Before I traveled to Colorado, I was not sure what to pack. I did what anyone else would do: I Googled. I also talked to my pals who live there. Their advice: keep it casual and dress in layers because the weather in Colorado is a bit weird.
After visiting for nine days in September 2014, talking with friends who live there year-round, and researching what other travel professionals recommend, I’ve compiled five tips for what to pack and wear when visiting Colorado any time of the year.
Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses
Colorado gets 300-some days of sunshine every year, so you’ll want to have your shades handy. No matter what time of year you visit Colorado, you might also need sunscreen — remember that snow also reflects the sunshine.
Above: Sunglasses, Oliver Peoples
Dress In Layers
The day I explored Fort Collins, temperatures reached the upper 70s. Some locals on my late-morning tour of New Belgium’s brewery were wearing shorts. Later in the day, the temperatures dipped, and I was happy to have dressed in layers that I could remove and add as desired. I’ve found dressing in layers is the best way to be prepared for whatever weather you may encounter throughout the day. That certainly holds true when visiting Colorado. As one of my Denver Uber drivers joked, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.”
Above: Button-down red chambray shirt, white V-neck T-shirt, teal bib necklace, Old Navy; Skinny dark wash jeans, Gap; Bradshaw Rose-Tone Gold Watch, Michael Kors; Sunglasses, Oliver Peoples; Bluefish 2-eye boat shoes, Sperry
Wear Warm Outerwear In The Mountains
Even though it reached 82 degrees Fahrenheit while I was in Denver, it was a brisk 33 degrees at the top of Pikes Peak, where the elevation is 14,110 feet. If you plan to visit Pikes Peak or other summits during your trip, check the usual temperature for the time of year you are visiting. It could be vastly different from Denver and Colorado Springs.
If you plan to stay in the mountain towns, it will be cooler than the Front Range. The day I was in Breckenridge, the daytime temperatures were about 10 degrees lower than in Denver and Colorado Springs. It was sunny during the afternoon, and I was comfortable walking around in short sleeves. I threw on a light track jacket in the shadier nooks — remember what I said about layers, folks. By the way, workout gear goes pretty much anywhere in Colorado. At night, it had cooled down significantly, so I doubled back to my lodging for my fleece jacket before walking to a late night happy hour spot.
For a short period of time in the mountains, I suggest wearing a lightweight fleece jacket like the one I’m wearing above by The North Face — it’s warm, and it won’t take up much space in your luggage.
Above: Sunglasses, Oliver Peoples; Scarf, Gap Outlet; Women’s Denali Jacket, The North Face; Flannel plaid button-down shirt, Old Navy; Skinny jeans, Gap
Wear Footwear For Active Days
For every trip I’ve taken in the past year, I’ve packed at least one pair of heels. Except for my trip to Colorado. The fanciest pair of shoes I packed were black leather flats, which I only wore to a couple dinners and nights on the town with friends in Boulder and Denver.
While packing, I already knew I’d be biking in Boulder and climbing atop rocks at Garden of the Gods. I knew I’d be visiting Pikes Peak’s summit, where it would be cold and possibly snowy. And, even on my less active days in Denver, I’d still be doing a lot of walking between museums, restaurants and breweries. Therefore, I packed the following three shoes for active travel:
- Tennis Shoes/Sneakers: I prefer lightweight tennis shoes for traveling because they take up less space in my suitcase. These shoes are great for adventure and athletic activities like biking, trail walks, light hiking, and exploring rocky areas. If you plan to do serious hiking, you may want a sturdy pair of hiking boots.
- Boots: I like boots that offer both style and functionality. On a mountain, boots provide stability and warmth. And, they can still be cute, edgy or suit your personal style!
- Boat Shoes: Boat shoes are the most comfortable shoes I’ve found for long days full of walking. They provide more support than sandals, flip flops and other warm-weather footwear. Boat shoes also don’t usually have uncomfortable arches like tennis shoes sometimes have. If you are looking for a pair of boat shoes, I recommend Sperry and Lands’ End.
Above: Sunglasses, Oliver Peoples; Bib necklace and leopard-print infinity scarf, Old Navy; V-neck T-shirt and skinny jeans, Gap; boat shoes, Sperry
Accessorize Casual Basics
My friends were right about the casual ease of Colorado style. Jeans paired with classic v-neck T-shirts worked everywhere I went in Colorado — museums, breweries, hotels, restaurants, outdoor festivals, and rooftop happy hours. When traveling, I pack a lot of basics and accessorize with scarves and jewelry to add a little personal style and flair. This makes it easy to mix and match outfits throughout the week, too.
Above: Sunglasses, Oliver Peoples; Black v-neck T-shirt, Gap; Leopard-print infinity scarf, Old Navy; Gold chevron necklace, from Haystacks boutique in Glen Arbor, Michigan
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If you’ve been to Colorado, what would you recommend travelers pack?