If you’re planning a trip to Colorado, it can be hard to know where to start. There are so many amazing places to visit in Colorado!
Most people think of Colorado as one of the best places to visit for skiing and snowboarding, and they aren’t wrong. The Centennial State sports awesome resorts and great powder.
But there is so much more to see in Colorado besides ski resorts. In summer, Colorado has just about any outdoor activity you can imagine, on land or in the water. In the fall, our autumn foliage is some of the best in the country. Along with the world-class snow sports, we also have ice fishing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking, and so much more.
If you’re looking for the best places to visit in Colorado, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve lived in Colorado for years, and Travel Lemming’s founder Nate is from Denver.
I hope you are excited about our insider list of the top travel destinations in Colorado. For more inspiration, be sure to bookmark my guide to the best things to do in Colorado – it’s filled with many more awesome Colorado activities!
Table of Contents
- 41 Best Destinations to Visit in Colorado
- Pikes Peak
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
- Maroon Bells
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
- Snowmass Village
- Colorado Springs
- Glenwood Springs
- Grand Junction
- Pagosa Springs
- Garden of the Gods
- Dinosaur National Monument
- Colorado National Monument
- Estes Park
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Hanging Lake
- Buena Vista
- Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
- Red Feather Lakes Area
- Grand Lake
- Steamboat Springs
- Fort Collins
- Crested Butte
- Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
- San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway
- Mt. Evans Scenic Byway
- Castle Rock
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41 Best Destinations to Visit in Colorado
Pikes Peak towers 14,115 above the sea and you can get to the top several ways – by hiking (which is definitely a lot of work!), biking, driving, or booking a spot on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. There are also guided Jeep tours that take you to the top and give you a lot of info about the history and area also.
The Mile High City is a great place to start your visit in Colorado, and likely your point of entry. Denver features several fantastic art museums and galleries (those mountains inspire a lot of creativity!), a science museum with amazing displays of gems and minerals found here, and lots of outdoor activities. There’s even a river for kayaking and tubing that runs right through several of Denver’s downtown neighborhoods.
If you’re a sports fan, Denver is home to six pro teams. After a day of exploring, grab a bite while admiring the historic buildings in Larimer Square.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is about a two-hour drive from Denver, but the drive and the destination both offer spectacular views! Just about every spot at the park gives you a scenic view of the Rocky Mountains, and you may spot moose, elk, marmots, and adorable pikas roaming the park.
Trail Ridge Road is a breathtaking road through the park that climbs to more than 12,000 feet above sea level. In fact, Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuously paved highway in the U.S. RMNP is definitely one of the best places to visit in Colorado!
👉 Pro Tip: Rocky Mountain National Park currently has a timed entry system and is requiring reservations to get into the park. Be sure to plan ahead for this visit in Colorado!
Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
Royal Gorge’s suspension bridge crosses high above the Arkansas River, giving you amazing views of the canyon if you’re brave enough to cross. There’s also an adventure park at the gorge, featuring the highest zipline in the country, a rollercoaster, and aerial gondolas that carry you over the canyon. It’s a one-of-a-kind place to visit in Colorado and a great option for families.
👉 If You Loved: The view from the Royal Gorge Bridge, this Jeep tour will give you another perspective…and take you over the highest suspension bridge in the whole country!
There’s a good chance you’ve actually seen the Maroon Bells before. They’re a popular stock shot of Colorado because they’re just that awe-inspiring. They definitely rank high on the list of best places to visit in Colorado!
👉 Pro Tip: Maroon Bells has a reservation system during the summer. You can either reserve a parking spot or a seat on the shuttle from nearby Aspen.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Visit the canyon of the Gunnison for hiking, fishing, or admiring the views carved out by the Gunnison River. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the four national parks in Colorado and is in a less-developed area of the state, with the small town of Crawford about half an hour away. If you’re looking for quiet and a chance to appreciate nature, Gunnison National Park is one of the best destinations in Colorado!
Durango is in southwestern Colorado, about a six-hour drive from Denver, but with a Colorado feel all its own! There are hiking and mountain biking trails, river rafting opportunities, and scenic drives nearby. You’re also not far from Mesa Verde National Park and the Four Corners Monument.
One unique Colorado experience is to hop aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train for a beautiful ride through the mountains. You can also take the San Juan Skyway and Million Dollar Highway drive, beginning in Durango.
If you take the narrow-gauge train from Durango, you’ll end up in the former mining town of Silverton. The town is a National Historic Landmark, and along with being the destination of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train, it’s a stop on the San Juan Skyway as well. You can shop for souvenirs, grab a bite to eat, or head out hiking, go on a Jeep tour, or try an ATV ride.
If you can, consider staying in Silverton for a night to soak in this gorgeous Colorado mountain town.
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Colorado’s national parks make some of the best places to visit in Colorado! Each one will give you a quick history and science lesson about various regions, and Great Sand Dunes National Park is no exception.
The sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park are actually the tallest dunes in North America, and visitors can hike, splash in the river (in certain seasons), and even sled down the dunes. All the while, you’re surrounded by amazing views of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains just beyond the dunes.
You’ll find lots of fun things to do in Boulder, a funky college town just a 45-minute drive from Denver. The area has plenty of nearby hiking trails and mountain biking paths to explore the nearby Flatirons – the flat rocks that give Boulder a striking backdrop. Pearl Street is a popular street mall, with shops, restaurants, and breweries where you can unwind after a day of outdoor activities.
👉 Love hiking and beer? Who doesn’t? This Boulder Hike & Brews tour takes you to hike the Flatirons with an expert, then to a taproom near Pearl Street to sample a local, award-winning beer.
Lots of people only think of Colorado ski towns in winter, but they offer plenty to do year-round! Snowmass is a popular Colorado ski resort, sure, but in summer you can also hit the biking trails, or hiking or fishing. Kids will also love the activities at The Lost Forest, including an alpine coaster, a treetop challenge course, and a climbing wall.
Colorado Springs is about an hour’s drive south of Denver, and offers a great base camp for more Colorado adventures! Visit Garden of the Gods or The Broadmoor Seven Falls, or take a scenic drive up nearby Pikes Peak.
📚 Related Reading: Staying a few days in the area? Check out my list of the best day trips around Colorado Springs for more ideas!
Glenwood Springs sits perched in the mountains, just off I-70, and about a six-hour drive east of Denver. The town is best known for its large swimming pools that are fed by the hot springs in the area. The spring-fed pools are open year-round, and many people enjoy sitting in the warm pool during a peaceful snowfall. Glenwood Springs is popular year-round (it is one of the top hot springs in Colorado, after all).
You can also take an ATV tour or hit the nearby adventure park for a fun day in the mountains! Glenwood is also a short drive from Hanging Lake, so you can hit that hiking trail while you’re there.
🚗 Getting There: If you’re headed to Glenwood from the Denver area, be aware that the status of I-70 could make or break your trip. Be sure to check traffic reports before you start the drive!
The city of Telluride should be at the top of anyone’s list of places to visit in Colorado! It’s a long drive from Colorado’s major metro areas, but the untouched beauty of the Telluride area makes it a big draw year-round. Whether you enjoy warm or cold weather outdoor activities, you’re sure to find something to do in this gorgeous Colorado mountain town.
Grand Junction is a great spot to visit in Colorado, especially if you’re coming into the state from nearby Utah. The town of Grand Junction has its own vibe, different from Denver but very Colorado-feeling all the same! There are plenty of hiking and biking trails, along with rafting, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities. You’ll soon realize why exploring the Grand Junction area is one of the activities that also makes our list of the best stuff to do in Colorado.
The hot springs in Pagosa Springs make it one of the best places to visit in Colorado! Three resorts in town are fed by the Mother Spring aquifer, which is more than 1,002 feet deep – certified the world’s deepest geothermal spring. Besides the springs, Pagosa also has several impressive waterfalls you can visit, and quaint downtown shopping and dining.
Palisade is near Grand Junction, but off the beaten path which makes it one of the great places to visit in Colorado! Palisade is in the heart of Colorado’s Wine Country, and you can spend a day touring wineries and vineyards. Palisade is also renowned for its delicious peaches and produce and you can schedule a farm tour as well.
Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods park is one of the best places to visit in the area. The red rocks, with the Rocky Mountains behind, make a beautiful scenic picture. The hiking trails are mostly paved, so strollers and wheelchairs can be easily pushed. Look for fun formations like the Sleeping Giant and the Kissing Camels on your walk through the park.
The town of Golden is about a twenty-minute drive from Denver, and one of the fun places to visit in Colorado that makes the state so unique. Most people associate Golden with the famous Coors Brewery tour, but there are also many other breweries and some distilleries in town also. You can also tube on Clear Creek, browse the quaint shops on Washington Avenue, or go hiking or mountain biking in a nearby park.
A lot of people know of Vail as one of the most popular places to visit in Colorado, thanks to its world-famous ski resorts. Don’t get me wrong, skiing is definitely a great reason to visit Vail!
But Vail also offers great outdoor activities year-round. In summer, the ski gondolas convert for mountain biking. Vail also has gorgeous hiking trails, and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are free and a beautiful spot to wander and relax. Don’t forget about the world-class shopping and dining in the village, too!
Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument is on the western edge of Colorado and actually extends into Utah as well. You will of course learn about the dinosaurs that lived here, but you’ll also be able to view petroglyphs from early people, and you can read about the settlers and outlaws who ended up in this rocky, barren region for lots of different reasons. Like the rocks, their stories are definitely colorful!
Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument is in Fruita, just next to Grand Junction near the western edge of Colorado. It preserves a very Western-looking landscape, and you could easily picture John Wayne riding through the canyons here!
Take the historic Rim Rock Drive for the full view of the land, or go hiking or mountain biking in the park. Be sure to watch for bighorn sheep and eagles flying high above the park.
Estes Park is just outside the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park so it’s a great place to stop after visiting the park. There’s also plenty to do in the town itself! There are hiking and biking trails, or you could try horseback riding in summer, and skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, and more in winter. Estes Park is nestled in the Rockies, so whatever you do, you’ll be surrounded by amazing views of the mountains.
Breckenridge is another one of those places to visit in Colorado that usually inspires thoughts of winter ski resorts. Don’t get us wrong – there are plenty of those, and they are fantastic! But Breckenridge also features many incredible outdoor activities year-round. Summer is great for hiking and there are plenty of mountain biking trails, and winter offers great skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, and sleigh rides.
If you get a chance to visit in the fall, the colorful foliage in the mountains near Breckenridge is fleeting but unforgettable!
Mesa Verde National Park
The cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park are a reminder of the ingenuity of the ancient native civilizations that lived in Colorado long ago. The cliff dwellings were built with great care so that the Ancestral Pueblo people stayed warm in winter, cool in summer, and had places to preserve food and to worship and mingle.
If you need a town nearby to base yourself out of, Mancos is less than a ten-minute drive. Durango is a bigger town with more options for lodging and is a little over half an hour away.
Ouray bills itself as the Switzerland of America, and the charming town tucked into the San Juan Mountains is one of the best places to see in Colorado. Try horseback riding, go rock climbing, or try your skills at Ouray’s ice park. The town also hosts an international film festival every June.
Hanging Lake is just a short drive from Glenwood Springs. The hike, too, is pretty short but pretty steep! You’re rewarded at the end with views of a beautiful lake that’s an unusual bluish-green shade. The color is due to minerals that dissolve in the lake, and to keep its pristine beauty, you’re not allowed to wade or swim in the lake.
👉 Pro Tip: Hanging Lake now operates on a reservation system so be sure to plan ahead!
The only kind of surfing you can do in landlocked Colorado!
Buena Vista sits along the Arkansas River, making it a great place to visit in Colorado for rafting. See our guide to staying in Buena Vista to plan your accommodation.
There are several hot springs for relaxing in Buena Vista as well – Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa is in town, and Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort is just a short drive away. There’s also lots of fishing, mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and many more outdoor activities to do in Buena Vista!
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
Red Rocks is just a twenty-minute drive from downtown Denver, but one of the best places to visit in Colorado if you’re a rock fan – both the geologic and the musical kind! The park has hiking trails where you can look for dinosaur fossils, but in the visitor center, you’ll learn about all the musical acts that have performed at Red Rocks since it was built.
📚 Related Reading: If you’re staying in Denver, be sure to check our list of the best things to do in Denver for more ideas!
Aspen has a reputation of being a playground for the rich and famous, but there’s plenty to do even if you’re not a multimillionaire! You’re close to Maroon Bells and other outdoor areas. Aspen also has lots of music venues, a film festival, spas and yoga classes, horseback riding opportunities and so much more!
👉 Pro Tip: If you want to hike in the area, but don’t want to venture out on your own, this Aspen East End Light Hike takes you along hidden river trails and less traveled paths.
Red Feather Lakes Area
The Red Feather Lakes area of northern Colorado is a less-explored area of the state, which makes it an attractive option if you don’t want crowds! The Cache La Poudre River has plenty of rafting, fishing, kayaking and more water activities and the Shambhala Mountain Center is a unique Buddhist retreat where you can meditate in the midst of all this beauty.
Grand Lake is just before the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, which makes it one of the best towns to visit while you spend some time in the park. There’s also plenty to do in Grand Lake itself including boating, fishing, and hiking in summer and cross country skiing, ice fishing, and snowshoeing in winter.
Steamboat Springs is another of the best places to visit in Colorado if you want to do some skiing or snowboarding! There’s a ski resort at Steamboat, and in summer you can hike, paddleboard on the lake, swim, fish, and more.
Fort Collins is a college town that’s also known for its breweries like New Belgium Brewing Company. Their popular beer, Fat Tire, pays tribute to another popular activity – mountain biking.
There are also trails to hike, and there’s plenty of shopping and great dining. In fact, Disneyland’s Main Street was modeled after Fort Collins’ downtown area.
Crested Butte is one of the best places to visit in Colorado if you want to do some fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, golfing and so much more! Of course, winter in Crested Butte means skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, or one-of-a-kind sleigh rides through the cold winter air.
Leadville is an old mining town that’s the highest incorporated city in the U.S. Leadville is located less than half an hour from the Copper Mountain ski resort, and you’ll find tons of fun things to do in Leadville in winter, summer, or any season.
But, for a real Colorado hidden gem, check out the even closer (and much cheaper!) Ski Cooper. Ski Cooper offers lift-accessed downhill skiing and snowboarding and is the perfect place for a kid’s first ski experience.
The next-door Tennessee Pass Nordic Center also offers groomed cross-country ski trails if you want a slower pace. In summer, the area is one of the best places to visit in Colorado for fly fishing, hiking, and biking.
👉 Read Next: Where to Stay in Leadville
Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
The Arkansas Headwaters is one of the country’s most popular places for whitewater rafting and kayaking. The river also has excellent fishing, especially for rainbow trout. There are lots of other outdoor activities including hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and watching for native Colorado wildlife in the area. The recreation area is in the town of Salida, which is a historic mountain town that’s also fun to explore.
👉 Pro Tip: Want to raft the river? This half-day Salida Canyon Rafting Tour is a great way to get your feet wet – literally!
San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway
The San Juan Skyway is a 235-mile loop through many southwestern Colorado towns. You can start in Durango, but you have the option to stay and visit, or spend the night, in towns including Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, or Cortez as well. One part of this scenic byway is known as the “Million Dollar Highway,” either because there’s still plenty of gold in them thar hills, or because the views themselves are worth a million bucks.
Georgetown is tucked into the mountains along I-70, just under an hour’s drive from Denver. The town has historic buildings with quaint shops and restaurants, and the drive up Guanella Pass in summer and early fall is breathtaking. You can also ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad, where you can stop for a silver mine tour or pan for gold.
📚 Read Next: If you love to travel, be sure not to miss all our guides to the best places to visit, spots to go, and destinations all around the United States. Check out our Washington state list for more inspiration on another one of the best states for outdoor lovers!
Mt. Evans Scenic Byway
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is about a ninety-minute drive from Denver, but well worth it! You’ll be driving on the highest paved road in North America, and as you might expect, you’ll get some amazing views. The drive ends at the top of Mt. Evans, one of Colorado’s 54 “fourteeners” – mountains that tower over 14,000 feet above sea level. Along the way, be sure to keep an eye out for mountain goats!
Oh, and be aware that Mt. Evans now requires timed entry reservations, so be sure to plan ahead. It’s not only one of the best places to visit in Colorado, but it’s one of the best attractions in the Denver area, so it fills up!
👉 Don’t miss: Our guide to the best day trips from Denver for more ideas to explore Denver and the surrounding area.
Nestled between Denver and Colorado, Castle Rock is an often overlooked place to visit in Colorado. You’ll find more things to do in Castle Rock than you might expect: from shopping the massive outlet malls to climbing the rock that gives the city its name, to brewery hopping, and even ziplining.
Nederland is one of the best places to visit in Colorado during the fall. Autumn is when the leaves on the aspens are turning gorgeous shades of bright yellow all around Nederland. It’s fun the rest of the year, too, with hikes in the Indian Peaks wilderness, or skiing at the nearby Eldora Mountain Resort. Nederland is also along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, so you can take a drive for even more views.
That’s it for some of the best places to visit in Colorado! Scroll down and leave a comment telling us your favorite Colorado destination!
If you’re staying in Denver for a while, be sure to check out our list of the best things to do in Denver. It has ideas for the whole family!