From vast prairie grasslands to the majestic mountains, rushing rivers to desert landscapes, Colorado is unlike anywhere else. The highest-altitude state in the USA offers an unbelievable selection of wildlife and natural wonders as well as rich cultural heritage found in frontier forts, narrow-gauge railways, mining museums, dinosaur fossils, ancient cliff dwellings and in the art of local American Indian tribes. From ice climbing to a hot springs soak, a stay in a historic hotel or a trip through a ghost town, Colorado’s Western legacy is everywhere.
Beyond the rodeos and dude ranches, you’ll find an invigorating culinary scene, with plenty of farm-to-table restaurants, breweries, vineyards and wineries. Twenty-five top-notch ski resorts immerse visitors in the alpine culture. Wildlife festivals, gardens and scenic byways make it easy to linger in the great outdoors.
With so many great things to see and do throughout the state all year long, there’s never a bad time to be here.
Must See Places in Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park
Just a few miles from the town of Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. The soaring mountain peaks, alpine lakes and meadows, forests, and abundant wildlife showcase nature at its best. The park has more than 100 peaks over 10,000 feet, including Longs Peak, the highest in the park, at 14,259 feet
Mesa Verde National Park
At Mesa Verde, get an up-close look at how Native American tribes thrived in Colorado from AD 600 to 1300. Regardless of whether or not you have seen cliff dwellings before, you will be blown away by Mesa Verde and the amount of access to the actual ruins that the park allows visitors. The park’s centerpiece, Cliff Palace is one of the most impressive dwellings in the entire Southwest, with a dramatic setting and incredibly preserved ruins.
Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods, a registered National Natural Landmark, is a unique landscape of jagged stone towers and fins jutting up 300 feet from the earth, and giant balanced boulders and rock piles dotting the landscape, with distant mountains completing the scene. Fifteen miles of trails, most of which are short and easy, allow you to get up close to the dramatic rock formations and wander through the surreal scenery.
Vail and Nearby Mountain Towns
The ski resort town of Vail draws huge crowds in winter but it’s also a pleasant place to visit at any time of year. When it comes to skiing, this is one of the top ski resorts in Colorado. The town at the base of the ski hill is postcard cute, with chalet-style restaurants, shops, and hotels that make you feel like you are in the heart of the Alps. This is a high-end resort with luxury hotels, fine dining, and designer stores.
Durango and the Silverton Narrow Gage Railway
In southern Colorado, the town of Durango has a lovely setting at the base of surrounding mountains. The historic downtown area has some well-restored, grand old buildings that function as hotels and restaurants. Some are done in southwestern décor, with an Old West feel. In the summer, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gage Railway is one of the town’s main tourist attractions. This historic train runs day trips up the valley from Durango to the old mining town of Silverton, high in the mountains.
The Million Dollar Highway
A spectacular scenic drive stretches from the old mining town of Silverton, to the town of Ouray, along what is called the Million Dollar Highway. This is a 46-kilometre two-lane highway that hugs the mountainside in places and looks out over jaw-dropping cliffs and across valleys to inspiring mountain peaks. It is one of the most spectacular mountain drives in Colorado.
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness showcases some of Colorado’s most spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery and offers a chance to get out of your car and into nature. This area has six mountains over 14,000 feet, along with forests, alpine lakes, meadows, and 175 miles of trails to help you explore the terrain. Alternatively, you can enjoy the views on some of the scenic drives.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a unique sight in Colorado with a diverse landscape that most visitors are not expecting to find. The 750-foot Star Dune is startlingly high, particularly when you are considering climbing it, and the mountains in the distance create a stunning setting.
Colorado National Monument
Just outside the towns of Grand Junction and nearby Fruita is Colorado National Monument. A scenic road snakes its way through some outstanding scenery. This is not typical mountain scenery, but a landscape of huge rock spires, cliff walls, canyons, and desert-like surroundings with small trees and scrubby bushes.
Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument, in northwest Colorado, combines dramatic scenery with natural and cultural history to create one of Colorado’s most interesting sites. Dinosaur remains embedded in exposed rock walls reveal evidence of the giants that once roamed these areas. Petroglyphs offer insight into the cultures and people that lived here long ago, and surrounding it all are cliff walls and the Green and Yampa Rivers snaking through the otherwise dry landscape.
Video Credit: Colorado Tourism