as “Colorado’s Grandest Mile.” There are many outdoor activities to keep you entertained at Seven Falls, but the most exhilarating one is the Soaring Adventure. This wilderness experience will take you through an intrepid route consisting of ten zip lines, various suspension bridges, and spectacular hikes giving you another chance to see Colorado Springs from an aerial perspective.
Two other sites to include on your Colorado Springs to-do list are the Garden of the Gods and the Cave of the Winds. As you can see, you won’t fall short of things to do in this city, being an added bonus after attending the vibrant hot air balloon festival.
Sept 6 – 8: Snowmass Balloon Festival in Snowmass Village
We weren’t kidding when we said Colorado has a handful of hot air balloon festivals to choose from this summer. Onto our fourth balloon-filled celebration, we’re headed to Snowmass Balloon Festival in Snowmass Village, a ski town just 20 minutes west of Aspen. What makes this event so unique is that over the course of three days, roughly 30 pilots are set to compete in different races and challenges while flying their inflated aircrafts, as festival attendees watch from below.
Snowmass Village will also be hosting Cidermass — a hard cider tasting event that’s back for its second run — and Septemberfest on Saturday, September 7th. Kid-friendly activities in the area include wandering through The Lost Forest, riding the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, and horseback riding. If your furry friends are tagging along too, you can take both your pets and your kids on a scenic summer lift ride or enjoy a night camping in Colorado’s great outdoors.
From Snowmass, you should definitely spend a day visiting the breathtakingly beautiful Maroon Bells. The best way to get there from Snowmass Village is through the village shuttle and bus service. What’s so great about Maroon Bells is that the most sought out mountain views are easily accessible to anyone. One hiking trail that’s safe for children and recommended for all skill levels is the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail. As you hike towards the lake, you’ll see exactly why the Maroon Bells mountains are one of the most photographed ridges in the country.
Sept 20 – 22: Colorfest in Pagosa Springs
The final balloon festival closing out the summer is Colorfest located in the hidden gem of Pagosa Springs. This festival is the only one among the five that requires an entry ticket, but for $70 you’ll have full access to the Pagosa Wine & Food Festival on September 20th, the Bands & Brews Festival on September 21st, and the balloon ascension held at 8:00am on both days.
While you’re on holiday, treat yourself to a relaxing day at one of the town’s many hot springs. Most people are drawn to The Spring Resort & Spa to see the “Great Pagosah Spring,” breaking records as the world’s most massive hot spring with a depth of over 1,000 feet. The pool’s exact depth is unknown to anyone, as no plumb lines or measuring devices have ever actually hit the bottom. With temperatures surpassing 140 degrees, visitors are not allowed to dip into this worldwide phenomenon, but as the Mother Spring, it does supply mineral water into the spa’s many swimmable soaking pools.
If you’d rather soak in hot springs on a rooftop, you can cross the San Juan River and spend an afternoon at Overlook Springs. Catch sunset overlooking the city as you unwind in one of their scenic rooftop tubs, or stay as late as 10:00 PM on weekdays, and 11:00 PM on weekends to gaze at the stars.
Last on your itinerary, head west to the Chimney Rock National Monument, a celestial observatory built by the Ancestral Puebloans over a thousand years ago. The monument is only open to the public between May to September, so this would be your last chance to witness this astronomical masterpiece for the rest of the year. Check it out if you get the chance and experience the powerful energy in an archeological wonder that some say was ahead of its time. Be sure to reserve tickets to Chimney Rock directly on the Recreation.gov website before your trip.