Considering a trip to Colorado in May and need to know what to expect, where to go, or what to do? We’ve got you covered!
May in Colorado is one of the cheapest months to visit and the weather ranges from comfortably cool to warm most days. River rafting starts in full force this month and many other outdoor activities are possible again. Skiers can also get a few more runs in select areas before the snow is completely gone.
Winter and Summer months may be the most popular in Colorado, but Spring in the Rockies is a beautiful thing to behold. Locals will tell you May is one of the best times to visit and experience some of the first weeks of warmth before the Summer crowds start rolling in.
In addition to warm weather activities, snow sports can still be found in the higher altitude areas of the state for those highly interested in skiing or snowboarding. But the main outdoor attractions in May will be hiking, climbing, biking and camping.
This guide will cover everything you need to know to plan the perfect May trip. From weather to crowds, events to things to do, you’ll find it all here!
This article is part of Roundtript’s series of expert Colorado travel guides for every month of the year.
Spring in Colorado
Summer in Colorado
Fall in Colorado
Winter in Colorado
For a summary of each Colorado month & season all in one place, check out our big guide to the Best Times of the Year to Visit Colorado.
Colorado Weather in May
Colorado weather in May has mild temperatures, with very low chance of snow flurries and a decent amount of rainfall. Spring is fully underway, melting the snow at the center and lower areas of the mountain ranges, creating muddy areas along trails and pathways.
The mud doesn’t tend to be too big of any issue for driving through the state, but many outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, off-roading and camping can be affected by it. The way we look at it, it’s a fair price to pay for visiting Colorado in the off-season.
Expect Colorado’s average May temperatures to reach highs of around 70°F (21°C) with average lows in the low 40’s°F (4°C); higher altitudes can reach lows close to the high 20’s°F (-6°C) depending on the day. Generally, mild days and cool evenings are to be expected in most cities around Colorado in the month of May.
The average daily temperatures will vary depending on the city you’re in and the region where it’s located inside the state. A lot of the Northern regions will have cooler temps on average, while the Southern areas will experience a warmer weather. Either way, visitors are in for dry air, which makes the overall temperature feel breezy instead of muggy.
No matter the time of year, altitude will always be a factor when traveling to Colorado. Some towns like Alma have an elevation of 10,300′ and others like Wray have an elevation of over 3,000′. As a matter of fact, altitude sickness affects nearly 10% of all visitors. You can prepare your body by eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, sleeping well, resting frequently and avoiding alcohol.
Colorado Snow & Skiing in May
Colorado snowfall is coming to a halt in May and skiing conditions are only good in the high, dry areas. Skiing is no longer the main attraction in Colorado by the time May rolls around as most of the snow storms are done until next season which starts back up in November.
Only a select few resorts and ski areas are still open with multiple runs available for skiers to experience. The snow storms have pretty much stopped, but these areas have a good amount of old powder that maintains it’s condition in higher altitudes.
Lower altitudes began to see snow melt back in April and muddy areas along trails and valleys are very common in May. Despite this, some areas are still great for skiing. Dressing in layers that can be easily removed is highly recommended, since May days start cooler and end warmer. Due to unpredictable Spring weather, including afternoon rain showers, it’s best to go skiing early in the day and leave before the afternoon.
Colorado Affordability & Crowds in May
May is a great month to visit if you prefer to have some of the lowest rates of the year on lodging and overall travel. Colorado is most popular in the Winter with skiing and snowboarding and in the Summer with hiking, rafting and other various activities, therefore Spring and Fall will see some of the lowest crowds and rates.
Hotel rates will vary by city, with most ski towns offering a range of rates, small towns being the cheapest and the capitol city of Denver averaging around $250-300 per night for the best hotels. With lower crowds, it’s also possible that some hotels and restaurants may close for the season until summer crowds begin rolling in. But restaurants, shopping and camp sites won’t be crowded, giving you plenty of opportunity to hit up any location on your bucket list.
Best Ski Resorts in Colorado in May
Arapahoe Basin & Loveland
Both of these excellent ski areas are located in Dillon, CO in the Arapaho National Forest. Both are more suitable for a quick casual ski trip where you aren’t in it for frills or expensive meals. Expect to stay outside of the area and travel in to ski each day.
Loveland has a very long ski season, lasting through the first weeks of May most years. It’s got 1,800 acres of skiable terrain and a summit elevation of 13,010′. They have great options for beginners and experienced skiers with both the Valley and Basin ski areas. The Valley has it’s own lifts for novice skiers and offers a safe space for practice, while the Basin has wide open runs, steep drops and exhilarating trails. There are also On-Mountain Cabins available for rent, an on-mountain restaurant and a child care facility at the base.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area has the longest ski season in the state (typically lasting from October till early June) and maintains great snow conditions throughout most of May. Arapahoe Basin offers the ultimate Rocky Mountain experience with some of the lowest crowds and most incredible landscape views. It’s equipped with 1,428 skiable acres with a summit elevation of 13,050′. It’s appropriately nicknamed “the Legend” for it’s epic terrain that appeals best to intermediate and advanced level skiers.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park, like others in Colorado, offers backcountry skiing to anyone and everyone as long as there’s snow on the ground. It’s one of the best places to go as the Summer months begin to approach since most of the ski resorts have shut down. However, there will be no lodging in this area – you’ll drive to the mountain to ski and shelter elsewhere. Estes Park is where you’ll find your outfitters and is the closest town for lodging.
Skiable acres are dependent on the ability level of the skier, therefore the mountain is your oyster. Drive up via Trail Ridge Road and ski to your heart’s content on any of the slopes that contain great powder.
Best Things to Do in Colorado in May
Below are some of the best places to visit in the month of May. In addition to these places, other spring activities available this time of year include ATVing, backpacking, ballooning, boating, camping, canoeing, fishing, golfing, paragliding, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing, water skiing, water rafting, and ziplining.
Hike Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is the perfect destination for hiking enthusiasts and athletes who love a challenge. The National Park is filled with over 600 cliff-dwellings dating back to 600AD and has some of the most well-preserved archeological sites in the country. Not only will you get an educational history lesson of the area, you’ll get a serious workout just trying to get to these sites.
Ranger-led tours of the Park can be booked at the Visitor Center before arriving at Mesa Verde, located on the main highway leading up to the destination. The tours involve not only walking and hiking, but could also include times where climbing, crawling and awkward maneuvering are necessary. If you don’t want to exert this much effort to see the Ancestral Pueblan cliff dwellings, they can be viewed from afar at the designated overlook that you can drive up to.
Travelers should be aware that Denver does not have the outdoor experiences that other Colorado cities have. If you’re not looking to hike, climb or bike your way through the mountains, Denver is a great place to be in May with lower crowds and travel rates. Spring weather tends to have more rain, but you can easily take cover in the many sights worth visiting around the city.
The Mile High City is best known for being the capital of Colorado; a true metropolis that began humbly as a frontier town that boomed in the Gold Rush. There are many things to do and experience in Denver, like the historic tours and Old West attractions. For example, Denver Story Trek (an historical journey through the city) can be accomplished via bus, bike or car and takes you on routes through Denver neighborhoods and historic areas.
In addition to the many attractions all over the city, like museums, restaurants and historical sites (a lot of these experiences are included in the $30 Mile High Culture Pass – three days of admission and discounts on transportation), you can easily escape to more secluded areas right outside the capitol.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, for example, is a great place to visit in May when the weather is mild and the park is open to all. It’s located about 10 miles outside of Denver. Typically, it serves as a concert and music space, but when it’s not hosting an event, it’s available for exploring.
Experience Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Great Sand Dunes is the ultimate outdoor adventure that thrill-seekers can take part in. This unique stretch of landscape in southern Colorado offers hiking, fat biking, sand sledding, camping and horseback riding, just to name a few. Though it’s open year-round, May is the ideal month to visit the Dunes, with it’s mild temperatures and great weather.
In May, the mornings are cool and the afternoons can get hot, though snow flurries at this high altitude are still possible. It’s recommended to start the morning with sand boarding or sledding before the sand scorches in the afternoon. You can also hike any of the dunes or one of the forested trails around the Park, or see more by driving Medano Pass 4 Wheel-Drive Road.
Medano Creek is home to enjoyable tubing and river rafting and gets quite popular on the weekends in May and June. It’s suggested that you take advantage of week days here, because the water can get crowded on the weekends. At night, the Dunes come to life with a brilliant starry sky. You can see the Milky Way, the bright Moon and even planets very clearly. You’re also encouraged to take nighttime walks, but use extreme precaution to find your way back.
Tour Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument is located on the Colorado and Utah border and Spring is one of the best times to go for lower crowds. Dinosaur is equipped with two visitor centers where you can learn more about the area; Canyon Visitor Center is located in Colorado and serves as the entrance to the monument.
All of the dinosaur bones and fossils are located on the Utah side of Dinosaur (in Quarry Exhibit Hall) but you can view prehistoric cave drawings called “petroglyphs” in Echo Lake Park in Colorado. You’ll find these at Pool Creek about a half mile from the campground. Echo Lake is a great time in May, offering warm weather hiking, river rafting, camping and picnicking in designated areas.
Harper’s Corner Area is a great place to explore, with natural roads you can drive that scale the mountains and give you beautiful views. You can also hike Ruple Point Trail, Plug Hat Trail (which is wheelchair accessible) and Harper’s Corner Trail, where uncovered sea creature fossils can be seen in the hardened dirt of the path.
Experience Grand Junction
Grand Junction is a city located in Colorado’s Western Slope region; a gateway to some of Colorado’s top attractions like Colorado National Monument and the Grand Mesa, as well as the town of Fruita.
Colorado National Monument offers more than the typical Colorado Rockies mountain scenery. It’s filled with beautiful landscapes of rock formations, canyons, arid plants and bushes. It’s very popular for long distance biking, trail hiking and off-road driving adventures. For the less adventurous, Rim Rock Drive gives you the same scenic views from the comfort of your vehicle.
The Grand Mesa is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world, stretching over 500 square miles. The Grand Junction gives easy access to the Grand Mesa, which is a great escape from the approaching summer heat (the summit never rises above 80°F (27°C). Hiking, fishing, biking, driving and camping are all easily achieved at the Grand Mesa. The most notable experiences include sight-seeing from Grand Mesa Scenic Byway and downhill mountain biking at Powderhorn Mountain Resort.
Grand Junction as a city has loads of additional experiences when you’ve had your fill of outdoor activity. Downtown Main Street has many shops, boutiques and stores to meander through and plenty of restaurants to choose from. As a matter of fact, it’s best known for being in the heart of Colorado’s wine country, so there’s no better place to taste wine in the state.
See the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Black Canyon in Colorado is the equivalent of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. While the Grand Canyon is primarily made of red clay and rock, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is truly a sight to behold, made of strikingly dark Precambrian rock: in other words, the structure of the canyon dates back to the earliest parts of the earth’s history.
Surprisingly, Black Canyon is Colorado’s least visited National Park. That could be because of the danger presented in hiking the trails through the canyon, along with the fact that it takes hours worth of driving to get here and there is no on-site lodging. However, there are many activities to take part in while visiting, including hiking, fishing, stargazing and even skiing in the Winter time. Hiking and fishing along the Gunnison River are particularly great activities for all types of vacationers.
May is a great time to visit Black Canyon with the longer days on the horizon, as well as warmer weather to enjoy. We’d recommend adding the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park to your vacation plans during the week, but not necessarily making it your full vacation – unless you plan only to visit for a weekend.
Hike Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is easily accessible from the town of Estes Park and just a short drive from the cities of Denver and Boulder. It’s cool and clear in the Spring and the best part about going at this time is the ease of travel. May is a great time to be in the National Park as most of the snow has melted on all parts of the trails.
May weather could be cooler at higher altitudes, but the remainder of the area will be warmer. Hiking is the most popular activity in Rocky Mountain National Park, but it isn’t the only way to see it. You can experience the full glory of the Rockies from your car while driving on Trail Ridge Road, finding a spot to camp, going fishing or even rock climbing.
While hiking over 350 miles of trail, you could encounter wildlife such as elk and bighorn sheep, get gorgeous pictures with sweeping vistas and experience a killer workout. The wildflowers are beginning to bloom later in May, creating a breathtaking landscape with the pine and spruce forests, as well as sparkling alpine lakes.
Hit the Trails in Fruita
Mountain bikers and biking enthusiasts – or casual bikers who want a fun experience – will really love the terrain near Fruita, CO. This area in particular has some of the best trails that you can bike for longer periods of time throughout the year. Where some cities and towns are limited due to weather, Fruita maintains appropriate weather and clear trails more consistently.
The desert-like terrain makes for a unique series of trails you can experience along the mountain ridges, cliff ledges and valleys. Most notable are the 18 Road Trails, offering some of the most expansive scenery and considered the best all around. There is also Kokopelli Loops (beautiful scenery and long, multi-day singletrack trails), Lunch Loop Trails (steep, rocky expert terrain) and Rabbit Valley (6 miles of fast, scenic trails).
You can hit the trails on your own self-guided tour or book a tour with the local outfitters. Lodging is available through home rentals and offsite hotels, but to experience all that the great outdoors has to offer, we suggest reserving a camping spot at Highline State Park.
Tour Pike National Forest
Pike National Forest is home to over one million acres of beautifully preserved forests, streams and mountain areas. Visitors love the outdoor activities that are kicking back up in the Spring, including hiking, fishing, boating and camping. The National Forest is easily accessible from the city of Colorado Springs.
Pike National Forest makes for a nice family vacation for outdoor lovers, or those in need of some fresh air. Some of the best activities to occupy your time would be hiking any of the family-friendly trails like one of many that leads to Manitou Park (pack a picnic to eat by the lake!), driving along any of the scenic roads or fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon.
Hiking up to Pike’s Peak can prove to be challenging in May, due to various changes in weather, which can make the trip unpredictable. If you insist on going, be sure to check with local outfitters to determine the best time to go and the necessities to pack. A good alternative would be to climb to Devil’s Head Lookout which ends with a beautiful view of the forest valley from the service tower.
May Events in Colorado
There are many events to experience in Colorado. Below we’ve listed the biggest and most popular long term events that appeal to most travelers.
Denver Pop Culture Con
Denver Pop Culture Con (previously Denver Comic Con) is a conference in celebration of American pop culture focused on the latest music, movies, comics and cultural icons that vary in popularity from year to year. Events throughout the conference include celebrity interviews and meet-ups, kid’s events and costume competitions.
Durango Wine Experience
This 3-day event brings together wine makers and top chefs in quaint Downtown Durango. The weekend consists of talk experiences, educational seminars, multiple opportunities for wine tastings and fine dining. All the proceeds from the event go to a chosen local charity each year, so your ticket goes back to supporting the community.
Junior College World Series
JUCO takes place in Grand Valley during the last week of May leading up to June. It’s been traditionally held in Grand Valley at Grand Junction for 60 years. Junior College athletes from all over the country compete for the World Series title in this event, which is open to hundreds of spectators throughout the week.
MountainFilm Festival is held annually on Memorial Day weekend in Telluride. The goal of the weekend is to inspire change in the world through showcasing documentaries and small films on topics like social justice, environmental, cultural and political issues. The organization brings together people from around the country and some from all over the world to experience this event.
Colorado in May: Week by Week
Winter waved goodbye in late April for most of Colorado, though some high altitude areas will still hold a fair amount of snow, especially in the North. Flurries are more scarce and rain showers become more abundant. Mud season is fully under way, with snow melt causing pathways to form puddles and remain wet till more Summer warmth comes in.
Ski resorts have closed and only the most avid and craziest of skiers are searching for the powder. Open runs can still be found in the ski areas, as opposed to the more structured resorts, making backcountry skiing much more enjoyable for skiers and snowboarders alike.
As far as events, visitors can attend the Durango Wine Experience this week, created for wine enthusiasts, local chefs and taste makers in Durango, CO.
Most of Colorado is embracing the full impact of Spring, with all it’s warm breezes and cool nights. Mud season will last for the entire month, but that doesn’t keep hikers, bikers, campers and off-road enthusiasts from experiencing all that the mountains have to offer.
Open runs continue to be available for the majority of the month, allowing backcountry skiing to be much more enjoyable for skiers and snowboarders alike. But most tourists are turning their interest from snow covered mountains to dry, warm landscapes. For instance, this is the perfect time to see Mesa Verde National Park before school’s out and the tourists swarm. Mesa Verde also experiences a slow Spring, so the first two week’s will be cooler than other parts of the state.
No big events are going on at this point in the month, but there is plenty to fill your vacation, from river rafting in Telluride to mountain biking in Fruita. Colorado has so many great outdoor activities to keep you and your family occupied and having a great time.
This seems to be the calm before the storm of Summer begins. Most schools are still in session and parents aren’t quite thinking of vacation until the entire family can travel together. This is the optimal time to get in a last minute vacation before the crowds start to pick back up.
Skiing and snowboarding in the backcountry remains an option for the snow fanatics, while most vacationers are interested in what the hiking trails have to offer. We suggest taking advantage of the low crowd levels and warmer weather to get real outdoorsy with an historical hiking tour like Dinosaur National Monument.
JUCO (Junior College Baseball World Series) is going on in Grand Junction, following it’s tradition of over 60 years. Junior College Baseball teams compete for the title and anyone can purchase a ticket to watch it if they’re in town.
Summer is upon us in the last week of May with higher crowd volumes beginning to make an appearance with Memorial Day Weekend. Most lodging and excursion rates will still be lower, and crowd levels shouldn’t make too big of a shift, especially in more rural parts of the state.
Skiing and snowboarding in the backcountry remains an option for the snow fanatics, while most vacationers are interested in what the hiking trails have to offer. This would be the perfect time to get out to the Black Canyon, as it’s the least visited attraction in the state but one of the most worthy, picturesque places to go.
Over Memorial Day Weekend, Telluride hosts it’s annual MountainFilm Festival. Anyone can attend and view short films and documentaries focused on social justice, world peace and environmental topics.
May finds itself right between the popular Winter ski season and the crowded Summer vacation season, making it most ideal for visitors looking to save a little money on their trip to Colorado. While muddy areas may be prevalent, there’s no better time to experience the great outdoors in the mountain towns than before the crowds come back in droves for Summer.
Mountains still allow for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, making it ideal for the most avid to take advantage of the extremely low crowds on the slopes; but these areas are few and far between.
While the weather may be unpredictable in the Spring, there are still plenty of things to choose from that the state is well known for. We recommend heading outdoors to enjoy any of Colorado’s best hiking, biking and camping areas in May.