First-Timer’s Guide: Frisco, Colorado – 5280

Rainbow Lake Trail in Frisco, Colorado. Photo by Todd Powell

Adventure

Planning a trip to Summit County? Don’t forget Frisco, a hidden gem with year-round activities, a burgeoning art scene, and plenty of tasty eats to fuel the fun.


Frisco has traditionally been considered a jumping-off point for other destinations. Planning to ski at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Saturday? Book a hotel in Frisco for a lower rate. Prepping for a backpacking trip in the White River National Forest? Stock up on vittles at the Frisco Whole Foods. Returning from a weekend on the Western Slope? Grab an early dinner on Frisco’s Main Street.

But we think that view overlooks the Summit County town’s own charms. With plenty of recreation, culture, and dining opportunities (many of them located on or near the town’s quaint Main Street), this too-often-overlooked mountain haven has enough going for it to be a destination in its own right.

Get Outside

With trails, bike paths, a marina, and campgrounds all within a few minutes of town, Frisco is more than a base camp for exploration elsewhere. Exhibit A: The Frisco Adventure Park. Just a mile up Highway 9 from Main Street and fittingly situated on Recreation Way, this multifaceted playground offers many ways to get after it, no matter the season. Winter visitors can check out the groomed tubing hill (reservations required), traditional sledding hill, or book a sleigh ride through the forested terrain along Frisco Peninsula. Skinny skiers (and snowshoers) looking to work up a sweat can explore more than 8,000 acres of trails around the Frisco Nordic Center–and those who aren’t in it for the calorie burn can let Fido pull them along instead in a skijoring session. Come summer, the Adventure Park’s free Bike Park takes center stage with its pump track, slopestyle course, dirt jumps, and a dual slalom course.

Tubing Frisco Adventure
The tubing hill at Frisco Adventure Park. Photo by Todd Powell

The two-wheeled options don’t stop there. Those with a full-suspension rig should also make time for a trip along the intermediate/advanced-level Peaks Trail. This eight-mile stretch (one-way) of singletrack meanders through aspen groves and lodgepole pines as it rolls from downtown Frisco to Breckenridge’s Peak 7. Retrace your pedal strokes for double the mileage (it’s net downhill on the way back), or jump on the free Summit Stage bus’s Purple Route for a speedier and less strenuous ride back to Frisco. Roadies and e-bikers (rent either from Rebel Sports) should earmark the ascent along Ten Mile Canyon National Recreation Trail up to Vail Pass as a must-do funtivity. The legions of aspen trees visible from both of these trails make them perfect leaf-peeping outings.

If biking isn’t your speed, perhaps the Frisco Bay Marina will float your boat. Situated alongside Dillon Reservoir (Denver Water’s largest water storage facility), the marina allows canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, boating, and fishing–and if you don’t have the gear (or just didn’t have room in the car to bring it along), there are plenty of rental options. There’s also a sandy beach and playground at Marina Park, where kids can dig, swing, and monkey around to their hearts’ content.

Planning to rough it? Book a site in the Pine Cove or Peak One campgrounds, both located on the Frisco Peninsula.

Arts & Culture

With a strategic, five-year plan for the arts in the works, Frisco’s formal arts scene is admittedly in its infancy. That’s not to say it’s non-existent. There’s the summer-long Concert in the Park Series, which brings a mix of local, regional, and national performers to the Frisco Historic Park gazebo each Thursday night. Feel free to bring along kids, well-behaved dogs, and appetizers, but plan to buy a beverage on-site–proceeds are donated to a different nonprofit each week. When temps dip and the snow starts flying, music-lovers can enjoy an indoor show at the new-in-2019 10 Mile Music Hall.

On the visual arts side, you’ll find seven galleries, featuring everything from photography to millinery. Sign up for a lesson with ​​GatherHouse Glassblowing Studio & Gallery owner John Hudnut for an unforgettable date night. Also be sure to look down while crossing the intersection of Main Street and Third Avenue where a cheerful flower filled with the handprints of visitors and residents smiles up at you.

The Frisco Historic Park & Museum
The Frisco Historic Park & Museum. Photo by Joe Kusumoto

History buffs—and those just looking for a nice place to picnic—will appreciate the Frisco Historic Park & Museum, a collection of homes dating back to the late 1800s, as well as a chapel and jail, situated near the western end of Main Street. Free to enter, the greenspace around these buildings lives up to its name as a park. Stop in at the Schoolhouse Museum to see artifacts, exhibits, and photos and bring along a few quarters to cajole the train diorama into action.

Eat & Drink

Frisco might not be on your radar as a dining destination. It should be. Tavern West’s ownership brings a combined 94 years of restaurant experience to the cuisine scene, and it shows in meaty treats like the Double Bone-In Pork Chop and Rocky Mountain Bolognese, made with a delectable trio of lamb, bison, and elk. Meatarians will also savor the farm-to-table fare at Frisco Prime, which is known for its steak du jour. Food allergy? You’ll have no problem finding a palate-pleaser on the Pure Kitchen menu. A handy key indicates which items are gluten-free, vegan, and N.A.E. (short for No Antibiotics Ever).

For breakfast and lunch, Butterhorn Bakery and Cafe and Bread + Salt are both can’t-go-wrong choices. At the former, ordering a big-as-a-bear’s-paw cinnamon roll to split with the rest of your party is all but required; at the latter, a Bloody Mary made with house-infused pepperoncini vodka makes drinking your vegetables a delectable option.

Shop

If there’s only time (or money) to pop into one store, make it Next Page Books & Nosh, the sole independent book store in Summit County. Order one of the 40 teas on their menu, and sip as you shop. Of course, you could also stop by the Outlets at Silverthorne a few miles down I-70.

Those who prefer a look more authentic to the mountain lifestyle, however, should stick to Frisco’s Main Street. There, a triangle of retailers–Rivers Clothing Company, Colisco Wearables, and the Shoe Inn Boutique–offer styles as functional as they are fashionable. If you’re feeling down in the dumps, a stop in Stay Sunny Goods with its hand-designed leggings and mood-boosting sticker wall is sure to lift your spirits.

Stay

If you’re traveling with a larger group or looking for a luxury residence, Summit Mountain Rentals is a great resource. Its search function is similar to other short-term rental sites (ahem, AirBnB), but homes available through Summit Mountain Rentals are closely vetted and often nicer than what’s listed elsewhere. For a full-service experience, the quaint Frisco Inn on Galena serves a gourmet breakfast and hosts an afternoon “Aperitivo Time” with wine and apps. Both are included in the room rate for direct bookings.

If You Do One Thing

Walk the five blocks from Main Street to the trailhead off of South Cabin Green (locals know it as Zach’s Stop) and tackle the 1.5-mile roundtrip hike to Rainbow Lake. This easy, out-and-back trail affords picture-perfect views of Peak One, Mount Victoria, and Mount Royal to the south. Time it right, and photographers can even catch the peaks’ reflection in the water. It also often plays host to moose munching on willows along the lake’s banks.

About Wanda Dufresne

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