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Your Guide to Visiting Colorado with the Kids
Family Travel in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Steamboat Springs, Colorado, was a favorite among travelers for its hot springs long before it ever developed a reputation for skiing.

Families traveling in Colorado will find great activities for kids in Steamboat Springs, whether or not they ski.

Photo: Howelsen Hill, in the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is the oldest ski area in Colorado. The ski jumps behind the lodge have been a training ground for many an Olympian.

Photo: A snow boarder and his girl cross the street in downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The runs of the Steamboat Ski Area catch the evening light in the background.

Photo: A hot-air balloon floats above a snowy park in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Condominiums of the Mountain Village section of town and the Steamboat Ski Mountain (Mount Werner) rise in the background.

As far as Colorado vacation towns go, Steamboat Springs feels kind of mixed up. While other big ski towns have historical roots in mining or snow recreation, Steamboat started as a cow town, and in a lot of ways, it still feels like one. On the other hand, folks have been skiing here just about as long as they have been wrangling cattle. Plus, the ski industry brings to Steamboat a curious mix of fancy digs and epicurean eateries to mingle with its unpretentious feel.  

Steamboat Springs lies in a high mountain valley in northern Colorado, about 35 miles south of the Wyoming border. Tucked beneath high mountains, it sits just west of the Continental Divide. The town looks out toward the remote, sage-covered hills that stretch into Utah.

It is about a 3½-hour drive from Denver to Steamboat Springs in good weather.

If it weren’t for the giant ski area that looms over the place, this town would feel like just about any other out-of-the-way ranching town in Colorado. It’s streets are wide (said to be laid out to accommodate cattle drives through town), and its older stores are kind of un-glamorous.

US Highway 40 runs right through town, and here and there you can see vintage 1960s signs advertising a hotel or gas station. These reminders of an earlier Colorado crowd together with chi-chi bistros and dress boutiques named for Hindu goddesses.

Somehow, it all works. And that's probably because even though skiing (which can be a fairly elite activity) seems to contrast with the down-to-earth, working man's culture of ranching, both are authentic to Steamboat Springs. 

Its a mixed marriage, but the lovelight for both personalities still shines bright in the Yampa River Valley. 


Two Towns in One

Steamboat Springs has two distinct sections.

The downtown area is the historic center of the town, and it lies along the Yampa River. Its streets generally run in a grid pattern, and many of the buildings hang on to their heritage. You’ll find the library, skating rink, and rodeo grounds downtown.

In the newer Mountain Village neighborhood, contemporary slope-side architecture and big hotel and condominium buildings cluster along nearly every curve of every winding mountain road.

South and a little east of downtown, the Mountain Village bunches up around the base of the ski mountain. Mainly built after 1970, the Mountain Village serves skiers vacationing at Steamboat Ski Area.


Steamboat Springs has a year round population of almost 6,900 people, and sits near the base of one of Colorado’s largest ski areas. Winter vacationers swell the population considerably during the ski season.

The Lay of the Land:

The town sits with its back to the North Park Range of the Rocky Mountains. The Yampa River, which is born in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area south of town, runs through downtown Steamboat Springs. 

Steamboat’s broad valley is spattered with over 100 warm and hot springs that occur on both sides of the river. One of them was reported to huff and chug like a steamboat’s engine, giving Steamboat Springs its name. It was silenced when explosives used to build a nearby railroad bed damaged the spring’s source.

Other hot springs have been turned into commercial soaking or swimming pools. Also, the town has developed a self-guided walking tour of many of the thermal water features.

Elevation and Climate:

With an elevation of nearly 6700 feet above sea level, the climate in Steamboat Springs is generally dry and cool in the summer and dry and cold in the winter. The average high in July is 82 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average low in January is 1.

With more or less 25 inches of precipitation per year, Steamboat Springs enjoys a lush (for Colorado) coniferous forest. And riverside meadows compliment the forests in the town’s natural environment. Most of the area’s moisture comes in winter, in the form of heavy snowfall.

Related Links:

A Quick History of Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Best Activities for Families in Steamboat Springs

Colorado Towns and Cities
Colorado Destinations

Skiing with the Family in Colorado
Round-up of Colorado Ski Areas
Hiking with Kids
Camping in Colorado