Dillon, in the high Colorado mountains, is a town on the move. Well, more like a town that has moved three times in its history. Three times. The whole town. That means there has been four different locations for Dillon in its 150 year history. And what a colorful history is has been.
This article was written in partnership with the Town of Dillon.
Dillon was established in 1850 as a trading hub on a planned railroad route. The problem was the route was relocated to an alternate canyon to the east. Not to be deterred, the townsfolk decided to simply move the town to the tracks. Then, about a month after re-establishing the town, another railroad announced it would be building another set of tracks to the west. Guess what the townsfolk did? Yup, they moved their town again.
Dillon prospered in its third location for almost 100 years. But in the early 1950s, the City of Denver approached Dillon with a proposition. Denver needed more water and it wanted to build a dam on the Snake River and create a large reservoir to supply water to the city. The only problem was that Dillon sat right in the middle of where the reservoir would be, if the dam was constructed.
Through many negotiations and deals, Denver financed the move and Dillon moved for the third time to its fourth, and current, location.
Don’t worry, Dillon’s not moving again and you can easily access the town, tucked in the scenic enclave along the shores of Dillon Reservoir, via Interstate 70 about 90 miles west of Denver.
Today, Dillon is friendly and unpretentious in one of the most scenic parts of the United States. Visitors can choose between extreme outdoor adventures as well as “adventure-light” activities in both the winter and summer.
If you are considering a summertime trip to the high Colorado mountains, Dillon should be your destination.
Here is a suggested three-day itinerary for your time in Dillon:
Day 1: Get In, Get Settled, Get Happy
In the summer, I-70 is easy to navigate and unbelievably scenic. Enjoy the breathtaking views on your way to Exit 205. You really can’t miss it. There’s a huge reservoir there (Lake Dillon).
Get settled in any number of hotels in town. If you are traveling a little more rustic, there are five campgrounds on Lake Dillon that all have trail systems into town. These range from primitive campsites for tents only to full-hookup campgrounds that can accommodate the largest RVs.
Make your way into town for a meal at one of many restaurants. May we suggest authentic Mexican cuisine for your first meal? Choose either Tacos Tequila or Lili’s Bistro.
Hopefully there is a musical performance going on at the Dillon Amphitheater. More than likely there will be a show, since Dillon Amphitheater typically hosts performances between mid-June and mid-September. Dillon Amphitheater offers amazing acoustics as well as a stunning view of Lake Dillon.
Finish off the evening with a hike or bike on any of the numerous trails in and around town.
Day 2 – History on the Water
Get up early and fuel up at the Sunshine Cafe, then book a one-hour Pontoon History Tour on Lake Dillon, hosted by the Summit Historical Society. These tours are a perfect way to learn more about the interesting history of Dillon. Plus, the tours offer a majestic 360-degree view of the surrounding Colorado high mountain peaks.
After your history tour, hang out at the Dillon Marina and grab lunch and a Rumrunner at the Lakeside Tiki Bar.
Spend the afternoon browsing the many fresh vegetable and fruit stands, eating free samples from the numerous food vendors, listening to live music, and viewing local art at the Dillon Farmers Market.
Day 3 – Angling for More Water
Lake Dillon is renowned for exceptional fishing. The lake supports large populations of arctic char, kokanee salmon and trout.
Rent a pontoon from Dillon Marina and spend the day catching fish, or not catching fish. Whatever – you’re on vacation! If angling isn’t your angle, book some time on a sailboat and spend the day enjoying the water and feeling the refreshing high mountain air through your hair.
After on the water, get your sea legs (and your shopping fix) at the local shops in downtown Dillon. Round out those items you’ve been needing in your closet for adventures, and purchase something unique to commemorate your visit.
Dillon definitely has the history, scenic beauty, location, amenities, and adventure almost any traveler would want while exploring the high Colorado mountains.