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The Best Vacation Destinations in Colorado

A snowshoer gazes upon snowy mountains in Colorado

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Best-known for its superb natural scenery, Colorado is the ultimate destination for outdoor adventures. Whether you prefer to transport yourself via foot, bike, or horse, by snow slopes or meandering rivers, there will be endless opportunities to embrace your wild side.

Despite being a landlocked state, there is a diversity to the landscapes in Colorado that goes further than its world-class reputation for skiing. Fifty-three of Colorado’s mountain peaks reach over 14,000 feet.

Vacation spots in Colorado attract adventurers seeking high-altitude antics, as well as families looking for some peace and quiet against a gorgeous backdrop. Climbing, bouldering, and hitting the slopes are all perfect ways to add adrenaline to your trip.

The breathtaking landscapes make Colorado the ideal place for anyone who needs to unwind and reset. From forest hideaways and mountain cabins to natural spas and lakeside hotels, there is a holiday waiting for all kinds of wanderers.

With 300 days of sun each year, Colorado is an all-year-round destination. In the fall, the forest hiking trails come to life in an array of rusty reds, glorious golds, and soft ambers. In spring and summer, the luscious meadows become a carpet of color as wildflowers bloom all across the region.

Read on for ideas to make the best Colorado itinerary:

1. Telluride

Yellow trees in the foreground and dramatic mountains in the background of a Telluride landscape

Telluride is one of the best places to go in Colorado for outdoor activities among alpine scenery. The historic downtown only adds to its allure. Take a walking tour, enjoy a show at the Sheridan Opera House, or visit Telluride Historical Museum to make the most of the town’s status as a National Historic Landmark District.

Located in a box canyon with a mountainous backdrop, Telluride is a skier’s paradise. There are over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain in winter, with the expansive Telluride Ski Resort providing fantastic snow conditions.

Summer brings hikers and cyclists who wish to explore the San Juan Mountains. Popular trails include the three-mile Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail, the easy Bridal Veil Falls hike, or the fifteen-mile Sneffels Highline Trail.

Telluride is understandably proud of its free gondola ride, which sweeps over San Sophia Ridge in just 13 minutes. 🚠 From there, enjoy spectacular views from the 10,500-feet Mountain Village above.

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2. Estes Park (Gateway to Rocky Mountains National Park)

A hiker in Estes Park sits on boulders overlooking an alpine lake and snowy mountains

Estes Park is best known as the optimal location for enjoying the magnificent Rocky Mountains National Park. Its awe-inspiring scenery makes Estes Park one of the best vacation destinations in Colorado.

Wanderers adore exploring the vast peaks, magnificent falls, and dazzling lakes of the Rocky Mountains. Thankfully, there are hiking trails available for all abilities.

Stephen King fans wouldn’t want to miss the Stanley Hotel featured in The Shining, while astronomy aficionados must go stargazing at the Estes Park Memorial Observatory. Finally, check out the Estes Park Aerial Tramway, which transports visitors to the top of Prospect Mountain, offering gorgeous panoramic views. 

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3. Denver

Denver is one of the top cities to visit in Colorado while still being a stone’s throw from fantastic nature. Hike up the Mount Evans Scenic Byway for a quick nature fix, or unwind at the world-famous Denver Botanic Gardens.

Arts and culture are abundant in Denver. Don’t miss the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Spot the street art while strolling around the diverse neighborhoods and marvel at the Colorado State Capitol building. There are also plenty of tours in Denver, including a walking ghost tour!

Spend evenings enjoying live music at the iconic Red Rocks Park outdoors amphitheater or getting inspired by a Denver Performing Arts Complex performance. Foodies will adore the chef-driven culinary scene and local goodies at the Central Market. And if that’s not enough, the thriving craft beer scene is home to over 100 breweries.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

4. Aspen

A skier at the top of a slope views a snowy ski run and the town of Aspen below

You don’t need to be familiar with Colorado to have heard the name Aspen before! People all around the world associate this particular destination with one word: skiing! Aspen Mountain, the challenging Aspen Highlands, the beginner-friendly Buttermilk, and the Snowmass Ski Resort have fantastic winter recreation reputations.

Aspen is an excellent place for a romantic getaway in Colorado with its luxury hotels, outstanding restaurants, and a famous apres-ski scene if you’re looking to treat yourself. But, of course, with its romantic spas and over 200 shops, there is ample opportunity for pampering here too.

Aspen keeps its events calendar busy all year round with everything from music festivals to one-off events and local markets. Rafting, climbing, and hot-air ballooning are also popular in the warmer months. Alternatively, soak up the scenery from the Silver Queen Gondola, Independence Pass drive, or the famous Maroon Bells hike. Whatever you do in Aspen, definitely plan to include it in any road trip throughout the Western U.S.

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5. Breckenridge

Breckenridge is one of many ‘Old West’ historic towns to visit on a weekend getaway in Colorado. These usually date back to the 1800s, when pioneers found gold in the region.

The Breckenridge Ski Resort is a must-visit in the winter, offering unique activities such as dog sledding, sleighing, and snowmobiling. ⛷️ The town is also a gateway to hundreds of hiking trails, mountain bike routes, and kayaking along the Blue River.

Ever since the Breckenridge Historic District was formed in the 1970s, the stunning downtown area has been on the up and up. The Old Town includes almost 250 authentic structures dating back to 1859, including churches, log cabins, and stately homes.

While you’re in town, visit Country Boy Mine to explore real gold mines, including one tour that goes 1,000 feet deep.

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6. Colorado Springs

Dramatic red rocks reach for the sky in Colorado Springs' Garden of the Gods

Spend a day Colorado Springs (or several) for a vacation that combines small-town aesthetics with impressive natural structures. 

The towering red rock formations at the aptly named Gardens of the Gods park are a must-see during your Colorado vacation. Whether or not you’re interested in learning about the geological forces which caused the sandstone pillars to form, you can’t help but be impressed with the sight. Combine your visit with a trip to the nearby Pikes Peak, which reaches 14,000 feet, and the Royal Gorge, which is 1,200 feet deep and 10 miles long!

Glen Eyrie Castle and the ancient Manitou Cliff Dwellings are two additional historical structures worth visiting during your Colorado vacation.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

7. Boulder

A grassy plain in front of a sharp mountain peak in Boulder

Boulder is another excellent Colorado vacation destination that combines indoor and outdoor fun. It is best known for its location next to the Flatirons’ impressive mountain backdrop.

Explore the rich history of Boulder by foot or bicycle. Visit one of its fantastic museums, such as the Museum of Natural History, or stroll down Pearl Street. In the summer, you can cool down with a dip in the Eldorado Springs Swimming Pool, which gets its water from a natural mineral spring.

In the winter, Boulder comes to life at the Eldora Mountain Ski Resort and downtown is festooned with holiday decorations.

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8. Grand Junction

Grand Junction is a small city that doesn’t skimp on attractions, offering fantastic museums, local entertainment (check out the Avalon Theatre), and historic sites.

The Western Colorado Botanic Gardens and the Grand Mesa mountain are great ways to unwind outdoors. The region is also home to a variety of picturesque wineries and farm-to-table restaurants.

While a great destination in its own right, Grand Junction earns its name on the ‘best places to visit in Colorado’ lists due to its proximity to fantastic natural attractions. The Colorado National Monument is a must-see due to its incredible rock formations, giant sandstone monoliths, and sweeping red canyons. It’s a sight you wouldn’t want to miss.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

9. Crested Butte

A hiker walks on a grassy path between mountains in Crested Butte

Best-known for the beautiful wildflowers that cover its luscious meadows throughout spring and summer, Crested Butte is a mountainous destination that offers a lot more than just skiing.

Lovers of unique flora and fauna will get a kick out of the Wildflower Festival in July. 🌼 However, they make for magical scenery while hiking and mountain biking too. Hiking trails in Crested Butte include the family-orientated Woods Walk and the more challenging Scarp Ridge Trail. Reference this Colorado packing list to make sure you bring your hiking essentials.

You can also paddleboard at Irwin Lake, visit the charming local shops downtown, or go whitewater rafting at the Taylor River. Then, for a unique activity, take the Silver Queen chairlift up to an elevation of 1,200 feet.

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10. Durango

Mesa Verde National Park in Durango

Durango is a must-visit destination in Colorado primarily due to the fantastic Silverton & Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad. The coal-fired steam train curves around the steep mountainside as the canyon drops below, making this one of the unique things to do in Colorado.

The Mesa Verde National Park is another must-do while in the area. Here, you will find a Native American Settlement from over 800 years ago. The site has preserved extensive ruins and cliff dwellings which you can access by guided tour or view from a nearby lookout. The treks can be physically strenuous but endlessly fascinating at the same time.

Visitors can also take on the slopes at the Purgatory Ski Resort, hike to Gudy’s Rest lookout, or explore the San Juan National Forest. If you don’t feel like venturing out into the wilderness, stick closer to the quaint streets of Durango and explore the historic downtown area.

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11. Steamboat Springs

A snowshoer leaves footprints in the snow on their way towards a mountain in Steamboat Springs

Perhaps it’s no surprise to hear that one of the best things to do in Steamboat Springs is to visit the natural hot springs. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is a magical spot to soothe sore muscles after a busy day hiking or snowboarding.

In Steamboat Springs itself, check out the Steamboat Art Museum or the Tread of Pioneers Museum. The Yampa River Botanic Park and Fish Creek Falls are great ways to enjoy warmer weather. Alternatively, the Alpine Slide is a 2,500-feet concrete slide where riders take a sled before zooming back down. There are also plenty of things to do in Steamboat in fall, so be sure to swing by even if it’s not ski season.

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12. Dinosaur National Monument

A National Parks Service sign points towards the Dinosaur National Monument amid a rocky Colorado landscape

Human holidaymakers aren’t the only ones who’ve roamed around Colorado – dinosaurs once did too! 🦕 Dinosaur National Monument is a must-see for dinosaur fans and archaeology enthusiasts alike.

Start with Quarry Exhibit Hall, which houses over 1,500 dinosaur fossils along its Wall of Bones. Next, walk along the Fossil Discovery Trail and spot the same fossils once discovered by paleontologist Earl Douglass a century ago. You can also find fascinating fossilized art etched into the sandstone by Fremont people around 1,000 years ago.

The area itself is incredibly scenic. Once you’ve soaked up all your new dino knowledge, take a hike along with the Sound of Silence Loop or go rafting through Split Mountain Canyon.

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More places to vist in Colorado

The dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park appear before snowy mountain peaks
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Colorado has many more fantastic ski slopes, with perhaps the most famous one being Vail. Each has its unique local attractions, historical secrets, and jaw-dropping mountain peaks. For an alternative to snow, don’t miss Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Wine lovers might want to stop by Palisade, as it is home to over 25 local wineries. So look out for Palisade peaches and local vintage wines during your Colorado holiday. If you’re looking for a multi-day hike, check out the Denver to Durango Colorado trail, covering 485 miles of epic peaks and unforgettable scenery.

Whether you’re after a weekend of relaxation or an epic adventure, there are many fantastic spots where you can vacation in Colorado, and Wanderu can help you find the best deal to get there. So pick your favorite Colorado vacation destination and get started on your dream getaway.

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