Overlooking view of Estes Park in Colorado

13 Best Small Towns in Colorado (By a CO Local)

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!

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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:

Crested Butte

A historic mining town celebrated for world-class skiing and scenic mountain biking

Scenic view from the town of Crested Butte in Colorado

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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

Creede

Fans of both history and performing arts are drawn to this little mountain town  

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

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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.  

Silverton 

Admire this southwestern Colorado town by train, on ski lifts, and from mountain trails

View of a mountain in Silverton during autumn Season

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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.

Estes Park

Enjoy national park access and downtown excitement in one of Colorado’s most charming small towns

View of a rocky mountain and the clear blue sky in Estes Park
Dramatic peaks surround Emerald Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

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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!

Breckenridge

A gold rush mining town now famed for Breckenridge Ski Resort and outdoor experiences

Overlooking view of the Breckenridge town at winter season

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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.

Pagosa Springs

Few small towns in Colorado are as relaxing and rejuvenating as Pagosa Springs

View of the Springs Resort and Spa along the San Juan River
The Springs Resort & Spa along the San Juan River (photo: Trever Gearhart / Shutterstock)

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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. 

To get planning, see my guides to what to do in Pagosa Springs and to the best places to stay in Pagosa Springs.

👉 Love Natural Hot Springs? Be sure to check out Laura’s guide on the 23 Best Hot Springs in Colorado!

Lake City

A small Colorado town surrounded by public lands and famed for its ice climbing scene

View of an alpinist competing in Lake City Ice Festival
An alpinist competing in the Lake City Ice Festival

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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.

Paonia

Dubbed the “coolest town in Colorado” for its art, agriculture, and outdoor recreation

View of vineyards and clear blue sky in Paonia in Colorado

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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.  

Steamboat Springs

A Rocky Mountain resort town that celebrates the local history and culture

The author's husband with their dog going on a hike in Fish Creek Falls Trail
My husband and pups hiking Fish Creek Falls Trail, a top attraction in Steamboat Springs

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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. 

Salida

A scenic town that serves as a base for Arkansas River and Collegiate Peak adventures

Overlooking view of Salida Town in Colorado

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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

Trinidad

A storied past makes Trinidad a unique destination, now famed for cannabis and creative arts

View from a street in the town of Trinidad, Colorado
(photo: Akane Brooks / Shutterstock)

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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!

Ouray

From extreme sports to relaxing soaks, the historic town of Ouray delivers 

View of a foggy neighborhood in Ouray

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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.    

Manitou Springs

Enjoy a variety of unique experiences at this accessible small town

The Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs during a hike
The Manitou Incline, one of the most challenging hikes in Manitou Springs

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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

Scenic view of a double rainbow 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.

What is the safest town in Colorado? 

The safest town in Colorado is Frederick, per reports from Background Checks. Here, violent and property crime rates are the lowest in the state. Among our best small town picks, Manitou Springs and Estes Park are also notably safe communities. 

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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: 

Safe travels!

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4 Comments

  1. Salida real estate is overpriced compared to other towns on the list. Cedaredge is a nice small town by the Grand Mesa. CNN just noted it as a new must see in CO. I was just there and was surprised by the natural beauty and affordability.

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