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Steamboat Magazine

Western Legacy

05/31/2023 07:00AM ● By Ski Town Media
(A rodeo clown quickly distracts a bull from a fallen rider at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series. Photo courtesy of Noah Wetzel.) 

From the Steamboat Springs Visitors' Guide Summer 2023. 

Western heritage defines us in Northwest Colorado. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. 

The Western way is about hard work, love of the land, devotion to family and friends, independence, determination, inventiveness and loyalty. You don’t have to don a cowboy hat to embody these ideals; they pervade the community.

Take a scenic drive north toward Steamboat Lake, west toward Hayden, south toward the Flat Tops or east over Rabbit Ears Pass. Any direction you go, you will be surrounded by agricultural land. For a special treat, make the drive in spring during calving season or at sunset in early fall, when six-foot round hay bales reflect the golden light over the newly harvested fields. 

For a more intimate look, take a gravel bike ride. Although SBT GRVL, the most prestigious gravel event in the area, sells out within a day or two of its announcement, suggested gravel routes through the rural countryside can be found at  

While Western hospitality is the stuff of legends, it’s best to stay on the other side of the fence, unless ranchers specifically invite you onto their land. Bulls can be bull-ish, farm equipment is dangerous, and sheep dogs can be deadly. Instead, visit one of the several local ranches that are specifically open to the public. One is Saddleback Ranch in west Routt County, a working cattle ranch run by a fourth-generation Routt County family that was the setting for “Relatively Famous: Ranch Rules.” Rural ranch tours are also arranged periodically through the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage program. (

Horseback riding may be the best Western experience and opportunities abound for everyone from beginners and children to accomplished riders and arena riders. A visit to Del’s Triangle 3 may also afford riders the opportunity to meet Steamboat Olympian Ray Heid, whose family owns  the ranch.

The biggest show of all, of course, is the weekly pro rodeo at Romick Rodeo Arena in downtown Steamboat. Not only do the events feature some of the top cowboys in the West, they also include kids’ events, beer and a delicious BBQ. 

The most authentic Western experience may be the Routt County Fair in August in Hayden. This historical celebration features 4-H and FFA shows, a BBQ and livestock sale, demolition derby, bull riding, youth rodeo and rides. 

Throughout the summer, barn dances, cattle/sheep dog trials and nature/bird tours at local ranches are likely to be scheduled. Visit the calendar of events at for more information.

To take home a memory of this summer’s Western experience, visit F.M. Light & Sons on Lincoln Avenue. More than likely, you’ve seen at least a few of the 200 yellow and black road signs touting this 118-year-old Western store, the first retail outlet in Steamboat. From a broad selection of cowboy hats and boots to belt buckles and jeans, F.M. Light outfits us all. 

We’ve all got a little inner cowboy inside of us. Let it out of the chute in Steamboat Springs this summer.