There’s no place like Northern Colorado in the summer.
With beautiful scenery, friendly people, and sunny weather, summertime is when Northern Colorado shines.
If you rent a house in northern Colorado, there’s a lot of fun you can have with your entire family. While some of it may require a little bit of money, some of these activities are actually completely free.
Whether you’ve lived here for decades or are enjoying your first summer in Fort Collins, there is plenty to explore.
Community events and festivals abound in Northern Colorado and are a great way to connect with community, experience culture, and enjoy what the area has to offer.
One of the most popular events is the annual Taste of Fort Collins, which brings together top restaurants from around the region, as well as great performers and local musicians. This year, Taste of Fort Collins is happening June 10-11 and features dozens of restaurants and performing acts.
Another popular festival is the Horsetooth International Film Festival, which showcases great movies and music for five days in early September.
For music lovers, there is no shortage of music festivals, concerts, and performances. With the Lagoon Summer Concert Series, a variety of bands offer free concerts on the Colorado State University campus and bring together music-lovers of all ages for seven weeks in June and July. Bohemian Nights runs Thursday Night Live throughout the summer, where a diverse lineup of bands plays in Old Town Square throughout the summer.
Hiking is a popular year-round activity in Northern Colorado, but especially during the summer months. The area features all types of terrain, from flat open space in the Pawnee National Grassland to mountains, hills, and valleys in the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests and Horsetooth Mountain Open Space.
Nearby in Estes Park is the popular and stunning Rocky Mountain National Park, home to miles of trails for all types of outdoor activities.
Just a short drive from most Northern Colorado cities are numerous 14ers, Colorado’s famous mountains that reach higher than 14,000 feet above sea level. Hiking one of these mountains can be strenuous but is a rite of passage for any Coloradan.
Northern Colorado is a bicyclist’s paradise. With trails for everyone from casual riders to extreme mountain bikers, you can get anywhere on a bike this summer.
Blue Sky Trail, which connects Horsetooth Mountain and Devil’s Backbone, is a popular place for mountain bikers. There are also plenty of trails in the open spaces and local parks, including Lory State Park, home to Timber Trail.
For a gentler ride, bike along Spring Creek or the Cache la Poudre River. These trails have beautiful views along the calming bodies of water. June is Bike Month, and Fort Collins celebrates with activities, classes, and bike maintenance all month long.
Many farmers raise crops in Northern Colorado. A visit to the local farmer’s market is the perfect way to get fresh produce and artisan foods and enjoy performances from local musicians.
The Fort Collins Farmers Market sets up shop every Sunday and Wednesday throughout the summer and early fall and has a huge variety of local vendors, ranging from fresh dairy products to baked goods, homemade crafts, flowers, and more.
Other local towns also feature weekly farmer’s markets, including Loveland, Timnath, Windsor, and the Larimer County Farmer’s Market in Fort Collins.
As the weather warms up, the pool is the perfect place to be. City Park in Fort Collins has one of the best swimming pools in the area and the only public pool owned by the city. With multiple water slides, a lazy river, a water playground, and plenty of space for swimming laps, City Park Pool has something for everyone.
In Loveland, Winona Pool next to Osborn Park is open throughout the summer and features a pool climbing wall, diving boards, and beach entry.
As one of the top Northern Colorado attractions, Old Town Fort Collins is a must-do activity any time of year, but especially during the summer. The area is home to some of the best restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, and music venues in town, plus fun events for the whole family throughout the summer.
Strolling downtown Fort Collins and enjoying dinner on a restaurant patio or ice cream from popular spots like Walrus Ice Cream or Old Town Churn is a favorite Fort Collins activity. Old Town is also designed for walking or riding a bike, so you don’t have to worry about parking.
One of the best features is the Old Town Trolley that runs from Old Town to City Park. Modeled after the trolleys that ran through Colorado in the early 1900s, it’s a fun way to get around and experience the history of the region. The trolley runs every 30 minutes during afternoons on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays through the end of September. Purchase tickets at the City Park Depot and experience Fort Collins in a totally new way.
While this may not be on everyone’s “things to do in northern Colorado this summer” bucket list, there are a lot of races and 5K events in the area. Some of the largest are held in the summer, including the Estes Park Marathon and the Fort Collins Father’s Day 5K.
The Rocky Mountain Half Marathon is particularly popular. For a real challenge, try the Never Summer 100km. It has participants running through a track that changes elevation, including several sections that are classified as difficult vertical ascents and descents.
If you can make it through the 100km/64.2 mile course in the 24 hour time limit, you can proudly say you’ve accomplished something many others haven’t.
Horsetooth Reservoir is a gem of Northern Colorado and one of the most popular places to be this summer. With many inlets and coves, there is plenty to explore via boat or jet ski. Horsetooth is especially known for its water skiing, which is best in the early morning or weekday evenings when the water is calmer.
The Inlet Bay Marina and other services offer boats, kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and more for rent. There are also sandy beaches and designated swim areas around the reservoir. Bring a picnic and a floatie and enjoy a sunny day at Horsetooth Reservoir.
But there are also lots of other places to enjoy swimming outdoors in Northern Colorado. For a taste of the beach, check out the swim beach at Lake Loveland. The sandy beach and roped-off swim area are free to access and protected by lifeguards throughout the summer.
Boyd Lake State Park in Loveland is a popular spot for swimming, boating, and stand-up paddle boating. The lake is clearly marked with swimming areas and wake and no-wake boating. Loveland is also home to Carter Lake, which has 1,100 acres of water for swimming, sailing, and even scuba diving.
Windsor Lake offers a smaller and less crowded option for swimming and boating without sacrificing beautiful views. Boat rentals are available around the lake.
Northern Colorado is known for its craft beer. With more than 20 breweries to choose from, you have plenty of options including favorites New Belgium and Odell. Many of the breweries, including Anheuser Busch, offer tours and samples. Or make a day of it and try a few different craft beer varieties on patios at the breweries around town.
There’s even a Beer and Bike pub crawl (available as a self-guided tour or with a group) that provides a truly Colorado experience.
Northern Colorado is also home to restaurants with cuisines from around the world. From seafood to barbeque, pasta, American classics, and more, there’s no need to be hungry. Great food is available year-round, but many restaurants open their outdoor dining in the summer or offer specials for a new experience.
Fort Collins and other nearby cities regularly host food truck roundups to bring together great food on wheels. Every Tuesday evening in summer 2023, dozens of food trucks in Northern Colorado gather at City Park for the Food Truck Rally.
When you need a break from the sun, spend a summer day at one of Fort Collins’ many museums.
The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is a favorite activity for families and features unique, hands-on exhibits. During the summer, the museum frequently offers performances and other programs. Other popular museums include the Global Village Museum, which is full of international miniatures, and the Museo de las Tres Colonias.
For art lovers, the Fort Collins Museum of Art is a popular spot in the historic Post Office. Head to Greeley for the Greeley History Museum, which showcases the diverse history of the entire region. And train aficionados of all ages will love the Colorado Model Railroad Museum in Greeley, which is home to a massive model railway.
From the Poudre River to Horsetooth Reservoir, great fishing abounds in Northern Colorado. Many local fishermen won’t share their best spots, but popular fishing locations include Carter Lake and Boyd Lake.
The Poudre River runs across Northern Colorado and is one of the best places in the state for anglers. Great campgrounds and fishing spots abound along Poudre Canyon on Highway 42. Just be sure to pick up a Colorado fishing license before you head out.
This is only the tip of the iceberg as far as things to do in northern Colorado goes. While you can certainly start with this list, be sure to look out for other events, too. There are a lot of small local festivals and other activities you can do with your family.
Whether you’re indoors or out, watching a concert or hiking through the mountains, there are so many things to do in Colorado that you’re sure to find the perfect way to spend your summer.