Exploring Colorado: Trip Ideas and Inspiration


Colorado is a year-round destination that offers unmatched natural beauty and endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. Colorado has something to offer every type of traveler, from hiking stunning trails in the summer to skiing world-class resorts in the winter.

In addition to the boundless natural landscapes waiting to be explored, Colorado also boasts vibrant cities like Denver and Boulder that are brimming with arts, culture, and cuisine. Whether you want to summit a 14er, soak in a hot spring, sample local craft beers, or photograph majestic wildlife, our Colorado trip ideas offer something for everyone.


  • Colorado's diverse landscape allows for year-round outdoor adventures like hiking, biking, rafting, and skiing.
  • Cultural attractions like museums, music festivals, and local cuisine enhance the travel experience.
  • National parks and conservation areas showcase Colorado's natural beauty and wildlife.

Destination Overview: The Highlights of Visiting Colorado

As the eighth largest U.S. state, spanning over 100,000 square miles, Colorado’s vast and varied terrain offers limitless sights and activities to enjoy. Here are some of the highlights that set Colorado apart.

Scenic Natural Landscapes

Colorado’s dramatic natural landscapes are the main draw and among some of the best in North America, from the towering Rocky Mountains and rolling plains to red rock canyons and lush forests. Iconic destinations like Rocky Mountain National Park, the Colorado National Monument, and Mesa Verde National Park protect stunning mountain vistas, ancient cliff dwellings, and diverse wildlife.

World-Class Skiing and Snowboarding

During the winter months, Colorado becomes a veritable winter wonderland. With over 30 premier ski resorts, such as Vail, Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Winter Park, and Breckenridge, riders of all abilities can fly down legendary slopes and sample charming mountain towns.

Urban Hubs and Mountain Towns

Cosmopolitan cities like Denver and Boulder combine urban energy with laidback mountain charm. They serve as cultural hubs filled with chef-driven restaurants, craft breweries, music venues, museums, and year-round festivals.

Abundant Hiking Trails

From family-friendly nature walks to challenging 14,000-foot peaks, Colorado has an epic hike suited for every skill level. Iconic routes like Hanging Lake and Conundrum Hot Springs immerse you in colorful canyons, wildflower meadows, and refreshing streams.

Local Experiences and Culture: Engaging with Colorado’s Communities

Beyond the natural landscapes, Colorado also impresses visitors with its cultural offerings and opportunities to engage with local communities. Here are some highlights:

Local Cuisine and Craft Beverages

The local food scene excels at turning Colorado’s seasonal ingredients into farm-to-table dishes and artisanal goods. And the state’s 200+ craft breweries and wineries provide the perfect pairing for mountain adventures.

Native American Heritage

Learn about Colorado’s indigenous history and living cultures at the Ute Indian Museum or by attending a pow-wow celebration on tribal lands. Cultural centers and guided tours provide eye-opening and respectful engagements.

Music Festivals

Colorado hosts iconic music festivals each summer, such as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and RockyGrass. These outdoor gatherings celebrate local traditions and talented performers across genres.


Ranches and farms across the state open their gates so visitors can learn about Colorado’s agricultural bounty through tours, tastings, and hands-on experiences that the whole family can enjoy.

Outdoor Adventures and Nature: Capturing Colorado’s Natural Beauty

With 58 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet and eight national parks, Colorado’s magnificent landscapes beg to be explored. Here are some top ways to experience the state’s diverse ecosystems and vistas:

Hiking and Biking Trails

Colorado offers boundless hiking and mountain biking trails for all abilities, from wildflower meadows to high-alpine terrain. Must-do routes include the iconic Manitou Incline and the family-friendly trails of Garden of the Gods.

River Rafting and Kayaking

Rafting adventures along the raging Animas and Arkansas Rivers provide heart-pumping excitement. For a more relaxed pace, kayak or stand-up paddleboard on scenic lakes and reservoirs.

National Parks

Rocky Mountain National Park, Great Sand Dunes, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison provide countless opportunities to marvel at alpine lakes, unique dunes, and steep canyons. See elk, bighorn sheep, and maybe even a mountain lion!

Wildlife Viewing

Grab your binoculars and camera to spot colorful birds, grazing moose, mischievous marmots, and other wild residents in their natural habitats across Colorado’s many parks and refuges. The diversity of wildlife here is astounding, whether it’s southern Colorado, western Colorado, or the Front Range.

Seasonal Activities: Adventure Awaits All Year

One of Colorado’s biggest draws is the different adventure opportunities across the four seasons. No matter when you visit, you’ll be surrounded by stunning Rocky Mountain scenery and endless things to see and do.

Winter Adventures

When the snow starts falling, outdoor enthusiasts make their Colorado road trip winter pilgrimage to world-famous ski resorts like Aspen, Vail, Winter Park, Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte, and Telluride. Miles of pristine terrain, charming mountain villages, and luxurious amenities create the ultimate winter wonderland.

Summer Festivals

As the wildflowers bloom each July, Colorado comes alive with summer music festivals, cultural celebrations, and food and wine events. These events are everywhere, from downtown Colorado Springs to can’t-miss destinations like the Royal Gorge Bridge.

Whitewater Rafting

Charging down frothing rapids like Shoshone and Browns Canyon provides rollicking thrills along the Arkansas River and beyond. Doable day trips make rafting adventures easily accessible for visitors.

Via Ferrata Climbing

The unique Via Ferrata routes in Estes Park and Ouray allow adventurers without extensive climbing experience to scale sheer cliff faces and take in breathtaking panoramic views. You’re safely secured the entire time.

Mountain Coasters

For family-friendly thrills, check out the many mountain coasters that have opened at ski resorts in recent years. Riders of all ages can zip down twisting alpine tracks in an open-air sled. Try Copper Mountain’s coaster, with over 5,280 feet of downhill fun!

Arts, Culture, and History: Beyond the Outdoors

In addition to its wealth of outdoor recreation, Colorado impresses visitors with its vibrant arts scenes, fascinating history, and wealth of cultural attractions.

Local Arts Scene

Art lovers can browse hundreds of galleries and soak up street art in trendy neighborhoods around Denver and beyond. Don’t miss the Denver Art Museum’s stunning collections.

Historical Sites

Explore ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park, step back into the Wild West era in preserved mining towns like Leadville and Silverton, and learn about WWII Japanese internment camps at the Amache site.

Cultural Attractions

The state’s top museums, like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, provide many opportunities to immerse yourself in topics like space science, anthropology, rare minerals, and more. Music venues across the state host concerts throughout the year.

Culinary Delights and Wellness: Recharging Your Batteries

Between all those high-altitude adventures, be sure to reenergize by sampling Colorado’s culinary scene and visiting rejuvenating wellness retreats.

Local Cuisine

Homegrown ingredients like trout, elk, fruit, vegetables, and Rocky Mountain oysters appear on menus at acclaimed restaurants across the state. Dozens of craft breweries concoct unique ales to cap off your mountain days perfectly.

Beer Tours and Festivals

Speaking of craft beers, you can sample a wide variety during Denver Beer Week each fall or by booking a brewery tour in the state’s top beer towns like Fort Collins and Grand Junction. Prost!

Wellness Retreats

Colorado’s peaceful wilderness settings provide the perfect backdrop for wellness getaways. To recharge, try meditation and yoga workshops, soothing hot springs soaks, or restorative spa treatments. Popular destinations include Crestone, Buena Vista, and Glenwood Springs.

Night Skies and Photography: Capturing Colorado’s Beauty

Not only does Colorado boast picture-perfect scenery, but its high-altitude dark skies also create phenomenal stargazing opportunities.

Scenic Drives

Cruising along Colorado’s scenic and historic byways, like Mount Evans Road, San Juan Skyway, and Trail Ridge Road, allows you to stop frequently to photograph alpine lakes, rolling meadows, and abundant wildlife.

Night Skies

Remote corners of Colorado offer supreme night sky viewing thanks to little light pollution. The luminous Milky Way dazzles in places like the San Luis Valley and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

FAQ About Planning a Colorado Vacation

What is the best time of year to visit Colorado?

Colorado enjoys all four seasons, each offering their adventures. Summer provides long sunny days and wildflowers, while winter transforms into a snowy wonderland perfect for skiing. The fall shoulder season often brings fewer crowds and pleasant weather.

What are the top 5 must-see destinations in Colorado?

1. Rocky Mountain National Park

2. Maroon Bells Scenic Area

3. Great Sand Dunes National Park

4. Mesa Verde National Park

5. Denver Cultural Attractions

Where are the best places to see fall colors in Colorado?

The most vibrant aspens and mountain maples shine in southwestern Colorado near Telluride and Crested Butte, on the scenic Peak to Peak Byway near Estes Park, and in the San Juan Mountains around Ouray and Silverton.

What is there to do in Colorado besides outdoor activities?

There’s a lot to do! Explore art galleries and museums, historical sites, culinary experiences like brewery tours and food festivals, cultural attractions like music venues and festivals, and urban attractions in Denver and Boulder like shopping and dining districts.

What is the top outdoor activity in Colorado?

That’s impossible to pinpoint, considering the endless hiking trails, ski slopes, via ferrata routes, whitewater rapids, and so much more. Colorado’s diverse terrain offers an adventure for every interest, ranging from mild to extreme.


About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.