What to Do in Colorado

There is a never ending list of things to do in Colorado, but during my 10 Day Trip to Arizona and Colorado, I got to explore quite a few places in the state. I’ve included my favorites below sorted by topic as well as a few I haven’t yet checked out but are on my list for my next visit.

NATIONAL PARKS

  • Mesa Verde – Mesa Verde ended up being much more than I expected it to be on my visit. The hotel had incredible view in the park, there was a little cafe for breakfast, a lot of hiking options, and opportunities to hike to and tour the Pueblo sites.
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison – This is a great place to explore for a few hours or a full day. I spent a few hours there driving the scenic route and hiking down to a few overlooks. It could be great for a day hike and a picnic.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park – You could spend days here and never run out of things to do. To check out some favorite things in the park, here’s a list to start you off.
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park – This is a park you can only explore limited parts of without a higher clearance 4×4 vehicle. You can hike and surf on the dunes, but to explore much more, I recommend renting a larger SUV for off roading.

TOWNS

  • Durango – This town has cute little shops as well as a train museum and train rides. I didn’t get a chance to ride to Silverton but plan on it next time.
  • Silverton – This town has many back country adventure options as well as the train ride mentioned above connecting to Durango. It’s also a great spot for lunch as you drive along Highway 550 through the mountains.
  • Ouray – You may recognize this town’s photo below. It’s the opening photo used on the TV series, The Ranch. It is also home to Box Canyon Falls as well as Cascade Falls and even has a hot spring. There’s shops and restaurants downtown and many outdoor options as well.
  • Salida – I used Salida as my home base between Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Great Sand Dunes. It was a good midway point for me so it was convenient, but it also boasts a large historic district that you can visit.
  • Georgetown – This is another opportunity to take a train ride through the mountains. The town is very historic and the architecture reminded me you of an old western movie.
  • Breckenridge – Well known for skiing, they also have a cute downtown area if you visit in the off season. There’s also lots of hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities.
  • Vail – Similar to Breckenridge in terms of skiing, this is definitely a resort “town”. It’s very clear it’s intentionally designed to not have to worry about cars and really to keep you as close to the slopes as possible. It reminds me a lot of Whistler in Canada in how the layout of the buildings are structured around the mountain.
  • Mainitou Springs – This is between Colorado Springs and Denver right at the foot of Pike’s Peak. There’s fun little shops and food options and it’s very easily walkable.

DRIVES

  • Million Dollar Highway – Also known as route 550, this two lane highway winds from northern New Mexico through the Southern Colorado mountains. It has incredible views and weaves between the towns of Ouray and Silverton mentioned earlier.
  • Trail Ridge Road – This is the road the connects the east and west sides of the Rocky Mountain National Park together. While closed most of the year due to snow, it’s worth driving in the summer months for the views and wildlife.
  • Pikes Peak – This takes about 2-3 hours to drive as you climb up the 14,000 ft. mountain by car. At the top is the Summit House that has the best donuts before you head back down. This drive isn’t for the faint of heart, so prepare yourself and your vehicle.

OUTDOORS

  • Manitou Incline – This incline is a 1 Mile “hike” up railroad ties with about 2,000 ft of elevation gain in the process. This is one of the hardest hikes I’ve done but one of the most rewarding. To get back down, you can either go up the way you came, or take a 4 mile trail cut into the other side of the mountain back down.
  • Garden of the Gods – If I lived nearby, I’d walk through this park once a week if not more. It gave me the most peaceful feeling as I walked through these red rocks and just admired them as well as the views of Pike’s Peak.
  • Red Rocks – There’s hiking among the rocks here as well as concerts. I went for sunrise as it comes up behind the back of the stage and it was incredible.
  • Hiking at any State and National Parks – Colorado parks are packed full of hiking. Both easy and harder, there’s really options for anyone.

HOTELS

  • Stay Amigo Motor Lodge in Salida – One of my favorites I’ve ever stayed at. I chose the Airstream but they also have fun and updated motel rooms too. Such a cool vibe.
  • Far View Lodge at Mesa Verde National Park – Incredible sunrise views and views of the mountains in general. It’s right on top of one of the plateaus in the National Park.
  • Garden of the God’s Resort – Pricier than I’d normally spend, but had views from the room of both Garden of the Gods as well as Pike’s peak and the mountain range. They also have various restaurants and a pool on site.
  • Origin Hotel at the Red Rocks – I adore the decor and the restaurant on site (cactus tacos anyone?). It was close to the Red Rocks which was convenient to get there by sunrise.

OTHER STOPS

The next time I go back to Colorado, I plan to spend more time exploring small mountain towns while also staying in unique accommodations and exploring outside. A few of the places on my list for next time include the below:

  • Towns – Golden, Boulder, Telluride
  • Outdoors – Hanging Lake Waterfall, Maroon Bells, Seven Falls
  • Hotels – The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Motel Soco and the Nightingale Hotel both in Pagosa Springs

Are there any other Colorado “must sees” that you’d add to the list? Please share them below!

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