As part of a fun and activity filled summer vacation to Copper Mountain in Colorado, we contacted Nova Guides to rent off road vehicles to ride some trails up into the mountains. We chose Nova Guides because we had a fantastic snowmobile trip with them on a previous winter vacation in Colorado and because they rent RZR or ATVs for tours or self guided driving. We chose a RZR because it seats up to four people and it was perfect for our group of 18.
Nova Guides is headquartered about an hour very scenic drive from Copper Mountain at Camp Hale which is the former U.S. Army training facility constructed in 1942 for what became the 10th Mountain Division. As an elite ski corp they were trained in mountain climbing, Alpine and Nordic skiing, cold-weather survival, as well as, various weapons and ordinance - all to prepare for World War II. Nova Guides is housed in a cool log cabin building that's home to their corporate offices, a large living room centered around a huge stone fireplace, an equipment staging area, and a grill and bar area plus an outside patio with a stunning view of the mountain ranges.
As soon as all 18 of us walked in we were warmly greeted by Nate (sales and marketing), Steve (one of the owners for over 34 years), and the staff who quickly and efficiently fitted us with helmets and goggles - we were a strange looking group! They led us to five RZR which are 900 cc four seater off road vehicles, gave us some safety and RZR operating instructions, and some ideas on which trails to take. We then quickly divided into 5 groups, piled into our RZR, and set off in a cloud of dust for an exciting two hours.
Our first goal was to go from the Nova Guides lodge at 9200 feet to above the tree line and the top of Ptarmigan Hill at 12,142 feet above sea level - the picture is a view of Ptarmigan Hill from Wilder Gulch. As the oldest and most mature, I set off first (the lead RZR doesn't have to eat dust from other RZR) with the three youngest girls. I like to go rather slow so I can enjoy the sights and beautiful scenery but two minutes after we started I was quickly passed by all four of the other RZR and my RZR was suddenly enveloped in a huge cloud of dust! I let them blow by me and continued my slower, no dust scenic climb to the the top. Wow, stunning scenery of mountain peaks, lush green meadows, bubbling creeks, lots of trees, and different rock formations. About ten minutes later we found the other four RZR patiently waiting for us so they could make sure we hadn't driven off the side of a cliff. As soon as they saw us, they set off in another cloud of dust racing up to the top of Ptarmigan Hill.
By the way, these 900 cc RZR will do about 40 miles an hour up steep narrow bumpy dirt roads. They all have super heavy duty suspensions, power steering, and very comfortable leather seats - not quite the same ride as a Mercedes on the freeway, but surprisingly comfortable. We've rented ATVs before and the RZR are easier to drive, much safer, and much much more comfortable.
After a 35 or more minute climb we arrived at the end of the trail and the summit of Ptarmigan Hill - what a stunning breath taking view for miles and miles! Unbelievable! After spending several minutes admiring the view, we descended a little ways down the trail, then took another trail up toward another peak on Resolution Mountain at 11,935 feet above sea level with equally stunning views. After a few photo ops we were back in the RZR in another cloud of dust to take a different trail to what is normally a waterfall, but was dry on this trip. The only time they slowed down was to let me get in the front and take a picture!
This trail follows along the valley and beside beautiful meadows and ponds on one side and rugged mountains on the other side. As we were enjoying the view at our snails pace I was educating the kids on the rock formations, the uplifting of the mountains, the rock and snow avalanche areas, and more. They were quiet and I couldn't see their faces to tell if they were enjoying my educational lectures, or sleeping - either way I was having fun and enjoying the ride and scenery.
The huge cloud of dust from the other RZR had dissipated which meant they were patiently waiting for slow poke or had ridden off the cliff. Turns out they were waiting for a huge herd of sheep to get across the road. The sheep come down from North Sheep Mountain this time of year to feed in the meadow and then head back up a few months later. Quite a sight.
We continued up the side of Sheep Mountain with sheer rock cliffs, a wide variety of different types of trees, lush meadows, clear blue ponds, and plenty of scenic moments. The dust again settled so I knew they had arrived at the end of trail and they were waiting for us. I pulled up beside the group and was explaining to them about all the sights we saw on the way up - none of which were seen by the rest of our group - they were enveloped in a dust bowl as they raced up the mountain. I said I'll lead the way and point out some of the sights on the way down the trail.
One minute after I set off all four RZR blew by me again covering us in a big cloud of dust. As soon as we could see we continued our slow but scenic journey back to Nova Guides - every once in a while, I would gun it and race down the trail to try to catch up and to give the kids a thrill. Ok, I admit I loved it also! We were sad to see our journey end but excited about a cold beer and soda.
By the time we got back to Nova Guides everybody, except the four of us in my RZR, were covered in dust from head to toe. I'm not sure how they were able to see anything. But they all got out of their RZR excited about this adventure. After a quick face wash we ended up in the bar for a drink and to reminisce about how much fun we had - thank you Nova Guides! Can't wait to come back and do it again.
We were gone for 2 hours, traveled 42 miles, and climbed from 9,200 feet to 12,500 feet to the top of White River National Forest on some easy to ride but steep and bumpy roads/trails. We rode through beautiful alpine meadows with wildflowers, rushing creeks, clear blue ponds, a variety of trees, and towering rock formations - a fun, scenic and unique adventure tour in Colorado. Return to Texas Outside's article on a fun Summer Vacation to Copper Mountain.
Nova Guides has snowmobile rentals, snowmobile guided tours, and snow coach tours during the winter. Read our article about our fun Snowmobile Tour With Nova Guides. They also offer log cabin rentals which have two bedrooms, a bath, full kitchen and fireplace and satellite TV. Nova Guides facilities and offerings are fantastic for reunions, corporate events or weddings.