Best Places to Visit in Colorado
Colorado is a year-round destination that inspires the imagination and inspires the soul with its dramatic landscapes and natural beauty. The state is stunning, with everything from the majestic Rocky Mountains to rolling hills, beautiful alpine lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and the high deserts of the Colorado Plateau.
Mountain towns attract all kinds of skiers, hikers, mountaineers, mountain bikers and outdoor enthusiasts, and are also great places to enjoy the tranquility and mountain atmosphere. Tourists will find that some of the best ways to see some of the state’s stunning landscapes are with scenic drives along with parks and state highways.
Visit some of the national parks and monuments to see and better understand the cultural relics that lived in the area and the dinosaurs that once roamed the land.
Colorado is a unique destination that will make you reconsider your future travel plans. Start your trip with our list of the Best Places to Visit in Colorado and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in Colorado
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Colorado:
1. Rocky Mountain National Park
Located just a few miles from the mountain town of Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. Soaring peaks, mountain lakes and meadows, forests and abundant wildlife showcase nature at its best. There are more than 100 peaks in the park over 10,000 feet, including Longs Peak, which is the park’s highest point at 14,259 feet.
Trail Ridge Road itself is over 12,000 feet above sea level and is the main driving route through the park, providing easy access to this incredible terrain. You can tour in the comfort of your car or stop on the way for a stroll or an easy hike. The park has an extensive system of hiking trails, from less than half a mile of trails to all-day and multi-day hikes. If you’re lucky, you might spot deer, bighorn sheep, moose, and other small animals.
Summer is the peak season in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the most popular activities are hiking, wildlife watching, camping, fishing, horseback riding, climbing, and rock climbing. The park has its own beauty and attractions in winter. Many roads are open year-round but may be closed due to weather conditions. People usually come here for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing at this time of year, and ranger-led tours are offered in both sports.
If you plan to visit during the summer months between late May and early October, you will need to get a timed pass. Day-specific passes are available on the 1st of the previous month (i.e. 1st June to July) on the National Parks website. If you have booked camping or other activities, no pass is required. Timed admission is free, except for a nominal reservation fee.
Official website: www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm
Vail ski resort is one of the best places to visit in Colorado in winter, but it’s also a lovely place to have fun any time of the year. Speaking of skiing, this is one of Colorado’s top ski resorts, with seemingly endless runs for skiers of all levels.
The town at the foot of the ski hills is postcard cute, with chalet-style restaurants, shops and hotels that put you in the heart of the Alps. This is a high-end resort with luxury hotels, fine restaurants and designer shops.
Vail doesn’t always fit in everyone’s budget, especially if you want to stay overnight during peak season. There are smaller towns and villages nearby that are lesser-known but more affordable and worth visiting.
While not a ski resort, Frisco is a charming mountain town and one of the top tourist destinations in the area. This is a good starting point if you’re exploring the I-70 corridor around Vail and Beaver Creek. The town has a real mountain feel, along with a variety of interesting cafes, shops and restaurants.
At its highest point is the town of Breckenridge at 9600 feet above sea level. This town has a very relaxed and fun town center and the Breckenridge Ski Resort is perfect if you’re planning to ski or are looking for some nightlife.
West of Vail is the town of Avon and a little further from Avon is Beaver Creek. Avon is a great place to find accommodation, especially if you’re looking for a more affordable option from the base of a ski hill. Beaver Creek is a ski resort with another beautiful village at its base. It has a wide variety of restaurants from casual to fine dining, an ice rink in the main plaza in winter and a hotel.
One of the most popular and fastest growing cities in the United States, Denver is always on the go. Denver is one of America’s top outdoor cities, with 300+ days of sunshine a year and the right climate.
This allows young and active residents to enjoy a huge playground at the city’s doorstep: the incredible Rocky Mountains. Favorite pastimes here are skiing in the winter, hiking boots in the spring and mountain biking in the summer.
When not out and about, Denverians enjoy the vibrant art and culture scene at Red Rock Park and Amphitheater or grab some creative fare at one of the city’s busiest restaurants in the Latimer Square area. The city is also full of wonderful parks and interesting urban centers worth exploring.
4. Mesa Verde National Park
While you’ve seen cliff dwellings before, you’d be surprised by the number of actual ruins on Mesa Verde and the parklet in visitors.
The heart of the park, Cliff Palace is one of the most impressive residences in the entire Southwest, with its stunning setting and well-preserved ruins. Ranger-led tours are held regularly during the high summer season and allow you to climb a ladder directly into the heart of the residence. It is highly recommended to pre-book Cliff Palace visitor tickets prior to your visit. Space is limited and demand is high, especially in summer. Tickets can be booked up to 14 days before the scheduled arrival date.
If you’re not up for this level of activity, you can get a full view of the site from a nearby hill.
Mesa Verde was home to the Ancestral Pueblo, who lived in these residences from about AD 600 to AD 1300. There are thousands of archaeological sites in the park, but the most spectacular are the cliff dwellings. A path can lead to many places, most of which are at the top of the mesa. Many hiking trails that don’t require a ranger tour lead to vantage points and interesting sites, including petroglyphs.
Located near the towns of Cortez and Mancos, Mesa Verde is reached by a long road over the surrounding land. The journey from the highway to the site takes approximately 45 minutes.
It is one of the visitor centers where you can get information about the condition of the park and the road, close to the highway, without using a vehicle. You can book a ranger-led tour at Cliff Palace on arrival so you’ll know when to show up on this one-hour tour.
Official website: https://www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm
5. Pikes Peak in Pike National Forest
At 14,115 feet, Pikes Peak in Pike National Forest is one of the Southwest’s famous “Fourteen Peaks”, which refers to mountains that rise above 14,000 feet. The snow-capped peaks are easily identifiable from the nearby town of Colorado Springs.
This is one of the most visited peaks in the world, second only to Mount Fuji. Unlike many peaks beyond the reach of the average person, you can go to Pikes Peak on the Pikes Peak Highway off Highway 24 west of Colorado Springs. Travel time is approximately 1.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad for a scenic 8.9-mile journey that takes just over three hours round trip.
At the top is the brand new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center. Started in 2018 and now nearly complete, this stunning glass and wood building offers stunning views, interactive displays and a variety of dining options. Those who venture to the top of Pikes Peak just for the world-famous donuts won’t be disappointed. These delicious, fluffy treats are still available.
Beyond just enjoying the view from the top, the area offers a host of recreational opportunities. There are many hiking trails nearby, as well as mountain biking and fishing opportunities in the reservoir.
Official website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/psicc
6. Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
The town of Durango in southern Colorado is beautifully located at the foot of the surrounding mountains. In the historic city center, there are magnificently restored historical buildings that can be used as hotels and restaurants. Some are made in Southwestern decor with an Old West feel.
During the summer, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is one of the city’s main attractions. This historic train takes a day trip from Durango to Silverton, a former mountain mining town in the valley. In winter, trains still run, but only on certain days and only go to Cascade Canyon. It’s a very different experience than a summer trip, but well worth it.
Durango is also the final stop on the Colorado Trail, a 500-mile mountain trail that runs from Denver to Durango. You can go hiking or mountain biking on the trails, leaving the same road and returning. The trail follows scenic Junction Creek, then climbs to Gudy’s Rest, where many have lunch, and then turns.
During the winter, Durango is an all-around ski town, powered by the nearby Purgatory Ski Resort, just 15 minutes outside of town. It is a family resort that attracts locals and skiers from the Southwest. Some skiers also ski in Durango, which has affordable hotels, and Telluride, which is a two-hour drive away.
7. San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway
From the old mining town of Silverton to the town of Ouray, it’s a scenic drive along what’s called the Million Dollar Highway. It’s a 46-kilometer two-lane highway that wraps around the mountain in places, overlooks astonishing cliffs, and cuts through valleys to thrilling peaks. It is one of the most spectacular mountain roads in Colorado.
If you have time, you can extend it to a longer route and follow the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. Skyway is a full-day tour you want to do when the weather is nice but can be done in winter or summer.
The San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway from Durango is a complete loop that will take you to Silverton, along the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray, Placerville and south to Telluride, Dolo Reis, Mancos and back to Durango.
If you have less time or plan to only go in one direction, from Durango you can go from Silverton to Ouray, all the way to Silverton, cross the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray and then Montrose, or go further north to Grand Junction. . Some highlights along the way are the towns of Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride.
Surrounded by mountains 9,300 feet above sea level, Silverton has a main street with a variety of shops and restaurants. In the summer, it can get extremely busy, but in the winter, the place has a ghost town feel, as most businesses are closed. Located on the edge of town, Silverton Mountain is a former ski “resort” offering great downhill skiing for advanced skiers.
Ouray, another mountain town famous for its hot springs, has a sign on the main cruise called “Switzerland of America”.
If you choose to use Skyway, you can stop at Telluride. Known for its Telluride Ski Resort, it is one of the most beautiful mountain towns in the United States, with traditional main streets and stunning mountain views. You can take the free cable car up the mountain to better understand the area.
8. Gunnison National Park
Gunnison Black Canyon is a legendary, rugged canyon that’s far enough away to feel unexplored. A steep cliff wall rises from the Gunnison River, forming a narrow and dramatic canyon. The canyon is approximately 2,000 feet deep, Gunnison Point and Chasm View are just over 1,800 feet, and Warner Point is fitted with 2,722.
The main thing to do here is simply gaze at the canyon and admire the setting, or hiking along the surrounding hiking trails and short hiking trails. These are usually straight and easy trails. If you’re adventurous you can walk into the canyon, but the trails are not well-maintained or marked, the conditions are harsh and you’re basically on your own and you’re responsible for the cost of rescuing if needed.
There are three campsites within the park; The North Rim and South Rim campgrounds are open to tents and RVs, but the East Portal is open to tents only.
Black Canyon in Gunnison National Park is about 75 miles southeast of Grand Junction. If you live in Grand Junction or Fruita, you can easily visit the canyon and Colorado National Monument on a day trip.
Official website: http://www.nps.gov/blca/index.htm
9. Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness
Located near the town of Aspen, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness showcases some of Colorado’s most spectacular Rocky Mountain landscapes, giving you the chance to get off the bus and go out into nature. The area has six mountains over 14,000 feet, as well as 175 miles of trails to help you explore forests, alpine lakes, meadows, and terrain.
What attracts most people to Maroon Bells is the entertainment. The hiking here is incredible with a variety of day hikes and backpacking areas. Mountain bike trails cover hundreds of kilometers. Fishing in lakes, ponds, rivers and streams is popular during the summer months. If you have a tent and gear, camping in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is an experience not to be missed. In winter, people come here for skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling, making it a year-round outdoor playground.
If you don’t want to do too many activities, you can enjoy the scenery along with some scenic drives.
10. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Featuring the highest sand dunes in North America, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is an interesting Colorado attraction with views most visitors wouldn’t expect. The 750-foot Star Dunes are surprisingly long, especially when you consider climbing, and the mountains in the distance make for a stunning setting.
You can climb and ski the dunes or test your riding skills by navigating the sand. On hot days, children and even adults enjoy splashing in Medano Creek, which runs at the bottom of the dunes. Hiking trails wind through woods at the edge of the dunes.
The four-wheel drive Medano Pass Primitive Road opens up a unique terrain with car campsites on the side of the road. Regular camping is available at Pinon Flats Campground, which offers tent and RV campgrounds.
Official website: http://www.nps.gov/grsa/index.htm
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Colorado. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Colorado, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.