Breckenridge: In Summer and in Fall
By Brian E. Clark
Karen Yule grew up in a village north of Dublin, Ireland, far from the Rocky Mountains. (Around 4,500 miles away, more or less.)
But when she visited the Colorado ski town of Breckenridge in 1994, she was hooked.
“And I still am,” said Yule, managing director of the Summit Huts Association. She cites the outdoor opportunities, cultural activities and surrounding beauty as reasons for settling in “Breck.” as locals call it.
“I came to ski, but the summers are a big part of the reason that I’m still here,” said Yule, who traveled to Colorado with an Irish friend after they both scored work visas through a lottery. Her acquaintance had a Scottish cousin who already lived in the town and had sung its praises.
“We knew we could get jobs for the season and we both ended up working at the base of Peak 9 in a rental shop,” explained Yule, who initially planned to stay for one season and return to her job in finance, where she worked mostly with government bonds.
Yule, her friend and two women friends instead purchased a 1984 Olds station wagon after the ski resort closed in the spring. They then headed for Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts for summer jobs. When that stint was over, she and one friend returned to Colorado via Savannah, Georgia and New Orleans for another ski season.
She was 30 then and her old life pulled her back for 18 months.
“But I’d fallen in love with Breckenridge and the Rockies,” recalled Yule, who first skied in the mountains of Bulgaria and the Alps inn her mid-20s.
“I was also obsessed with skiing and there is no skiing in Ireland,” she noted. “It was my dream to live where I could ski as much as I wanted. I wanted to come back, right or wrong.”
Nor was she disappointed when Breckenridge’s arguably short summer arrived.
“And summers are magnificent here, very precious,” she said. “There is so much to do. It is a very comfortable climate, not overbearingly hot. The first summer I spent here I was sold.
When friends visit in the warm weather, she takes them hiking to see wildflowers, climb a “Fourteener” (peaks over 14,000 feet, of which there are 53 in Colorado) or go camping. She also suggests rafting a river, camping on public lands or mountain biking.
“The recreational opportunities here are boundless,” she said.
And on the cultural side, she might take them to music concerts, to see public art, go on a historic walking tour or take part in one of the town’s many festivals.
“Like I said, Breckenridge is a wonderful place to live or visit,” she added. “This town embraces sports and culture.”
BRECKENRIDGE: SUMMER & FALL
You don’t need a car to get around Breck, which can be conveniently explored by foot, gondola, bus or bike. Visitors flying into Denver International Airport have a choice between several airport mountain shuttles to transport them to town in the summer.
Once you get boots on the ground, hop on the Breck Free Ride bus to conveniently get to different neighborhoods and access hiking trails. Glide above it all on the free BreckConnect gondola, which offers views of Cucumber Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area and the expansive five peaks of Breckenridge Ski Area. Here are some great tips on going car free in Breck.
Epic Discovery: Exploring the mountain at Breckenridge Ski Resort isn’t just a winter activity. Embark on a summer adventure with Epic Discovery, offering a combination of scenic, family-friendly and thrill-seeking outdoor activities designed to immerse guests in Breck’s High Alpine environment.
Epic Discovery offers a variety of zones and activities designed to immerse guests in nature while highlighting Breck’s rich landscapes, local history and possibilities for adventure.
Summer fun starts at Peak 8 Base Camp, accessible via the free BreckConnect Gondola in town, and offers a hub of family-friendly activities geared towards youngsters and signature summer thrills like the Gold Runner Coaster and Alpine Slides.
From there, take a scenic ride on the Colorado SuperChair to Alpine Camp and the resort’s newest summer activities. Scale multiple routes on the Gold Summit Climbing Wall, test your balance and maneuver the obstacles of the Alpineer Challenge Course, embark on a scenic hike with learn-through-play activity.
Reconnect the Whole Family: Adventurous, multi-generation vacations are back in Breckenridge. Kiddos can visit exhibits at the NEW Mountain Top Explorium Children’s Museum, designed for hands-on learning and engagement that promotes connections with a creation station, wonder lab and kidstruction zone.
Breck for Pets: Traveling with pets has become more common in the past few years, but Breckenridge has always made it easy to travel with pups.
Upon arrival at Gravity Haus, a hip slope-side hotel that caters to the modern adventurer, dogs get their photo taken, “sign” the doggie guest book, and get set up with their own dog bed, bowls and treats.
The LOGE Breckenridge, an freshly renovated outdoor-inspired motel, welcomes pets of any size, including dogs and cats, and well-behaved pets may be left unattended in rooms. RMU is a dog-friendly bar and bike shop with an expansive back patio, amazing cocktails, a food truck and live music.
The best way to end the day is happy hour on one of Breckenridge’s many dog-friendly patios, including Ollie’s Pub & Grub which has relocated to the historic dredge in downtown Breckenridge.
Dogs are a part of the culture in Breckenridge. After hiking on one of the many dog-friendly trails, stop by Broken Compass Brewery’s NEW Main Street Taproom for a locally brewed beer. Friendly, leashed dogs have always been welcome at Broken Compass’ original location on Airport Road, as stated on their ‘Drink Beer. Pet Dogs’ t-shirts.
Arts & Culture: Guests are invited to exercise their creative spirit with a variety of workshops, exhibitions and special events happening all summer long in the BreckCreate Arts District. The Breckenridge International Festival of Arts (BIFA) is a 10-day festival inspired by themes of environment and mountain culture (Aug. 12 – 21).
The 41st annual Breck Film Festival will return to screen stories that inspire the imagination (Sep. 15 – 18). Dance around town at the summer concert series at the Riverwalk Center and on the mobile AirStage in the Arts District. Relish in the sounds of the nation’s most talented young musicians throughout the National Repertory Orchestra‘s summer season.
Breck Film channels the film festival vibe year-round at The Eclipse, a recently remodeled 155-person single screen theater showing everything from independent films to big-budget blockbusters. Grab a beverage from a local brewery or winery in the lobby lounge, before settling into the intimate atmosphere with an indy film.
Dine Around the World at 9,600 Feet: Flavor-seekers will be delighted to try several new restaurants on the Breckenridge culinary scene. La Française Bistrot transports guests to Southern France, while Mimo Fancy Tapas brings the best of Spanish cuisine to Main Street.
Tin Plate Artisan Pizza offers pies to be enjoyed in one of Breckenridge’s historic buildings. Rootstalk owner-chef Matt Vawter plans to open Radicato, a NEW “mountain Italian” restaurant, this June. Wander into the Breckenridge Distillery Main Street Tasting Room to sample spirits and see the expanded space or belly up to the bar at Broken Compass Brewery’s NEW Main Street Taproom. Opening this fall, The Carlin will unveil a three-story experience with food and lodging.
Explore with Experts: Enrich the mind and soothe the soul with a small group nature hike led by Summit Nature Guides, a new non-profit eco-tour provider.
Learn about biodiversity and see wildlife on a guided tour of Cucumber Gulch with a local naturalist. For a dual dose of history and hiking, Breckenridge History offers guided adventures to mining sites and ghost towns.
Advanced hikers searching for solitude can tackle a 13er or explore the high alpine with Colorado Adventure Guides. Beginner and experienced anglers can wade into the area’s finest finishing holes on a guided fly fishing tour or learn how to read water and tie flies with a women’s intro to fly fishing clinic.
Bustling Bike Culture and Giving Back to the Trails: Breckenridge’s inclusive mountain bike culture is welcoming to all levels with Rocky Mountain Underground’s weekly group rides and skills clinics.
Colorado Adventure Guides offers guided mountain bike tours, as well as co-ed and female-specific beginner and intermediate mountain bike courses. Experience the breathtaking beauty at 10,666 feet while coasting downhill on the Vail Pass bike shuttle, or cruise the Summit County Rec Path, a paved route that sits in the shadow of the Ten Mile Range. Friends of Breckenridge Trails provide volunteer opportunities for visitors and locals to help maintain area trails.
A Welcoming to Everyone Kind of Town: Breckenridge has a history of inclusivity and efforts to be more inclusive with the formation of its Social Equity Advisory Commission.
Visitors can learn about the first Black business owner in Breckenridge at the Barney Ford House Museum, explore the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center’s outdoor adventures for those with disabilities and learn about what is rumored to be the oldest LGBTQ organization within the state of Colorado.
The National Repertory Orchestra, an intensive and unique fellowship program for young musicians, strives to develop diverse, thoughtful and socially conscious musicians. In an effort to increase accessibility and diversity, Breckenridge Creative Arts offers student scholarships and promotes culturally diverse artists through their artists-in-residence program.
Fall for Adventurous History Buffs: Miners came to Breckenridge in search of gold, and today’s visitors come in search of adventure coupled with the gold that fall provides. Much of the town’s mining history can be experienced on the town’s 60+ miles of interconnected trails perfect for fall hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. History buffs can opt for a guided historic hike with the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance.
Photos in Fall Color: Photographers from all over the world travel to the area in the autumn to capture the colorful foliage of the aspen trees set against the majestic backdrop of the towering peaks. Traditionally, BreckCreate has hosted photography workshops focusing around the great outdoors and amazing colors.
Learn to Mountain Bike Amongst the Fall Colors: The Town of Breckenridge and Summit County Open Space recently constructed the new River Park on the north-end of Breckenridge with a strider skill park perfect for children ages 5-12 to learn valuable bike skills and play.
Colorado Adventure Guides can teach visitors of all ages new mountain bike skills through a variety of mountain bike clinics for various skill levels from beginners to those looking to take their dirt riding to the next level.
Fall Color Drives: Boreas Pass was originally the nation’s highest narrow-gauge railroad, running from 1872 to 1938. During WWII the train tracks were picked up for resources.
In 1952 the pass was converted into an automobile-friendly road and today it’s known as the one of the premier fall drives with spectacular sights of the Blue River Valley and Tenmile Range intermixed with tunnels of golden aspens.
A short drive up French Gulch Road rewards with dazzling displays of fiery colors surrounding historic mines and abandoned town sites. The dirt road is graded and passable by most vehicles. In addition to profuse aspen forests, you’ll pass many old mines, including the Country Boy Mine, which is available for tours and open year-round, the Reiling Dredge and the Lincoln Townsite.
Cast in Colors: Fall is one of the best times of the year to learn (and enjoy) how to fly fish. This sport soared in popularity during the pandemic and fall welcomes a fly fishing sensory experience with golden scenery, the sounds of the river, the feel of the cast and perfect cool temperatures.
Holding gold medal status, the Blue River runs right through the town of Breckenridge and is full of trout. Breckenridge Outfitters offers a variety of fly fishing classes from 101 and fly tying to intermediate and women’s clinics as well as guided excursions.
BRECK EVENTS ARE BACK
Summer events have rebounded with in-person festivals celebrating bikes, beer, history, food, art and music.
Browse through the creations of more than 100 artists at the 22nd Annual Breckenridge August Art Festival, August 4 – 6.
Sip and nosh your afternoons away with over 300 wines to choose from at the Breckenridge Food and Wine Festival, July 29 – 31.
The Breckenridge International Festival of Art and the Breck Music have joined forces to bring together an eclectic collection of performances, installations, exhibitions, and much more, August 12 – 21.
Celebrate all things swine and divine while savoring premium whiskeys, single-malt scotches and barrel-aged spirits at the Breckenridge Bacon and Bourbon Festival, August 26 – 27.
Experience more than 100 food artisans, wineries, breweries, distilleries, epicurean purveyors, and locally-made products at the Breckenridge Wine Classic, Sept. 15 – 17.
Breck Film Fest plans to bring stories that inspire the imagination at the 41st annual Breck Film Festival, Sept. 15 – 18. Breck Film prides itself on the experience — hike in the morning, watch a film in the afternoon and gather at a local restaurant for an afterparty with filmmakers and industry leaders.
Cider and Sour lovers will taste their way through samples from local and national craft breweries and cideries while boogying to bluegrass music at Strings Ciders & Sours, Sept. 16 – 18
Come for the beer and stay for the foliage. Breckenridge’s Oktoberfest, Sept. 23 – 25, features over three dozen German food and brews vendors.
Brian E. Clark is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer and photographer who contributes to the Chicago Tribune and LA Times on a regular basis. He also writes a weekly travel column for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. A native of Iowa, Clark is a University of Colorado, Boulder, graduate who focuses on adventure travel. He’s a veteran whitewater kayaker and skier who has lived in Norway, Sweden, Brazil and Bolivia. He worked for newspapers in Washington State and California for 25 years, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, before returning to the Midwest. He manages to head back West several times a year when he’s not off in other corners of the globe. Or poking around Wisconsin.