The summer travel season unofficially began with the three-day weekend, and Colorado parks, like neighborhood pools, teemed with revelers — a good harbinger for a destination state eager to please.
Randy Hampton, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said campsites were full across the state for the long Memorial Day weekend.
At Lakewood’s Bear Creek Lake Park, cars waited in line nearly half an hour Monday afternoon, many destined for a crowded swim beach.
Oliver Dyas of Thornton watched his three young kids play in the water as he stretched out his bare feet on the gritty, beige sand. He said, in effect, there’s no place like home.
“Man, why spend all that money going anywhere,” said the native Texan,who
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manages a body shop. “You can just drive down the road out here put out your tent. It’s beautiful and doesn’t cost hardly anything.”
Kayakers glided by on the deep blue lake, the Rocky Mountain foothills at his back and hawks squawking as they sailed tree to tree near Dyas’ campsite — a vacation postcard come to life 25 miles from Dyas’ home.
Sunday at Cherry Creek State Park, the man-made beach looked like a miniature Florida coastline, full of sunbathers, beach tents and splashing children.
Chad Still, 17, of Aurora pulled his windsurfing gear ashore on the beach as the temperature pushed toward 90 degrees Sunday.
“My parents dropped me off,” he said of his mini staycation.
Others are traveling farther from home.
AAA Colorado predicted about 600,000 Coloradans, almost 12 percent of the state’s population, would be traveling at least 50 miles for the weekend, a forecast down 0.6 percent from the holiday last year.
Gas prices are up just a little this year — an average of $3.82 for regular gasoline in Colorado this year compared to $3.77 last year — but a AAA survey found 62 percent of expected travelers said they were undeterred by the cost for fuel.
Airline officials are expecting the highest volume of flyers nationwide this summer since 2008, before the recession.
While Colorado is known for its skiing, summer is still Colorado’s peak tourism season, accounting for about two-thirds of the volume of visitors to the state, according to the Colorado Tourism Office.
A survey the Colorado Tourism commissioned last year found that 25 percent of state tourists visited a state or national park, 19 percent when hiking or backpacking and 19 percent visited a famous landmark or historic site. Camping, fishing, cycling,
theme parks and breweries also ranked on the list of Colorado attractions to visitors who were surveyed.
“People are starting to think about vacationing more again; they’re ready to get out and play,” Hampton said. “In Colorado, that means getting outside.”
He said parks officials expect a strong summer, as the overall economy continues to improve. “It could be an action-packed summer.”
Clear Creek Rafting Co. in Idaho Springs was busy all weekend, after a cool spring delayed the whitewater season.
“That’s good for us in the long run,” said the rafting company’s manager Dale Drake, “because that means we’ll have good water when more people can come.”
Memorial Day weekend had exceeded expectations, he said.
“We had good weather, good water, and great weekend,” he said.
Joey Bunch: 303-954-1174, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/joeybunch