16 Best Things to Do in Colorado in Summer

 Getty Images / Brian Bailey

For most family travelers, Colorado means Rocky Mountain ski resorts . Denverites and other Coloradans, however, know how much fun awaits in the summer months, and flock to the Roaring Fork Valley and other destinations for river and mountain experiences.

To join in, fly into Denver, rent a car, and you too can enjoy a bonanza of white water rafting, river kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and zip lining, among other memorable activities throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, which includes Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Mount Sopris, and the Roaring Fork River, a tributary of the mighty Colorado River. It's also possible to enjoy an affordable Aspen getaway, find family-friendly farm-to-table eateries, and get in on a cool Colorado trend—free river parks where surfing waves have been engineered. Here's how to make the most of your time here in summer.

Cheer at the Snowmass Rodeo

Snowmass Rodeo

Each Wednesday night from late-June to late-August, the Snowmass Rodeo entertains with free family-friendly activities from 5 p.m. including roping lessons and a petting zoo, mechanical bull rides (for older kids), and cowboy-themed food (pulled pork, burgers, baked beans, and coleslaw), before the real rodeo action starts at 7 p.m. Shuttles are available to the rodeo grounds from most Snowmass hotels and resorts.

Come to see the area's best cowboys and cowgirls show off their bareback riding, team roping, saddle bronc riding, ribbon roping, barrel racing, and bull riding skills. Little ones can also sign up to try the calf scramble (kids must pick the ribbon off the calf's tail) and mutton busting (think bull riding, but with sheep) for their own eight seconds of rodeo glory.

Hit the Links

Breckenridge Golf Club

There's no shortage of scenic golf courses in Colorado, so hit the links and enjoy all those beautiful mountain views—thanks to the altitude, the air is thinner up here, too, so your ball will go farther than it does at home.

Take on Jack Nicklaus Signature courses like the Bear, Beaver, and Elk at Breckenridge Golf Club , golf among otherworldly rock formations at Arrowhead Golf Course , spot triceratops footprints by the 12th hole at Fossil Trace Golf Club , or play a round at the highest-altitude golf course in North America at Mount Massive Golf Course . Either way, it's sure to be a memorable time.

Go Horseback Riding in the Mountains

National Park Gateway Stables

For an experience that'll bring you back into nature (and sort of make you feel like you're in the Old West for a while), try horseback riding. SK Horses , located in Estes Park, offers guided scenic trail rides for horse lovers of all ages through Rocky Mountain National Park from the National Park Gateway Stables.

Kids ages 2 through 7 can enjoy shorter 10–30 minute pony rides, while older children and adults can choose between two-, three-, four, five, six-, seven, and eight-hour rides through the national park (prices vary). There's also an option for a two-hour dinnertime ride that includes a 25% discount for dinner at the Trailhead Restaurant to use after your ride.

Take a Ride on a Scenic Train

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Train enthusiasts, rejoice! Colorado is home to some of the best scenic train rides in the country, whether you're into the historical background of the route, the actual locomotives, or are just in it for the views. Keep an eye out for wildflowers, aspen and evergreen forests, gorgeous gorges, elk, deer, antelope, eagles, bears, foxes, and other Colorado wildlife as you go.

Popular scenic train rides include the Cumbres & Toltec , a 64-mile steam train and moving national historic landmark for rides through Rocky Mountain West; the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad , which takes guests on a 9.5-hour round-trip journey (including a two-hour stop in Silverton) through Horseshoe Curve, High Bridge, the High Line, and Animas River Gorge—a shorter 5.25-hour ride called the Cascade Canyon Express is great, too, if you're short on time or attention spans; and the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad , offering 2.5-hour rides through the Rockies.

Soak in the Hot Springs at Avalanche Ranch

Avalanche Ranch Cabins & Antiques

Outside Carbondale near the Redstone Historic District, visitors may see signs beside the road calling attention to nearby hot springs, and should know that clothing at such places may be optional. Families may prefer to visit the Avalanche Ranch , a picture-perfect rustic bed and breakfast that has built an attractive pool area around natural hot springs. It's a friendly, family-run establishment with several options for overnight lodging should you wish to stay longer—otherwise, day passes are available.

Spend Some Time in Historic Carbondale

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Carbondale is a good spot to use as a home base for any day trip or outdoor recreation activities in the Roaring Fork Valley area—it's a nice small-town size and home to many historic buildings, galleries, eclectic gift shops, and excellent restaurants. Outdoorsy types can also take advantage of hiking, biking, camping, climbing, fishing, golf, hunting, horseback riding, and mountaineering activities nearby.

A family favorite for breakfast and lunch is the patio at the Village Smithy Restaurant . Don't miss the mile-high pies, which are always a big hit at breakfast. Carbondale also has a number of bed and breakfasts, while best bets for families are likely the Comfort Inn & Suites or the Days Inn, which also offers suites.

Give Whitewater Rafting a Try

joshschutz / Getty Images

Whitewater rafting is an exciting activity for adults as well as teens—even kids as young as six can usually get in on the action. Most companies will offer a range of experiences, from easy floats to challenging rapids. Typically, guests team up in multi-person inflatable rafts with at least one guide per raft. Every crew member is expected to paddle as the guide instructs, and paddling is a big part of the fun. Blazing Adventures is one of several companies out of Aspen that offer half-day trips on the lower, middle, or upper Roaring Fork River.

Another cool Colorado trend: Several towns have engineered artificial waves on their rivers and created public river parks where locals and visitors can enjoy the whitewater. These artificial waves stay constant in their position on the river and are a popular place for water sports normally found at the beach, like surfing or stand up paddle boarding.

Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park is the first man-made feature on the Colorado River and is a fun place for boogie boarding, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, and kayaking. Because the standing "G-Wave" created here is constant, it's a great place to learn to surf since beginners don't need to exhaust themselves by paddling out to catch a wave. At calmer times of the year, even the little ones can enjoy boogie boarding in the man-made wave at this free river park.

Take a Crack at River Kayaking

TripSavvy / Teresa Plowright

River kayaks are sporty and fun—smaller, lighter, and rudderless compared to sea kayaks—and they turn on a dime. Taking a lesson or two in Colorado is an opportunity to try something new, and makes a great way to experience the mountain scenery.

Aspen Kayak & SUP offers half-day, full day, and multi-day lessons on the Roaring Fork River and Colorado River, as well as multi-day expeditions. Beginners will start on flat-water lakes or in a Class 1 beginner zone located in the Northstar Nature Preserve. No experience is necessary to take a lesson, which includes instruction in calm water and a chance to try out your new skills. Ages 12 and up can participate, though the ability to swim is a prerequisite.

Do Some Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Aspen Kayak Academy

From Oahu to Florida, the trendy new thing to try on a family vacation these days is Stand Up Paddleboarding , or SUP. Many people try this new water sport at the beach, but in Colorado, families can take lessons in a river setting with the Aspen Kayak & SUP .

Those who do an SUP class here can take pride in knowing that instructor Charlie MacArthur pioneered the sport in Colorado; there's even an SUP river board named after him. Kids ages 12 and up can give it a shot, as long as they already know how to swim. If you're looking for something different and cool to do with a teen, this could be it.

Zip Line Across the Colorado River

Another way to experience the mights rivers of Colorado: Ride a zip line 350 feet across it with Glenwood Canyon Zip Line Adventures . All you need is the nerve to step off the platform, and kids are welcome as long as they're at least 48 inches tall and accompanied by a participating adult. Glenwood Canyon Zip Line Adventures also offers a ropes course, dining overlooking the river, rafting outings, and cabins for rent.

Take On the Giant Canyon Swing

Teresa Plowright.

Visiting families to Glenwood Springs—located between Aspen and Vail about a 2.5-hour drive from Denver—will want to include Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in their itineraries. Enjoy a full day of fun, starting with a 10-minute scenic gondola ride on the Iron Mountain Tramway. Attractions here include an alpine coaster, a 4D Ride Theatre, bungee jumping, a zip line, a climbing wall, and the seriously scary Giant Canyon Swing, pictured above, which swings out 1,300 feet above the Colorado River.

Ride the Alpine Coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

This mountain coaster is a great ride for ages three and up at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park . You'll race 3,400 feet down the mountainside, and each car has brakes so riders can control their speed. Kids must be 8 years old and taller than 56" to ride the coaster alone, while younger children can ride with an adult as long as the child is at least three years old.

Tour Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves

TripSavvy / Norm Thompson

This huge cave system was the original attraction that drew visitors to the top of Iron Mountain in Glenwood Springs over a century ago. Nowadays, the caves are part of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park . Visitors should make time to go on a cave tour , which is the only way to venture into the tunnels of this impressive underground world.

Parts of the caverns were open to the public as far back as 1895. Victorian-era travelers visiting Glenwood's hot springs dressed up in their finest for a day outing to the Fairy Caves, ascending the mountain on horses, burros, or in horse-drawn carriages.

The caves, however, closed during World War I and stayed closed until 1999 when new owners took over. Today the 800-foot area of the historic Fairy Caves is part of Glenwood Caverns, which has 16,000 known feet.

Unwind at the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool

Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association

Long before the era of the family car trips that bring most people to Glenwood Springs today, travelers came by train to soak in the town's famous mineral-rich hot springs.

Back in the 1880's, therapeutic bathing in mineral spas was a popular practice, and by 1888, the town of Glenwood Springs had the world’s largest hot springs pool —its long stretch can be seen behind the waterslide in the photo above. Presidents, aristocrats, and celebrities were among the many guests who came to soak in the pool and stay in the deluxe Hotel Colorado . The poolside red sandstone bathhouse and lodge offered top amenities of the day, such as a ladies' parlor and Roman vapor baths.

Today the pool has a wading pool for kids and a giant water slide. The large pool is open year-round, with a constant temperature of 90°-93° F. A smaller therapy pool averages about 104° F. Three-and-a-half million gallons of hot mineral water rise daily from the spring.

Get Active in the Roaring Fork Valley

TripSavvy / Jeremy Swanson

Visitors to the Roaring Fork Valley in summer should take a hike in the stupendous mountain scenery. Hiking here can be as easy as an hour's jaunt on a trail that departs from Snowmass Village and leads to stunning views—and vistas of alpine flowers, if the timing's right. Cycling can be as challenging as any adventurer could wish; local skiers and boarders turn into mountain bikers or racers during the summer months, though lesser mortals have options, too.

The 42-mile Rio Grande Trail is easy if you pick the right section to ride. Rent bikes in Glenwood Springs and take the Bike Express Bus to Aspen or Woody Creek. The ride back to Glenwood Springs from Aspen is generally flat or downhill except for an uphill stretch to Woody Creek and takes two to three hours, with plenty of opportunities to stop at restaurants along the way. The path is paved for 33 miles from Woody Creek to Glenwood Springs, while from Aspen to Woody Creek, it's a soft surface dirt trail.

Enjoy Aspen in Summer

Aspen is so synonymous with words like "rich", "famous", and "ski resort" that summer visitors may be happily surprised to find a welcoming, human-scale, and relaxed small town basking at the base of gorgeous mountain scenery.

No ostentatious resort palaces dominate the view; just stroll the quaint streets that date back to Aspen's origins as a mining town. The Hotel Jerome is a fine embodiment of the town's historic ambiance—step inside its doors and you'll be enveloped in full-blown Victorian-era decor.

Summer in Aspen means musical concerts at the Benedict Music Tent , walking tours, and gondola rides. The Silver Queen gondola departs from the middle of town; ride 2.5 miles to the top for splendid views, free guided nature tours and disc (Frisbee) golf.

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best places to visit in Colorado in the summer

TOP 15 best places to visit in Colorado in the summer!

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  • Posted by by Elle-Rose
  • Updated: September 18, 2023
  • 8 minute read

Are you looking for the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer? If so, keep reading!

If you’re looking for the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer, this list should give you plenty of ideas and inspiration.

Though Colorado may be best known for its winter getaway spots, summer in Colorado is equally stunning.

Think incredible mountains, beautiful countryside, amazing scenery, and welcoming towns. Looking for the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer might be intimidating at first, but don’t worry, we’l point you in the right direction.

If you’re looking for the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer, then this list should give you plenty of ideas and inspiration!

colorado trip summer

With dozens of mountainous areas, warm days, and cool nights, you’ll be able to skip the winter crowds whilst still catching the best of what the state has to offer.

There are so many choices for the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer, so you’ll be spoilt for choice!

So, although you won’t be able to hit the slopes, there are so many beautiful spots to visit within the Centennial State during the summer months.

With so many amazing activities and unbeatable views, we can guarantee that you won’t miss the frosty air one bit. There are so many great options for best places to visit in Colorado in the summer, so let’s get started!

Read more about visiting Colorado: 20 fun things to do in Breckenridge in the summer!

The best places to visit in Colorado in the summer….

First on our list of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer, it’s Vail. Though Vail is one of the world’s most popular skiing resort towns, it transforms into an outdoor paradise during the summer months.

With visitors able to mountain bike, hike and golf to their heart’s content, outdoorsy individuals will find Vail something of a panacea during the summer.

However, though these activities make summer in Vail one of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer, they aren’t the only appealing things on offer here.

During the summer, Vail hosts the Vail Valley Music Festival, the Vail Jazz festival, and the Vail International Dance Festival.

With so much culture on offer, you’ll have no shortage of things to do. When looking for the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer, this is it!

colorado trip summer

Viewed as one of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer due to its luscious landscape and great weather, Telluride is absolutely a must-visit city.

With grand Victorian buildings that line the streets filled with quaint stores, it’s a fantastic place to unwind.

Though you won’t be able to ski here during the summer, you can still head up the mountains on a gondola and check out the amazing views on offer in summer in Telluride .

If you fancy it, you can even hike to the state’s longest free-falling waterfall (Bridal Veil Falls). Don’t miss out on visiting Telluride – it’s one of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer!

Though you’ll need to set aside some time for this, it’s absolutely one of the best hikes in the state. 

Though Telluride is on the smaller side, it’s absolutely bursting with character and adventure and is not to be missed!

Read more about visiting Colorado: Top 10 castles in Colorado!

colorado trip summer

If you’re not familiar with Colorado, you’ve likely at least heard of Denver. Known as the state’s cultural hub, Denver is absolutely packed with things to do year-round.

Seen as one of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer due to its metropolitan vibe, you’ll find that you may struggle to fit everything into one trip!

With easy access to the Rocky Mountains as well as amazing shopping streets and sports venues, you’re bound to find fun for the whole family in Denver this summer. 

Another great option for the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer.

colorado trip summer


Breckenridge is next on our list of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer.

Breckenridge is actually well known as one of the prettiest places in Colorado – and people love visiting for the scenery and wonderful landscapes.

The community and vibe here is great in the summer, with people visiting to experience the great outdoors and enjoy their summer break!

If you’re heading to Breckenridge, I recommend leaving plenty of time for nature hikes and trails – because there are so many wonderful ones to enjoy!

It’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer.

colorado trip summer


This stunning mountain town is in the San Juan Mountains in the south of Colorado. One of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer for its jaw-dropping sights, it should absolutely be on your list.

Be sure to head to Bear Creek Falls for some breathtaking views of the area or head out with the family on the Ridgeway Area Trail System.

Read more Colorado travel tips: Top 10 places for free camping in Colorado

Arguably one of the best towns out there for outdoor adventuring, it’s great for active families that are looking for an escape from normality.

However, if you fancy a more laid-back vacation, head into the town for some historic walking tours and shopping.

Whatever you choose to do, Ouray has something for everyone. Ouray is a great option for the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer.

colorado trip summer

Steamboat Springs

Next on our list of the best places to visit in Colorado in summer, it’s Steamboat Springs . Yet another one of Colorado’s most famous skiing destinations is Steamboat Springs.

Though this place is packed in the winter, it’s much more mellow during the summer months. If you visit during the summer, you’ll be able to catch the beautiful wildflowers blooming in Steamboat Springs.

However, it’s not just the flora present here that makes this Coloradan spot worth visiting. With fly fishing, tube rides, and rafting on the menu, there are a host of exhilarating activities to partake in.

If that doesn’t float your boat, be sure to check out the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo in July.

Boasting an extensive number of colorful balloons along with live entertainment and a bunch of great food, it’s a massive highlight that shouldn’t be missed. 

Steamboat Springs is definitely one of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer.

Read more about Colorado: 20 romantic getaways in Colorado!

colorado trip summer

Buena Vista

Next up on our list of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer – it’s Buena Vista. Located east of the Collegiate Peaks, Buena Vista is a beautiful spot in Colorado that is one of the best places to visit in the summer.

Drawing visitors for its Gold Rush Days every August and offering tons of live music during the summer, it’s a vibrant place to visit for those that love culture.

Read more USA travel tips: The top 14 best all-inclusive resorts in the USA

However, it’s not just music that goes on here. If you have a taste for adventure, then be sure to check out the ziplines at Arkansas Valley Adventures.

Popular amongst both kids and adults, this is an activity that should absolutely be on your list of things to do in Buena Vista. This is a great option for the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer.

colorado trip summer

Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs is our next suggestion for the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer.

This is a gorgeous little town in Colorado, home to lots of charming cares and stores to explore.

Another great thing about Glenwood Springs in Colorado is its proximity to Hanging Lake (pictured below) which is one of the most stunning natural locations in Colorado in summertime!

Hanging Lake has a wonderfully scenic trail around it too – perfect for hiking on a sunny day in the height of summer!

colorado trip summer

Snowmass Village

Snowmass Village is next on our list of the best places to visit in Colorado in summer!

Snowmass Village is located nestled in the Elk Mountains and it’s a beautiful hamlet of scenic wildflowers, mountain views and great restaurants.

It’s actually only nine miles to popular Aspen, so you could always enjoy a day or two there during your trip too, as well as all the amazing hikes and trails in and around the village too. It’s definitely a winner!

colorado trip summer

Leadville is next on our list of the best places to visit in Colorado in summer. With 310 days of sunshine during an average year, Leadville has long been popular amongst Colorado’s holidaymakers.

If you can, try and book your visit during the Leadville BBQ and Brew Festival that runs in June. Serving up great food and even better brews, it’s the perfect time to stop at Leadville.

With spectacular mountain views, great trails and some old mining structures that offer visitors a taste of the past, it’s the perfect place to visit in Colorado in the summer for curious tourists!

If you love BBQ – then you need to add this to your list of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer.

colorado trip summer

Grand Lake is next on our list of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer. Grand Lake is a fantastic place to visit in the summer in Colorado for those that adore water sports.

With fishing, sailing, boating, swimming, kayaking and more on offer here, it’s the perfect place to get stuck in. If you can, be sure to head out to Grand Lake for the Fourth of July.

With the biggest firework display in all of Colorado, it’s a spectacle not to be missed! If that isn’t enough of a draw, you’re also mere miles away from the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Filled with amazing wildlife and great flora, you’ll find plenty to love at Grand Lake in summer.  Definitely a must-visit location and one of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer.

colorado trip summer

Colorado Springs

Next on our list of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer, it’s Colorado Springs. If you’re looking for a city break in Colorado in the summer, then Colorado Springs is a perfect choice.

You’ll find lovely outdoor restaurants, cafes and food markets in the summer, and (of course) you’re within easy reach of several great hikes and trails too from Colorado Springs! Perfect for exploring in the summertime!

Read more USA travel tips: The best family vacation destinations in the USA

colorado trip summer

Our next suggestion for the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer, is Palisade.

Palisade is a beautiful small town with rich agricultural history, and lots of amazing activities for outdoor types.

There’s a great energy here, and the area is known for amazing chefs and restaurants, including farm to table concepts.

colorado trip summer

The next place on our list of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer is Keystone .

Essentially a year-round outdoor playground for families, this is the perfect spot to visit for those that love adventure.

With play parks, paddle boarding, day camps and more, there is so much in Keystone for both youngsters and kids at heart.

If that isn’t enough to sway you, then be sure to hit up one of the many festivals held in Keystone.

The Model Boat Regata and Cirque D’Wheels are just two of the festivals on offer in Keystone during the summer, so book your spot and have fun! It’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer!

colorado trip summer

Boulder is another wonderful choice for the best places to visit in Colorado in summer.

Boulder is probably one of the most scenic places in Colorado, and it’s the perfect choice for our last suggestion!

Boulder isn’t just a lively and welcoming town in Colorado, it’s also a stunning base for exploring the local wildlife and scenery.

You’ll get ‘The Sound of Music’ vibes as you explore these perfect hillsides and meadows! Just check out the stunning photo below!

This is absolutely one of the best places to visit in summer in Colorado.

colorado trip summer

Hopefully this list of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer has been helpful!

We hope this list of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer has given you loads of ideas and inspiration!

As you can see, Colorado is a wonderful summer destination, especially if your ideal summer day consists of hiking and exploring the great outdoors!

Colorado has so many amazing hikes, trails, mountains, hills, etc – and our suggestions on this list of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer are packed full!

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Elle-Rose is the owner and editor of The World and Then Some! She has been a professional travel writer for over 12 years, writing for many different publications, including this one. Elle-Rose is a city break expert, and she specializes in popular locations such as NYC, London, Las Vegas and Dubai, regularly visiting to stay on top of new attractions, restaurants and hotels. Elle-Rose is super active on TikTok (@theworldandthensome), and loves filming video content in the cities she visits - so go and say hello!

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One-Week Colorado Itinerary For Families: Excellent for This Summer!


A young boy holds his sunglasses to his face in one hand and a large stick in the other in front of a large river with trees standing along the opposite bank.

This one-week Colorado itinerary for families is an excellent way to spend your summer vacation! From the beautiful red rock scenery of Colorado Springs to the rushing rapids of the Colorado River right outside Glenwood Springs , there are so many ways to appreciate Colorado in the summer. On this one-week Colorado itinerary for families , we’ve compiled a list of possible things to do and see on your Colorado road trip, starting and ending our itinerary in Denver for the most accuracy. Of course, feel free to swap out, add, or amend anything you’d like – this is simply a guide to help you plan. Here’s our One-Week Colorado Itinerary For Families: Excellent for This Summer!

Day 1: Land in Denver, Drive to Colorado Springs

A view of the lake and mountains on the Bear Lake trail near Denver.

Start your one-week Colorado itinerary for families by landing at Denver International Airport . Serviced by major U.S. airlines such as Delta, JetBlue, United, American, etc., there are multiple flights in and out every day. From there, you can drive straight to Colorado Springs , known for its beautiful scenery, countless parks, and outdoor adventures. If you plan to stick around Denver for a bit, don’t forget to book your tickets to these family-friendly Denver attractions !

On your 7-day Colorado road trip with kids , it’s an ideal place to make your home base because you won’t be far from Denver, Pikes Peak, and other fantastic places we’ll get into later on this itinerary. Though you can always feel free to spend more time here, we recommend two nights in Colorado Springs when you’re planning a week-long vacation in Colorado. 

Look here for a stay in Colorado Springs with VRBO!

Day 2: Pikes Peak, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Garden of the Gods, Downtown Colorado Springs

Looking out a car window, two mountain rams are seen meandering the road atop Pikes Peak.

Explore the best things to do in Colorado Springs with kids on the second day of your one-week Colorado itinerary for families. First, head to Pikes Peak, the second-highest peak in Colorado and one of the most popular tourist destinations. The Pikes Peak Summit Highway offers panoramic views and stops along the way to enjoy a picnic lunch. After, drive toward Colorado Springs to visit Garden of the Gods , a nature center with breathtaking rock formations. Kids will love climbing on them! For dinner, head downtown to restaurants like Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub & Restaurant . 

Ready to book your tour to Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods? Book now using Viator.

A young boy stands in front of the sign for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, a great stop on a our one-week Colorado itinerary for families.

If you have an extra day in Colorado Springs, animal lovers can’t miss the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo . Nestled in the mountainside just a few miles south of downtown Colorado Springs, this zoological park will impress all ages. With lions, elephants, hippos, and more for kids to see, the entire family will have a ton of fun touring the dynamic exhibits, from   “Encounter Africa” to “ Water’s Edge: Africa “. Once you’re done seeing the animals, there are other fun activities for kids. Try riding the Historic Carousel or Mountaineer Sky Ride ! Wear comfortable shoes because the property is huge, but there’s also a shuttle.

Then, check out these 12 Adventurous Things To Do in Colorado Springs Kids Will Love!

Where to Stay in Colorado Springs with Kids

The Broadmoor Resort, large resort building on the left with a beautiful lake nestled on the right side and mountains in the distance.

Planning a trip to Colorado with kids and looking for the best hotels in Colorado Springs for families ? To stay on the beautiful shores of Cheyenne Lake, book the iconic Broadmoor , which has summer activities for all ages. For a homier feel, try the Cheyenne Mountain Colorado Springs, A Dolce Resort , located on a private lake. Want to stay inside a private country club near the best sights in town? You’ll like the Garden of the Gods Resort and Club . Of course, kids will love the indoor water park at the Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs ! 

Read our 7 Hotels in Colorado Springs that Families Will Love for more suggestions on where to stay! 

Day 3: Cave of the Winds, Then Head to Aspen

An aerial view of The Cave Of The Winds Mountain Park, featuring steep cliffs and a large cliffside building.

A Colorado road trip with kids should include a stop at Cave Of The Winds Mountain Park . West of Colorado Springs, near the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, this multi-complex has a cave, a cafe, a challenge course, and more adventures for all ages. Families can see the cave on a standard, hour-long Discovery Tour . Or, take a creepier Haunted Lantern Tour to explore dark tunnels, curving passageways, and spooky stairs.

Other activities include a challenge course, zip-lining, and even fun aerial rides. From there, drive to Glenwood Springs, a scenic town set in the Rocky Mountains. If you have time to stop along the way during your 7-day Colorado road trip with kids , you can visit Aspen, which is around an hour away. 

For more travel planning, consult our list of Fantastic Colorado Summer Vacation Ideas Your Family Will Love ! 

Optional: Stop in Aspen

A family of four enjoys dinner while visiting Aspen during the winter with kids.

During your Colorado trip with kids , you may want to make a stop in Aspen. Famous for its luxury resorts, high-end restaurants, and upscale boutiques, there are plenty of things to do in Aspen with kids during the summer. Go white water rafting with Rafting Aspen or Aspen White Water to take in amazing views and get an adrenaline rush.

Then, take advantage of the gorgeous weather and soak up the sun by hiking to the Maroon Bells . It’s one of the most photographed spots in Colorado! For more beautiful scenery, drive Independence Pass through the Continental Divide . Or, ride the Silver Queen Gondola for an aerial view. End your day with dinner in downtown Aspen. Families love options like White House Tavern and Ajax Tavern . Or, French Alpine Bistro – Crêperie du Village for sweet and savory crepes. 

Please note : The Aspen rafting companies travel to Glenwood Springs and put-in on both the Colorado River and Roaring Fork River. They both run through Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork ends (confluences) into the Colorado River. Families may decide to opt for other activities in Aspen and book their rafting experience while in Glenwood Springs instead.

Day 4: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Left Image: A orange gondola moves up the mountain near Glenwood Springs. Right Imge: A family enjoyes a huge adventure park ride while exploring Glennwood Springs, one of the best stops on our one-week Colorado itinerary for families.

Depending on how long you stay in Aspen, the next stop on your Colorado road trip with kids should be Glenwood Springs. Famous for its Glenwood Hot Springs, this all-year-round destination offers lots of family fun. Here is also where you’ll find the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park , accessible via a scenic gondola ride up Iron Mountain. There’s an adventure park with kiddie rides for all ages, games like laser tags, plus two caves to explore. Book an early time slot for The Fairy Caves Tour , which lasts about 40 minutes, and involves minimal walking.

Then, after a long day of exploring, there’s nothing like soaking your muscles at the Iron Mountain Hot Springs to appreciate Colorado’s natural beauty! Please note, however, that this is best for adults and late teens. Families with younger children can enjoy the nearby heated freshwater pool. Certainly, on your trip to Colorado with kids , this will be a huge hit.

Day 5: Water Rafting on the Colorado River, Glenwood Hot Springs

Several people raft down a river in Colorado with Glenwood Canyon Rafting, a great activity on our one-week Colorado itinerary for families.

Glenwood Springs is one of the best vacation spots in Colorado for outdoor enthusiasts. On the fifth day of your one-week Colorado itinerary for families , head to the Colorado River to go water rafting ! There are multiple tour companies to book an excursion rafting the Colorado River, taking you through Glenwood Canyon and then through Glenwood Springs, including Glenwood Adventure Company ; Glenwood Canyon Rafting ; and Whitewater Rafting LLC. Another great company for families is Defiance Rafting , which offers a half-day rafting tour for beginners and more advanced adventurers.

Once you’re done with rafting, enjoy more fun in the water at Glenwood Hot Springs , featuring the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool. Families will love the Shoshone Chutes at the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool (an adventure river), the diving board, and a few other slides for kids to have fun.

Reserve this popular half-day trip b y D e f i a n c e R a f t i n g on Viator today!

Where to Stay in Glenwood Springs with Kids

An aerial view of Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, featuring its iconic red roof and historic features amongst lush summer trees.

Glenwood Springs offers plenty of accommodations for a one-week Colorado itinerary for families. For a hotel stay, book a room at the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge or The Hotel Glenwood Springs . The Hotel Colorado is another great option. A lot of families also opt for rentals from Airbnb or Vrbo . Regardless of which you choose, you’ll love staying in Glenwood Springs on your Colorado trip with kids .

Day 6: Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park

A young boy sits among large boulders while looking off into the distance while explore the Rocky Mountain National Park, a great stop on our one-week Colorado itinerary for families.

Rocky Mountain National Park is an outdoor playground with so many things to do in the summer. As you drive back to Denver, take a detour to this lush green paradise around three and a half hours from Glenwood Springs. Reaching around 70-80 degrees, it’s abundant in elk, moose, bighorn sheep, coyotes, and deer. Cruise through trees, rivers, and alpine wildflowers on scenic drives like Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road. Or, hike the Bear Lake Trail, the Alberta Falls Trail , and the Lily Lake Loop. Certainly, this is one of the best vacation spots in Colorado for families !

Then, make your way back to Estes Park , a cute mountain town nearby. Fans of The Shining can visit The Stanley Hotel where it was filmed to stay or enjoy dinner! It is a fun stop when planning a week vacation in Colorado with kids !

Where to Stay Near Rocky Mountain National Park with Kids

The Stanley Hotel standing proudly amongst the trees with mountains in the distance.

Families looking for somewhere to stay near Rocky Mountain National Park during their Colorado trip with kids can try The Stanley Hotel . For a more rugged, adventurous vacation, there’s also Estes Park Center -YMCA of the Rockies , which offers both lodge-style accommodations and yurts/campground options. Families can also choose to stay in an RV park or book various cabin rentals in the area. 

Here are the top-rated Vrbo stays near Rocky Mountain National Park!

Visiting Colorado in the winter instead? Read our review of an Exciting Colorado Getaway for Families: Snow Mountain Ranch -YMCA of the Rockies !

Day 7: Drive Back to Denver, Red Rocks Amphitheatre

A young boy runs along a dusty path, while hiking in the Red Rocks of Colorado, a great stop on our one-week Colorado itinerary for families.

On the last day of your one-week Colorado itinerary for families, drive back to Denver. You’ll most likely depart from here, so it’s a great way to explore anything you’ve missed. In Morrison outside of Denver, you can visit Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a famous outdoor venue for concerts and other events, situated in the foothills of the scenic Colorado Mountains. There are some easy trails for families providing spectacular views, and a variety of events too. Nearby, families can also venture to Dinosaur Ridge , where you can touch dinosaur bones!

Families can also spend the day in Denver exploring all the best things to do with kids . Visit the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus , Meow Wolf Denver , the Downtown Aquarium , the Denver Zoo , or the Denver Museum of Nature & Science ! With more time, head to the  Butterfly Pavilion  in Westminster (just north of the city and en route from Rock Mountain National Park to Denver), where you can hold a tarantula named Rosie. Regardless of which ones you choose to see, this is sure to be a wonderful end to planning a week vacation in Colorado with kids .

Research these Red Rocks Amphitheatre Tours and Activities through Viator today!

Purchase CityPass Denver here for discounted entry to the Children’s Museum of Denver, the Downtown Aquarium, the Denver Zoo, and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science!

Where To Stay In Denver With Kids

On a one-week Colorado itinerary for families, families can find the lobby of The Curtis Hotel, featuring a teal airstream and roadside signs.

There are so many places to stay in Denver during your 7-day Colorado road trip with kids . Kids will love the rooftop pool at the Westin Denver Downtown. And, they’ll also be impressed by the camping experience at the Ritz-Carlton, Denver . Kids who want a uniquely themed room can’t miss The Curtis Hotel , with accommodations inspired by Barbie, Ghost Busters , and even I Love Lucy.

Other great options include the Four Seasons Hotel Denver, the Hotel Clio (formerl y JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek), and the Crawford Hotel . If you plan to stay an extra few days, check out the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center , just a few miles outside of Denver in Aurora. Kids will love the on-site water park with a lazy river and multiple pools! Find more hotels in Denver by reading about the 13 Best Denver Hotels For Families With Kids .

For more unique themed hotels in and around Colorado, read our list featuring the Best Themed Hotels On The West Coast For Families !

Happy Travels!

In the distance, a dad carries his young child on his shoulders while hiking at Red Rocks Amphitheater, one of the best stops on One-Week Colorado itinerary for families

We hope you found this One-Week Colorado Itinerary For Families: Excellent for This Summer helpful in planning a week vacation in Colorado with kids ! From Denver to Colorado Springs, Estes Park, Aspen, and more, your next Colorado road trip with kids will be a fantastic one. Enjoy Colorado with your kids! 

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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Last Updated on 1 month by Ray

Discover Which Colorado Mountain Town is right for you

59 Incredible Places to Visit in Colorado Right Now

  • April 7, 2023
  • By foxintheforest

Last Updated on June 13, 2024 by foxintheforest

The Rocky Mountains Colorado becomes an outdoor lover’s playground. After spending 12 years here, I’ve come up with a complete list of the best places to visit in Colorado.

With countless gorgeous places to go in Colorado, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The summers are all about soaking up the mountain life from gorgeous wildflower hikes to epically scenic drives. While in winter you can hit the slopes or explore red rock deserts.

Colorado in the spring lets you enjoy the lower-elevation blooms and experience the cities coming back to life. While visiting Colorado in the fall lets you enjoy color displays that are out of this world.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for the best day trips from Denver or if you’re traveling to Colorado on a road trip , there’s an amazing array of places to visit in Colorado this summer, winter, or fall.

When it comes to the best places to go in Colorado, I’ve got you covered. I’ve lived here for over 13 years and spent much of that time uncovering the most beautiful places in Colorado . In fact, I’m traveling nearly every week to bring you the places to visit in Colorado that will knock your socks off.

This year, travel through Colorado like a local, not a tourist. With this insider’s guide to must-see places in Colorado for every season, you’ll have an endless selection of amazing getaways to choose from.

The Local’s Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Colorado

Get real, local travel advice. Not from a tourist board and not from just another blogger passing through. Fox in the Forest is the only spot to find honest, local Colorado travel advice.

This Colorado bucket list is designed to bring you the most scenic spots with the best adventures. In this guide you’ll find:

  • Information about where to camp in Colorado
  • An in-depth look at the best Colorado mountain towns and when to visit each of them.
  • The top places to visit in Colorado in summer
  • Where to go in Colorado for fall colors
  • Amazing places to visit in Colorado in winter
  • Sweet spring destinations to check out
  • The best towns for hiking in Colorado
  • A look at a few quick tips for travel to Colorado
  • Additional local resources for Colorado travel

The Must-See Places to Visit in Colorado Year-Round

This list of amazing places to visit in Colorado gives you plenty of unforgettable adventures no matter what your activity level is. You’ll get local advice on the best activities at each spot, as well as any notable landmarks worth checking out.

1. Enjoy Denver’s Social Scene

Denver comes alive in the summer with an array of entertainment from attending concerts to brewery hopping. Denver is all about celebrating small businesses. You’ll find local shops, eateries, and a fun-filled urban environment.

The best part? The mountains are really close. You can easily head out on a day hike near Denver , then head to a hopping outdoor brewery in the afternoon.

Be sure to check out Denver’s music scene. From live concerts at the Botanical Gardens to amazing nights at Red Rock Amphitheater , there’s a show for virtually any taste.

With so many things to do in Denver , you’ll be busy all summer long. Enjoy Denver’s amazing outdoor eateries or head to a Rockies game. There are lots of ways to spend a weekend in Denver during the summer, winter, spring, and fall.

Best Seasons : All Year

2. Explore Rocky Mountain National Park

One of the best national parks in the USA, Rocky Mountain National Park has an array of things to do from world-class hiking to wildlife viewing. Get to the park early (like before the sun) for your best chance at spotting wildlife such as moose, elk, ram, bear, and more.

Be sure to check out one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s best hiking trails (psst, it’s one of the top national parks for hiking ) to get those classic mountain views. The Emerald Lake hike is a popular choice for beginner hikers, while those that want a challenge should check out the stunning Sky Pond Trail .

Afterward, drive the scenic Trail Ridge Road – one of Denver’s most scenic drives. You’ll gain the Continental Divide, where the rivers of America flow either east or west depending on what side you are on. Plenty of pullouts exist to soak in those gorgeous alpine views.

Local Tip: Reservations are required for the park. Wildflowers bloom from early July through mid-August so plan your visit accordingly.

Related: Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park Like a Local

Best Seasons: Mid-June through the end of September. Trail Ridge Road closes over winter, making it difficult to see the entire park in one day, but Rocky Mountain National Park in winter is a real treat!

3. Go for a Beer and Bike Tour in Fort Collins

The best places to visit in Colorado in summer aren’t just the mountains, but the cities are filled with fun too. Rent a bike (or bring your own) and bike from brewery to brewery in Fort Collins . You can opt to ride on your own terms or join the annual Tour de Fat bike parade at the New Belgium Brewery. The event is free and makes for the perfect party for beer drinkers.

If drinking isn’t your thing, then check out the Horsetooth Reservoir for a fun-filled day on the water. As one of the best Colorado Lakes , it’s a must-visit. You can even rent a boat for the day to tube, ski, or relax.

Alternatively, you can drive the Poudre Canyon or just hang in downtown Fort Collins and try the local food. All in all Fort Collins makes for a relaxing day trip from Denver.

Best Seasons: Spring ( April in Colorado ) through Fall

4. Experience the Garden of the Gods

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Colorado in summer, the Garden of the Gods defies gravity with towering sandstone spires that shoot directly out of the ground. Home to some of the best hiking trails in Colorado Springs , Garden of the Gods is a place to get lost in.

Various hiking trails circumnavigate the rock formations. There are paved trails for wheelchair access and easy hikes that are totally kid-friendly. As one of the easier hikes near Denver , this is a must-see spot.

Local Tip : It gets absolutely smashed here – even during the week. Arrive before 7 am if you want some solitude.

Best Seasons: Year-round. Summers are exceptionally busy, so avoid the summer if you want to beat the crowds.

best things to do in Colorado in summer

5. Experience the Alps of America in Ouray

Arguably one of the best mountain towns in Colorado , Ouray needs to be on your list of places to visit in Colorado this summer. Nestled in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, this quintessential mountain hideaway is surrounded by some of the most gorgeous scenery in the state.

Known for its plethora of scenic drives (most requiring a 4×4 vehicle) and stunning mountain hikes, there is a lot of Ouray activities . An absolute must-do activity is to drive the Million Dollar Highway or the San Juan Scenic Byway.

Known as one of the most beautiful roads in the world, the Million Dollar Highway descends from the top of the mountain pass all the way down to Silverton – Ouray’s sister town. Gawk at the absolutely unbelievable views and marvel at the unique engineering that allows avalanches to sluff right off the road.

Local Tip: Hit up this road around 8 am to avoid tour busses and crowds and capture that brilliant morning light.

Other notable drives in the area require a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle. Or get frisky and rent a side-by-side for the day (my preferred way to explore). Be sure to drive:

  • Yankee Boy Basin
  • Black Bear Pass
  • The Alpine Loop (Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass)

Best Seasons : Mid-June through end of September. Ouray in the winter is home to hot springs and the Ouray Ice Park, where you can try ice climbing.

best places to visit in colorado in the summer

6. Uncover the Beauty and Culture of Colorado Springs

Often overlooked as a military town, Colorado Springs is actually a happening place. Located just 1.5 hours from Denver, there’s a lot to see. Of course, you should visit Garden of the Gods, but there are plenty of other Colorado Springs hikes to explore too.

Drive or take the narrow gauge train to the top of Pike’s Peak a famous Colorado 14er . Go on a tour of the Airforce Academy and see the historic buildings. At the end of it all, you can walk around the grounds of the famous (and beautiful) Broadmoor Resort. Catch a bus from there to visit Seven Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Colorado .

Best Seasons: Year-round.

7. Drive to the Top of Pikes Peak

Driving to the top of Pikes Peak is a bucket list item for any trip to Colorado. There’s nowhere else on earth where you make your way up perfect tarmac turns to the top of a 14,000-foot peak. Pack your camera because the views are EPIC.

There’s a car race up this precarious road every year. It makes my knuckles turn white just thinking about it!

Local Tip: This drive makes for one epically beautiful fall drive!

Best Seasons: Mid-June through mid-October

8. Hike to a Fairy Hideout at Hanging Lake

There is one Colorado lake that stands above the rest and that’s Hanging Lake. Located just outside of Glenwood Springs along I-70 you’ll find the start of the Hanging Lake hike . This easier, straightforward hike takes you to a magical place that honestly blew me away the first time I saw it.

It’s almost as if you expect gnomes and fairies to appear out of the hillside. The gentle trickle of water, tranquil clear waters, and birds create a magical scene. You’ll need a permit to embark on the hike, but it’s worth the little bit of homework to reach this incredible place.

Best Seasons: May through November

Local Tip: The City of Glenwood Springs requires a permit to hike to Hanging Lake. For more info on this and closures, click here .

9. Enjoy the Mountain Vibes of Breckenridge

One of the largest mountain towns in Colorado is Breckenridge. Often called Breck by locals, this happening spot has all the mountain fun in one convenient location.

From an amazing lineup of Breckenridge hikes , mountain biking trails, and even a large lake (the Dillon Reservoir) nearby there’s a lot of things to do in Breckenridge. Kids and families should make a pit stop to check out the Breckenridge Troll – he lives in the forest and is truly a work of art.

There are plenty of single-track rides for avid MTBers from the easier Lower Flume to the difficult Wheeler Pass. Water lovers should opt to kayak, SUP or even sail the Dillon Reservoir. No wake is allowed and you can’t swim, but the gorgeous lake views are certainly unique to Breck.

If you visit Breckenridge in winter you can enjoy everything from world-class skiing to dog sledding. Snowshoeing in Breckenridge is also a popular pastime, just be sure you’re hiking on a trail that’s safe from avalanche terrain.

Best Seasons: Year-round

places to visit in colorado in the summer

10. Catch a Concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater

There’s a reason why so many world-famous artists head to Red Rocks Amphitheater every year. This naturally occurring amphitheater is surrounded by beautiful red rock formations. It’s incredibly scenic and makes for an epic concert backdrop.

You can easily scope out Red Rocks during your time in Denver. In fact, if you can’t catch a show, it’s free to visit during the day. Certainly a worthwhile trip to see this unique concert venue.

Best seasons: May through September

best places to visit in colorado in the summer

11. Experience Luxury and Mountain Beauty in Aspen

Certainly a unique mountain town, Aspen is all about being seen. With posh designer stores and exclusive clubs, this is the upper crust of the mountains. Of course, you can enjoy views of the Maroon Bells without being dressed to the nines, but you’ll want to pack some fancy threads.

Other activities include taking a ride up the scenic Silver Queen Gondola, catching a live music show at Belly Up Aspen, or indulging in a 5-star culinary experience. Of course, you can shop til you drop too!

For more exotic adventures go for a hot air balloon ride or even go paragliding to see this beautiful mountain town from the air. Or you can learn to fly fish on the Roaring Fork River.

Best Seasons : Summer, fall, and winter

12. Take a Scenic Drive

Every local knows the best scenic drives in Colorado. If you’re looking for a low-key way to get jaw-dropping mountain vistas, then drive one of Colorado’s scenic byways.

You don’t need a special vehicle to drive any of these scenic roads, which is what makes them ideal for the everyday adventurer. If you’re planning to visit multiple places in Colorado, then you can plan your route through a few of these incredibly scenic drives.

  • Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park
  • The Million Dollar Highway in the San Juan Mountains or Engineer Pass
  • Monarch Pass en-route to Crested Butte
  • Mount Evans Scenic Byway outside of Idaho Springs
  • Independence Pass to Aspen
  • Top of the Rockies Byway near Leadville

Best seasons: Summer and fall

13. Spend the Weekend in Estes Park

Many people choose to stay in Estes Park while exploring nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. But there are a lot of other reasons to stay in Estes too. First, there is a wild herd of elk that virtually hang out all around town. You can visit the spooky Stanley Hotel – an inspiration for the movie The Shining.

You’ll never have a lack of things to do in Estes Park . Take a glass blowing class in town and learn how to make various objects from molten glass. Or satisfy your sweet tooth at one of the many candy shops.

Don’t forget to strap on your boots and check out some of the beautiful hikes near Estes Park . Afterward, drive the Peak to Peak Highway for some scenic mountain views (sunset recommended).

Best seasons: Late spring through late fall.

14. Visit the Scenic Maroon Bells

One of the most iconic vistas in Colorado is the scene from a fairytale. Take the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop to Crater Lake in order to catch a glimpse of this iconic viewpoint. Keep in mind you’ll need to make advanced reservations to park, or book a seat on the shuttle to reach nearby hiking trails.

Local tip: This trail gets SMASHED in the summer, it’s more like a conga line. Come prepared and leave it better than you found it . To avoid the crowds, head out before dawn and catch a sunrise over Crater Lake.

Best seasons: Summer and fall. Winter requires a long hike in.

15. Check Out the Iconic Glenwood Springs

One of the more unique places to visit in Colorado is Glenwood Springs . Nestled in the steep walls of Glenwood Canyon, this iconic Colorado town features a scenic gondola, hot springs, and an adventure park.

There’s a lot to see and do, making it one of the best weekend getaways in Colorado . Nearby Hanging Lake is a must as are the famous hot springs (Iron Mountain and Glenwood Springs) that give the town its name.

The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is great for families who want some high-flying fun with a view. Rafting, SUPing, fishing, and kayaking are other popular choices with the nearby Colorado River. And with steep canyon walls nearby adrenaline can paraglide and parachute the canyon.

Best seasons: Year-round

16. Spot Dinosaurs

Take a step way back in history at Dinosaur National Monument. Here you can see real dinosaur footprints and fossils right in nature.

The visitor’s center is a really cool place to learn about the big creatures that once inhabited the earth. Dinosaur National Monument is one of the must-see places in Colorado for fossil lovers.

Best seasons: Fall, winter, and spring. Summers are exceptionally hot.

17. Relax in Downtown Golden

If spending time in downtown Denver isn’t your thing, why not post up in the relaxing town of Golden . You can go sport climbing in Clear Creek Canyon or check out one of the many breweries in town.

Make a splash tubing down Clear Creek or go on a rafting adventure in nearby Idaho Springs.

There’s an American Mountaineering Museum where you can learn all about Colorado’s favorite pastime – climbing mountains.

Don’t forget to catch a sunset on top of Lookout Mountain. Drive to one of the many pullouts where you can see nearby Denver bathed in the afternoon light. Continue onwards through Evergreen to take on the scenic Lariat Loop – a mellow scenic drive right near Golden.

Downtown Golden has a relaxed, small western-town feel and offers up plenty of awesome places to eat and drink. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the Sherpa House nearby the Colorado School of Mines.

Best seasons : Year-round

Where Should I Go in Colorado this Summer?

I often get asked by newbie locals and visitors alike about where should you go in Colorado in summer ?

The answer largely depends on what you’d like to do. Are you interested in getting deep into nature? Then Vail, Ouray, Silverton, and the Sangre de Cristo Range are for you.

More interested in mountain vibe life? Then scope out Breckenridge, Aspen, Telluride, and Georgetown. More urban adventures can be had in Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins are excellent.

If your mission is to beat the crowds, then you must follow the golden rule. Get up and at it EARLY. My biggest piece of local travel advice is to see at least one sunrise in the mountains. It’s a sure way to get solitude at some of the hottest places to visit in Colorado this summer.

Local Tip: I-70 weekend traffic is real. Budget at least an extra 45 minutes if you plan on taking this road on a Friday or Sunday.

best places to visit in colorado

Is Colorado Cool in Summer?

Colorado spans many climate zones, but in general, when the sun is out, it’s hot! However, higher elevations do see cooler weather, so you’ll want to pack a puffy jacket, gloves, beanie, and raingear (we’ll get to the rain in a second). If you’re planning on camping, bring cold-weather clothing – it gets a bit chilly at night.

One important thing to know about visiting Colorado in summer is the annual monsoon season. From about mid-June through beginning of August, quick and violent thunderstorms plague the mountains. These near-daily storms present quite a lightning threat to hikers, campers, and backpackers.

Expect the monsoon rains to come out of the west starting around noon. Storms tend to be quick, lasting about 30 minutes or so, but very violent. Heavy rains, hail, thunder, and lightning are common. Always check the weather before heading out and keep an eye on the weather so you don’t get caught.

The eastern plains, Western Slope, and the Front Range (think Fort Collins, Denver, and Colorado Springs) frequently see summertime temperatures ranging from the 90s to 100s. In the mountains you can expect the temperatures to range from:

  • June: Highs in the mid-60s, lows in the 50s
  • July: highs in the mid 70s, lows in the mid 50s
  • August: Highs in the low 70s, lows in the low 50s.

The Best Places to Visit in Colorado in Summer

If you’re looking for where to go in Colorado in summer, then look no further than the Rocky Mountains. July is high time for wildflower blooms in the high country, making it an amazing time to enjoy some of the best hikes in Colorado. Camping and water sports are also summer activities in Colorado.

Local Tip: Be sure to check out the ‘Places to Visit in Colorado Year Round” segment towards the end of this post for more summer-y recommendations.

18. Camp, Hike and Raft in Buena Vista

As a long-time favorite mountain town among locals, Buena Vista (pronounced “bew-na vista”) offers up plenty in the way of hiking, camping, and even white water rafting.

Book a half-day rafting trip down the Browns Canyon and then go for a stunningly scenic hike in Buena Vista at the base of the Sawatch Mountains. Afterward, take a relaxing dip in the Princeton Hot Springs for the ultimate classic Colorado day. Cap it all off with a campfire at one of Colorado’s best free campsites .

With plenty of things to do in Buena Vista , you can spend several days exploring the area. In fact, it’s one of the best weekend trips from Denver .

One of the best things to do in Colorado during the summer is to pack up the car and head for the hills. Spend a day (or weekend) exploring some of the best mountain towns in Colorado . There’s a wide array to choose from, but a few local favorites are:

  • Ouray, Colorado . Nestled at the start of the Million Dollar Highway and home to some of the best Jeep trails in the state.
  • Breckenridge . Easy accessible as a day trip from Denver with plenty of mountain fun including the famous Breckenridge Troll. See if you can find some unusual hikes in Colorado too.
  • Crested Butte. A favorite amongst mountain bikers and wildflower lovers.

19. Drive the Million Dollar Highway

If you want a bit of a thrill while you pick your jaw up from the ground, then take a spin along the Million Dollar Highway. Hands down one of the best places to visit in Colorado. The 25-mile stretch of tarmac winding from Ouray to Silverton is an absolute must-see.

But keep your eyes on that ribbon of road – since many parts don’t have any guardrails. Precarious drops into steep canyons and towering red-stained peaks make this one of the top scenic drives in the world.

July is an amazing time to head out for a drive along this scenic track since the contrast of reds, greens, and whites is just to die for.

Local Tip : Head out about 2 hours before sunset or an hour after sunrise for the best lighting.

places to go in colorado

20. Durango, Colorado

Located in the southwest corner of the state, the laid-back town of Durango has quite a bit to offer. As one of the top places to visit in Colorado in summer, you can enjoy several amazing Durango hikes , scenic drives, and more. A few must-do activities include:

  • Taking the narrow guage railway to silverton
  • Mountain biking at the Purgatory Bike Park
  • Check out the funky art galleries
  • Nosh at the food trucks on 11th Street Station
  • Tube or raft down the Animas River

21. Mountain Bike in Crested Butte, Colorado

As one of the best places to go on vacation in Colorado, Crested Butte is a gem of a mountain town. Boasting incredible scenery, this charming mountain town is not to be missed. During the summer months, there is an array of top-notch mountain biking trails to explore.

Not a biker? No problem! Most of the nearby trails double as hiking trails too. You can enjoy some of the top wildflower hikes in Colorado during your stay and see the best Colorado wildflowers .

Or you can opt to relax in town, which is just too cute not to explore. Plenty of local shops and eateries await you. Don’t forget to snag a slice at Secret Stash!

Horseback ride this iconic landscape and fit right in with the variety of nearby ranches. Paddleboarding is another popular choice – where you can sup the gentle Slate River.

22. Georgetown

Conveniently located right near I-70 Georgetown is one of the top places to visit in Colorado during summer. A perfect pit stop for your Colorado road trip or a great day trip from Denver, Georgetown has that classic mountain town feel without being too far off the beaten path.

Notable activities include driving the famously scenic Guenella Pass, one of the most beautiful scenic drives near Denver . From here you can hike or try the challenging Mt. Bierdstadt Peak. Camping is also available along the road in designated sites.

While the historic downtown has lots of cute shops and delicious eateries (make a stop at the bakery, thank me later). Gold mine tours and gold panning are also popular choices for families with kids.

23. Hike to an Alpine Lake

One of the best places to go in Colorado in summer is the high alpine. The best alpine lake hikes in Colorado can be found throughout the state. Simply pick one that suits your ability and soak in the views. Bonus points if you get up early and catch a sunrise.

A few local favorites are:

  • Mirror Lake and Lone Eagle Peak (pictured)
  • Pacific Tarn (shuttle currently not working so need to do a 1.5 mile walk up to the trailhead)
  • Emerald Lake
  • St Mary’s Glacier (need to pay $20.00 parking fee and roads sometimes close seasonally)
  • Maroon Lake
  • Lake Isabelle (be prepared for seasonal road closures)

Local Tip : Start your hike early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Getting caught above treeline during a thunderstorm is extremely dangerous. People die every year from lightning strikes so plan to be below the trees before noon.

24. Leadville

An often-overlooked town in favor of more crowded spots on this list, Leadville is a great home base for exploring the incredible Sawatch Mountain Range. Located super-close to Twin Lakes (excellent fishing and camping) this top Colorado destination has a real local feel.

Not to mention you can drive the paved Independence Pass for sky-high views. Or hike your way to the roof of Colorado, Mt Elbert, 14,439 feet above sea level.

Reasonably priced AirBnBs and easy access to fishing, hiking, ATVing, scenic drives, and white water rafting make Leadville an amazing Colorado location.

25. Red Feather Lakes Area

Located in a remote area of the mountains, near the border with Wyoming, the Red Feather Lakes area is the ideal place to enjoy outdoor activities without the hustle and bustle of the central Rocky Mountains.

With plenty of lakes, you bet that there is ample fishing, paddling, and lakeside recreation available. Rent a house on the shores and enjoy the tranquil waters while you unwind in this natural retreat.

26. White Water Raft at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

Beat the heat with this splash-tastic Colorado summer activity. Head to Browns Canyon for some epic fun on the water. There are a lot of white water rafting opportunities around Buena Vista for families and seasoned paddlers alike. Browns Canyon standard route is jaw-droppingly beautiful while the Numbers will give you a run for your money with class V rapids.

Local Tip: You can base yourself in Leadville, Buena Vista, or even Salida for this amazing adventure.

27. Drive the Alpine Loop

Easily one of the most scenic drives in the USA, the Alpine Loop is an absolute must on any Colorado bucket list. This 92-mile 4×4 road loops from Silverton to Lake City and back again through the utterly scenic San Juan Mountain Range.

Crawl your way over 2 alpine passes – Cinnamon Pass and Engineer Pass for jaw-dropping views and drool-worthy mountain scenery.

This trip is best done on a side-by-side (you can rent one at Rock Pirates for the day) or as a 3-day trip in a 4Runner, Jeep Wrangler, or equivalent. A truly classic experience, the Alpine Loop is a perfect thing to do during the summer in Colorado.

28. Summit a Colorado 14er

Many people seek to summit a 14,000-foot peak in their lifetime. Colorado’s 14ers are well-sought-after summits. The easiest Colorado 14ers are still a real challenge and it’s important to be properly prepared for a 14er hike. However, if you’re in great hiking shape , you start early, and take your time, you should be able to make it to the top.

Local Tip: The best places to find great beginner 14ers are outside of Breckenridge (Mt Quandary), the Buena Vista area, and there are a few 14ers near Denver that are great for beginners – like Grays and Torreys Peak .

29. Ride ATVs in Steamboat Springs

Mostly known as one of the best ski resorts in Colorado, Steamboat Springs is actually a pretty fun place to visit in Colorado during the summer too. There’s ample fishing, ATVing, and even a rodeo.

Rent ATVs and go exploring through the Flattops with a unique ride! Afterward, float down the Yampa River or try your luck at fly fishing.

In the evening you can catch the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo (a long-time pastime) or go for a soak in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, one of the top hot springs in Colorado .

30. Camp at the Great Sand Dunes National Park

In the southern part of the state, you can walk on the biggest sand dunes in North America. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, these tall mountains of sand are something of legends. Home to some of the best camping in Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park is well worth a visit.

If you’re lucky, you can even score a permit to backpack to Star Dune, one of the top backpacking routes in Colorado .

What makes the sand dunes so unique is that the sand actually bubbles out of the ground. The origin spring is inaccessible since it’s sacred to the Navajo.

This area is also a designated Dark Sky Territory – meaning there is no light pollution blocking your view of the Milky Way. Stargazing is incredible here.

Local Tip : Campsites are first-come-first-serve and fill up fast! Get here early or come during the week to reserve your spot.

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31. Grand Lake

Arguably one of the best Colorado Lakes , Grand Lake is where to go in Colorado if you’re looking for a big body of water. Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake are two sister lakes in the heart fo the Rocky Mountains.

If you’re looking for access to west Rocky Mountain National Park, then Grand Lake is an excellent home base. Aside from the park, you’ll also be able to enjoy:

  • The Indian Peaks Wilderness: hiking and camping
  • Fly fishing
  • Trail Ridge Road
  • Horseback riding

Local Tip : If you’ve only got 4 days in Colorado , a stopover at Grand Lake is an excellent place to soak up some watery views!

32. Nederland

Known as Ned by locals, Nederland is one of the top places to go in Colorado if you’re looking to escape the city, but feel like you’re in the wilderness.

This tiny mountain town is home to a lot of the best hikes in Nederland , including the 4th of July Trailhead . Here you’ll find unbelievable high-alpine hikes that deliver all of the incredible views you could ever ask for.

Offering even more beauty than the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, Nederland is the gateway for the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Be sure to check out the Brainard Lake Recreation Area (advanced timed-entry permit required), Hessie Trailhead, and Moffat Tunnel area.

33. Ride the Narrow Gauge Railway in Silverton

Take an old narrow-gauge train from Silverton to Durango on a scenic journey through the stunning San Juan Mountains. This rail line is a fan-favorite among backpackers since you can hop right off the train and straight onto one of Colorado’s best backpacking trails. Now there’s an adventure of a lifetime!

34. Check Out a Festival in Telluride

Telluride is one of those places that’s so picture-perfect, you might just never wipe the smile off of your face. Aside from amazing Telluride hikes , this town is also known for its lineup of summer festivals.

Virtually every weekend there’s something fun going on in this isolated mountain town. From the famous Telluride Bluegrass Festival to outdoor movie nights, you’ll want to check out Telluride this summer.

Other nearby activities include a trip to Ouray, Orvis hot springs, 4×4 driving, mountain biking, and the Telluride via Ferrata .

35. Gawk at the Wildflowers in Vail

Located along the I-70 Corridor, there are a variety of easily accessible Vail summer activities to enjoy. Many people love to hit one of the most scenic Vail hikes with the company of a llama – yes llama hikes are a bit of a thing in Vail.

See stunning views on the Eagle Bahn Gondola. You’ll get sweeping views of the rugged Gore Range (very difficult to access) and the nearby Holy Cross Wilderness. Bring (or rent) a mountain bike and ride down the steep ski trails with this high-flying summer adventure.

Vail is also home to amazing Colorado wildflower hikes if you’re willing to put a little butt-busting effort to get out there. Booth Lake is a personal favorite. But if you don’t want a grueling hike, you can spot the blooms at the Vail Nature Center and Betty Ford Alpine Gardens too.

Road bikers should pack their wheels – you can actually bike along paved paths that wind their way through beautiful scenery. Or ride up and down Vail Pass and feel the alpine wind in your hair.

places to visit in colorado

36. Black Canyon of the Gunnison

In total, Colorado is home to four amazing national parks. And the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is easily one of the most impressive.

In fact, during your time here you can stand in awe of two thousand-foot, granite, canyon walls that plummet down into the river below.

Accordingly, this unique natural landscape makes this an ideal spot for Black Canyon of the Gunnison hikes , climbing, rafting, and more.

So, be sure to do the Rim Drive and admire sweeping panoramas from Chasm View, Painted Wall, Pulpit Rock, and Sunset View.

Afterward, use the East Portal to drive into the inner depths of the canyon as you navigate various switchbacks.

However, because it’s a smaller park, it doesn’t get the number of visitors that RMNP gets. Therefore, it’s a great place to visit if you love sweeping views but hate crowds.

37. Silverton

This low-key mining town is a little rough around the edges. But that’s okay since there’s something about the dirt roads that keeps pulling you in.

So, Silverton is a great little spot to explore – especially since it’s right near Ouray and well-located along the Million Dollar Highway.

Therefore, take some time to explore the downtown since it has a wealth of charming buildings that date all the way back to its mining days.

Afterward, hop aboard a narrow-gauge train and take that all the way to Durango as you enjoy epic views of the San Juan Mountains.

38. Palisade

Located right near Grand Junction. Palisade is a great place to go if you love wine and want to see what Colorado’s wine country is all about.

This place is also known for its incredible peaches. So, be sure to stop by a local farm and grab some before visiting Carlson Vineyards Winery and Varaison Vineyards and Winery.

You can also make some fuzzy friends at Suncrest Orchard Alpacas and then admire some local art at the Blue Pig Gallery.

Places to Visit in Colorado in Fall

Fall in Colorado is an unbelievable time to experience the mountains. The wildly hot temperatures of summer have drifted far away from both the Front Range and Western Slopes, making it a great season for exploring virtually all of Colorado.

If you’re looking for where to go in Colorado in fall, you literally can’t go wrong. The top fall activities in Colorado can be found all over the state thanks to the mild weather.

Local Tip: Late fall can be a bit dull in the mountains. High winds, dead flora, and closed roads can make the high alpine a little unpredictable, so always check local conditions before you go.

When Do the Leaves Change in Colorado?

If you’re interested to know when the leaves change in Colorado , it’s important to remember that these brilliant displays fluctuate every year. Rain patterns play an important role.

However, if you time it just right, you’ll see the mountainsides light up in brilliant seas of yellow, orange, and red.

In general, the aspens in Colorado change colors around the third weekend in September, plus or minus a week depending on latitude and weather.

39. San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway

For one of the most absolutely epic fall drives in Colorado, take a few days to travel the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. The 233-mile scenic loop starts in Ridgeway. From there you’ll make your way through the Million Dollar Highway all the way to Durango before looping back via Delores and Telluride.

What makes this drive so epic during the fall months are the brilliant displays of Aspens. You’ll want to take at least 4 days to drive the entire loop, since you’ll stop at many of the other places to go in Colorado along the way.

Local Tip: The San Juan Scenic Byway is also extremely stunning in summer too, but it truly shines during the fall months.

things to see in colorado

40. Check Out the Great American Beer Festival in Denver

If you’re into beer, then the Great American Beer Festival in Denver needs to be on your bucket list. Featuring brews from the best around the country, this mega-festival is a taster’s dream. Try beers from all over the US as they compete for medals in various categories.

Long-known as the largest beer festival in America, tickets sell out almost immediately so be sure to mark your calendar.

20 2 2 Dates: 10/6 through 10/8

41. Go Leaf Peeping at Kenosha Pass

There are a lot of amazing fall hikes in Colorado , but Kenosha Pass is certainly the most popular. And with good reason. These enormous, spanning aspen groves quiver in the fall breezes. So strap on your hiking boots and hit the trails this fall and see what the magic of the aspens is all about.

Not into hiking? Kenosha Pass has some spanning views with plenty of color too.

Local Tip: Crowds here are insane during the weekends, so plan an early morning weekday visit if you want any chance at parking or solitude.

42. Revel in Native History at Mesa Verde

Located in the southwestern part of the state, Mesa Verde is steeped in rich history, making it one of the best places to visit in Colorado for history buffs. Take a tour of the ancient Puebloan structures built into sandstone walls to learn about the ancient native people who once inhabited this land.

You’ll want to spend at least 2 days here exploring the ruins. Take a guided tour to get closer to the ruins and learn about the incredible history of the American West.

The closest lodging is in Cortez, a tiny town that centers around the ruins.

Local Tip: It gets extremely hot in this part of the state during the summer, so be sure to arrive early to beat the heat.

43. Blue Sky (formerly Mt Evans) Scenic Byway

Yet another scenic drive the Mount Evans Scenic Byway takes you right into the heart of color displays. Located contently just 45 minutes from Denver, you’ll need an advanced permit for this drive. However, it’s worth it to sign up in September as you wind your way through the aspen groves.

And when the trees thin out, the views get even better. At the top, you’ll be near to the summit of Mount Evans, a 14,265-foot tall mountain. Talk about droop-worthy views near Evergreen .

44. The Colorado National Monument

Looking to soak up the last of the summer rays? Then head to the Colorado National Monument outside of Fruita. Here you’ll find sweeping red rock canyons, funky rock spires, and plenty of desert magic. You might just think you’ve transported yourself to Moab as you enjoy epic Colorado National Monument hikes .

The Monument features plenty of stunning hikes (no dogs), a dreamy scenic drive that’s perfect for sunset, and a few backcountry adventures for the thrill-seeking crowd.

Local Tip: Your America the Beautiful Annual Pass gets you free entry. Otherwise, it’s $15 per vehicle.

45. Camp at Kebbler Pass

Just outside of Crested Butte, you’ll find the beautiful Kebler Pass. A gentle dirt road that connects Highway 133 to the town of Crested Butte. Home to some of the most incredible free camping in Colorado , this is the perfect spot to pitch your tent and enjoy the fall colors.

Hurry though. Rumor has it that this will all become paid, permitted camping only in the near future. Check before you go and make reservations well in advance.

Local Tip: A lot of the camping has been over-loved so do your part to clean up after yourself and only camp in designated areas.

It’s also worth noting that Kebler Pass is only open seasonally from May to early November.

Where Should I Go in Colorado in Winter?

If you’re an avid skier, then you’ll certainly want to visit epic ski towns such as Crested Butte, Telluride, Breckenridge , Vail, and Aspen. Skiing here is world-class! Just avoid the weekends if you want to have fewer crowds.

Skiing isn’t your thing? Don’t worry, there are plenty of things to do in Colorado in winter if you don’t ski. Fruita and Grand Junction are great towns that don’t have too much snow in the winter. While Ouray features a fun-filled ice park, scenic driving, and epic hot springs. Buena Vista is another great choice for winter if you want to go for a snow-filled hike and then take a soak in the nearby Princeton Hot Springs.

Got a mix of skiers and non-skiers in your group? Then you should check out winter activity hot spots like Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs.

46. Snowmass Village

Known for a fancier crowd, Aspen is one of those uber-classic Colorado ski towns. Snowmass Village is the heart of winter fun in Aspen. You can opt to ski at the famous Snowmass Resort, enjoy gourmet eats, or wander luxurious shops (always free to browse).

Nearby Aspen has a host of wintery events including the Winter X Games, concerts at Belly Up Aspen, and a beautiful art musueum.

47. Enjoy Colorado’s Best Ski Towns

The best ski towns in Colorado really come to life in the winter. We’ve named a lot of them already and each has it’s own vibe. From the most budget-friendly ski resorts in Colorado , to world-famous destinations there is something for every kind of skier and rider. A few of the top ski towns include:

  • Telluride : Exclusive, remote, and stunning scenery
  • Breckenridge : With 4 ski resorts nearby, there’s a lot going on in Breck
  • Vail : Well known for its back bowls and endless ski terrain
  • Steamboat Springs : Home to some of the best tree skiing in the country.

ski resorts in Colorado

48. Scope Out Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs in winter is a real treat. Take a walk at the Garden of the Gods or head to the Broadmoor Resort to see the dazzling lights and giant gingerbread display. The Air Force Academy is also a huge hit. The road to the top of Pikes Peak might be closed, but if you book a seat on the Cog Railway, you can summit a 14er without all of the effort.

After a day of fun, be sure to go for a relaxing soak in nearby Manitou Hot Springs.

49. Ice Skate at Evergreen Lake

If you’re looking for places to go in Colorado in winter, look no further than Evergreen Lake. Known as one of the top places to go ice skating in Colorado , Evergreen Lake provides easy access to outdoor skating. After you’ve had your fill, be sure to check out the charming downtown Evergreen for some cozy cafes.

When Does it Snow in Colorado?

The snow in Colorado is surprisingly unpredictable. So if you’re planning on visiting Colorado in winter , you’ll want to remember that it can snow pretty much any time from October until May anywhere in the state.

If you’re interested in skiing, then you’ll want to plan your trip in January or February for the best chance at powdery conditions.

The snow creates dangerous avalanche conditions on most hiking trails. So be sure to stick to safer Colorado winter hikes in order to not get caught. Even road walking on closed dirt roads buries and kills people every year.

Top Places to Visit in Colorado in Spring

With the thawing of winter, comes the wild and unpredictable spring time. Granted, Spring is not a mega-popular time to visit Colorado, it’s an awesome time to travel if you’re looking to miss the crowds.

There is still plenty of snow in the mountains, but the powdery days of skiing are long gone and it’s not quite thawed out enough to go camping. This is an excellent time to enjoy Colorado’s city scenes and desert landscapes. Denver neighborhoods bloom with tulips, while the desert locales deliver deliciously warm weather.

What’s the Weather in Colorado in Spring?

The snow doesn’t melt in the high country until around mid-June. Hiking becomes less prone to avalanche activity (as long as you start early) during mid-May, but camping may be tough to find.

Expect variable and unpredictable weather during spring in Colorado. It may snow 3 feet one day and be 80 degrees the next. The lower elevation tend to have more predictable, warm, yet wet weather. No matter where you are, expect more windy days.

50. Pagosa Springs

Home to some of the most geothermally active areas in Colorado, Pagosa Springs makes for an excellent spring getaway. If you’re looking for where to go in Colorado in spring to thaw out, then visit one of the 7 hot springs in Pagosa Springs.

The middle of town is literally steaming with hot bubbly water just waiting to thaw you out. Temperatures can still be a little cold, but it’s an excellent way to enjoy the snowy mountains without completely freezing your butt off.

Local Tip: Plan a trip around a new moon to enjoy some of the darkest skies in the state.

51. Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

If you’re looking for where to go in Colorado to catch a bit of drama, then the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is a must-see. Hiking along the Royal Gorge Canyon is completely free, but for a small fee you can walk across the highest suspension bridge in the States.

The adventure park offers an array of adrenaline-pumping activities. Ziplines, bungee swings, and one of the top Colorado via Ferrata are all additional ways to soar high above the canyon floor.

Local Tip: Avid sport climbers will want to check out nearby Shelf Road. The Bank Campground is a great spot for an early season night under the stars too.

52. Go Rock Climbing, Hiking and Shopping in Boulder

Located just 40-minutes from downtown Denver, the city of Boulder offers up a fun way to spend the day.

Hit the trails with some scenic Boulder hikes . The Flatirons are a popular choice. You’ll find enormous rock fins that jut sky-high from the hillside. Or tackle the tough Royal Arch trail.

Or hire a guide and check out one of the classic Eldorado Canyon climbing routes . Eldorado State Park is home to some of the best rock climbing in Colorado . Experienced climbers should absolutely test their skills in Eldo.

Being suspended from ropes isn’t your thing? No worries! Stop to shop at the Pearl Street Mall or float down the rapid-filled Boulder Canyon.

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53. Grand Junction

Often one of the warmest places in Colorado for spring, Grand Junction is totally worth a visit. The nearby Colorado National Monument hosts an array of the most beautiful hiking trails in Grand Junction . Spring and fall are the two best times to visit.

If you’re into single track, nearby Fruita is home to some of the most engaging mountain biking in the Centennial State. Palisade, home to Colorado’s famous peaches and wineries, is also a happening place. For a scenic drive, take a tour of Unaweep Canyon.

54. The Denver Botanical Gardens

Throughout the spring (particularly in April) the Denver Botanical Gardens comes to life. Come enjoy the splashes of color in April during the annual bulb bloom. With over 10,000 bulbs planted throughout the gardnes, it’s a celebration of spring.

Other Places to Visit in Colorado

55. larimer square.

The allure of downtown Denver is almost as appealing as the state’s natural beauty.

Nowhere can this be better seen then in Larimer Square, which is home to the city’s original historic district,

This enchanting block lies just a 10-minute stroll from Union Station and is filled with a quaint ensemble of boutiques and restaurants that are just waiting to be enjoyed.

56. Rattlesnake Canyon Arches

Rattlesnake Canyon Arches is home to a collection of over 35 natural sandstone arches that lie hidden within this massive, 123,400-acre preserve.

Situated near the Utah and Colorado border, this incredible natural area is home to the second-largest concentration of natural arches in the world.

But, unlike Utah’s Arches National Park, visitors can enjoy these amazing formations without purchasing a park pass or dealing with tons of tourists.

57. Denver Union Station

Many cities in the USA have a central train station. However, Denver has reimagined their transit center as a vibrant center for urban life.

This grandiose Beaux-Arts building from 1914 is home to a collection of ten restaurants and bars, as well as an exclusive boutique hotel, and several retail outlets.

So, after enjoying all of the local fare on offer, travelers can board a bus, take the light rail, or catch an Amtrak train to their next destination.

58. Crestone

Easily one of the most unique towns in Colorado, Crestone is a small, close-knit community of fewer than 150 residents who are dedicated to eco-friendly practices and spiritual pursuits.

Scattered throughout the town are numerous homes designed for off-the-grid living, along with several spiritual facilities and landmarks, including the Crestone Mountain Zen Center and the Tashi Gomang Stupa.

59. Amache National Historic Site

The Amache National Historic Site in eastern Colorado was once known as the Granada Relocation Center or simply Camp Amache.

This site was the forced home of thousands of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated without just cause during World War II.

It stands today as a testament to the stories of over 10,000 individuals, most of whom were American citizens, whose lives were forever changed because of their forced placement into that camp.

What is the Number 1 Attraction in Colorado?

Rocky Mountain National Park sees roughly 4.5 million visitors a year. In fact, it’s the fourth busiest national park in the country. The dramatic rocky peaks, stunning alpine meadows, and abundant wildlife make Rocky the number 1 attraction in Colorado.

What is the Number 2 Attraction in Colorado?

The number 2 attraction in Colorado is Garden of the Gods which receives around 4 million visitors annually.

What Place do People visit the Most in Colorado?

The place that people visit the most in Colorado is Rocky Mountain National Park.

After all, this park receives around 4.5 million visitors each year – people who want to visit Estes Park, Grand Lake, and everything in between.

What is the Most Beautiful Town in Colorado?

The most beautiful town in Colorado is a hotly debated topic. Many locals fiercely defend their hometown’s beauty, and to be honest, there are many to choose from. Ouray often gets high marks, while nearby Telluride and Silverton are also stunning. Crested Butte holds its own as one of the prettiest places in Colorado .

What is the Prettiest Place in Colorado?

When it comes to finding the most beautiful places in Colorado, there are many different places to explore. The most stunning place I’ve ever seen is actually 3 miles from a trail, deep in the Colorado wilderness and is largely inaccessible to most people.

However, when it comes to the prettiest places in Colorado, there are a few postcard-perfect places you can check out that don’t require 10 miles of aggressive, off-trail hiking to reach. Here are a few of the prettiest places in the Centennial State:

  • Hanging Lake (Glenwood Springs)
  • Maroon Lake (Aspen)
  • Emerald Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)
  • Dallas Divide (San Juan Mountains)
  • Red Rocks Amphitheatre (Morrison/Denver)
  • Crystal Mill (Marble)
  • Kebler Pass (Crested Butte)
  • Lone Eagle Peak (Indian Peaks Wilderness)
  • Gore Lake (Vail)
  • Ice Lake Basin (Ouray)

How Many Days Should I Spend in Colorado?

You could spend a lifetime exploring all of the amazing places to visit in Colorado. Trust me, I’ve been here for 12 years and I’m still getting to know the Centennial State.

If you’re short on time, you can hit some of the highlights with just four days in Colorado . However, I would recommend spending at least one week in Colorado in order to really see the diversity in the landscape. Two weeks would be epic and you’d certainly be able to visit off-the-beaten-path places in Colorado.

Planning a Trip to Colorado? Get more local resources

Headed to Colorado this summer? I’ve got a ton of resources to help you plan:

  • Amazing free camping near Denver
  • Visiting Denver Like a Local

best places to see in colorado

Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

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Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.

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Perfect Colorado Road Trip Itinerary: 22 Stops You Need to See

Posted on Published: June 21, 2023  - Last updated: January 5, 2024

The state of Colorado is a little bit magical. From the stunning Rocky Mountains, alpine lakes, adorable mountain towns and adventure around every corner, this state is unlike any other! Here’s an ultimate Colorado road trip guide that takes you to the top places to see and things to do in Colorado.

colorado road trip itinerary picture of large lake with mountains and trees on partly cloudy day

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Colorado trip planning is no easy task – there’s so much to see and do – how do you even begin to start?!

Including all the best places to vacation in Colorado, this guide is perfect if you’re looking for a Colorado road trip. You can customize your trip based on the length of your vacation. Pick and choose from the activities and road trip stops below.

To see it all, you’d need a minimum of 3 weeks, which would be an amazing Colorado road trip! This Colorado itinerary starts and ends in cities, but let’s be honest – a visit to Colorado is meant to be explored outdoors! With some activities for winter and others for summer, spring and fall, this itinerary will work in any season.

Colorado road trip map

If you choose to do all 22 stops on this Colorado itinerary, here’s the best route to take. Depending on where you’re traveling from, you can join the loop at any point. 🙂

This Colorado road trip route starts in Boulder and ends in Denver. But if you’re flying into Colorado, it’s best to rent a car in Denver and then drive to Boulder to start your journey.

By the way, I recommend searching for a rental car with Discover Cars . It’s a free search tool that finds the best rate from all the major rental companies. I typically save 10-30% using Discover Cars !

Road trip Colorado: what to pack

view of the Rocky Mountains with field trees and snow capped mountain peaks

Here are some road trip essentials you might want to take into consideration as you plan a trip to Colorado…

  • Collapsible cooler. Perfect for traveling this cooler folds down and pops up when you need to keep food and beverages cold.
  • Sunscreen and layers . No matter what time of year you visit Colorado, you’ll want to add or peel off layers as you adventure around these amazing destinations. And at this high of elevation, you’ll need sunscreen to protect your skin.
  • GoPro. Take beautiful action photos and videos from your car, while hiking or sightseeing with a GoPro camera . It’s perfect for smooth videos, but also allows you to save your phone battery.
  • Satellite communicator. Driving through the mountains and more remote parts of Colorado, you’ll run into a lot of the state that’s not within cell phone range. This satellite communicator allows for 2-way communication in the case of an emergency. Use it on a hiking trail, in a national park or road where there’s no cell phone service.
  • Hiking gear. If you’re even thinking about stepping foot on a trail, come prepared! Proper hiking boots and moisture-wicking hiking socks , trekking poles and hiking backpack will go a long way in ensuring you’re comfortable while hiking and are adequately prepared.
  • First aid kit. Keep it in your car or hiking backpack for just-in-case situations. You just never know!

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Ultimate Colorado itinerary and road trip stops

Are you ready to see the best places to vacation in Colorado and an awesome route that takes you through the state? There’s truly so many things to see and do in Colorado!

Let’s dive in!

Start in Boulder, Colorado

road trip colorado with rock slab mountains with trees and field in foreground

Recommended time: 1 day

From Denver, hop in a car and head straight to Boulder – just 45 minutes away. Boulder is known as a food scene, the place to be for cold brews, and a gateway to the mountains, Boulder is a good time.

It’s got a cute and lively downtown that seems to be busy year-round, too!

Best things to do in Boulder

  • Visit Pearl Street Mall. Watch street performers, shop cute boutique stores, grab some ice cream or people watch on one of the best downtown spots in all of Colorado.
  • Do a tasting at a brewery or microbrewery. Boulder has more breweries per capita than any other city in the US, so you’ll likely find a good one. 🙂 Here’s some Boulder Breweries to check out.
  • Hike or climb the Flatirons. A sight to see in real life, these giant tilted rock slabs are beyond impressive. The Mesa Trail is 13 miles and will take you past the best flatirons.
  • Visit Eldorado Canyon State Park. View really cool landscapes and a great spot for a picnic, hike, climb, kayaking or paddle boarding. Note: check the official website for timed entry reservation days.
  • Food! With over 300 restaurants, there’s plenty to choose from! We decided on tacos on a rooftop bar after a day exploring the area…perfection!

Speaking of food, the best road trips have great snacks! Check out the 101 Road Trip Food Ideas: Best Fun and Healthy Snacks You’ll Love

Estes Park (road trip Colorado: gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park)

colorado road trip sign on rock that reads Estes Park

Estes Park, Colorado is a fun mountain town best known for y ear-round outdoor activities. From snowshoeing to skiing, hiking and zip lining, Estes Park has something for everyone.

Since Estes Park is neighbors to Rocky Mountain National Park, the scenery is pretty incredible.

If you’e up for a thrill, head over to the the Stanley Hotel. It’s one of America’s most haunted hotels and was the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining . (I honestly wasn’t brave enough for this adventure during my time in Estes Park!)

Rocky Mountain National Park and Trail Ridge Road (a Colorado itinerary favorite)

colorado trip planning view of road and Rocky Mountains with jagged peaks and trees

Recommended time: 1-3 days

It’s the kind of place that takes your breath away. Rocky Mountain National Park is beautiful beyond measure , and a place that you could spend a week exploring without getting bored.

But since this is a Colorado road trip itinerary, let’s keep it to 1-3 days, okay?

From Estes Park to the next destination in Grand Lake, you’ll take Highway 34 right through the Park, also called Trail Ridge Road. And it’s got to be one of the most beautiful drives in the state!

So popular, that the National Park Service is now requiring timed entry reservations for a majority of the time the road is open (it’s closed during winter). This will take a bit more planning in advance, so be sure to factor this in with your Colorado trip planning.

colorado road trip itinerary view of river and trees in Rocky Mountain national park

Top things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Hiking! There’s over 350 miles of hiking trails in the park – just pack your bear spray !
  • Visit – or swim in – a gorgeous lake. Bear Lake, Adams Falls, or Sprague Lake are really beautiful.
  • Witness the alpine tundra at the Alpine Visitor Center. We visited the park in late June and found many, many feet of snow still packed on the mountainside at the visitor center. While you’re there, make sure to hike the Alpine Ridge Trail to see the summit at 12,000 feet!

Pro tip: pack layers for Rocky Mountain National Park (my favorite travel pieces, merino wool , is perfect for this). Even if you’re just driving through for the day, at over 11,000 feet in elevation, getting out of your car is cold even in the hottest parts of summer.

Visit the quaint town of Grand Lake, during your Colorado road trip

colorado itinerary 5 days view of woman and small child kayaking with bridge and mountains in distance

Recommended time: 1-2 days

This picturesque town in Colorado is often overlooked by tourists – which is part of the appeal in my opinion! Grand Lake offers gorgeous lake and mountain views (it’s neighbors to Rocky Mountain National Park, after all) and is a quiet little village.

Walk the main street for little shops and restaurants. Or buy a souvenir to remember this amazing Colorado road trip adventure you’re on! Oh, and the ice cream shop in town is to die for so make sure you grab a cone while you’re there.

My favorite thing to do on Grand Lake is spend time on the water! Kayak the lakes and canals – it might just be the highlight of your trip!

Pro tip: rent kayaks, paddle boards, pedal boats or even motor boats in advance as they sell out quickly in such a small town. Grand Lake water rentals here.

Colorado road trip continued – Central Colorado

Ok, so this adventure has explored some fun parts of northern Colorado – if you choose to add them to your Colorado itinerary! More scenic spots ahead!

Hit the slopes in Keystone, CO

road trip Colorado view of skier on snowy mountainside slope

Get your skis or board ready to experience some of the best skiing in the country! If you love being on the snow, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado is the place to do it.

For the purposes of this article I chose Keystone, but there’s a ton of spots to ski right off I-70. Breckenridge, Aspen and Vail are popular ski resorts, too. Just make sure to rent equipment and make reservations well in advance during peak ski season.

My first (and only) snowboarding experience was in the Rocky Mountains, and I’d highly recommend it!

Beautiful Colorado road trip spot: Dillon Reservoir

Recommended time: 1/2 to 1 day

If you like water activities, Dillon Reservoir is the place to be. A huge lake with the perfect mountain backdrop, Dillon Lake is gorgeous.

Kayaking or boating, hiking or bike riding, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. I highly recommend renting bikes and riding the trails around the lake for a unique Colorado experience!

colorado road trip itinerary view of lake through trees on sunny day

One of the coolest things to do in Dillon is hike the Sapphire Point Overlook Trail. It’s more of a walk than a hike, and offers beautiful views of the lake. Best time to go is the middle of a sunny day with the sun overhead for truly sapphire colored water.

Be sure to head out to one of the local breweries in town for some brews, pizza or burgers to wind down the day. Such an amazing stop during this road trip Colorado!

Year-round adventure in Frisco, Colorado

colorado itinerary with view of lake at sunset

Head to Frisco for all things adventure in Colorado! Of course there’s skiing, but there’s also tubing, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, a dirt bike track, disc golfing, kayaking and hiking.

So basically, if you like being outdoors you’ll love Frisco! With plenty of options for accommodations and dining, this is a perfect one-day stop on an epic Colorado road trip.

Frisco is especially known as a winter destination for tubing and cross-country skiing in the winter. It’s the perfect stop for Colorado trip planning in the wintertime.

Experience Vail, Colorado

building with wood shutters and water fountain in foreground with people near

Vail, Colorado is the largest ski mountain in Colorado and it’s one of the bigger tourist spots on this list . Aside from mountain adventures, this town hosts lots of annual events and festivals, so there’s always something to do in Vail.

Vail is an excellent spot to enjoy a more luxurious side of Colorado. Find your zen at a yoga class or spa. Stay at one of the nicest resorts in all of Colorado, overlooking the gorgeous Rockies.

plan a trip to Colorado with woman standing in front of colorful butterfly mural

Head on over to Vail Village to experience for dining and shopping. Grab an ice cream cone at Sundae and walk the village.

Oh, and hit the slopes in over 5200 acres of terrain. If you’re into snowboarding or skiing, Vail is a great spot for it!

Sylvan Lake State Park (another favorite place to vacation in Colorado)

colorado road trip with blue lake green trees and mountains

Okay, okay. This might be one of the most beautiful places in Colorado! I got the pleasure of spending a week exploring Sylvan Lake State Park a few years ago and honestly, I loved every minute of it.

If you’re looking for a more rustic vacation, try one of the cabins, yurts or campsites. Then rent kayaks or paddle boards on the lake and soak in the views!

Try the Sylvan Lake Trail or Sneve Gulch Trail for the best views of Sylvan Lake! Hiking through trails of Aspen trees is super fun, too. Just remember to pack your bear spray , hiking shoes and plenty of water.

Pro tip: if you’re planning to do any hiking in Colorado, be prepared with the right gear. These hiking shoes are my favorite and super grippy with ankle support. And trekking poles will definitely help you with those steep inclines, plus they’re compact too.

Perfect Colorado itinerary – heading west

As you transition from the jagged Rocky Mountains to the fun western part of the state, the landscape begins to change. With generally warmer weather, these destinations and activities will have you Colorado trip planning allll the places you can fit into your timeline!

Cross Hanging Lake off your bucket list

7 day colorado road trip itinerary with waterfalls down slope into teal lake

Recommended time: 1/2 day

I’ve already covered some beautiful places, and yet there’s more! Hanging Lake is one of the most uniquely gorgeous lakes in all of Colorado, and is extremely popular. Because of the beautiful lake’s allure, it’s accessible by permit only.

Schedule your hike weeks in advance during the summer months as it fills up fast. This trail is 2.4 miles round trip and it’s got a steep incline. You’re rewarded with a gorgeous view of this geologic gem! It’s so beautiful and such a unique experience, you’ll have fun crossing it off your Colorado bucket list .

Make reservations for Hanging Lake here .

Go hiking in Glenwood Canyon

colorado road trip view of river through canyon on sunny day

Recommended time: 1/2 day to 1 day

The Glenwood Canyon area is one of my favorite spots in all of Colorado. Interstate 70 west of Denver runs along the Colorado River and both cut right through the canyon. And while the drive through the canyon is beautiful, seeing it while hiking is even better .

Best Glenwood Canyon hiking trails

  • Glenwood Canyon Overlook Trail, 3.2 miles
  • Glenwood Springs Boy Scout Trail, 6.2 miles
  • Glenwood Canyon Trail, 14.3 miles
  • Grizzly Creek Trail, 7.9 miles
  • Wulfsohn Trail, 2.9 miles
  • Jess Weaver Trail, 9 miles
  • Doc Holiday Grave Trail, .7 miles
  • Babbish Gulch, 3.2 miles
  • Lookout Mountain Trail, 11 miles

Colorado itinerary continues: get hot in Glenwood Springs

large hot spring pool in mountain scene with red buildings nearby

The biggest thing that brings tourists to Glenwood Springs is the natural hot springs. Visit the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, which is the largest mineral hot springs in the world!

I’ve visited the hot springs in both winter and summer, and both seasons are fun. Make sure to get there early during summer and weekends, as the pool fills up quickly. Find out more about the Hot Springs Pool here .

Colorado itinerary view of downtown buildings with umbrellas for eating under on sunny day

While you’re in Glenwood Springs, make sure you check out the downtown historic district . It’s a great spot for street performers and to grab a bite to eat.

Speaking of which, I had the best tacos of my entire life at Slope and Hatch. They’ve received accolades from Travel & Leisure and Insider as one of the top taco places in the US. More on that here .

Colorado road trip with kids? Visit Fruita!

two dinosaurs on large boxes with sign that reads dinosaur journey

Recommended time: up to 1/2 day

The town of Fruita is relatively small, but for kids it’s an adventure land! One of the main attractions is Dinosaur Journey Museum.

It’s an interactive museum showcasing over 15,000 fossils, a dig site where kids can search for bones, visit a real paleontology lab, see robotic dinosaurs and more. My favorite is the Triceratops skull, which is possibly the largest ever found on earth.

Check out the Dinosaur Journey Museum’s Facebook page for the latest discoveries and event information.

Visit an icon: Colorado National Monument (must-do on this Colorado road trip itinerary)

rocky structures and canyon with cloudy sky above

By the time you drive to Colorado National Monument, Colorado, you’re no longer in the mountains – you’re in the desert! In fact, it’s one of the best stops on a Denver to Moab road trip as well!

Located near Grand Junction, on the western edge of the state, Colorado National Monument is the 2nd nationally protected on this list.

You could probably spend days exploring Colorado National Monument, but to see the highlights, make sure to take the scenic road – Rim Rock Drive . With 19 viewpoints in just 23 miles, it offers some of the best views in Colorado!

Other things to do Colorado National Monument

  • Catch views of Monument Canyon
  • Hike Devil’s Kitchen, 1.5 miles
  • Window Rock
  • Balanced Rock
  • Independence Monument View
  • Cold Shivers Point
  • Hike the Canyon Rim Trail, 1.8 miles

Road trip Colorado – southern part of the state

While there’s simply too many good spots in Colorado to cover them all, here are the highlights of the southern part of the state. And the perfect way to loop back around to the starting point, with plenty of adventures along the way.

Let’s keep going!

Next Colorado road trip stop: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Colorado road trip view of black canyon of the gunnison with flat top deep canyon with black sides

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a huge park split up into 3 sections – South Rim, North Rim and East Portal. For the purposes of this Colorado itinerary, we’re going to focus on the South Rim section.

This national park is jaw-dropping beautiful, and to be honest, not for those afraid of heights! Many hiking trails and even the road is right beside steep drop offs, so use caution in this park.

One of my favorite parts of this park is the fact that it’s one of the least visited parks in Colorado. So it’s not packed with people, even during peak season! Making this park one of the best places to vacation in Colorado .

Top sights and things to do at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

  • Take the 7-mile South Rim Drive
  • Painted Wall Overlook
  • Hike Rim Rock Nature Trail, 1 mile
  • Devil’s Lookout
  • Pulpit Rock Overlook
  • Hike Oak Flat Loop Trail, 1.3 miles
  • Stay until dark and stargaze – it’s an international dark sky park!

Pro tip: if you’re planning to visit all the national parks on this list, be sure to get an annual pass – America the Beautiful pass – through the National Park Service. It allows you access to all National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands for 12 months, which is a bargain if you plan to visit 3 or more.

I’ve used mine all across Colorado, but also while hiking Avalanche Lake Trail in Glacier National Park, while visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park and underrated national monuments like Petroglyph and Bandelier in New Mexico.

Drive the Million Dollar Highway: Ouray to Silverton

colorado itinerary 7 days view of road through colorful fall trees and mountain in distance

Recommended time: 1 hour

If you’re looking for a scenic drive in Colorado , this is it! Highway 550 from Ouray to Silverton is part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway and if you’re on the best Colorado road trip ever, this needs to be part of the journey!

You’ll experience hairpin turns, jagged cliffs, fun lookouts that will leave you breathless. And all in less than 25 miles of road!

Bonus if you take this road in the fall with the gorgeous changing leaves. It’s truly one of the best scenic drives in all of the U.S.!

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (underrated stop on this Colorado itinerary)

wavy sand dunes and puffs of green bushes

Home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, this place is beyond impressive! And let me tell ya, if you have some adventure in you, this is a great stop for your Colorado road trip itinerary!

One of the best things to do at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is sand sledding and sand boarding! Specifically designed to help you fly down sand hills, make sure you rent the right gear! Here’s more info for renting sand sleds and such .

More adventurous things to do in Great Sand Dunes National Park

  • Go off-roading up the scenic Medano Pass Primitive Road (4-wheel drive necessary!)
  • Camp with the best view of the stars!
  • Hike to Zapata Falls, 0.9 miles

This is such an underrated stop on this Colorado road trip, but a fun adventure for all ages!

White water rafting down the Arkansas River

colorado road trip in Canon City CO with suspension bridge and mountains in distance

One of my first trips I took with girlfriends was a white-water rafting adventure trip in Colorado. The Arkansas River is powerful and impressive!

There are many great options for white-water rafting in Colorado . Perhaps one of the coolest spots is taking a trip down the Arkansas River under the Royal Gorge Bridge near Canon City, Colorado.

Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in the U.S. Seeing it from underneath is a whole new perspective, too! More on the bridge, here .

Back to rafting…you can take a half or whole day rafting trip . Whole day trips include lunch and typically let you experience more views of the canyon, wildlife and of course the river.

Pro tip: most rafting companies only operate May 1st – September 30th, so make sure your trip is in this window if you’re wanting to raft down a river.

More on this Colorado road trip itinerary

The last stretch of this Colorado road trip is just as fun as the rest of it! With mountain views, city activities and a few more surprises, this beautiful is continuing to steal our hearts during this epic Colorado vacation!

Hang out with giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

young giraffe with orange spots and green trees behind

Ranked one of the top 10 zoos in the country , the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo does not disappoint! I’ve visited the zoo multiple times and the animal interactions are unique and fun. Feeding the giraffes is a must-do in this zoo!

The zoo is open year-round and has indoor and outdoor exhibits, perfect for even a winter Colorado road trip! Just a note though – there’s lots of hills so be prepared for a good walk when visiting the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

You can enjoy as little as an hour visiting this zoo, or spend 1/2 day or more. It’s a fun spot for all ages on this road trip Colorado.

Visit Garden of the Gods (classic stop on this Colorado road trip itinerary)

stacked red rocks at Garden of the Gods CO Springs

No Colorado road trip is complete without a visit to Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs ! You could spend a day (or more) hiking the trails and checking out the scenery, but for this Colorado itinerary let’s keep it to a day.

For a simple hike with tons of scenery, I’d recommend the Perkins Central Garden Trail. It’ relatively flat and is about 1.5 miles. The best way to see the park is though the walking trails so plan to spend some time here checking out the scenery.

If you have a bit more time, you can hike the Siamese Twins Garden of the Gods . This scenic trail has fun views of funky rock formations, and overlooks the park and Pikes Peak.

Bonus: Garden of the Gods is free!

Colorado Springs is one of the best places to visit in August , so if you happen to be planning your adventure in late summer, you’re going to love it!

Epic views at Pikes Peak (a Colorado itinerary must-see)

curvy mountain road with snow and red rock above tree line

Nicknamed America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak is a must-do on a trip to Colorado. With an elevation of over 14,000 feet, if you choose to drive you’ll have quite the climb!

Many people take a car up to the view point and visitor center. If you’re maybe not quite comfortable ascending 8,000 feet up from Colorado Springs, you can opt to take a guided tour .

Oh, and expect the viewpoints to be crowded. Nearly 6 million people visit Pikes Peak each year. Starting your route early in the morning may help to beat the crowds!

Pro tip: pack your layers here. I visited in the middle of summer and wasn’t as prepared as I could have been. Learn from my mistake, okay?

Book a photo shoot: The best souvenir, booking a photo shoot while traveling preserves memories of your vacation! I love Flytographer because the photo sessions are fun, easy and affordable. you can get $25 off if you book through this link .

Colorado road trip – Denver

downtown denver buildings with clock tower

Alright so no Colorado road trip itinerary is complete without some time in Denver. There’s about a million things to do in Denver, so it can be hard to choose what to do!

Each time I’ve vacationed in Denver, I made a visit to the 16th Street Mall in downtown. It’s the perfect spot for dining, bar-hopping, shopping and people watching. An outdoor pedestrian mall, 16th street is a mile long that offers a free shuttle, stopping at every block. So hop on and off as you please.

denver street with cafes and flags overhead

More things to do in Denver

  • Denver Botanical Gardens
  • Union Station
  • Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
  • Enjoy a brewery or microbrewery
  • Art District on Santa Fe

As you finish your time in Denver, you can loop back up to Boulder, drive home or back to the airport to fly out. What an amazing adventure, right?!

Colorado itinerary: where will you go on your road trip?

lake and mountains reflecting in water at sunset

Okay so now that you’ve seen all 22 Colorado road trip stops, which do you like best? I mean, with all the stuff to do in Colorado, you really can’t go wrong! I hope you have an amazing road trip with plenty of scenic drives too. 🙂

Comment below on which spots you think you’ll hit – I’m dying to know!

Don’t forget, if you’re planning to rent a car for this epic Colorado road trip, check out the cheap rates on Discover Cars . I typically save 10-30%, which can really add up! They search top car carriers to find the best deal, at no extra cost to you. Check rental car rates here

Related: Summer in Breckenridge: 30 Amazing Things to Do (Plus What to Know Before You Go) 26 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Dillon, CO Breckenridge Troll in Colorado: Everything You Need to Know Denver to Moab: 16 Scenic Stops You Gotta See to Believe 101 Road Trip Snack Ideas You’ll Love 15 Essentials to Pack on a Road Trip with Kids

Find this article helpful? Save it for later or share it on social media!

ultimate guide Colorado road trip 22 amazing places to visit with mountain photos, rock structure and ice cream cone

Sunday 25th of June 2023

I did a cross country national park road trip before the pandemic and Rocky Mountain National Park was one of my favorite parks (I made it to 22 of em' so it's saying something! :P ). I loved my time in Colorado and hope to go back again someday to visit!! Saving this for when I do!

Monday 26th of June 2023

Oh awesome Farra! Yes, RMNP is amazing. And wow what an adventure that sounded like. Hope you make it back soon!

Sunday 7th of August 2022

I have a trip coming up. 6 days to spend and a lot to cover. This list definitely helps. I have most of the spots from this list in my itinerary.

Tuesday 9th of August 2022

Oh I'm so glad to hear that Akash! I hope you have a fabulous time touring Colorado. It's such an incredible state.

Friday 23rd of July 2021

I'm going on a solo Road Trip to Colorado for 2 weeks in September. I'm so excited. Your article has given me a lot of places that I plan to hit now. I swim EVERY day, so I'm hoping to find places to swim each day of my trip. I hope that will not be hard to do. I'm an ice swimmer so if it's cold that's not an issue. Ha ha. I even plan to stay a night at The Stanley Hotel.

Sunday 25th of July 2021

Thanks so much for your comment - I'm so glad you found the post helpful! I love that you booked a night in the Stanley Hotel - such an iconic spot! I hope you have a wonderful time in Colorado!

Valerie Giacoma Wolenberg

Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

Planning a trip for August! Thanks for all the tips! Staying in Winter Park as our base.

Very cool, Valerie! You'll love Winter Park...and the rest of Colorado! Glad you found this post helpful :)

Wednesday 9th of December 2020

I've been pleased to learn about your journey with this blog post. I loved the photos that you have shared. And I am feeling fly to Colorado as soon as possible.

Friday 11th of December 2020

That's so great, Elisa. I hope you get to make it to Colorado soon :)

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Colorado One Week Itinerary in Summer

Posted by Guest Blogger | Updated on Jan 1, 2024 | Published on Jul 2, 2023 | Colorado | 0

Colorado One Week Itinerary in Summer

We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

Guest post by Dom of Colorado Quests

Colorado is a prime destination for a summer trip, thanks to its warm weather, clear skies, and stunning mountain scenery. From outdoor adventure to quaint mountain towns, there is something for everyone, and this Colorado one-week itinerary for summer will help you maximize your time. 

In this post, I cover everything you need to know to have an incredible time on your summer trip to Colorado. 

Colorado One Week Itinerary 

Colorado is a large state, so it isn’t possible to visit everything it has to offer in one week. But, it is plenty of time to see many of the gems in Colorado and get a great sense of the wide variety of activities available. 

To limit the amount of time you need to spend in the car, this itinerary is designed to only require one hour of driving each day. It provides a good mix of participating in outdoor activities and exploring cities and towns so that any type of traveler will enjoy their time. 

Let’s dive into the ultimate Colorado one-week summer itinerary. 

Colorado One Week Itinerary for Summer | The Common Traveler | image: skyline of Denver at sunset

Day 1: Arrival and Explore Denver

For those traveling to Colorado by plane, Denver International Airport (DIA) is the best airport to fly into. As one of the largest airports in the world by land area, it services flights from all around the globe and provides easy access to Denver. Uber, shuttles, or taxis can bring you to your hotel from Denver, which will take about 45 minutes.

Road trippers can easily access Denver from several major highways that pass through the city — I-25 runs north to south, and I-70 runs east to west. When you arrive, take some time to relax before heading downtown to grab a bite to eat and have a drink. 

16th Street Mall has abundant options for dining and shopping, where you are sure to find something that suits your tastes. A trolley passes through the area, and a large walking corridor accommodates the large crowds of pedestrians that visit each night. 

After a fun night out, get some much-needed rest to ensure you are prepared for the coming days. 

Colorado One Week Itinerary for Summer | The Common Traveler | image: panoramic platform at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Day 2: Golden Gate Canyon State Park

On day two, head to one of Colorado’s top state parks to experience the beauty of the Colorado mountains in the summer. Golden Gate Canyon State Park is over 12,000 acres, and it is home to more than 35 miles of multi-use trails. 

Hiking through the park is one of the most fun activities, with options for every skill level. If you are an experienced hiker, Mule Deer Trail Loop is one of the best long hikes that takes you past many impressive sights. Snowshoe Hare Trail is a mellow loop that is a great option for a more laid-back hike. 

Panorama Point is a must-see stop, which you can drive directly to without needing to hike in. From here, you will have stunning panoramic views of many notable peaks of the Rocky Mountains, including Longs Peak, Mount Evans, and Grays Peak. 

Anglers will find plenty of places to cast a line — Dude’s Fishing Hole and Slough Pond are two of the best fishing spots. The ponds are regularly stocked during the summer with rainbow trout, so you have a good shot at catching something during your visit. Note that a Colorado Fishing License is required, which you can purchase online before your trip or at the visitor center when you arrive. 

When you work up an appetite, head to one of the several picnic areas in the park to unwind and enjoy a meal in nature. Red Barn Group Picnic Area and Round the Bend are both great options, where you will find many covered picnic tables and amenities. 

When the day comes to a close, there are several options for spending the night in the park. Reverend’s Ridge Campground offers tent sites, RV sites, cabins, and yurts, along with all the amenities you will need, such as bathrooms, showers, and a laundry facility. For a unique experience, check out the Harmsen Ranch Guest House, which can accommodate up to 8 people. 

Colorado One Week Itinerary for Summer | The Common Traveler | image: overlook at Staunton State Park

Day 3: Staunton State Park 

Day three has more fun outdoor activities in store at another one of Colorado’s picturesque state parks. Staunton State Park is located just past the idyllic mountain town of Conifer, and it provides access to a ton of fun things to do. 

Twenty-nine miles of trails offer the opportunity to go hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding. One of the most iconic destinations in the park is Elk Falls. Stop by the base of this waterfall to get up close, or pass by the overlook for a different perspective. Along the way, you will pass by Elk Falls Pond, where a colony of marmots lives, so keep an eye out for these furry animals roaming around the area. 

Another can’t-miss spot is Eagle Cliff Overlook which provides an expansive view of lush forest, craggy rock formations, and towering mountains. This is one of the best spots in the park to take pictures, so be sure to bring your camera. 

A unique attraction in Staunton State Park is its archery range, where you can test your aim at one of the 17 lanes. A short walk along Mason Creek Trail will bring you there from the lower parking lot, and you can use the facility at no extra charge. 

If you are up for the challenge, there are many areas throughout the park where you can try your hand at rock climbing. Fixed hardware and predetermined routes are easy to follow, and there are a range of difficulties to choose from. Staunton Rocks climbing area features the most routes, while Raven Wall and Dines Wall are two other popular choices. 

Colorado One Week Itinerary for Summer | The Common Traveler | image: Twin Lakes outside Buena Vista

Day 4: Buena Vista and Twin Lakes

After your introduction to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in two state parks, travel further into the mountains on day four where you will be impressed by the vastness of larger peaks. Buena Vista is a small town that has plenty of charm, making it a fun area to explore. 

Options for lodging include bed and breakfasts and hotels, while you can find cuisine ranging from sushi to sandwiches at the restaurants downtown. Walk along the sidewalk and take your pick of whichever one catches your eye. 

During your time here, you will see several summits that are higher than 14,000 feet and make up the group known as the Collegiate Peaks. Meanwhile, the nearby Arkansas River beckons visitors to raft, fish, and swim. 

In the middle of the day, when the weather heats up, make the short trip north to Twin Lakes, where crystal-clear water awaits. Take a dip to cool off, or walk along the banks and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. 

Taking Interlaken Trail is the best way to stroll around the lake, and it makes for an easy hike since there is very little elevation gain. Mountain View Observation Site is the place to head if you are in a hurry since it provides fantastic sights and is easily accessible from the main road. 

Colorado One Week Itinerary for Summer | The Common Traveler | image: street view of Leadsville

Day 5: Leadville

An old silver and gold mining town, Leadville is steeped in history. Seventy blocks of its downtown area are designated as a National Historic Landmark thanks to the remnants of its past that can still be seen today. 

The walking tour is the perfect way to learn about the history of the town since it passes by many of the notable landmarks. Old churches, saloons, and an opera house are some of the highlights of the tour, which transports you back to the age when this was a bustling city. 

For more sites to explore, pay a visit to the Dexter Cabin and Healy House Museum, the House with the Eye Museum, and the Tabor Home. To get active, make your way to the Mineral Belt Trail, an 11.6-mile ADA-accessible path where you will have stellar views the whole way. As an added bonus, there is an outdoor museum nearby where you can learn more about the area. 

Back in town, local eats and brews are easy to find, and you can enjoy a meal on the patio outside at many of them. An evening stroll through the streets is the perfect way to end the day as temperatures will cool down to an ideal level. 

Colorado One Week Itinerary for Summer | The Common Traveler | image: View of Vail in summer from mountain side

Day 6: Vail 

Day six has a lot in store at the iconic town of Vail. Although known as one of the premier ski resorts in the world, Vail doesn’t shut down in the summer. In fact, many visitors flock to the area during the warmer months to take advantage of the unique combination of outdoor activities and luxurious accommodations. 

A can’t-miss activity is riding the scenic gondola that carries you to over 10,000 feet, where you will have sweeping views of the valley, access to hiking, and several options for dining. Dangling above the land below is a thrilling experience that gives you a whole new perspective on the surrounding terrain. 

Fun for the whole family is found at Epic Discovery, which is an adventure center with a ton of thrilling activities. A flying coaster, zipline, climbing wall, and bungee trampoline all promise to get your adrenaline pumping and leave you feeling energized. 

As a renowned destination, Vail has high-class hotels and spas. This is your chance to treat yourself to a memorable stay at one of the many extravagant establishments and fully experience all that Vail has to offer. 

Colorado One Week Itinerary for Summer | The Common Traveler | image: wood cabin door in Golden

Day 7: Golden and departure 

On your final day, stop by Golden before you depart to get a taste of this bustling town. Kids will love the Colorado Railroad Museum, which features many historic trains and educational programs. Another stop to check out is the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, where you will learn about one of the most iconic figures of the Wild West who is buried at the nearby Lookout Mountain.

When you are ready for a bite to eat, stroll around downtown for some window shopping and stop into one of the several boutiques if something catches your eye. This is your chance to buy any last-minute gifts or souvenirs that you want to bring home with you. 

Breweries, both large and small, are an integral part of the culture in Golden. Choose a local craft brewery to be welcomed by friendly staff and try their tasty specials. Enjoying a crisp beer under the summer sun with the mountains rising in the background is the perfect way to wrap up your time in Colorado. 

Colorado One Week Itinerary for Summer | The Common Traveler | image: Shrine Pass field of flowers outside Vail

What Should I Pack for My Trip to Colorado?

Warm temperatures, a dry climate, and bright blue skies are hallmarks of summer in Colorado, so you will likely have pleasant weather. A short sleeve shirt and shorts are the perfect attire for a day outside, while it is a good idea to carry a light jacket with you since temperatures drop at night. 

Although typically shortlived, afternoon rain is common so be sure to bring along a rain jacket or an umbrella in case you run into some showers. Note that the sun is really strong at higher elevations, so sun protection is a must. Bring plenty of sunscreen, a protective hat, and sunglasses. 

Another important consideration is that it is especially important to drink plenty of water in Colorado due to the high elevation and dry climate. Pack a water bottle (or two) that you can refill and drink from throughout the day. You will want to have a consistent supply of water, not just wait until the next convenient time to drink. 

Final Thoughts on 1 Week Colorado Itinerary

This one-week summer itinerary is jam-packed with stellar views, delicious food, and fascinating towns that will show you why so many people love Colorado. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a foodie, or a history buff, there is something for you in the state. 

Enjoy your trip!

About the Author Dom is an avid hiker, camper, and backpacker who has been exploring Colorado for 15 years. He believes that nature has the power to heal and inspire, so he helps people get outside through his blog, Colorado Quests . 

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Colorado One Week Itinerary for Summer | The Common Traveler shares this 1 week Colorado summer itinerary. If you love the outdoors, you'll love this itinerary which highlights all the best Colorado has to offer a summer traveler.

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Rocky Mountain Dreaming

12 Colorado Summer Bucket List Experiences To Try This Year

Colorado  » Summer Bucket List Experiences

Nothing beats summer in Colorado. The mountain air is perfectly cool, yet the sun manages to keep you warm. Wildflowers cover the lush forests and the unusually green alpine valleys. High mountain peaks are clear of snow and ice (for the most part, at least!). Water sports are abundant.

During summer in Colorado, the opportunities for adventure are endless. My personal bucket list for here runs incredibly long. However, this post covers broader categories of Colorado summer bucket list items. Your list can be as broad as you’d like (i.e., I want to swim in an alpine lake) or detailed and specific (i.e., I want to swim in ALL of these alpine lakes). Please let me know in the comments if you’d like me to write deeper into any of these topics.

The Million Dollar Highway on the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway

12. Go on A Scenic Drive

Colorado has 26 nationally recognized scenic byways. Some of these include high mountain passes that are only open during summer & early fall. The best way to tackle a scenic drive is to make it a full day of adventure. Figure out what stops are on the way – get out to hike, swim, take epic photos, etc. Are there any interesting restaurants or shops along the way? Have a loose plan, but stay open for adventure! You never know what you’ll come across while exploring. For more info, check out this list of the best scenic drives in Colorado.

Blue Moon Brewery in Denver, Colorado

11. Visit a Local Brewery (Preferably in the Mountains!)

There’s something special about getting a fresh beer after adventuring in the mountains. If you know, you know. Luckily, Colorado is the craft beer capital of the U.S. There are over 400 breweries spread throughout the state. So, after your big adventure, hit up the nearest craft brewery. Bonus points if they have a patio with amazing views. Fill up on a burger while you’re there! Pub food hits different after a long day in the mountains.

Interested in learning more? Here’s a list of Colorado’s most popular breweries by city. (note: although this site lists Coors for Golden, I HIGHLY recommend checking out the nearby New Terrain Brewing instead!)

10. Board the ‘Dunes

Yep, you can surf in Colorado. But not in the way you’re imagining. Rent a board and surf down the Great Sand Dunes in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Although the sand formations change often, there are always short, medium, & tall dunes to choose from. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can surf down the tallest dune in North America – the Star Dune. If standing up makes you uneasy, consider renting or bringing a sled. While sandboarding is the most novel activity, there’s lots to do at The Great Sand Dunes. Take advantage of the other outdoor activities while you’re there! Remember, The Great Sand Dunes is a national park. You’ll need to pay to get in if you don’t have a National Park Pass.

9. Climb a Via Ferrata

So, what is a via ferrata? It’s like rock climbing but with a little extra spice. Via ferrata is Italian for the iron path. It’s a climbing path made of iron rails, cables, & ladders attached to rock. It’s kind of like a ropes course, but with metal, and you’re climbing up rock. Climbers secure themselves by attaching their harness to the metal fixtures with a metal rope. Although via ferratas are gaining popularity, they’re rare in the U.S. As of writing this, there are 8 via ferratas in Colorado. Many courses offer different routes for varying skill levels. If it’s your first time or you’d like to improve your skills, consider hiring a guide! Interested in learning more about via ferratas in Colorado? Check out this post by Uncover Colorado.

See a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater

8. See a Show at Red Rocks Amphitheater

Red Rocks Amphitheater is an iconic Colorado music venue. It’s situated in Red Rocks Park in Morrison, which is only a 30-minute drive from downtown Denver. The entire venue is built into the natural red rock formations. You can watch your favorite bands play while the sun sets over Denver in the background. After nightfall, the stars will be shining brightly upon the amphitheater. It’s the perfect blend between nature and music. You can see a list of upcoming shows & events here.

Bonus: Grab a pre-show meal or drink in Morrison. It’s a tiny mountain town with a cute downtown next to Red Rocks Park. Check out the RMD list of the best restaurants in Morrison for more info.

Backpacking in Eagles Nest WIlderness

7. Go on a Backpacking Adventure

Colorado has thousands of miles of backpacking trails. You can choose from simple weekend trips to months of backcountry adventuring. Some trails wind through valleys & forests. Some will take you to the top of Colorado’s tallest peaks. Either way, it’s the most remote option for camping – more easy-to-access sites fill up quickly. You’ll get to test your survival skills and find the best views possible. What’s not to love?

Some popular backpacking trails include: Lone Eagle Peak Chicago Basin The Colorado Trail Gore Lake Maroon Snowmass Trail

colorado trip summer

6. See the Rocky Mountains via Train

After several days of adventuring, you may ask yourself, “do I want to explore the mountains more or take a day to relax?” Well, why not do both? Colorado has several beautiful train routes. After boarding, you can sit back, relax, & enjoy the views as the train winds through the mountains. Some will even serve you food and drinks.

Thinking about taking a train ride? Check out these routes: The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (Best Overall) Georgetown Loop Railroad (Closest to Denver) The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway (Takes you to the top of a 14er) Royal Gorge Route Railroad (Best for the mid-to-southern front range) Amtrak (traveling along the i70 area via train)

Colorado Summer Bucket List

5. Hike a 14er

Colorado has 58 peaks above 14,000 feet. We call these 14ers. Hiking to the top of any of these gives you a metaphorical badge of honor. Even the “easy” ones are a challenge (to non-mountaineering gods, that is!).

If you’re new to mountaineering, do your research, get prepared, & respect your limits. Any 14er can become deadly if you make the wrong mistakes. I don’t mean to scare you – be smart, prepared, and find a challenge reasonably suited for you & you’ll do great!

The Colorado 14ers website provides the most comprehensive info. They provide information on all 14er routes. This includes difficulty, current conditions, and challenges you may face. They even have a list of the “easiest” 14ers . Experienced mountaineers – 14ers.com has plenty of information for you too. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Colorado Summer Bucket List

4. Camping Under The Stars

What better way to explore nature than an overnight stay in the backcountry? Colorado offers camping for all sorts of adventurers. You can go on a multi-day (or even month long!) backpacking trip . If comfort & ease are priorities, plenty of well-maintained campgrounds feature full amenities . Many National Forests & BLM land offer free dispersed camping . Additionally, Colorado has 8 designated International Dark Sky Locations . These are the best places for unobstructed views of the stars.

Colorado Summer Bucket List

3. Get On (or in!) The Water

Whether you like to swim, paddleboard, boat, or fish, there are TONS of summer bucket list activities on the water. Colorado has endless alpine lakes, several clear creeks and rapids, & reservoirs galore. Relax while you tube down the creek in Golden or Boulder . Unwind on a SUP in the mountains. Feeling adventurous? Check out white water rafting on the Arkansas River or Clear Creek. Take a cold plunge after hiking to an alpine lake. The opportunities are endless here.

Colorado Summer Bucket List

2. Go on An Alpine Wildflower Hike

Hiking to an alpine lake on a trail surrounded by wildflowers is my personal favorite. You get a little bit of everything here. You’ll often start in a lush forest or meadow before going above the treeline. When the trees have cleared, you’ll get incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Blooming alpine flowers and plants are everywhere. There’s a high chance of seeing wildlife. I’ve seen yellow-bellied marmots, deer, and mountain goats on summer wildflower hikes. 

When the wildflowers bloom can vary. Weather, elevation, and flower species all factor in. In the Rocky Mountains, wildflower season peaks in July. Wildflowers begin to bloom early to mid-summer at high elevations. In some areas, they stick around through the first part of fall (or the first snow!) At lower elevations, wildflowers bloom much earlier. A good rule of thumb – expect wildflowers to grow after the snow melts. They generally begin to peak about a month after.

Here are my favorite hikes to see wildflowers in Colorado:

Spruce Creek to Mohawk Lakes Trail

Ice and Island Lakes

Herman Gulch

Other wildflower trails I’d love to check out: 

Ice & Island Lakes in Durango

Rustler’s Gulch near Crested Butte

Mayflower Gulch near Copper Mountain  (about an hour and a half west of Denver) 

Fourth of July Mine via Arapahoe Pass Near Nederland

Blue Lakes Pass via Yankee Boy Basin Near Ouray

Gem Lake Near Estes Park

Ute Trail to Tombstone Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park

colorado trip summer

1. Visit a National Park

If you’re like me, visiting every national park is on your to-do list. But did you know that Colorado has four? That’s right – in addition to the Rocky Mountain National Park, there’s : • Black Canyon of the Gunnison • Mesa Verde , & • The Great Sand Dunes

Each one features wildly different terrain and experiences.

Visiting a national park also covers many of the other bucket list experiences on this list! In Rocky Mountain National Park, you can camp under the stars, hike to an alpine lake, or climb to the top of a 14er! You can sand surf the Great Sand Dunes. Stargaze, hike, or go on a scenic drive at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

My recommendation – get the America the Beautiful National Park Pass. It gives you unlimited visits to ALL U.S. national parks for an entire year. Remember, several require timed entry permits AND a pass (daily, seasonal, etc.). The pass only guarantees that you don’t have to pay the entry fee!

Final Notes

I truly hope you have a BLAST this summer!! Take advantage of all the fun activities here. I know I’ll be planning adventures every weekend. Do you know of something that should be added to this list? Please share them in the comments below!

Love this post? Share it with your friends!

The Ultimate Colorado Summer Bucket List

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The Best Places to Visit in Colorado — National Parks, Small Towns, and Hot Springs Included

From stunning national parks to quirky small towns, these are 20 of the best places to visit in Colorado.

Evie Carrick is a writer and editor who’s lived in five countries and visited well over 50. She now splits her time between Colorado and Paris, ensuring she doesn't have to live without skiing or L'As du Fallafel.

colorado trip summer

Alessandro Bruno/500px/Getty Images

Colorado is perhaps best known for the Rocky Mountains that stretch across the state and offer up hiking and biking in the summer and skiing and snowboarding in the winter. But what most people don’t know about Colorado is that the state also has beautiful red rock formations set in the dry desert, ancient cliff dwellings, and alternative towns that dance to the beat of their own drums.

The one thing that binds everyone who lives in or visits Colorado is a love of nature and the outdoors — be it river rafting, climbing 14,000-foot peaks, or wildflower viewing. And as someone who grew up in the state (and lives here now), I’ve spent several decades exploring the vista-rich Centennial State. These parks, monuments, towns, and sites showcase the variety of experiences the state offers. Here are 20 of the best places to visit in Colorado.

Related: 10 Best Small Towns in Colorado

Rattlesnake Canyon Arches

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Utah’s Arches National Park has the world’s highest concentration of natural arches, but right across the border in Colorado is the world’s second-highest concentration. And in Colorado, you don’t have to pay a national park entry fee (or battle the crowds) to see them. Rattlesnake Canyon Arches boasts 35 natural arches tucked in a canyon on a 123,400-acre preserve. 

Related: 10 Best Colorado National Parks and Sites

Larimer Square

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Colorado may be known for its natural beauty, but the draw of downtown Denver is impossible to overlook. Larimer Square was the city's first designated local historic district for good reason — the city block is perfectly picturesque with shops and eateries that round out the Colorado experience. The square is a short 10-minute walk from the heart of the city: Union Station.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Tessa Desjardins/Travel + Leisure

It doesn’t get more Colorado than watching a golden eagle soar above a steep gorge. The sighting is part of the experience at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in western Colorado. The national park is marked by a deep, river-carved gorge with sheer walls. For the coolest view, check out the Painted Wall cliff that looks as if it was painted with giant stripes.

Colorado National Monument

DeniseBush/Getty Images

When you think of the American West, chances are you imagine something like the Colorado National Monument , which sits high on the Colorado Plateau and includes natural wonders like sheer canyon walls, towering monoliths, herds of bighorn sheep, and soaring eagles. In this grand landscape, there is plenty to keep you busy — including the beautiful Rim Rock Drive, year-round camping, and hiking and biking.

Douglas Rissing/Getty Images

Aspen is by no means a hidden gem, but it’s popular for a reason. The beautiful mountain town has four ski areas (that you can access with one lift ticket) and a surprising amount of culture for a town of around 7,000 people. And it wouldn’t be a trip to Aspen without a stop by the Maroon Bells , the most photographed mountains in North America.

Mesa Verde National Park

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This national park in southwestern Colorado is considered to be one of the state’s most sacred places. It was once inhabited by the Ancestral Pueblo people who built their homes in the sandstone cliffs. That heritage (and architectural wonder) is protected within this park, which is also a World Heritage Site and an International Dark Sky Park.

Amache National Historic Site

Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

One of the most significant moments in Colorado’s history is not known by many. The Amache National Historic Site , also called the Granada Relocation Center or Camp Amache, is where thousands of Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. Today, the eastern Colorado site shares the stories of the more than 10,000 people who passed through the camp — the majority of whom were U.S. citizens.

Pagosa Springs

CampPhoto/Getty Images

There are plenty of natural hot springs throughout the state (just check out the state’s hot spring loop ), but one of the best is found in Pagosa Springs, a small town that sits over the world’s deepest hot spring. I’d argue the best spot to soak is The Springs Resort & Spa , which has terraced tubs set along the river, but if you want to save a buck, you can also soak in the totally free “ hippy dip ” across the river.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is Colorado’s most visited national park. It is just over an hour’s drive from downtown Denver and is unique in that it spans the Continental Divide. In the fall, the Old Fall River Road and Trail Ridge Road are particularly colorful drives, while mountaineers come to summit Longs Peak, the park’s tallest mountain.

Remember when I said that Colorado was home to “alternative towns that dance to the beat of their own drum”? I was talking about Crestone, a tiny town of just under 150 people that is committed to sustainable living and spirituality. Throughout the town, you’ll find a variety of off-the-grid homes and spiritual centers and sites like the Crestone Mountain Zen Center and the Tashi Gomang Stupa .

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

Jeremy Poland/Getty Images

Just west of Denver, you’ll spot giant red rocks that seem to shoot out from the earth. This rock structure was long ago harnessed to create a natural amphitheater that has become world renowned for its unique sound quality. In fact, playing at Red Rocks has become a goal performance for many big-name artists.

Glenwood Springs

Chelsea Ulrich/Getty Images

When it comes to mountain towns with all-around appeal, it’s hard to top Glenwood Springs. The “larger” mountain town (just over 10,000 people), is set on the interstate making it easy to access from Denver (2.5 hours away). The town has three developed hot springs, a mountaintop adventure park that can only be accessed by gondola, and a river that provides opportunities for paddlers and fishers.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

rovingmagpie@flickr.com/Getty Images

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of those places that you might not expect to find in Colorado. The park protects a natural phenomenon: giant mounds of sand that were collected at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The park is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America and the mysterious “surge flow” of Medano Creek . 

Crested Butte

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Like every other Colorado mountain town , Crested Butte has wonderful hiking and biking trails and great skiing, but what sets it apart is the abundance of wildflowers that earned it the nickname “Wildflower Capital of Colorado.” There’s even an annual 10-day festival celebrating the blooms.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

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In the dry, red rock canyons of southwestern Colorado is this archaeological wonder. The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument encompasses a whopping 174,000 acres that contain clues to the daily lives of ancient Indigenous people, including more than 8,300 recorded villages, cliff dwellings, shrines, kivas, petroglyphs, and other historic sites. 

Steamboat Springs

Karl Weatherly/Getty Images

Steamboat Springs is yet another Colorado hot spring and ski town, but unlike the others on this list, Steamboat has a unique American West feel. Here, cowboy hats are just as common as Chacos, and the landscape lends itself to people who like to get outside. There are two ski areas, geothermal hot springs, and a state park directly to the north. 

Denver Union Station

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Many cities have a train station, but Denver has turned their transportation hub into the heart of the city. The 1914 Beaux-Arts train station , which is also a historic landmark, consists of 10 chef-owned restaurants and bars, a boutique hotel, and a handful of unique shops (and there are four bee hives on the roof). Once you’ve shopped and eaten your fair share, you can hop on the bus, light rail, or Amtrak to your next destination. 

Jacob Boomsma/Getty Images

The city of Durango is perched where the mountains meet the desert, providing a landscape that has a little of everything. There are hot springs, ski areas, mountain biking trails, and plenty of fun to be had on the Animas River that runs through town. In the summer, a top to-do is riding the 19th-century Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad from Durango to Silverton, Colorado over a mountain pass.  

Dinosaur National Monument

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Like dinos? Colorado has you covered. At this national monument , which straddles the Colorado-Utah border and passes into both states, there’s endless proof that dinosaurs once roamed the Colorado landscape. The monument includes dinosaur remains that are embedded in the rocks, petroglyphs from early humans, and plenty of outdoorsy things to do including river rafting, hiking, and camping.

Ed Freeman/Getty Images

Boulder is a college town with easy access to Denver and the mountains. To the west of the city sit the Flatirons, rock formations lined with trails, while the downtown neighborhood of Pearl Street Mall has everything from art galleries to inventive eats and unique boutiques.

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The Family Vacation Guide

The Family Vacation Guide

colorado trip summer

Revealed: The Best Spots for Colorado Summer Family Vacations

posted by James Brockbank on January 22, 2022 // last updated on January 22, 2022

Are you looking for ideas about where to take your family for the summer vacation in Colorado?

Colorado is perhaps the perfect state for family vacations. Here, you reconnect with nature while enjoying outdoor activities like hiking, climbing, fishing, and swimming.

Celebrate those who matter most by taking them on an incredible getaway. Start planning today by exploring the following best spots for Colorado summer family vacations. 

1. Breckenridge

2. colorado springs, 3. beaver creek, 4. aspen/snowmass village, 5. palisade, 6. estes park, 7. telluride, 10. steamboat springs.

colorado trip summer

Breckenridge is the ideal destination for those who love fishing and mountain biking. Even though these are the most popular outdoor adventures, there are a lot more activities you can explore. From hiking, golfing, boating, and horseback riding, your family will never run out of ideas to try during your Colorado summer vacation.

Breckenridge Stables have over one hundred horses to choose from when you want to go horseback riding. Of course, safety is a priority during these horse rides.

For all your boating needs, Lake Dillon has you covered. While at it, you can stop to eat and enjoy some great music at the Tiki Bar or Island Bar and Grill. Also, you can head straight to the 27-hole course if you’re a golf-loving family.

Your Breckenridge family summer vacation can never be complete without exploring the Discovery Fun Park . This place takes you right on top of the mountain, and all your family members can go. With all the fun activities like zip-lining, rock climbing, and mini-golfing piled up for you, your day will surely end on a higher note.

On the days you want a little quiet and alone time, you can always drop the kids at the Mountain Top Children’s Museum. Here, they can indulge in several hands-on activities such as building and crafts. Take advantage of the kid’s night out on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays as you perhaps go out clubbing and dancing in town to wind off.

colorado trip summer

Going on a vacation with kids is never an easy thing. Ideally, you want to go to places where both you and the kids will have fun, a place that can comfortably accommodate your different needs.

Why not try Colorado Springs? It’s one place that offers lots of activities, from biking, golfing, hiking to driving adventures.

Your kids will love visiting the attraction sites in this spot. Take them to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo , the Garden of the Gods , Pikes Peak, Seven Falls, to mention a few.

Entry to some of these excellent sites is free. You can have fun riding your bikes, watching the circus, ziplining, feeding giraffes, and watching other animals at the zoo.

While staying in Colorado Springs, you can also take your family to Canon City, a one-hour drive from Colorado Springs. The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is a must-visit amusement park in Canon City. Here, you’ll ride the gondola, go to the theater, and walk the bridge.

colorado trip summer

In the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain lies another must-visit family spot, Beaver Creek.

Visiting Beaver Creek in one of your Colorado summer family vacations could be one of your best decisions. It’s the perfect place for reconnecting with nature and bonding with your family members.

The best activity to indulge in during the summer is hiking in the town’s mountains. The Rocky Mountains have several challenging trails, especially for experienced hikers. That said, novices have some access routes they can follow to keep the fun up.

While ascending mountain paths, your family can enjoy spectacular views, mostly dotted with Aspen trees.

Don’t leave without unwinding in the Beaver Creek Village. This cultural village offers plenty, from art performances to exquisite desserts.

Aspen, Colorado, has some of the most attractive sites you can visit with your whole family. Although Aspen is a ski town, it also offers many activities to explore and enjoy as a family in summer.

Do you enjoy biking as a family? Why not go on a biking adventure along the Rio Grande Trail that follows the Roaring Fork River. This trail suits people of all ages, regardless of their biking experience. Even if your family is full of novice bikers, you can still create epic memories.

Aspen has several hiking trails for your family’s hiking adventures. Whether you’re just learning to hike, an intermediate hiker, or an expert, you’ll find trails that befit your level.

From the Snowmass village, you can follow the Ditch Trail all the way to Snowmass Mountain for the novice hike family. The Smuggler Trail is perfect for intermediate hikers, while expert hikers can explore the Ute Trail.

Besides biking and hiking, you can take your family for a ride on the Silver Queen Gondola, looking at those breathtaking views of Aspen town. The free Thursday night concerts at the Snowmass Village should also be on your list.

This town will surely make your Colorado family vacation memorable. Don’t end your vacation without trying the different cuisines from the various restaurants available.

colorado trip summer

Palisade is a small town in Colorado, widely known for its vineyards, wineries, and farms, thanks to its mild weather. These are the primary attractions in this town, bringing people from all corners of the world, especially the wineries.

That said, this tiny town also offers a ton of other family fun activities. You can go hiking, climbing, biking, and even fishing here. At the end of the day, when you’re tired and want to relax, you end your day with a glass of freshly brewed wine.

For your family biking adventures, Palisade town offers a variety of mountain biking trails for riders with different skills. The Palisade Bike Skills Park, for instance, is an ideal location for beginner riders to have some fun. But if you’re used to those adrenaline-pumping descents from mountain biking, take your adventure to the Palisade Rim Trail.

Those who love hiking can visit the Grand Mesa National Forest for all the hiking fun. Mount Garfield is also an excellent spot in Palisade for hiking during the summer season.

Pay to go on a trip to the many wineries available there, orchards to pick your peaches, and to lavender farms for fresh lavenders.

Overall, Palisade is a great summer destination for a family that loves agriculture and being on the farms.

colorado trip summer

Are you still looking for more spots for Colorado summer family vacations? Estes Park is the ideal kid-friendly location for your summer vacation. This destination will help you reconnect with nature, go back to your good old days, and make your kids happy and excited throughout your stay.

Start with the Rocky Mountain National Park , one of the best national parks in the United States. There are several outdoor recreation activities that your kids can enjoy. Even more interesting, you can also join the fun in hiking and biking.

You can play cowboy with the kids on a hot afternoon and go horseback riding through the Rockies. Other activities include fishing from the Trout Haven Fishing Pond and Lake Estes and ziplining.

It’s not hard getting a place to stay in this town, especially with the kids. Anyone you ask will recommend the YMCA of the Rockies, especially for the kid activities they offer.

colorado trip summer

Telluride is always crowded during the summer, probably for its unique attractions. First off, there’s the Telluride Hotel, a kid-friendly hotel where you can set your base and enjoy exciting services.

The most incredible thing is that the town is a tourist attraction site based on its history . You can get the whole story about how the city has transformed from a Ute tribe summer camp to a ski mecca from the town museum.

While in the town, going on an off-road adventure is truly worth trying. You can’t reach certain places on foot, but with a 4by4 off-road adventure, your family gets the chance to explore such areas.

Ever tried rock climbing? During summer, Telluride will offer you an opportunity to try this activity at the Adventure Rock in Mountain Village, whether you have the experience or not. The place is 100% safe.

Other activities include paragliding over the town’s valleys, hiking, and mountain biking. Ensure your family tries the different delicacies from the restaurants available.

colorado trip summer

For your family and kid-friendly adventure, Durango offers much more that it becomes difficult to choose. The summer family adventures include hiking, ziplining, and fishing. The best hiking experience from this town is at the San Juan Mountains, while your fishing adventures can never be complete without visiting the Vallecito Reservoir.

And since it’s hot, you want to indulge in something that brings your temperature down. For this reason, you get several water sports to participate in, including:

  • Whitewater rafting

You can also take your family to the Durango Discovery Museum for some historical discoveries. As they always say, learning never stops. Hiking along the Colorado Trails, evening walks, and mountain biking at Horse Gulch can also strengthen the family bond if taken together.

colorado trip summer

Ouray is an old mining town that the rugged San Juan Mountains surround.

Many historic buildings and breathtaking views from the mountain tops await you. Hit the Ouray’s Million Dollar Highway and let your family marvel at the scenic views.

How about you all stroll down the main street exploring all the shops? Then, buy some artwork or other valuables to take back home with you. You can also visit the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool for your water sport’s needs.

The beach at the Ridgway State Park is what you need to complete your summer vacation. Kids love playing all kinds of sports at the beach, and while they enjoy themselves, you can go paddleboarding. And to those who love hiking and biking, all these you can do here.

colorado trip summer

Steamboat Springs is home to many fantastic sites to explore.

You can go tubing the Yampa River with the family or visit Howelsen Hill for several sporting activities. What’s more, Steamboat Springs is home to several ranches where you can go horseback riding. The three most popular ranches here are Del’s Triangle Three Ranch, Elk River Guest Ranch, and Saddleback Ranch.

There are shops, boutiques, and various restaurants to visit downtown as you stroll down with your family.

Your kids should enjoy a trip to the iconic Old Town Hot Springs . Here they can swim, water slide, and have fun moments.

Another destination you shouldn’t miss is the Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Located at the outskirts of Steamboat, this park offers therapeutic sessions. The hot pools, private pools, and massage huts will surely rejuvenate your body.

More about our TFVG Author

colorado trip summer

James Brockbank

A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.

Featured in Travel articles such as Travel + Leisure, TripSavvy and SFGate, you know you're reading some of the best vacation tips online.

colorado trip summer

Kate Storm standing in front of Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the best places to visit in colorado

Colorado Bucket List: 25 Cool Places to Visit in Colorado

Alpine lakes, hot springs, mining towns, mountain towns, sand dunes, and 14ers: the sheer variety of travel destinations that make up any list of the best places to visit in Colorado is magnificent.

Known for its snowcapped peaks, national parks, hiking trails, skiing, and beyond, Colorado is, without a doubt, one of the coolest states to visit in the USA.

If you’re looking for some new Colorado vacation spots to add to your itinerary, this Colorado bucket list is for you.

Here are the coolest places in Colorado to visit!

Table of Contents

Colorado National Parks For Your Bucket List

Cool cities + small towns to visit in co, more of the best places to visit in colorado.

scenic yellow train ride from durango to silverton colorado

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Colorado is home to four stunning national parks to visit–and despite the Centennial State’s reputation for its incredible Rocky Mountain landscapes, each park is incredibly unique and well worth a visit!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Welcoming more than 3 million visitors each year, Rocky Mountain National Park is not only the state’s most popular national park, it’s easily one of the top places to visit in Colorado as a whole!

From snowcapped mountains to alpine lakes, and from challenging hikes to relaxing scenic drives, Rocky Mountain National Park has options for all kinds of travelers–the only thing you truly need to justify a visit is an appreciation for alpine beauty.

vertical photo of dream lake in rocky mountains national park hiking trail

Some of the most popular things to do in RMNP include visiting Bear Lake, hiking to Emerald Lake and Dream Lake, driving the beautiful Trail Ridge Road, and checking out Old Fall River Road (either by car or by foot depending on the season).

If you’re visiting in winter, don’t worry, much of the park is still accessible–just be prepared to lace up your cross country skis to visit some of the most popular lakes!

kate storm at emerald lake in rocky mountain national park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

From Megan of Red Around the World

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park  is an often-overlooked national park in Gunnison, Colorado–but if you add it to your list of beautiful places in Colorado to visit, there’s no doubt that you’ll be blown away.

It is one of the deepest canyons in North America at 8,043 feet deep.  It’s hard to imagine that, even when you’re there looking at it.  It’s easiest to visit the South Rim just outside of Gunnison which is also where you can access the river at the bottom of the canyon.

There is also access to the North Rim which is perfect if you want to get away from the already meager crowds. 

Keep in mind that though the two rims look close to each other on a map, they’re a couple hours worth of driving apart.

black canyon of the gunnison as seen from above with river to the right, one of the bucket list colorado places to visit

While the park isn’t bursting with hiking trails, there are quite a few to choose from and just as many amazing viewpoints to stop at. 

Keep your eyes peeled for bears while you’re exploring the park.  

Even if you just have a couple of hours, it’s totally worth visiting.  Most of the trails are short, under three miles round-trip. 

The Oak Flat Loop Trail is great for people looking to hike below the rim but not all the way to the river.  It’s two miles round-trip and can be narrow in some places, so be careful. 

Also make sure to drive down to the river, even if just for the experience.

black canyon of the gunnison, one of the national parks in colorado, as seen from viewpoint

Mesa Verde National Park

From James of Parks Collecting

Mesa Verde National Park  is home to 600 cliff dwellings. 

The Ancient Puebloans built their villages in overhangs in the side of steep cliffs and climbed down from above, using hand and footholds carved directly into the cliff. 

Today, you can see many of them from overlooks at the top of the mesa and see some of them up close on guided tours.  Bear in mind that you need to climb down ladders or steep steps to visit them.

view of cliff dwellings in mesa verde national park from inside the cliff

The cliff dwellings are truly incredible to see.  Highlights include Cliff Palace (the largest), Long House, and Balcony House (where you need to crawl through a very narrow tunnel to exit).

Each year, some of the other dwellings are also opened up to small group visits, with a ranger as a guide.  You need to hike to these, and often climb down the original hand and footholds (with the help of modern-day chains to make it safer). 

Whether you see the cliff dwellings from overlooks, on a guided tour, or a small group back-country hike, you are sure to be fascinated by them.

pueblo of mesa verde national park as seen from afar

Great Sand Dunes National Park

From Rai of A Rai of Light

Great Sand Dunes National Park, found in the Saguache and Alamosa Counties of southern Colorado, encompasses more than 100,000 acres of open-air adventure.

The fascination not only lies with the tallest sand dunes in North America, but also the surrounding landscape that features forests, snow-capped mountains, and rivers.

There is so much to do that 3 days is the minimum number of days to spend in and around the surrounding area. Top sights in the preserve include High Dune, Zapata Falls, Medano Pass.

young woman hiking on a sand dune in great sand dunes national park, a bucket list colorado travel destinations

Sandboarding is a popular activity and should not be missed. Other activities worth trying include sledding, horseback riding, and hiking to catch a beautiful sunrise .

The park is always open and no reservations are required. However, the best time to visit is during spring and fall.

The closest town is Mosca, but the park is easily reached from any major city as the San Luis Valley Airport is a mere 45-minute drive from the park’s entrance.

great sand dunes national park with snowcapped mountains in the background

Known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, the charming small town of Estes Park easily ranks among the best places to visit in Colorado.

With its beautiful downtown (don’t miss a chance to stroll along the riverwalk!), its huge prevalance of elk living in and around the town, its beautiful lake, and the world-class nature of nearby hiking opportunities, Estes Park belongs on any Colorado bucket list.

colorado trip summer

While in Estes Park, be sure to stop by the historic Park Theatre, consider a whitewater rafting trip, go for a scenic drive, check out one of the town’s breweries, and pay a visit to the beautiful Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s The Shining.

Even if you don’t check in, the hotel is still worth a peak!

And, of course, the main attraction lies just outside of town: no trip to Estes Park is complete without plenty of time spent in Rocky Mountain National Park!

Where to Stay in Estes Park

  • Mountain Shadows Resort: Get into the rustic feel with these incredible cottages in Estes Park. Cottages have private terraces, hot tubs and wooden 4-poster beds.
  • Hotel Estes : These fabulous pet friendly cabins are close to Rocky Mountain National Park with mountain views, great facilities such as an outdoor swimming pool for those warmer months.

group of elk in the river in front of estes park visitors center. observing wildlife is one of the fun things to do in estes park co

Crested Butte

From Martina + Jurgen of PlacesofJuma

Crested Butte in the Rocky Mountains is probably one of the most recommended places to visit in Colorado.

It is famous as a ski resort and is also considered to be the capital of wildflowers, making Crested Butte a fantastic year-round travel destination in Colorado.

In winter, the challenging ski slopes attract the best skiers and snowboarders. The cross-country ski trails, which are located around the city, add a special beauty to the unique landscape.

wildflowers in the mountains at sunset near crested butte, one of the best places to see in colorado

In the warm months, mountain bikers and hikers come to experience the unique nature of the region and the splendor of the flowers.

But not only is the surrounding nature gorgeous, but the town is also pretty too!

Crested Butte is an extremely pedestrian-friendly town, and walking around, you will discover picturesque historical buildings, great restaurants, and plenty of mountain views.

We also recommend a visit in July, when the famous Crested Butte Wildflower Festival takes place.

Where to Stay in Crested Butte

  • Nordic Inn: This comfortable hotel is a great place to rest after exploring. There is a Great Room with complimentary games and views over Mt. Crested Butte, there is also a large hot tub to enjoy. Rooms are spacious and really cosy.
  • Public House Lofts: As the name suggests these rooms are over a really great bar called Public House, perfectly located for getting home quickly at the end of the evening! The rooms are modern, comfortable and really well designed. Definitely a great spot to stay in Crested Butte.

view of yellow wildflowers in colorado mountains with livestock in the foreground and a town in the background

Colorado’s capital city is arguably one of the trendiest and fastest-growing cities in the country–and given that Denver offers a fantastic array of things to do while also being located within proximity of epic mountain hikes, it’s no surprise.

Known for its breweries, parks, and proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park as well as popular mountain towns like Boulder and Estes Park, Denver makes a fantastic weekend getaway destination .

aerial view of denver from above, one of the best colorado places to visit

While you’re in Denver, consider catching a game at Coor’s Field, seeing a show at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre, strolling down the 16th Street Mall, stopping by Larimer Square, and–of course–hitting up a few of those popular breweries.

If you’re looking to add some museum-hopping to your Denver itinerary , the city also has you covered, from classics like the Denver Art Museum to more unique options like the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum.

photo of empty red rocks amphitheatre in denver co

Steamboat Springs

From Liz of Peanuts or Pretzels

Steamboat Springs might be a popular ski town in Colorado and home to many former Olympians, but a visit here can feel less like your typical Colorado ski resort vacation and more like an adventure.

This is a town with a vibrant local community, humorous traditions, and lively Western history.

A four-season destination, there’s plenty of things to do year-round in Steamboat. But for many, winter is the most magical time.

historic barn covered in snow in steamboat springs co, one of the best vacation spots in colorado

Winter sports are everywhere, not just the main ski resort.

The locals even have their own hill in the center of town and during the Winter Carnival each February, the town comes alive with ski contests (complete with light-up costumes and fireworks), outdoor concerts, sculptures, and parades where horses pull thrill-seekers on skis over jumps right through the middle of town!

After all of that winter fun, take a soothing dip in one of the  hot springs around town , such as Strawberry Hot Springs, a local favorite for its natural scenery tucked back in a canyon. 

Where to Stay in Steamboat Springs

  • For a premium place to stay, book into the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas . This is a classic excellent quality large hotels with all the facilities you would expect. Guaranteed great stay
  • Chalet Val d’Isere is also a fabulous option but with more of a homely vibe. There are just a few rooms and it is a classic ski lodge style cabin complete with plenty of cozy features.

strawberry hot springs in steamboat springs colorado in the snow, one of the best places to visit in colorado


From Karen of Outdoor Adventure Sampler

Consistently ranked among the best places to visit in Colorado, Breckenridge is a charming town in the heart of the Rockies with non-stop activities and scenic beauty.

Visit the craft breweries and fabulous restaurants in this town surrounded by mountain peaks. Breckenridge chefs feature local farm-to-table ingredients. In Breckenridge’s historic district you can learn the story of this old mining town.

Breckenridge is famous for its world-class cross country and alpine skiing, making it one of the most classic Colorado vacation spots. The Breckenridge ski resort boasts 5 mountains and 187 trails.

downtown breckenridge on a snowy night

In the summer you will find wildflowers as you hike into an alpine meadow or a cascading waterfall. In fall, the blazing colors of the aspens are spectacular.

Breckenridge is an outdoor enthusiast’s mecca. Rafting, ziplining, fly fishing, and biking are a few of the outdoor adventures to try. Hikers will love the hundreds of nearby trails.

Don’t miss a chance to take the free gondola ride up into the mountains. It’s not unusual to see moose or a bald eagle from your vantage point high above the meadows.

Where to Stay in Breckenridge

  • The Ranahan: These aparthotel suites are perfect for your stay in Breckenridge. Each room has its own kitchenette but the hotel also has great on site facilities including a fabulous bar and outside fire pit area.
  • Mountain Valley Lodge : A great Marriott resort with all the expected facilities, rooms are really spacious and all have great views of the mountains. There is also an onsite spa, swimming pool and ski storage.

downtown breckenridge colorado on a summer day, one of the best bucket list colorado travel destinations

Glenwood Springs

From Mark of Summer Camp Hub

Glenwood Springs is a city right by the Rocky Mountains famous for being home to some of the best hot springs in Colorado .

It’s renowned as an excellent Colorado vacation spot for just about everyone, including families and would-be adventurers. 

If you’re looking to soak in hot springs, you need to visit Iron Mountain Hot Springs. There are 16 hot springs you can enjoy while getting a scenic view of the Rocky Mountains.

If you’re looking to go hiking, then the Glenwood Canyon is readily available with hikes like the Grizzly Creek and the Hanging Lake. 

long exposure of a waterfall at hanging lake colorado

There are also plenty of other outdoor thrilling activities you can do like paragliding and rafting.

If you’re visiting as a family, there are plenty of outdoor kid-friendly activities children can participate in.

With such a huge opportunity for children to receive an outdoor education, it’s no surprise that there are numerous summer camps in the state  and city. 

Apart from outdoor adventures to partake in, be sure to visit the famous comedy shows that go on at the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue.

Where to Stay in Glenwood Springs

  • Glenwood Springs B&B: Fancy staying in a piece of history? This quaint B&B is over 100 years old and is exceptionally well maintained. Many of the rooms have deep claw-foot bathtubs and if that isn’t enough water for you there is a huge jacuzzi for guests.
  • Hanging Lake Inn: For something more classic this Inn is a great option. Facilities are fresh and modern, and there is a lovely porch area with views of the hills.

aerial view of glenwood springs co, one of the best colorado vacation destinations

Manitou Springs

From Melissa of Navigation Junkie

Manitou Springs is a historic city located just outside of Colorado Springs with roots tracing back to the Pikes Peak gold rush.

It is the perfect Colorado bucket list destination for some small-town charm, natural beauty, culture, and fun!

A visit to Manitou Springs would not be complete without taking a  self-guided walking tour of the springs. There are eight springs in total along a 1.4-mile trail through town, each with its own unique mineral content.

The Manitou Cliff Dwellings, authentic relocated Pueblos, is another must-visit spot in Manitou Springs.

manitou cliff dwellings as seen from the side

For some more hiking, climb the Incline near Pikes Peak for some stunning views, or if you prefer not to hike, drive the Pikes Peak Highway to the summit.

After a long day of exploring, find plenty of food and bar options in downtown Manitou Springs.

If traveling with kids, be sure to check out the world-famous Penny Arcade for games, kiddie rides, and prizes! And finally stop in at Pike’s Peak Ice Cream for some tasty treats and ice cream! 

Where to Stay in Manitou Springs

  • Cliff House: Looking like something out of a fairy story this fabulous hotel has wonderful old-world charm, pretty views, and some rooms even have working fireplaces!
  • Magnuson Grand : For more of a classic modern hotel this is a great option. The facilities are lovely and there are mountain views throughout. It is also minutes away from the waterfalls and Garden of the Gods.

red pikes peak train climbing the mountain, one of the coolest places in colorado

From Daria of The Discovery Nut

Telluride is a small but mighty town with colorful mining history and unparalleled landscapes that draw visitors from all over the country. 

Tucked away in the box canyon in San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado, Telluride is definitely an exclusive destination as it’s not easy to get to. It takes about 5-6 hours from Denver to get here, and the local airport doesn’t have big commercial flights. 

Telluride is a scenic destination that is renowned for its year-round outdoor opportunities, gorgeous nature, and a vibrant art scene, so it’s not just skiing that brings so many people here (Although Telluride does have some great slopes). 

Telluride also offers some of the best hiking trails in Colorado from the iconic Blue Lakes a short drive away to Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail that can be accessed from downtown Telluride.

blue lake in colorado with mountains in the background, near one of the best colorado vacation spots telluride

For an amazing experience, take a free gondola between Telluride and Mountain Village from where you can get a panoramic view of the San Juan Mountains. 

Visitors also enjoy an ice rink at Hotel Madeline or get a tour of the area to learn about its history of silver mining.

Downtown Telluride is home to a big art scene with several galleries and you can easily participate in one of the organized tours. 

Where to Stay in Telluride

  • Mountain Lodge: This classic chalet style aparthotel offers wonderful fully equipped, spacious apartments. It is nestled in the mountains and has onsite spa facilities and a great restaurant.
  • The Bivvi Hostel: Don’t let the hostel name fool you! The facilities here are excellent are there is more to offer than crowded dorm-rooms. Private rooms are spacious and have private bathrooms. Shared facilities onsite feature billiards, a hot tub, garden and pretty terrace.

downtown telluride colorad with mountains in the background, one of the best colorado travel destinations

From Jess of I’m Jess Traveling

Vail, Colorado is one of the best places to visit in the state.  Known for its world-class ski runs and luxurious accommodations, Vail is a sought-after destination worldwide. 

You can travel to Vail year-round but the best time to visit Vail is in the winter.  With over 5,000 acres of skiable terrain, Vail Ski Resort is not only one of the biggest in the United States but it’s also extremely popular. 

ski slopes covered in snow in vail colorado, one of the best vacation spots in colorado

From the legendary back bowls to the bunny hill, Vail mountain offers something for every ability level. 

Vail Village is full of boutique shops, fun bars, and tasty restaurants.  One of the best bars in Vail Village is Vendetta’s.  Come here for a fun environment, apres drinks, and cheap pizza.  

If you are looking for more of an intimate dining experience reserve a table at one of the several on-mountain restaurants like Game Creek. 

Whatever it is that peaks your interest, Vail, Colorado is a Colorado travel destination for the whole family to enjoy.  

Where to Stay in Vail

  • Lodge at Lionscreek: The location for this hotel is perfect, it is right next to the transit point for the ski lifts. Ski equipment is also available for rental on site if you don’t bring your own. The facilities are excellent, rooms have views over Gore Creek and are all private apartment style with their own kitchen facilities, some of the larger ones also have beautiful dining spaces in case you want to host!
  • Tivoli Lodge: For a hotel set up this is a great option, rooms are fabulous and quite large. The hotel itself is a few meters away from several slope and ski lifts, it also has an onsite cocktail lounge for après-ski!

vail colorado as seen from above at sunset in winter in colorado

Pagosa Springs

From Agnes of The Van Escape

Pagosa Springs is a town picturesquely situated on the San Juan River in the southwestern part of Colorado.

It is worth adding it to the  road trip itinerary, especially when you plan also visit Durango and Great Sand Dunes National Park. Pagosa Springs will be the perfect stop for a longer break on the US-160W route.

The town is famous for its magnificent thermal springs, thanks to which it owes its name. In Ute, “pagosah” means “healing waters.” Pagosa is the home of the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring.

thermal spring that is orange in pagosa springs

So, the best thing you can do in this town is soaked up the hot springs and relax.

The mineral-rich waters fill the baths at The Springs Resort & Spa, The Overlook Hot Springs, and Healing Waters Resort & Spa. Each of them is open to the public.

In addition to the hot springs resorts, there are interesting and picturesque hiking trails around Pagosa Springs. You can admire fabulous waterfalls like Treasure Falls or Piedra Falls. Moreover, rafting and kayaking trips are popular on the San Juan River.

Where to Stay in Pagosa Springs

  • The Nightingale Motel: Well located with pretty views and excellent rooms, complete with private balcony. There is also an onsite bar to refresh after visiting the hot springs.
  • For a homely self contained option the Fireside Cabins are fabulous. Decor is in keeping with the mountain theme and the kitchens are well equipped with everything you need.

waterfall near pagosa springs in colorado

Colorado Springs

From Jenny of Limitless Hiker

Spend a weekend or even a long weekend exploring Colorado Springs . It’s the perfect amount of time to experience the highlights of this small town in Colorado.

Colorado Springs is well known for its Manitou Springs Incline which gains nearly 2,000 feet of elevation over less than 1 mile. Whether you’re looking for a tough workout to start training for Colorado 14ers (14,000-foot mountains), or just want to challenge yourself, this incline trail is a must.

Colorado Springs is also known for the beautiful Garden of the Gods park.

rock formations in garden of the gods co at sunset, one of the most beautiful places in colorado

The Garden of the Gods is known for its bright orange rock formations. It’s a popular spot among rock climbers or you can spend some time biking around or even hiking around.

Next on the list of must-see places in Colorado Springs is Pikes Peak. Which is the only 14er in this area. You have the option of hiking to the top, which is 26.2 miles round trip with around 7,500 feet of elevation gain, or you could also hike one way and have someone pick you up at the top. The other alternative is to drive to the top. 

After you’ve had a good workout from all of that hiking, head over to the SunWater Spa and soak in their hot springs. This is a rewarding treat after a hard workout.

Where to Stay in Colorado Springs

  • The Lodge at Flying Horse is a stunning option for your stay in Colorado Springs. The resort is a European-style 18-hole golf course with views across the grounds and incredible facilities.
  • To stay in the heart of Downtown book into Kinship Landing . Rooms are clean and stylish, and if you are on a budget they have great dorm rooms available.

aerial view of historic building in colorado springs

From Ankita of My Travelling Stilettos

Nestled in the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Aspen is the most famous ski resort town in the US and one of the best vacation spots in Colorado.

Long snowy winters thanks to the elevation of 8000 ft and proximity of four world-renowned Ski Resorts made it the favorite ski destination for celebrities and private citizens alike.

It is situated 200 miles away from Denver and can be reached easily by road.

Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling, sledding are the most popular activities to do in the winter.

downtown aspen colorado in winter with snow in the background

Not an adventure junkie? Explore Aspen town.

Visit Wheeler Opera House and Hotel Jerom, catch glimpses of annual film and music festivals or experience a fine dining meal from the plethora of world-class restaurants.

Spring and falls are the ideal time to take mountain gondola rides to the top of Elks Mountains and enjoy breathtaking views along the way.

Aspen has many hiking and mountain biking trails to enjoy when it is not snowing.

Where to Stay in Aspen

  • Limelight Hotel is a superb option in Aspen, and great value for money. There is a hot tub, outdoor pool and a rooftop terrace to enjoy in warmer months. Rooms are spacious and many include kitchenettes.
  • The W also has a fabulous hotel here in Aspen with all the top range facilities you would expect. Rooms are excellent with luxury details, such as fluffy bathrobes and towels. There are also bikes available for free use should you want to explore Aspen on wheels.

maroon bells near aspen co, one of the prettiest places in colorado

Grand Junction

From Trijit of Budget Travel Buff

Looking to get beyond Colorado’s famous ski towns and find some  cheaper places in Colorado to visit that are still worthy of a Colorado bucket list? Look no further than Grand Junction.

Located at the confluence of the Gunnison and Colorado rivers, Grand Junction is such a beautiful place that offers everything from natural scenic views to Colorado adventures without burning a hole in your pocket.

It is just a short drive away from Utah and around 245 miles away from Denver. Not only for outdoor adventures but this popular Colorado town is also known as Colorado’s Wine County as it is home to many wineries.

rocky landscape of colorado national monument, a colorado bucket list destination

From exploring historic downtown to wine tasting and hiking nearby trails, you will find plenty of things to do in Grand Junction.

Discover Grand Junction’s historic downtown district which is filled with varieties of mixed art galleries, sculptures, local boutiques, restaurants, and breweries.

Next, visit the Colorado National Monument, where you just may think that you’ve been transporated to the rocky landscape of southern Utah.

Located just a short drive from downtown, these natural stunning landscapes of red rock formations will leave you awestruck.

Grand Junction is also a great place for wine lovers. If you visit this place in summer or spring, don’t miss a wine tasting tour. Enjoy the views of the vineyards while sipping on some of the best quality wines.

Where to Stay in Grand Junction

  • Castle Creek Manor: A lovely B&B with a friendly homely vibe and mountain views. Some rooms have balconies, perfect for taking in the fresh air.
  • Grand River Inn: With spacious rooms and rustic decor this is a lovely choice for Grand Junction

aerial view of grand junction colorado best places to visit

From Krystianna of Delightfully Denver

One of the most underrated places to visit in Colorado is the town of Golden!

This town has deep-rooted wild west vibes and is home to some amazing attractions that you won’t want to miss when visiting this state. Plus,  one day in Golden  is all you need.

Even though Denver is home to Coors Field, Golden is actually where Coors Brewery is located.

The brewery hosts tours for the public, and you can even catch a shuttle bus from downtown Golden to easily get there if you’re traveling without a car.

sunset over golden co as seen from a mountain ledge

Golden is also one of the best towns near Denver for hiking. There are a few mountains to hike here, including Lookout Mountain and Table Mountain, and both are equally great.

Downtown Golden is lovely too. There’s a huge “Welcome to Golden” sign that gets decorated for the holidays. You can find a bunch of local shops and restaurants throughout downtown Golden like Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza.

If you’re wondering where to go in Colorado and want to visit a small western town, Golden is the perfect place!

Where to Stay in Golden

  • Table Mountain Inn: With mountain views and rustic decor this is a great place to stay in Golden
  • The Silk Pincushion: As expected with such a quirky name this adorable hotel is a charming place to stay in Golden, perfect for a home style welcome.

downtown golden colorado decorated for chirstmas at night

From Corritta of It’s a Family Thing

One of the best-kept secrets of Colorado is Canon City. I know you may be wondering what makes this one of the best places in Colorado, and that’s the Royal Gorge Bridge.

Only an hour away from Colorado Springs, Canon City is a small town with a big bridge. The Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspended bridge in the United States. The bridge is over 900 feet above the Arkansas River.

It is a sight to see and even more amazing to walk. Along with walking across the over 1200 footbridge, you can also ride the gondola across the gorge, zipline, or fly on the royal rush sky coaster.

royal gorge bridge in canon city, one of the best vacation spots in colorado

As if that wasn’t enough, you can head down to the gorge and enjoy a train ride along the Arkansas River. You can relax and have dinner while learning more about Canon City.

If you are up for an adventure, you can raft on the Arkansas River. Take of the waters while taking in the beautiful scenic views.

In the spring, you can enjoy the music and blossom festival, which is a celebration of the upcoming cherry and apple crop.

Canon City is the perfect small-town with diners, shops, boutiques, and few traffic lights. Be sure to stop at Julian’s Taco Shop downtown; you won’t regret it.

Where to Stay in Canon City

  • Hampton Inn: For good simple accommodation this is a great choice in Canon City. It is also walking distance to Royal Gorge Bridge.

arkansas river in canon city in the fall

From Dymphe of Dym Abroad

Aurora is one of the best places in Colorado. You find the city to the east of Denver.

There are lots of great things to do and see in the city of Aurora. For example, there are a lot of outdoor activities and there is beautiful nature.

One of the best things to do in Aurora is going to Cherry Creek State Park. This is a beautiful park with lots of places with water. It is the perfect place for a relaxing walk while seeing the Rocky Mountains in the background.

Another great thing about Cherry Greek State Park is that there are many water activities. Besides that, another great thing to do in Aurora is visiting the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. This is a very interesting museum to visit.

Also, you should go to Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre. This is a very large outdoor amphitheater where many events throughout the year take place.

Where to Stay in Aurora

  • Woolley’s Classic Suites : With old-world touches and mountain views this is a great option for your stay in Aurora.

white pelicans in cherry creek resevoir with mountains in the background in aurora co

Mount Evans

From Allison of She Dreams of Alpine

If standing on the summit of a 14er is on your Colorado bucket list, don’t miss a trip to Mount Evans.

You can reach the 14,265-foot summit of this mountain in multiple ways, so you get to decide how hard you want to work to get to the top.

Mount Evans is located about 60 miles west of Denver, along Mount Evans Scenic Byway (aka Highway 5), which is the highest paved road in the whole country.

You can actually drive it straight to the top with only a short stroll to the true summit from the parking lot.

view of rocky mountains from summit of mount evans co

For the extra bragging rights and experience of hiking a 14er , pull off earlier on the road and park at Summit Lake trailhead.

From there, hike approximately 4.5 miles round trip (with 2300 feet of elevation gain) to get to the summit of Mount Evans.

If you prefer pedal power, you can bike to the summit as well.

Be aware that the road to the trailhead and summit is closed in winter, so plan to visit Mount Evans in spring, summer, or fall.

Where to Stay in Mount Evans

  • The Ranahan: These aparthotel suites are perfect for your stay in nearby Breckenridge. Each room has its own kitchenette but the hotel also has great on site facilities including a fabulous bar and outside fire pit area.

mountain goat on top of mount evans co

From Jesal of Tourist to Travellers

Grand Lake Colorado, the largest natural lake in Colorado is a picturesque sight with snow-capped mountains and a breathtaking backdrop of the wild Rocky Mountains, and it ranks among the best Colorado vacation spots!

At 8300 feet above sea level, the scenery is unmatched and the sprawling greenery is soothing to one’s eyes.

sunset near the docks in grand lake colorado vacation spots

It’s also an ideal basecamp for the adventure seeker.

While visiting Grand Lake, be sure to take a scenic walk along the lakeshore, relax on the beach, take a few hikes to enjoy the scenery, and keep an eye out for wildlife.

You could hire a cozy cabin in the woods and spend some time with your loved ones.

If you’re visiting this beautiful place in Colorado during winter, consider trying out skiing or snowboarding during your trip.

Where to Stay in Grand Lake

  • Grand Lake Townhome : This fully equipped self-catered holiday home is great for small groups or a couple if you want plenty of space! There is a wonderful deck with great views, it is even known to spot Moose right in front.
  • Grand Lake Lodge: For catered options with the same cabin feel is this lodge right in Rocky Mountain National Park. There is also a hot tub and pool available to use.

red kayak in grand lake co

Willow Lakes

From Meg of Fox in the Forest

Willow Lakes in Colorado brings the drama of the Colorado Gore Range to life.

If you’re up for a challenging hike that makes up for every drop of sweat with fantastic scenery, this is definitely one of the best places in Colorado to please your adventurous soul!

Known for its rugged trails, fantastic mountain views, and jaw-dropping views of alpine lakes (one which is backdropped by an impressive series of gendarmes, the Zodiac Spires), Willow Lakes will greet you every step of the way with yet another wonderful view (usually better than the last!).

colorado hiking trail with a pink wildflower on the left side of the trail

Another highlight? The entire trail is lined with flowers, which makes it one of the best  wildflower hikes in Colorado !

One of the coolest things to do at Willow Lakes (aside from dropping your jaw to the ground at the scenery) is camping in one of the most beautiful places to visit in Colorado.

Where to Stay in Willow Lakes

There are several campsites along the last mile of the trail. Few things in life are as amazing as spending a night under the stars here!

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4 photos of natural beauty in colorado, black and red text on a white background reads "25 beautiful places colorado"

About Kate Storm

Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

5 thoughts on “Colorado Bucket List: 25 Cool Places to Visit in Colorado”

There is a flaw in this article, Grand Lake is a very nice small mountain town. And yes there is a lake called Grand Lake, but the big lake is called Lake Granby.

Not a flaw. Lake Granby is man-made. The article states that Grand Lake is the largest natural lake in CO, which is in fact, true.

I can’t believe Ouray wasn’t on the list.

Tourist from back east has visited Ouray several times. Great area to visit, hike and view mountains. Definitely an oversite! Friendly. Great camping nearby Norman and Linda

This brings back memories. Thank you so much.

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The 25 top things to do in colorado, according to a local.

Expect plenty of epic adventures and spectacular scenery in Colorado.

Top Things to Do in Colorado

Maroon Bells in Aspen, Colorado, at sunrise.

Getty Images

Adventurous travelers will find a home in Colorado. Snowcapped mountains, rushing rivers and dramatic canyons create a rugged yet stunning landscape well worth exploring. Meanwhile, cities like Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs provide a taste of culture – and plenty of relaxing activities for those not up for hiking or skiing. Read on for the top things to do in the Centennial State.

Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Dream Lake in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park in summer.

Rocky Mountain National Park draws millions of people every year to explore its 147 lakes and 355 miles of trails, which 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. 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.

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 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. It 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. The road is only open from May to October because of its dangerous winter weather conditions.

Rocky Mountain National Park operates on a timed entry reservation system during the summer (May to October), and entry to the park during every season requires a vehicle entrance pass. Keep in mind that backpacking requires a wilderness permit. If you're planning to visit multiple national parks in a year, consider purchasing the America the Beautiful Interagency Annual Pass .

Insider tip: The 9.4-mile trek to Sky Pond is worth doing for gorgeous views of surrounding peaks.

Downtown Denver, Colorado, at night.

The Mile High City is full of educational museums, trendy restaurants, historical sites and top-notch views. For a taste of culture, stop at the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the Denver Botanic Gardens. Or, catch a Broadway show at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. If you're visiting with children, the Denver Zoo is a great place to spend the day, as is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The many unique tour offerings , including brewery outings and graffiti tours, can help you experience as much of Denver 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 boutique hotels like Hotel Teatro to more budget-friendly alternatives .

In November, attend Denver Arts Week, where 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. One of Denver Arts Week's most noteworthy events is the Denver Film Festival, which showcases critically acclaimed films and features a star-studded red carpet event.

Insider tip: In terms of food and drink, you can't go wrong with Barcelona Wine Bar, which boasts a plethora of delicious tapas and a variety of wines. (Just make sure you book a reservation for this popular restaurant.) If you're a fan of speakeasies, try Williams & Graham – where you enter the bar through a bookcase – or Retrograde, where you enter the space-themed bar through a freezer in the Frozen Matter ice cream shop.

Surf or sled at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

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. 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 a bit of courage, visitors can surf or sled down the massive dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Keep in mind that 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. The first dunes are located about half a mile from the main parking area, but surfing and sledding are allowed anywhere on the dunefield away from vegetated areas. There are plenty of other activities you can enjoy throughout Great Sand Dunes, including hiking and swimming in Medano Creek. The park is also a top Colorado camping location .

Insider tip: Make sure to bring appropriate footwear as the sand can get very hot.

Stay at the famed Stanley Hotel

An array of old mirrors and pictures of previous owners are mounted on the walls on the main staircase in the Stanley Hotel.

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 visitor-recommended tours, including The Shining Tour, where you can peek at one of the axes used in the movie.

Despite these sinister ties, the Stanley Hotel is one of the best hotels in Estes Park for good reason: It touts renovated premium suites, spa treatments, guided outdoor excursions and a plethora of premier dining options. There's plenty to do in the greater town of Estes Park, too, like horseback riding , attending the fall Elk Fest and exploring the free Estes Park Museum.

Insider tip: Visit Estes Park in the fall to hear the beautiful yet eerie elk bugling.

Address: 333 E. Wonderview Ave., Estes Park, CO 80517

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods on a sunny day.

There are several ways to explore the towering red rock formations in Garden of the Gods , located 5 miles northwest of downtown Colorado Springs , one of which is hiking. 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.

Insider tip: After a day of exploring Garden of the Gods, grab a bite to eat at Pizzeria Rustica in the Old Colorado City area of Colorado Springs. The quattro formaggi (four cheese) pizza is to die for, and the gelato is a delicious way to cool down after hiking.

Summit Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak buried in a new mantle of fresh white snow after a week of spring snowstorms.

Pikes Peak, a 14er 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 there are plenty of places to pull over and admire the views on the way up. Keep in mind that the drive requires reservations and can be difficult, especially for those afraid of heights (which is why guided shuttle 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 as it sweeps passengers up the mountain. At the top, passengers can soak in the scenery before boarding the train down. The entire trip lasts about three hours. You can purchase tickets online before you go; keep in mind that 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 a 25-mile 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, which sits at 14,115 feet in elevation.

Insider tip: Afternoon storms in the summer are a common occurrence in Colorado, so if you're hiking, make sure you're descending around noon to avoid dangerous lightning.

The Flatirons from Chautauqua Trailhead on a sunny day.

Many visitors appreciate the charming, small-town vibe of Boulder, located 25 miles northwest of Denver. 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 many trendy restaurants and nightlife options.

Past visitors recommend The Buff for breakfast, The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse for lunch or afternoon tea, and The Sink for dinner – and don't forget to grab a drink at one of the city's many breweries in between meals. If you're visiting in the summer, check out the Boulder Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays 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.

Insider tip: A great hike away from the hustle and bustle of Boulder life is the 7.9-mile Walker Ranch Loop, an 8-mile drive from Chautauqua. For a less heart-pumping experience, touring the Celestial Seasonings tea factory is a blast and includes free tea sampling.

Mesa Verde National Park

The Cliff Palace cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park.

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 the cliffside quarters for 700 years until finally abandoning them in late A.D. 1200. Now, the remnants of this ancient civilization draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Additionally, the park is associated with 26 Native American tribes.

During your visit, make time to see Cliff Palace – the largest cliff dwelling in North America. The site features 150 rooms and 23 kivas (ceremonial underground rooms) that you can view only by 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.

Ski in Aspen

A couple skiing.

Millions of visitors travel to this town, located about 200 miles west of Denver, each year for its ideal ski conditions and massive slopes. Aspen Snowmass is one of the country's largest ski resorts , one of Colorado's top ski destinations and one of Aspen's most popular attractions . The resort offers more than 5,000 acres of skiable terrain and nearly 50 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 mountain. 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

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre at sunrise.

A trip to this venue will take any concert experience to the next level. The bleacher-style seats at Red Rocks Amphitheatre 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 artists are 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.

Insider tip: You can also find plenty of beautiful hiking in nearby Mount Falcon Park, including the highly rated 3.2-mile Turkey Trot Trail loop.

Address: 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, CO 80465

Relax in the hot springs of Glenwood Springs

World's largest natural hot springs swimming pool in Glenwood springs, Colorado, showing steam coming off water.

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 – heated between 98 and 108 degrees and connected by heated walkways – and rain showers to ensure visitors can cool off when necessary. 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

Group of four with guide white water rafting on Arkansas River in Colorado.

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.

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Flower box in the middle of downtown Telluride, Colorado.

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 popular festivals for film, jazz and bluegrass. Visitors enjoy Telluride for its small-town atmosphere and history.

Drive the Million Dollar Highway

Colorado Million Dollar Highway 550 scenic road with San Juans in the background.

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 the surrounding mountains.

The 25-mile highway stretches from Ouray to Silverton and features awe-inspiring vistas, but be warned that 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 only 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.

Early morning sun illuminates a hexagonal-shaped cedar Gazebo at Grand Lake, Colorado.

Grand Lake is one of the best spots in Colorado for swimming, fishing, boating and soaking up some sun. This top Colorado lake – the largest 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 many activities to partake in, such as ice fishing and ice hockey.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with the sun peeking over the canyon.

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 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.

Insider tip: Bring a canopy tent if you plan to stay in the South Rim Campground as the trees are short and don't offer much in the way of shade. Also, make sure to drive around the park at sunset for spectacular views.

Ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Train on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

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.


Snowy aerial of Breckenridge at dusk.

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. The surrounding area offers a variety of hiking and biking trails – such as the highly rated McCullough Gulch Trail, the Hoosier Pass Loop and the Sawmill Reservoir trail.

Insider tip: A romantic dinner at Hearthstone Restaurant can't be beat. Give the lamb a try; it's spectacular!

Visit Colorado's wine country

Vineyard in Palisade, Colorado, with the Book Cliffs Mountains in the background.

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 on 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.

You'll find 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 Peach Street Distillers. 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.

Insider tip: A stay at Palisade's Wine Country Inn makes for the perfect romantic getaway in Colorado . Make sure to take advantage of the property's daily complimentary wine tasting in the afternoon. In addition to wine, Palisade is known for its peaches; consider taking a peach farm tour with Suncrest Orchard Alpacas – which includes walking with your very own fluffy alpaca.

Aerial of downtown Vail, Colorado.

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.

Cross the Royal Gorge Bridge

Aerial of the Royal Gorge Bridge on a sunny day.

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 still (understandably) nervous about walking over the bridge, however, some visitors recommend riding the Aerial Gondola across it first.

There's an activity for everyone at the park, from the three-story Playland for kids to the Cloudscraper Zip Line – the highest zip line in America – and the Royal Rush Skycoaster for thrill-seekers. Travelers recommend going in the offseason for smaller crowds.

Address: 4218 County Road 3A, Cañon City, CO 81212

Enjoy family-friendly fun in Steamboat Springs

Aerial of Steamboat Springs from a hot air balloon.

This northwestern Colorado city is known for its ski offerings and hot springs. The ski mountain offers 182 trails, 23 lifts and four terrain parks, each for a different skill level. After skiing, pay a visit to the Old Town Hot Springs in the heart of downtown, which features several designated pools as well as two waterslides 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.

If you're planning to spend the night in Steamboat Springs , recent travelers recommend staying at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort for modern appliances and gorgeous views.

Go leaf peeping

Autumn with aspen forest in Colorado mountains from Kebler Pass.

The fall season in Colorado 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.

Insider tip: If you're heading to Kebler Pass, spend some time in the charming town of Crested Butte. The Secret Stash offers a range of pizzas as well as the delicious and popular "Crack Fries."

Drive the highest road in North America

A red car drives the Scenic Byway to Mount Blue Sky on a sunny day.

The Scenic Byway to Blue Sky, which begins 33 miles west of Denver, climbs to the peak of Mount Blue Sky (formerly Mount Evans) 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.

Due to potentially dangerous winter conditions, cars are only permitted to drive to the peak 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

Aerial of the Arkansas River in Salida, Colorado.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Skiing and snowboarding might be the first activities that come to mind when putting together your winter Colorado itinerary, but consider a variety of cold weather 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 myriad outdoor adventures:

  • Rock climb in Eldorado State Park (and receive a stamp in your Colorado Parks Passport )
  • Get your adrenaline pumping on a zip line
  • Visit Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs
  • Ride the Alpine Slide in Winter Park (the longest alpine slide in the state)
  • See the stunning Maroon Bells
  • Explore the colorful Paint Mines Interpretive Park in Colorado Springs
  • Hike around Dinosaur National Monument

And plenty of other activities await if you're not in the mood to lace up your hiking boots:

  • Watch a play at the Shakespeare Festival in Boulder
  • Take a flight in a hot air balloon above the Rocky Mountains
  • Catch a baseball game at Coors Field
  • Attend the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, south of Colorado Springs
  • Explore a ghost town like St. Elmo or Independence Ghost Town near Aspen

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.

You might also be interested in:

  • The Best Places to Visit in Colorado
  • The Best Places to Hike in the U.S.
  • The Best National Parks in the U.S.
  • The Best Dude Ranch Vacations in the U.S.
  • The Best Carry-on Backpacks

Tags: Travel , Colorado Vacations , US Vacations , U.S. West Vacations

World's Best Places To Visit

  • # 1 South Island, New Zealand
  • # 4 Bora Bora

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16 of the best things to do in Colorado

Liza Prado

Sep 7, 2023 • 10 min read

colorado trip summer

Experience the beauty of Colorado with these top things to do © gcosoveanu / Getty Images

With more than 300 glorious days of sun and majestic landscapes to match, it’s no wonder Colorado beckons to outdoorsy types .

You'll find adventures to be had in just about every corner of the state, from hiking trails and white water rapids to world-class mountain resorts and towering sand dunes.

But Colorado offers more than adrenaline rushes and Instagram moments. It’s also known for its layers of history, its vibrant art and music scene, its cowboy culture and tasty craft brews. Here are the best things to do in Colorado that showcase the variety the state has to offer.

1. Enjoy the fall colors in Aspen

Just beyond the cowboy-meets-Hollywood glam of Aspen , the twin Maroon Bell mountains rise dramatically over a long mirrored lake. Surrounded by thick aspen groves, fall brings a sea of fluttering yellow and orange leaves. It’s sublime, a dream and one of the best places in the state to see fall colors .

Planning tip: The trail near the lake can get crowded this time of year, especially in late September when the leaves are at their peak. Arrive before 8am for a parking spot, some solitude and the best chance at seeing wildlife. Otherwise, take the shuttle from town and hike deep into the aspen groves towards Crater Lake to take in the beauty without the crowd.

Ancient dwellings carved into rock

2. Explore ancient cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park is a one-of-a-kind place, the largest and best-preserved Native American archaeological site in the US. Nestled in a stunning landscape of canyons and mesas near the  Four Corners region, Mesa Verde is home to more than 5000 Ancestral Puebloan sites that developed over hundreds of years before being abruptly abandoned in 1300CE for reasons still unknown.

What remains is one of the most exhilarating adventures in the West: clambering down ladders, crawling through tight tunnels and peering into elaborate cliff dwellings, all to puzzle over what life was once like here.

3. Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

If there’s any place that’s quintessentially Colorado, it’s  Rocky Mountain National Park . Every view is a picture postcard: a vast landscape of granite peaks and shimmering lakes, flower-filled meadows and dense forests.

But it’s no secret that RMNP can get jam-packed, especially in summer. Lose the crowds by leaving the roadside viewpoints and lacing up your hiking boots instead.

The park has 300 miles of trails catering to all levels of ability and ambition, from an easy stroll around Bear Lake to an epic trek up Longs Peak. Impressive vistas and perfect solitude also can be found on hundreds of thousands of acres of backcountry, areas home to herds of elk, scattered bighorn sheep, black bears and more.

The exterior of a historic wooden-boarded post office building in an abandoned town

4. Visit the ghost town of St Elmo

Following a bumpy dirt road to the abandoned mining settlement of St Elmo, it’s easy to imagine the prospectors who plied this same roadway, following tales of precious metal found deep in the Rockies. Tucked into the base of the Collegiate Peaks, St Elmo is Colorado’s best-preserved ghost town.

More than 40 buildings are still standing, most dating to the 1880s when the town hit its apex. Wandering past the saloon, billiards hall, courthouse and jail, visitors get a peek into Colorado’s past, when gold and silver ruled these hills. It serves as a modern-day reminder of the quick riches and busted dreams of the past, the making and breaking of the West. 

5. Throw back a Colorado craft brew

Colorado takes its beer seriously, treating craft brewing like a high art. Almost any town you visit – from tiny Del Norte to beer-centric Fort Collins – has a favorite local brew or two (or 20). One thing’s for sure: you won’t go thirsty for an IPA in Colorado.

Planning tip: If you’re here in September, try to score tickets to the  Great American Beer Festival . Held in Denver, the festival draws more than 1000 master brewers from across the nation, vying for Best of Show medals in categories like Best Coffee Beer, Best Barrel-Aged Strong Beer and many more. Best of all is the camaraderie of you and 60,000 beer buddies, all tasting outstanding beers one ounce at a time.

An amphitheatre built into rock

6. Catch a concert at Red Rocks

There’s something about attending a concert at  Red Rocks : the sounds of instruments and song, the sight of people dancing, an umbrella of dark sky above and the iconic 400ft-high red sandstone monoliths standing guard on either side. Once a sacred gathering place of the Ute tribe, today Red Rocks is world renowned for its natural acoustics and stunning beauty, a one-of-a-kind amphitheater.

It’s no surprise big name bands like The Beatles, U2, Jimi Hendrix and The Grateful Dead have played and recorded albums here and that the venue continues to draw the world’s best musicians and performers. Just 15 miles from Denver, it’s easily accessible, too.

Planning tip: Do like locals do and catch the sunset before the show.

7. Soak in Glenwood Hot Springs

Perched at the end of a gorgeous canyon at the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers, present-day Glenwood Hot Springs have been treasured for their healing properties for centuries. Long before the arrival of Europeans, the Ute bathed in these same steamy thermal waters, which they called yampah (great medicine).

Today, a historic resort sits on the site, the hot springs pumping out 3.5 million gallons of mineral water a day, flowing through two pools, one a whopping 400ft long.

Planning tip:  Temperatures range from 93°F to 104°F, warm enough to soak in even on a snowy January day. Bring your swimsuit and, if need be, your ski hat.

8. Drive the Million Dollar Highway

Deep in the San Juan Mountains, the Million Dollar Highway connects the towns of Ouray and Silverton, is a mind-blowingly scenic drive, and one of Colorado’s best road trips . Twenty five miles of hairpin turns and tight S-bends cut through the Uncompahgre Gorge, whose steep mountainsides loom large and close, rising into lofty, mist-shrouded peaks, while the valley floor lies far below, dotted with fir trees and wildflowers.

Planning tip: Drive with caution. The road is formidable, even in good weather, and the lack of guardrails doesn’t help. Take advantage of pullouts. The Red Mountain Pass (11,018ft) is a favorite for its 360-degree views.

9. Hula hoop in Telluride

It supposedly all started back in the '90s when Colorado ski-bum band String Cheese Incident started chucking hula hoops into the crowd at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Festival-goers turned the toys into dance partners, and the fad stuck. You can count on a large contingent of "hoopers" at every Telluride Bluegrass Festival show.

It’s just one of the many odd-ball pleasures of this amazing celebration of folk music and mountain life, held in  Telluride every summer and drawing big-name bands and thousands of revelers. Telluride itself is stunningly beautiful, nestled in a narrow box canyon, surrounded on three sides by rugged peaks and even a waterfall. It's not easy to get to, but it's well worth the effort.

Woman running on sand dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

10. Surf down the tallest dunes in North America

Great Sand Dunes National Park sits like a surreal work of art next to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, an undulating dune field covering more than 30 square miles, its sandy peaks reaching hundreds of feet above the brush-covered valley floor. Climbing the dunes can be slow going – one step forward and a half step back in the ever-shifting sand – but that makes sand surfing down all the sweeter.

Special wood boards definitely make for the best ride, and they can be rented from the  Great Sand Dunes Oasis just outside the park or in nearby Alamosa. Sport your ski goggles and long socks, if you got ‘em – the sand gets everywhere.

Planning tip: If you’re here in late spring, count yourself lucky. The Medano Creek emerges temporarily alongside the dunes, creating a beach for water play, tubing and, of course, sandcastle-making.

11. Discover Denver’s street art

Unexpected and totally fabulous, Denver ’s trendiest neighborhood, RiNo (River North) – a one-time industrial wasteland that's now the heart of cool – is draped in murals covering every sort of surface, from restaurant doorways and parking lot walls to alleyways, power boxes and garage doors.

Bright, opinionated and ever-changing, the artwork stops you in your tracks, speaking volumes about Denver’s diversity of people and thought, and its history and day-to-day life. Prepare to be wowed.

People in small kayaks paddle down a river

12. Paddle the Arkansas River

Brace yourself for icy waters as you paddle into a roaring set of waves on the Arkansas River, one of the longest and wildest rivers in the state. With more than 150 miles of open water running from Leadville to the scenic Royal Gorge, the Arkansas has everything from extreme rapids to mellow ripples and includes the iconic class-II run through Browns Canyon National Monument.

Planning tip: The best paddling happens between late May and early July. Pick up a trip in Buena Vista or Cañon City.  

13. Ski Vail, the state's best ski resort

You might think  Vail is merely a playground for the rich and famous, and not a serious ski resort. Think again: beyond the glitz and glam (and shocking prices), Vail is truly one of the world’s finest ski resorts, boasting more than 5000 skiable acres, 195 trails, and some of the best on- and off-piste terrain anywhere.

The front side is a paradise of silky corduroy – Vail’s groomers are artists indeed – ranging from mellow greens to long rowdy black diamonds like Blue Ox. But don’t miss the backside, especially the legendary Blue Sky Basin and seven – count ‘em, seven – bowls. There’s so much steep ’n deep that you’ll lose track of what you’ve skied or ridden. Colorado has many outstanding ski resorts, true, but Vail will steal your heart. 

Man touching dinosaur bones at Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado

14. Touch dinosaur bones

A must-see stop for dinophiles is  Dinosaur National Monument , located in the desolate northwest corner of Colorado. It’s one of the few places on Earth where you can actually reach out and touch a dinosaur skeleton, snarling in its final pose, petrified eternally in rock and stone.

Home to one the largest fossil beds in North America, the dinosaur quarry here also shows off some 1500 prehistoric bones embedded in a cliff face. You’ll see everything from allosaurus to stegosaurus.

Planning tip: Ranger-led walks, talks and tours explain the site, and a bunch of hands-on exhibits add to the fun.

15. Summit a fourteener

Standing at the peak of a 14,000ft mountain, taking in the view from the top of the world, is practically a rite of passage in Colorado. The state’s 50-plus " fourteeners " offer access and challenge to all levels of hikers, from those reachable only with technical climbing expertise to the two peaks with roads right to the top.

Whether you decide to drive to the top of  Pikes Peak (or take the cog train), hike the 3-mile trail to Quandary Peak near Breckenridge or make a run at Mt Elbert (the tallest of them all), they all deliver big.

16. Sport your Stetson at the National Western Stock Show

Saddle up for one of the country’s biggest stock shows – the  National Western Stock Show – a Denver tradition since 1906. Held every January, come here for more than 20 rodeos, 15,000 farm animals, dancing horses, dog shows and even yoga with baby goats.

Don’t miss the iconic kick-off parade, when dozens of Longhorn cattle are herded right through downtown Denver, high heels and power suits giving way to cowboy hats, chaps and impressive belt buckles.

This article was first published Jun 18, 2021 and updated Sep 7, 2023.

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The Mountain Travelist

Travel Tips ·

The Ultimate Colorado Packing List For Summer

Colorado packing guide

I remember my first few trips to Colorado in the summertime and it was so hard to know exactly what to pack for the Colorado weather in the summer. 

Before my first trip to Colorado, I heard it could be cold at night (yes, even in the summer!) and that it could even snow up high in the mountains.

So, when it came time to pack, I didn’t have a summer packing list for Colorado of what I would truly need! 

Now, after living in Colorado for over 20 years, I can tell you exactly what needs to be on your summer Colorado packing list in order to be prepared, comfortable, and have the right mountain outfits in Colorado during the warmer months.

To make sure your trip is as fun and as carefree as possible, I’ve put together the BEST list of what you should pack for an amazing summer vacation in Colorado! My hope is that this summer packing list is extremely helpful for you. 

Whether you’re packing for a family-friendly adventurous trip to Colorado or just some relaxing time away in the mountains with friends, this summer packing guide has everything you’ll need to bring to be well prepared for a trip to Colorado in the summer. 

In This Article

For The Daytime in Colorado

T-shirts or tank tops , shorts or capri pants , long-sleeve shirts , light jacket , hiking shoes or trail running sneakers , light activewear socks , hats: baseball cap, sun hat, or visor, bags that are perfect for colorado, for the evenings in colorado, flexible, versatile clothing layers , rain jacket, trekking poles, water bottle & carrier, lip protection, insect repellent, nasal spray.

  • Summer Dresses 

Additional Items to Pack

The best time to visit colorado in the summer , in conclusion.

The afternoons in Colorado in the summer can be extremely pleasant with lots of abundant sunshine . The days are often warm and then sometimes cool off as the sun goes down in the evening.

The climate is very dry, so you won’t experience too much humidity unless there has been some recent rain. And even then, the humidity doesn’t stick around for very long. 

Temperatures will range depending on the altitude. The higher you go, the cooler the weather in Colorado will be, especially in the early mornings and evenings. Be sure to check the average temperatures for the town (and month) you’ll be visiting. Be sure to read about the weather in Colorado here .

For summer afternoons in Colorado, here’s what you’ll need. I’ve included what to bring for a light hike and also a more adventurous type of activity. 

Colorado packing guide

Packing List for Colorado in the Summer

T-shirts or tank tops are the best way to be comfortable during most of your days if you’re outside during your visit to Colorado. T-shirts and casual shorts or pants are common summer mountain outfits in Colorado. 

The sun is warm and the climate is dry so you’ll be really comfortable in short sleeve tops during the day. You may also consider a moisture-wicking t-shirt if you’re going to be doing some light hiking or a more active afternoon. 

The weather in Colorado in June, July, and August is extremely warm and enjoyable. Nice warm sunny days!

Here are some of my top choices for shirts and tank tops to wear in Colorado. 

Under Armour Women’s Tech Twist Tank Top

colorado trip summer

Under Armour Women’s Tech V-Neck Twist Short-Sleeve T-Shirt

colorado trip summer

Women’s Tech Stretch Short-Sleeve V-Neck T-Shirts (pack of 2, Amazon Essentials)

colorado trip summer

The weather in Colorado should be perfect for either shorts or capri pants. If you plan on being active and going for hikes and walks, it’ll be great to have some shorts that are an active blend of materials. When you’re looking for what to wear in Colorado, these clothes have a great combination of cotton, spandex, and nylon. Just perfect for the weather in Colorado in June, July, or August. 

This will allow for flexibility, comfort, and lightness which makes for the best hiking attire. If the weather is very hot (August) you may want to stick with activewear (instead of any heavy cotton) for breathability, durability, and comfort. 

Two of my favorites: 

The North Face Women’s Aphrodite 2.0 Capri Pant

colorado trip summer

RBX Active Women’s Fashion Lightweight Woven Drawstring Cargo Capri Pant with Pockets

colorado trip summer

In my opinion, a long-sleeve t-shirt is perfect Colorado clothing for the days that start off cool, turn to warm, and then finish off a little cloudy.

In Colorado in the summer, oftentimes when the sun goes behind the clouds it can get chilly!

Once this happens, all you may need are some long sleeves to make you perfectly comfortable. A long-sleeved shirt is the perfect hiking attire for wrapping around your waist until you need it. We’ll chat a lot more about layers in the Colorado Packing List for Winter. Layers are an essential way to pack for winter or summer in Colorado.

A few of my favorite long-sleeve t-shirts: 

Under Armour Women’s HeatGear Long Sleeve T-Shirt

colorado trip summer

Life is Good Women’s Long Sleeve Crusher T-Shirt

colorado trip summer

ALEAF Women’s Long Sleeve Shirts UPF50+ Sun Protection Quick Dry Hiking & Fishing

colorado trip summer

If there’s wind in the forecast or a very cloudy day ahead you’ll want to have a light jacket with you.

Clouds and wind could make the Colorado temperature pretty cool. Go ahead and pack that light jacket, you could certainly need it and you’ll be glad you did! Summer hiking outfits in Colorado surely include having a light jacket with you. 

Columbia Women’s Benton Springs Full Zip

colorado trip summer

This post is all about the best Colorado packing list.

Packing list Colorado

For those occasions when you want to dip into the river or soak in hot springs or a hot tub, you must bring your swimsuit!

Many Colorado hotels and resorts have hot tubs that you can use year-round so a swimsuit is always a good idea. Even in the middle of winter!

American Trends Women’s One Piece Bathing Suite Atletic Modest Swimwear

colorado trip summer

In the category of sandals, I usually pack a cute pair of sandals to wear to lunch or dinner out with friends when preparing for a trip to Colorado in summer. 

In addition, I bring a pair of very casual outdoor-style sandals such as Birkenstocks , Chacos , or Keens . These are styles that will be comfortable to wear on a less flat surface and that have supportive tread to them. Even if it’s only for dirt or sand, it’s nice to be prepared with a pair of sandals that are slightly rustic. Especially if you’re making a trip up to the mountains and higher elevations.

The rustic sandals will also come in handy if you’re planning on spending time near a Colorado river or on a lake.

Packing List Colorado

If you’re planning on doing some hiking you’ll definitely want to bring the right footwear. I lean towards trail running sneakers for this because I find them to be on the lighter side, very comfortable, and they take up less room in my luggage than hiking boots. Plus, they’re more flexible than tall hiking boots and I enjoy that too. 

But, if you’re planning on doing some moderate to difficult hiking or long all-day hikes, you’ll want a hiking boot that offers a lot more support than a trail running sneaker. Travel tip: Wear them on the plane or bring them in a backpack as a carry-on. This way, they don’t take up room in your checked luggage. Make sure one of these is on your Colorado packing list. 

Interestingly, many people wear trail running sneakers or low hiking shoes around as their day-to-day shoes in Colorado. It’s the style of the outdoor lifestyle. Thus, when you’re planning your Colorado summer outfits, consider wearing a low lightweight trail running sneaker as fashionable, comfortable footwear.

Here are the hiking shoes I recommend for your trip to the west! 

Here are some of my personal choices: 

Saucony Women’s Excursion Tr11 Running Shoe

colorado trip summer

Merrell Women’s  Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

colorado trip summer

Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Hiking Boot

colorado trip summer

Salomon Women’s Speedcross 5 Trail Running Shoes

colorado trip summer

Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 MID GTX W Hiking Boots

Socks might not seem very important but they certainly are!

If you’re going to be active on your trip to Colorado in the summer you should wear socks that provide cushioning to the front and the heel of the foot.

Socks that are specifically designed for hiking also hold up really well, making them worth the higher price point than typical socks. Wool is the most popular hiking sock material as it’s great for regulating temperature and durability. A couple of my favorite brands are Smartwool and Darn Tough . Be sure to add some of these to your packing list for Colorado! 

The abundant sunshine in Colorado makes it extremely important to keep your head covered. When you’re planning on being outside for a long time you would benefit from any type of hat that protects your scalp.

Whether that’s with a light baseball cap on hot days or a wool hat on cooler days, it’s a great idea to be prepared with a hat! An adventure hat that has a brim and chin strap is a perfect option if you’ll be on a raft or boat. These are lightweight and typically have sun protection. 

Plus, hats are great for shading light from your face. Protecting your eyes and skin from the sun is super important, especially in a sunny destination like Colorado.

One of my favorite hats for summer in the mountains:

Eddie Bauer Women’s Exploration UPF Wide Brim Hat

The weather in Colorado in June, July, and August certainly includes abundant sunshine so these accessories are essential. A cute summer hat is a perfect addition to your Colorado summer outfit. 

Packing list for Colorado

Sunglasses are another essential item that goes on the list to pack for your trip to Colorado. With Colorado boasting over 300 days of sunshine, you’ll be very happy you brought your sunglasses.

Choose a pair that has polarized lenses since they’re designed to reduce glare and filter out reflected light. Even if you’re in Colorado in the winter, you’ll want sunglasses with you. The reflection and glare that comes from snow can be harsh if you don’t have sun protection. 

Oakley Oo9013 Frogskins Square Sunglasses

colorado trip summer

It’s important to consider the bags that you’ll need to pack for a Colorado vacation. You’ll want different bags for different activities and situations. And not having the right one can be frustrating. 

Bags to consider when you’re planning on some short hikes or excursions are a crossbody, a fanny pack, or a small day hike bag. If you’ll be bike riding or something similar, a crossbody is a perfect choice! There’s no need to hold onto the bag because it comfortably fits around you. And, they’re made small enough to not be in the way of arm movement. This bag is sized for just the essentials and it’s the perfect item to add to your packing list for Colorado. 

A fanny pack is another super simple way to carry just the things you need on a long walk around town or down a paved trail. It will perfectly hold your phone, some extra sunscreen, lip protection, and a small wallet. And the fanny pack “style” is IN! 

A small day hike bag is the largest option in the small bag category.

A day hike bag is a great choice for an all-day excursion as you can add some lunch, a water bottle, a long-sleeved shirt, and a larger camera or other goodies. They usually have pockets for a map, too. 

This Osprey Daylight Daypack is one of the best daypacks I have found! I’m a big fan of Osprey and have a few different bags that I’ve been using for years!

Osprey Daylight Daypack, Dream Purple, One Size

colorado trip summer

Once the sun goes down, the weather in Colorado typically gets cooler, even in the summer. It’s very different from a humid destination where you can have regular warm summer nights. Thus, bringing a light jacket to dinner or an outdoor event is usually a good idea. 

Style in Colorado is casual. Jeans that are “dressed up” with a fancy blouse can be sufficient for a nice dinner out with friends or family. Of course, there are always opportunities to dress up as elegantly as you’d like! When you’re figuring out your Colorado outfits in summer, just know that comfort comes first, and that mountain style is very casual. 

But, as a western destination, it’s generally acceptable to be casual and comfortable. You’ll see a lot of denim in Colorado!

Cowboy boots are always in style in Colorado. Western wear is a fun way to embrace western culture and fit right in. Cowboy hats included! When you’re packing for your Colorado trip, add your cowboy boots to the list! 

For Outdoor Activities

The weather can change fast in Colorado, during any season. This is why it can be hard to know what to pack for Colorado. 

Dressing in layers will help you stay comfortable prepared and flexible. As I mentioned above, I usually wear either a tank top or an activewear t-shirt (not 100% cotton) as a first layer if the forecast is for sun and warmth. This is true for a day hike too! 

Over the t-shirt or tank top, I’ll wear a light, thin long-sleeved shirt that will help keep me warm if there’s a breeze or it’s early morning.

This is especially true if you’re spending time at a higher elevation as the mornings can be very chilly! 

A vest is a great idea to pack for your Colorado summer trip. A vest will be especially useful for days that will be mixed with sun and clouds.

The vest will keep your core body warm and your arms free to move around . Comfortable movement is important if you’re hiking, walking, or running. 

If you’re planning on doing some hiking in Colorado you’ll definitely want a supportive hiking boot, trail running sneaker or outdoor-style sandal. (as mentioned above) 

Many of the mountain towns in Colorado have rivers where you can enjoy a ride on a tube or just hang out by the water and watch the kayakers. Outdoor sandals are supportive, versatile, and even stylish! 

A perfect footwear choice for these activities is a brand such as Chacos or Keens. They offer solid tread on the bottom, they’re easy to put on your feet and they can be worn in the water. 

Chaco Women’s Z1 Classic Sandal

colorado trip summer

Rain isn’t nearly as common as sunshine in Colorado but it’s still really nice to be prepared! Having a rain jacket on hand that you can fold up small and add to your day pack or backpack is a great idea.

You’ll certainly be happy that you have it if you run into some rain showers! Chances are, the rain won’t stick around for a long time, and you’ll dry quickly –  but it’s still a good idea to have one with you. Add this to your packing list for Colorado. 

I recommend the North Face Women’s Resolve 2 Waterproof Hooded Rain Jacket :

colorado trip summer

Trekking poles are an awesome idea to pack for your trip to Colorado in the summer.

They help you be more efficient when hiking, especially if you aren’t accustomed to the altitude.

You can cover more ground, get more exercise in your shoulders and arms and increase your speed with trekking poles.

There are some great options that will fold down small enough to fit into your luggage! This pair of trekking poles from TrailBuddy is a great choice that collapses down and is easy to pack!

Cascade Mountain Tech Lightweight Aircraft-Grade Aluminum Trekking Poles with Extended Down Grip Plus Tip Kit

colorado trip summer

Essential Accessories

You must stay hydrated in Colorado! It’s a very dry climate making it easy to become dehydrated.

I recommend bringing your favorite refillable water bottle on your trip and refilling it as often as you can. If you’re going hiking, there are some great options for water carriers that are more conducive to outdoor activities. 

A Camelbak hydration pack is my first choice as they are lightweight and comfortable! There are plenty of other options that will wrap around you so your hands and arms are free. These are the best for short hikes and walks! If you’re bringing a day pack or larger backpack on your excursion then you can fit a water bottle in one of the side pockets. 

CamelBak Classic Hydration Pack, 85 oz

colorado trip summer

Worth mentioning again is how strong the sun is in Colorado! Do not leave the house without sunscreen on your face and body.

With over 300 days of sunshine in the state, you’ll benefit from protecting your skin and lips from the harsh sun. Grab a “sport” sunscreen for those hiking or biking days when you’ll be sweating and could use the added protection. 

Of course, you can always buy some once you arrive in Colorado but if you want to be truly prepared, pick some up before you go.

Your lips also need protection from the powerful sun in Colorado. It’s smart to bring with you a lip balm that has sunscreen in it to keep your lips moist and protected. 

The amount of protection you’ll need from insects is dependent on where in Colorado you’ll be spending your time. There are plenty of areas where you won’t see any bugs. But if you’re planning to be on or near a river, or in a forest you’ll definitely want to have some repellent to protect you from mosquitos and bugs. If camping is on your schedule, it’s a must! 

A good hat will keep your face protected and shade the top of your head from the harsh sun. There are quite a few stylish options to choose from that offer a comfortable fit, breathability, and durability. 

You probably don’t need to pack snacks before you arrive in Colorado because there are so many places to buy them! But, if you have some favorites that you like to have with you, get them ready and take them along when you’re packing for Colorado. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for when you need a little energy boost. 

Colorado has a dry climate and some people feel it in their eyes. Eye drops can come in really handy to keep your eyes moist, especially if you feel some allergies or have itchy eyes while you’re visiting. 

It’s a good idea to bring some nasal spray with you to keep your nose hydrated. A saline spray may prevent an extremely dry nose during your stay in Colorado. 

Other Clothing to Pack

Bring comfy clothes to sleep in and maybe something warmer than you’d expect, just in case you have some cool evenings wherever you’re staying and sleeping! 

Summer Dresses  

Summer dresses are a perfect Colorado outfit for the beautiful weather and the casual dress code in Colorado .

Bring a sweater or light scarf to put over your shoulders in case of a breeze or a cold evening. Active-style dresses are perfect for Colorado, as you can move around and be active in them. You could go from a light hike or walk straight to happy hour and look cute!

You’ll see many mountain Colorado outfits that include cute dresses as you travel through the state.

Again, here are some of my favorite summer dresses to wear in the mountains in Colorado! 

Prana Women’s Opal Dress

colorado trip summer

Columbia Women’s Freezer Iii Dress

colorado trip summer

Camera:  Bring an additional camera if you love photography, as the scenery is magnificent!

I have fallen in LOVE with my Sony ZV-1 if you’re looking for a new camera. It’s perfect for photos AND videos!

Sony ZV-1 Digital Camera for Content Creators, Vlogging, and YouTube with Flip Screen, Built-in Microphone, 4K HDR Video, Touchscreen Display, and Live Video Streaming

colorado trip summer

Extra Battery Chargers:  This is always a great idea, just in case of an emergency.

Binoculars: These are handy if you’re interested in spotting wildlife.

Waterproof dry bag: If you’re planning to be on a boat or a raft, a dry bag is very helpful. Your warm clothes and camera or phone will thank you.

Go Pro Camera: For those active days surrounded by scenic views that you want to remember forever!

Quick Dry Towel: This is a great addition if you’re on a raft or boat to dry off quickly.

Headphones: You might want headphones on the airplane or to listen to some tunes during a short hike.

Summer is a spectacular time to visit Colorado as the weather is ideal. During the transitional months of May and October, there will be a mix of unpredictable weather. This is because the seasons are changing and there’s a big shift in temperatures.

Early June is a perfect time to visit the mountains of Colorado, as the prices are lower due to summer just getting started. You could find some great rates and the weather is typically warm and sunny!

September is another special time to visit as the leaves are changing and creating a colorful backdrop. The temperates will be dropping towards the end of September and the weather turns very cozy. It’s my favorite time of year and I recommend it as one of the best times to visit Colorado!

best time to visit colorado

Having all of the right equipment and being prepared is the best way to make sure your Colorado vacation is epic! 

My hope is that this list will help you pack for Colorado with ease by providing some very useful tips!

If you’re planning a trip to winter ski trip to Colorado, check out our Winter Ski Trip Packing List .

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12 Things To Do In The Switzerland Of America

  • Ouray, Colorado, is a charming mountain town with a rich history of mining and stunning natural beauty.
  • Visitors can explore the town's history at the Ouray County Historical Museum and relax in the warm waters of the Ouray Hot Springs Pool.
  • Outdoor enthusiasts can hike the beautiful Ouray Perimeter Trail and experience exhilarating ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Park.

Welcome to Ouray, Colorado! Originally a gold and silver mining community founded in 1875, this beautiful mountain town sits at about 7,800 feet of elevation among the steep and rugged peaks of San Juan. Its location has earned the town the pet name, "The Switzerland of America".

It's the county seat of Ouray County with a population of only 898 as of the 2020 census. Home to small-town charm, Ouray also offers some of Colorado's easy hiking opportunities that lead to surprisingly high-elevation views .

Whether travelers seek a relaxing dip in a hot spring, an exciting hike along the town's beautiful landscape, or simply a peaceful small picnic in a park while watching the world go by, Ouray never disappoints. For those planning a trip to Ouray, here are some of the best things to do in The Switzerland of America!


More Exciting Things To Do in Ouray, CO!

Taking a look at the snow-capped peaks, winding valleys, and ice-blue streams, it's easy to understand why Ouray is known as the "Switzerland of America." This list has been expanded with even more new things to do in Ouray that every type of traveler will love.

Hike Colorado's Most Scenic Park On This 1-Mile Trail

Go off-roading at yankee boy basin, a spectacular alpine basin in the san juan mountains that offers plenty of outdoor activities.

Ouray, Colorado has no shortage of spectacular scenery! And Yankee Boy Basin is a prime example of this area's European feel.

This literal basin in Ouray is surrounded by several mountain peaks in the San Juan Mountains and is a nature lover's paradise.

No matter which way travelers choose to visit Yankee Boy Basin, it's bound to be adventurous. Visitors can take a long 18-mile hike around the basin, take a group Jeep tour , and even enjoy a beautiful off-roading adventure by themselves.

The roads are fairly easy but can get steep and rocky at times. But it's worth it for the epic views!

  • Address: Yankee Boy Basin Road, Ridgway, CO 81432
  • Admission Fee: $5 per vehicle
  • Best Time to Visit: July to August

Take A Road Trip On The Million Dollar Highway

The origin of the name is still speculated to this day, but the million dollar highway is considered the most beautiful road in america.

The Million Dollar Highway serves as one of the most scenic (and affordable) road trips to scenic towns in the United States .

With its winding turns and lookout points to stop at every few miles, driving this highway is by far one of the best things to do in Ouray, Colorado.

Some say that the term "Million Dollar Highway" exists because it took one million dollars to build, or perhaps there is a million dollars worth of gold lying beneath the highway. The origin is still unclear, but the road trip itself is worth it for the stunning vistas.

The Million Dollar Highway can be driven in less than an hour, but it's recommended to spend a day stopping at the viewpoints and small towns along the way.

  • Address: Ouray, Colorado, USA
  • Admission Fee: Free
  • Best Time to Visit: June to July, October

Soak In The Warm Waters Of Ouray Hot Springs Pool

A sulfur-free hot spring with five pools and a fitness center.

Tucked away in the San Juan Rocky Mountain Ranges, the mineral-rich waters of Ouray Hot Springs Pool are heated by an underground aquifer close to Ouray Box Canyon Waterfall and an aquifer in Fellin Park.

Its temperatures range between 80 °F and 150 °F but may vary occasionally.

Gorgeous snow-capped peaks surround this historic hot spring. It features five different pools - three are heated geothermally while the other two pools are supplied with cold water from the Weehawken Spring.

Traveling families with kids will enjoy their time at the waterslide, while couples or solo travelers can relax and unwind at the adults-only pool.

  • Address: 1220 Main St PO Box 468, Ouray, CO 81427
  • Admission Fee: $26
  • Best Time to Visit: Year-Round

7 Mountain Towns In Colorado For A Vacation

Hike the beautiful ouray perimeter trail, a 5.6-mile trail with tons of uphill and downhill and stunning views of ouray.

The Ouray Perimeter Trail is a 5.6-mile loop trail offering unique and remarkable mountain town views and is one of the main reasons why Ouray could quite easily qualify for a place among the numerous scenic Colorado towns with beautiful hiking trails .

On this trail, hikers will pass through the town's historic and natural landscape, including the gorgeous mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls.

Part of the Uncompahgre Wilderness, the trail is just around town, but there are lots of downhills and uphills, which can be a little difficult in the winter when the route is capped with snow.

  • Address: Ouray, CO, USA
  • Best Time to Visit: May to October

Hikers are advised to wear hiking traction gear, especially in the winter, as the trail is rugged, slippery, and steep.

Step Back In Time At Ouray County Historical Museum

Preserves ouray county's history with thousands of documents, artifacts, and old photographs.

The social, cultural, and natural history of Ouray County and the San Juan Mountain region are all lovingly preserved at Ouray County Historical Museum , one of the top attractions in Ouray, Colorado, where history buffs can learn more about the town's past that has shaped Ouray County today.

Travelers can find the museum in the Italianate-style architecture of the 1886 St. Joseph's Miners' Hospital in Ouray, which is also one of the oldest towns in Colorado .

There are walking and guided tours offered for visitors, and exhibits are showcased, featuring the mining, railroading, and ranching history of the county. There are artifacts and thousands of documents that are stored at the museum.

  • Address: 420 6th Ave, Ouray, CO 81427, United States
  • Admission Fee: $10
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring, Summer, Fall

The museum is closed in winter except for special appointments.

Taste Locally Brewed Beer At Ouray Brewery

Family-owned brewery and pub with award-winning craft beer.

After a day of playing outside, travelers can enjoy the home-grown craft beer at Ouray Brewery , which uses locally sourced fresh ingredients that are unique to the region. Founded in 2009, the brewery is near the town's most-visited attractions.

The pub also serves a mouthwatering, hearty American classic that hits home. It also features rooftop dining, which offers breathtaking views of Box Canyon and the mountain peaks of the Switzerland of America!

  • Address: 607 Main St, Ouray, CO 81427, United States
  • Hours: Open 6 days a week between 11 A.M. and 7 P.M.

The pub's bestsellers are Box Canyon Brown and Camp Bird Blonde.

12 Places For A Summer Vacation In Colorado

Climb the spectacular ice gorge at ouray ice park, awe-inspiring man-made ice climbing adventure in uncompahgre gorge.

With almost two miles of human-made ice climbing in Uncompahgre Gorge, Ouray Ice Park is an ice mecca for travelers who love playing in the snow.

Featuring over 200 ice climbs and mixed routes, the park has been in operation since 1994 and bills itself as the ice-climbing capital of the world.

It blends man-made and natural elements and is surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, which are among the magnificent peaks and valleys of Colorado's incredible mountain ranges .

  • Address: 280 Co Rd 361, Ouray, CO 81427, United States
  • Hours: 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. (mid-December to late-March)
  • Best Time to Visit: December to March

Ouray Ice Park is free to the public, but visitors can donate or join its fundraising events to help the volunteers maintain the beauty of the park, especially when it opens in wintertime.

Immerse In The Cascading Waters Of Box Caon Falls Park

A nature park with 285-foot waterfalls and a great spot for birding.

A 500-foot trail will take travelers to the cascading waterfalls of Box Cañon Falls Park , which also provides access to the Ouray Perimeter Trails.

The thundering 285-foot waterfall spills thousands of gallons of water every minute and is the pinnacle of Canyon Creek, and plunges into the towering narrow rock walls.

The park is also home to a colony of Black Swifts that build nests out of mud and grass, and gather in the park in June every year.

The National Audubon Society considers the park an important research spot for the Black Swifts, earning premier birdwatching a spot among the top activities in Ouray, Colorado, to enjoy for nature lovers.

  • Address: 30 Box Canyon Rd, Ouray, CO 81427, United States
  • Admission Fee: $7
  • Hours: 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.

Box Caon Falls Park is open year-round, but Box Canyon Road is closed in wintertime as it can be icy and slippery. Visitors can park at the OHV Staging area and walk to the park instead.

Tuck Into A Picnic At Fellin Park

A family-friendly park perfect for picnics after a relaxing dip at the ouray hot springs pool.

Fellin Park is adjacent to Ouray Hot Springs Pool and is lovingly called "Hot Springs Park" by the locals. It's a namesake for the Fellin Family who donated the land to the town in 1924.

Traveling families will love the park's picnic areas to spend time with loved ones while enjoying delicious meals or snacks.

All this can be done while experiencing the natural beauty of the Switzerland of America, which is also considered one of the underrated towns worth visiting in Colorado .

There's also a playground for the little ones and sports fields where athletics are held. It also hosts the celebration of the 4th of July and summer outdoor concerts.

  • Address: 1001 US-550, Ouray, CO 81427, United States
  • Hours: Open 24 hours

Stroll The Historic Downtown Ouray

Explore historic main street where history, culture, and lifestyle merge.

The historic Downtown Ouray is the heartbeat of the Switzerland of America, where shopping, dining, history, cultural heritage, and entertainment come alive.

On Main Street, travelers will enjoy strolling through the streets dotted with incredible art galleries, local eateries, local photographers, museums, and live entertainment. Many buildings downtown were built in Italianate and Victorian architecture, and most of them are listed on the National Register of Historic Places .

Ouray is also a flourishing destination for digital nomads, thanks to its reliable internet connection, outdoor adventure, and legendary hospitality.

The Ouray Public Library and Basecamp Ouray are two of the famous destinations in Ouray that cater to the needs of remote workers.

  • Address: Main St., Ouray, CO, USA

Downtown Ouray is also home to several hotels and lodging houses that offer incredible views of the San Juan Peaks that surround the town.

See The Uncompahgre Gorge From The Lookout Point

A marvelous deep mountain canyon in uncompahgre national forest.

One of the amazing things to see on the Million Dollar Highway , the Uncompahgre Gorge can be seen from an overlook as travelers drive the highway, which connects the alpine towns of Silverton and Ouray.

The gorge is formed by Red Mountain Creek and the Uncompahgre River, offering breathtaking views of the waterfalls, the rugged peaks of the San Juans, the valley walls, and the blossoming aspens.

Don't forget to take Instagram-worthy photos of the lookout point and the stunning Uncompahgre Gorge!

  • Address: Ouray, CO 81432, USA (South of Ouray)
  • Best Time to Visit: June to September

10 Places To Find Stunning Fall Foliage In Colorado

Attend the ouray ice festival, held annually at ouray ice park with dance parties, movies, and ice climbing.

The Ouray Ice Festival is a three-day and four-night fun-filled festival in January that celebrates the thriving ice climbing sports in the Switzerland of America.

Expert ice climbers compete in the ice fest, which is the park's biggest fundraising event to continue operating the ice park.

Visitors will also learn more about ice climbing with the help of elite athletes. The Vendor Village also features all kinds of climbing gear by different outfitter brands, as well as demo gear.

At night, the historic downtown Ouray hosts movies and dance parties for the Ice Festival.

  • Admission Fee: $85 All Access Pass, $25 Demo Gear Cards
  • Dates: January of every year

Onlookers can see the competing ice climbers in the Scottish Gullies from the Lower Bridge.

12 Things To Do In The Switzerland Of America

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This Week in History: July 7, 1961 – Vacation…

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Estes park home guide – july/august 2024, headline news, this week in history: july 7, 1961 – vacation planning for summer trips.

The welcome sign to Estes Park on U.S. Highway 36 sits below a beautiful morning sunrise in Estes Park, Colorado. (Dawn Wilson Photography)

Alaska is more than 665,000 square miles and my partner and I tried to condense the whole state into one trip. We managed to explore two national parks and two national wildlife refuges, visited six of the major towns and traveled from Denali National Park and Preserve to Homer, a distance of nearly 500 miles, stopping at many destinations along the route.

This July 7, 1961 article in the Estes Park Trail provides tips for having a safe and enjoyable vacation that are still applicable today. (File Photo)

That definitely qualifies as a “marathon attitude” about traveling as mentioned in this July 7, 1961 article published in the Estes Park Trail, the predecessor to the Estes Park Trail-Gazette.

Colorado can often be visited in a similar perspective. Considering the northern most corner in the west, near Dinosaur National Monument, is 571 miles to Campo in the southeastern corner of Colorado, the Centennial State can also evoke the marathon attitude for visitors. Colorado is 104,185 square miles, making it the eighth largest state in the U.S.

“The AAA club pointed out that the motorist who tries to cram a month of activity into two weeks of vacation is running the risk of a traffic accident, unnecessary fatigue, illness, among other things,” reported the author of the 1961 article.

The trail to Calypso Cascades parallels the North St. Vrain Creek for much of the hike in the Wild Basin region of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.(Dawn Wilson Photography)

Even within Estes Park, which is often included in a marathon visit to Colorado, I have experienced these types of cram-it-all-in attitudes, including a recent question posed to me about how many hours should I plan to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. I have been visiting RMNP since 1997 and I have lived on its doorstep since 2002. I still have trails, lakes, waterfalls and vistas I want to explore. Hours they asked? How about years?

But the 1961 article provides many points that are still relevant today for an enjoyable and safe vacation in Colorado or any new destination: start early, stop for the night before dark, drive a reasonable distance each day, take frequent breaks during the day, eat and drink in moderation while traveling, limit the amount of sunshine to prevent a sunburn and be responsible when swimming.

The final tip in this 63-year-old article is to “remember that there will be other vacations.”

The author looks out from the trail towards Denali peeking out from behind storm clouds in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Dawn Wilson Photography)

When you are visiting a place for the first time and it has been on a wish list for a long time, it can be hard to skip locations with a hope for a return trip. When we traveled to Alaska in 2010, it was our first trip to the Last Frontier. We didn’t know if we would return. He never had the chance to visit Alaska again before he passed away unexpectedly two years after that trip. I, however, have been back to Alaska at least once every year since 2013, except in 2020 – thanks COVID – because you don’t know what tomorrow holds and because, next to Colorado, I adore the wildness of Alaska.

My Alaska trips now usually only include one or two destinations as I have heeded the advice of similar articles and planned a trip deeper in quality than long on a list of quantity.

As you plan summer trips, whether they are within Colorado or to destinations farther away, consider the enjoyment of being present where you are and not always planning to be in the next location.

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Books | Step inside your next good book with a Colorado…

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Things To Do

Books | step inside your next good book with a colorado literary trip  , award-winning authors share their favorite things to do in the colorado towns that stir their imaginations.

There are many glorious spots to drop a fishing line in the Gunnison River around Crested Butte. (Andrew Maguire, provided by Visit Colorado)

Sink a line in Crested Butte

The Guide by Peter Heller

Thrillers aren’t exactly known for their literary prowess, and yet Denver-based writer Peter Heller – a poet and former journalist – manages to weave high-quality nature writing into his page-turners. Most of Heller’s novels have Colorado connections, including “The Painter” and “The Dog Stars.” For an outdoorsy literary trip, try “The Guide” (Knopf), a national bestseller and action-packed mystery about a fishing guide who stirs up more than trout at an elite lodge outside Crested Butte.

Where to go: From Denver, take Interstate 70 to Glenwood Springs, then drop south to Crested Butte. You’ll get a real sense of the area’s natural beauty while crossing Kebler Pass – “One of the most beautiful passes in the world,” Heller claims, urging readers to plan a summer trip so they can stop for a hike off the road (check for closures). Look for hidden fishing holes as you walk. Heller won’t provide specifics – “We never do,” he says – but there are choice places to cast a line.

Where to stay: Quaint group lodging is available at Elk Mountain Lodge, a historic building built for miners in 1919. For a lavish escape, there’s Eleven Scarp Ridge Lodge, from the Eleven Experience group, drawing plenty of celebrities to its in-town resort.

What to do: Grab breakfast at the author’s favorite Crested Butte eatery, McGill’s, before heading south on 135, through ranching country, to reach Jacks Cabin Cutoff, which takes tourists to the Taylor River. Keep driving upstream until you find a public access pullout. Don’t fish on private land. Be sure to pack water, snacks and a list of book club questions: There will be plenty of time to chat about The Guide while wading. If you need a fishing license, or would be more comfortable with a guide, visit Dragonfly Anglers, one of several outfitters in the area.

Chat up locals in Redstone

Gilded Mountain (Scribner)

In “Gilded Mountain” (Simon & Schuster), novelist Kate Manning’s beautiful prose brings to life the fictional town of Moonstone. The story picks up when Sylvie Pelletier leaves her family’s paltry mining cabin to take a summer job with the wealthy family that owns the town’s marble mine. Manning’s thoughtful juxtaposition of high country miners, freed slaves, and women leaves room for lively discussion.

Where to go: Redstone and Marble inspired Manning’s fictional plot. State Highway 82 – reach it via I-70 – gets you to Redstone Historic District, an intact example of an industrial company town. The setting is stunning, but Manning points out, “It’s the history that takes my breath away.”

Where to stay: When she visits town, Manning stays at the Crystal Dreams Bed and Breakfast, which is changing ownership this summer.

What to do: Redstone was the site of a coal mining camp founded by millionaire John Osgood. (Sound familiar?) See for yourself the discrepancies between workers’ cottages and Osgood’s 42-room estate, serving as inspiration for Elkhorne Manor, hosting, in its heyday, John D. Rockefeller and Teddy Roosevelt, among others. Tour Redstone Castle (reservations available online), then wander Redstone Park, home to the Redstone Historical Society, open daily May to October. Resuming in June, Redstone Walking Tours depart from the Redstone Inn on Thursdays at 11 a.m.

From Crystal Dreams B&B, it’s a short walk to Redstone Art Gallery. Drive 20 minutes south to reach Marble, home to a working quarry that supplied stone for the Lincoln Memorial. Check in at The Marble Hub, a non-profit visitor information center, for coffee, trail maps, historical tidbits, and free wi-fi (don’t count on cell service).

The hike to the marble quarry really fired up Manning’s imagination. “The road runs alongside Yule Creek,” she explains, describing “banks littered with marble chips.” Marble’s a tiny town with just a handful of year-round residents. “The one restaurant is all you need,” Manning says, referencing Slow Groovin BBQ. Known for its burgers and beer, it’s the place to “unwind in friendly company,” she adds.

Hike through history in Breckenridge

A reiling dredge in Breckenridge, described in Sandra Dallas' "Prayers for Sale." (Provided by Breckenridge Tourism Office)

First there was mining, then came dredging – which brings Sandra Dallas’ complex characters to the fictional town of Middle Swan in the early 1900s in “Prayers for Sale” (St. Martin’s Griffin). The book is a bittersweet patchwork of yarns spun by 86-year-old Hennie Comfort, who has her own narrative to close before moving “down below” to bide her days in the Midwest with her daughter.

Where to go: Readers will recognize Middle Swan as the charming town of Breckenridge. From Denver, it’s about a 90-minute trip to Breck, via I-70 west to Exit 203 and onto Highway 9.

Where to stay: You’ll find quaint lodging at The Carlin, a Main Street tavern and inn where rooms have lovely touches, including outdoor patios and bay window seating just right for readers.

What to do: The welcome center houses an interactive display about the town’s mining past. The museum isn’t far from Ollie’s at the Dredge, a replica floating dredge boat on the Blue River. “The dredges were a thing of the past when I lived in Breckenridge in the 1960s,” says Dallas. “But,” she adds, “the rock piles were there, and so were the remnants of the dredge boats.”

See the impact of dredging firsthand while hiking Reiling Dredge Trail, just east of town, up French Gulch Road. Park at Reiling Dredge Trailhead, and follow markers through an aspen grove to a decaying dredge. New this year, on July 13 and Aug. 10, Breckenridge History is offering a 1.5-mile guided “hike through history” to Iowa Hill, a restored boardinghouse circa 1868.

Continue your historical research on Airport Road, at Breckenridge Distillery and Restaurant, where you can sample some “hooch” and tour the distillery. You might also want to check out the Gold Pan Saloon, purported to hold the longest liquor license west of the Mississippi.

Quilting is a big motif in Dallas’ novel, and there’s a gorgeous spread hanging at Summit County’s South Branch Library, courtesy of the Summit Quilters. Local arts organization Breck Create has a new resident, Kayla Powers, a fiber artist from Detroit. See her modern take on quilting during open studio hours, listed online at breckcreate.org.

Eat peaches in Paonia

colorado trip summer

Shelley Read’s emotional debut novel, “Go As A River” (Spiegel & Grau), opens on a peach farm in Iola, a legit underwater ghost town inundated in the 1960s to make way for the Blue Mesa Reservoir in Curecanti National Recreation Area. Drama ensues when the book’s 17-year-old protagonist, Victoria Nash, meets Wilson Moon, a drifter displaced from tribal land. Themes of courage, grit and friendship help temper all the hardship, and Tori finds her place in Paonia, a funky little wine town situated off the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

Read picked Paonia as a setting because, she says, “It’s a little town with big soul and, yes, exquisite peaches.”

Where to go: It will take about four hours of driving to reach this quaint Western Slope town, via Interstate 70 to Glenwood Springs, where you can catch Highway 82 west and Highway 133 south to Paonia.

Where to stay: Paonia’s Airbnb scene is strong, and yet it’s hard to beat a night at the 118-year-old Bross Hotel Bed & Breakfast, Delta County’s oldest inn, where owners Mike Yengling and Suzanne Tripp serve scratch-made breakfast.

What to do: Read recommends Paonia Bread Works for breakfast or lunch. “Other local treasures are Paonia Books, Blue Sage Center for the Arts, and KVNF community radio,” Read says, adding, “A late-summer u-pick is Big B’s Delicious Orchards, where you can fill a bushel basket then grab a hard cider, groove to live bluegrass, and pitch a tent for the night.” (OK, sold!)

Take a side trip to Montrose, 50 miles south of Paonia, to learn more about Colorado’s Indigenous history at the Ute Indian Museum, a History Colorado outpost with thought-provoking exhibitions. Montrose also claims the Museum of the Mountain West, a preserved ghost town off U.S. Route 50. Speaking of ghost towns, driving to the reservoir covering Iola will be tricky this summer due to the U.S. 50 bridge closure. Instead, try a 2.4-mile out-and-back hike along Pine Creek Trail, 45 minutes east of Montrose, on the far west side of Curecanti.

Don’t overlook the Eastern Plains

colorado trip summer

You might know Colorado native Kent Haruf (1943-2014) as the award-winning author of “Plainsong,” a national bestseller and National Book Award finalist. For a short, soul-stirring narrative, try Haruf’s sixth and final novel, “Our Souls at Night” (Vintage Contemporaries), set in fictional Holt, described as “a little dirt-blown town” outside Denver.

Addie Moore thrusts the book into motion when she comes to a neighbor with a pretty strange request. A beautiful love story unfolds beneath Haruf’s idiosyncratic writing, characterized by rich dialogue and lean prose. You won’t find flowery descriptions in Haruf’s work, but the author’s choice words are all you’ll need to get a sense of Colorado’s Eastern Plains, the sweeping, oft-overlooked shortgrass landscape stretched out from the Front Range to Kansas.

Where to go: Head east on I-70. That’s it.

Where to stay: If you’re looking to stay overnight, there are three options, the homiest being the Harvest Hotel. For slightly more premium digs, try Cobblestone Inn & Suites.

What to do: Natural wonders abound on the Eastern Plains, including the Pawnee Buttes and Jackson Lake State Park, and rumor has it Yuma – 140 miles directly east of Denver – inspired Haruf’s fictional setting. You’re not necessarily going to drive 2 1/2 hours (each way) for Yuma alone, but isn’t that the whole point? Haruf wrote about a quiet place where people lived and survived, and Yuma is, well, exactly that.

The cute farming community of about 3,500 residents is planted about 40 miles from the Nebraska and Kansas borders. “Almost everyone out here has a hand in agriculture,” a resident told me when I was passing through. There’s not a farmers market, but you’ll find fresh dairy and good coffee at the Farm House Market, and the restaurant at the town’s public 9-hole course, Indian Hills Golf Club, serves up quality beef burgers. Down the road, Tumbleweed Brewing and Wine Co. proves you don’t have to be in a big city to find great food.

History buffs might want to check out the Yuma Museum, located near the Yuma Community and Enrichment Center. The museum doesn’t keep regular hours, so if you want to see it, reach out to Monica in advance at 970-630-1660. The non-operation Lett Hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is worth seeing.

Yuma has over 20 acres of greenspace spread across five distinct parks, and a walk down Main Street takes you past some of the area’s oldest buildings. Take the time to revel in a brand of understated realness that influenced one of the state’s truly standout novelists.

Spend a perfect day in Lafayette

colorado trip summer

Colorado author Megan E. Freeman is racking up awards for “Alone” (Aladdin), a New York Times bestselling middle-grade novel about a girl who’s left behind when the fictional town of Millerville is suddenly evacuated for unknown reasons. Freeman’s fictional setting was strongly influenced by Lafayette, where Freeman was living when she wrote the book. “I named it Millerville because the real town of Lafayette was founded by Mary Miller, and I wanted to give locals a few Easter eggs,” Freeman explains.

In case you’re curious, Peakmont is Longmont, with its stellar views of Long’s Peak, and Lewiston is Louisville.

Where to go: Depending on the time of day, it’ll take you about 30 minutes from Denver, up I-25 and onto U.S. 36 west to Lafayette.

What to do: Families with tweens and teens can explore the book’s setting IRL, during a day trip to Old Town Lafayette, a charismatic Boulder County township. “There is so much to love about Lafayette,” Freeman says. But if you force her to list a few favorite destinations within walking distance of Old Town, she’ll recommend The Read Queen, a fabulous indie bookstore, as well as the Lafayette Public Library, Waneka Lake Park, and the family-owned/operated Lafayette Florist.

Work up an appetite walking, then try one of Freeman’s go-to restaurants: Panang Thai or Udon Kaisha, both locally owned and totally delicious. Eats and Sweets, a sandwich and ice cream café, abuts the splash pad at Festival Plaza. Art Nights Out are a fun family event held second Fridays, May through September, on South Public Road, between Emma and Cannon streets.

Find hope in the Black Forest

A wild land fire started around ...

Ana Crespo started writing “Hello, Tree” (Little, Brown) in 2013, in the wake of the Black Forest Fire. “We live about 10 miles from the fire,” Crespo says, and while her family members and belongings were spared, “It was overwhelmingly sad,” she recalls. The fire claimed two lives, and more than 500 families lost homes.

With her then-four-year-old son in mind, Crespo began writing a fact-filled children’s book about the life cycle of a forest affected by wildfire. Covering a period of about 30 years, the fictional story is perfectly pitched to young readers with its emphasis on hope and “regrowth after disaster,” says the book’s illustrator, Dow Phumiruk. Both the author and illustrator are locals, and they visited the forest together during production. Phumiruk remembers charred remnants of trees, but she also noticed “colorful wildflowers in lush grass and healthy, new saplings.”

Where to stay: If you’re vying for parent of the year, book a night at Great Wolf Lodge, a waterpark/hotel where little bookworms can splash around until bedtime.

Where to go: After reading “Hello, Tree” with your children, let them see the forest’s regrowth on an easy day trip to Black Forest Regional Park, on the north end of Colorado Springs, 10 minutes west of I-25. The park’s a hit with kids of all ages given its large playground, sports fields and interconnected hiking trails weaving through thick strands of evergreens.

You’ll find additional playgrounds at John Venezia Community Park and Fox Run Regional Park, and for a quick bite before heading home, Crespo likes Pikes Peak Brewing Company in Monument. “Black Forest Brewing Company is nice, too,” Crespo says.

Jamie Siebrase is a Denver-based freelancer. 

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July 10, 2023 / 9:32 AM EDT / CBS News

For over two decades, Rory Steinel and his wife have rented out their beachside home along the Jersey Shore during the busy summer months. The property has always been highly sought after, with bookings typically filled for the summer by February. 

But owners like the Steinels are now facing an unusual predicament as prime weeks in July and August remain unbooked, underscoring a significant change in the vacation rental market. 

"We've never had a problem renting, not like this," said Rory Steinel. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic and until last year, demand for vacation rentals soared, enabling owners like the Steinels to raise prices and fully book their properties for the summer. But this year, there is a decline in occupancy at popular summer vacation spots across the country. 

Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Maui, Hawaii, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, and San Diego, California have all seen a decline compared to last year, according to AirDNA, a tracking company that monitors the performance data of 10 million vacation rentals on platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo. 

Steinel describes the financial considerations amid the evolving rental market as "nerve-wracking."   

"We want to make sure that we're able to make some money too, you know, not just cover our overhead," he said. 

Jamie Lane, chief economist at AirDNA, said an uptick in international travel and the introduction of new rentals have given renters more options, which has led to fewer bookings per host.

Lane said the market is "definitely moving more towards a renter's, guest market" as individuals can now find deals and book last-minute accommodations more easily. 

Jeannie Wheat, a seasoned realtor specializing in rentals at the Jersey Shore, said the 2023 vacation rental market in the area is down by approximately 15%. One five-bedroom home just a block and a half from the beach, which typically rents for $9,000 per week, is not fully booked, Wheat said. But this year, she has noticed more last-minute bookings. 

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Entertainment, entertainment | loveland opera theatre will offer free summer concert on friday .

Loveland Opera Theatre will give a free concert at Foundry Plaza on Friday. (Loveland Reporter-Herald file)

The Loveland Opera Theatre (LOT) is hosting its first concert of the summer on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Foundry Plaza in downtown Loveland. The “Celebrate America”-themed concert will take goers on a musical trip through the United States.

No tickets are required and admission into the concert is free.

Twenty chorus members will perform classic American hits from Journey, John Denver, Neil Diamond and Don McLean, alongside musical hits from “Oklahoma,” “Hamilton,” “Chicago” and “Hairspray.”

One of the chorus members is LOT Deputy Executive and Artistic Director Kelsie Furst, who said she is excited to perform an “eclectic mix of music” at the concert.

Furst also said the concert is not geared toward opera fans specifically and all who enjoy music are welcome to attend and get introduced to opera.

“Our goal in putting this concert together was to bring people from all ages and demographics together for a free concert where somebody would enjoy some part or some music from it. I think (we’re) trying to engage our audience and introduce opera through music they might already know and love,” said Furst.

LOT will also be previewing its four mainstage principal actors for the “Iolanthe” show slated for October. Each of the principal actors will have solo performances during Friday’s concerts that will showcase their versatile musical talents.

The solo performers include Kacie Kenton, Emily Morris, Nathan Jensen and John Murray, all of whom have appeared in previous LOT productions.

This is the first year for the “Celebrate America” theme for the LOT summer concerts. Last year, the company put on their “Broadway Favorites” series in Estes Park and at the Foundry Plaza. Last year’s concerts only featured musical hits from Broadway hits such as “Les Misérables,” “Carousel” and “Camelot.”

The Friday concert will be followed with another on July 14 at Lincoln Park in Greeley from 5 to 7 p.m and another at Performance Park in Estes Park from 4 to 6 p.m on July 20. The last concert of the summer series will happen on July 28 with a solo-only concert at the Greeley Arts Picnic and a normal performance at Lincoln Park from noon to 1 p.m.

For more information visit lovelandopera.org or the company’s  Instagram and Facebook.

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