Steamboat Springs When the snowfall in the Yampa Valley begins to lighten and more inches melt than fall in a week, it means the inevitable mud season is knocking on the door.
Whether this foreshadowing is a celebration of the coming summer or sparks lament about the winter letting go of its grip on the valley, one thing is for certain: It's time to think about planning a vacation for the off-season. For many locals, that means a road and camping trip.
Here are three good spots that are reasonable drives from the valley that should be looked into for those who don't have any plans for the mud season.
Browns Park/Green River
Browns Park, in the northwest corner of the state, is a short drive from Routt County and is renowned for its fly fishing in the spring.
"There's some very good things to do down there," local angler Bill Chase said.
In the spring is the baetis hatch, which is a small mayfly and proves to be native trout's staple diet during this time of the year.
"Anglers come from all around to catch fish during the baetis hatch," Chase said.
From exploring canyons carved by the Green River to remote trails for mountain biking, Browns Park has a lot to offer. One of its most charming feature, Chase said, is that it is isolated and doesn't usually get crowded. Maybell, Colo., and Dutch John, Utah, are the closest communities and provide only minimal services. Both are 50 miles away, according to the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the land.
That isolation made it the perfect place for bandits and outlaws to hide out in the old days, which gives Browns Park a unique historical aspect that is worth looking into while there.
The cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park, dating back 600 to 1,400 years, are simply cool. The fact that wildfires burned 20,000 of acres of wooded land there last year will make a trip to Mesa Verde this year a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
In the southwest corner of Colorado, Mesa Verde is a small jaunt, but the area you cover to get there will be a scenic tour of the Western Slope of Colorado.
Along with accessible cave dwellings from the Ancestral Puepleoms that sit in spectacular valleys, numerous trails wind through the 52,123 acre park, which is adorned with deep valleys and thick forests.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Sick of the crowds at Moab, Utah? This destination is just a little farther than Moab but usually not as many crowds.
The site is 1.9 million acres of Utah public lands managed by the BLM and represents a unique combination of archaeological, historical, paleontological, geological and biological resources, according to the BLM.
The mountain biking and hiking is world class, too.
The national monument is split up into three zones: the Grand Staircase, which is a series of geological steps that spans five different life zones from Sonoran Desert to coniferous forests; the Canyons of the Escalante, which is a labyrinth of carved canyons by the Escalante River that spans 1,000-miles of interconnected canyons; and the Kaiparowits Plateau, which is a vast block of mesas and deep canyons that tower above the surrounding canyon lands. The isolated area is full of wildlife and rare plants.