Gateway, Colorado

Photo: Noble House Hotels & Resorts
Photo: Noble House Hotels & Resorts

It’s time to pack up your winter parka, put your snowboard in storage, and say goodbye to the mountains. Spring skiing—actually, the whole ski season—is officially over. But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep exploring Colorado. This is the perfect time of year to visit the red rock canyons.

The western part of the state, near the Utah border, is famous for its flat-topped mesas, steep cliffs, deep canyons, and desert valleys. It’s the exact opposite of the forest-covered Rocky Mountains that you left behind. After reaching Grand Junction, head south to follow the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway. The 133-mile road, a favorite of motorcyclists and car clubs, winds around Uncompahgre National Forest, along the Dolores River, and through the sandstone canyons. Golden eagles fly overhead. Utah’s La Sal Mountains are in the distance. Plus a gorgeous resort makes for the perfect pit stop.

Gateway Canyons Resort was built by the founder of the Discovery Channel to seemlessly blend in with its surroundings. Adobe-style buildings, filled with southwestern decor, match the colors of the rocks. The rooms in the lodges are adorned with working fireplaces and leather chairs. Fire pits and rock sculptures surround the pool, though you barely notice them due to the breathtaking view from the lounge chairs. While an ancient river stone massage, using hot stones, is offered at the spa. It’s hard to believe you were snowboarding last week.

Photo: Noble House Hotels & Resorts
Photo: Noble House Hotels & Resorts

It’s during a breakfast of smoked Kobe tri-tip Benedict on the patio of Entrada, a restaurant named after the Entrada Sandstone formation, that you realize this is more than a pit stop. Between the comfortable resort and the beautiful views no matter where you look, the gourmet food and the extensive list of possible activities, you need a lot more time here.

You’re thinking about hiking after you eat. You could learn about the area’s Native American and cattle-farming history in Gateway Canyon or hike to Juanita Arch, a natural bridge. During the midday heat, you might visit nearby wineries. The area’s warm days and cool nights create perfect growing conditions for Merlot and Chardonnay grapes, as well as peaches. Then you could learn how to rock climb or go fishing when golden trout start biting again at dusk.

Your hardest decision of the day will be between a prickly pear margarita and a mesa mojito when you return to the resort. Go ahead, work your way through the cocktail list. There’s no fresh powder to lure you out of bed early tomorrow morning.

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