The view from the top

It’s a cliché for a reason. The top is the highest you can possibly go, and the view is always spectacular. This is why we climb mountains. And why we invented the airplane. And why we build skyscrapers and launch astronauts into space. We humans, we love the view from the top.

The Rockies are light on skyscrapers

The tallest building in Colorado, and the rest of the Rocky Mountain West, is Republic Plaza in Denver. It’s tippy-top is a whole 728 feet high. When it comes to skyscrapers, that’s nothing. Chicago’s Willis tower stands 1,451 feet high. But what the Rockies lack in tall buildings, they more than make up for with tall mountains. Mt. Elbert has a prominence of 9,093 feet.

balloon rockies

The best view in town

Not everyone has what it takes to climb mountains. Colorado is hard country. Those mountains are made of granite. People have spent their lives mining gold in those hills. There are bears, too. And bears are ruthless killing machines. Mountains are difficult to navigate. You have to give it up for the early American pioneers who boldly made their way west. It wasn’t easy. Even with all of the equipment in the world, hiking the Rockies is tough. The best view in town, therefore, comes when you’re standing tall in the wicker basket of a hot air balloon.

14,000+ feet is a long way up, baby

It’s hard to get a feel for the scope of the mountains when you’re visiting mountain towns and traversing passes. Mountain passes can get downright claustrophobic. Out of sight, out of mind. But what if you had the bird’s eye view? You would see that the mountains extend all the way out to the horizon, their peaks poking out of the ground like gigantic ice-cream cones. It’s breathtaking. High elevations combined with breathtaking views means people pass out when they don’t drink as much water as they’re supposed to. Hot air balloon operators sometimes have extra oxygen to help people with the altitude.

Fox News ranks Rocky Mountains #1 ballooning destination

Taking a ride in a hot air balloon regularly ranks on top-100 “bucket list” things, i.e. things to do before you die. And the number one place to do it? According to Fox News, it’s the Rocky Mountains. And it’s easy to see why, even if you haven’t done it yet. The Rockies are spectacular from the ground, from the air, from inside the mountains themselves, from on top of a 14,000 foot peak. Why wouldn’t they be doubly as breathtaking from a hot air balloon? They are. It’s worth doing.

The experience

At around $200 a person at most outfits in the Rockies, a balloon ride is about as expensive as a cheap plane ticket and a whole lot more fun. Colorado air is crisp. There’s very little humidity. The air feels lighter, even if it’s just your imagination. When you get down, it will be like someone took a brush to your soul and scrubbed it clean. So get to it already. Put it on your bucket list and make a plan to put a little check mark next to it sometime soon.

Austin Reynolds writes for Summit Cove, a vacation property company in Summit County. He has lived in the Denver area for years and spends most weekends in the mountains.