Get Thee to Frisco, Colorado: A Gem in the Rockies

FRISCO, a not so hidden gem about an hour west of Denver, warrants at the very least a two-day adventure, and more appropriately a full summer vacation smackdown of its own merit.

Main Street in Frisco, Colorado

After a rainy afternoon of travel in the monsoon that is typical of midsummer in the middle range of the Rockies, my friend Laurel and I finally landed in Frisco, Colorado, for a exploration of this town located right on the Dillon Reservoir, you know, that body of water you pass on your way to Breckenridge, all courtesy of The Town of Frisco

My buddy Laurel and I, with Lake Dillon in the background

We were hungry and very tired, and so stopped first to eat at Greco’s Pastaria, where we had steaming pretzels with marinara and cheese sauces, spaghetti and meatballs (I’m a traditionalist when it comes to pasta!), a huge Greek salad, and maybe more than one glass of Cabernet… Laurel and I had been training hard that day hiking and trail running in Boulder, then doing some hill repeats on the bike in Golden at Lookout Mountain. Needless to say, we were FAMISHED, so Greco’s was a great way to replenish after such an excellent day of movement. It would also be the fueling we needed for an action packed-day in Frisco and Dillon the next day!

That evening, we checked into our beautifully appointed townhome hosted by Summit Mountain Rentals. Except for the stairs  (a minor annoyance with three bikes to carry up and down), also could be a major hindrance if you need an accessible place to stay–make sure you let rental offices know your specific needs in advance so you’re not taken by surprise). Otherwise, the condo was lovely and cool, with a nice-sized kitchen, a balcony, a spacious and comfortable living, and most importantly, a huge master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom–look, this mom of a teenager appreciates these details!

My trucker cap! As I said, my handlers know me!

Vanessa Agee, the Communications Director for the Town of Frisco, had left me an aromatic bag of coffee from Rocky Mountain Coffee Roasters (Frisco Blend!), a selection of fudge from Foote’s Rest Sweet Shoppe, and a beautifully designed trucker cap by Abby Paffrath that celebrated the beauty and ethos of Frisco. In fact, after my adventure in Frisco, I held on to the coffee as long as I could–dark, with hints of chocolate and berries, just the kind that floats my boat! What can I say? My handlers, they know what I like…

Laurel and I woke up after a rather comfy and appropriately cool night of sleep at the condo, and had a leisurely morning filled with that coffee and a couple bites of fudge, because that’s what you eat for breakfast, ok? Actually, our breakfast would be at Butterhorn Bakery and Cafe.

Eggs Butterhorn and my second and third coffees of the morning!

We got there right before morning rush, and immediately had more coffee. I had the Eggs Butterhorn sandwich and then, um, more coffee. I had a long day ahead of me, so I was fortifying myself with the appropriate amount of caffeine suitable for a day of adventure. Our server was delightful and even slipped us an extra pastry before we left!

I met with Vanessa at Frisco Bay Marina to spend a couple of hours on the water, paddling and chatting.

Let’s just say that previously, I had only known Frisco as a set of strip malls along Route 9 that I would stop at for a quick meal on my way to Breckenridge or Aspen. BUT LO AND BEHOLD! There is the sparkly and gorgeous Lake Dillon, which is a freshwater reservoir owned and operated by Denver Water, providing water for the eponymous city. When Vanessa and I were out in the middle (sometimes the water was low in some areas so we had fun pushing and digging our way out, navigating through shallow straits–that I named the Frisco Straits of Gibraltar–to get to the next spot), the sky was a brilliant blue peppered with fluffy white clouds. We were surrounded by mountains, Peak One on one side, Grays and Torreys on the other. There were other folks out, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing. Everyone was in a good mood–any body of water on a clear, bluebird day does that for you, hello negative ions and the natural affinity we humans have for water–, but I digress… We chatted about our kids, our latest adventures coming out of the pandemic, and what our hopes and wishes for the world were. 

 On Dillon Reservoir AKA Lake Dillon

I could have stayed out there paddling all day, but alas, both of us had other places to be that afternoon.

We parted, and I stopped at the Island Grill for lunch: brats and salad for lunch, a refreshing Virgin Pina Colada, and a view of the marina. 

Before heading to my afternoon destination, I stopped on Main Street to do a little exploring. Yes, there is a vibrant and thriving Main Street with shops, boutiques, restaurants, and views. I spent some time (ok, a LOT OF TIME) at Next Page Books, which happened to have live music right outside it’s doors. After buying up much of the store, I hung around and listened to the folksy duo sing favorites and original and couldn’t help but smile at the normalcy of it all. Laurel and I

I found myself in a book at the Next Page Books!

continued poking in and out of various shops, some touristy and others quaint. I love the tourist shops! In my life I get to do a lot of cool and awesome things, and I like to share my experiences with others, especially my family in New York, so I buy all the t-shirts and magnets and mugs and posters and artisanal soaps and local jewelry. 

I had forgotten my mountain bike at my rental in Golden so I needed to rent one ASAP (instead of driving all the way back to retrieve it) so I hit up Christy Sports in Frisco for a last minute mountain bike rental. I tested the bike-fit with one of the lovely staff there and then was on my way to Dillon to spend time with some pre-teens and teenagers, which might have been the highlight of my time in Summit County.

The Cycle Effect, based in Eagle and Summit Counties, is a program whose tagline is “Empowering young women through mountain biking to create brighter futures and build better communities” The group I had the pleasure of joining was made of middle and high schoolers, who had varying degrees of experience on mountain bikes. I assured the beginners that I was right there with them, in experience and in fear. We did some ice-breakers, talked about our days, and our relationship with bikes. I admitted that for a long time, I didn’t want to like bikes because my athletic identity was that of a trail runner, but I confessed that I actually liked, or maybe even LOVED bikes. 

The incredible girls of The Cycle Effect

As an educator and running coach, I appreciated the teaching aspect of the group–the education wasn’t only about MTB skills, but on community, on trusting not only others but yourself, rooting for others, and rooting for yourself. 

Our awesome server, Rosemary!

Our initial climb was up a gnarly hill, which, at 9000 feet was a little too much for me, so I pushed the bike partly up to our meeting point where the more experienced riders would go left and continue climbing, and the beginners would hang a left and ride gently sloping trails. 

We watched a storm creep its way into our vicinity, and the coaches made the decision to cancel the rest of the ride. But before we left, we did a little photo shoot, practiced Wonderwoman and Superman poses, and rode back down the hill (that was the easy part!)

Right when it started raining we circled up, closing in both Spanish and English. My heart was full. Those girls, their coaches, their dreams…made an incredible, indelible impression.

The next morning, Laurel and I had breakfast at Bread and Salt, another local favorite. I had fluffy strawberry pancakes with Nutella and you guessed it, coffee. That morning we were headed to Breckenridge to ride up Boreas Pass Road with our new friend and Town of Frisco Communications Specialist, Veronika Hewitt. 

We rode slowly up the road which twisted and turned, and kept traveling up. We stopped at a historic sawmill, which had some cool-looking mountain bike trails on the property. Laurel said her goodbyes, and Veronika, an incredible (this lady wins things on a single speed!) gravel cyclist and mountain biker, led me up the road. The views of all of the mountains were stunning. At every switchback you could see something different. Rocky crags, blue sky, puffy clouds abounded. The air seemed thinner too, so in addition to being a spectacularly gorgeous ride, it was also challenging. But that is what adventure is, right?

We rounded what would be our last switchback, because a big old cumulonimbus cloud had gathered in the distance and what we had thought was far-off thunder was exactly that. The descent was incredible. We were going FAST, and it felt amazing after that painstaking-for-me ascent.

Flash fried shishito peppers anyone? And yes, it is entirely possible to gobble up this starter in its entirety. Very light, crispy, and tasty with a little spicy flair!

Veronika signaled to hang a left near where we had started, and we rode to the Isak Heartstone Wooden Troll spot for some final pictures and laughs. We parted ways, I stopped in at Pure Kitchen for lunch, and then headed back to Golden.

I spent two full days and nights exploring Frisco and its surrounding beauty. It wasn’t enough time. There were so many more trails and mountains to explore. I didn’t have much time to ride the Lake Dillon Rec Path, or hike Peak One or Greys and Torreys. But, that’s okay. What it means is that I have to return, perhaps during winter to enjoy one of the many ski resorts in the area–maybe Copper, Breck, or Keystone.

I will be back! Thank you, Town of Frisco, for an incredible two days!

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