Top Colorado Destinations to Explore


From majestic mountain peaks to red rock canyons and alpine forests to high deserts, Colorado destinations encompass stunningly diverse terrain. Colorado is renowned as an outdoor recreation mecca, enticing visitors with its incredible natural landscapes and endless opportunities for adventure. Scenic drives and historic byways wind through this beautiful backdrop, leading to charming mountain towns, Old West heritage sites, and national parks like the Rocky Mountain National Park, showcasing Colorado’s treasures.

With four distinct seasons, the state transforms throughout the year. Spring wildflowers carpet valleys while autumn paints aspen groves gold. Summers invite lazy days by crystal lakes and winters unlock a wonderland of snow-covered slopes. From hiking and biking to skiing and snowboarding, the array of year-round activities satisfies any outdoor enthusiast.

Yet Colorado offers more than just nature and adrenaline. Sophisticated cities like Denver and Boulder balance urban energy with laid-back vibes. Breweries, farm-to-table dining, music venues, and cultural attractions thrive as well. Blending epic adventure with cosmopolitan amenities, Colorado entices families and solo travelers alike.


  • With stunning natural landscapes, historic sites, charming towns, and endless outdoor recreation, Colorado offers unmatched travel experiences.
  • Scenic drives like the Million Dollar Highway and San Juan Skyway reveal the state's diversity, from mountains to canyons, forests, and high deserts.
  • Four distinct seasons transform Colorado's terrain and activities, from wildflower-filled spring hikes to autumn aspen viewing and winter skiing.
  • Urban hubs like Denver and Boulder balance natural splendor with breweries, dining, music, and culture for well-rounded stays.

Scenic Drives Reveal Colorado’s Depth

Ribbons of roadway unfurl through Colorado’s varied landscape, linking iconic destinations while providing journey and destination alike. Historic byways follow routes of American Indian tribes, Spanish conquistadors, and gold rush pioneers. Others climb high mountain passes or traverse canyons carved over millennia by rushing rivers. Some pass remnants of frontier mining towns while others focus on natural wonders. From short jaunts to multi-day odysseys, scenic drives encapsulate Colorado’s rich history and geographic diversity.

The San Juan Skyway loops 230 miles through the rugged San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Passing historic mining towns like Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride, the route serves up staggering mountain vistas and traces remnants of bygone prospector days. Climbing over three mountain passes above 11,000 feet; the Skyway also borders several national forests and the iconic Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Further highlighting Colorado’s southwestern corner, the Million Dollar Highway connects Silverton and Ouray, two of Colorado’s best-preserved mining towns. Built as a supply route for mines near Silverton, much of the road clings precariously to sheer cliff faces. The sobriquet likely stems from valuable ore transported along the corridor rather than actual construction costs. Beyond its hair-raising twists, the route treats drivers to breathtaking mountain panoramas.

The Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway offers an immersive journey into American West history. Following the legendary Santa Fe Trail connecting Missouri and New Mexico, the byway evokes images of pioneer wagon trains and legendary Wild West figures. Visitors can walk sections of the original trail, explore museums and heritage sites, and take in the expansive High Plains scenery along this storied trade route.

From desert canyon to alpine tundra, Independence Pass has awed travelers since the 1800s. Flanked by fourteener mountains, the route tops out at 12,095 feet, one of Colorado’s highest passes. Starting near Aspen, the road winds through the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness with its forests and rushing streams. As the pass crests, the scenery transforms to high alpine terrain before descending through barren canyons to Twin Lakes.

Quaint Mountain Towns Overflow with Character

Scattered throughout Colorado’s landscape lie historic small towns brimming with pioneer charm and culture. Though mining fortunes have faded, the towns live on, their preserved main streets now bustling with shops, restaurants, and museums that provide glimpses into Colorado’s storied past.

Idyllically situated in a mountain valley, Breckenridge exudes Colorado charm. Its vibrant historic district, filled with chic boutiques, galleries, and eateries, comes alive during summer festivals and transforms into a winter wonderland once ski season starts. Nearby attractions include scenic alpine drives, gold mine tours, family-friendly activities, and seemingly endless hiking and biking trails.

The southwest host’s Colorado’s largest concentration of historic mining towns, now reinvented as tourist destinations. Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride offer glimpses into the state’s hardscrabble mining heydays with beautifully preserved Victorian-era downtowns dotted by saloons, bordellos, and other frontier establishments. Visitors can tour one of Colorado’s oldest and most famous gold mines near Silverton, ride the Durango-Silverton railroad, or soak in Ouray’s hot springs. Telluride also hosts renowned summer music and film festivals.

Perched at 9,318 feet above sea level, Leadville is America’s highest incorporated city. With its labyrinth of underground mine tunnels stretching over 100 miles, the area produced immense fortunes in silver and gold during the 19th century. Visitors can delve into this history at the National Mining Hall of Fame or tour the Matchless Mine. Leadville also offers an excellent basecamp for exploring central Colorado’s outdoor recreation bounty.

Four Distinct Seasons, Unlimited Activities

As seasons shift in Colorado, so do travel opportunities. Spring wildflowers herald summer adventures while autumn foliage gives way to snowy winter pursuits. From scenic drives to water sports, hiking to harvesting fruit at orchards, the state pours on the charm year-round.

When warm weather arrives, Colorado springs to life. National parks and monuments unlock their gates just as high passes clear of snow, revealing thousands of miles of trails. Alpine lakes and reservoirs swell, spilling whitewater rapids perfect for rafting and kayaking. From backpacking and camping to mountain biking and climbing fourteeners, summer serves up peak Colorado adventuring.

As temperatures cool in fall, hillsides explode in dazzling yellow Aspen displays, presenting prime leaf-peeping opportunities. Wildlife like elk and bighorn sheep descend to lower elevations for mating season, which is active and easily viewed. Fall also ushers in harvest time at the state’s many orchards and farms. Visitors can pick juicy Palisade peaches by hand or select the perfect pumpkin for carving.

When winter storms blanket the Colorado high country in snow, ski resorts spring to life. Massive destination resorts like Vail, Aspen, and Breckenridge lure visitors with their world-class slopes, luxury lodging, and après ski scenes. Smaller ski areas like Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, and Wolf Creek offer cheaper alternatives to shred legendary terrain without the crowds.

Yet Colorado offers plenty of cold-weather fun beyond downhill action. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing provide perfect, peaceful escapes into snow-covered forests and meadows. Ice climbing and mountaineering challenge alpinists to ascend frozen waterfalls and peaks. And nothing compares to an evening soak in a natural hot spring surrounded by mountains glistening under the moonlight.

Outdoor Adventure Defining the Colorado Lifestyle

With nature’s playground at their doorstep, Coloradans embrace outdoor-centric lifestyles. Hikers, bikers, paddlers, and skiers fill the state’s trails, slopes, and rivers year-round. This intimate relationship and easy access to the outdoors have become integral to Colorado culture.

Stretching 500 miles across Colorado, the Colorado Trail epitomizes this lifestyle. Passing through eight mountain ranges, six national forests, and five river systems, this epic thru-hike challenges the most seasoned backpackers with its high elevation climbs. The route also tempts day-hikers with its intersection of countless trails allowing bite-sized adventures.

Several states may claim to be the craft beer capital of America, but only Colorado integrates its breweries with outdoor spaces. Names like Avery, Odell, and New Belgium concoct tailgate-friendly canned offerings for river trips or hikes. Dozens of breweries statewide even transform into backyard beer gardens in summer, beckoning sweaty bikers and dog walkers to sip a cold one on the patio.

With mild weather nearly 300 days a year, Grand Junction provides a basecamp for countless adventures. Tackling the iconic Colorado National Monument canyon country by foot, bike, or car reveals stunning panoramas and 2 billion years of geology. Rivers like the Colorado and Gunnison offer family-friendly float trips or Class V rapids for whitewater thrills. And the area’s 30+ wineries and organic farms further complete Grand Junction’s outdoor-oriented, laid-back vibe.

Here are some more of the best places to make your Colorado destinations:

  • Downtown Colorado Springs
  • Downtown Denver
  • Strawberry Park Hot Springs
  • Trail Ridge Road
  • Cañon City
  • Mount Evans
  • Cripple Creek
  • Pikes Peak
  • San Juan Mountains and the San Juan National Forest
  • Hanging Lake
  • Beaver Creek
  • Winter Park (and its many ski resorts)
  • Dinosaur National Monument
  • Grand Lake
  • Gunnison National Park
  • Pagosa Springs
  • Royal Gorge (and the Royal Gorge Bridge)
  • Fort Collins
  • Black Canyon
  • Manitou Springs
  • Crested Butte
  • Grand Junction
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Steamboat Springs
  • Glenwood Springs
  • Estes Park
  • Rocky Mountain National Park

And if you’re still struggling to find the best places to visit in Colorado, stop by the Colorado Tourism Office. They are happy to help answer your questions, and oftentimes have discounts and coupon fliers for local attractions.


What are the best seasons to visit Colorado?

Summer provides peak access for hiking, biking, camping, boating, festivals, and scenic drives. Fall offers fewer crowds, stunning foliage displays, and wildlife viewing. Winter unlocks world-class skiing and snowboarding. Spring boasts wildflower displays.

What are must-see towns and cities in Colorado?

Top mountain towns include Aspen, Telluride, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, and Steamboat for scenery, history, dining, and skiing. Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs blend urban attractions with laid-back vibes. Historic mining towns like Silverton, Ouray, and Durango transport visitors back in time.

What scenic drives are most iconic?

Top byways include the San Juan Skyway, Million Dollar Highway, Trail Ridge Road, Mount Evans Scenic Byway, Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway, Guanella Pass, and Peak to Peak Scenic Byway.

What natural landscapes stand out?

From mountain peaks to red rock canyons, Colorado’s diverse terrain amazes. Don’t miss national parks like Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Other treasures include the Colorado National Monument, Flat Tops Wilderness, and Maroon Bells.


About the author

Shannon Persad

As a seasoned journalist and Colorado native, I bring a deep-rooted connection and comprehensive understanding of Colorado to my work at My appreciation for the state’s rich history, vibrant culture, and pressing environmental issues drives my commitment to exploring its evolving landscape—from the bustling urban centers to the tranquil mountain towns.