Colorado’s mix of attractions is as diverse as its terrain of mountains, prairies and red rock formations. Whether it’s the call of the majestic Rocky Mountains, historical monuments or one of several cultural establishments, it has something for every traveler. Here’s our pick of the must-visit sights throughout the Centennial State.
Breckenridge is both a mountain town and a ski resort and is packed with plenty of Colorado history. It’s the oldest and largest town in Summit County, with about 250 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, making its Main Street an absolute dream to wander. There are tons of arts events and festivals all year, plus galleries, studios and shops worth checking out. In summer, you can enjoy the wildflowers in bloom in the surrounding areas, while in winter, Breckenridge Ski Resort provides some 2,908 acres (1,177ha) of the best skiing in the state.
Coloradans are outdoor enthusiasts, and one of their beloved hiking spots is Hanging Lake. The Hanging Lake Trail sits off Interstate 70, just 10mi (16km) east of the town of Glenwood Springs. The trail itself is short, just a little over a mile, but it can be a challenging hike because it’s steep and rocky. However, reaching the end is worth it. Hanging Lake is a unique geological feature, complete with a stunning hanging garden.
Those looking for a scenic mountain drive will love the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in North America. The highway rises to a height of 14,264ft (4,348m) above sea level and takes you right to the top of Mount Evans. Along the way, you might spot mountain goats and bighorn sheep as you pass alpine lakes and rock formations. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime drive with plenty of places to stop and snap a photo.
Take a tour of the Argo Gold Mine and Mill to learn about its history, including its tunnel, which processed more than $100m worth of gold ore after its completion in 1893. This Idaho Springs attraction also provides insight into the history of the gold rush in Colorado. You and your family will not only get to tour the mine and museum, but you can also try your hand at panning for gold.
The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, about 6mi (10km) outside the center of Golden, pays tribute to Wild West legend Buffalo Bill Cody. It sheds light on his life and Wild West shows and contains artefacts such as Sitting Bull’s bow and arrows, show outfits and other objects from the Old West. The gravesite and museum sit in Lookout Mountain Park, overlooking the natural beauty of the Great Plains and the Rockies. You may even catch sight of the herd of buffalo and other wildlife that live in the area.
No visit to the city of Boulder is complete without a stroll down Pearl Street Mall, the delightful pedestrian promenade that also serves as the city’s heart for dining, shopping and the arts. You’ll find hundreds of businesses along this stretch, most being locally owned and operated. While you take in the shops and some of Boulder’s best restaurants, be sure to enjoy the many street performers who are usually out and about showing off their skills.
You don’t have to love tea to enjoy a tour of Celestial Seasonings. Its headquarters, just outside Boulder, not only provides a behind-the-scenes look at how tea is made but also has some unique attractions that are a whole lot of fun. Take a whiff inside the Mint Room and see how long you can stand it. Spend some time in the tea shop or enjoy a casual outing at the Celestial Café. It also has an art gallery and a herb garden.
If you’re going to summit one of Colorado’s “fourteeners” – a mountain peak that’s at least 14,000ft (4,267m) high – there’s no better way to do it than on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The views you’ll see on the world’s highest cog railroad inspired the song America the Beautiful, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a gorgeous ride, which takes place year-round.
If playing in a giant sandbox appeals to you, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa is a must-visit. This giant dune field of 30sqmi (78sqkm) features at least one dune that’s more than 750ft (229m) high. Sledding down the dunes is a popular pastime, as is hiking and camping. There are also horseback riding trails and the scenic four-wheel drive on Medano Pass.
The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, in southern Colorado, is a coal-fired, steam-powered train just like those that ran throughout the state during the days of cowboys and settlers more than 100 years ago. The train will take you through the remote beauty of the San Juan National Forest. There are a variety of packages available.
On the Colorado-Utah border, Dinosaur National Monument is an incredible testament to the natural and geological history of the area. You can see more than 1,500 fossils on display on the cliff face inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall. There are also petroglyphs of lost cultures and the abandoned homesteads of early settlers. For the adventurers, there are camping and whitewater rafting opportunities.
Interested in visiting Colorado without having to plan your own itinerary? Consider joining Culture Trip’s eight-day small-group Colorado and Utah tour, led by our local insider.