There are a variety of small towns in Colorado, each with its charming personality and unique experiences. Several are historical sites, having vibrant Victorian structures and abandoned mining tunnels. Others are home to artists and performers, and all are abundant in outdoor recreation.
I’m a Colorado local and have visited dozens of small Colorado towns. In this guide, I’ll share tips on exploring the 13 best small towns in Colorado, including things to do and places to stay.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- 13 Best Small Towns in Colorado
- FAQs about Small Towns in Colorado
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13 Best Small Towns in Colorado
Prefer a video? Hit play for Abigail’s roundup of the best Colorado mountain towns:
A historic mining town celebrated for world-class skiing and scenic mountain biking
Due to its remote location in the East River Valley, Crested Butte draws fewer crowds than other small towns in Colorado. This allows visitors to truly absorb the area’s breathtaking beauty and culture. As a former mining town, the National Historic District is lined with Victorian buildings. Many have been converted into charming eateries, gift shops, and historic boutique hotels.
The town holds to its values as Colorado’s “last great ski town.” Skiing and snowboarding at Crested Butte Mountain Resort is a popular winter activity. The same applies to cross-country skiing and ice skating at the town’s nordic center.
In the summer, Crested Butte switches its title to “the wildflower capital of Colorado.” Its Wildflower Festival held each July is a favorite annual event, as is Bike Week in June. Mountain biking is a major activity in Crested Butte, as the area offers 750 miles of biking and hiking trails.
👉 Love Skiing? Be sure to check out our guide on the 27 Best Colorado Ski Resorts!
Fans of both history and performing arts are drawn to this little mountain town
Few are familiar with the Colorado mountain town of Creede, largely due to its remote location and population of less than 300. But in the late 19th century, this Wild West town boasted 10,000 residents. Many were prospectors, lured by the now-retired silver mines.
But the history of the industry lives on in this small Colorado town. Creede is most known for the Underground Mining Museum, whose tours are hosted by locals that previously worked in the mines. Complement the experience with a visit to the Creede Historical Museum, along with a free tour of Last Chance Mine.
The Creede Repertory Theater is another popular attraction in Creede. Nationally recognized, it was recently highlighted in The New York Times for its classic and modern performances.
Surrounded by dramatic cliffs, the picturesque town has also been featured in several films. It was the perfect backdrop for The Shootist, The Lone Ranger, and The Assassination of Jessie James.
Admire this southwestern Colorado town by train, on ski lifts, and from mountain trails
Silverton is one of Colorado’s most celebrated mining towns, designated a National Historical Landmark. The Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a popular attraction, independently holds the same title. Visitors love this scenic Colorado train ride, as it offers incredible views of the San Juan Mountains.
When visiting, be sure to tour Silverton’s historic downtown. Wandering past historic buildings and swinging through restaurants’ saloon doors feels like a step back in time. Many places to stay celebrate Colorado history, too, decorated with antique furnishings.
Aside from a hands-on approach to history, many things to do in Silverton revolve around the outdoors. Expert skiers and snowboarders love Silverton Mountain for its backcountry slopes. In the summer, Ice Lakes Basin, one of the best hikes in Colorado, draws hundreds of visitors to this tiny town.
Enjoy national park access and downtown excitement in one of Colorado’s most charming small towns
Estes Park is best known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Accessible with a National Parks Pass, it’s one of the best day trips from Denver. Visitors love the park’s year-round outdoor activities, like hiking, nordic skiing, rock climbing, and more.
One of the best small towns in Colorado, Estes Park is especially lively during warm weather months. Downtown is often bustling with tourists enjoying beer tastings, souvenir shops, and live music. Elk Fest in October is a popular event, celebrating the fall season and local herds.
📚 Related Reading: Check out our guide on the 41 Best Places to Visit in Colorado for more iconic destinations!
A gold rush mining town now famed for Breckenridge Ski Resort and outdoor experiences
Breckenridge, lovingly called “Breck” by locals, is famous for its ski resort. The Summit County town is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, perfect for skiing and snowboarding.
But even outside of ski season, Breckenridge is a popular destination. Many visit to experience whitewater rafting on the Blue River. Other outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the area by hiking and horseback riding.
But before Breckenridge became known for outdoor recreation, it was a mining town. The Pike’s Peak Gold Rush drew prospectors to the region, and their former presence remains evident today.
Of all Colorado small towns, Breckenridge is home to the largest historic district. Tour downtown and admire the Victorian architecture of restored structures, many of which are now among the best places to stay in Breckenridge. For an interactive experience, be sure to visit the Cowboy Mine which takes you deep into a mountain-side tunnel.
Few small towns in Colorado are as relaxing and rejuvenating as Pagosa Springs
Nestled in the southwestern Rocky Mountains, Pagosa Springs is best known as a relaxation destination. The small town is home to multiple natural springs, including three resorts and two free pools found along the San Juan River. For centuries, it’s been believed that these natural mineral springs hold healing powers.
The Springs Resort is by far the most popular, having luxury suites and premier spa amenities. Lodge at the scenic health resort or purchase a day pass to experience all 25 soaking pools. Each is fed by The Mother Spring, which of all hot springs, is the deepest in the world.
👉 Love Natural Hot Springs? Be sure to check out Laura’s guide on the 23 Best Hot Springs in Colorado!
A small Colorado town surrounded by public lands and famed for its ice climbing scene
Lake City is a remote town found along the Silver Thread scenic byway. It’s the only town in Hinsdale County, 96% of which is public lands. Jagged snow-capped peaks sprawl throughout the landscape, making it a mecca for outdoor activities.
San Cristobal Lake, which the town was named after, is the most popular attraction. In the summer, it draws anglers and boaters. Winter visitors can enjoy ice skating on the frozen lake and have the opportunity to experience the Lake City Ski Hill.
In February, the town holds the Lake City Ice Climbing Festival at the Lake City Ice Park. The annual competition is loved by skilled winter athletes, as well as spectators.
⛰️ Looking for Bigger Municipalities? Check out Laura’s guide to the top cities in Colorado.
Dubbed the “coolest town in Colorado” for its art, agriculture, and outdoor recreation
Among small towns in Colorado, Paonia is unique for its rich agriculture. Stone fruits such as peaches, cherries, and apricots grow especially well in the North Fork Valley, as do pears and grapes. The autumn season brings plentiful harvests and local festivals. This includes the September Mountain Harvest Festival and October’s Hard Cider Festival.
When in Paonia, be sure to visit a farm-to-table restaurant and one of the town’s wineries. These include Stone Cottage Cellars and Azura Cellar & Gallery. A certified Colorado Creative District, it’s no surprise that the latter tasting room would include works of art. Artists of all mediums are celebrated in Paonia, filled with studios and art galleries.
A Rocky Mountain resort town that celebrates the local history and culture
Regardless of season or interests, there are so many things to do in Steamboat Springs. Winter athletes will love the champagne powder at Steamboat Ski Resort. Backcountry mountain bike trails sprawl endlessly in the Roosevelt National Forest. Fish Creek Falls amazes summer hikers, and soaking at Strawberry Park Hot Springs is a favorite year-round activity.
But aside from outdoor recreation, Steamboat Springs offers incredible historical and cultural sites. Learn about the region at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, and enjoy a performance by the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra. To meet the locals, check out the Steamboat Brew Trail, featuring a series of local craft breweries.
A scenic town that serves as a base for Arkansas River and Collegiate Peak adventures
One of the best day trips from Colorado Springs, Salida is largely known for outdoor recreation. The Arkansas River flows right through this small town, making whitewater rafting a popular activity. Tubing, kayaking, and lounging by the water’s edge are other great ways to spend a summer afternoon.
Incredibly scenic, Salida is also located near the Collegiate Peaks range. This draws skilled hikers and aspiring mountaineers looking to “peak bag” several nearby 14,000-foot summits.
👉 Pro Tip: After a long day of adventuring, soak your sore muscles at Mount Princeton Hot Springs. They’re located in the neighboring town, Buena Vista, which offers more great things to do and places to stay.
A storied past makes Trinidad a unique destination, now famed for cannabis and creative arts
Trinidad is an eclectic town located in southeastern Colorado near the border of New Mexico. In the 1800s, residents largely relied on the historic Santa Fe Trail. Travelers on the commercial highway brought business to local ranchers and traders. Later, as described at the Trinidad History Museum, the town became greatly involved in the coal mining industry.
In 1965, the first rural “hippie commune” popped up just north of Trinidad. Known as Drop City, the community consisted of liberated artists and filmmakers. Today, counterculture lives on with Trinidad’s nickname, “Weed Town USA.” The tiny town boasts 25 marijuana dispensaries, which according to High Times, has revitalized the economy.
📚 Related Reading: Just west of Trinidad is the San Luis Valley, home to Great Sand Dunes National Park. This destination is one of many on our 33 Fun Things to Do in Colorado guide!
From extreme sports to relaxing soaks, the historic town of Ouray delivers
Nicknamed the “Switzerland of America,” it comes as no surprise that this small mountain town offers incredible scenery. Ouray is located within a box canyon, surrounded by tall, dramatic cliffs. It’s a premier destination for ice climbing thanks to Ouray Ice Park and the annually celebrated Ice Festival.
Like many communities in the San Juan Mountains, Ouray was once a boomtown for silver mining. Main Street, a National Historic District, is lined with charming Victorian buildings. Restored to its original era, the Beaumont Hotel & Spa is one of the more well-known structures. Other relaxing amenities can be found at Wiesbaden, offering lodging and the opportunity to soak in an Ouray hot springs pool.
Enjoy a variety of unique experiences at this accessible small town
Manitou Springs is one of the best day trip destinations from Boulder, as well as from Denver and Colorado Springs. But despite being near major metropolitan areas, Manitou Springs looks and feels like a far-off mountain town.
Colorful historic structures line downtown, filled with eclectic eateries and shops. The town’s natural springs provide cool water to eight drinking fountains, making for a unique walking tour. Other nearby attractions include the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Cave of the Winds, Pikes Peak, and the Manitou Incline.
🚚 Moving to Colorado? Don’t miss Laura’s guide to Colorado’s 21 best places to live.
FAQs about Small Towns in Colorado
What is the best small town to live in Colorado?
The best small town to live in Colorado is Salida, in my opinion. It is less tourist-driven than other towns, and therefore, the cost of living is comparatively lower. It’s an especially ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts. Standard amenities are available, and metropolitan cities are within a 2-hour drive.
What is the least populated town in Colorado?
The least populated town in Colorado is Fulford, according to the 2010 Census. Located in Eagle County, only 2 residents call this 142-acre town home.
What are the pros and cons of living in Colorado?
The pros and cons of living in Colorado include a strong economy and reasonable taxes. But comparatively, Colorado has higher housing and living expenses. The four-season climate is relatively mild and outdoor recreation is plentiful. However, natural disasters such as wildfires are common.
Hopefully, you’re now better prepared to explore some of the best small towns in Colorado! Before you go, be sure to read our complimentary guides:
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