On his first visit to Denver several years ago, Tony Maiden stayed in a downtown hotel and had a great vacation. But something was missing.
As a frequent solo traveler, Maiden realized his trips lacked the social interaction he craved. On his next trip here, he took a chance and walked into Hostel Fish, a modern hostel in LoDo. Admittedly, he felt a bit uneasy — it was his first time staying in a hostel — but the amenities, planned social events and friendly fellow travelers won him over.
He continues to visit Denver regularly for long weekends and has met people from all over the world at Hostel Fish.
“I never thought I would’ve liked this type of setup, but it’s been great,” said Maiden, a 35-year-old wine consultant who lives in Houston. “I’m a people person. I’m very outgoing, so staying in a traditional hotel, that really limited me. Normally, I travel by myself and I don’t let that stop me from traveling. I’ve learned that I enjoy being in a more openly social environment, not just limited to your own space and room.”
Long popular in Europe, South America and beyond, hostels are now catching on in Colorado, with many new sites opening within the last five years — and a new boutique hotel and hostel in the works in LoHi. Along the Front Range and in the mountains, hostel owners say they’re filling a void for travelers who are exploring Colorado on their own, visiting on a budget (nightly rates tend to range from $30 to $200, depending on the room type) or just want a more social experience than a hotel or a vacation rental.
RELATED: North Denver’s first boutique hotel and hostel opens next year — and it wants to compete with Airbnb prices
The newest hostel in Colorado is Hostel at Ranch House, a 17-bed lodge at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park that opened to guests on Sept. 26. The new hostel, located inside an updated 1920s-era lodge, has five shared rooms, two shared bathrooms, a porch and a shared kitchen, living and dining room.
Though families and groups flock to the YMCA of the Rockies, which offers an array of cabins, vacation homes and lodge rooms, the center didn’t have an ideal option for budget-conscious or solo travelers.
Now, there’s an affordable place to stay for travelers exploring Estes Park’s vast array of outdoor recreation options, from mountain biking and fly-fishing in the summer to snowshoeing and backcountry skiing in the winter. Hostel guests also have access to all the amenities of the massive YMCA, including dozens of daily activities ranging from archery to rock climbing.
“For so long, we have served the traditional family vacation and groups and conferences, and that’s very similar to the other properties in Estes Park, so we spent some time really thinking and figuring out what would work best for those solo travelers who are looking to meet people, rather than just come up with their family or do their own thing,” said Kellen Toulouse, a spokesperson for the YMCA of the Rockies.
Since September 2018, visitors to Colorado Springs have been staying at the ColoRADo Adventure Hostel, a 1950s-era motor lodge motel that owner Erin Welch converted into a 51-bed hostel.
Guests can retreat to their private or shared room or hang out in the shared kitchen, work space, lounge and backyard. Regular social gatherings including movie nights, drum circles, yoga, bonfires, hikes and volunteer outings. Welch hopes to soon launch a program that will encourage guests to volunteer with local nonprofits in exchange for hostel discounts and other perks.
“I wanted to create a space with a summer camp vibe where people from all over the world could meet and build friendships and expand their world views and share in experiencing all the best of Colorado,” Welch said.
Though many Colorado hostel guests are indeed in their 20s and 30s, these aren’t the so-called “youth hostels” of years past. They’re attracting visitors of all ages, from all over the world.
Since opening The Bunkhouse in 2016, owner Nancy Richards has hosted visitors from all walks of life at her 40-bed hostel in Minturn, eight miles from Vail.
“Because we serve so many skiers and snowboarders, we really see a wide range — I’ve seen 60- and 70-year-olds sitting at the counter drinking coffee with younger people,” she said. “The high Rockies are crazy expensive, and we get a ton of solo travelers who just don’t want a super expensive hotel room. Hostels have great common spaces where you can meet people and go skiing together. Most people come here with an open mind, and it’s that instant camaraderie.”
Many Colorado hostels are more upscale and artistic than what you might initially imagine when you think of hostels, a trend that even has its own nickname: “poshtels.”
Hostel Fish, which opened in 2015 in the historic Airedale Building in Denver, features rotating artwork on its walls and hosts monthly art socials where visitors can get to know local artists over wine. The hostel also hosts intimate pop-up concerts and has an in-house bar.
“It’s very different from your bare-bones hostel,” said owner Chad Fish.
Want to visit a Colorado hostel? Here are a few others to check out:
- The Bivvi Hostel, which opened in Breckenridge in December 2013. There’s a 10-person outdoor hot tub, a bar and storage for skis, snowboards and bikes. The Bivvi has private or shared rooms, as well as suites and a private apartment. 9511 CO-9, Breckenridge, (970) 423-6553, thebivvi.com.
- Ember Hostel, which opened in Denver in 2017. The hostel is a 9,000-square-foot historic mansion in Cap Hill with shared and private rooms, a firepit and a 12-person outdoor hot tub. 857 Grant St., Denver, 303-942-1633, emberhostels.com.
- Fernweh Inn and Hostel, which opened in Fort Collins in 2014. The Fernweh has private and shared rooms, bikes to borrow, an outdoor grill, a fire pit, a hammock, yard games, a piano, guitar and other musical instruments, along with a backyard and patio. Oh, and we should also mention the hostel dog, Cash. 616 W. Mulberry St., Fort Collins, 970-219-9493, fortcollinshostel.com.
- Boulder A-Lodge, which has private rooms, camping sites, a cabin and one 12-bed shared bunk room. The lodge also offers several #vanlife camper van packages. 91 Fourmile Canyon Drive, Boulder, 303-444-0882, a-lodge.com.
- The Wanderlust Hostel, which opened in Gunnison in 2009. The hostel has private and shared rooms, an outdoor grill, a firepit, front and back patios and storage for skis, snowboards, bikes and other gear. 221 N. Boulevard St., Gunnison, 970-901-1599, thewanderlusthostel.com.
- Simple Lodge and Hostel, a small Salida hostel with private rooms, suites and shared rooms. 224 E 1st St., Salida, 719-650-7381, simplelodge.com.
- Inn the Clouds Hostel & Inn, formerly the Leadville Hostel. Inn the Clouds has private and shared rooms, gear storage, a slackline and a yard and patio for hanging out. 500 E 7th St., Leadville, 719-486-9334, stayinntheclouds.com.
- The Salida Hostel, located in a renovated Victorian home built in 1900. The hostel has private and shared rooms, direct access to the Arkansas River, gas fireplaces and mountain views. 225 Grand Ave., Salida, 719-530-1116, thesalidahostel.com.
- The Solarium International Hostel, which opened in Fort Collins in 2014. The Solarium has private rooms, shared rooms and suites, bike rentals and a marijuana-friendly tipi. 706 E Stuart St., Fort Collins, 970-599-3817, solariumcolorado.com.
- 11th Avenue Hostel, which first opened as a hotel in 1903 before later becoming a hostel. The hostel has shared rooms, European rooms (a private room with a shared bathroom), ensuites and artist studios. 1112 Broadway, Denver, 303-894-0529, 11thavenuehostel.com.
- Fireside Inn, a Breckenridge bed and breakfast with private and shared rooms, a hot tub, fireplaces and ski and bicycle storage. 114 N. French St., Breckenridge, 970-453-6456, firesideinn.com.
- Estes Park Adventure Hostel, located above the classroom of the Colorado Mountain School. The hostel has 16 beds in three shared rooms. 341 Moraine Ave., Estes Park, 720-387-8944, coloradomountainschool.com.
- The Bunkhouse in Minturn bills itself as a boutique hostel with “a unique lodging experience for mountain enthusiasts who value affordability, and community,” according to its website. There are semi-private bunks and two private guest rooms, along with an outdoor fire pit and a beer and wine bar. 175 Williams St. #102, Minturn, 970-827-4165, vailbunkhouse.com
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