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Distill My Heart. The Rise of Colorado’s Artisanal Craft Distilleries. It is no surprise that as one of the top craft beer producing states in the nation, many award-winning craft distilleries have been popping up across Colorado. In the last five years, Colorado’s craft distillery scene has exploded from four to 45. With the growth of craft spirits producers comes a flourishing scene of tasting rooms, distillery tours and craft cocktail joints. What started with Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey has grown to include small batch distillers, like Loveland’s Dancing Pines Distillery, which is run by a father and son team and creates unique concoctions like Chai and Espresso Liqueurs. Denver’s Leopold Bros. is known for its award-winning gin, which has been called the best American gin by The Wall Street Journal. Leopold Bros. will also debut a new distillery room this spring that will include a 1,900-square-foot tasting room, a traditional dunnage-style barrelhouse and will be the only distillery in Colorado to have a floor malting facility and traditional malting kiln. What many don’t realize is that the secret to making these flavorful spirits is local ingredients from Colorado farms. Peach Street Distillers’ spirits are crafted using local Colorado produce picked within 40 miles of the distillery, and Deerhammer Distilling Company sources their grain from the nearby San Luis Valley, where their Buena Vista Brandy is made in partnership from grapes grown on Colorado’s Western Slope and their barrel aged spiced apple liqueur is made from Cedaredge apples.

Hut-cations in Colorado’s Backcountry.  Colorado is home to a number of huts and hut systems including the 10th Mountain Division Hut system that includes huts named after members of the Army’s famed 10th Mountain Division that trained in the area. Southwest Colorado is home to the San Juan Hut System, a series of backcountry huts that lead hikers and bikers through spectacular Southwestern terrain and allow for lightweight travel. The San Juan Hut system – the only destination hut-to-hut based system in the U.S. – boasts two 215-mile mountain bike routes through Colorado and enables the DIY adventurer a premium minimalist experience. Colorado is also home to individual huts not associated with a hut system, including the Opus Hut, a high alpine backcountry lodge nestled on the southern face of 13,666-foot Lookout Peak in the Northern San Juan Mountains, which operates as a B&B in the summer – complete with a hut butler. There is also the two-bedroom Point Breeze Cabin, a new hut located almost on top of the Continental Divide at 10,500 feet in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado. 

Grain to Glass. Colorado is home to more than 200 craft breweries, many of which are creatively incorporating the authentic flavors of Colorado products into their brews. Odell Brewing Company’s Amuste Imperial Porter utilizes Tempranillo grapes from Colorado’s Western Slope; Tree Shaker Imperial IPA includes 3,000 pounds of Colorado peaches from Big B's/Delicious Orchards in Paonia; FRIEK includes cherries and raspberries from Colorado’s Western Slope and Front Range; and Mountain Standard Double Black IPA features hops hand-picked by Odell’s brewers from farms along Colorado’s Western Slope. Oskar Blues Brewery has their own Hops & Heifers Farm that houses a two-acre hop field in addition to growing their own vegetables, Black Angus Cattle and Berkshire Pigs to supply their restaurants. Ska Brewing Company’s signature True Blonde and True Blonde Dubbel include local honey from Durango’s own Honeyville. In 2012, Twisted Pine Brewing Company started the Farm to Foam series, in which they only use ingredients sourced in Colorado, such as Roots Revival, which introduced carrots grown just north of Boulder into an American-style Pale Ale, and the Cucumber Cream Ale that utilizes Crystal hops from Olathe and fresh English cucumbers from the nearby 2 R's Farm in Platteville.

A Window to the Past. History and Heritage in Southeast Colorado. Travelers to the canyons and plains of historic southeast Colorado can look into the state’s storied past, from trails featuring the largest known set of dinosaur tracks in North America and Native American rock art, to Bent’s Old Fort, a National Historic Site and a restored replica of a popular 1800’s trading post on the Santa Fe Trail.  The area is extremely popular with hikers, birding enthusiasts and wildlife watchers, who can explore hundreds of thousands of acres in the Pawnee and Comanche National Grasslands as well as the many ancient canyons that dot the area. Visitors come from around the world to view ancient Native American markings, such as those in Crack Cave, located in Picture Canyon, which illuminate for just 8-12 minutes on two days each year during the spring and fall equinox.

Colorado H20. Water lovers are attracted to this land locked state. Colorado’s 2,000 lakes and reservoirs and two-dozen rivers are a summer playground for whitewater rafters, fishers, kayakers and boaters. Already known as a popular destination for anglers, Colorado announced in early 2014 that it has doubled its Gold Medal stream miles by 102 miles on the Arkansas River. This new stretch of Gold Medal water elevates Colorado as a prime fly-fishing locale, as it consistently supports a minimum trout standing stock of 60 pounds per acre. Whitewater rafting and kayaking adventurers will see a surge in tumbling rapids this summer as a result of consistently high snowfall during the 2013/14 winter ski season. Rafting enthusiasts flock to the small town of Salida for world-class rafting on the Arkansas River and for its annual FIBArk whitewater rafting festival June 11-15, 2014. Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) has also made its way from the ocean to the waterways across Colorado, drawing the top river SUP-ers from around the country. The sport is quickly picked up by novices on flat water, but taken to the rivers once a few basic skills are mastered. 

One Wild Family. With the kids out of school this summer, Colorado family attractions aim to continue their education with some “wild” experiences. Stroll above the habitats filled with tiger families, packs of wolves, grizzly bears, Bolivian lions and other rescued exotic and endangered species at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, just an hour’s drive from Denver. Visit during summer evenings to witness lots of animal activity — most of the howling and roaring happens around sundown. One of Colorado’s most unusual and intriguing animal offerings is the Colorado Gators Reptile Park in the San Luis Valley town of Mosca. A Reptile Handling Class gives visitors a chance to hold turtles, tortoises, gators, snakes, lizards and other creepy crawlies in the palm of their hand. Denver is now the home of two new elephant stars, Bodhi and Groucho, who reside at the Denver Zoo at the new  $50 million Toyota Elephant Passage, the largest bull elephant habitat in the world. Built on massive islands, elephants and rhinos are separated from humans by only a few yards of water. Elephant excrement and other zoo waste powers this groundbreaking LEED-certified complex. Tucked in the foothills of Colorado Springs, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is America’s only mountain zoo and is committed to comprehensive education programs and advanced conservation efforts for its more than 800 animals.

Bikes and Brews. Colorado is home to 19 designated bicycle-friendly communities and is the No. 2 most bicycle-friendly state. Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Durango and Steamboat Springs have been ranked gold-level, and Boulder and Fort Collins have been awarded platinum status. These bike-friendly communities are also home to another Colorado staple: craft beer. Breweries are even easier to get to in these bike-friendly towns, where you’ll find quintessential Colorado craft breweries such as Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge and Denver, Eldo Brewery in Crested Butte, New Belgium Brewing and Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Avery Brewing Company and Boulder Beer in Boulder, Ska Brewing Company and Steamworks Brewing in Durango, and the new Butcherknife Brewing and Storm Peak Brewing Company in Steamboat Springs. These Colorado towns are the ultimate destinations for bike and beer lovers.

Colorado’s Cheese Culture. Colorado is a burgeoning specialty cheese destination, with many artisan and farmstead producers. The Avalanche Cheese Company creates local cheeses made with milk from their goats that are raised and grazed at their farm and dairy in Paonia. The award-winning Haystack Mountain Goat Cheese is nationally recognized as a producer of premium, handcrafted raw and pasteurized goat cheeses, made in a variety of styles. Rocking W Cheese is a family-owned farmstead artisan cheese producer, cow dairy and farm in Olathe. Jumpin Good Goat Dairy is dedicated to sustainable farming and loving treatment of their goats and includes a dairy, cheese aging caves and Country Store in Buena Vista. They also offer interactive dairy farm tours. Visit James Ranch near Durango to experience their raw cow’s milk artisan cheese making process with milk from their grass-fed Jersey cows. The Mountain Goat Lodge in Salida offers house-made goat cheese during a stay, as well cheese-making classes. This two-hour class includes goat husbandry, which prepares students for goat ownership, and a hands-on workshop to learn how to make chevre, mozzarella, feta, paneer and even Greek yogurt.

Colorado Hiking Trifecta: Take the ultimate Colorado challenge of hiking three types of terrain in three days, and tour of some of the most spectacular areas of the state. Start your hiking trek in Crested Butte, the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado.” Experience 1.2 million acres of wildflower hiking through the Gunnison National Forrest. Next, head to Southwest Colorado and take the train on the historic Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to the Needleton stop for train-accessed hiking. Most hikers prefer to make a multi-day trip out of this excursion by camping in Chicago Basin. There is hiking for all abilities in this area and for those who want the ultimate challenge, summit one of Colorado’s three area fourteeners (14,000 foot mountains). End the trip by heading to Colorado’s San Luis Valley and summit the tallest sand dunes in North America at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

A Taste of Colorado. From honey and green chiles to beer and peanut butter, look no further than your neighborhood grocery store to taste a part of Colorado. Justin’s crafts unique and inspired nut butter flavors using high quality natural and organic ingredients that are harvested and found as locally as possible.  Boulder Canyon's kettle cooked chips satisfy snackers across the country with their “less is more” philosophy. Honey Stinger offers sports enthusiasts natural athletic nutrition with organic and gluten free energy chews, gels and waffles. Celestial Seasonings delights tea drinkers not only with their natural specialty teas but also their inspirational quotes found on each tea bag. Udi’s provides those with gluten intolerance a tasty alternative with their gluten-free bakery goods.

Colorado National Park Bucket List. Experience the diversity that Colorado’s four national parks offer. Rocky Mountain National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary from September 4, 2014, through September 4, 2015. Speakers, special activities and community events are being coordinated to commemorate the Centennial. Rocky Mountain National Park offers visitors more than 300 miles of hiking trails, fishing, backcountry camping and campgrounds, scenic drives, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and a variety of ranger-led programs and instructional classes. Experience wildlife and the great outdoors by fishing in one of the deepest canyons in the Western Hemisphere at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Head to Mesa Verde National Park and experience history first-hand while viewing the largest Ancestral Puebloan dwelling in North America. Sand surf down the highest sand dunes in North America in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Music in the Mountains. Music simply sounds better in the high-altitude Rocky Mountains.​​ The naturally occurring, jaw-droppingly scenic, acoustically perfect, Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison is the king of all outdoor music venues, and it’s been captivating audiences and musicians alike for more than 100 years. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles concert at Red Rocks, when tickets didn’t even sell out at a mere $6.60 per ticket. Situated in an impossibly beautiful box canyon setting, the Fred Shellman Memorial Stage in Telluride Town Park sits at the base of the jagged, 14,000-foot peaks of southwest Colorado that rise 360 degrees around the town. This permanent stage is the ideal live music setting for annual blues, folk, and bluegrass festivals and other summertime shows. Just north of Boulder in a secluded valley in Lyons is the open-air Folks Fest Stage at Planet Bluegrass, which boasts a grassy and sprawling field that provides the perfect spot for picnickers and folks looking to relax as they take in a live show. Nestled on the Poudre River’s wooded banks, the jam bands lineup continually draws big crowds to the endearingly rustic lodgepole-pine stage at the Mishawaka. Shows like Leftover Salmon, Toad The Wet Sprocket and The Wailers keep the Colorado-cool vibe alive here.