Explore the Outdoors Around Dillon with the Help of These Outfitters
At just over 9,000 feet elevation, Dillon feels like a small town, but it’s conveniently located just over an hour from Denver, and right off the I-70 corridor. Surrounded by national forest and right on the shores of its namesake reservoir, Dillon offers visitors a wealth of outdoor adventure from water sports to hiking and biking. Whether you’re looking to learn a new outdoor activity or put your skills to the test, Dillon is the perfect playground.
Take a Hike
With sweeping 360-degree views of the Rockies, including the Continental Divide, aptly named Summit County is a great place to hike. Keep in mind, though, that part of what makes Dillon-area hiking so incredible also adds an extra layer of challenge: the altitude.
Hikes in Dillon start at more than 9,000 feet, and depending where you’re headed, you’ll likely be gaining several thousand feet in elevation. You’ll need to get an early start to avoid being above timberline with the inevitable afternoon storms roll in during the summer, and always bring along plenty of water and snacks. If you’ve never hiked at altitude before, consider making your first day’s hike an easier one so your body can acclimate before you take on a bigger challenge.
Megan Odom, the store manager of REI in Dillon, suggests starting with the Tenderfoot and Oro Grande trails that are in Dillon. The round-trip hike on Tenderfoot is just under three miles, and the summit views of Lake Dillon are unbeatable. Another option is to hike to the Old Dillon Reservoir, the water source of the original town. (Fun fact to share with your hiking pals: That original townsite is now below water under the modern-day Lake Dillon.) At just less than two miles and with little elevation gain, it’s a great introduction to the area. It also makes a great sunset hike.
For advanced hikers, Odom and her staff suggest two additional must-dos in the region. The Ptarmigan Trail, which starts on the Silverthorne side of I-70, is a 3.9-mile route of moderate difficulty. "You’ll find beautiful views of the Gore Range and Lake Dillon," Odom says. “It’s a fantastic trail run that’s easily accessible and doesn’t take the entire day.”
A longer option is circumnavigating the summit of Buffalo Mountain, a 5.3-mile trip that can also be started in Silverthorne. Chances are you’ll see some wildlife on this challenging hike that also offers spectacular views.
Both Dillon REI and the employee-owned Wilderness Sports can help outfit you for a day on the trail—or any other outdoor adventure for that matter. Whenever you are out hiking, but sure to bring along plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen—which you should apply often. Weather can change quickly in the mountains, so be prepared for changes in temperature, and check the weather forecast. In general, it’s a good idea to start hikes early in the morning to avoid the possibility of afternoon storms.
When it comes to trail etiquette, mountain bikers are expected to yield to hikers—although when possible, it’s not a bad idea to move to the side to allow cyclists to pass, especially when they’re struggling to pedal up a steep incline. Be aware of blind spots. When encountering other hikers, those traveling uphill have the right of way. Of course, if you need a breather, it’s fine to stop and let the downhill hikers through. Either way, do your best to stay on the trail to prevent erosion. Also, whenever you’re in the outdoors, follow the principles of Leave No Trace.
Adventure on Two Wheels
Whether you like your tires fat or skinny, there’s no shortage of biking opportunities in Summit County. Once you’ve geared up at specialty bike outfitter Wilderness Sports or rented a bike from Lake Dillon Bike Rentals, make for the Oro Grande Trail, a beginner-friendly trail with wide singletrack that winds through aspen and sagebrush. The Keystone Gulch Trail offers access to several beginner and intermediate Keystone-area trails, including the local favorite Aqueduct. Take a minute at the top to soak up views of the Tenmile Range, then head back down for another lap.
If you’re more of a road biker, take a tour de Summit County by circumnavigating the Dillon Reservoir. Start at the Dillon Amphitheater for an 18-mile loop with serious climbs (and a fun descent) over Swan Mountain. You can also take advantage of the more than 70 miles of the Summit County Paved Recreational Pathway System.
Not riding on one of Colorado’s 300 annual days of sunshine? Take your bike ride indoors with a spin class at Endurance Cycling Lab. You’ll bring your own bike for this state-of-the-art spin class, and it will definitely leave feeling like you’ve gotten in a workout. If you’re looking for a little group motivation in an outdoor setting, join a group ride (open to all levels) through Summit Biking.
Learn Something New
Once you’re in the spirit of adventure, consider trying a new sport in Dillon. Take an aerial yoga class at Body Essentials (which also offers Barre Method and Pilates classes), where you can master a variety of different yoga poses with the support of a hammock. Or rent a stand-up paddleboard from Stand Up Paddle Colorado, which also offers lessons for newcomers to the activity. You’ll get an hour of paddling instruction followed by a tour to Lake Dillon’s Snake Inlet.
Fishing is another popular option on the lake and area rivers. The Snake River Arm near Summit Cove is accessible via a public parking lot along the recreation path on the west side of Highway 6. The Blue River is a great spot for fly fishing, especially below the Dillon Dam (you can access the river from the public parking in the Silverthorne Outlets). Finally, the Ten Mile outlet from the Frisco side of the reservoir is another hotspot, and you can park behind the Summit Vista Professional Building and access the water behind the middle school.
Visitors can find more in-depth classes at REI, which offers courses on a variety of outdoor sports and skills. Sign up for a class on basic bike maintenance, how to climb a Fourteener, or an introduction to backpacking—many classes are free or very affordable for members, so you can grow your skills without breaking the bank.
Of course, outdoor equipment can be very expensive. You’ll likely need at least a few new items for whatever new adventure you’re taking on. Fortunately, Wilderness Consignment is located right above the Wilderness Sports shop in Dillon, so newbies can find great deals on quality used gear without dropping a fortune.
Stretch Out Post-Adventure
Regardless of what you’ve been up to all day, odds are you’ll need to stretch out. Fortunately, local studio Peak Yoga knows that Dillon residents and visitors are an active bunch, and offers classes specifically with that in mind. Try an Après Ski or Restorative class to stretch out, or head to an outdoor class on the shores of Lake Dillon.
Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated Media in partnership with Town of Dillon.