Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in the country. It is a place where the landscape inspires the imagination. The state is full of incredible natural beauty and a diversity of landscapes. It has the majestic Rocky Mountains, rolling hills, beautiful alpine lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and high deserts.
I’m an outdoor enthusiast who loves to hike and ski. I want to go to the mountains to take in their tranquility and outdoor vibe. The best way to see the amazing sites that the state has to offer is by visiting the scenic roads through parks and along highways.
Colorado is a great place to visit. It has incredible scenery and lots of history. The national parks will give you a better understanding of what Colorado was like before it became the state it is today. The dinosaurs in the land are from the Jurassic period, and the remnants of cultures that inhabited the area are still visible today. Visiting Colorado will change your life.
1. Vail and Nearby Mountain Towns
As a ski resort, Vail is also a great place to enjoy summer activities. The best time of year to visit is winter, but it’s not just for skiers. When it comes to skiing, this is one of the best ski resorts in Colorado. There are seemingly endless runs for all levels of skiers.
Nestled at the base of a ski hill, the quaint town is a postcard of European charm. With 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.
Vail is a lovely mountain town, but it’s not always the most affordable option. In the area are some great small towns that are a bit less well known but more affordable and also worth a visit.
Frisco is not a ski resort, but instead it is a charming mountain town that’s one of the best places to visit in the area. It’s a nice base if you’re exploring the I-70 Corridor, which is around Vail and Beaver Creek. Frisco has all kinds of quirky cafés, shops, and restaurants all with a true mountain vibe.
This town is a bit smaller and more laid back than Denver. If you want to ski, there are plenty of mountains to choose from. But if you’re not into skiing, there’s still plenty to do in Breckenridge, like going to the shops downtown.
West of Vail, there are two towns: Avon and Beaver Creek. Avon is a small town that can be a good place to stay, especially if you want something more affordable than what you’ll find at the ski resort.
Beaver Creek is a ski resort with a cute little town at the base. It has a wide range of restaurants, from casual to fine dining. Its main square features a skating rink in winter, and hotels for guests.
2. Garden of the Gods
Also near Colorado Springs is Garden of the Gods. This natural landmark is a bizarre landscape of towering rock formations jutting out of the ground. These are surrounded by large boulders and piles of rocks. It’s all set against a backdrop of distant mountains.
Take a walk in nature. The park has 15 miles of trails, most of which are short and easy. You’ll be able to get up close to the dramatic rock formations and explore the surreal scenery.
The Garden of the Gods area is popular for rock climbing because of the natural sandstone outcroppings. There are also designated lanes for mountain biking and horseback riding. Jeep tours are very popular for visiting the beautiful Garden of the Gods.
The Garden of the Gods Park Visitor & Nature Center offers a museum with exhibits and a video about the geology of the park. There are also guided nature walks, and views from the top are incredible. On the premises is a café with huge windows that offers an ideal setting for enjoying snacks or drinks.
3. Pikes Peak in Pike National Forest
A mountain in Pike National Forest called Pikes Peak is one of the famous “fourteeners” in the Southwest region. This peak is quite easily recognizable from the nearby city of Colorado Springs because it is snow-capped.
Pikes Peak is a famous mountain in the United States. It’s less famous than Mt. Fuji, but it’s still famous. For many mountains, it’s not possible to get to their top by normal means, but Pikes Peak is different; you can drive almost to the top of it! It’s a very long drive that takes about two hours (or much less if you drive fast).
Alternatively, you can take the Pikes Peak Railway to the top. It takes three hours and costs $100. The views are amazing, and there are great hiking trails around the mountain. Also, there are biking trails and fishing opportunities in nearby ponds.
4. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Colorado has many beautiful landscapes, but few as stunning as Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Here, sand dunes tower 750 feet into the sky, creating an astonishing sight that is not what most visitors are expecting. The mountains in the distance create a stunning backdrop for this natural park, which is home to many other interesting landscapes such as grassland, forest, and meadows.
You can climb the dunes and slide down them on your back or belly. Kids love to splash in the creek, which runs along a forested edge. On hot days, everyone enjoys walking along the trails in the shade.
The Medano Pass Primitive Road is a four-wheel drive road that opens up some unique terrain that is perfect for car camping. There are car camping sites located along the roadside. The Pinon Flats campground offers both tent and RV campsites.
5. Rocky Mountain National Park
A famous national park in Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is visited by thousands of people each year. Visitors come to the park for its amazing wildlife, beautiful mountains, lakes, and meadows, and stunning forests. The park is home to over 100 peaks over 10,000 feet, including Longs Peak, which is the highest at 14,259 feet.
The main road through Rocky Mountain National Park is the Trail Ridge Road. It reaches an incredible altitude of 12,000 feet. Stop your car to take a hike or an easy walk.
Rocky Mountain National Park has many hiking trails, from short ones to long, strenuous hikes. You may see elk and other wildlife. Summer is the busiest time in the park, with sightseeing, fishing, and camping being the most popular activities. There are many different hiking trails, ranging in difficulty and length.
Winter in the park is more than just a time to busily prepare for the holiday season. The roads are open year-round, although temporary closures can occur due to bad weather. People come here during this time of year to enjoy winter sports such as snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Ranger-led tours are offered in both of these activities.
6. San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway and the Million Dollar Highway
The Million Dollar Highway is a road that stretches from Silverton to Ouray in Colorado. It’s a beautiful scenic drive with amazing views. This two-lane highway 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.
The San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway is an optional extension to the main route. If you have time, the byway is a full-day trip that you can do in any season. The byway is very scenic and has a great view of the San Juan Mountains.
The San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway is a complete loop that will take you around the San Juan Mountains. It begins in Durango and connects Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, Dolores, Mancos and back to Durango.
If you want to see the best of the San Juan Skyway, but don’t have many days, take the northern and southern sections of the San Juan Skyway. The highlights along the way are Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride.
This town is in the mountains. It’s at 9,300 feet. It has a main street lined with shops, and in summer it can be crowded. But in winter, most of the shops close, and it feels like a ghost town. On the edge of town is Silverton Mountain, which is really an old school ski “resort” with great backcountry skiing for advanced skiers.
Ouray, nicknamed the “Switzerland of America,” is another mountain town, known for its hot springs.
You can stop for a gondola ride in Telluride. If you have time, see the ski resort known for its traditional main street and gorgeous mountain scenery. The town is one of the most beautiful in America, with a place to take a free gondola up the mountain for a better look over the area.
7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
At Black Canyon of the Gunnison, steep walls rise up from the Gunnison River to create a narrow and dramatic chasm. The depth of the canyon is 2,000 feet. Gunnison Point is 1,800 feet; Chasm View is 1,800 feet; Warner Point is 2,722 feet.
The most important thing is to take a look at the view. You can also go for a walk on the trails. The hiking paths are generally flat and easy.
If you’re willing to take on a challenge, you can hike into the canyon. But unless you have experience hiking in wild places, and unless you know how to find your way out of a canyon, you may want to consider sticking to the trails.
Three campgrounds are located in this park. The North and South Rim campgrounds are open to vehicles, but the East Portal is only open to tents. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is about 75 miles southeast of Grand Junction. If you are based in Grand Junction, Fruita, or Delta, you can easily visit both the canyon and Colorado National Monument on a day trip.
8. Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde is one of the most amazing places to visit, even if you have already seen a lot of other ruins. What makes it so incredible is the amount of access you have to the actual dwellings .
The Cliff Palace is the perfect example of Mesa Verde’s incredible dwellings. The cliff dwelling has a dramatic setting and beautifully preserved ruins accessible by ranger-led tours that are available during summer. You can climb ladders to the top of the dwelling or get a panoramic view from a nearby overlook.
Mesa Verde is a historical park in the United States. It was home to the Ancestral Pueblo, who inhabited the dwellings from 600 AD to 1300 AD. Thousands of archeological sites are spread across the area. The most stunning and popular are the cliff dwellings. A road gives easy access to the mesa, and numerous sites can be found on top of it.
In the national forest, you can take trails that lead to secluded lookouts and fascinating sights. These trails do not require a ranger tour, and they include a chance to see petroglyphs.
Mesa Verde National Park is located in southwestern Colorado, near the towns of Cortez and Mancos. It can be reached by a long road that winds high above the surrounding landscape. The drive from the highway to the park takes about 45 minutes.
To get to Mesa Verde National Park, you must travel for a long time. In order to make the journey easier, visit visitor centers along the way for information about the park. When you arrive at the park, book a ranger-led tour of Cliff Palace so you know when you should show up for the tour.
9. Durango and the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway
Durango is a small town in the southwest part of Colorado. This town is known for its gorgeous mountains, historic downtown area, and southwestern-style buildings. The town has a rich history of gold and silver mining, cattle ranching, and agriculture that have all had an impact on the architecture and decor of the buildings.
During the summer, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gage Railway is one of the town’s main attractions. This historic train runs day trips up the valley from Durango to the high mountain town of Silverton. The train is an old-fashioned way to see the beautiful Rocky Mountains and the old mining town of Silverton.
The Colorado Trail is a 500-mile-long backcountry trail that runs from Denver to Durango. One popular day hike and mountain bike trip on the trail is a one-way trip from Denver to Durango. The trail follows the scenic Junction Creek and then climbs up to Gudy’s Rest where many go for lunch before turning around.
Mountain biking and hiking are both very popular in Durango. To accommodate the demand, there is an abundance of trails for the activity.
Durango is a full-on ski town in winter. It attracts skiers from the Southwest and has reasonably-priced hotels. There are also nearby resorts such as Purgatory Ski Resort, which is only 15 minutes outside of town. Durango is a good base for skiers who want to ski at Telluride, which is two hours away.
10. Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness
Near a mountain town called Aspen, you can find the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area, showcasing some of Colorado’s most spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery. Six mountains over 14,000 feet are here along with forests, alpine lakes, meadows, and 175 miles of trails to help you explore the terrain.
Maroon Bells is a year-round playground for adventure seekers. The hiking here is incredible. Backpacking opportunities are endless. Biking trails cover hundreds of miles. Winter brings skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers who enjoy the wilderness of this mountain range.
Want a quieter, less active vacation? You can take some nice sightseeing trips to some scenic areas.