Tiny but historic Empire lies at the foot of Berthoud Pass, between I-70 and Winter Park. With a coffeehouse, Redman Hall (featuring the works of local artists), an antique and stained glass store, record shop and a couple of diners blending some great homemade malts, Empire is a favorite stop for snowriders on the way to or home from Berthoud Pass and Winter Park Ski Resort.

Empire offers terrain for novice and experienced outdoor enthusiasts alike. Gray's and Torrey's Peaks are two of Colorado's friendlier 14,000-foot mountains, and the slightly more challenging Mt. Bierdstadt is also close. For experienced skiers, plenty of backcountry steep awaits at Berthoud Pass, just to the north, while the more conventional Loveland Ski Area is just 20 minutes away.

For lodging, check into the Peck House, Colorado's oldest operating hotel and one-time host to notables such as P.T. Barnum and President Ulysses S. Grant. A stage stop in 1862, today the hotel offers 11 guest rooms outfitted in period furniture. The Peck House is for those who want to get away from it all — there are no phones or televisions in the guest rooms.

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