PhotoSummer vacations to the beach can be cool and relaxing. But after that, higher altitude destinations are your best bet to beat the summer heat.

Colorado offers cool temperatures at higher elevations, along with spectacular scenery and plenty of attractions. It's especially compelling if you love the great outdoors.

Once you arrive, you don't have to travel far to enjoy world class whitewater rafting. Some of the best rapids are in the Royal Gorge region, less than an hour's drive from Colorado Springs and Pueblo. The Arkansas River slices through towering cliffs that make up Fremont Peak, with 10 miles of white knuckle rapids.

Over the summer months you can also access the Water 2 Wine package, with a helicopter flight over Royal Gorge before getting in the raft. After completing the run down river, your party will head for the winery at Holy Cross Abbey for a private tasting.

Urban sophistication

Denver offers travelers urban sophistication mixed in with outdoor adventure. It has great cultural attractions, including a diverse and thriving food scene. The city has some world class restaurants and fabulous craft breweries.

Denver is known as the "mile high city" since it is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level. It lies in the South Platte River Valley, where the openness of the Great Plains to the east meets the spectacular Rocky Mountain views to the west.

The locals say the best way to see Denver is to explore its diverse and wide-ranging neighborhoods. The River North Art District features art galleries, craft breweries, restaurants, and street art. Cherry Creek, five minutes from the central business district, is known for its shopping. The Highlands neighborhood is hipster paradise, with exotic restaurants, lush gardens, and Victorian homes.

Snowmass is famous for its ski slopes in the winter, but it's pretty spectacular in the summer as well. Among the towering peaks, it features more than 80 miles of hiking and biking trails, clear rivers for fishing and rafting, and stunning views. The village's attractions in the summer range from music festivals to a rodeo.

E-biking

This summer Steamboat Springs is the place to go to enjoy a relatively new sport -- e-biking. The city was already known as a challenging biking center, with lots of mountain, road, downhill and family-friendly bike offerings.

E-bikes open the sport up to riders who haven't been conditioning for months. An electric motor gives the biker an assist, speeding along at up to 20 miles per hour and making it easier to climb the hills.

Vendors provide guided e-bike tours throughout Steamboat Springs or on a trip to Strawberry Hot Springs. E-bikes can also be rented for the day or for the stay.

Colorado also offers some of the best fly fishing in the country. Heli Fly-Fishing, based in Vail, flies anglers to a perfect spot on one of the company's private ranches. The package includes all the necessary gears and licenses, as well as snacks and drinks for the day.

You can find a complete list of the summer's newest offerings here.

Getting there

Colorado is accessible by I-70 from the east and west and I-25 from the north and south. Both highways intersect in Denver.

Amtrak's California Zephyr serves both Denver and Colorado Springs. In Denver, Union Station is downtown, within easy walking distance of Coors Field and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The state is primarily served by air by Denver International Airport. The sprawling facility is the largest airport in the U.S. in terms of land mass. It is served by every domestic airline and several foreign carriers, including British Airways, Icelandair, and Lufthansa.


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