Anyone who has visited Summit County recently has probably noticed that the town of Silverthorne is in the midst of a major renaissance. Historically a bedroom community and high country shopping destination characterized by outlet stores and fast-food restaurants, Silverthorne is now a hub for culture and outdoor recreation.
Based on surveys conducted in 2010, local residents resoundingly desired a distinct and developed downtown. It’s happening. Silverthorne is undergoing a major facelift, much of which has already come to glowing fruition. In the last few years, the mountain-encircled town that sits at an elevation of 9,035 feet has become home to a performing arts center and outdoor summer arts scene, new coffee shops, breweries and restaurants, a one-of-a-kind indoor food hall and a gamut of outdoor recreation opportunities and monthly cultural events.
“It’s actually grown into a town since I’ve been here,” says Lynne Baer, co-founder and general manager of The Pad, a boutique hotel-hostel overlooking the Blue River that opened in 2021. “There’s a thriving arts community here in Silverthorne.
“It was actually from an I-heart-Silverthorne event that we found our current property,” she said. “And now, it is the hot spot for all of Summit County every first Friday. The general vibe in summer is amazing. The trails are less crowded. So many of our guests are receiving local knowledge from people they meet here about hiking and biking, heading to stunning areas like Cataract Lake and not fighting all the crowds.
“When staying here they realize so many great places are walkable just like other resort areas, but [with] less chaos,” Baer said. “We could not have known this at the time, but are grateful that our business is in Silverthorne. The excitement is contagious. The sky is the limit for the future of Silverthorne.”
Outdoor recreation in the mountains
You’ll find world-class golf, hiking, mountain biking, fly-fishing and paddling all within a 2-mile radius of Silverthorne.
With Lake Dillon just up the road, visitors often don’t realize that there is a smaller, warmer and safer water sports hub just north of town. Kayaking, paddleboarding and swimming are allowed at North Pond, which also offers a sandy beach and picnic areas and is free to access. Inflatable kayaks and SUP rentals can be found nearby at Colorado Adventure Guides. Anglers rejoice, as it’s not uncommon to pull 2-foot-long rainbow trout out of the Blue River in Silverthorne. Fishing licenses are required and questions can be answered at Cutthroat Anglers, which has etched its mark as experts when it comes to all things fly-fishing, gear and guiding.
Whether you’re up for a multiday backpacking trip into the rugged Eagles Nest Wilderness on the 50-mile Gore Range Trail, reaching breathtaking panoramas of the lower blue valley via a steep but short (2-mile) breathtaking trek up Angler Mountain or want an easier stroll through wildflowers to Cataract Lake, the area is teeming with trails for hikers of every level. There also are fantastic trails to see fall colors, including golden aspens.
The Salt Lick Trail system is comprised of a series of short singletracks tucked into the pine trees and aspen groves above Silverthorne that can be looped and lapped by mountain bikers, accessed via a new connector trail located on the outskirts of town. Pedalers with a solid set of lungs will be rewarded with stunning views of Lake Dillon after a haul up Ptarmigan Peak. If you’re looking for downhill thrills, consider riding up a gondola to bomb a downhill run.
Road cyclists can tackle Vail Pass, Hoosier Pass or Swan Mountain Road, or simply cruise roads and a series of paved paths to Frisco and Breckenridge.
With its sprawling greens speckled with trout ponds, rolling, pine-covered hills and surrounding high summits, Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks is considered one of the most scenic golf courses in the Rocky Mountains. It’s open to the public with full-service bar and restaurant on-site.
Food & Drinks in Silverthorne
From coffee shops to tequila bars, new haunts keep springing up around town.
If there were a centerpiece to Silverthorne’s fresh look, it’s Bluebird Market. An indoor food hall featuring independently owned pizza, taco, crepe, coffee, burger and ice cream stalls, a bar, bakery and boutique shops, built around the historic Old Dillon Inn, simply walking around this place is an experience in itself.
Angry James Brewery
Follow the locals to this suds stop that serves up refreshing iterations of everyone’s favorite grains. With at least one of each variety on the menu (IPAs, pilsners, stouts, farmhouse, etc.), the patio at Angry James is popping every weekend. If you happen to come on a Wednesday, you’ll catch a local live music showcase.
Sauce on the Blue
Rated Summit County’s No. 1 Italian restaurant for five straight years, Sauce on the Blue specializes in all of the Italian classics, from thin crust pizzas to pastas, salads, apps and desserts as well as an impressive wine list. Hit the mid-afternoon happy hour on the patio.
Also rich with Italian flare, Enza’s is new to town, but if you hit it during the height of lunch hour, you’ll find a line out the door for hungry patrons craving a heaping meatball sandwich or classic club. The breakfast crepes and bowls are also oozing with goodness.
Mercado La Perla
So unassuming it doesn’t have a website, ask anyone where to find the best street tacos in Summit County and this is hands-down the answer. Find this hidden gem, no-frills takeout joint at 1161 Blue River Parkway.
A local institution for more than a decade, Red Buffalo’s creamy lattes and eye-opening espresso drinks have earned it a spot on the top of the county favorites list for many years running. If a coffice is more of what you’re after, the new House of Vibes lives up to its name in inviting, plant-imbued ambience while sipping or snacking on a sandwich with laptop in tow.
Overnight stays in the mountains
Although Silverthorne has long been home to some of Summit County’s most affordable chain hotels, there are a couple of new, character-endowed options that make for a comfortable and colorful overnight experience.
Potentially the hippest place to stay in all of Colorado, The Pad is the brainchild of a local husband-wife duo and opened in 2021. Its 36 rooms, ranging from shared dorms to deluxe private suites to the most interesting option — a narrow, private portal fashioned from shipping containers — all come with high-end, unique finishes at a considerably lower price point than most boutique lodging options in the area. With sustainability at the helm of every detail, The Pad is on track to earn its B Corporation certification. Overlooking the Blue River, its massive rooftop patio is not only Silverthorne’s most inviting summer space to sip a draught cocktail on a sunny afternoon, but also home to regular outdoor yoga classes, live music and mountain bike clinics.
Situated in the ever-growing downtown area next to Bluebird Market, Hotel Indigo is IHG’s first mountainside hotel in the U.S. and Silverthorne’s newest and most luxurious lodging option. Pet-friendly and equipped with a fitness center and bike rentals, the hotel’s most alluring feature is its Kucu Bistro & Tequila bar. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with a southwestern flare, Kucu’s tequila list is truly staggering and, along with its signature cocktails, has drawn in as many locals for a post-work or weekend stop as it has overnight guests.
Culture in the high country
Open year-round, Silverthorne’s Performing Arts Center rivals theaters in major cities and Lake Dillon Theatre Co. productions are the closest you’ll find to Broadway between Denver and Salt Lake City. As far as outdoor culture opportunities in the warmer months, Silverthorne is brimming with them. First Fridays are worth planning a weekend around. With local artists displaying their wares and a bounty of food and drink vendors, the first Friday of the month culminates with a free live music performance and routinely draws a sea of locals and visitors.
The paved Blue River Trail that runs between the Performing Arts Center and outlet stores comes alive with artwork of every variety for Sunday Art Strolls. The schedule for Aug. 21 includes musicians, painters, sculptors, jewelry makers and pop-up projects along the trail between noon and 3 p.m.
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