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Steamboat Magazine

Walking Tours

06/28/2015 12:00PM ● By Christina Freeman

"Steamboat Legacy," a bronze sculpture on the lawn at the Routt County Courthouse. Photo by Deb Olsen.


Downtown Historical Walking Tour

Have you ever noticed the brickwork on buildings along main street? This precise, enduring masonry is the work of Carl Howelsen, the Norwegian ski jumper who turned Steamboat Springs into a skier’s paradise.

Did you know the building that now houses Centennial Hall was once the town’s power plant? When the 75-foot smokestack was being installed to make Steamboat the first community in Northwest Colorado to have electricity, the supports gave way and the stack crashed to the ground. Even after the damages were repaired and the power plant became operational, locals avoided the intersection, just to be safe.

Stories like these bring Old Town Steamboat Springs to life during a weekly historical walking tour, hosted by Tread of Pioneers Museum. The most popular of the summer walking tours, the historical tour covers 10 blocks of Lincoln Avenue, as well as adjacent streets.

The guided tour leads people past historically and architecturally significant buildings, along with stories from their glory days. The option is also available for  a self-guided tour.

Downtown Historical Walking Tour, Thursdays, (June 25-Sept. 3), 9-11 a.m., starts at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, 800 Oak St., 970-879-2214/


Steamboat Springs Mineral Springs Tour

A covered rest stop at Soda Spring.
Photo by Deb Olsen.

 How did Steamboat Springs get its name? Was there a time when a steamboat could navigate the Yampa River? No, but in the imagination of 19th century explorers, who were led to the spring by its “puffing” sound, the intermittent noise sounded like a steamboat headed upstream.

Although the railroad’s arrival in 1908 virtually silenced the geyser, it can still be seen along the south shore of the Yampa River, behind the library. It is one of many stops on the Mineral Springs Tour.

More than 150 springs have been identified in the area, which stands atop a fault line generated 42 million years ago. Steamboat’s thermal waters originate in these faults at depths of 12,000-15,000 feet. Each has a distinctive combination of naturally occurring minerals. The most popular is the Heart Spring at Old Town Hot Springs.

Take a tour of some of Steamboat’s most interesting springs with a Yampatika naturalist, or pick up a brochure throughout town to take a self-guided tour. Mineral Springs Walking Tour, Tuesdays, (June 23-Sept. 1), 9-11 a.m., starts at the Depot and is a Yampatika and Tread of Pioneers Museum partner program, 970-871-9151/


Olympic Heritage Walking Tour

Ski Town USA takes its name seriously, having produced more Olympians than any other city in America and being home to not one, but two, significant ski areas.

Nowhere is Steamboat’s pride in its heritage more evident than via the Olympic Heritage Tour, which begins at Howelsen Hill Lodge at Howelsen Hill, the oldest continuously operating ski area in Colorado. Flags hang in honor of each of the athletes, denoted by the host flag of the country in which they competed. The lodge also houses the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and a main-floor exhibit featuring key Olympians.

The tour continues outside, near the base of the plastic-covered ski jumps, where Nordic athletes train year-round. Then take a ride on the Barrows Chairlift to see the scenic vistas from the top of Howelsen Hill.

Conclude the tour with a stop at the Tread of Pioneers Museum to visit the newly enhanced Ski Town USA exhibit. Brochures are available at the museum, the Chamber Visitors’ Center and other central points for those who would like to take a self-guided tour.

Olympic Heritage Tour,Mondays (June 22-Aug. 31), 9-10:30 a.m., starts at Howelsen Hill Lodge at Howelsen Hill, 845 Howelsen Parkway, 970-879-2214/