Elevation Outdoors asked their readers to choose the places that exemplify a dedication to the outdoor lifestyle, the towns with big hearts, full lungs and a dedicated love for the precious lands that surround them. Here are the winners.
If you love to go outside and play, you put down roots in a town that makes having fun easy—but also invests in its community and cares for and protects the public lands that support it. But what towns best represent that ethic? Every year, Elevation Outdoors asks their readers to answer that question online in our Top Adventure Towns Poll: The contest pits the best towns in Colorado against each other to find out what places truly resonate with our readers. Since it doesn’t seem fair to put small towns and bigger cities in the same bracket—they broke it down into two categories: towns with a population under 7,000 and those over 7,000. In the past, they have limited the poll to the Centennial State but this year they added a new category open to towns (of all sizes) in Utah, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho and Nebraska, too.
So here they are, the three towns that were voted best for outdoor adventure in the Mountain West. Now get out and enjoy them.
Adventure town 2018, Winner in the category large towns: Glenwood Springs!
As mountain community with a population of less than 10k, we had to smile a little when we saw that we were competing in the category of ‘large towns’.
However, we are proud that we were able to bring home the big title to our almost small town with big adventure factor.
Read what Elevation Outdoors had to say about Glenwood Springs:
Glenwood Springs made a splash by winning for the first time this year—but that should not be a surprise. There are many secluded mountain towns where you think you might want to live. Glenwood is the place where you should live since it has easy access to so much—hop on the Interstate to catch a Rockies game in Denver, head down the road for crowd-less, deep skiing and snowboarding at the Aspen resort, make a quick escape to Utah’s desert canyons and slickrock. Or just soak (bad pun, we know) it all up in town with paddling and climbing adventures in Glenwood Canyon or some unpretentious laps at Sunlight Resort.
When we say Glenwood Springs, you think hot springs, right? That’s good because who doesn’t want to soak and unwind after a big day in one of the in the geothermal waters of Glenwood Hot Springs or Iron Mountain Hot Springs. As far as getting after it goes, the town’s home to two rivers and a world-class whitewater park. Glenwood Springs has countless opportunities for fishing, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and stand up paddleboarding. After a scenic tram ride up to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, thrills await, including a high alpine coaster traveling down the mountain side, a giant canyon swing launching riders 1,300 feet out over Glenwood Canyon and the Colorado River, and tours exploring the underground caverns.
To catch a truly stellar view of the sinking sun, take the ten minute tram ride up to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and grab one of the best views in the house from the park’s viewing deck. At the park, thrills await, including a high alpine coaster traveling down the mountain side, a giant canyon swing launching riders 1,300 feet out over Glenwood Canyon and the Colorado River, and tours exploring the underground caverns
What other cool towns won the title this year?
Winner in the category ‘small/medium towns’: Winter Park, Colorado
Winter Park rose to the top of the pack with readers this year after finishing as a finalist last year. Perhaps it’s the easy access that makes Winter Park so popular with our readers: It’s close to the Front Range (and you don’t have to brave the Eisenhower Tunnel to get here) but it feels like Shangri-La, safe over the other side of Berthoud Pass and surrounded by over 765,000 acres of public lands. The thousand souls who live here truly embrace the Colorado outdoor vibe—supposedly they work, many in the ski and bike industries but you are most likely to see them shredding, cycling or casting to fat trout. But maybe the town won readers over because it’s an old-school Colorado tradition. If you grew up here, it’s where you went to play. If you just moved here, it’s time you made it your favorite mountain town.
In the summer, there’s 600 miles of mountain bike trail here and the Trestle Bike Park serves downhillers. There’s cragging outside Tabernash at Hurd Creek and easy-to-access fly fishing on the Fraser River or via a short hike in on the Williams Fork. Hire a guide with Winter Park Flyfisher (fraserflyshop.com). Come winter, there’s 3,060 feet of vertical drop (1,766 at sister hill and experts’ fave Mary Jane) on the mountain, with some of the best tree skiing in the state. Want to eschew the lifts for lung power? Berthoud Pass and Jones Pass hold backcountry powder just a short drive from downtown Denver. Or book a trip with Powder Addiction Cat Skiing to smugly repeat untracked run after untracked run.
Founded by former Winter Park Resort CEO Jerry Groswold, the non-profit Grand Foundation has provided $8.6 million in grants to needy organizations across the county via transferable ski and golf passes.
The U.S. has never won an Olympic medal in biathlon. You can train to be the first U.S. skier/shooter to stand on the podium if you take a biathlon experience course at YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch, one of few places in the country that offers it.
Winner in the category ‘the rest of the West’: Moab, Utah
We think Moab is an excellent choice for the title ‘Adventure Town’ when it comes to towns outside of Colorado. Many mountain bike, ATV, climbing and other outdoor adventure fans choose to combine a trip to Glenwood Springs, Colorado with a trip to Moab, Utah. The two adventure towns are less than 3 hours apart and allow visitors to experience top notch outdoor fun in two completely different, stunning settings. Combining the two will ensure to capture the diversity the West has to offer while enjoying outstanding outdoor adventures in both towns.
Visitors from around the world come to the town of Moab to experience sunrise over the towering depths of Canyonlands National Park and then follow it up with sunset in the otherworldly red rock landscape of Arches National Park. This is multi-sport central. Mountain biking is king, of course, followed closely by climbing at Indian Creek or the Fisher Towers but there’s also world class paddling, canyoneering and even skiing here, too.
Take a bite out of an epic like the Whole Enchilada (a trail system of 25-miles of downhill mountain biking from the La Sal Mountains to the Colorado River), or try new classics like Captain Ahab. But there’s more than mountain biking here: Arches National Park boasts some of the most rewarding hike-to views in the country. If you want the perfect family hike, explore the sandstone formations and slots in the leisurely Windows in Arches.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages 24 campsites in the Moab area, and six state park, national park and national forest campgrounds. These campsites fill quickly and most don’t take reservations, so arrive early to guarantee a spot. Visit for a full list of campsites in the area.