The Insider's Guide to Summit County's Exit 205
The outdoor mecca of Summit County, Colorado, is a place for year-round recreation, shopping, and dining, and Exit 205 off I-70 lies at the epicenter of the action. You’ll find the towns of Dillon and Silverthorne to the north of the Dillon Reservoir, with Frisco just to the south, each with its own charms and access to the surrounding outdoor adventures. Exit 205 offers an escape from the traffic and heat of Denver in the summer months, and in the winter it’s a great option to avoid the crowds that descend on the ski resorts while still being close to the action. For a memorable getaway, take a trip and discover how much you can do an hour or so west of Denver.
What to Do for Fun
In the summer, Dillon becomes one of the country’s most unique lake towns, as 26 miles of shoreline along Dillon Reservoir give the destination a decidedly beach-like feel. At the Dillon Marina—the highest deep-water marina in North America—you can rent water toys galore, from personal watercraft to sailboats. Themed boat tours include Women and Wine on the Water and Historical Lake Dillon, which tells the fascinating story of the area’s rich history. It’s possible to book a charter cruise here, and the marina even has a sailing school, where you can take an introduction to sailing course or get basic keelboat instruction. There’s also a water shuttle that takes people (and their bikes) back and forth between the marinas in Dillon and Frisco. It’s a great way to spend some time on the water and enjoy a one-way bike ride back to your home base.
Catch a free lakeside concert at the newly renovated Dillon Amphitheatre every Friday and Saturday night from mid-June through early September. Taking place each weekend from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., the concerts feature a wide variety of acts, including national headliners like George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic in addition to local favorites. You’ll find rock, jazz, folk, and orchestral offerings throughout the summer. On July 29, musical fans won’t want to miss a special Sunday night concert, Wicked Divas with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, in which Broadway veterans will perform selections from Wicked and more than a dozen other shows. On the remaining Sundays between July 1 and August 25, classic films will be shown at the amphitheater as part of the Movies on the Water program.
For those wanting to sleep under the stars, campgrounds dot the lake shore, and at the Frisco Bay Marina (on the opposite side from Dillon Marina), visitors can also rent fishing and pontoon boats in addition to waterski-ready craft. A water taxi is available to take visitors back and forth between the two marinas, or enjoy a scenic bike ride around the lake to get there. Behind the amphitheater, you’ll find a sandy beach known as Dillon’s North Shore, which is a great spot for relaxing and enjoying the lake. The Dillon Disc Golf Course is a fun option just off the water—and it includes a kid’s course.
The Dillon Farmers Market runs every Friday from June through September, making it the perfect place to grab something to go for a picnic on the reservoir. Visitors will find one of the state’s best-known farmers markets with lots of Colorado-grown produce in addition to locally produced cheeses, meats, honey, confections, and bread, just to name a few. Local artists exhibit unique clothes and jewelry, handmade pottery and crafts, health/beauty products, and even home goods. Live music gives the market a festival-like atmosphere, and a kid’s area with games, entertainment, and live performances make it a family-friendly way to spend the morning. You can even start the day right with Yoga in the Park, which is available just as the market opens at 9 a.m.
Other activities that are popular off of Exit 205 include:
Summit County offers some of the best singletrack in Colorado, with many of the most accessible trails within easy distance from Dillon and Silverthorne. Take the Dillon Reservoir Loop right in town, or try the Frisco to Farmers Korner Rec Path with kids. The Frisco Adventure Park is ideal for those wanting to learn new skills. More challenging singletrack can be found a short drive away in Breckenridge, and Keystone Mountain Resort offers some of the best lift-served terrain in the area.
Need a breather from all the outdoor adventure? Indoor fun in town includes a trip to Lakeside Bowl (where you can enjoy Cameez Frozen Yogurt and Tacos Tequila in the same building) or the Skyline Cinema. For a cultured experience, the Lake Dillon Theater Company offers live performances all summer. In Silverthorne, the First Friday events celebrate the local art community, with some kind of a presentation each month, usually including food and music as well as a focus on an artist or performer.
The shopping scene in Dillon, Silverthorne, and Frisco is casual and mountain town-friendly year-round. Find deals at the outlets at Silverthorne, which features more than 50 different stores. Or shop for outdoor gear and mountain style at Columbine Ski and Sport and Wilderness Sports or REI. Area thrift stores include Goldmine Thrift and Summit Thrift and Treasure.
In winter, skiing reigns supreme, with downhill options just minutes from Dillon at Keystone and Breckenridge. It’s also very close to Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, and Cooper—and a short drive to Vail. Here’s a tip: Dillon makes for a more affordable home base for your family ski trip. Cross-country ski enthusiasts have options even closer to Exit 205, at the Frisco Nordic Center. In the summer months, you can take advantage of some of the state’s most beautiful golf courses surrounding the region.
Dillon Ice Castles
Also in the winter, be sure to visit the Dillon Ice Castles, spectacular man-made structures of ice that are unlike any other castle you’ve ever seen. The artistic creation—unique each year—is usually available to explore from the end of December to early March.
Dillon and Silverthorne offer plenty of casual dining perfect for a family trip to the mountains in either season. If you’re looking for a pub or pizza joint, you can’t go wrong at Dillon Dam Brewery, The Pour House, or Pug Ryan’s. The Arapahoe Cafe is known for its casual food with a Southwest flair. In the mornings, there’s Blue Moon Bakery or the Sunshine Cafe to start the day right.
Want to find that authentic, tucked-away place? Try Cafe Profusion offers gluten-free curries and other pan-Asian dishes. For fresh Hispanic cuisine, try White Boots or Tacos Tequila. The Argentos Empanadas and More features its namesake dish as well as full menu of Argentine food.
In Silverthorne, Fiesta Jalisco Fritangas is right on the money, and Sauce on the Blue has pizza to die for. Baker’s Brewery is your go-to pub for craft beer. For a family-friendly evening outside of Dillon, the Keystone Ski Area offers Keystone Wagon Ride Dinners that combine food with fun, as well as Western Nights to soak up the wild west ambiance here. Have a babysitter at the ready? Ski Tip Lodge, located just past River Run Village in Keystone, offers a cozy old-fashioned atmosphere and fine dining and wine pairings for a meal you’ll want to linger over. The lodge, which was the first bed & breakfast in Colorado, was created by Keystone Resort founders Max and Edna Decrum. The name comes from its door handles that are made out of ski tips. In summer, its deck beckons with wildflowers in view, and in winter, the cozy fireplace by the bar awaits.
Where to Stay
For families wanting outdoor adventure, the Best Western in Dillon puts you within close proximity to everything, and it has nice outdoor space, too. You also have lots of options when it comes to renting condos and private homes. You also may consider camping along the reservoir: Prospector Campground offers a rustic experience (no hookups for RVs) but Heaton Bay is closer to the action of town. For all campground options, check outDillon’s camping information.
The Hampton Inn & Suites in Silverthorne is a full-service hotel with everything you need for a getaway with pedestrian-friendly dining and shopping nearby. The area also offers excellent health and wellness options, including massage at Auth Vitality Center, manicures in Silverthorne, and yoga at Peak Yoga or Summit Hot Yoga.
You don’t need to spend much time in the Lake Dillon region to discover its draw as a welcoming mountain community. Whether it’s for a weekend getaway or a week’s vacation, you’ll find plenty to love off of Exit 205.
Written by Amy Whitley for RootsRated Media in partnership with Town of Dillon.