I am a big fan of finding free things to do when we travel. We have been to Steamboat so many times and we have really found lots of fun, free activities. From playing at the creek to hiking, we’ve really been able to explore the area. So here are some of the best, most fun free things to do in Steamboat Springs for families so that everyone can have a great time without breaking the bank.
Let’s Jet, Kids! uses affiliate links. As an Amazon (and other networks) Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. It is no extra cost to you.
And the things on this list really are FREE. None of this “cheap” or “almost free” stuff. You won’t need to spend anything (besides equipment if you don’t already have it, like a paddle board or tube).
So get to know this amazing town with free things to do in Steamboat Springs for families. Yes, all these fun activities are really family-friendly and the kids will really enjoy each one!
Table of Contents
1. Hike on the many trails around Steamboat
One of the best free things to do in Steamboat Springs is to take a hike. This area is gorgeous and bursting with scenery, wildlife, flowers, lakes, creeks, mountains…you get the picture.
We love Fiddlehead trail up the mountain, or Spring Creek Trail to the ponds, which is not far from town and super easy for all ages. There are a lot of cool hikes around Steamboat of varying levels, so choose one that’s just right for your family.
These trails are especially beautiful in fall with the leaves turning and creating a crunch.
You can also hike around in Mount Zirkel Wilderness or in the Medicine Bow Routt National Forest area. Note that some areas do have parking fees (like Fish Creek Falls).
2. Yampa River Botanic Park
We had been to Steamboat many times before I realized that we had never visited the Botanic Park. We had walked by it many times (one of the entrances is right off the Yampa River Trail), but never gone in.
So I decided to take a detour one day when I was on the trail and walked through this beautiful garden.
Once was in fall and though pretty, stuff was mostly-dead. But the next time I visited in summer everything was gorgeous and in bloom.
Enjoy the ponds and flowers of the park as you meander around. They even offer tours at select times.
Note: Going to the Botanic Park is completely free. There is, however, a jar/container for leaving tips if you desire.
Bonus: On Wednesdays throughout the summer, the park hosts Music on the Green where you can come listen to live music. On Fridays throughout the summer, the library hosts a story at the Botanic Park for children and families. This is followed by a fun activity.
Check out more of their seasonal events and schedule.
3. Yampa River Trail- popular free things to do in Steamboat Springs
Walking the Yampa River trail is one of the most popular free things to do in Steamboat Springs. This trail goes all the way through the edge of town and beyond for a total of 7 miles. You’ll walk along the Yampa River and across bridges, mostly in the shade of the trees.
As you get toward the west part of town, you’ll see little spots to go down near the river and (carefully) step in.
My kids always loved throwing pebbles, splashing a bit, and watching tubes and kayaks go down the river.
The trail is paved and very easy for kids to walk on, or even grab a bicycle and ride along on a family bike ride.
4. Splash at Burgess Creek
Burgess Creek is a great place for toddlers and kids alike. This great play area is a beautifully designed area meant for play.
Over in the Mount Werner area at the Steamboat ski resort you’ll find a creek that flows down the mountain. Follow along side it a short distance to find a cute, tiny beach area.
Or, just walk in the creek along the boulders to keep cool.
This is a GREAT play area for families, and one of our earliest memories of Steamboat Springs with our kids.
Burgess Creek is located in the ski village area, just across from a great hotel we love to stay in.
5. Steamboat Springs…Springs
We love soaking in hot springs while we travel. While there are hot springs for soaking in Steamboat, these are the kind you can only observe.
There are an estimated 150 springs within the Steamboat area. Some of these were used widely hundreds of years ago by doctors to help treat many conditions. Others (like Soda Spring, no longer around) were used to make tasty drinks.
There are about 5 springs that you can access within 1 mile of each other. Start at Iron Spring on the north side of Lincoln right about at 13th Street, and then cross to the other side of Lincoln to see a few more, including Steamboat Spring, the namesake destination of the town.
6. Hike a Mountain
These are no 14ers as Colorado is famous for, and maybe you won’t go all the way to the top, but families can still get on the mountain to enjoy stunning views of Mount Werner and Steamboat Springs.
Emerald Mountain is located over by Howelsen Hill near downtown. Families can enjoy Bluffs Loop of Blackmere Trail, both of which are around 2 miles.
The mountain is full of other trails for more determined hikers.
Note: Emerald Mountain does have closures to protect elk.
7. Rotary Park Boardwalk
Just south of Mount Werner Road and right off the Yampa Core Trail is the Rotary Park Boardwalk. This beautiful boardwalk begins right off the trail at the Peace Pavilion, so you can’t miss it.
The boardwalk takes you through the foliage amid the wetlands of Steamboat. It’s a great place for spotting plenty of birds.
You’ll get lookout points onto the Yampa River to watch ducks and humans alike floating down the river.
Plan about 15-30 minutes for a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk.
8. Float the River
Speaking of the Yampa River…
One of the best free things to do in Steamboat in the summer is to float the Yampa River. This brings much needed relief from the summer heat in a fun way.
You can schedule with a company to rent a tube and arrange being shuttled back.
Or, you can bring your own tube and do it yourself for free (easiest with two cars).
Hop in the river as far as near Mt. Werner Road and float all the way down through town to the transit center, or just to the end of town.
Avoid paying for a guide/shuttle by bring your own inner tube!
9. Paddle Board down the river
If you’d rather, you can paddle board down the river instead. Or kayak.
Which even you’d like, it’s a nice way to enjoy a summer day.
10. Bud Werner Memorial Library
Visiting a library on vacation? That sounds odd…
But this is a pretty cool library with pretty cool events. And visitors to town are welcome to join.
As already noted, Bud Werner Memorial library does read-alouds in the Botanic Park in the summer.
Check out the coolest free things to do in Steamboat Springs for families at the library. These kid-friendly events are perfect for some fun time in the morning.
The library rotates events, but some past events have been read alouds with yoga for kids, toddler time, a look into Sesame Street, and more. They also host movie nights, seminars, and interesting talks.
The kids can play and the adults can grab a drink at the coffee shop at this beautiful library on the river.
11. Snowshoe in Rabbit Ears
Some of the most fun free things to do in Steamboat Springs for families are in winter. Grab a pair of snowshoes and head out of town into the pass. Stay on the west side of the pass and pull into the parking area off the road.
Then head into the trees for a fun snowshoe adventure. This great area is pretty flat, making it great for families.
12. Movie on the Mountain
These come around each Saturday at sunset. Grab a lawn chair or blankets and enjoy a free movie on the big screen outdoors.
13. Town Events
Some of the best free things to do in Steamboat Springs, or any town really, is to attend the fun, free festivals and events.
We love catching the traditional tree lighting the weekend of Thanksgiving each year. Everyone gathers at the courthouse and counts down to the large tree illuminating. Santa comes in style of a fire truck and you can visit with him after.
The Winter Carnival is fun too. This happens every February on the main street through town. Snow is brought in to pack Lincoln Avenue as horses, skiers, and shovel racers plow down the road.
Steamboat also hosts a great Cardboard Classic, where teams have to build a sled out of cardboard. This is typically held at the end of ski season each year. Kids will love seeing the impressive and unique designs teams come up with.
14. Play at the Park
A great free thing to do at any location is to find the town park. We’ve found some awesome parks wherever we’ve gone (Crested Butte was incredibly scenic), so it’s fun to check out the local playground.
The main playground in Steamboat Springs is located at Little Toots Park, at the edge of downtown. You’ll find it at the corner of 12th and Yampa.
This park area is just steps from the river and includes a nice, shady grassy area. The playground isn’t as shaded, but is big and fun for kids. It includes a big area to climb around, swings, slides, and even a smaller playground for toddlers.
Free Things to do in Steamboat Springs for Families
If you are looking for free things to do in Steamboat Springs to get you through a weekend or even a week, this list is a great resource. It’s nice to keep on budget while traveling. Plus, some of the best ways to explore a town are by taking advantage of the free things like nature and history.
So whether you float down the river, go snowshoeing in the winter, or attend a local events, there are plenty of family-friendly free things to do in Steamboat that everyone will enjoy.
Check out: 7 Awesome Lakes in Steamboat Springs