It's no accident that Boulder and Longmont regularly make the lists of the most livable and healthiest cities in the United States. The weather is terrific, the outdoor activities are endless, locally sourced organic foods are plentiful, and culture, art and music abound. Having the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park just up the road doesn't hurt either.
Home to the University of Colorado, which boasts five Nobel laureates and numerous nationally recognized academic departments, Boulder has been a magnet for learners, seekers, artists, musicians and entrepreneurs for more than a century. With a population of about 100,000 people, the city has the feel of a small town and the amenities and sophistication of a larger city. Scientific and spiritual organizations co-exist in an atmosphere of tolerance and open-minded learning. Naropa University, a secular Buddhist-oriented school founded by Allen Ginsberg and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, is here. So are the National Institutes of Standards, home to the atomic clock, and the Technology and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
The spectacular Flatirons, mountainous rock formations of conglomerate sandstone, frame Boulder's western edge, beckoning outdoor enthusiasts. The region is rich with hiking, mountain biking and horse trails, as well as sporting activities of every kind. The Pearl Street Mall, a pedestrian avenue of shops and restaurants, pulses with activity throughout the seasons. And perhaps no city in America has more places that sell healthful, organic food and homeopathic remedies.
Over the years, Boulder has been named "best running city;" "thinnest city;" "No. 1 green & clean city;" a Seventeen magazine "Top 10 place for teens;" a Redbook "top ten great cities for working mothers;" a Men's Journal "best overall" city;" and one of Outside magazines "Best Outside Towns."
Lyons - Gateway to the Rockies
Rivers and roadways converge in historic Lyons, the self-named "Double Gateway to the Rockies." More than just a quaint town en route to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, Lyons is a charming and vibrant village with health food stores, homeopathic medicine shops, artists and live music performances. The town's historic district boasts 15 original sandstone buildings, built with rock quarried from the area. The North and South St. Vrain Creeks come together to form the St. Vrain River, a superb stream for fly-fishing, rafting and tubing. St. Vrain Canyon and Button Rock attract rock climbers of all levels, while some of the best mountain-biking trails on the Front Range are here, as well. Free live music is a way of life in Lyons where impromptu fiddle sessions are legendary and the annual Planet Bluegrass Musical Festival is a down-home, good time for music lovers of all stripes.
Longmont is the practical sister to Boulder's New Age maven and Lyon's arty charmer, but the town is no less loved by its residents, outdoor enthusiasts and business developers. With a population of about 86,000 people, Longmont has grown from an agricultural community to a hub of modern technology with Seagate, DigitalGlobe, Amgen and General Electric's energy control solutions business. A Federal Aviation Administration complex also is located here. The town has comprehensive shopping, good public schools and convenient health care.
The town of Estes Park, nestled at the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, is one of Colorado's most popular summer tourist destinations. With 6,000 permanent residents, Estes Park has a thriving art and music scene and stellar restaurants. The luxurious Stanley Hotel, a 1909 Edwardian retreat made famous (or infamous) by Stephen King's The Shining, attracts guests from around the world.
Rocky Mountain National Park
The eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is about a half-hour drive from the Rocking R Ranch. Inarguably one of the nation's most spectacular preserved wildernesses, Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses 415 square miles of jagged peaks, alpine meadows, pristine mountain lakes, rivers, streams and abundant wildlife. Trail Ridge Road, which crosses the park, is the highest continuous vehicular road in the United States, running for more than eight miles at 11,000 feet above sea level and peaking at an exhilarating 12,183 feet. The park abounds with wildlife and has numerous campsites and backcountry trails.
Eldora Mountain Resort
"Friends don't let friends drive I-70," or so they say at Eldora Mountain Resort. Just 21 miles west of Boulder in the foothills near Nederland, Eldora Mountain Resort offers great skiing without the hassles of Interstate 70 traffic. The base area is 9,200 feet above sea level with the peak elevation at 10,800 feet above sea level. The resort receives an average of 300 inches of snow a year and also has one of Colorado's best snowmaking systems. Its famously groomed runs range in difficulty from beginner slopes to double black diamond trails.