Summit County, Colorado is a wonderful place to visit, and one of the best little towns in the area is Dillon. This small town in the mountains has a year-round population of just over 1,000 people, but you’ll find plenty of things to do in Dillon, Colorado to keep you busy for a few days.
It’s right in the middle of everything – not only the mountains themselves, but it’s also within short driving distance to Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne, Arapahoe Basin, and Keystone, and it’s only a little over an hour from Denver. It’s immediately off I-70, offering easy access to visitors.
The town of Dillon has a long and interesting history, but it has no historic district – read on to learn why. Still, there are lots of things to do in this small town, and you’ll love visiting and immersing yourself in Rocky Mountain, high-elevation life.
About Dillon, Colorado
Dillon hasn’t always been exactly where it is today. The original town of Dillon was established as a stage stop and trading post. It was incorporated in 1883 and was named after a local prospector named Tom Dillon.
Between 1883 and 1892, the townspeople had to move their village twice to be closer to the new railroad lines that extended into the mountains. Then, in 1956, Dillon had to move again; this time because Denver was building a dam and a reservoir that would flood the townsite. Today, Dillon sits on a hillside adjacent to that reservoir, Dillon Reservoir, which is also known as Lake Dillon.
Today, the town of Dillon sits at 9,111 feet in elevation. It’s only 2.3 square miles in size, and almost a full square mile of that is water. There’s a lot of love and a lot of friendly folks in that tiny little area, though, and people love it.
Read on to learn about some of the fun ways to fill your days when visiting Dillon. There are a lot more interesting options in this tiny town than you might initially guess.
- Most Significant Landmark – Dillon Reservoir/Lake Dillon
- Best Park – Dillon Town Park
- Best Free Activity – Hiking all over this area!
- Best Activity for Kids – Playing disc golf on the Dillon Disc Golf Course
- Best Activity for Adults – Seeing a concert at Dillon Amphitheater
- Best All-Around Accommodation – Best Western Ptarmigan Lodge
1. Dillon Amphitheater
Address: 201 West Lodgepole Street, Dillon, CO 80435
If you ask Coloradans about the best music venue in the state, most will immediately tell you that it’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre. However, those in the know might mention Dillon Amphitheater instead. This outdoor venue is right on the Dillon Reservoir and offers incredible views of the water and the surrounding mountains.
It holds 3,650 concertgoers and has an active concert schedule from May to September that includes nationally touring acts as well as free concerts by local performers. If you’re in town during the summer months, be sure to see what’s happening there – even if it isn’t a band or genre you love, seeing a show here should be on your bucket list.
For those in town for a concert and looking for a great place to stay, the lovely Best Western Ptarmigan Lodge is right across the street. You’ll love the views of the lake and the easy walking distance to your event.
See Related: Best Places To Stay In Aspen, Colorado
2. The 1883 Dillon Schoolhouse Museum & Summit County Historical Society
Address: 403 La Bonte Street, Dillon, CO 80435
In 1900, our nation had over 100,000 one-room schoolhouses; today only 400 of these historic buildings remain. This 1883 schoolhouse is one of them. It has its original belfry and bell and the building was built by the area’s first families.
A larger school was built in 1900, but the original schoolhouse remained a church. When the dam was built to create Lake Dillon, the schoolhouse was moved to protect local history for the future.
It became a museum in 1972. The interior is set up as it would have been in 1892 with Mcguffy desks, Heath readers, an 1885 piano, and other artifacts from the period. If you’re interested in Colorado history, don’t miss it.
In addition to the schoolhouse, the Summit County Historical Society also owns and maintains three other buildings in Dillon and two of them are on this site. The Lulu Meyers Cabin is a two-story log home that was built in 1885; it was moved to this site from Keystone in 1976. The Honeymoon Cabin was also moved to this site from Keystone in the 1970s; its history is mostly unknown, but historians believe one individual built it in the 1930s.
Offsite, you can view the Rice Barn at 367 Cove Boulevard. This barn was built between 1918 and 1920 and was an important stop on the Dillon-Kremmling stagecoach line. Tours of the barn are available by reservation.
3. Sapphire Point Overlook
Address: Swan Mountain Road, Dillon, CO 80435
The Dillon area is home to some sensational vistas, but few are more stunning than Sapphire Point Overlook. This overlook is just outside of Dillon and it’s worth the drive up Swan Mountain Road to enjoy the spectacular views.
When you get to the top, you’ll be at 9,500 feet and you’ll be able to see Dillon Reservoir from above. You can take great photos of its deep blue water, islands, and the Tenmile and Gore Mountain Ranges surrounding it. Bring a picnic and relax for a while and take in some of the most beautiful scenery that Colorado has to offer.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Fort Collins, Colorado
4. Dillon Town Park
Address: 120 Buffalo Street, Dillon, CO 80435
Dillon Town Park has been continually under renovation, but the city plans to complete the updates in 2023. Between planning, fundraising, and construction, this upgrade has been in the works for almost a decade. If you’re looking for free things to do in Dillon, Colorado, this public park is a great place to relax and enjoy time with friends or family.
It has multi-use sports fields, tennis courts, a basketball court, a baseball field, a grassy lawn, a pavilion, and picnic tables, and the updates underway include major improvements to the playground, a climbing wall, more paths, and better lighting. In the winter, this park is also a pleasant place to hang out and enjoy the cool air.
Once the park renovation is complete, you might enjoy staying right next to it at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Dillon. It’s close to everything and even has an onsite restaurant and bar, too.
5. Marina Park
Address: 306 West Lodgepole Street, Dillon, CO 80435
Marina Park is right next to the Dillon Amphitheater on the shore of Dillon Reservoir. If you’re looking for things to do in Dillon, Colorado with kids, it includes a large playground where your kids can blow off some steam. The park also has a pavilion, charcoal grills, restrooms, and picnic tables.
The Marina Park Pavilion has seating for 80 to 90 people and can be rented for events on a full-day or half-day basis. The views from this park are incredible, just like they are from the amphitheater next door, and it’s a great place to relax while visiting Dillon.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Colorado & Places to Visit
6. Dillon Farmers Market
Address: 120 Buffalo Street, Dillon, CO 80435
Dillon Farmers Market every Friday from mid-June to mid-September and it’s a Dillon experience that you shouldn’t miss. Now that the renovations will be complete at Dillon Town Park, the market will be held there for the 2023 season and beyond.
For such a small town (with a population of just over 1000), this is a huge farmers’ market. The Dillon Farmers Market features around 75 full-time vendors and another 25 vendors who drop in now and then.
You can buy fresh food, crafts, jewelry, flowers, clothing, handmade goods, and more – all from Colorado-based businesses. There’s also yoga and live music, making it a pretty fab place to hang out on Fridays during the height of summer.
7. Dillon Disc Golf Course & Dillon Archery Range
Address: Dillon Disc Golf Course/Dillon Archery Range, Dillon, CO 80435
Disc gold is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, and Colorado is fast becoming one of the sport’s hotspots. If you like to play disc golf, then you absolutely should not miss the Dillon Disc Golf Course. It’s sure to be one of the most beautiful courses you’ll ever play.
This free public course includes 18 holes ranging from 235 to 535 feet; the course is rated as moderately challenging. There are steep inclines and rocky terrain here, so be careful. There’s also an adjacent kid-friendly 12-hole course as well if you’d like to try something a little easier.
Alternatively, if lobbing plastic discs isn’t your jam, you can try your hand at archery. Located right next door to Dillon Disc Golf Course, you’ll find the Dillon Archery Range where you can loose off arrows amid beautiful natural surroundings.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Vail, Colorado
8. Cross Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
When people think of Colorado in the wintertime, most immediately think about downhill skiing, but it’s a great place for cross-country skiing, too. It’s also the perfect environment for snowshoeing.
If you have your own cross-country skis or snowshoes or if you rent equipment locally, you might take a lap around Dillon Reservoir; the trail is pretty flat all the way around, and chances are that other skiers will have already carved a path for you. In the coldest part of winter, you can even ski and snowshoe on Lake Dillon itself. The town grooms the “Lake Loops” trails daily and also checks the thickness of the ice to make sure it’s safe.
If you want to explore other cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails in the area, the Frisco Nordic Center in nearby Frisco, the Keystone Nordic Center in nearby Keystone, and the Gold Run Nordic Center in Breckenridge also offer a vast number of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing that you’ll love, and they offer rentals, too.
See Related: Best Ski Resorts in Colorado
Whether you’ve been on a snowmobile before or not, Dillon is an excellent place to get out there and enjoy this relatively easy yet exciting motorsport. There are a number of different companies that offer snowmobile rentals and guided snowmobile tours in the area.
Colorado Snowmobile & ATV Tours is one that offers tours that depart from Dillon; other companies, like Snowmobiling Keystone, Adventure Time Rentals, and Fun for You Rent Inc operate out of the nearby towns of Keystone, Frisco, and Breckenridge, respectively. Snowmobiling is a wonderful way to get out into the mountains and into nature that includes a little bit of adrenaline and thrill. You’ll love it!
10. Dillon Dam Brewery
After a busy day of outdoor activities in this area, you’ll likely be both hungry and thirsty. There’s no better place to fix both of those things than at Dillon Dam Brewery.
This brewery markets itself as the “#1 Largest Brewery in the Colorado Rockies” and that is very likely true – it’s huge! Dillon Dam Brewery is in a two-story building; it seats 220 guests inside, and the outdoor, summer beer garden seats an additional 60 guests when open.
Dillon Dam Brewery opened in 1997 and has been serving happy guests ever since. It’s family-friendly, so even if you’re traveling with little ones, you’re absolutely welcome. It’s won countless awards for the food, the beer, the happy hour, and the atmosphere, and more, and this brewery rarely gets a negative review from anyone who actually visits it.
Flagship beers here are Dam Lyte, Wildernest Wheat, Paradise Pilsner, Here’s Your Dam IPA, Extra Pale Ale, and McLuhr’s Irish Stout, and there are always seasonal beers on the menu to try also. The food is what you’d expect at a brewery: apps, burgers, soups, salads, large and hearty dinners, and scrumptious desserts.
Everything is good here and you’ll love it all. Don’t miss this place when visiting Dillon.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Denver, Colorado
11. Dillon Reservoir/Lake Dillon
Dillon Reservoir, known to locals as Lake Dillon, was created by Denver Water to provide a reservoir for the city of Denver. Residents who lived in the area that would be flooded were asked to leave by September 1956; the dam that created the reservoir was built between 1961 and 1963.
Today, Dillon Reservoir is the seventh-largest body of water in the state. It has 3,233 acres of surface area and a volume of 250,000 acre-feet. To give you a further idea of its immense size, the paved bike path that goes all the way around it is eighteen miles long.
In the winter, Lake Dillon is popular with winter sports enthusiasts. It’s not uncommon to see dozens of people ice fishing on the frozen lake on a mid-winter day. People also love snowmobiling on the lake in the wintertime, and the town of Dillon maintains a free community ice rink at Lake Dillon Marina during much of the season.
Lake Dillon is also popular in the summer months. The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife stocks the lake with 50,000 rainbow trout annually, so anglers come from all over to try their luck at catching a few of them. Dillon Marina is home to the Dillon Yacht Club and is always busy with boaters.
In fact, it’s the highest deep-water marina in the nation. There are frequent racing regattas and sailboats and pontoon boats available for rent. However, due to the year-round cold water temperature, swimming in the lake is prohibited.
If you’re looking for a great hotel near Dillon Reservoir, then you might consider the Dillon Inn. This well-rated property has an indoor pool and a scenic bike path on the property. Visitors looking for a more budget-focused property will like the Super 8 by Wyndham Dillon/Breckenridge Area nearby.
Fishing on Lake Dillon
Fishing in Lake Dillon is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon or even an entire day in Dillon. The reservoir is full of fish and you’ll find much success with catching some of them even if you’re rather inexperienced.
You’ll find brown trout, rainbow trout, kokanee salmon, sockeye salmon, smallmouth bass, Arctic char, and more here, and some of the fish get rather large. Everyone in your party over the age of 15 will need a Colorado fishing license to participate.
There are two fishing charter companies that operate out of the Dillon Marina: Big Ed’s Fishing Ventures and Alpine Fishing Ventures. Both are well-rated and well-reviewed and offer memorable experiences for anglers of all ages and experience levels.
They’ll provide all the equipment and their guides take you out on the lake in a boat to the very best spots. You’ll have great success, and if you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, you can eat your catch for dinner. Both of these companies also offer fly fishing lessons and trips as well if you prefer.
Ice Fishing on Lake Dillon
Ice fishing is a popular pastime in the winter on Lake Dillon. People come from all over to drill holes in the ice and to catch unsuspecting fish during the coldest months of the year.
If you have your own gear and a Colorado fishing license, you can head out on the lake on your own. But, if you don’t have your equipment because you flew in from somewhere else or have never ice fished before, both Big Ed’s Fishing Ventures and Alpine Fishing Adventures mentioned above offer half and full-day ice fishing experiences to interested parties throughout the winter months.
See Related: Best Fishing Spots in America to Visit
Sailing Lessons on Lake Dillon
The Dillon Marina is a great place to take some sailing lessons during your visit to the area in a beautiful and memorable setting. The sailing school at Dillon Marina is ASA Certified and offers lessons on 20′-27′ sloop-rigged keelboats.
The instructors are experienced and patient and will help you learn not only how to sail, but also things like knot-tying, parts of the boat, the science of wind, and so much more. Join a group class or sign up for private lessons. Dillon Junior Sailing, also at Dillon Marina, offers similar courses for young people.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Estes Park, Colorado
12. Hiking Near Dillon, CO
There are countless hiking trails in the area surrounding Dillon, but if you want to go hiking without straying too far from Dillon itself, you can try several memorable and enjoyable trails. These three trails vary in length and in difficulty, but all are a great way to spend an afternoon in the mountains.
Old Dillon Reservoir Trail
The Old Dillon Reservoir Trail is an easy 1.7-mile loop that departs from the Old Dillon Reservoir Trailhead off Dillon Dam Road. There are only 213 feet of elevation gain along the way so this trail should be reasonably easy for you even if you have not yet acclimatized to the altitude.
The loop will take you completely around the Old Dillon Reservoir and offers great views of the new Dillon Reservoir. Bring your camera for this one.
If you’re looking for a moderate challenge, try the Ptarmigan Peak Trail. This 4.6-mile out-and-back trail begins off Ptarmigan Peak Trail Road just outside of Dillon in Silverthorne.
There’s quite a bit of elevation gain along this route – 1,141 feet of it in fact – and some very steep spots, so wear hiking boots and be sure to bring some water. You’ll love the views of Lake Dillon from the bench at the top; the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness is spectacular.
See Related: Essential Tips for Hiking with Kids & Toddlers
Tenderfoot Mountain Trail
The Tenderfoot Mountain Trail is rated challenging so if you want to work up a sweat and spend an entire day hiking, this is the trail for you.
It’s an 11.5-mile out-and-back trail with 2,427 feet of elevation gain; it begins at the end of County Route 51 in Silverthorne. You’ll feel very proud of yourself when you reach the top of Tenderfoot Mountain – the peak is at 11,444 feet!
13. Take a Day Trip to Breckenridge
Breckenridge, Colorado, is a close neighbor to Dillon, and you can easily take a day trip there to check it out. There are so many things to do in Breckenridge, including exploring its historic district, eating and drinking at the town’s many excellent restaurants and bars, and skiing at one of the nation’s best ski resorts.
Tour providers in Breckenridge offer dozens of guided tours of the area so you can make the most of your time. You might consider going Extreme Sledding in the winter or going on a Fat Bike Beer & Distillery Tour.
If you’d like to see what’s happening below the surface, you could take a Real Gold Mine Tour with gold panning and more at Breckenridge’s only open mine, or if you want to learn about the spooky past of this area, you could try a Ghostly Tales Ghost Tour on for size. No matter what you choose to do in Breckenridge, you’re sure to have a great time!
See Related: Where to Stay in Breckenridge: Best Areas & Neighborhoods
What is the best time of year to visit Dillon, CO?
It really depends on what you want to do! If you want to enjoy winter activities, Dillon is the perfect place to stay to access so many different opportunities and so much snow and ice. However, if you want to enjoy boating and hiking, you’ll want to visit during the warmer months. Dillon is very busy in the summer and the winter, but you can find great deals and fewer crowds during the spring and summer.
Can you suggest some good restaurants in Dillon?
Dillon is a small town, but due to its close proximity to I-70, there are quite a few restaurants here and many are quite good. Popular options include the Dillon Dam Brewery for people thirsty for a pint, Tacos Tequila Bar & Grill for anyone hungry for tacos, Arapahoe Cafe for burgers and BBQ, Bistro North for a classy dinner date, and Sunshine Cafe for breakfast and brunch, for starters.
Where are some places to visit near Dillon that I should check out during my visit?
One of the best things about Dillon, Colorado, is that it’s in the center. The towns of Frisco, Keystone, Silverthorne, and Breckenridge are all just minutes away and they each have their own unique charm. If you want to go a little further, you can hop on I-70 and head to Leadville if you love history, to Vail for more skiing and snowboarding plus high-end shopping, or to Blackhawk and Central City for the casinos. Denver is only a little over an hour away, too!
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