It is no exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of amazing places to visit in Colorado. Colorado is an incredible US destination, with some of the best outdoor activities. You could head to a mountain town and enjoy activities like hiking, horseback riding, fly fishing, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Or, head to one of Colorado’s amazing cities. Colorado has plenty of cultural activities as well.
So, where are the best places to visit in Colorado? Sure, visit famous destinations like Rocky Mountain National Park, but this guide includes a mix of the popular and lesser known. We’ll introduce you to the top 28 places to visit in Colorado – let’s dive straight in.
Best Cities to Visit in Colorado
Colorado has some fantastic cities. If you want a taste of culture and inner-city action, this section will provide you with many choices. Colorado has a city for you, whether you want a historic downtown or a stunning backdrop of mountain peaks.
Most of the places on our list are cities, but there is a charming town or two that we’ve snuck in. Keep an eye out for them; they were just too beautiful to not include.
1. Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs is easily one of the most popular places to visit in Colorado. The city lies between Rocky Mountain National Park and Pike National Park, and it is full of exciting things to do and see.
You’ll find attractions like the Fine Arts Center and Penrose Heritage Museum in the city center. On the outskirts of Colorado Springs is the Ghost Town Museum which is a modeled old mining town, and tourist attraction. While just outside the city, there are plenty of outdoor and cultural attractions.
When visiting Colorado Springs, don’t miss out on the Garden of the Gods. This 1,300-acre sandstone reserve is home to endless miles of trails and rock formations. Located just six miles outside the city center, it is an entry-level way to experience the great outdoors without visiting a national park.
This hot air balloon ride at sunrise is a beautiful way to wake up to the Colorado landscape. See the sun rise over views of Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods, and other Colorado wonders.
Denver (aka Mile High City) is the most cultural and historical city to visit in Colorado. The city is the state capital and dates back to the Old West era, meaning there are plenty of historic buildings and stories to discover.
If you want a traditional city break, Denver is a great choice. Downtown Denver is full of city-style entertainment, including the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Coors Field – the home ground of the Colorado Rockies baseball team. As tempting as it is, spread your wings further than Downtown Denver. Further south, you’ll find attractions like Stranahan’s Whiskey Distillery, which makes a great afternoon activity.
Denver is one of the best places to visit in Colorado. Read more: 24 Best Things to do in Denver
Where to Stay in Denver
These are just a few suggestions. Make sure to check out our full guide on Where to Stay in Denver – Best Neighborhoods and areas for a full breakdown of all the top areas to base yourself.
3. Grand Junction
Grand Junction is primarily known for one thing – wine. The city sits in Western Colorado, right next to the Utah border. It is surrounded by vast, dry green space, utilized mostly for wine production.
Wine tasting is a must when visiting the city. There are around 20 local wineries specializing in different grape varieties, perfect for a boozy weekend with friends or family. However, the city is not just a place to drink. Museum of the West, Eureka! McConnell Science Museum and Western Colorado Botanical Gardens are all brilliant attractions. The city is a short drive away from a pumpkin patch and corn maze, so keep it in mind as a Halloween destination.
Grand Junction is an excellent base in Western Colorado and ideal if you want a small, regional city experience.
The best way to visit Colorado is on a road trip. Check RentalCars.com for price comparisons.
Durango is a culture-packed city on the Colorado/New Mexico border. It is a fascinating place to visit in Colorado, thanks to its nature preserves, and ancient history. Its location on the Southern Colorado border makes it a perfect stopover on an interstate road trip. Plus, you’ll be within driving distance of San Juan Forest and multiple national parks.
You can easily use the city as a base to explore Mesa Verde National Park, which is home to over 2,500 archeological sites. You can book tours that include transfers from the city center or rent a car and explore independently. The park is only a forty-minute drive from the city center, so it is a straightforward journey.
Durango’s history of production and industrial activity also means lots of fun and educational tourist activities. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a beautifully restored steam train that visitors can take a scenic ride on through the surrounding countryside. The Powerhouse Science Center is also a fun but educational attraction in Durango.
5. Estes Park
Remember us mentioning that we’ve included a town in our list of best cities? Well, Estes Park is the town that made us bend the rules.
Estes Park is the most romantic of our places to visit in Colorado. The town is surrounded by mountain peaks and almost enveloped by Rocky Mountain National Park. It has hiking and biking trails heading in all directions – perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in Colorado’s nature.
As a base to explore the Rocky Mountains as well, the town rivals even Denver and Boulder. It is just an 8-minute drive from the town center to the national park.
The town has lots to do, including a number of photogenic ruins, an aerial tramway, and a scenic drive called the Peak to Peak Byway. You could very easily spend three or more days in Estes Park, which is impressive for a town of its size.
6. Steamboat Springs
Do you love winter sports? If so, Steamboat Springs is one of the best places to visit in Colorado. Steamboat Springs is also highly accessible, and the city has its own airport, meaning no long transfers or stressful car rentals.
The city sits in Northern Colorado, in Yampa Valley. It is famous for cross-country skiing and is home to Howelsen Hill Ski Area and (if you want to splash out) Steamboat Ski Resort. The city has incredible snow quality in the winter, and visitors rush to try out the slopes.
Another draw of the city is its hot springs. Strawberry Park Hot Springs and Old Town Hot Springs are perfect for bathing – come summer or winter. When you aren’t zipping down ski slopes, you can relax and soothe those worn-out muscles.
Old Town Hot Springs has slides and artificially treated pools for a more enjoyable experience. While Strawberry Park has mineral pools in a natural setting surrounded by pine trees and beautiful scenery.
7. Pagosa Springs
Pagosa Springs is another town that has wriggled its way onto our list. Located in Southern Colorado, Pagosa Springs is also a fantastic destination if you want to visit hot springs in Colorado. You can visit an upscale spa or the public springs named Nathan’s Hippy Dip Hot Springs. The public springs are entirely free – perfect for those on a budget or wanting a less commercialized experience.
Pagosa Springs is also surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, and you can see the mountain peaks on the horizon. It is an excellent base for exploring the San Juan Mountains, and if you rent a car, it is easy to drive to the mountains on a day trip.
Pagosa Springs is a great place to visit in Colorado if you want an off-the-beaten-track experience. The town has all the facilities for a comfortable stay but all the charm of a quiet atmosphere.
8. Crested Butte
Crested Butte is an exciting yet peaceful destination in Colorado. Like Estes Park, Crested Butte comes into its own every winter. The town comes alive with skiers and busy slopes, and even Nordic ski routes dotted around the town itself. Jot it down as a top contender for a winter adventure in Colorado.
Throughout the rest of the year, the popular skiing areas become popular for mountain biking instead. Similarly, the snow melting welcomes hikers looking to explore the mountains and alpine-like meadows. There are also scenic drives like the Historic Byway, which passes areas of natural beauty like Kebler Pass, which is not accessible to most vehicles after a snowfall. You can even visit Gunnison National Forest, a stunning area of nearly 1.7 million acres of protected flora and fauna.
Crested Butte is a place to visit for a quiet atmosphere, surrounded by nature. And in winter, it is the perfect destination for snow sports.
Aspen is famous for many reasons. The city is home to film festivals, winter sports, and more hiking and biking trails than you’ve had hot dinners. Aspen also attracts an elite crowd. It is Aspen that you’ll see celebrities posting videos and holiday pictures on Instagram. If you want to join the crowds, Aspen is a cool, trendy place to be.
Aspen is a charming mountain town mostly made up of a very successful ski resort. It has a resort town feel, and in winter, Aspen is overrun with skiers wearing all the latest gear. While much busier than Crested Butte or Estes Park, Aspen has an addictive buzz. If you want a party atmosphere and excellent hospitality, look no further.
Aspen is one of the best places to visit in Colorado for a busy resort feel. Aspen is where to visit if you want to splash out on expensive meals and fancy drinks. Read more at 16 Best Things to do in Aspen, Colorado
Where to Stay in Aspen
If you are looking for accommodation, here are a few suggestions for different budgets.
10. Fort Collins
Photo by Citycommunications at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Fancy exploring Northern Colorado? Fort Collins is the city to choose. The city is located just under the border with Wyoming – great for an interstate road trip or just a chance to explore the most Northern areas of Colorado.
Fort Collins is a historical destination with a wonderful Old Town that still features houses from the 1800s. Around the Old Town, you’ll also find a few quality attractions, including the Global Village Museum of Arts and Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Otherwise, Fort Collins has plenty of city-typical activities like Lee Martinez Community Park and an urban trampoline park.
Fort Collins is an exciting city with a balanced variety of things to do.
Boulder is a major city. Chances are, you’ve heard of it already. But, if not, know that it is a reasonably large city surrounded by mountains. Thanks to its fantastic location, it is one of the best bases to explore the Rocky Mountains and indulge in Colorado’s outdoor activities. Yet Boulder also has that big city vibe, with plenty of character and buzz to keep you entertained day and night.
If you are lucky, you’ll find accommodation with mountain views. The Flatiron Mountains make up the long ridge you see from various points in the city. The Rockies are on the opposite side of Boulder and harder to spot, but you might get lucky with a Rockies view depending on where you stay.
Boulder Creek cuts through the city, and you can easily venture for a day of fly fishing on the river. Alternatively, head to Pearl Street Mall for a shopping day or one of Boulder’s many museums. Fiske Planetarium is another fun attraction and has live talks and concerts about stars, space, and NASA-related events.
12. Grand Lake
Grand Lake is a small town on the shores of a freshwater lake. When we say tiny, we mean it, and the population hovers at around 400 permanent residents. Grand Lake is a great candidate for a quaint holiday in the wilderness. It is packed with water activities, and you can spend your day kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and swimming.
Grand Lake is one of the best places to visit in Colorado for peace and quiet. It is also only a short drive down Trail Ridge Road to reach busier towns like Granby if you begin to crave more buzz. The town also has lots of history, and the Kauffman House Museum is a testament to Grand Lake’s past life as an old mining town.
Grand Lake isn’t touristy and still has an untouched, relaxing atmosphere. If you want to unwind and relax, it is easily one of the most peaceful places to visit in Colorado.
Best National Parks to Visit in Colorado
National parks are some of the best places to visit in Colorado. If your idea of a day well spent is outdoors, you should choose one of Colorado’s national parks. The parks have fantastic hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, and mountain biking opportunities.
Colorado’s national parks are excellent places for outdoor activities. Ready for some outdoor adventures and natural beauty? Grab your hiking boots and take a look at these best places to visit in Colorado.
13. Great Sand Dunes National Park
Sand Dunes National Park is exactly what you are picturing. The great sand dunes tower in waves across the center of the national park, and they are the tallest sand dunes in North America. The effect is dramatic, and Sand Dunes National Park is easily one of the best places to visit in Colorado. Make sure to find Medano Creek too, which cuts through the dunes and is perfect for paddling.
Of course, the national park isn’t just made up of great sand dunes. You’ll find the great sand dunes surrounded by alpine scenery and flora-covered mountains. When you’ve seen the dunes, you can continue your adventure on the many mountain bike trails and scenic hikes. The contrasting scenery makes the park even more impressive.
14. Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Colorado. Not only is the scenery beautiful enough to impress even the most seasoned travelers, but it is also exceptionally historically significant.
Mesa Verde is the site of many Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and protected archaeological sights. The most famous dwelling is Cliff Palace. Experts estimate that Cliff Palace was constructed between 1190 and 1260, making it an incredible historical trip when visiting Colorado. The sight of Cliff Palace is something to be in awe of, and the ruins are sunk into a dramatic cliff face. Definitely remember to bring a camera.
If you love history and want a national park that offers more than just nature, Mesa Verde National Park is a fabulous option. The historical and archaeological attractions make visiting Mesa Verde even more rewarding.
15. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Grand Canyon, who? Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the most awe-inspiring canyons you’ll ever see.
The Black Canyon is 830 meters deep, with the Gunnison River snaking its way through. There are plenty of viewpoints and trails to get the best views, and you should be prepared to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the canyon.
Aside from incredible scenery, though, Black Canyon also offers plenty of outdoor activities. The brave amongst you can go whitewater rafting, and the 14 miles of rapids are bound to be a memorable experience in the canyon.
16. Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument is a stunning national park of 20,533 acres, full of red rock canyons and desert wildlife. This is the park to visit if you want a dramatic experience of Colorado’s desert terrain. The park is also conveniently located next to Grand Junction – something to consider if Grand Junction caught your eye earlier.
Colorado National Monument is great for hiking, with Otto’s Trail and Serpents Trail being the best walking routes. The Historic Rim Rock Drive is also worth doing if you can rent or bring a car. The route covers 23 miles, passing viewpoints and incredible photo opportunities.
Colorado National Monument is perfect if you want to spend just a day in a national park. Its size makes it feasible to fully appreciate in a day, plus the scenic drive saves a lot of time as lots of the attractions are en route. Besides, who doesn’t want to experience red rock canyons and Colorado’s classic desert scenes?
17. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Ready for a bigger park? Canyons of the Ancients National Monument covers 176,000 acres. The park is significant to Native American history and culture, and you’ll find traditional villages and shrines throughout the park. In fact, estimates say that there are around 30,000 sites in total. For a mixture of culture and nature, no place quite ticks the boxes like the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
Lowry Pueblo is the most popular spot and is an ancient house, much like those you see at Cliff Palace. However, the Great Kiva is also worth visiting and is said to have been a place for religious celebrations.
Of course, those who love a challenge should definitely make the hike down Sand Canyon Trail. The 6.5-mile trail has many attractions and is bike and dog friendly. It is a fun, active way to explore the Canyons of the Ancients.
18. San Juan National Forest
Do you like wildlife watching? San Juan National Forest is 1.8 million acres of protected wilderness and full of animals like black bears, moose, mountain lions, and the occasional cute mountain goat. Nature lovers, San Juan National Forest is for you.
The National Forest is located under the San Juan Mountains. From Durango, it is just under a two-hour drive north. The forest is a fantastic place for a day trip. You can pack a picnic and spend a day on the trails. Mountain bikers can test their brakes (and nerves) on different levels of mountain biking trails, or you can just drive through and find the best roadside viewpoints.
Whatever you choose to do, San Juan National Forest is easily one of the best places to visit in Colorado. It is full of life and has plenty of excitement and beauty to appreciate.
19. Pike National Forest
Another incredible forest on our list, Pike National Forest is a 1 million-acre protected area just west of Colorado Springs. You’ll find plenty of places with serenity here, with thousands of quiet trails, creek-side campsites, and lakes for water activities.
The most famous spot in Pike National Forest though is Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak is the highest summit in the southern Front Range. Many tackle Pikes Peak as a challenging climb while staying in Colorado. Of course, if you aren’t up for walking, there is always a second option. Pikes Peak Cog Railway is one of the highest in the world and takes visitors all the way to the summit up a steep track.
There are plenty of mountain biking trails to explore in the Pike National Forest. However, we primarily recommend the spot for those who want to enjoy hiking trails and climbing challenging peaks.
20. Curecanti National Recreation Area
Curecanti is made up of three alpine reservoirs, and the park’s main activities are centered around the water. If you want a day on the water, Curecanti is the perfect spot. And, because the park has three reservoirs, crowds tend to disperse equally between them all – keeping it much quieter.
At Curecanti, you can spend your day fishing, boating, and swimming. There are also numerous hikes that you can take around the reservoirs to find the best views. We recommend Dillon Pinnacles Vista Point, which is easily accessed from the road.
Curecanti National Park is small but fun. It is ideal for a day trip, and you can always stop for lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants. Its facilities and activities make it one of the most fun places to visit in Colorado.
21. Browns Canyon National Monument
At 21,586 acres in size, Browns Canyon National Monument is a relatively big national park to explore in Colorado. There is hiking, camping, fishing – you name it, and chances are Browns Canyon has got it.
However, Browns Canyon National Monument famously has fantastic white water rafting. If you fancy an adventurous way to sightsee the park, book a rafting experience and tackle some awesome rapids while admiring gorgeous scenery. You can book an experience online through websites the official tour operator websites. We’ll attach a link here so you can take a look at some typical white water rafting experiences in Browns Canyon.
22. Dinosaur National Monument
Once you’ve got white water rafting under your belt, you’ll have had a serious taste of adventure. So why not carry on with the exciting stuff? Did you know that Colorado has a cliff full of dinosaur fossils?
Dinosaur National Monument is one of the most exciting places to appreciate archeological sites, especially if you like the Prehistoric Era. The wall of fossils is now protected by a vast, airy museum building – you just can’t risk something so valuable being exposed to the elements. Whether visiting Colorado as a family, a couple, with friends, or solo, seeing dinosaurs up close is an experience to remember.
23. Rocky Mountain National Park
Who hasn’t heard of the Rocky Mountains? The Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the world’s most famous places, making it one of the best places to visit in Colorado.
Mountain bikers will love the endless mountain biking trails, while hikers can enjoy some of the most scenic hiking trails in the US. It is also worth researching horseback riding experiences or a ranch stay if you are extra adventurous.
Keep in mind that the Rocky Mountains cover a vast area. The park actually stretches through six states – so forget exploring the whole park in a day or even a week. You may wish to hire a car to explore Colorado’s Rockies or, alternatively, purchase a tour.
More Places to Visit in Colorado
We are nearly at the end of this guide to the best places to visit in Colorado. However, there are a few extra unique places to visit in Colorado that we just couldn’t leave out.
These places don’t fit into our previous categories but definitely warrant a place on your Colorado itinerary. Can we tempt you with bathing in hot springs? A magnificent lake? Let’s see.
24. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
Glenwood Caverns is the best. How many amusement parks do you know that are sat on top of a mountain? In the US, Glenwood Caverns is the only mountaintop amusement park – so visiting is definitely worth bragging rights.
The park itself has a fun range of rides. The classic gondola ride is a great way to appreciate your mountain-top locale, while the guided cave tour is a unique addition to a day out. Of course, you will find more traditional thrill-seeking rides, including a Giant Canyon Swing and plenty of rollercoasters.
Glenwood Caverns is fantastic for families or those wanting to let their hair down for a day. Glenwood Springs is a good town for your itinerary, even without visiting the amusement park. You’ll find public hot springs, the Frontier Historical Museum, and plenty of relaxing spots along the river.
25. Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
When you’ve visited an amusement park on top of a mountain, what next? An amusement park on top of a canyon seems a good start.
The 360-acre amusement park sat atop a canyon with one of the highest suspension bridges in the world, joining the two canyon banks. The park was built in 1929 yet remains one of the most popular places to visit in Colorado almost a hundred years later. It is approximately an hour’s drive from Colorado Springs and is very quickly visited on a day trip.
You can really let loose at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. You can be zipping down a zipline with canyon views or brave the sky coaster, which straps you in to hurtle up to 50 miles per hour head first. Even walking the bridge is an activity, and you should bring a camera to snap some fantastic photographs.
26. Manitou Springs
Manitou Springs is a resort city on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. Manitou Springs is the best if you are looking for a place that merges culture, history, nature, and a healing experience.
The town has eight mineral springs that were once believed by Native Americans to hold healing properties. Today visitors can sample each spring from different water fountains spaced along streets in the city center. Each spring has a distinctly different taste, and the experience is like wine tasting – just more beneficial for your health.
You can enjoy the Zipline Center in Manitou Springs when you aren’t tasting the spring water. Be brave and tackle the incline. Who knows, maybe the healing water will give you a competitive edge. You can also book a cave tour at the Cave of the Winds Mountain Park or head to the Garden of the Gods.
27. Mount Evans Scenic Byway
Fancy a scenic drive? There is no better feeling than road-tripping through a new place with good music, snacks, and company. And, if you don’t have time for a multi-day road trip, driving Mount Evans Scenic Byway is a fantastic alternative.
The route starts from Echo Lake Park (although you can begin at Idaho Springs if you wish). It takes roughly 1.5 hours to drive the entire route there and back, but you should allow half a day at least for stopping time.
You’ll pass lots of stunning scenery. We recommend getting out to walk around and admire Summit Lake Park, Meyer-Womble Observatory, and Mount Evan’s trig point. Be prepared to see lots of very fluffy white mountain goats as well, which is always entertaining for animal lovers. This route is easily one of the best places in Colorado for a fun, scenic drive.
28. Hanging Lake
When we say beautiful, triple whatever level of beauty you have in your mind. Hanging Lake is a gorgeous place to visit and is perfect for nature lovers or those chasing that elusive Instagram shot.
Hanging Lake’s water is so clear that you can see everything, right down to the bottom of the lake. Many tree trunks have fallen to the bottom of the lake, and the water clarity creates a unique, pretty effect, with the trunks seeming closer to the surface. You’ll also spot lots of marine life, including huge fish and eels.
Sadly, swimming is forbidden. The lake’s ecosystem is extremely fragile, and conservationists don’t want the lake to be disrupted and impacted negatively by tourism. Fortunately, though, Hanging Lake looks just as beautiful from its shores.
It is easiest to visit Hanging Lake from Glenwood Springs, Aspen, or Grand Junction, so consider combining a hike to the lake with one of these places.
29. Vail Colorado
If you want to use Colorado Springs as a base, we recommend adding on a trip to the nearby mountain village of Vail. Combining Colorado Springs with one of its nearest mountain towns is an excellent way to balance your trip. Vail’s most popular attractions are Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and its skiing opportunities, with Vail Ski Resort to keep you entertained. Read more: 21 Best Winter Vacations in the US
We’ll finish by reiterating our opening point; there are so many beautiful places to visit in Colorado. You can take things slow or go full throttle on exciting outdoor activities – Colorado caters to a mixed crowd.
Go hiking up Pikes Peak or through the Rocky Mountains. Go cross-country skiing at a major resort like Breckenridge Ski Resort or Vail Ski Resort. Or, sit back and enjoy the sun while bathing in Glenwood Springs. Whatever pace you want your holiday to be, there is a place to match it in Colorado.
Have a fantastic trip and enjoy all the adventures that Colorado has in store for you. If you fancy more accommodation inspiration, check out our article on the best cabins in Colorado here.