Split down the middle by the vast Rocky Mountains and jam-packed with national parks and wilderness areas, Colorado is an ideal travel destination for outdoor pursuits in every season. From skiing and whitewater rafting to hiking, biking and camping, outdoor activities are a way of life in the Centennial State. The state’s fun-loving culture attracts visitors looking for a laidback vacation too. After all, Colorado produces more beer than any other state.
Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Colorado:
With its history rooted in the late 19th century mining boom in the area, Telluride is awash with historic buildings. The Downtown area of the former silver mining camp IS perfect for exploring, now filled with restaurants and boutiques. Telluride is also a great jumping off point for skiing – being just a gondola ride away. Hiking to Bridal Veil Falls is a great way to soak up the unreal landscapes around this beautiful town.
9. Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
The breathtaking Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is set to the southeast of Grand Junction in western Colorado. Formed over millions of years by the gushing Gunnison River, the canyon plunges to a depth of 685 meters, with sheer cliffs and rocky spires towering above its raging waters. Looking out over its dizzying depths from the rugged rim really is an awe-inspiring experience, with phenomenal photos and views to be had of the gigantic gorge.
With 193 marked skiing trails, Vail is not only one of Colorado’s most popular ski resorts but also the the largest single-mountain ski resort in the country. The Tyrolean style village is nearly as well visited during the summer. Nearby streams and lakes stocked with fish make Vail an angler’s dream, and opportunities for river rafting abound. Horseback riding, mountain biking, golf and hiking are other popular warm-weather activities.
7. Great Sand Dunes.
Stretching endlessly into the distance, the sensational sea of sand that makes up Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes is one of the state’s most incredible natural phenomena. Reaching up to 230 metres in height, the dramatic dunes lie within a national park of the same name. Exploring the wind-sculpted sands is a fantastic experience, with hiking and sandboarding both popular. You can discover magnificent views from atop of the massive dunes. From high, you can gaze out over the ceaseless sands around you, with mighty mountains and verdant forests dotting the horizon.
Located just a few miles to the northwest of Denver, Boulder is a college town nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Boulder Creek cuts straight through the town and is lined with walking and biking trails. The four-block pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street Mall features outdoor performers in all but the most inclement weather. A drive up Baseline Road on Flagstaff Mountains rewards visitors with spectacular views, and there are picnic areas and hiking trails to enjoy at the summit as well.
Aspen, Colorado, is the place to go for skiing in the USA. Four separate skiing areas – Aspen Highlands, Ajax Mountain, Buttermilk and Snowmass further down the valley – make it a frosty playground for winter sports. Aspen exploded as a silver mining town in the late 19th century; something reflected in the architecture from this time. Summer is a good time for heading to the hills and there are hiking opportunities galore nearby.
4. Colorado Springs.
Located at the foot of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs draws visitors who come to see the view from the mountain that inspired the writing of the song “America, the Beautiful.” With its sculptural sandstone formations and balancing rocks, the Garden of the Gods is another popular natural attraction. On the west side of town, you’ll find quaint shops and bistros in Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City. As you head into the foothills, there is amazing hiking, mountain biking, cliff dwellings and a trip by car to the top of Pikes Peak.
Nicknamed the “Mile-High City” because it sits exactly a mile high in altitude above sea level, Denver is Colorado’s capital and largest city. Located just east of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is a popular winter sport destination that celebrates its mining and cowboy history. The city also boasts a lively arts and culture scene with many distinguished museums, such as the Denver Art Museum, and the Denver Performing Arts Complex, one of the nation’s largest performing art centers.
2. Mesa Verde.
Mesa Verde is the perfect spot for adventures among nature, and to understand more about mysterious, centuries-old cultures. This is the site where the ancient Puebloans once lived in their cliff dwellings. Where they went or why they left, nobody knows, but their houses built in precarious places can be seen to this day. Because of the important history, walking off-trail is forbidden, as is entering the ancient dwellings without a ranger. Take the Mesa Top Road Circuit that loops around ten of the excavated pueblos, and you’ll be able to discover more about these fascinating old dwellings.
1. Rocky Mountain National Park.
One of the most spectacular slices of nature in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain National Park is awash with imposing granite mountains, aqua-colored alpine lakes, and meadows that burst into life come summer. It’s the perfect place for adventures amidst nature, with a selection of trails where you can find peace, quiet and serenity. The wilderness of the national park makes the ideal host for many wild animals too, like elk, moose, and black bear. Bear Lake – one of ten lakes in the park – is a famous scenic spot for visitors, where you can soak up views of the glacial valleys and mountaintops.