John Fielder’s Best of Colorado
Pros: Great information for the whole state, information about attractions for everyone
Cons: Doesn’t tell if there are admission prices to attractions
I originally got this book out of the library when I was planning a family vacation to Colorado. We even went half way across the county to get the book, because it was new and they wouldn’t do an interlibrary loan for us. Well, I can tell you that the book was worth every mile we drove to get it, and would be worth the price to buy it. I’d recommend it to anyone going to Colorado, no matter where they were going and what they are interested in doing, because this book has information for the entire state, both east and west (although it focuses on the mountain areas), and has helpful information about just about every activity available, from gaming, hotels, and restaurants to hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. And, oh, did I mention that the photography is excellent?
John Fielder has written many, many books about Colorado. He is also a great photographer, and in the book he often will give tips on how to take the best shots. For example, about photographing Black Canyon of the Gunnison he says, “In order to create a sense of depth, employ perspective by including foreground in your scene when composing views into the canyon. Foreground objects could include a pinon pine, juniper tree, interesting rocks, or a friend standing on the edge of the abyss! If you wish to photograph in direct light, find vantages that allow you to see up or down the canyon. Although the canyon runs on a northwest/southeast axis, find places where the rising and setting sun shines into, not across, the canyon, thus reducing the amount of shadow that can ruin the image. Visit in winter when fresh snow creates highlights on the rock walls.”
The way that the book is laid out also just makes a lot of sense: John Fielder takes each section of the state, and then divides it up into town areas (for example, Vail is one town area, and Georgetown is another) with information about activities in and near the town. I found this very helpful as I was looking in specific areas of the state for activities, and having all of the information in one place was great. Activities include main attractions, hiking, cycling, rock climbing, mountain biking, gaming, museums, restaurants, and even rock hounding (the activities listed depend on what is in the area). There are also special icons that indicate when he is talking about 4-wheel-driving and activities that are good to do with children. Occasionally, there will also be information boxes with Colorado lore. An added bonus is the “Scenic Location”s where the author talks about some of his favorite places to go (usually scenic drives, but all of which have great photo opportunities). That’s another con: way too often he say this is the absolute best scenery in Colorado!
If you’re looking for a specific attraction, but can’t remember where it is in the book (very easy to do—there’s so much information!), the index is also excellent. Just about every city and attraction that is mentioned in the book is in the index. This is a very big pro for me!
As I said in the cons, the one drawback with the book is that he doesn’t tell if there is a fee for the activities (except hotels and restaurants, where he gives general pricing information; for example, $-$$$). Because I was planning for a large group, this information would have been helpful, especially if the fee was per person (per vehicle isn’t so bad since we all drive in one vehicle). Another drawback is that there is so much information that he can’t possibly give a lot of information on anything, so you may want to research some of the attractions on the internet (like I did) before you go. Still, his directions to the attractions tend to be very good, especially if you have a good map to follow as well.
To sum it up, this book is incredible, and gives enough information that you could probably plan a vacation anywhere in the mountainous part of the state using this book alone. (OK, I did look up the attractions on the internet, but you wouldn’t necessarily have to do that. Also, it might be better to find hotels and such in other travel guides as he doesn’t list each and every hotel or restaurant in a given town or city.) The librarian at the library we got the book from said she loved it because she felt like she could travel to Colorado in the pictures, and she had a hard time returning it to the library. So, that’s another use for the book: the photography is so good you can take a trip without leaving the comfort of your armchair!