As expected, this third year of Colorado Country Life‘s annual Best of Colorado contest brought in an outstanding collection of endorsements for popular food, fun and destinations across the state. For the 2022 Readers’ Choice Voted Best winners, CCL readers answered our call to action and shared their favorite things about Colorado across eight categories — and we received more nominations than ever.
This year, magazine readers pointed a bright spotlight on Morgan County in the northeast corner of Colorado. That may seem a little bit unexpected to you, but you’ll read why in the following pages.
Those who participated in the contest were automatically entered into a drawing to win $100. Congratulations to the following readers who were randomly selected as this year’s winners: Mountain Parks Electric consumer-member Cathy Justice, Rand; Yampa Valley Electric consumer-member Robin Hall, Steamboat Springs; and Highline Electric consumer-member Ramona Phipps, Sterling.
BEST LOCAL BEER:
Black Forest Brewing Company, Black Forest
Created not just out of a love of beer, but as a gathering place for all, it’s no surprise Black Forest Brewing Co. was voted 2022 Readers’ Choice “best beer” in Colorado.
Brewery owner Donovan Routsis and his wife, Tara, are military veterans with a combined 45-plus years of service. When they retired, they wanted to put down roots in Colorado — the state where they met and married. Black Forest Brewing Co. began with a passion for brewing and a love of community. It’s been almost two decades since Donovan first brewed, and his appreciation for beer is evident in every batch he makes.
Black Forest Brewing Co. may have won best beer in Colorado, but they could also take home the award for the best brewery to host an electric co-op event, which is exactly what Mountain View Electric Association does each year with this neighborhood brewery.
“We love partnering with Black Forest Brewing Co. for one of our Brews, Brats and Kilowatts events each September — our members always rave about the beer, the friendly staff and the relaxed atmosphere,” said Nikki Ricciardi, MVEA communications specialist.
Boasting two locations — one in the heart of Black Forest and the other in Falcon — both locations offer up bubbly beer, spirits and a great selection of food. The Falcon location is also the first all-electric brewery in the area, a point of pride for both Donovan and MVEA, whose office is located just down the road.
Next time you’re in the area, make sure you raise a glass and discover your new favorite watering hole. Learn more at blackforestbrewingco.com.
Photo credit: Kylee Coleman
BEST MAIN STREET:
Downtown Fort Collins
CCL staff was curious which area would top the charts as the 2022 Readers’ Choice Best Main Street in Colorado. Lo and behold, Downtown Fort Collins took the cake.
Located in the area’s Old Town Square, the happenings in this neck of the woods are countless. Family-friendly activities include visits to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, Poudre River Public Library and Park, Northside Aztlan Community Center, Avery House, summertime splash pads and more.
Beautifully maintained and brimming with breweries, bars, grills and diverse dining, downtown Fort Collins has something for everyone’s taste. See what you can sample at the Foodie Walk held the third Friday of every month where gobs of culinary professionals share their provisions with the public.
Shop to your heart’s content, partake in one of the area’s many signature events, enjoy a theater performance, take a trolley, create your own artistic masterpiece, peruse professional artworks and much more. See for yourself at downtownfortcollins.com.
Photo credit: Valerie Mosley
BEST PLACE FOR STEAK:
Shiloh Steakhouse, Cortez
Shiloh Steakhouse has been a restaurant staple in Cortez for over two decades. New owners, Ernie and Christina took charge of the restaurant in August 2022. The interior is beautifully updated with new paint, light fixtures, artwork and a few new architectural details.
The updates, plus the friendly staff and fresh food, all contributed to making Shiloh Steakhouse the 2022 Readers’ Choice best in Colorado.
Your dining experience starts off with a complimentary loaf of fresh homemade bread, butter and raspberry-strawberry-rhubarb jam, which is brought to your table on a wooden cutting board. They have a nice wine list, bottled beers and mixed drinks.
Steaks are juicy and cooked to perfection. Salads are crisp, colorful and fresh. If you have a craving for something other than a steak, order a giant burger, salad, soup or fish option from the menu. They have a nice list of sides to choose from; try out the sweet potato or waffle fries for something different. Evening dinner reservations are a good idea as the restaurant can get busy. But you don’t have to wait for dinner to eat at Shiloh Steakhouse; it’s open for lunch and offers a lunch menu during the week.
In warm weather, the outdoor patio opens. It’s shaded by vines and trees and even features a Koi pond. For more information, visit facebook.com/ShilohSteakhouse.
Photo credit: Brian Balfour
BEST LOCAL MUSEUM:
Museum of Northwest Colorado, Craig
Topping the vote count for 2022 Readers’ Choice Best Local Museum is the Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig. Featured in CCL’s January 2022 issue was the museum’s newest exhibit at the time: the world’s largest watercolor mural. Yet, the painting is the youngster at this historical, fan-favorite museum.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado houses historical artifacts that collectors near and far covet. From historical transcripts and trading post ledgers to Old West weaponry, apparel, accessories and photography, the museum is well worth the drive for residents living outside of Moffat County.
Want a sneak peek? Take a look through “Museum Marvels” to see and read about some impressive artifacts housed here in our own Colorful Colorado. The website also details additional research, exhibits and hours of operation. Call 970-824-6360 for additional information.
Photo credit: Museum of Northwest Colorado
BEST DISC GOLF COURSE:
Riverside Park Optimist Disc Golf Course, Fort Morgan
Is it the appeal of playing next to the winding South Platte River? Or is it the challenge it offers to pro-level players and beginners alike? A resounding yes is the answer to these and many other reasons the Riverside Park Optimist Disc Golf Course in Fort Morgan is recognized as the clear 2022 Readers’ Choice winner of this category.
Boasting 27 holes on relatively flat terrain, the course starts players in the groomed city park. According to Dave F. from Fort Morgan, holes six and seven are next to a pond and there’s a challenge of not throwing your disc into the “drink.” After hole eight, the course winds its way through an abundance of cottonwood trees and tall grasses by the river. There can be lots of wildlife to view along that stretch of the course. And one reviewer says it’s a “spectacular course populated with an abundance of trees, as opposed to an abundance of people.”
Reviews of the course regularly mention the course’s great upkeep, maintenance and year-round playability. Disc golf players also comment that the tee pads and baskets are high-quality and consistent. The signage and maps at the start and along the course make for easy navigation during a round.
Dave F. says the course “probably fits the more advanced and pro-level players best, but all in all, it’s fun for any level.” Riverside Park is a great place to play and test your disc golf abilities. Are you up for the challenge? For more information, visit facebook.com/optimistdiscgolfcourse.
Photo credit: Adobe Stock
BEST MADE-IN-COLORADO PRODUCT:
Good Vibes River Gear, Craig
Clearly, people mesh well with Good Vibes River Gear in Craig. This outdoor gear and apparel shop located near the Yampa River was selected by CCL readers as this year’s Best Made-in-Colorado Product.
According to its website, “Good Vibes River Gear is all about good vibes and enjoying the water and wilderness.” Primarily focused on rafting gear yet sellers of all sorts of outdoor necessities, the folks at GVRG hand sew all their mesh gear with American-made products and offer customization so buyers get exactly what they’re looking for — think duffel bags, speaker bags, gear covers and more.
Curiously, their mesh grocery bags are a best seller. “They help reduce single use plastics and are durable enough to hold as much weight as you can carry,” said co-founder Maegan Veenstra. “Once a customer buys one bag, they usually come back and buy more because they are so awesome.”
Take a gander at GVRG’s products and rental gear at goodvibesrivergear.com to find out for yourself why these makers of mesh merchandise were voted in as one of this year’s favorites.
Photo credit: Delaine Voloshin
BEST HOT SPRINGS:
Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, Nathrop
It will be an unforgettable trip. There is nothing better than soaking in natural hot springs while surrounded by a treelined canyon at the base of Colorado’s 14,000-foot Collegiate Peaks. While our great state is home to many hot springs, the 2022 Readers’ Choice is Nathrop’s Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort as Colorado’s best hot springs.
Established in 1879, this resort offers its guests the ultimate relaxation experience. Located between Buena Vista and Salida, Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort is the perfect year-round family-friendly destination.
Begin your visit by soaking in the natural 104-degree Fahrenheit hot spring right in the middle of Chalk Creek. After surrendering to complete relaxation, head to the spa for a massage in the creekside massage room. At the spa, you will find a complete menu of spa services, a juice bar (be sure to try a smoothie), saunas, steam rooms and a schedule of complimentary fitness classes, including the popular water yoga class.
If you bring the whole family along, rest assured the resort has you covered. In addition to over five soaking areas and a lazy river, Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort has a 400-foot hot waterslide to keep the kids entertained (or anyone who is a kid at heart). If you are looking for food and drinks, there is a restaurant, coffee shop, deli, bar/lounge and even a poolside bar all on-site.
If you want to turn your visit into a weekend getaway, the resort has several lodging options including suites, cabins and lodges. These different options accommodate guests’ preferences and budgets. All overnight guests enjoy free hot springs entry and VIP access to the Mountain Princeton Hot Springs Resort Spa and Club.
To learn more about the resort, book a room or explore things to do while in the area, visit mtprinceton.com.
Photo credit: Adobe Stock
BEST STATE PARK:
Jackson Lake State Park, West of Fort Morgan
Jackson Lake State Park is in the northeast corner of the state near the town of Orchard, about 20 miles northwest of Fort Morgan. Known by the locals as an oasis on the High Plains, this Colorado park offers exceptional outdoor activities. The 2,700-acre Jackson Reservoir is open to boating and fishing year-round. Scattered throughout the park grounds are 240 campsites, picnic areas and multi-use trails. The park facilities include showers, toilets, laundry, electric hookups and a marina.
Although this state park has been a sought-after destination for camping, fishing and watercraft sports, it is now also considered a premier stargazing destination. In 2020, the International Dark-Sky Association recognized Morgan County’s Jackson Lake State Park as an official Dark-Sky Park.
So just what does an IDSA designation mean and what can you expect when you visit? All the lights being used inside the park are for safety only. The lights have been adjusted to a certain color temperature, are fully shielded and emit no blue light. With this high-class honor and park accommodations, visitors can see the Milky Way without equipment; everything is visible to the naked eye.
Jackson Lake State Park has 5,295 acres of land and water for all your adventures — both day and night. Remember, you will need a Colorado state park pass to enter and reservations for camping must be made in advance and can be booked at cpwshop.com.
GOOD NEWS FOR OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS!
Did you know that beginning January 2023, Coloradans will be charged $29 for a state parks pass when registering a vehicle with the Colorado DMV? Coloradans registering their car can opt out of the Keep Colorado Wild pass. However, if kept, this pass will give you access to all 43 state parks and boost funding for natural resources in our great state. Plus, the $29 price point is more than half off the $84 price tag of the 2022 annual state parks pass.
Photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Thank you to writers Erica Meyer, Denise Moore and Amy Higgins for their contributions to this story.