Tips For Visiting A Small Mountain Town

Know before you go!

Colorado Flag on a log pole

When it comes to planning an unforgettable trip to Colorado or considering settling down in the breathtaking mountains, it's crucial to manage your expectations for a successful experience. While the heart of Colorado's mountain region is bound to captivate you with its beauty, there's more to it than meets the eye. Beyond the stunning peaks, wildflowers, and abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, there are a series of challenges, minor annoyances, and complaints that can accompany life in a Colorado mountain town.

Limited Parking

Parking in Colorado's mountain towns can be a real headache. Due to geographical constraints and limited road infrastructure, parking spots are often scarce. The popularity of these towns among tourists exacerbates the issue. Many towns have made efforts to improve parking availability, but the challenge persists, especially during peak times. Be prepared to search for parking, and keep in mind that it might not always be free. Be mindful of the area and don't just park wherever your vehicle will fit.  "Stay The Trail" and "Leave No Trace" applies to parking as well as activities on the trail.

Higher Prices

Tourist destinations often come with higher prices, and Colorado's mountain towns are no exception. The difficulty of transporting goods to these areas contributes to the increased costs. Moreover, limited storefront space can result in higher rents, which are then passed on to consumers. Embrace the trade-off for the fantastic views and experiences. And please don't complain to the locals about the prices, they are just trying to make a living to be able to stay in this beautiful place!

Gas prices will be higher in small and touristy towns

Potential Travel Issues

Mountain travel can be unpredictable due to factors like snow, mudslides, and road closures. Plan for potential delays and rely on local advice for road conditions. Avoid blindly following GPS directions, as some roads may not be suitable for all vehicles. Weather in the mountains can also be unpredictable. Prepare for snowfall, fluctuating temperatures, and even summer monsoon rains. Always check the weather forecast before embarking on any adventure and pack accordingly. This is Colorado and the weather can change very quickly.  Colorado is known for our snow and it can get quite cold and snow at any time of the year.

Snow covered country road

Fewer Amenities

Transporting products to mountain towns can be a logistical challenge, leading to a lack of amenities. While basic necessities are covered, don't expect a wide range of options. Big-box retailers might not be readily available, requiring you to plan ahead or bring specific items with you. Bring a small first aid kit and any medications you may need. Sunscreen, a hat, a long sleeve shirt and pants are a must at the higher altitudes to protect from bugs, branches and of course the sun!

Lots of Tourists

The allure of Colorado's mountain towns attracts a significant number of tourists. With tourism comes crowding, affecting restaurant reservations, sidewalks, and more. To mitigate the impact, plan your activities ahead of time and be patient when encountering crowds.  When you see other tourists on the trail be polite! If you catch up to a group traveling slower than you either take a break and let them get further ahead or politley ask to pass! Maybe strike up a conversation and make some new friends!

Crowded Trails

The popularity of these towns extends to outdoor recreational opportunities, resulting in crowded trails and attractions. Arrive at trailheads early to secure parking and consider having backup plans in case your preferred trail is full. Avoid creating unauthorized spots, as it could have serious consequences. Stay on the trail and "Pack it in, Pack it out."  Quite often there are no trash cans at trailheads or along trails.

Wildfire Risk

Colorado's mountain towns are always at risk of wildfires. Be aware of the wildfire threat and follow safety protocols. This might involve staying indoors during smoky days or being prepared for possible evacuations. You will also need to check the local fire protection districts for any burn bans that may preclude you from having a campfire. Even when there is no burn ban you will still need to make sure your campfire is fully out which may require you to bring extra water and/or a shovel.

Smokey Bear - Only you can prevent forest fires

Limited Housing and Lodging

Limited space and development in mountain towns often lead to a shortage of housing and lodging options. Book accommodations in advance if you're visiting, and understand that you will pay more for a hotel or VRBO type rental than in the city. There will also be less accomodations within "walking distance" of the towns ammenities.

The Historic Hand Hotel in Fairplay, Colorado

Close-Knit Community Dynamics

Mountain town communities are small and tightly knit, which has both pros and cons. Expect to see familiar faces often, but also be aware of the potential for rumors, gossip, and interpersonal conflicts. Please don't go up driveways or just walk around off the roads if you are not in national forest. Be aware of your location so you don't inadvertenly trespass onto private property. 

Old wooden wagon

Altitude Challenges

Higher elevations in Colorado's mountain towns can lead to altitude sickness, particularly for newcomers and the elderly. Allow yourself time to acclimate to the reduced oxygen levels and take precautions to avoid potential health issues. Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.  At the higher altitudes you will sunburn much faster also so don't forget plenty of sunscreen!

In summary, Colorado's mountain towns offer an enchanting experience but also come with a set of challenges that can impact your visit or stay. By understanding and preparing for these realities, you can make the most of your time in these beautiful locations. Remember that every challenge presents an opportunity to adapt and appreciate the unique charm of mountain living. My family and I have lived here in Indian Mountain since 1997 and I can't imagine ever having to leave.

Kevin Copeland- Broker/Owner Jefferson Real EstateKevin Copeland

Email: [email protected]

Cell Phone: 970.368.0025

Office Phone: 719.838.7001


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