Colorado is known for its mountains and alpine scenery, and it’s a great vacation spot.  However, there are 3 things to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip to the mountains of Colorado.


The Air is Thinner

The air in the mountains of Colorado is different from most states because of the altitude.  The higher you climb, the thinner the air gets, meaning less oxygen.  This results in heavier breathing, and it’s harder to do things until you get acclimated.  When we first arrived in Colorado, we were at approximately 9,500 feet.  Everything we did made us more out of breath than usual.  It took us a good 2 weeks to get slightly acclimated to the altitude, and then we were OK.  However, it can take up to a year to get fully used to the altitude.

In order to avoid getting out of breath too much, short breaks in between tasks would help, even if you didn’t need breaks at home.  For example, a bike ride.  We go biking a lot, and a 10-mile bike ride isn’t overly strenuous. However, the first bike ride we went on in Colorado was 10 miles, and by the end we were all out of breath.  We realized that it was the altitude, and took more breaks in between on our next ride.

Don’t feel like you’re out of shape, either.  Marathoners have come to Colorado to climb mountains at 12,000 feet, and have passed out. It all depends on how much your body reacts to the altitude change.

Another thing that the altitude effects is air pressure.  In other words, the higher you go, the more pressure there is.  This means that car tires, bike tires, and anything with air in it will inflate.  When we first got to Colorado, our salad dressing wouldn’t stop squirting out, because it had so much pressure in it from the elevation change. Make sure you check your tires on cars, bikes, and anything else that holds air.


The Temperature Varies

The temperatures in Colorado vary in two different ways.  One, the temperature can be 90 in the day and 50 at night.  Two, the temperature varies based on altitude, so it can be a 10-degree difference just miles away, because of the altitude difference.

We experienced the temperature variance first-hand when we arrived in Colorado.  It was around 90 degrees when we pulled in to 11-Mile Canyon State Park in our RV, and we had the AC cranking during the day.  We went on a bike ride, and when we came back for dinner at around 6:00, it was already getting cooler.  The best part is, the temperature is perfect in the evening before dark, because it’s not hot, and it’s not cold.  Compared to the East coast, where the temperature is 70 at night and 90 during the day.

The temperature also varies based on your elevation.  Where we were staying, we were West of Denver at around 8,500 feet.  We drove down into Denver around 25 miles away, and the temperature was always 10 degrees hotter.  Because Denver is at 5,000 feet, it was hotter than were we were, 3,000 feet higher.

Because of the temperature variance, make sure you bring warm weather clothes and cool weather clothes.  Luckily we had jackets, or we would have been chilly, because it dipped into the low 40’s some nights.


Afternoon Storms

Colorado is known for its outdoor activity, so it’s no surprise people come from all over the country to hike, bike, and whitewater raft.  However, visitors to Colorado don’t know the ins and outs, so you have to be careful.

In the mountains of Colorado, storms and high winds can pop up out of nowhere in the afternoon. Often, visitors enjoying the mountains will get caught out in these storms, because the radar and weather forecast looks clear.

We were boating on the Blue Mesa Resevoir, and when we started around 10:00, the water was peaceful.  We took the boat through a canyon, so the wind wasn’t bad.  However, when we returned to open water at around 1:00, the wind was significantly greater.  The waves kept splashing up onto the boat, and we got a little wet.  We learned to make sure to plan for returning by noon to 1:00 so you don’t get caught out.  There are warning in brochures and trail maps that say you should be wary that you could get caught in a thunderstorm, and they recommend returning before 1:00.

Colorado is a great state, but be warned that you’ll need to be prepared for the altitude difference.  Most people think nothing of it, and are affected by it when they arrive.  Knowing the area before you go is a great way to ensure that you make the most of your vacation.

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