Overlooking view of Denver skyline in Colorado

Where to Stay in Colorado (Best Areas to Vacation)

Colorado is a popular vacation spot for many travelers, but it can be confusing deciding where to stay in the state.

Do you want the bustling city of Denver? The perks of a resort ski area in the rocky mountains? The less-crowded quiet of Southern Colorado? 

I’m a Colorado local who has traveled all over the state, and I’m here to help you decide where to stay in Colorado during your trip. Whether you want a trendy downtown Denver hotel or a stay in a quirky 1800s mining town, I’ve got you covered!

As you plan your trip, be sure to bookmark our Ultimate Colorado Travel Guide! It’s chock full of advice on what to bring, where to go, and what to see, all written by locals here in the state. It will be a valuable vacation guide for you.

Ready? Let’s dig in!

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Best Places to Stay in Colorado

View of people at the lobby of The Maven Hotel
The lobby of The Maven Hotel, which is also part of the Dairy Block microdistrict in Denver

Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Colorado? Here are my top picks: 

Ok, let’s do a deep dive into the best areas and places to stay in Colorado: 

8 Best Areas to Vacation & Stay in Colorado

You’ll find fun Colorado things to do in just about every part of the state. Whether you want skiing in the mountains, the quieter scenery of Northern Colorado, Denver’s museums, or the culture in Boulder, you’ll find lots to keep you busy in Colorado.

I broke this list down into the 8 areas of Colorado people are most interested in visiting. If you’d like to do several things, like visit Denver and ski in the mountains, then your best bet is to plan to stay at least one night in each place so you have enough time to enjoy each area. 

Denver

Overlooking view of Downtown City Park in Denver, Colorado

👉 Best Area For City Fun | ✨ Best Denver Hotels: The MavenThe Oxford HotelThe Crawford

Denver is full of museums, sports teams, parks, and a whole lot of unique things to do! Be sure to check out Nate’s guide to what to do in Denver to help you plan your trip. The city is big enough that you’ll likely want to rent a car with Discover Cars, especially if you want to visit nearby sights like Red Rocks or do some hiking in the foothills.

Check out our complete guide to where to stay in Denver to find your perfect stay now.

Pros of Staying in Denver:

  • Lots of great restaurants, bars, and breweries
  • Several pro sports team stadiums 
  • Many museums and theaters 

Con of Staying in Denver:

  • Hotels can be pricey

📚 Denver Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for City Fun
Google Map

Boulder

The Flatiron Vista from afar in Boulder, Colorado
Boulder’s Flatirons are beautiful from every angle!

👉 Best Area For College Town Vibes | ✨ Best Boulder Hotels: Hotel BoulderadoSt. Julien Hotel & SpaBasecamp Boulder

If you’re looking for beautiful hiking trails, horseback riding, and mountain biking spots, then Boulder is a great option. The city is also home to the largest college in Colorado (meaning plenty of college football games), musical performances, and a Shakespeare Festival every summer. 

If you’re new to Boulder, then you’ll want to stay near Pearl Street for all the action. The Pearl Street Mall is an outdoor mall where you can browse shops, find great spots to eat, and get a drink or a cup of coffee. 

Boulder is about a half hour drive from Denver, so you can spend a day there as well. Get planning your trip to Boulder with our complete guide to where to stay in Boulder.

Pros of Staying in Boulder:

  • Funky, college town vibe
  • Lots of great bars & restaurants
  • Lots of hiking & nearby nature

Con of Staying in Boulder:

  • Can be expensive

📚 Boulder Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for College Town Vibes
Google Map

Colorado Springs

Scenic view of rock formation in Colorado

👉 Best Area For Pikes Peak Access | ✨ Best Colorado Springs Hotels: The BroadmoorGarden of the Gods Club & ResortGreat Wolf Lodge 

Colorado Springs is the best spot to stay if you want to visit Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, and Manitou Springs. The city is located on the east side of the Rocky Mountains and about an hour south of Denver – close enough that you can make this your home base and still see all that Denver has to offer but at a way lower price point.

Another benefit to staying in Colorado Springs is that there are lots of hiking trails and outdoor activities in the area. If you’re looking for an area of Colorado to stay in that combines the benefits of a city with easy access to the Rocky Mountains, consider staying in Colorado Springs.

Pros of Staying in Colorado Springs:

Con of Staying in Colorado Springs:

  • Not as urban and bustling as Denver

📚 Colorado Springs Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Pikes Peak Access
Google Map

Northern Colorado

View of the Mountain Lake Horsetooth Reservoir and the clear blue sky over it

👉 Best Area For Laid Back Nature | ✨ Best Northern Colorado Hotels: Boulder Brook on Fall RiverThe Elizabeth HotelThe Armstrong Hotel

Northern Colorado has a very different feel than the metro areas of Denver and Boulder. The mountains look different here, the vibe is less urban and more relaxed, and everyone loves going on outdoor adventures. Two big colleges – Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley also bring plenty of students to the area. 

Estes Park, a town just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, is a big Northern Colorado draw and a great place to make your home base while you explore the park. It’s full of wildlife sightings, hiking trails, and forested wilderness.

Pros of Staying in Northern Colorado:

  • Lots of spots most tourists don’t visit
  • Close to Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Small college towns

Con of Staying in Northern Colorado:

  • Many Colorado landmarks are farther south

📚 Northern Colorado Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Laid Back Nature
Google Map

Central Mountain Towns

Clara sitting on a chair with a view of nature

👉 Best Area For Skiing | ✨ Best Mountain Hotels: Park Hyatt Beaver CreekThe Lodge at BreckenridgeThe Arrabelle at Vail Square

Many of Colorado’s central mountain ski towns are just a short drive off I-70. Staying in this area can be pricey, so if you’re traveling with a large group or family, it’s probably best to spend the money on a roomy hotel suite or cabin. This will help you save a little if breakfast is included, or if there’s a kitchenette. If you’re traveling solo or as a couple and really want to save, look for hostels.

Check out our guides to staying in these popular Colorado mountain towns:

Pros of Staying in Central Mountain Towns:

  • Close to skiing
  • Close to outdoor activities in summer
  • Many have spas and upscale shopping

Con of Staying in Central Mountain Towns:

  • Resort hotels can be pricey

📚 Central Mountain Towns Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Skiing
Google Map

Western Slope

View while hiking to Hanging Lake in Colorado
The hike to Hanging Lake is a challenge, but worth it!

👉 Best Area For Hot Springs | ✨ Best Western Slope Hotels: The Little NellGlenwood Hot Springs ResortCastle Creek Manor 

The Western Slope of Colorado encompasses many different areas, from the upscale Aspen ski resorts to the iconic Glenwood hot springs, and the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction. You’ll find plenty of outdoor activities here, plus spas and other ways to indulge in Aspen and Glenwood Springs.

Pros of Staying on the Western Slope:

  • Fewer crowds
  • Lots of outdoor activities

Con of Staying on the Western Slope:

  • Towns are far apart 

📚 Western Slope Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Hot Springs
Google Map

Southern Colorado

View of a rushing river while on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad takes you over craggy cliffs and by rushing rivers.

👉 Best Area For Historic Adventures | ✨ Best Southern Colorado Hotels: New Sheridan Hotel • The Strater HotelFireside Cabins

From Mesa Verde National Park to Durango and the various ghost and mining towns, you’ll get a whole lot of history in the southern Colorado area. Pagosa Springs is a great spot to pamper yourself and soak in the hot springs, and skiing in Telluride, Wolf Creek, and Purgatory can’t be beaten.

Pros of Staying in Southern Colorado:

  • Lots of outdoor activities
  • Lots of historic sites
  • Beautiful scenery

Con of Staying in Southern Colorado:

  • A far drive from Denver and more populated spots

📚 Southern Colorado Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Historic Adventures
Google Map

Quirky Small Towns

View of houses in a neighborhood in Leadville
Leadville is a charming mining town high in the Rockies.

👉 Best Area For Unusual Adventures | ✨ Best Quirky Small Town Hotels: Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort • Bross Hotel B & BThe Delaware Hotel

Colorado is full of funky, artsy, outdoorsy small towns that don’t get the love that the areas with fancy ski resorts do. The advantage of this is that you can vacation in these towns and find things to do that many people who visit Colorado never discover. You can also avoid the crowds of the bigger resort towns! For ideas on cool Colorado small towns to visit, check out Abigail’s list of the 13 best small towns in Colorado.

Pros of Staying in Quirky Small Towns:

  • Off-the-beaten path activities
  • Fewer crowds
  • Less expensive restaurants, bars, and entertainment

Con of Staying in Quirky Small Towns:

  • Fewer conveniences
  • Possibly a much longer drive to the airport and other sites

📚 Quirky Small Towns Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Unusual Adventures
Google Map

Tips for Staying in Colorado

Plan Your Colorado Trip in Advance

As you can see from the summaries above, Colorado has a variety of activities and places to visit. However, many of these things are quite a far distance from each other. If you want to see the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park but also stop in Denver to explore, that’s a six-hour-plus drive. Not to mention, if you’re planning to drive from Denver to ski in the central mountain towns off I-70, traffic on weekends can also be a big issue. 

Set realistic expectations for what you will see and how long it will take you to get there. If you’re visiting in late fall, winter, or spring, check the weather for storms as well – those will definitely affect your travel!

If you’re looking for more ideas for what to do in Colorado, check out our Ultimate Colorado Travel Guide

Take Time to Acclimate to the Elevation

Landing in Denver, you’ll already be a mile above sea level, and it’s likely that many things you want to do here will take you to even higher altitudes. 

If you’re planning to ski, hike, or try other outdoor activities, then give yourself a day or so to acclimate to Colorado’s elevation first. Do some easy sightseeing by checking out historic main streets, or heading to a museum before tackling a long hike or spending a day skiing. 

Hydrate!

One easy way to help acclimate to the higher elevation is to drink plenty of water. Bring a water bottle along while sightseeing, and definitely bring at least one and possibly several when you hike, mountain bike, or exercise.

If you plan to get out in the mountains and do some hiking, check out the super cool Grayl filtration water bottle.

Don’t Forget Sunscreen

Colorado gets at least some sun on most days of the year, and it’s easy to burn here. Bring a good sunscreen and reapply it frequently throughout the day. 

Pack Smart for Colorado

Bringing everything you need on your Colorado trip (without bogging yourself down) is an art. Abigail has a helpful Colorado packing list, which includes 23 things that many people forget when they’re visiting Colorado.

Know the 420 Laws

We’re a green state…and not just in an eco-friendly way! If you’re planning on smoking pot while visiting Colorado, then make sure you read up on the laws of Colorado marijuana use beforehand.

Don’t Stay by the Airport

If you’re looking for a spot to stay the night before you fly out, or you’re getting in late and want a nearby spot to crash, then the hotels near DIA are a great choice. 

However, if you’re looking for where to stay in Colorado near Denver or other Colorado attractions, then don’t stay near the airport. It’s a half-hour drive from the airport to downtown Denver, and even farther to the mountains. 

If you’re planning to spend time in Denver, be sure to check out Nate’s guide to where to stay in Denver for more ideas! 

FAQs About Where to Stay in Colorado

What is the most beautiful place to stay in Colorado?

Telluride is the most beautiful place to stay in Colorado. Telluride is situated in a box canyon in southern Colorado and is known for both gorgeous mountain views and for the historic buildings that line Main Street. 

Which part of Colorado should I visit?

You should visit Denver on a trip to Colorado. The capital city has a variety of museums, performing arts centers, stores, and well-regarded restaurants, all set against a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. Rocky Mountain National Park is about a ninety-minute drive from Denver, and is another must-see destination.

Is Denver or Colorado Springs better for vacation?

Denver is better for a vacation if this is your first time traveling to Colorado. There are many things to do in Denver and it’s just a short drive to hiking and sightseeing in the mountains. Although it is cheaper to stay in Colorado Springs, it’s best to spend the money and stay in Denver.

When should I visit Colorado?

You should visit Colorado from March to May or September to October. Those months are considered the off-season, and you’ll find cheaper rates and fewer crowds. 

How many days do you need to visit Colorado?

You’ll need one week to visit Colorado if you want to spend time in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Rocky Mountain National Park. If you want to explore southern Colorado, including the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park or the breathtaking town of Telluride, you’ll need at least 10 days. 

***

Hopefully, this guide has given you some good ideas for where to stay in Colorado, depending on what you’re planning to do and see. As a local, I love every single one of these areas for different reasons and I think they’re all worth a visit. 

As you’re planning your trip, consider stopping at one of Colorado’s many hot springs across the state to soak after a long day hiking, mountain biking, or skiing.

Enjoy your stay and welcome!

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