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31 Top Things to Do in Colorado

Colorado is made for outdoorsy travelers and adventurous souls. Snowcapped mountains, rushing rivers and dramatic canyons create a rugged yet stunning landscape worth exploring. Meanwhile, cities like Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs provide a taste of culture. While you might think of the state primarily as a ski destination, there are plenty of fun things to do in Colorado during every season. The state offers so much in the way of activity that it can be difficult to decide how to spend your time – so read on for the top things to do in Colorado.

Hike or backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Rocky Mountain National Park draws millions of people every year to explore its varied trails and stunning views. The park features dramatic peaks, as well as 147 lakes and plenty of wildlife. Its 355 miles of trails appeal to hikers and backpackers of all experience levels.

Visitors recommend the park’s flat lake trails – such as Lily Lake Loop, Bear Lake trail and the Lake Irene trail – for beginners. Intermediate climbers may enjoy the 4.1-mile Emerald Lake trail, which requires 744 feet of elevation gain, or the more challenging 9.4-mile Sky Pond out-and-back route via the Glacier Gorge trail for views of snowcapped peaks. Many experienced hikers set out to complete Longs Peak: This mountain is a 14er (a peak that exceeds 14,000 feet) with a nearly 5,000-foot elevation gain, reserved for ambitious and very skilled hikers willing to start the hike early (think: 3 a.m.) and pack all the appropriate gear. Keep in mind that backpacking requires a Wilderness Permit, which are issued on a first-come, first-served basis.

Drive the Trail Ridge Road

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Don’t miss the chance to drive the Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. With a high point at more than 12,000 feet, Trail Ridge gives a whole new meaning to “taking the high road.” It spans nearly 50 miles and runs from Estes Park in the east to Grand Lake in the west, and it’s known as the highest continuous paved road in the country.

The road has several designated pull-over areas and is well maintained, according to visitors, but that doesn’t mean it’s not frightening: The twisting turns and dramatic drops may make your stomach churn. However, most people say the sweeping mountain vistas and probable wildlife sightings are worth the potential height-induced anxiety. You should give yourself a half day to complete the drive, but feel free to take extra time to soak in the views. The road is only open from May to October because of its dangerous winter weather conditions; visitors should also pay close attention to weather warnings in summer as the weather is still unpredictable.

Denver

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The Mile High City is full of educational museums, trendy restaurants, historical sites and top-notch views, making it one of the best spots in Colorado. For a taste of culture, stop at the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the Denver Botanic Gardens. Catch a Broadway show at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. If you’re visiting with children, the Denver Zoo – one of the top zoos in the country – is a great place to spend the day, as is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. There are also plenty of unique tour offerings, including brewery outings and graffiti tours, to help you experience as much of the city as possible. For a low-budget activity, plan a picnic in City Park, which offers views of the surrounding mountains and lots of space for the kids to run around.

When night comes, stroll through Larimer Square to find breweries and bars. Some top-rated breweries include Great Divide Brewing Company and Ratio Beerworks. The Five Points area is also an excellent place to explore in the evening thanks to its vibrant nightlife scene, live musical performances and noteworthy street art. Colorado’s capital city offers plenty of lodging options as well, from upscale hotels like the Four Seasons Hotel Denver to more budget-friendly alternatives.

Surf or sled at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

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While you won’t find any traditional surfing experiences in landlocked Colorado, that doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at the sport: Enter sand surfing and sledding. Armed with a sandboard or sand sled (made specifically for sand, as snowboards, snow sleds and skis won’t work unless the sand is very wet) as well as comfortable clothes and a bit of courage, visitors can surf or sled down the massive dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Keep in mind, there are no equipment rental facilities within the park; instead, you’ll have to rent a board or sled from a shop in the nearby San Luis Valley. Oasis Store, located 4 miles from the entrance, is the closest rental store option. From the main parking area, sand surfers and sledders can walk a little more than half a mile to reach some decent-sized dunes. Those looking for larger slopes can choose to walk a bit farther, as surfing and sledding are allowed anywhere on the dunefield away from vegetated areas.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is open all day every day; it costs $25 per vehicle to enter the park, and you do not need a reservation to visit. There are also plenty of other activities you can do within the park, including hiking, camping and swimming in Medano Creek.

Stay at the famed Stanley Hotel

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An inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining,” The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park – about 5 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park – embraces its position as one of the most haunted hotels in America. The historic hotel offers several tours, including the visitor-recommended “Spirited Stanley Tour,” which fittingly takes place in the evening. There are even spirited rooms with high paranormal activity.

Despite these sinister ties, the Stanley Hotel is one of the best hotels in Estes Park for good reason: It touts renovated premium suites, a plethora of premier dining options, spa treatments and guided outdoor excursions. You can also watch a variety of entertainment – including concerts from Grammy-winning artists – at the property. There’s plenty to do in the greater town of Estes Park, too, like horseback riding, attending the fall Elk Fest and exploring the Estes Park Museum.

Garden of the Gods

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There are plenty of ways to explore the towering red rock formations in Garden of the Gods, located 6 miles northwest of downtown Colorado Springs. Of course, hiking is a great way to exercise while also soaking in the great views. Some highly recommended hiking routes include the easy Central Garden Trail and the moderate Palmer Trail.

Jeep tours are another way to explore Garden of the Gods. Visitors can take a 90-minute narrated Jeep tour to Balanced Rock and hear about the history of the park; embark on a 90-minute outing to Glen Eyrie’s Queens Canyon and enjoy a scenic overlook; or ride to waterfalls, tunnels and other picturesque areas on a two-hour excursion. Or, step back in time with a trolley tour, offered hourly. Those looking for a bit more exercise can opt for rock climbing – which requires a local permit and registration at the Visitor Center – or bike tours, with e-bike and mountain bike rentals available in the park.

Summit Pikes Peak

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Pikes Peak rises more than 14,000 feet in the sky, towering over its neighboring peaks in the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. This majestic mountain, located approximately 30 miles west of Colorado Springs, has inspired many stories and songs, including “America the Beautiful.” You can ascend the mountain in a number of ways. Driving is the easiest way to summit, and it takes just three or four hours. There are plenty of places to pull over and admire the views on the way up. Keep in mind that the drive to the summit requires reservations and can be difficult, especially for those afraid of heights (which is why guided tours are also available).

Another popular way to reach the top is via The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The railway offers breathtaking vistas (the altitude may literally take your breath away) as it sweeps passengers up the mountain in a ride that lasts a little more than an hour. At the top, passengers can soak in the scenery for about 40 minutes before boarding the train down. You can purchase tickets for this round-trip ride online before you go; tickets sell out about two weeks in advance in the summer.

The last way up the mountain is on foot. Only skilled hikers and bikers should attempt to scale Pikes Peak via the Barr Trail, which is about 25 miles long round trip. Summiting via the Crags Campground route is shorter, at 14.5 miles, but still difficult. Either way, the grueling hike will be worth it once you make it to the top and witness incredible panoramas of Colorado Springs and the surrounding area. Plus, you can reward yourself with a Pikes Peak doughnut or other treat at the Summit Visitor Center, sitting at 14,115 feet in elevation.

Boulder

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Boulder sits around 25 miles northwest of Denver, and many visitors appreciate its charming, small-town vibe. Pearl Street Mall is a top Boulder attraction, as the alfresco shopping area is lined with a plethora of boutiques and cafes. You’ll probably see your fair share of street performers as well. Plus, with the University of Colorado Boulder in close proximity, there are plenty of trendy restaurants and nightlife options.

Past visitors recommend The Buff for breakfast, Rincon Argentina for an empanada-filled lunch, The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse for stunning afternoon tea, and Bramble & Hare for an upscale farm-to-table dinner – and don’t forget to grab a drink at one of the city’s many breweries in between meals. If you’re visiting on a Wednesday or Saturday, check out the Boulder Farmers Market for farm-fresh produce, live music and more. For convenient lodging options near downtown, book a stay at the St Julien Hotel & Spa or Hotel Boulderado.

If you do find yourself in the Boulder area, hiking the Flatirons is a must. These giant sandstone peaks are intertwined with miles of hiking trails, and there are routes for hikers and climbers of all skill levels. Most hikes begin at the popular Chautauqua Trailhead, which also offers an expansive park area perfect for relaxing and admiring the Flatirons if you’re not in the mood to climb or hike.

Mesa Verde National Park

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It’s not too often that scenic hiking areas are also steeped in history, but Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado certainly has both. This national park consists of an array of preserved cliff dwellings originally built centuries ago by Ancestral Puebloans, who lived and worked in these cliffside quarters for 700 years until finally abandoning them in late A.D. 1200. Now, the remnants of this ancient civilization draw thousands of visitors each year to the southwest corner of Colorado.

During your visit, make time to see Cliff Palace – the largest cliff dwelling in North America. The palace features 150 rooms that you can see by maneuvering uneven paths and climbing a few ladders on your guided tour. There are also plenty of hiking trails in the surrounding area. A visitor-favorite path is the moderate Point Lookout Trail (2.1 miles out and back), which boasts sweeping views of the park. The Petroglyph Point Trail (a 2.4-mile loop) is also popular, as you can admire the petroglyphs drawn on the canyon walls.

Explore the ghost towns

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Colorado is full of ghost towns, several of which have been left empty from mining struggles in the early 1900s. Nowadays, travelers can visit what remains of these towns and get a firsthand look at their unique history. St. Elmo, located about 110 miles west of Colorado Springs, is one of the state’s most popular ghost towns, although tourists should note the town is still home to full-time residents. Many say a visit to St. Elmo is a great way to learn about the state’s silver and gold miners, and several suggest buying souvenirs from the still-operating general store (open seasonally).

If you’re staying in Aspen, you can also make the trip to Independence Ghost Town, where you’ll find empty stables, an old general store and remains of cabins. Located at 11,000 feet, this town sees abundant snow each year and is therefore only accessible in the summer months. Past visitors said they enjoyed hiking around the old buildings and getting a taste of the town’s history from the informative signs.

Ski in Aspen

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Millions of visitors travel to this town in central Colorado each year for its ideal ski conditions and massive slopes. Aspen Snowmass is one of the country’s largest ski resorts and one of Aspen’s most popular attractions. The resort offers more than 5,000 acres of skiable terrain and 46 chairlifts across four mountains – Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk – making it a prime ski destination for intermediate and advanced skiers. There are also some trails for beginners, as well as many opportunities for lessons.

Even if you’re not a fan of skiing, the après-ski scene makes Aspen worth a visit. You’ll find skiers flocking to the town’s lounges, taverns and upscale eateries after a day on the slopes. There are several award-winning hotels in the area – such as The Little Nell and Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection – where guests can stay close to the slopes, making for an extra easy ski day.

Catch a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

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A trip to Red Rocks Amphitheatre will take any concert experience to the next level. The bleacher-style seats are built into a cliff and surrounded by towering sandstone structures. Visitors rave about the venue’s acoustics, saying it’s one of the best and most unique places to witness a live performance. Concerts are usually scheduled between April and November; consult the event schedule to see when your favorite artist is performing.

Even if you can’t make it for a show, Red Rocks is still a great place to visit during the day. There are several hiking trails around the concert area, including the easy Trading Post Trail (1.4 miles) and the intermediate Red Rocks and Morrison Slide trails (3 miles). Plus, from high up in the stands, you’ll get panoramic views of the surrounding area. In the summer, the venue even presents drive-in movie events and morning yoga sessions. Be sure to make time to wander through the Red Rocks Hall of Fame to see the famous artists who have taken the stage here.

Relax in the hot springs of Glenwood Springs

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The small town of Glenwood Springs is situated along the Colorado River and surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. The mineral waters responsible for the town’s fame come from the nearby Yampah spring, which naturally heats to about 122 degrees. In town, there are three main areas for visitors to enjoy the hot springs. Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is home to the world’s largest hot springs pool, big enough for visitors to swim laps in the 90- to 93-degree water. The venue is kid-friendly and doesn’t require reservations.

Another option is Iron Mountain Hot Springs, which offers a quieter atmosphere complete with 17 soaking pools connected by heated walkways and rain showers to ensure visitors can cool off when necessary. Keep in mind, reservations are required and weekend access often sells out, so make sure to book a time slot in advance. The Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves is another thermal attraction in Glenwood Springs, and it’s one of the only vapor caves on the continent. This underground area naturally releases therapeutic steam, which visitors can enjoy by descending into the caves and lounging on the benches. Reservations for the caves are required.

Go whitewater rafting

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The Arkansas River – which starts in central Colorado and runs all the way to Arkansas – features miles of fast-flowing water, perfect for adventurous rafters. Though it might seem intimidating, there are plenty of easy routes for first-time rafters or those looking for a relaxing excursion. Lower Browns Canyon offers a few mild rapids with enough time in between to enjoy the mountain scenery. Similarly, a trip to Little Gore Canyon is sure to be leisurely and may appeal to families with younger children. The Royal Gorge trip, however, is reserved for adventurous travelers seeking steep drops, big splashes and constant rapids. The Pine Creek route, which originates near the Granite Gorge, is another strenuous option for advanced rafters. Check out U.S. News’ roundup of the best whitewater rafting tours in Colorado to plan your trip.

Telluride

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A mining village that flourished in the late 1800s, this southwestern Colorado town maintains its Wild West charm to this day. The main street is lined with quaint stores and restaurants, which are set against the dramatic backdrop of the San Juan Mountains. You won’t see many fast food restaurants or chain stores here, but you will find plenty of outdoor activities in Telluride. The town offers noteworthy skiing options at Telluride Ski Resort. The free gondola is also a great activity, as it’ll bring you on a scenic ride to the mountains.

While there are numerous winter adventures to be had, the spring, summer and fall months are what make this town stand out. Telluride has a thriving arts district and is a hot spot for festivals, including the popular festivals for film, jazz and bluegrass. Visitors enjoy Telluride for its small-town atmosphere and history.

Grand Lake

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Grand Lake is one of the best spots in Colorado for swimming, fishing, boating and soaking up some sun. This massive lake – the largest natural body of water in the state – is located a few miles southeast of the Grand Lake entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park and about 100 miles northwest of Denver. On the sandy shores of the lake, you’ll find plenty of kids playing, adults sunbathing, and maybe even a moose or two testing the waters.

Visitors say the area is well maintained, and they appreciate the designated picnic spots. Not to mention, the jaw-dropping view of the surrounding mountains reflecting off the lake is sure to take your beach day to the next level. The lake offers a marina where visitors can opt to rent motorboats or kayaks to explore the water. The small town around the water – also called Grand Lake – features several cafes, restaurants and shops to enjoy during your visit. If you venture to Grand Lake in winter, there will still be plenty of activities to partake in such as ice fishing and ice hockey.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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This national park packs plenty of scenery into a small area. Dark, jagged peaks slice into the earth, creating dramatic canyons and breathtaking views. Black Canyon of the Gunnison doesn’t have as many easy hiking opportunities as other parks due to the steep nature of the canyon. For this reason, many visitors say driving is the best way to take in the views. The park is small enough that if you’re driving, you can see it all in a day – though there’s a good chance it’ll take a long drive to get there, as it’s located about 260 miles from Denver.

When arriving at the park, you can choose to explore either the North Rim or the South Rim. The North Rim offers three trails and five overlooks that you can visit by car but is overall less developed than its counterpart. Many visitors prefer the more developed South Rim for its four hiking trails and 12 overlooks. Each rim features a campground as well, but the South Rim Campground is much larger and includes more amenities. Entrance to the park requires a $30 vehicle pass.

Ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

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Take a train back in time on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Construction on this historic railroad began in 1881; once it was completed in 1882, the railroad brought tons of gold and silver from the mountains to the towns. People also used this train to travel between towns, and they quickly realized the scenery along the way was nothing short of stunning. The railroad winds through the San Juan Mountains and chugs up Cascade Canyon – a visitor-favorite view.

The train from Durango to Silverton takes less than four hours; passengers can explore the historic mining town of Silverton for two hours before returning for the train ride back. You’ll have to reserve tickets in advance online or by calling. There are a variety of seats to choose from, including coach, deluxe and first-class, and you can opt to ride the steam train or the diesel train.

Visit Colorado’s wine country

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Most people associate Colorado with craft beer and countless breweries. However, you may be surprised to learn that Colorado also produces its fair share of wine. The state’s “wine country” is located in the western edge of Colorado near the city of Grand Junction, where the cool, dry mountain climate and high elevation work together to create an ideal wine-making environment.

There are wineries and tasting rooms galore in Grand Junction and nearby Palisade. According to recent visitors, some of the top options include Carlson Vineyards Winery & Tasting Room, Varaison Vineyards and Winery, and Mesa Park Vineyards. Oenophiles will appreciate the chance to sample everything from riesling to cabernet sauvignon at these locations. Plus, the wines are sure to taste even better with gorgeous alpine vistas in the background. Some visitors recommend touring Colorado’s wine country on an e-bike for an extra dose of fun. When it comes time to rest, turn down at one of the best hotels in Grand Junction, most of which are conveniently located near the bars and restaurants of Main Street.

The Colorado State Fair

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If you enjoy live music, farm animals, competitions, carnival rides and fried food, make sure your visit to Colorado coincides with the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, located 45 miles southeast of Colorado Springs. The family-friendly annual fair, which was first held in 1872, takes place from around the end of August through early September. You can expect to witness traditional rodeos, as well as live performances by nationally recognized artists. Additionally, car lovers will enjoy watching derbies and monster truck showings. If you’re looking to spend the night, consider booking a hotel in downtown Pueblo. Tickets are $14 for adults, $7 for kids ages 5 to 7, and free for children 4 and under. You can buy tickets online in advance.

Cross the Royal Gorge Bridge

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If you want to get your heart pumping, look no further than the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, located about 60 miles southwest of Colorado Springs. The bridge is the highest suspension bridge in the U.S. at 956 feet above the Arkansas River. Crossing the bridge is not for the faint of heart, but don’t worry – the engineering feat is supported by 4,100 sturdy cables and can hold more than 2 million pounds. If you’re nervous about walking over the bridge, some visitors recommending riding the Aerial Gondola across it first.

Be sure to explore the Visitor Center or watch a mini-documentary about the history of the park at the Plaza Theater. Children can enjoy the three-story Playland, which features a seasonal splash pad, vintage carousel and more. Thrill-seekers will have their hands full with activities like zooming 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River on the Cloudscraper Zip Line, the highest zip line in America; free-falling at 50 miles per hour over the river on the Royal Rush Skycoaster; or completing the guided Royal Gorge Via Ferrata. Travelers recommend going in the off-season for smaller crowds.

Vail

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While this Colorado town is famous for its excellent ski offerings, Vail is also a great place to kick back and spend your time getting pampered. During the day, shop (or window-shop) for everything from outdoor gear to art, before taking a relaxing stroll through the meticulously landscaped Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Afternoon wine tastings at 4 Eagle Ranch or Root & Flower will make your day extra indulgent. When evening comes, splurge on upscale Japanese cuisine at Matsuhisa or contemporary American favorites at Sweet Basil.

Luxurious accommodation options also abound in Vail. If you’re looking for top-notch spa offerings, book a stay at the European-inspired Sonnenalp Hotel. The on-site spa offers massages, body treatments, scrubs, facials, indoor and outdoor whirlpools, and even an oxygen bar, if the altitude gets to you. If you’d rather relax in the comfort of your guest room, consider staying at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail, where certain accommodations feature spacious living room areas, cozy furniture and gas fireplaces alongside mountain views.

Dinosaur National Monument

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Children and adults alike are sure to be amazed by the preserved fossils and natural wonders at Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles the Colorado-Utah border. This rugged landscape full of mountains, canyons and rivers was once inhabited by dinosaurs, and visitors can now see remnants of their existence in the rocks. The on-site Quarry Exhibit Hall is a hit among youngsters, as it displays about 1,500 bones that once belonged to different types of dinosaurs. Visitors can admire petroglyphs that were drawn by members of the Fremont Indian Tribe, whose descendants still reside in the area.

Outside of the museum, there is plenty of outdoor fun to be had. Hiking trails stretch from the visitor centers out to viewpoints that overlook the unique desert landscape, and cycling and horseback riding are also great ways to explore. Entrance to Dinosaur National Monument costs $25 per vehicle. Past visitors warned that the monument in northwestern Colorado is a bit removed from other attractions – it’s more than 280 miles west of Denver – but they said it was worth the trip.

Denver Arts Week

Each November, artists, filmmakers, performers and more flock to Denver to showcase their creative projects. Entire neighborhoods, such as the RiNo Art District, are transformed into alfresco art museums during this week as artists paint colorful murals on storefronts and walls. Not to mention, one of Denver Art Week’s most noteworthy events is the Denver Film Festival, which showcases critically acclaimed films and features a star-studded red carpet event.

The city also hosts hundreds of different events throughout the week in small galleries and massive performing arts theaters alike. Many museums, including the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, showcase art-related events as well. Denver Arts Week is a great time to experience the capital city’s rich cultural scene, as you’ll find discounted tickets and deals on art-related activities. You’ll also find special hotel rates at select properties if you visit during this event.

Drive the Million Dollar Highway

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There are many theories as to how this scenic highway got its name, but no matter what you believe, it’s certain that the road provides million-dollar views. Start your drive in Ouray, a small town northwest of Telluride that’s known as the “Switzerland of America” thanks to its European-looking storefronts and its surrounding mountains.

The 25-mile highway stretches from Ouray to Silverton and features awe-inspiring vistas, but be warned – the drive is not for the faint of heart. The road clings to the side of a cliff and provides dizzying views of the canyon below, and the lack of guardrails adds to the danger. The road does eventually level out so drivers can relax and enjoy the scenery, but keep in mind that if you’re scared of heights, this drive might not be the one for you. Be sure to check for icy or snowy conditions before making the journey.

Breckenridge

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If you’re looking for an easy getaway from Denver, head to Breckenridge for some of the best ski conditions in the state. Breckenridge Ski Resort has a whopping 187 trails and 35 lifts as well as several terrain parks. The free gondola, which runs from the downtown area to the base of the ski mountain, is a great way to enjoy the mountain views even if you don’t plan on hitting the slopes. Downtown Breckenridge has plenty to offer in the way of food, beverages and treats as well as clothing stores, souvenir shops and a thriving arts district. Hiking and biking trails abound in the surrounding area – such as the highly rated McCullough Gulch Trail, the Hoosier Pass Loop and the Sawmill Reservoir trail.

Enjoy family-friendly fun in Steamboat Springs

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This northwestern Colorado city is known for its ski offerings and hot springs. The ski mountain offers 170 trails, 21 lifts and three terrain parks, each for a different skill level. After skiing, pay a visit to the Old Town Hot Springs in the heart of downtown to enjoy several designated pools as well as a kiddie pool and two water slides open seasonally. If you’re not into downhill skiing, you can still enjoy other Steamboat Springs activities including cross-country skiing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, ice skating, tubing and scenic gondola rides. In the summer, enjoy hiking, mountain biking and fly-fishing; there are also many local lakes perfect for swimming or paddleboarding.

Paint Mines Interpretive Park

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For a unique excursion, head to Paint Mines Interpretive Park about 40 miles east of Colorado Springs. The park – named after the clay Native Americans collected to make paint – features stunning geological formations with distinctive colored bands caused by oxidized iron compounds. These formations make a beautiful background for photo ops, but climbing or scrambling over them is strictly prohibited.

Park facilities include 4 miles of hiking trails, picnic tables, restrooms and interpretative displays; guided hikes run during the summer months. The park is free to enter. Recent travelers praise the park’s beauty and appreciate that it’s not as touristy as other Colorado Springs attractions, but some warn that getting there feels like driving to the middle of nowhere.

Go leaf peeping

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The fall season in the Centennial State is particularly stunning as the trees, most notably aspens, start to change color. You can hike among the vivid yellow, orange and red leaves in a multitude of mountain destinations, such as Kenosha Pass located 65 miles from Denver (but be warned that this is one of the most popular leaf peeping spots). To avoid the crowds, head to Kebler Pass near Crested Butte, which boasts one of the largest and most photographed aspen groves in the country. The leaf-peeping season typically runs from September to mid-October, but the exact timing depends on a variety of factors, such as whether there’s an early freeze.

Drive the highest road in North America

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The Scenic Byway to Mount Blue Sky, which begins about 35 miles west of Denver, climbs to the peak of Mount Blue Sky and offers stunning mountain views along the way. You’ll start in Idaho Springs, then gain about 7,000 feet in elevation as you twist and turn along the 28-mile road to the 14,130-foot summit. Keep your eyes peeled for wild animals such as mountain goats, bighorn sheep and marmots. Because of the winding nature of the road, expect to drive at least an hour each way.

Due to potentially dangerous winter conditions, cars are only permitted to drive to the peak typically from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and reservations are required. If you’re an avid hiker, you also have the option to complete the challenging hike to the peak, but note that it’s one of the more popular 14ers to climb.

Experience small-town life in Salida

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Visiting small towns like Salida is one of the best ways to experience the Centennial State. Salida sits about 140 miles south of Denver and offers plenty of quaint Colorado charm. As you walk down F Street, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time thanks to preserved buildings reminiscent of the Wild West and retro stores like the F Street Five & Dime and the Salida Pharmacy & Fountain. The downtown area is the state’s largest historic district. At the end of the street, you’ll find the Arkansas River and the adjacent Riverside Park, which is a perfect spot for lounging, picnicking or exploring.

Salida also offers mountain views and plenty of nearby hiking options, including the popular Waterdog Lakes and Hunt Lake trails, along with the challenging Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Peak 14ers. If you’re seeking a relaxation day, drive to the nearby Cottonwood Hot Springs or the Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort where you can soak in the warm pools, even during the winter.

FAQs

Skiing and snowboarding might be the first activities that come to mind when putting together your cold weather Colorado itinerary, but there are a variety of other winter offerings across the state:

  • Take the family dog-sledding
  • Go snow tubing at Frisco Adventure Park
  • Enjoy a sleigh ride dinner in Steamboat Springs
  • Head to Breckenridge for the International Snow Sculpture Championships
  • Ride the Polar Express Train from Durango to Silverton
  • Eat pierogies at the Denver Christkindlmarket
  • Explore more than 70 installations at Meow Wolf

It’s no surprise that a summer in Colorado means partaking in a plethora of outdoor adventures:

And there are plenty of other activities if you’re not in the mood to lace up your hiking boots:

  • Feed stingrays at the Denver Aquarium
  • Watch a play at the Shakespeare Festival in Boulder
  • Take a flight in a hot air balloon above the Rocky Mountains
  • Enjoy a drink at a Denver speakeasy
  • Catch a baseball game at Coors Field

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Leilani Osmundson has lived in Colorado for most of her life, including four years in Boulder while she attended the University of Colorado Boulder. She spends her free time hiking, backpacking, camping, skiing and paddleboarding around the state, and has experienced much on this list.

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Bernard Greenhall
Bernard Greenhall

Bernard is a sports and physical education expert with years of experience. He's passionate about promoting health and wellness through physical activity, and he's worked with athletes and non-athletes alike to help them achieve their fitness goals. Bernard holds a degree in Physical Education and is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest trends and research in his field.

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