I love driving on long-distance road trips. I always have. In fact, my husband jokingly calls me “trucker blood” because of it. There’s something freeing about listening to hours of music and driving through the long stretches of road that connects us to new adventures. It’s the best!
I also love Steamboat. It’s my home away from home. If I want to go on adventures farther away from my usual stomping grounds, this is the town I visit the most. The drive there isn’t too terribly long, clocking in at 4 hours one way. I’ve been crazy enough to drive out there, go on a hike, and drive back into Fort Collins the same day. While my Trucker Blood tendencies propel me to do that, most people generally want to stick around and stay in Steamboat for a few days.
If you’ve been wondering where to stay in Steamboat, then here’s a list of suggestions on where to pitch a tent or relax in luxury! I’ve experienced each option myself – from sleeping in my car in the national forest to swanking it up in ski chalets. So this list is the real deal.
Camping in Routt National Forest
Steamboat is surrounded by the gorgeous Routt National Forest. It’s a forest with a lot of diversity. You can find sprawling dry grassy meadows, and my favorite – the sub alpine. We have generally stayed on the north section that borders Wyoming, right around Whiskey Creek in the Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears District.
I’ve explored the whole area around here as it has been our elk hunting GMU for a few years. It is stunning in the fall when the aspen leaves change. It’s full of access to some interesting trails that lead you deep into the backcountry. Not to mention the wildlife you might see. I’ve seen deer, elk, porcupine, and all sorts of critters running around.
I’ve camped in my tent many times, and gone so far as to sleep in my car when the first frost rolled in. Either way, it was free!
Seedhouse is another really beautiful area in the north half of the forest, and the Zirkles get you higher into the sub alpine. I haven’t camped on Rabbit Ears yet, but that’s high on the to-do list! It’s some of my favorite scenery in the area. There’s still so much forest for me to explore around here.
Dispersed camping is the way to go in the National Forest (although there are campgrounds). Make sure you have the MVU map to find your spot!
Enjoy Shelter in Colorado State Park Yurts and Cabins
If you’re not a fan of roughing it, yurts and cabins are a step up in comfort. We’ve stayed in the yurts at Pearl Lake State Park a few times during elk hunts and camping trips. The views of the lake are breathtaking, no matter the season, and especially in Yurt #6! They are both heated with bunk beds and include a few pieces of furniture which makes it possible to stay comfortable in every season with plenty of room for friends and family.
Winter trips are particularly fun here. You have to snowshoe or cross-country ski in, hauling your gear on a sled, but it’s worth it. The silence that surrounds the lake after a snowfall is simply soothing for the soul.
Pearl Lake has tent pads for camping too, along with access to some lovely trails and beautiful water.
Steamboat Lake just down the road has cabins that you can rent. Like the yurts, they are heated and have bunk beds and furniture, but the cabins also include a mini fridge and coffee maker.
There’s a coin operated shower that’s fairly comfortable too. It has heat lamps and allows one person to shower at a time (it’s not set up like a gym locker room). I’d say it’s still rustic, even with access to running hot water and showers, though.
Find Comfort in Condos and Townhomes
OK, so you hate camping. You need an actual shower, a place with running hot water, and hardwood floors. No sweat. I’ve stayed in condos and townhomes too! Legacy Vacation Resort was the perfect place for my large group of friends on a ladies trip. With full a full kitchen we could cook our own meals and everything was reasonably priced for a resort town.
On another visit, I stayed in a townhouse that a friend of a friend owned/shared (so no link to that one), but it was during mud season when the rates for just about everything in Steamboat were a bargain. Mud season, the months after ski season closes and before hiking season starts, is the perfect opportunity to get away for less and experience downtown Steamboat as a city instead of just an outdoor experience.
This is also a great time to check out other similar options like Airbnb.
Cowboy It Up at Ranches
One of the reasons I love Steamboat so much is that it’s a cowboy ski town. You have champagne powder in the winter for a range of winter fun, and more dude ranches than I can count that have some of the most amazing adventure opportunities in the summer. It’s a truly unique balance that really appeals to me. You can be as posh or as rustic as you want when you’re there!
The ranches that I’ve visited have been on the higher-end of the experience scale, each one with 5-star dining and better accommodations than you’ll find at hotels.
The Home Ranch was incredible because they offer cozy luxury cabins that have wood burning fireplaces by soft king-sized beds and secluded personal hot tubs on the deck. If you want to go on a romantic Steamboat getaway, THIS IS IT. Sitting in the hot tub at night with the snow gently falling was pure mountain magic.
The Home Ranch organizes activities like snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter, and horseback riding in the summer. They also include 5-star meals created with local ingredients by a gourmet chef. Here’s their review that I wrote on Feasting Fort Collins. At a ranch like this, you’re definitely not starving or suffering in any way. You are living it up.
Vista Verde Ranch is even more luxurious. I haven’t stayed here myself besides having breakfast and hiking trails on the property, but their activity schedule fills your week with exceptional western traditions, like running cattle.
Both ranches are family-friendly vacation experiences, too.
Live in Luxury at Ski Chalets
So, you’re a high roller, huh? Or maybe you won the lottery. Or maybe you just have a really great paying career that allows you to experience the finer things in life. Lucky you! Either way, Moving Mountains is about as high class as you can get in Steamboat when it comes to luxury accommodations. They have a variety of exclusive properties that include private homes, condos and townhomes, penthouses, and catered chalets in extravagant lodges.
I was exceptionally lucky enough to stay in their Falconhead Lodge this fall. This may have been the most opulent lodging I’ve ever experienced. Accommodations like this are generally used for corporate retreats or multi-family vacations (which makes it more affordable and practical). In fact, the minute I returned home from that trip, I started calculating how many friends I could get together to go back for a group getaway.
Moving Mountains makes it feel like you’re staying in your own private hotel. They have catered services available so you don’t have to spend your vacation cooking and cleaning. I wrote a piece on Feasting Fort Collins about the meals we ate at the lodge. They were absolutely incredible.
Moving Mountains also includes concierge services during your stay. They’ll arrange lift tickets, equipment rentals, provide private on-call shuttles, and even help you with travel planning. They can take care of every aspect of your Steamboat vacation so that all you have to do is show up and relax.
This is a bucket list Steamboat experience, and perfect for the time that you splurge on a Treat Yo Self trip.
No matter your budget or your style, there are so many ways for you to enjoy an extended stay in Steamboat Springs and soak up a true Rocky Mountain vacation destination!