Aerial view of the town of Ouray in Colorado

21 Best Mountain Towns in Colorado (By a Local)

More than a century ago, prospectors looking to strike rich built the majority of Colorado’s mountain towns. But now, the mines are history and the Rocky Mountain state has taken on a new identity as an outdoor paradise. 

As a Colorado local, I’ve explored nearly all of the best mountain towns in Colorado, and in this article, I’ll share my key insights. You’ll discover where to stay, the best times to visit, and things to do in each of these towns, regardless of the season.

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21 Best Mountain Towns in Colorado

⛰️ Rather watch a video than read the list? I’ve rounded up my top mountain towns from this list in this video (just hit play):

Silverton 

A former silver mining town that celebrates Wild West history and modern outdoor adventures 

View of the Greene Street in Silverton, Colorado
Greene Street, the only paved road in this small Colorado town (photo: Bob Pool / Shutterstock)

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Silverton is one of Colorado’s most noteworthy historic mountain towns. Though no longer occupied by raucous miners and dancehall girls, its Wild West charm lives on.

Today, visitors can admire the tiny town’s Victorian-era architecture. Many take a ride on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, or tour one of the underground mines.  

But this southwestern Colorado town is known for more than mining history. Located on the iconic Million Dollar Highway, it’s also famed for the many year-round outdoor activities in Silverton. The San Juan Mountains provide opportunities for hiking, alpine skiing, rafting, and more.

📚 Related Reading: Planning to visit this historic mining town and outdoor lover’s paradise? Be sure to check out our guide on Where To Stay in Silverton, Colorado

Estes Park 

A Colorado mountain town that serves as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park

View from the Rocky Mountain National Park during winter season in Colorado
Winter views from a hiking trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Located just an hour and a half from Denver, Estes Park is one of the most popular Colorado towns. Though often crowded during the peak summer season, this quaint town is a must-see places in Colorado for both tourists and locals. 

You’ll find a variety of fun activities in downtown Estes Park, such as shopping for souvenirs and sampling Colorado craft beer. The Stanley Hotel, famed as the film setting for The Shining, is a favorite attraction. If visiting in October, be sure to check out Elk Fest, celebrating the herds in this mountain village.  

Estes Park also provides access to Rocky Mountain National Park. With a National Park Pass, visitors can experience some of the best hikes in Colorado. Rock climbing, fishing, cross-country skiing, and more outdoor fun is available every season in Colorado.

👉 Pro Tip: Want panoramic views of this incredible town without breaking a sweat? Visit the Estes Park aerial tramway, open from late May through early September. 

Leadville

One of Colorado’s most charming mountain towns famed for its record-breaking elevation

The overlooking view of the mountain town of Leadville from Mount Sherman
The mountain town of Leadville, seen from the peak of 14,043-foot Mount Sherman

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Hands down, Leadville is one of the best Colorado mountain towns. It’s a personal favorite, famed as the highest incorporated city in North America. 

The former mining town stays authentic to its Wild West roots. Downtown is lined with historic buildings, many of which are now converted into hotels, restaurants, and art galleries. Several hold relics and stories of the past, such as the Healy House, Dexter Cabin, and National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. 

Surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks, Leadville is also home to many exceptional hiking trails. Cooper, one of Colorado’s best ski resorts located just 10 miles north, offers terrain for all skill levels. Paddleboarding and kayaking on the nearby Twin Lakes are other popular outdoor activities.  

📚 Related Reading: With so much to do in and near this Colorado mountain town, consider lodging at a local hotel. Read our guide on Where To Stay in Leadville for all the best tips! 

Telluride

One of the top mountain towns for scenic views and all-season adventures

View of vehicles passing along the Main Street of Telluride in Colorado
(photo: Michael Vi / Shutterstock)

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Of all the best mountain towns in Colorado, Telluride is one not to be missed. Located in a box canyon, the tiny town is surrounded by breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountains. Adventure-seekers love this area for its endless opportunities to explore. 

Alpine skiing and snowboarding at Telluride Ski Resort is a favorite Telluride activity. Even if you don’t ski, be sure to take the free, scenic gondola ride up to Mountain Village. Here, you can admire one of the state’s most beautiful mountain towns from above! 

Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado’s tallest waterfall, is another major attraction. Winter ice climbing is popular here, as is hiking and canyoning in the summertime. The Telluride via ferrata also draws visitors in the warm months, as do events like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Aspen

Of all the towns in Colorado, Aspen ranks as the most famous and luxurious 

Aerial view of the town of Aspen in Colorado
A southern view of Aspen, where much of the mountainside offers groomed skiing

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There are many amazing mountain towns in Colorado, but none are as glamorous as Aspen. Though known for its ski slopes and impressive lodging, it’s more than a ski town for winter athletes. Exceptional dining, art galleries, and high-end boutiques are among the many things to do in Aspen loved by visitors, too. 

Aside from its ski season and luxurious downtown, the Maroon Bells make Aspen one of the most iconic Colorado mountain towns. In fact, Maroon Bells is the most photographed place in the entire state! Hikes on nearby alpine trails draw summer crowds, as does the renowned Aspen Music Festival.

📚 Related Reading: Taking a road trip to Aspen? Don’t miss a single must-see attraction by reading our guide to the 41 Best Places To Visit in Colorado

Glenwood Springs

Hiking trails and natural hot springs make this one of the best mountain towns in Colorado

View of a turquoise green water in Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs
Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs, one of the most popular hiking trails in Colorado (though currently affected by mudslides)

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Situated along I-70, Glenwood Springs is a quaint mountain town that’s easy to access most times of the year. The famous hike to Hanging Lake is a major attraction, drawing visitors from all over the country and beyond (note: the trail is temporarily closed due to mudslide damage in late 2021).

Rafting and exploring nearby mountain bike trails are other popular summertime activities. Families will love visiting the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and splashing in Glenwood Hot Springs.  

If you’re looking for a more quiet, relaxing soak, check out Iron Mountain Hot Springs resort. Or for a hike-in adventure, consider South Canyon or Penny Hot Springs. Both are free to access and located in beautiful, natural settings. 

♨️ Love Natural Springs? Check out our lists of the 23 Best Hot Springs in Colorado and the 9 Best Hot Springs Close to Denver!

Crested Butte

Though one of the most remote mountain towns in Colorado, Crested Butte is worth the commute

Overlooking view of a village in Crested Butte and a foggy mountain from afar

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Difficult to access, Crested Butte is a hidden gem among mountain towns in Colorado. Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains, winter access is limited to a single 30-mile route from Gunnison. In the summer, western entry is provided by a long, winding dirt road. Some even hike in via a strenuous, 10-mile trail beginning in Aspen!

But despite these travel obstacles, this remote mountain village is a year-round destination. The ski slopes at Crested Butte Mountain Resort offer varied terrain and deep powder. Summer and fall activities include hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. If visiting in July, be sure to attend the annual Crested Butte Wildflower Festival! 

The former mining town is also rich in historic sites. Wander past vibrant Victorian-era buildings in downtown Crested Butte, and take a tour of Gothic, a nearby ghost town. The Crested Butte Museum is also a great resource to learn about local history and culture. 

Buena Vista

One of the best mountain towns in Colorado, especially in the summertime

The author holding a paper on the summit of Mount Princeton
Views amaze on the summit of Mount Princeton, a 14er near Buena Vista

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In my opinion, Buena Vista is truly one of the best mountain towns in Colorado. Its authentic feel, dramatic landscape, and nearby hot springs make this town a personal favorite.

Many visit to raft the Arkansas River flowing through Browns Canyon National Monument. Others come for the Collegiate Peaks, looking to summit several of the state’s 14,000-foot mountains, often referred to as 14ers. A soak at Cottonwood Hot Springs or Mount Princeton Hot Springs is always a perfect end to an adventurous day. 

Less than 3 hours from Denver and just 2 hours from Colorado Springs, Buena Vista is an ideal weekend getaway. Thankfully, there are plenty of great places to stay in Buena Visa, including both luxury and budget accommodations!  

Keystone

A favorite among Colorado locals, offering skiing for all skill levels and summertime fun

The author's husband with their dog on a mountain trail in Keystone

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A small resort town, Keystone is a favorite destination among Colorado locals. During winter, families will enjoy skiing at Keystone Resort. Meanwhile, those seeking steep black diamond runs will love Arapahoe Basin. Snow tubing, cross country skiing, and ice skating on Keystone Lake are other popular things to do in Keystone.

Once the lake melts and the weather warms, visitors can paddleboard and canoe the scenic waters. Mountain biking at the Keystone Bike Park is another popular activity, as is summer hiking. When exploring the backcountry, be on the lookout for moose which are common in this area!

Be sure to read our guide to staying in Keystone before your visit!

Ouray

As far as Colorado mountain towns go, Ouray is notably unique for its ice climbing scene

View of a foggy mountain in the town of Ouray, Colorado

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Known as the Switzerland of America, Ouray is one of the most incredible mountain towns in the state. Set in the San Juan Mountains along the Million Dollar Highway, it’s surrounded by natural beauty year-round.

Restored Victorian-era buildings line downtown’s main street, converted into shops and restaurants. Orvis Hot Springs and the unique Wiesbaden vapor cave provide relaxing retreats. 

But really, Ouray’s claim to fame is its ice climbing scene. The Ouray Ice Festival and Competition takes place every January at the Ouray Ice Park. Professional athletes and spectators from all over the world attend the event, special to this top mountain town. 

Steamboat Springs

One of Colorado locals’ favorite mountain towns for outdoor recreation and cultural activities

The Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs
Fish Creek Falls, a popular attraction in Steamboat Springs

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There are so many fun things to do in Colorado, and experiencing the champagne powder at Steamboat Ski Resort is one of them. But world-class skiing isn’t the only reason why Steamboat Springs ranks as one of the best mountain towns in Colorado. 

In the summer, the resort’s ski hills become biking trails. Hikers trek to Fish Creek Falls, and fly fishers cast lines into the Yampa River, flowing right through downtown. A soak at Strawberry Park Hot Springs and samples at local breweries are great compliments to adventurous days exploring the other items on my list of top things to do in Steamboat Springs

The charming town is also known for its cultural sites, including the Steamboat Art Museum and Tread of Pioneers Museum. Before visiting, be sure to check the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra’s calendar of events, as you won’t want to miss an available performance. 

Georgetown

A Colorado mountain town known for its historic railroad and autumn colors

View of a train in Georgetown Loop Railroad
Early fall views of the Georgetown Loop Railroad

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Georgetown is one of the most charming mountain towns in Colorado. The town is located at the base of Guanella Pass, an iconic scenic drive. During the fall, it’s a popular gateway for leaf peeping Colorado’s yellow aspens. 

Georgetown Lake is another popular attraction, drawing visitors every season. Fishers and kayakers enjoy the reservoir during summer, and in the winter, ice fishers’ tents dot the frozen water.

But most of all, the tiny town is known for the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Built in 1884, the historic steam engine travels along a narrow canyon to the nearby town of Silver Plume. It’s a great experience year-round, perfect for the whole family!

Creede

Tour an underground museum and hike above 14,000-feet elevation in this remote town

View of motorcycles parked alongside a street in Creede, Colorado
(photo: Michael Kaercher / Shutterstock)

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Though one of the best Colorado mountain towns, Creede is little known and draws few tourists. The historic mining town is off the beaten path, located on Colorado 149, a highway connecting Gunnison to South Fork.

Though trickier to access, it’s worth the visit for history and outdoor enthusiasts. The Underground Mining Museum is a popular attraction, hosting educational tours led by retired miners. 

Looking for adventure in this remote community? Find hiking trails and backcountry roads in the nearby Rio Grande National Forest and Wheeler Geological Area.

Nederland

From the bizarre to the beautiful, the mountain town of Nederland has it all

View of the blue water in Lost Lake and a snowy mountain from afar
Lost Lake, an alpine lake in Nederland, Colorado

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Located west of Boulder, Nederland is one of the most quirky mountain towns in Colorado. It’s famed for a winter festival, Frozen Dead Guy Days, celebrating a deceased local who’s been frozen in time. The wild story brings about bizarre activities including the Blue Ball and coffin racing. 

But aside from this festival, the mountains surrounding Nederland are known for outdoor adventure. Eldora Mountain Resort is a favorite among locals and is one of the best ski resorts near Denver

Hiking is a popular summer activity in Nederland, and the Hessie Trailhead is one of the most trafficked. It provides access to Lost Lake and other incredible trails in the beautiful Indian Peaks Wilderness.

👉 Love Hiking? Before visiting this area, check out our guide on 19 Fun Hikes Near Boulder!

Breckenridge

Close to Colorado’s metropolitan areas, Breck is a loved ski destination with rich history

Aerial view of the town of Breckenridge in Colorado at winter season

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Referred to as Breck by locals, Breckenridge is famed for winter skiing and is home to one of the most popular resorts in the state. Winter Dew Tour takes place here, celebrated among professional athletes and enthusiasts. 

Outside of winter sports, Breckenridge has the largest historic district in the state. Previously a mining town, visitors can tour a retired gold mine tunnel and explore Main Street’s historic buildings. Many have been converted into outfitters, artisan shops, restaurants, and some of the best places to stay in Breckenridge

While winter is peak season, summer provides opportunities for horseback riding, hiking, and various other outdoor activities in Breckenridge. The autumn season is especially beautiful, as the aspens’ golden hues extend across Breck’s nearby mountain range. 

👉 Pro Tip: Less than two hours away, Breckenridge is a great day trip from Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs. It’s often crowded on weekends, so consider visiting mid-week!

Durango

Home to a National Park and National Historic Landmark, this southwestern town is worth the visit

View of mountain ridges in the town of Durango in Colorado
Dramatic mountain ridges west of downtown Durango

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Durango is the largest of all southwestern towns in Colorado. Its bustling downtown includes many hotels, shops, and eateries, several of which are craft breweries. Many visit the famed Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, an educational and scenic experience. 

Others visit nearby attractions, including Four Corners Monument and Mesa Verde National Park. Rafting the Upper Animas River, skiing Purgatory Resort, and soaking at Trimble Hot Springs are other fun activities.  

Idaho Springs

Discover mining history and breathtaking views in this mountain town near Denver

The Herman Gulch Trail in Idaho Springs at fall season
Fall colors in Idaho Springs impress, especially on Herman Gulch Trail

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Of all the top mountain towns on this list, I most frequently visit Idaho Springs. It’s one of the best day trips from Denver, located just 40 minutes west. 

A former mining town, it’s known for its historic tours, many of which lead you into deep mountain-side tunnels. The Argo Mill is another popular attraction, as is wandering downtown’s colorful Victorian buildings. Several are now charming gift shops and Colorado breweries. 

Nearby hikes also draw visitors to Idaho Springs, such as Herman Gulch Trail and Chicago Lakes. Want to experience breathtaking 14er views without the strenuous effort? Just outside town, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway will get you there. Fun fact: it’s the highest paved road in North America!

Get planning now with my list of the best things to do in Idaho Springs!

Vail

A mecca for skiing and snowboarding, as well as Colorado culture and year-round beauty

View of people enjoying ice skating in Vail, Colorado
(photo: Margaret.Wiktor / Shutterstock)

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Similar to Aspen, Vail is often regarded as a classic destination for winter skiing. The varied ski slopes attract all skill levels, and the Bavarian-inspired village creates the perfect setting for après-ski fun.

But like many Colorado towns, sights and events are available year-round. Raft the Blue River, hike the Booth Falls Trail, or take a hot air balloon ride over the White River National Forest. Many visit in April for Taste of Vail, as well as throughout the summer season for several great music festivals. 

Get planning with our guides to the best stuff to do in Vail, Colorado and the best resorts to stay in Vail.

Granby

For boating, fishing, and water activities, few mountain towns compare to Granby

The author's husband fishing in Lake Granby with their dogs
My husband casting a line into Lake Granby while our pups explore the shore

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Located just west of Rocky Mountain National Park, Granby is a lovely mountain town. Sizable bodies of water are rare in Colorado, and Lake Granby happens to be the third-largest in the state. For that reason, the town is most loved for boating, fishing, and other water activities. 

To the far east of Lake Granby lies Monarch Lake Trailhead. It provides access to the Indian Peaks Wilderness, making hiking another popular summer activity. In the winter, visitors also enjoy the nearby Winter Park Resort offering family-friendly skiing. 

👉 Pro Tip: Consider visiting Granby during their 4th of July celebrations! Their downtown parade, annual rodeo, and fireworks display are all loved traditions. 

Gunnison

Dramatic cliffs and canyons can be found throughout Gunnison, offering endless exploration

View of the Curecanti National Recreation Area during winter season
A winter landscape at Curecanti National Recreation Area

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Nestled deep within Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Gunnison is a less traveled town. But for those seeking remote outdoor adventures, it’s an ideal destination. 

Gunnison serves as the entry to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Best enjoyed in the summer months, it’s known for its sheer cliffs and rough section of the Colorado River. The park is celebrated among extreme kayakers and rock climbers, as well as general outdoor enthusiasts.

Curecanti National Recreation Area is another popular site. It’s home to Blue Mesa Reservoir, the second largest body of water in Colorado. It’s a great location for boating and water activities, as well as camping and hiking. Even in peak season, crowds are limited, allowing for a true escape into nature. 

Frisco

Enjoy summer sailing, nordic skiing, and more at one of Colorado’s best mountain towns

Overlooking view of Lake Dillon in Frisco, Colorado
Autumn colors around Lake Dillon, a man-made reservoir that borders Frisco

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There are many incredible mountain towns in Colorado, and in my opinion, Frisco ranks highly on the list. It’s located just an hour and a half from Denver but often bypassed as many head to more major attractions like Breckenridge and Vail. 

However, Frisco is not one to be missed. Lake Dillon is a favorite among sailors, and the paved 19-mile loop around the reservoir makes for an amazing bike ride. In the summer, few places are as pretty of a picnic spot as the Frisco Bay Marina. 

During winter, families will love visiting the Frisco Adventure Park, a great snow tubing spot. The Frisco Nordic Center is another opportunity for cold season fun. Consider visiting during March for BrewSki, a beer festival on skis and a personal favorite! 

📚 Related Reading: Make trip planning easy with Laura’s guides on Things To Do in Frisco and Where To Stay in Frisco!

FAQs about Mountain Towns in Colorado

View of cars passing along a highway in Colorado with mountain views

What is the prettiest mountain town in Colorado?

The prettiest mountain town in Colorado is Telluride. Downtown’s colorful, Victorian architecture and natural sites like Bridal Veil Falls are stunning. Take in the San Juan Mountains’ beauty on Telluride’s scenic gondola or while climbing the via ferrata. 

What is the best Colorado mountain town to live in?

The best Colorado mountain town to live in Colorado is Frisco, in my opinion. Enjoy world-class skiing at nearby Breckenridge and Vail with comparatively lower housing costs. Lake Dillon provides summertime activities, and downtown offers great shopping and restaurants. Plus, Frisco is only an hour and a half away from Denver’s metropolitan amenities. See our full guide to where to live in Colorado.

What is the best mountain town near Denver?

The best mountain town near Denver is Idaho Springs, in my opinion. Rich in history, the town offers many interactive learning opportunities, such as mine tunnel tours. It’s also known for outdoor recreation, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, and its charming downtown strip. 

What are the best Colorado mountain towns to visit in the fall?

The best Colorado mountain towns to visit in the fall are Steamboat Springs, Estes Park, Aspen, and Durango. All of these towns are ideal for peeping forests of yellow aspens. 

👉 Want More? Check out my list of the best small towns in Colorado.

***

Now that you know the best mountain towns in Colorado, you’re ready for a road trip. Check out my perfect road trip itinerary for Colorado to get planning.

Oh, and be sure to read our Colorado Packing List guide before you go, and if you need to rent a car, consider our preferred partner, Discover Cars.

Safe travels and have fun exploring the Rocky Mountains!

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4 Comments

  1. Hey, you forgot Salida!! It’s called the “Banana Belt” because the temperatures are always close to the same as those in Denver year round. There is a 9 hole golf course, gorgeous views of the Collegiate Peaks, Monarch ski area, and the famous Arkansas River kayak races in early June taking place right next to downtown. Amazing to watch because you are up close and can walk up and down the river. There are fun restaurants and great art galleries. Not far from town is the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs and lodge under the amazing Chalk Cliffs. You can reach Salida easily from any direction coming from Denver or Colorado Springs and connect from there to many other mountain towns and attractions like the Great Samd Dunes National Park.

  2. Awesome read. You are on point on all the places we’ve visited. And makes us want to go to the towns we haven’t.

    1. I have visited all but one of the 21 best mountain towns on there list and I agree that they should have listed it. I am from North Missouri and have not missed stopping their in the 18 years I have been climbing (61 14ers). It is one my fav. Watching the kayaking and having food and drink by the Arkansaw river is a great afternoon of relaxing after a great climb. The little Italian restaurant 1 block west is another fav.

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