Home / U.S. State Travel Guides / U.S. Vacations / U.S. National Parks / U.S. State Highpoints / U.S. Road Trip Planning

COLORADO TRAVEL GUIDE

Great Sand Dunes NP, Colorado Ice Lakes Basin, Colorado Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Welcome to the bigroads.com travel guide to Colorado! Hopefully this page helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to Colorado.

Take note that I build and maintain this website as both a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures. I do not make any profit from this website, and you will see no ads on it. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons

OVERVIEW



Colorado is situated in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The state is dominated by big mountains, with 58 peaks exceeding 14,000 feet ("the fourteeners") and hundreds more just below that. Outdoor lifestyles are the norm on Colorado, and people continue to flock to the state because of it. You can expect world-class hiking, skiing, offroad driving, scenery, and whitewater rafting just about all over the state. It's an extremely expensive state to visit, but also one of the finest.

TOP 10 ATTRACTIONS IN COLORADO



Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in Colorado? Here are my selections for the top 10 attractions or experiences in Colorado, in no particular order:

Explore Rocky Mountain National Park in your vehicle and/or on foot
Hit one or several of the many breweries found in and around Fort Collins
Take a guided tour of ancient ruins at Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado
Jump on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Durango for one of the most scenic railway journeys in North America
Enjoy a concert at the outdoor Red Rocks Amphitheater
Relax in one of Colorado's famous developed hot springs pools
Hike up one of Colorado's big mountains (there are many mountains over 14,000 feet tall)
Go whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River
Go skiing or snowboarding at any of the state's famous ski areas (e.g. Aspen Snowmass, Telluride, Vail, etc.)
Climb the sand dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park

If I could select only one place to visit in Colorado, I would choose the southwestern region of the state, using Durango as a base camp.

For a list of 10 great attractions in each U.S. state, click here.

5-STAR ATTRACTIONS IN COLORADO



Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in Colorado. I believe each of these attractions should be on your Colorado bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:

Northwestern Colorado (including Steamboat Springs)
Dinosaur National Monument, Jensen - features river canyons, fossils, desert scenery, scenic driving, whitewater rafting, and petroglyphs
Fish Creek Falls, Steamboat Springs - take an easy walk to see a 280-foot waterfall that is among Colorado's best waterfalls
Rifle Falls State Park, Rifle - the highlight of this state park is a triple 70-foot tall waterfall flowing over a travertine dam
Steamboat Ski Resort, Steamboat Springs - one of the premier ski resorts in the U.S.; located in an "authentic cowboy town"
Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs - one of several popular developed hot springs pools in Colorado; reservations are required
Tubing the Yampa River - a popular summertime activity in Steamboat Springs; many start at the 5th Street bridge and float from there
Whitewater rafting the Green River - one of several excellent whitewater rafting rivers in Colorado
Whitewater rafting the Yampa River - one of several excellent whitewater rafting rivers in Colorado

Western Colorado (including Grand Junction and Montrose)
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Montrose - visit an impressive dark and deep canyon; both the north and south rim offer views
Colorado National Monument, Fruita - highlights include a scenic drive and hiking trails that pass sandstone and other desert rock formations
McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, Fruita - a remote park with an abundance of natural arches; a 4x4 vehicle or long hike is needed
Museum of the Mountain West, Montrose - an indoor and outdoor history museum with a collection of historic buildings

Southwestern Colorado (including Cortez, Durango, Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride)
Box Canyon Waterfall & Park, Ouray - walk an elevated walkway into a tight gorge to see an 85-foot waterfall
Bridal Veil Falls, Telluride - one of Colorado's best waterfalls; 365-feet tall!
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Dolores - contains 1,000s of archaeological sites, including cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and kivas
Downtown Durango - a lively historic downtown with many shops and restaurants; one of my favorite downtown areas in the West
Dunton Hot Springs, Dolores - one of the best hot springs resorts in America
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Durango - one of the best scenic railroads in the contiguous U.S., if not the #1 best
Ice climbing in Ouray - one of the best places in the U.S. for ice climbing
Mesa Verde National Park - guided tours of what are arguably the most impressive ancient ruins in the U.S.
Million Dollar Highway/US-550 - a twisty scenic drive with excellent views of the surrounding mountains; not for the faint of heart
North Pole-Santa's Workshop, Cascade - a Christmas-themed amusement park with rides, magic shows, and workshops that is open May-Dec
Offroad driving tours in/near Ouray (e.g. Imogene Pass, Yankee Boy Basin) - offers some of the most scenic off-road driving in the U.S.
Offroad driving tours in/near Telluride - legendary off-road driving trails; some of the best 4x4 trails in the country
Ouray Hot Springs, Ouray - a series of small developed hot springs pools in Ouray, a town dubbed the "Switzerland of America"
San Juan National Forest - one of America's most beautiful national forests; amazing hiking, backpacking, and 4x4 driving
Soaring Tree Top Adventures, Durango - excellent zip-lining tours
Telluride Mountain Village Gondola, Telluride - take a free, scenic 13-minute gondola ride from the town of Telluride up to Mountain Village
Telluride Ski Resort, Telluride - one of the premier ski resorts in the U.S.
Whitewater rafting the Animas River - one of several excellent whitewater rafting rivers in Colorado
Whitewater rafting the Dolores River - one of several excellent whitewater rafting rivers in Colorado

Central Colorado: Aspen & Glenwood Springs area
Aspen Highlands, Aspen - one of Colorado's best ski resorts; famous for its Highland Bowl; "some of CO's best steep, big-mountain skiing"
Aspen Snowmass, Aspen - one of the premier ski resorts in the U.S.
Downtown Aspen - upscale downtown area packed with shops, art galleries, and restaurants; an extremely expensive area
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Glenwood Springs - a mountain top family-fun center with lots of activities (coasters, giant swings, etc.)
Glenwood Hot Springs, Glenwood Springs - soak in the the world's largest mineral hot springs pool
Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs - take a steep hike to see waterfalls flowing over travertine rock formations; permits required
Independence Pass / Highway CO-82, Aspen - one of CO's best paved scenic drives; includes an excellent ghost town and many scenic views
John Denver Sanctuary, Aspen - free park with landscaped grounds and engraved rocks honoring the singer; live performances in season
Maroon Bells, Aspen - take a shuttle and then a moderate hike to see what are arguably Colorado's most beautiful mountains
Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway - one of Colorado's best paved scenic drives; starts in Aspen and ultimately branches to head to either Minturn (near Beaver Creek) or Copper Mountain

Central Colorado: Crested Butte & Gunnison area
Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Crested Butte - one of Colorado's best ski areas
Crystal Mill, Gunnison - take a guided 4x4 driving tour to see an exceptionally photographic historic mill in front of a small waterfall
Curecanti National Recreation Area, Gunnison - a series of three scenic reservoirs fed by the Gunnison River; very popular for boating

Central Colorado: Breckenridge, Georgetown, Leadville, and Vail area (near I-70)
Arapahoe Basin, Keystone - one of Colorado's best ski areas; known for its extended season (it often stays open until June)
Beaver Creek Resort, Vail - one of the premier ski resorts in the U.S.
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Vail - a beautiful high-elevation botanical garden (one of the world's highest)
Breckenridge - a small and historic ski town with great mountain scenery and world-class skiing/snowboarding; has a lively downtown area
Breckenridge Resort, Breckenridge - one of Colorado's best ski resorts in one of Colorado's best ski towns
Capital Prize Gold Mine Tour, Georgetown - guided tours of a historic gold and silver mine
Copper Mountain, Copper Mountain - one of Colorado's best ski resorts
Georgetown Loop Railroad, Georgetown - popular narrow gauge railroad rides
Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater (The Amp), Vail - a beautiful outdoor performance venue
Guanella Pass (CO-381) - one of Colorado's best paved scenic drives; tops out at 11,669 feet and provides views of Mt. Evans & Mt. Bierstadt
Keystone Ski Resort, Keystone - one of Colorado's best ski resorts
Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad, Leadville - take a scenic, high-elevation railroad ride
Loveland Ski Area, Georgetown - one of Colorado's best ski resorts
Main Street, Breckenridge - a lively historic district / tourist area in one of Colorado's best ski towns
National Mining Hall of Fame & Museum, Leadville - stories and exhibits celebrating mining history
Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway - one of Colorado's best paved scenic drives; starts in Aspen and ultimately branches to head to either Minturn (near Beaver Creek) or Copper Mountain
Vail Mountain Resort, Vail - one of the premier ski resorts in the U.S.
Vail Recreation Path - a popular, 8.75 mile paved bike path

Central Colorado: Buena Vista and Salida area
Buena Vista River Park, Buena Vista - a public "whitewater play park" with river surfing and beginner-level whitewater kayaking
Captain Zipline, Salida - excellent zip-lining tours
Monarch Mountain, Salida - a great, medium-sized ski area that lacks the crowds of the more popular ski areas in the state
Whitewater rafting the Arkansas River - this is the most commonly rafted river in Colorado

Central Colorado: Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs area
Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, Manitou Springs - guided underground cave tours
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs - one of the finest medium-sized zoos in the U.S.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs - scenic park with tallgrass and beautiful red sandstone fins/spires
Manitou Springs Incline, Manitou Springs - climb 2,700 steps in only one mile to gain 2,000 feet in elevation; a unique fitness challenge
Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, Cripple Creek - guided underground gold mine tours
National Museum of World War II Aviation, Colorado Springs - a relatively new museum with many historic planes on display
Paint Mines Interpretive Park, Calhan - a colorful geologic park located about an hour northeast of Colorado Springs
Pikes Peak - hike, drive, or take a cog railway up this famous 14,115 foot mountain
Pikes Peak Cog Railway - take a ride to the summit of Pikes Peak on the world's highest cog railroad
Pikes Peak Highway - a 19-mile paved toll road that ends at the top of Pikes Peak; outstanding views along the way
United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs - self-guided tours of the prestigious military academy

Southcentral Colorado (including Alamosa, Canon City, and Pagosa Springs)
Bishop Castle, Rye - visit a three-story stone castle that was built entirely by one man; one of Colorado's most famous roadside attractions
Colorado Gators Reptile Park, Mosca - wildlife park with alligators and other reptiles
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve - Colorado's most impressive sand dunes; the climbable dunes are framed by large mountains
Hot Springs @ The Springs Resort, Pagosa Springs - one of several excellent commercially developed hot springs resorts in Colorado
North Clear Creek Falls, Creede - take a short walk to visit one of Colorado's best waterfalls; roughly 100 feet tall
Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, Canon City - one of the most spectacular pedestrian bridges in the U.S.
Royal Gorge Route Railroad, Canon City - popular 2-hour railroad rides in 1950s-era trains
Royal Gorge Via Ferrata, Canon City - one of only a few places in the U.S. that offer guided via-ferrata climbing (you must try this!)
Royal Gorge Zip Line Tours, Canon City - excellent zip-lining tours
Skyline Drive, Canon City - a one-way paved scenic drive that follows a razorback ridge that overlooks Canon City
Treasure Falls, Pagosa Springs - a 0.5 mile hike leads to a scenic 105-foot waterfall
Wheeler Geologic Area, Creede - a long hike or 4x4 drive within Rio Grande National Forest to one of Colorado's geologic wonders
Whitewater rafting the Arkansas River - this is the most commonly rafted river in Colorado
Wolf Creek Ski Resort, Pagosa Springs - one of Colorado's best ski resorts; this resort typically receives the most amount of snow in the state

Rocky Mountain National Park and surrounding area (including Boulder, Estes Park, Fort Collins, Grand Lake, and Winter Park)
Bear Lake Road, Rocky Mountain National Park - a scenic road with hiking trailheads that lead to some of Colorado's best mountain scenery
Benson Park Sculpture Garden, Loveland - an outdoor art park with more than 150 sculptures
Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks, Boulder - a series of preserves that offer more than 145 miles of trails; see the famous Flatirons
Breweries in Fort Collins - the Fort Collins area has more than 20 craft breweries (e.g. New Belgium Brewing)
Colorado Chautauqua, Boulder - a nature and cultural park with lodging, 40 miles of hiking trails, historic buildings, live music, and more
Cycling in and around Boulder - the Boulder Valley has more than 300 miles of bikeway, including 50 miles of designated bike routes
Downtown Estes Park - a lively and attractive high-tourism area with many shops and restaurants
Eldorado Canyon State Park, Boulder - a popular and scenic park with great hiking, rock-climbing, and picnicking; limited parking
Estes Park Aerial Tramway, Estes Park - take a mountain cable car up to the summit of Prospect Mountain for scenic views
Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, Fort Collins - an excellent science, history, cultural, and children's museum
Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park - one of the classic mountaineering adventures in Colorado; a spectacular climb to a 14,000-er
Offroad driving tours in/near Estes Park - one of the best places for 4x4 driving and ATVing in the state
Pearl Street Mall, Boulder - a popular four-block pedestrian mall in downtown Boulder
Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, Estes Park - one of Colorado's best paved scenic drives; travels 55 miles from Estes Park south to I-70
Rocky Mountain National Park - one of the premier national parks in the U.S; features scenic drives, awesome hiking, and tons of wildlife
Royal Arch, Boulder - a natural arch with good views of Boulder and the Flatirons rock formations
Stanley Hotel, Estes Park - a historic and famous 3-star grand hotel near Rocky Mountain National Park; paranormal tours are offered here
Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park - the main paved route through Rocky Mountain National Park; reservations may be required
Winter Park Resort, Winter Park - one of Colorado's best ski resorts

Denver and surrounding area
Argo Mill and Tunnel, Idaho Springs - guided tours of a historic gold mine that processed millions of dollars worth of gold
Coors Field, Denver - a famous MLB stadium; home of the Colorado Rockies
Denver Art Museum, Denver - one of the largest and best art museums in the U.S.
Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver - a botanical garden in the Chessman Park neighborhood; has a variety of theme gardens
Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver - a good science museum with an IMAX theater and planetarium
Denver Union Station, Denver - popular hotel, shopping, and dining area in downtown Denver
Denver Zoo, Denver - a large zoo boasting more than 3,000 animals from more than 450 species
EDGE Ziplines & Adventures, Castle Rock - excellent zip-lining tours
Empower Field at Mile High, Denver - NFL football stadium; home of the Denver Broncos
Forney Museum of Transportation, Denver - a great transportation museum with many cars, planes, motorcycles, trains, etc. on display
Guided food tours in Denver - several companies in Denver offer excellent guided food fours
Mount Evans Scenic Byway - a 28-mile long scenic drive to the top of a 14,264ft mountain; the highest paved road in North America
Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison - one of the very best outdoor amphitheaters in the U.S; an unbelievable place to catch a concert
Roxborough State Park, Littleton - beautiful state park with dramatic red-rock scenery
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, Denver - features more than 50 aircraft and flight simulators

Northeastern Colorado
Overland Trail Museum, Sterling - museum with buildings and exhibits covering the famous 19th century stagecoach/wagon trail route

Southeastern Colorado
Art Cartopia Museum, Trinidad - a roadside attraction of wildly painted vehicles; one of Colorado's best roadside attractions
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, La Junta - visit a reconstructed 1840s adobe fur trading post

Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions in Colorado? If so, please email me at gparsons66@hotmail.com.

For a list of 5-star attractions in neighboring states, click on any of these links:  AZ  |  KS  |  NE  |  NM  |  OK  |  UT  |  WY

BEST TOWNS & CITIES TO VISIT IN COLORADO



These towns and cities in Colorado are generally regarded as the most interesting to travelers:

Northwestern Colorado
Steamboat Springs - a high-elevation ski town/small city with great mountain scenery, world-class skiing/snowboarding, and hot springs

Southwestern Colorado
Durango - a small city with awesome access to the great outdoors (e.g. hiking, backpacking, 4x4 driving, skiing, etc.); great tourist railway
Ouray - a very small town with beautiful mountain scenery; famous for its hot springs, ice-climbing, and nearby 4x4 driving trails
Telluride - a small ski town with awesome mountain scenery and world-class skiing/snowboarding

Central Colorado
Aspen - a small ski town with awesome mountain scenery and world-class skiing/snowboarding; has a lively downtown area
Breckenridge - a small and historic ski town with great mountain scenery and world-class skiing/snowboarding; has a lively downtown area
Buena Vista - a small town with access to awesome whitewater rafting and other outdoor activities (e.g. hiking)
Canon City - a small city with access to awesome whitewater rafting and other outdoor activities (e.g. rock-climbing, fly-fishing)
Crested Butte - a small ski town with with great mountain scenery and world-class skiing/snowboarding; the "wildflower capital of CO"
Glenwood Springs - a small city famous for its giant hot springs pool and access to nearby outdoor activities (e.g. hiking, cycling, etc.)
Manitou Springs - a small town known for its mineral springs and a hippy/arts culture; close to Pike's Peak and Colorado Springs
Vail - a high-elevation small ski town with world-class skiing/snowboarding (it's the largest ski resort in the state)

Denver & Rocky Mountain National Park area
Boulder - a medium-sized city located at the foothills of Rocky Mountain National Park; has an strong outdoor sports-loving culture
Denver - a major city famous for sunshine (300 days per year), breweries, museums, and professional sports; a very walkable city
Estes Park - a small town that serves as the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park; has a lively downtown area
Fort Collins - a medium-sized city that is famous for its cycling trails and breweries; the "cultural hub of northern Colorado"

My favorite major city in Colorado is Denver - I recommend that first-time visitors spend at least 2-3 nights there
My favorite medium-sized city in Colorado is Boulder - I recommend that first-time visitors spend at least 2-3 nights there

If you want to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, stay in Montrose.
If you want to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park, stay in Alamosa.
If you want to visit Mesa Verde National Park, stay in Cortez or Durango.
If you want to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, stay in Estes Park.

If you like 4x4 driving, visit Ouray or Telluride.
If you like breweries, visit Boulder, Fort Collins, Longmont, Loveland, or Denver
If you like cycling, visit Boulder.
If you like hot springs, visit Dolores, Glenwood Springs, Ouray, Pagosa Springs, or Steamboat Springs
If you like museums, visit Denver.
If you like ski towns, visit Aspen, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Steamboat Springs, Telluride, or Vail

Click here if you'd like to see a complete list of towns and cities that I find interesting across the entire U.S.

WHAT IS COLORADO FAMOUS FOR?



Here are some things that Colorado is famous or well-known for:

14,000-foot mountains
4x4 / off-road driving
archaeological sites
aspen trees
backcountry skiing
breweries
canyons
dude ranches
first state to legalize marijuana (along with Washington)
ghost towns / old West towns
gold mines
hiking and backpacking
hot springs
mining ruins
mountain passes
national forests
professional sports teams
rocky mountains
scenic landscapes
ski/snowboard towns & resorts
trout fishing
whitewater rafting

Click here if you'd like to learn what other U.S. states are famous for.

NATIONAL PARKS IN COLORADO



Colorado is absolutely packed with national parks and other federally-managed parks and properties, including:

National Parks
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - visit an impressive dark and deep canyon; both the north and south rim offer views
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve - Colorado's most impressive sand dunes; the climbable dunes are framed by large mountains
Mesa Verde National Park - guided tours of what are arguably the most impressive ancient ruins in the U.S.
Rocky Mountain National Park - one of the premier national parks in the U.S; features scenic drives, awesome hiking, and tons of wildlife

National Monuments
Browns Canyon National Monument
Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Chimney Rock National Monument
Colorado National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Hovenweep National Monument
Yucca House National Monument

National Recreation Areas
Arapaho National Recreation Area
Curecanti National Recreation Area

National Forests
Arapaho National Forest
Grand Mesa National Forest
Gunnison National Forest
Manti-La Sal National Forest
Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest
Pike National Forest
Rio Grande National Forest
Roosevelt National Forest
San Isabel National Forest
San Juan National Forest
Uncompahgre National Forest
White River National Forest

National Historical Parks / Other National Parks & Properties
Amache National Historic Site
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
California National Historic Trail
Old Spanish National Historic Trail
Pony Express National Historic Trail
Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Here are my recommendations for the minimum amount of time a first-time visitor should spend at each of Colorado's national parks
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - 1 day
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve - 1 day
Mesa Verde National Park - 1-2 days
Rocky Mountain National Park - 2-3 days

Take note that reservations are likely needed to enter Rocky Mountain National Park and also to take a guided tour of the ruins of Mesa Verde National Park.

For more information on Colorado's national parks, visit the Colorado page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all U.S. national parks, click here.

STATE PARKS IN COLORADO



Colorado is an undeniably beautiful state, but honestly most of its prime locations are found on federally-managed land. However, there are still more than 40 state parks in Colorado, including these favorites:

Eldorado Canyon State Park, Boulder - a popular and scenic park with great hiking, rock-climbing, and picnicking; limited parking
Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Golden - a mountain park near Denver with 35 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails
Rifle Falls State Park, Rifle - the highlight of this state park is a triple 70-foot tall waterfall flowing over a travertine dam
Roxborough State Park, Littleton - beautiful state park with dramatic red-rock scenery

To see my list of the top 100 state parks in the country, click here.

BEST WATERFALLS IN COLORADO



Colorado has several hundred natural waterfalls. Here are some of the best waterfalls in Colorado:

Northwestern Colorado (including Steamboat Springs)
Fish Creek Falls, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests (near Steamboat Springs)
Rifle Falls, Rifle Falls State Park, Rifle

Southwestern Colorado (including Cortez, Durango, Ouray, and Telluride)
Box Canyon Falls, Box Canyon Falls Park, Ouray
Bridal Veil Falls, Ophir (near Telluride)
South Mineral Creek Falls, San Juan National Forest (near Silverton)

Central Colorado (including Aspen, Breckenridge, Buena Vista, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Salida, and Vail)
Hanging Lake, White River National Forest (near Glenwood Springs)
Helen Hunt Falls, North Cheyenne Cañon Park, Colorado Springs
Seven Falls, The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs

Southcentral Colorado (including Alamosa, Canon City, and Pagosa Springs)
North Clear Creek Falls, Creede
Treasure Falls, San Juan National Forest (near Pagosa Springs)
Zapata Falls, BLM land near Great Sand Dunes National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park
Adams Falls near Grand Lake
Alberta Falls near Bear Lake
Chasm Falls off Old Fall River Road
Ouzel Falls

For a listing of all known waterfalls in Colorado, visit the World Waterfall Database.

BEST SCENIC DRIVES IN COLORADO



Colorado is one of the very best states in the country for scenic drives. In fact many of the major highways in the state have a scenic drive feel to them. Here is a list of many of the best scenic drives in Colorado:

Northwestern Colorado (including Steamboat Springs)
Harpers Corner Road, Dinosaur National Monument - a seasonal 31-mile paved route from the Canyon Visitor Center to Harpers Corner

Western Colorado (including Grand Junction and Montrose)
Rim Rock Drive, Colorado National Monument - a 23-mile paved route that offers Utah-quality desert scenery; open year-round
South Rim Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - a seasonal 7-mile paved route from Tomichi Point to High Point

Southwestern Colorado (including Cortez, Durango, Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride)
Alpine Loop - a seasonal 63-mile dirt/gravel route in the San Juan Mountains (incl. Imogene Pass) that requires a high-clearance 4x4 vehicle
Million Dollar Highway/US-550 - a 25-mile paved route from Silverton to Ouray with many curves and steep dropoffs; open year-round
San Juan Skyway - a 236-mile paved loop that travels on several state and federal highways in the San Juan Mountains
Mesa Verde National Park roads - both the Main Park Road and Wetherill Mesa Road in this national park offer great scenic views
Yankee Boy Basin Road - a seasonal 4.7 mile dirt/gravel route from Camp Bird Road to Yankee Boy Basin; 4x4 high clearance needed at end

Central Colorado
I-70 through Glenwood Canyon - this section of I-70 is one of the most scenic sections along the entire U.S. interstate system
Boreas Pass Road/FR 33 - a seasonal 20-mile mostly dirt/gravel route from Breckenridge to Como that crosses an 11,505-foot mountain pass
Cottonwood Pass - a seasonal 57-mile paved route between Buena Vista and Almont that crosses the Continental Divide at 12,126 feet
Guanella Pass Road - a seasonal 22-mile paved route from Grant to Georgetown that crosses an 11,669-foot mountain pass
Kebler Pass - a seasonal 30-mile mostly dirt/gravel route from Crested Butte to Paonia that crosses a 10,007-foot mountain pass
Independence Pass - a seasonal 32-mile paved route between Twin Lakes and Aspen that crosses a 12,095-foot mountain pass
Loveland Pass - a 20-mile paved route along US-6 between I-70 in Dillon to I-70 in Silverthorne that crosses an 11,990-foot mountain pass
Mount Evans Scenic Byway - a seasonal 50-mile paved route that climbs to 14,271-feet; this is the highest paved road in North America
Pikes Peak Highway - a seasonal 19-mile paved toll road that climbs to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak
Skyline Drive - a 2.6-mile paved one-way route in Canon City that travels along a razorback ridgeline; open year-round
Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway - a 130-mile paved route from Aspen that branches to Minturn and Copper Mountain; the western part of this byway is closed in winter (e.g. Independence Pass)

Rocky Mountain National Park and surrounding area (including Boulder, Estes Park, Fort Collins, Grand Lake, and Winter Park)
Old Fall River Road, Rocky Mountain National Park - a seasonal 9-mile dirt/gravel route from the Endovalley Picnic Area to Fall River Pass
Peak to Peak Scenic Byway - a 68-mile paved route in the 'Front Range' region of Colorado that travels from Estes Park south to I-70
Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park - a seasonal 48-mile paved route; this is the main park road and it requires timed entry permits

The Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway is also a good drive, but I'm not convinced the scenery is on par with the roads I've listed above. Gold Belt Scenic Byway (which includes Phantom Canyon Road, Shelf Road, High Park Road and Teller County Road) may also be a worthwhile drive as well, but I haven't driven it yet.

Take note that the Million Dollar Highway/US-550 is also known as the Red Mountain Pass. It is also considered part of the 230-mile San Juan Skyway scenic drive. Independence Pass is also considered part of the Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway. The famous Imogene Pass is part of the high-clearance 4x4 route known as the Alpine Loop.

For a list of great scenic drives in each U.S. state, click here.

BEST RAIL TRAILS IN COLORADO



Here is a list of some of the best rail trails (or similar cycling paths) in Colorado:

Western Colorado (including Grand Junction and Montrose)
Colorado Riverfront Trail

Central Colorado (including Aspen, Breckenridge, Buena Vista, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Salida, and Vail)
Glenwood Canyon Recreation Trail
Mineral Belt Trail
Rio Grande Trail

Rocky Mountain National Park area (including Boulder, Estes Park, Fort Collins, Grand Lake, and Winter Park)
Poudre River Trail

Denver and surrounding area
Bear Creek Trail
Cherry Creek Regional Trail
High Line Canal Trail
Platte River Trail

For detailed information on all known rail trails in Colorado, visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.

BEST AMUSEMENT PARKS / THEME PARKS IN COLORADO



There are only a few notable amusement parks in Colorado:

Elitch Gardens Theme Park, Denver
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Glenwood Springs - you could call this a "family fun center" instead of an "amusement park"
Lakeside Amusement Park, Denver
North Pole-Santa's Workshop, Cascade
Water World, Federal Heights

BEST MUSEUMS IN COLORADO



Colorado is far more famous for its scenery than its museums, but there are several great museums in the state. The best museums in Colorado include:

Northwestern Colorado (including Steamboat Springs)
Museum of Northwest Colorado, Craig

Western Colorado (including Grand Junction and Montrose)
Museum of the Mountain West, Montrose
Museum of the West, Grand Junction

Central Colorado (including Aspen, Breckenridge, Buena Vista, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Salida, and Vail)
Argo Mill and Tunnel, Idaho Springs
Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame, Vail
National Museum of World War II Aviation, Colorado Springs
National Mining Hall of Fame & Museum, Leadville
ProRodeo Hall Of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy, Colorado Springs

Denver and surrounding area
Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, Golden
Children's Museum of Denver, Denver
Colorado Railroad Museum, Golden
Denver Art Museum, Denver
Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver
Forney Museum of Transportation, Denver
Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, Fort Collins
History Colorado Center, Denver
Molly Brown House Museum, Denver
Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Denver
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, Denver

Northeastern Colorado
Overland Trail Museum, Sterling

Southeastern Colorado
Art Cartopia Museum, Trinidad
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, La Junta

BEST DAY HIKES IN COLORADO



Colorado has thousands of miles of hiking trails, making it one of the very best states in the U.S. for hiking. There is fantastic hiking to be found all over the central and western sections of the state. Here are some of the best day hikes in Colorado:

Northwestern Colorado (including Steamboat Springs)
Devil's Causeway, Flat Tops Wilderness
Fish Creek Falls, Mount Zirkel Wilderness
Gilpin Lake, Mount Zirkel Wilderness - this hike can be combined with Gold Creek Lake
Harpers Corner Trail, Dinosaur National Monument

Western Colorado (including Grand Junction and Montrose)
Monument Canyon Loop, Colorado National Monument
North Vista Trail to Exclamation Point, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Rattlesnake Arches, Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness
Warner Point Nature Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Southwestern Colorado (including Cortez, Durango, Ouray, and Telluride)
Blue Lakes, Mount Sneffels Wilderness
Bridal Veil Falls, Uncompahgre National Forest
Columbine Lake, San Juan National Forest
Handies Peak, Uncompahgre National Forest
Ice Lakes Basin, San Juan National Forest - this hike can be extended to visit Island Lake and/or to scramble up nearby 13,000-foot peaks
Mount Sneffels, Mount Sneffels Wilderness, Uncompahgre National Forest
Ouray Perimeter Trail, Uncompahgre Wilderness
Petroglyph Point Trail, Mesa Verde National Park
Redcloud-Sunshine Peak, Uncompahgre Wilderness
Sand Canyon Trail, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Central Colorado (including Aspen, Breckenridge, Buena Vista, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Salida, and Vail)
Bison Peak, Lost Creek Wilderness, Pike National Forest
Chihuahua Lake, White River National Forest
Electric Pass, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, White River National Forest
Fools Peak, Holy Cross Wilderness, White River National Forest
Garden of the Gods Park trails, Colorado Springs - e.g. Perkins Central Garden Trail
Grays & Torreys Peak, Arapaho National Forest
Hanging Lake, White River National Forest
Huron Peak, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, San Isabel National Forest
Manitou Incline, Pike National Forest
Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail, Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness
Mayflower Gulch, White River National Forest
Missouri Lakes / Holy Cross City, Holy Cross Wilderness
Mount Belford, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, San Isabel National Forest
Mount Bierstadt, Mount Evans Wilderness
Mount Democrat/Cameron/Lincoln, Pike National Forest
Mount Elbert, Mount Massive Wilderness
Mount of the Holy Cross, Holy Cross Wilderness, White River National Forest
Mount Sherman, Pike National Forest
Mount Sopris, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, White River National Forest
Ptarmigan Lake, San Isabel National Forest
Quandary Peak, White River National Forest
Rustler's Gulch, Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, White River National Forest
Seven Falls, The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs - take note that this is very commercialized and an entry fee is required

Southcentral Colorado (including Alamosa, Canon City, and Pagosa Springs)
High Dune & Star Dune, Great Sand Dunes National Park
Humboldt Peak, Sangre De Cristo Wilderness, San Isabel National Forest
Mount Adams, Sangre De Cristo Wilderness, San Isabel National Forest
North Crestone Lake, Sangre De Cristo Wilderness, Rio Grande National Forest
South Colony Lakes Trail, San Isabel National Forest

Rocky Mountain National Park & surrounding area (including Boulder, Estes Park, Fort Collins, Grand Lake, and Winter Park)
Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
Emerald Lake Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park
Emmaline Lake, Roosevelt National Forest
First and Second Flatirons Loop, Chautauqua Park, Boulder
Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park
Lake Isabelle & Long Lake, Brainard Lake Recreation Area
Loch Vale, Rocky Mountain National Park
Longs Peak via the Keyhole, Rocky Mountain National Park
Mount Ida, Rocky Mountain National Park
Royal Arch Trail, Chautauqua Park, Boulder
Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park

Denver and surrounding area
Roxborough State Park trails

Eastern Colorado
Paint Mines Trail, Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Take note that the list above does not include off-trail hikes or anything above class III scrambling. Colorado does offer many great off-trail and scrambling adventures. If you put some effort into researching those adventures, you will be rewarded.

The highpoint of Colorado is Mount Elbert (14,440'). A challenging day hike is required to reach the summit. Ideally, you would already be acclimated to high elevation before attempting this hike.

BEST BACKPACKING TRIPS IN COLORADO



Colorado offers some of the best backpacking opportunities in the country. Here are some of the premier backpacking routes/areas in Colorado:

Northwestern Colorado (including Steamboat Springs)
Continental Divide Trail

Southwestern Colorado (including Cortez, Durango, Ouray, and Telluride)
Chicago Basin, Weminuche Wilderness, San Juan National Forest
Colorado Trail
Continental Divide Trail
San Juan National Forest

Central Colorado (including Aspen, Breckenridge, Buena Vista, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Salida, and Vail)
Colorado Trail
Continental Divide Trail
Conundrum Hot Springs, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, White River National Forest
Four Pass Loop, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, White River National Forest
Lost Creek Wilderness Loop
Pikes Peak via Barr Trail

Southcentral Colorado (including Alamosa, Canon City, and Pagosa Springs)
Wheeler Geologic Area, La Garita Wilderness, Rio Grande National Forest

Rocky Mountain National Park area (including Boulder, Estes Park, Fort Collins, Grand Lake, and Winter Park)
Devil’s Thumb to King Lake Loop, Indian Peaks Wilderness
Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park
Rawah Lakes, Rawah Wilderness

CLASSIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN COLORADO



Colorado offers many outstanding outdoor adventures, including these classics:

4x4 driving on the Alpine Loop
Backcountry skiing just about anywhere in the state
Backpacking in Chicago Basin
Backpacking the Colorado Trail
Backpacking the Continental Divide Trail
Backpacking to Conundrum Hot Springs
Backpacking the Four Pass Loop in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, White River National Forest
Canoeing/kayaking the Lower Gunnison River
Canoeing/kayaking the Yampa River
Canyoneering in Ouray
Cross-country skiing at the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System
Cross-country skiing at the Breckenridge Nordic Center
Cross-country skiing at the Crested Butte Nordic
Cross-country skiing at the Devil's Thumb Ranch
Cross-country skiing at the Frisco Nordic Center
Cross-country skiing at the Keystone Resort Nordic Center
Cross-country skiing at the Nordic Center at Eldora Mountain Resort
Cycling the Cherry Creek Regional Trail
Cycling around Fort Collins
Day hiking the Blue Lakes, Mount Sneffels Wilderness
Day hiking Grays & Torreys Peak, Arapaho National Forest
Day hiking Longs Peak
Day hiking the Manitou Incline, Pike National Forest
Day hiking Mount Bierstadt, Mount Evans Wilderness
Day hiking Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park
Dog-sledding in Breckenridge
Dog-sledding in Steamboat Springs
Fishing in Eleven Mile State Park
Floating the Green River
Floating the Yampa River
Helicopter tours in Canon City
Hot air ballooning in Lafayette
Hot air ballooning in Pagosa Springs
Hot air ballooning in Steamboat Springs
Ice climbing in Clear Creek Canyon
Ice climbing in the Ouray Ice Park
Mountain biking the Buffalo Creek trail system (including Buffalo Creek Big Loop)
Mountain biking the Kokopelli Trail
Mountain biking the Monarch Crest Trail
Mountain biking in Winter Park
Rock climbing pretty much anywhere in the state (there are too many good places to list)
Skydiving in Delta, Fort Morgan, La Salle, Limon, Longmont, or Penrose
Snowmobiling in Durango
Snowmobiling in Steamboat Springs
Snow tubing at the Fisco Adventure Park, Frisco
Tubing on Cleer Creek
Tubing the Colorado River
Tubing on Saint Vrain Creek
Tubing the South Platte River
Whitewater rafting the Animas River
Whitewater rafting the Arkansas River - this is the most popular river for rafting in Colorado
Whitewater rafting the Blue River
Whitewater rafting the Cache La Poudre River
Whitewater rafting the Cleer Creek River
Whitewater rafting the Colorado River
Whitewater rafting the Dolores River
Whitewater rafting the Gunnison River
Whitewater rafting the Uncompahgre River

SKI RESORTS IN COLORADO



Colorado has more than 20 ski areas, and many of them are considered in the top tier of ski resorts in the country. These ski resorts are generally considered the best in Colorado:

Premier Ski/Snowboard Resorts:
Arapahoe Basin - 147 trails; 2,530ft vertical drop; 13,050ft summit
Aspen Highlands - 117 trails; 4,352ft vertical drop; 12,392ft summit
Aspen Mountain - 76 trails; 3,267ft vertical drop; 11,212ft summit
Beaver Creek - 150 trails; 3,340ft vertical drop; 11,440ft summit
Breckenridge - 187 trails; 3,398ft vertical drop; 12,998ft summit
Copper Mountain - 140 trails; 2,738ft vertical drop; 12,441ft summit
Crested Butte - 121 trails; 2,787ft vertical drop; 12,162ft summit
Keystone - 128 trails; 3,128ft vertical drop; 12,408ft summit
Snowmass - 98 trails; 4,406ft vertical drop; 12,510ft summit
Steamboat - 169 trails; 3,668ft vertical drop; 10,568ft summit
Telluride - 148 trails; 3,790ft vertical drop; 13,150ft summit
Vail - 195 trails; 3,450ft vertical drop; 11,570ft summit
Winter Park - 166 trails; 3,060ft vertical drop; 12,060ft summit
Wolf Creek - 133 trails; 1,604ft vertical drop; 11,904ft summit

Other Notable Ski/Snowboard Resorts:
Eldora
Loveland
Monarch
Powderhorn
Purgatory
Silverton
Sunlight

Aspen, Beaver Creek, and Vail usually have the most expensive lift tickets in Colorado.

In 2022, Travel & Leisure Magazine published an article with their selections of the top eight ski areas in Colorado. Their list included Aspen Snowmass, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone, Steamboat Springs, Telluride, and Vail.

COLORADO TRAVEL TIPS



For offbeat and unique Colorado attractions, visit one or both of these amazing websites: Atlas Obscura and Roadside America

UNIQUE / SPECIALTY FOODS TO TRY IN COLORADO



Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in Colorado:

chili verde (green chili)
rocky mountain oysters
slopper

For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in Colorado (or any other U.S. state), visit the Roadfood.com website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each of the 50 U.S. states, click here.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in Colorado (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.

OTHER KEY COLORADO INFORMATION



State Capital:
Denver

Major Airports:
Denver International Airport (DEN) and to a much lesser extent, City of Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (COS)

Largest Cities:
Denver (738,594), Colorado Springs (491,467), Aurora (398,497), Fort Collins (174,974), Lakewood (158,584), Thornton (146,487)

Primary U.S. Interstates:
I-25, I-70, I-76

State Highpoint:
Mount Elbert (14,440') near Leadville in central Colorado. A challenging day hike is required to reach the summit; thunderstorms are very common in summer.

Professional Sports Teams:
MLB: Colorado Rockies
NBA: Denver Nuggets
NFL: Denver Broncos
NHL: Colorado Avalanche

Funny or Unique Town/City Names:
Dinosaur and No Name

Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.



Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Gunnison Trail, Colorado
scrambling down the Gunnison Trail in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park

Blue Lakes, Colorado
Blue Lakes near Telluride, Colorado

Glenwood Hot Springs Pool in Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Glenwood Hot Springs Pool in Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado
Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado

Ice Lakes Basin, Colorado
Ice Lakes Basin, Colorado


ROAD TRIP GUIDEBOOKS



In addition to the information found on my website, I personally recommend purchasing these road trip/travel-related guidebooks. Click on any book cover to read reviews and/or purchase these books on Amazon.com.

        


MORE U.S. STATE TRAVEL GUIDES



Did you enjoy this state travel guide? If so, here are links to more of my comprehensive U.S. state travel guides:

Alabama Maryland Oregon
Arizona Massachusetts Pennsylvania
Arkansas Michigan Rhode Island
California Minnesota South Carolina
Colorado Mississippi South Dakota
Connecticut Missouri Tennessee
Delaware Montana Texas
Florida Nebraska Utah
Georgia Nevada Vermont
Idaho New Hampshire Virginia
Illinois New Jersey Washington
Indiana New Mexico Washington DC
Iowa New York West Virginia
Kansas North Carolina Wisconsin
Kentucky North Dakota Wyoming
Louisiana Ohio  
Maine Oklahoma  

  Home / U.S. State Travel Guides / U.S. Vacations / U.S. National Parks / U.S. State Highpoints / U.S. Road Trip Planning
Travel & outdoor activities can be extremely dangerous. Use of this website and all of its information is at your own risk! We strongly believe in personal responsibility when it comes to staying safe. We will not be held liable for any injuries and/or death that occur.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
© www.bigroads.com / email: gparsons66@hotmail.com