This state is primed for outdoor fun, but what towns truly embody the spirit of work hard, play hard, party hard that makes Colorado adventure central? We put that question to our readers and the online battle was on to determine your favorite hot spots. Meet the winners…

Colorado just seems to keep getting better for those who like to go outside and play. Over the past year we created a new Department of Outdoor Recreation that is seeking not just to bring more adventure brands and services into the state, but also to build sustainable communities based on that ethos. The result is that Colorado towns keep finding new ways to be better, to offer more to their residents, and to create economies based on enjoying the beauty around them, rather than exploiting it for short-term gain. Each year, we run an online reader poll to determine which towns in the state do this the best. And here they are, the top adventure towns in the state of Colorado:

Large Town | Fruita

Fruita, which won this category last year, too, is no secret: Nearly 600,000 people visit Colorado National Monument each year and the epic built-for-and-by-mountain-bikers singletrack draws the fat-tire faithful here all year long. As it has drawn more and more funhogs, the once sleepy town keeps evolving.

Where to Find Adventure:

Start by heading to one of the town’s guide operations or local shops. Rim Rock Adventures , located right on the Colorado River, offers up guides and rentals for rafting, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Looking to spin your wheels? Colorado Backcountry Biker provides repairs and local beta, and runs unique hut-to-hut trips that provide scenic cross-country rides that end up in a cozy cabin. Over the Edge Sports , which has been an institution here for over two decades is a hub for everything mountain bike and hosts the Fruita Fat Tire Festival  and 18 Hours of Fruita  each year. Want more? Hike to Rattlesnake Arches via Pollock Bench. Or head to the Dinosaur Journey Museum where you can even get out on active dinosaur digs in the summer.

Where to Kick Back:

It’s hard not to end up headed for New-freaking-Jersey-style pizza at the Hot Tomato Cafe (hottomatocafe.com), run by cyclists Jen Zeuner and Anne Keller. Thirsty? Kannah Creek Brewery West (kannahcreekbrewingco.com/kannah-west) just opened in Fruita.

Act Like a Local:

Jen and Anne from the above mentioned Hot Tomato opened their second business Bestslope Coffee (bestslopecoffeeco.com). It’s part of a whole new community of businesses they plan to open with the purchase of more land.

Don’t Miss:

A lot will be new in Fruita in the coming year. Last month, work began on 6.5 miles of new singletrack in the Kokopelli Trail system, and a big, new trail will extend the Edge Loop Trail and connect to the east end of the Sarlacc Trail. A 4.5-mile paved trail with adjacent singletrack will also connect the town of Fruita to the Kokopelli Trailhead.

Runner Up | Durango

Durango has it all: It’s surrounded by the San Juans’ fourteeners, wilderness and singletrack. It’s blessed with the whitewater of the Animas running through town. Powder turns at Purgatory and Silverton are just up the road. Add in craft-beer and you have a classic Colorado community.

Medium Town | Buena Vista

Buena Vista is hot. The town has always been a mecca for paddlers, with CKS Paddlefest and its prime location on the banks of the Arkansas River drawing core and curious boaters alike. But things have been moving fast recently here with the revamped South Main area bringing a rush of new energy to the town. Credit that surge to local paddler turned sustainable development sensei Jed Selby, who won a Wright Award (somethingindependent.com) last month for having the vision to develop the free whitewater park, trails, homes, shops and eats by the river, as well as launch the new Vertex festival , which brought headliners like Trey Anastasio and Alabama Shakes to town over the summer. But don’t miss the core of BV, either. Main Street is always hopping, and there’s plenty of adventure with the river on one side and the Collegiate Peaks on the other.screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-11-27-02-amWhere to Find Adventure:

A whopping 83 percent of the land surrounding Buena Vista is public, so there’s no shortage of places to play. The new Browns Canyon National Monument  is a big draw for boaters. In town, Buena Vista has built new bike trails, a disc golf course, a new skateboard park, a boulder climbing park and the town is constantly tweaking the river kayak holes on the east edge of town.

Where to Kick Back:

Saunter into Deerhammer Distillery and order a High Roller (a specialty cocktail made with white whiskey, pineapple juice, coconut and almond). You’ll find some of the best food in town on East Main at Simple Eatery (spoon-it-up.com)—don’t miss the fresh-baked Bavarian pretzel bread. There’s no better place for relaxation than Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort. Soak in the pools or dip in the natural springs right in the waters of Chalk Creek. The roomy, clean cabins (soaking and spa privileges included) here make for the perfect family/friends retreat.

Act Like a Local:

If you are looking for fun at night, hit The Lariat at 206 E Main (thelariatbv.com), where you’ll find live music. Brown Dog Coffee roasts their own coffee. And, on a summer night, head to Comanche Drive In Theater. It’s one of just a precious few remaining drive-ins left in the state. If you really want to sound like a local, pronounce the town name correctly. It’s not from Spanish, but from settler Alsina Dearheimer who suggested the name for the town and said it should be pronounced ‘bew,’ as in beautiful.

Don’t Miss:

You can still prospect here: Some of the best aquamarine specimens in the U.S. come from the heights of nearby 14,275-foot Mount Antero . Just make sure you are not claim jumping.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-11-30-13-am

Runner Up | Silverthorne

Don’t think it’s all fast food and outlet stores. Well, they are here, but Silverthorne is a sneaky place to play, too. Show up early and you can catch trout right in front of the outlets, and, when spring hits, there are few better, and easier-accessed corn skis in the state than 12,777-foot Buffalo Peak.

Small Town | Lyons

The floods of 2013 absolutely devastated Lyons, but the town has experienced an amazing rebound thanks to the resilience of the locals who have doubled down on its ideal location for outdoor adventure.

Situated where the forks of the St. Vrain come rushing out of the Front Range, the town is also the home of festival heavy-hitter Planet Bluegrass, of Telluride Bluegrass fame, which produces Rockygrass and Folks Fest on its Lyons grounds every summer and where the main stage miraculously survived the 2013 disaster. Lyons is a magnet for small, funky, independent business, too, and it’s amazing that a town of just 1,800 residents can house so many spots that complement outdoor adventure.

edward-bruder-main-st-9

photo by EDWARD BRUDER

Where to Find Adventure:

On September 9, 2016, (almost three years to the day after the flood), LaVern M. Johnson Park (previously Meadow Park) opened back up. The grounds are the home of the reconstructed Lyons Whitewater Park , which features eight whitewater structures on a quarter-mile stretch of the North St. Vrain River. It’s a state-of-the-art location for kayaking, SUP, tubing and fishing. Builders S2O Design also made it a model for increased flood resiliency and sustainable aquatic habitat.

Where to Kick Back:

There’s good reason why hordes of Harleys, tourists and fun-seekers descend on Lyons. The gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park is the original home of the brewery that began the craft-beer-in-a-can phenomenon, Oskar Blues , where the Dale’s Pale Ale flows like water—what’s more the BBQ-and-beer joint is also the force behind Reeb Cycles . The legendary brewery features live music as well as special small and impromptu shows during Planet Bluegrass festivals. But there are plenty of other fine places to chow down here, too: Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ also serves up finger-lickin’-good fare, and Lyons Dairy Bar  is a must-stop for burgers, fries and ice cream. Slinging coffee and food, The Stone Cup is certainly the most popular place in town, especially when Planet Bluegrass festivals are in full swing. In the mood for tacos? Head to the new Ax & Oar (axandoarlyons.com). And you’ll want to try the gin with juniper berries picked right in Lyons at Spirit Hound Distillers (spirithounds.com).

Act Like a Local:

The whitewater park also features a summer plaza area with a concession stand that doubles as a seasonal ice rink. The rink is designed for standard three-on-three hockey, with an outside lane around the perimeter open for free skating. Picnickers can stay warm year-round next to three gas fire pits or a historic wood-burning fireplace within the ground of the new park.

arielle-hodgson-black-bear-hole-1

photo by ARIELLE HODGSON

Don’t Miss:

For a town so small, Lyons is a surprisingly big haven of specialty outdoor retail shops. You can find handmade bamboo fly-fishing rods and reels at South Creek Ltd. At Redstone Cyclery, there’s bikes, parts, repairs and local intelligence on mountain, road and ’cross rides on the surrounding singletrack, pavement, jeep roads and hard-to-find routes. Red Fox Outdoor Equipment  sells climbing gear, technical apparel and other gear goodies. Then there’s Carve Industries , designers of surfboards, stand-up paddleboards, paddles and longboards made out of renewable wood.

Runner Up | Meeker

Where’s Meeker? That question is a big part of the draw to this real Colorado town near the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway. You won’t find much attitude here; you will find plenty of play spots, however, with the White River and boundless wilderness surrounding town.

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