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Lonely Planet Colorado

Lonely Planet Colorado

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Lonely Planet Colorado

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May 1, 2018


Lonely Planet: The world’s leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Colorado is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Hit the slopes in Aspen, discover the Old West in Durango or marvel at the splendor of the Rockies, all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Colorado and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Colorado:

  • Color maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience – sports, the arts, literature, festivals, wine, hiking, the old west, snow sports, distilleries, wildlife, politics, ranching, mining, marijuana, Native American history and culture
  • Covers Denver, Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, North Colorado, Vail, Aspen, Central Colorado, San Luis Valley, Southeast Colorado and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Colorado, our most comprehensive guide to Colorado, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled

About Lonely Planet: Lonely Planet is a leading travel media company and the world’s number one travel guidebook brand, providing both inspiring and trustworthy information for every kind of traveller since 1973. Over the past four decades, we’ve printed over 145 million guidebooks and grown a dedicated, passionate global community of travellers. You’ll also find our content online, on mobile, video and in 14 languages, 12 international magazines, armchair and lifestyle books, ebooks, and more.

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

Important Notice: The digital edition of this book may not contain all of the images found in the physical edition.

May 1, 2018

Informazioni sull'autore

Lonely Planet has gone on to become the world’s most successful travel publisher, printing over 100 million books. The guides are printed in nine different languages; English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Korean. Lonely Planet enables curious travellers to experience the world and get to the heart of a place via guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet, an award-winning website and magazine, a range of mobile and digital travel products and a dedicated traveller community.

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Anteprima del libro

Lonely Planet Colorado - Lonely Planet



Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Colorado

Colorado's Top 25

Need to Know

If You Like

Month by Month



Rocky Mountains Road Trips & Scenic Drives

Eat & Drink Like a Local

Travel with Children

Regions at a Glance

On The Road

Denver & Around






Festivals & Events



Drinking & Nightlife







Eating & Drinking




Sleeping & Eating

Boulder & Around



Rocky Mountain National Park & Northern Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park

Fort Collins


Cache la Poudre River

Red Feather Lakes


Grand Lake


Hot Sulphur Springs


Steamboat Springs

Oak Creek


Dinosaur National Monument



Vail, Aspen & Central Colorado

Idaho Springs


Winter Park

Loveland Pass



Keystone Resort

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area



Copper Mountain



Beaver Creek

Glenwood Springs






Buena Vista

Twin Lakes


Mesa Verde & Southwest Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park


Cortez & the Four Corners





Ouray & the Million Dollar Hwy



Pagosa Springs

South Fork


Lake City

Crested Butte

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Curecanti National Recreation Area





Colorado National Monument

Grand Junction



Southeast Colorado & the San Luis Valley

Colorado Springs

Canon City


Cripple Creek

Manitou Springs


La Veta


Fort Garland

Great Sand Dunes National Park


San Luis


Conejos River & the South San Juans

Penitente Canyon

Del Norte




Understand Colorado

Colorado Today


The Arts

Wildlife & the Land


Directory AZ


Dangers & Annoyances

Discount Cards


Embassies & Consulates



Internet Access

Legal Matters

LGBT+ Travellers


Opening Hours


Public Holidays




Tourist Information

Travelers with Disabilities





Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Welcome to Colorado

Spectacular vistas, endless powder runs and mountain towns with echoes of the Old West – Colorado is a place that has long beckoned people to adventure.

Rocky Mountain High

The best-known Rocky Mountain state, with the highest concentration of peaks above 14,000ft, Colorado owes its public adoration to the alpine behemoths that rise abruptly, crinkled and snowcapped, out of the Great Plains. Countless hiking and biking trails climb above the treeline to wildflower-strewn meadows, while a plethora of scenic drives wend their ways up hairpin turns to cross the Continental Divide. Even during the peak summer season, when millions of tourists flood the state, visitors can still find solitude by camping at a remote glacial lake, or peering down at the world from atop a craggy summit.

Ski Country, USA

The combination of light, soft powder and frequent blue skies has made Colorado winters the stuff of legend. Hares and mountain lions leave white tracks, boarders and skiers weave through pine forests and open bowls, and hearthfires roar in mountain lodges. With World Cup groomers, steep-and-deep terrain off-piste and legendary parking-lot BBQs, Colorado certainly has some of the best downhill skiing experiences on earth. Remarkable cross-country and backcountry terrain bring a whole other dimension to winter, one where lift lines don't exist. If you're among the hardcore, you can make turns from Halloween through July.

Deserts & Canyons

Colorado isn't all mountains, though. Mesas, canyons and high desert hills also make up much of the state, particularly in the south and west. Boaters paddle through the Arkansas and Colorado River gorges, mountain bikers cruise desert singletrack outside towns like Fruita and Salida, and rock climbers can get outside even in winter at Shelf Road and Boulder. Mesa Verde, Hovenweep and Chimney Rock provide a glimpse of what Ancestral Puebloan life was like hundreds of years ago on the Colorado Plateau, a monumental desert landscape that extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

Culture Dose

If your Colorado playlist doesn't go beyond John Denver or U2 Live at Red Rocks, it's time for a reboot. A vibrant cultural scene has emerged in tandem with the thriving urban centers along the Front Range. Groups like the Lumineers, Tennis, and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats have brought national attention to Denver musicians, and Red Rocks and Boulder's Fox Theatre remain uniquely epic concert venues. Art museums and galleries in both Denver and Aspen continue to expand as well, providing a shot of urban street cred to pair with your outdoor adventure.

Maroon Bells, Aspen | KLAUS/LONELY PLANET ©

Why I Love Colorado

By Christopher Pitts, Writer

Colorado is one of those special places where I always want to get up with the sun. Maybe it's because 18in of snow fell overnight and I'm itching to launch myself downhill, or I'm out camping in the backcountry, waking up to birdsong at the start of a perfect summer day. Or perhaps it's simply getting up early to watch a high-altitude sunrise spill over the curve of the eastern plains. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, you can be sure that Colorado will amplify that times ten. Carpe diem.

Colorado's Top 25

Rocky Mountain National Park

With elk grazing under granite walls, alpine meadows rife with wildflowers and a winding road inching over the Continental Divide, the natural splendor of Rocky Mountain National Park packs a wallop. Don't get stuck behind a row of RVs on Trail Ridge Rd – lace up your hiking boots instead. Trails cater to every ability and ambition, from epic outings up Longs Peak to family-friendly romps in the Bear Lake area. And with a little effort, you can have the place all to yourself.

Rocky Mountain National Park | CRYSTAL BRINDLE/500PX ©

Top Experiences


Home of the bearded and the buff, Denver's Mile High allure has never been greater. The secret is out: ample sunshine, a brewery on every corner and an endless supply of adrenaline-igniting fun are fueling the Rocky Mountain rush. Throw a vibrant economy into the mix, and you get artsy districts like RiNo (River North) and LoHi (Lower Highlands), where you can replenish your calories in slow-food market halls and gourmet restaurants, bookended by a day of gallery hopping and a night out with some rootsy, denim-clad rockers.


Top Experiences


Driving up Hwy 36 from Denver, you eventually reach the spot: an overlook that peers down upon Colorado's own Shangri-La. Tucked up against the signature Flatirons and the sudden swell of the Front Range, if this first glimpse of Boulder takes your breath away, well, you wouldn't be the first. The lively epicenter is the pedestrian-only Pearl St Mall – ideal for street theater, shopping and dining out – but it's the surrounding outdoors that really captivates Boulder's vibrant population of students, athletes, brainiacs and entrepreneurs.


Top Experiences

Mesa Verde National Park

You don't just walk into the past at Mesa Verde, the site of 600 ancient cliff dwellings. You scramble up 10ft ladders, scale rock faces and crawl through tunnels. Yes, it's interactive exploring at its most low-tech, but it also makes for one of the most exhilarating adventures in the West. It's also a place to puzzle out the archaeological and cultural clues left by its former inhabitants – Ancestral Puebloans who vacated the site in AD 1300 (for reasons still not fully understood).


Top Experiences


Here’s a town unlike any other place in the American West. A cocktail of cowboy grit, Euro panache, Hollywood glam, Ivy League brains, fresh powder, live music and old money, where you can drop into an extreme double-black run or stomp to the crest of a Continental Divide pass. And did we mention the frothing hot tubs, fit baristas, multimillion-dollar estates and well-read barflies? But don’t worry about Aspen being bigger than its boots: it remains an eccentric and surprisingly friendly place, where a stranger’s smile is still common currency.


Top Experiences

Colorado National Monument

Witness the sinking sun set fire to otherworldly red-rock formations, hike stark and beautiful high desert trails and camp beneath frequent lightning storms as they roll across the distant plains. These canyon walls rise from the Uncompahgre Uplift of the Colorado Plateau, 2000ft above the Grand Valley of the Colorado River, to reveal the twinkling lights of Grand Junction, the shining green river and tree-lined fields of the Grand Valley – all of it a landscape that was once patrolled by dinosaurs.

Colorado National Monument | YINGNA CAI/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences


Colorado consistently ranks among the top three states for microbreweries per capita, and craft brewing has been elevated to a high art throughout. Each September Denver hosts the Great American Beer Festival, luring in 780-odd brewers and over 60,000 enthusiastic drinkers. Best-of-show awards are judged across categories like Best Coffee Beer or Best Barrel-aged Strong Beer. Hop-heavy brews, pH-changing sours and light lagers are all produced with passion in long-established and start-up operations. Whatever town you're visiting, from tiny Del Norte to beer-centric Fort Collins, you won't go thirsty.


Top Experiences

Dude Ranches

With wide-open ranges, wildflower meadows and snow-kissed peaks, seeing Colorado from the saddle is a whole other world. Experiences range from the real and rustic charm of herding cattle on a bona fide ranch in South Park to venturing out to a remote bison ranch with green credentials, or riding horses in the luxuriant Rocky Mountain retreat of Devil’s Thumb. Digs range from five-star refurbished log cabins with mod cons to starlit camps with an eye on the Milky Way.


Top Experiences


Darling of the rich and sometimes famous, Vail resembles an elaborate amusement park for grown-ups, where every activity has been designed to send a tingle down your spine – in maximum comfort, of course. Indeed, no serious skier would dispute its status as Colorado’s best and most varied resort, with 5000-plus acres of powdery back bowls, chutes and wickedly fun terrain. Whether it’s your first time on a snowboard or you’re flashing perfect telemark turns in the Outer Mongolia Bowl, this might very well be the ski trip of your dreams.


Top Experiences

Silverton & Old West Towns

A rediscovered vintage gem, Silverton (much like the towns of Leadville, Cripple Creek and Old Colorado City) was launched by rugged pioneer types seeking mineral riches. Hollywood shot its share of Westerns here in the 1950s, but when the last mine closed in 1991 it seemed destined to become another atmospheric ghost town, abandoned like St Elmo and Ashcroft. Then came the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the experts-only Silverton Mountain Ski Area, and the town sprang back to life.


Top Experiences

Dinosaur National Monument

One of the few places on earth where you can literally get your hands on a dinosaur skeleton, Dinosaur National Monument is tucked into the far northwest corner of Colorado, stretching across state lines to Utah. Among the largest dinosaur fossil beds in North America, it was discovered in 1909. Explore desert trails, examine ancient rock art or raft the Yampa River through the serene landscape of its twisting red-rock canyons. The visitor center overlooks thousands of bones in the Dinosaur Quarry.


Top Experiences

Rafting the Arkansas River

Running from Leadville down the eastern flank of Buena Vista, through Browns Canyon National Monument, and then rocketing through the spectacular Royal Gorge at class V speeds, the Arkansas River is the most diverse, the longest and arguably the wildest river in the state. Brace yourself for yet another icy splash swamping the raft as you plunge into a roaring set of big waves, or surrender to the power of the current as your shouting, thoroughly drenched crew unintentionally spins backwards around a monster boulder. Is this fun? You bet!

Rafting the Arkansas River | SPORTSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Mountain Biking the Southwest

Although singletrack enthusiasm is ubiquitous in Colorado, the trails zigzagging the red-rock landscape around Fruita are truly world class. Sure, it’s in the middle of nowhere, but the fanatical riders here wouldn’t have it any other way. Other hot spots for mountain biking are the sagebrush hills and aspens around Crested Butte, the epic Monarch Crest Trail outside Salida and the lesser-known desert trails near Cortez. A spectrum of technical difficulty presents opportunities for all, and with a little goodwill, local bike shops are usually generous with fat-tire tips.

Mountain Biking the Southwest | DAVID EPPERSON/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Riding Steam Trains

You don’t have to be a train-spotter to appreciate a good belch of vintage coal-powered steam, the whine of steel on steel and the jolting grind of a narrow-gauge train balancing and rolling slowly through dynamite-cut tunnels and along ridges blessed with some of the most stunning mountain vistas and canyon drop-offs imaginable. The best of the bunch is the impossibly scenic 45-mile Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, but the Georgetown Loop and Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad are other worthwhile rides.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad | FLORIDASTOCK/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Driving the Million Dollar Highway

This is one amazing stretch of road. Driving this asphalt sliver south from Ouray towards Silverton positions drivers on the outside edge, a heartbeat from free fall. Much of it is cut into the mountains and gains elevation by switching back in tight hairpins and S-bends. The brooding mountains loom large and close, snow clinging to their lofty, mist-shrouded peaks even in high summer. In good weather the road is formidable; in drizzle, rain, fog or snow, it can be downright scary.

Million Dollar Highway | JAY KRISHNAN/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Hiking Colorado's Fourteeners

Colorado is home to more than 50 peaks that are higher than 14,000ft. That's well over half the peaks of 14,000ft or more in the continental US. Two are accessible by road, one by rail; the rest you’ll have to work for. Whether you decide to hike a short trail – just 3 miles to Quandary Peak near Breckenridge – tackle a multiday route to Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park or make a run at Mt Elbert – the tallest of them all – one adage holds true: no pain, no gain.


Top Experiences


Every mountain town in Colorado has its own distinct personality, but when it comes to the overall coolest? That might be historic Breckenridge, where you'll find quirky museums alongside youth hostels, funky restaurants rubbing shoulders with kick-back breweries, and so many peaks outside of town they were numbered instead of named. A short spin from Denver, Breck offers the perfect introduction to the Colorado high country: gold-panning history, hiking, cycling, clear mountain streams and, of course, lots and lots of snow.


Top Experiences

Farm-to-Fork Dining

Colorado takes great pride in sustainable dining, and it's not uncommon here to sit down to grass-fed beef burgers at a local pub that also brews its own ale. The abundance is apparent at city farmers markets, immense natural-food stores and gourmet food trucks. From handcrafted ice cream sold from bike carts to the auteur restaurant with an amuse-bouche like a first kiss, Colorado dares to feature top-quality local ingredients as the new gold. Treat your taste buds at the Kitchen, with locations in Boulder and Denver.


Top Experiences


The cultural capital of southwest Colorado, Durango is a lovely town, rich in history yet elegantly modernized. The historic central precinct dates back to the 1880s, when the town was founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Still tastefully authentic, it's a great base for exploring the San Juan mountain range and Mesa Verde National Park. Think of it as artsy, rootsy and even a bit quirky. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad toots and puffs up to Silverton several times daily.


Top Experiences

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Sculpted by wind and seemingly straight out of Arabia, these 55 sq miles of sand dunes appear out of nowhere. Ringed by mountain peaks and glassy wetlands, Great Sand Dunes National Park is both eerie and amazing. Distance is an elusive concept in this monochromatic, misplaced sea of sand. Watch as angles of sunlight form shifting shadows and the wind wipes clean your footprints. The most dramatic time is day’s end, when sunset puts the dunes in high contrast.

Great Sand Dunes National Park | GALYNA ANDRUSHKO/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Pikes Peak & Garden of the Gods

'Pikes Peak or bust!' The rallying cry of the Colorado gold rush put Pikes Peak on the map in 1859, and the capitán of Colorado Springs continues to lure adventurers with its cog railway, highway to the summit and even a lung-crushing marathon. The easternmost fourteener in Colorado, it’s the de facto symbol of the southern Rockies for anyone making the long trip across the plains. Drive it, hike it or admire it from beneath the exquisitely thin red-rock spires of the Garden of the Gods.


Top Experiences


Let Aspen and Vail grab the headlines. Telluride is Colorado’s most remote ski destination, where tourism has developed at an easygoing pace. Unless you arrive by plane, it’s no easy feat to get here, but you’re also unlikely to want to leave. Situated in the heart of the rugged San Juans, the village is snuggled into an isolated box canyon and surrounded by peaks unspoiled by overdevelopment. Out of season, Telluride also throws some of Colorado’s best festivals, with banner events celebrating film and bluegrass.


Top Experiences

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

A massive cleft in the landscape, the arresting Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a deep, narrow abyss that unexpectedly opens from the subdued undulations of the surrounding tablelands. The sheer walls of the Black Canyon – so called because daylight only briefly illuminates the narrow canyon floor – are dizzying in height, scored with eerie crevices and pinnacles, and veined with multicolored mineral deposits. It’s one of the deepest, narrowest and longest canyons in North America – and the most off-the-beaten-track national park in the state. Adventurers, start here.

Gunnison National Park | PATRICK LIENIN/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Steamboat Springs

No Colorado ski resort is more down-to-earth than this cow town that's turned out more Olympians than any other US city, and still greets visitors with a tip of the Stetson. Steamboat's magnetism holds true in all seasons: in summer visitors rumble down the hills on two wheels, raft white-water and soak off long hikes at the sweet Strawberry Park Hot Springs. In winter, its epic skiing is a bit too far for city day-trippers, leaving the delicious open-glade and aspen skiing all for you.

Steamboat Springs | RACLRO/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Fort Collins

Here’s our idea of a perfect day. Check out a free fat-tire cruiser and roll through one of America’s most bike-friendly cities. When you get warm, point it towards the shady river path along the Poudre and spend the afternoon tubing along the trickling water. Cap things off by spending the afternoon sampling craft beer from a handful of Colorado’s finest breweries. Forget about Fort Collins as Colorado’s underdog college town: this small city on the edge of the Front Range is a delightful destination in its own right.

Fort Collins | DLEWIS33/GETTY IMAGES ©

Need to Know


US dollars ($)




All foreign visitors must have a visa to enter the USA unless they are Canadian citizens or part of the Visa Waiver Program.


ATMs are widely available. Credit and debit cards are accepted by most businesses.

Cell Phones

Coverage can be unreliable in mountain regions. SIM cards are readily available in large stores like Walmart or Target.


Mountain Standard Time (MST) is seven hours behind GMT/UTC and observes daylight saving in summer.

When to Go

High Season (Dec–Mar)

A Skiers and shredders arrive in droves.

A Vacancies are at a premium and ski resorts capitalize on this big time, charging three times more than their summer rates.

Shoulder (Jun–Sep)

A Summer is a shoulder season because in some spots you can get tremendous room rates, while others enjoy a second high season.

A Vacationers descend in droves on campsites, trails, rivers and crags throughout the mountains.

Low Season (Apr–May & Oct–Nov)

A Bemoaned locally as ‘mud season.' Many businesses close shop to get ready for the summer or winter crush.

A Early fall is brisk but lovely; spring means melting snow and very limited activities.

A Hotels (if open) slash room rates considerably.

Useful Websites

Colorado Tourism Board ( All things Colorado.

5280 ( Denver’s best monthly magazine.

14ers ( Info on climbing Colorado peaks.

Opensnow ( Daily snow reports and powder forecasts.

Colorado Trail Explorer ( Online map covering 39,000 miles of trails.

Lonely Planet ( Destination info, hotel bookings, traveler forum and more.

Important Numbers

All phone numbers have a three-digit area code followed by a seven-digit local number. For long-distance and toll-free calls, dial 1 plus all 10 digits.

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates, see

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than $100

A Campgrounds and summer hostels: $10–45

A Self-catering, food trucks, markets: $7–15

A Ski-town shuttles: free

A Backcountry hiking and skiing: free

Midrange: $100–250

A Winter hostels: $85–100

A Summer hotel rooms: $100–150

A Meals in local restaurants: $15–25

A Car rental: $30

Top End: More than $250

A Winter hotel rooms: $250–1200

A Meals in upscale restaurants: $25–100

A Ski-lift ticket: $100–190

A SUV rental: $60

Opening Hours

High-season hours follow. In rural areas, many businesses close on Sunday.

Banks 8:30am–5pm Monday to Friday, 9am–noon on Saturday

Bars & Pubs 4pm–midnight, to 2am on Friday and Saturday

Businesses 9am–5pm Monday to Friday

Restaurants Breakfast 7am–10:30am (weekend brunch 9am–2pm); lunch 11:30am–2:30pm; and dinner 5–9:30pm, later on weekends

Stores 10am–6pm Monday to Saturday, noon–5pm Sunday; shopping malls often extend to 8pm or 9pm

Supermarkets 7am–9pm; most cities have 24-hour supermarkets

Arriving in Colorado

Almost all visitors to Colorado come through Denver International Airport (DIA).

Train The University of Colorado A Line Train departs from the airport every 15 minutes (every 30 minutes off-peak) and goes to downtown's Union Station ($9, 37 minutes).

Taxi Queue outside Ground Transportation area (to downtown should cost about $60).

Uber & Lyft Car-service drivers will meet you at passenger pick-up.

Bus RTD operates SkyRide buses with frequent service between 3:30am and 1:10am to downtown Denver ($9, 55 minutes) and Boulder ($9, 70 minutes).

Shuttle SuperShuttle and others (rates from $33 per person) go to Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, surrounding suburbs and parts of Wyoming. Some ski areas have shuttle services that are reasonably priced to and from Denver International Airport. Try Colorado Mountain Express for trips to mountains.

Getting Around

Car Essential for exploring the state, unless you stay on the Front Range or in a ski town. Rentals are available in every town or city. Drive on the right. Colorado drivers are quite courteous – outside of Denver.

Bus Limited service, but good within Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver.

Bicycle Join locals in loving the bike-sharing programs in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins. Bike paths in ski resort areas and cities help facilitate travel.

Train Amtrak's California Zephyr stops here between San Francisco and Chicago. There are a few steam-train routes.

Car Shares Uber and Lyft operate in most larger towns and all the resort areas. There are a few car-share programs in Denver, including Zipcar and Car2go.

If You Like…


To try and pin down the best hikes in the Rocky Mountains is kind of like ranking the world’s greatest sunsets. But in a mountain range this huge, there are some variations in what you can see.

Rocky Mountain National Park Longs Peak gets all the buzz, but for great backpacking head to Wild Basin.

San Juan Skyway Hikes here wander between classic alpine country, aspen meadows, red-rock escarpments and bubbling hot springs.

Maroon Bells Pristine wilderness with epic Continental Divide views from spectacular mountain passes.

Spanish Peaks Stark granite walls rising from mountain meadows, two looming peaks, ample wildlife and thin crowds.

Chautauqua Park For gorgeous Front Range views, tromp off through Boulder's open space, home to the Flatirons.

St Mary's Glacier Not quite a glacier, but still a short, fun hike to a year-round snowfield.

Old West Sites

Everyone from Harvard-educated blue bloods to pioneering entrepreneurs and desperate Civil War–scorched Southern families came west, lured by gold and searching for a fresh start and a raw, new America.

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site This melting pot of Mexican, American, European and Native American culture sustained the Santa Fe Trail.

Leadville Colorado's highest incorporated city has plenty of boom-and-bust lore.

Ashcroft These mining-town ruins are 10 minutes from Aspen and accessible by cross-country trail in winter.

St Elmo Drive, bike or horse-trek to this atmospheric Collegiate Peaks ghost town.

Breckenridge This historic ski town sprouted in 1859 when the Colorado gold rush first took hold.

Crystal The most picturesque – and remote – of the Colorado ghost towns.

Snow Sports

Colorado has a ski town to fit every personality, ranging from chic to cheap, from resort to quick Front Range getaway. Check websites for package deals; better yet, get a season pass!

Vail Known for its spectacular back-bowl terrain, it's Colorado’s largest resort and one of its glitziest.

Aspen The star-studded four mountains host celebs and the Winter X Games with epic terrain.

Winter Park Notable for Eagle Wind trees and SUV-sized moguls at Mary Jane.

Breckenridge Has Victorian charm and the highest chairlift in the US.

Copper Mountain Great back bowls and the awesome Woodward Barn, where shredders perfect their aerial acrobatics.

Telluride An old mining town reinvented as a top resort, and the slopes don’t disappoint.

Steamboat Mountain Resort Excellent tree runs and an authentic Western small town; great for families.

Silverton Top pick for the hardcore – no resort, just a yurt and legendary extreme terrain.

Beer & Microbreweries

Although Colorado's long-established craft breweries have outgrown their ‘micro’ status, there's always another backyard hobbyist to challenge the status quo.

New Belgium Brewery Famous for Fat Tire, with a riotous tour that could end with you in costume.

Great Divide Brewery & Tap Room A Denver stalwart that’s never wavered from its mission: serving outstanding beer, plain and simple.

Ska Brewing Company Live music, top-notch brews and BBQs.

Black Shirt Brewing Specializing in red ales (in outstanding varieties), with live music and a casual air.

Avery Brewing Boulder’s fave brewpub produces a beer list as eclectic as its clientele.

Odell Brewing Company All about personality; arguably the best craft brewer in the state.

Ratio Beerworks A brewery for everyone, with great beer and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.

Scenic Railways

These narrow-gauge railways provide views, thrills and a bit of oral history.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad At 45 miles it's the longest and best of the bunch, and impossibly scenic.

Georgetown Loop Railroad A steep corkscrew track winds between the old mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway Travels to the summit of Pikes Peak, whose vistas inspired the song ‘America the Beautiful.’

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Mount the Cumbres Pass by the power of steam; the depot is in Antonito.

Georgetown Loop Railroad | ANZE FURLAN/SHUTTERSTOCK ©


From hidden 2000ft gorges to rock gardens and mind-bending arches, Colorado is home to some geologic masterworks.

Royal Gorge A deep, spectacular rift holding the Arkansas River, with a landmark bridge and scenic railway.

Garden of the Gods These odd boulders, fins and pinnacles are in a red-rock vein running through Colorado Springs.

Great Dikes of the Spanish Peaks Sheer rock walls rising from mountain meadows like a primordial fence-line hemming the Spanish Peaks.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park A deep, narrow abyss with sheer, multicolored walls scored with eerie crevices and pinnacles.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Thirty sq miles of sand dunes, made up of 29 different rocks and minerals.


Colorado's microdistillery movement follows in the tracks of craft breweries. These artisanal tipples are no moonshine – many are award-winning.

Stranahans Colorado Whiskey This widely celebrated Denver craft whiskey is a staple of high-end cocktail menus.

Breckenridge Distillery Award-winning bourbon from the world's highest distillery.

Peach Street Distillers Palisade spirits producer whose brightest star is vodka infused with local peaches.

Montanya Distillery Award-winning rum spun into stunning cocktails, with production in Crested Butte and drinking in Silverton.

Deerhammer Single malt whiskey, gin and brandy from this Buena Vista brand.

Stranahans Colorado Whiskey distillery | INFINITE_EYE/SHUTTERSTOCK ©


Colorado is home to a wealth of wildlife, from moose, elk, deer and antelope to fox, wolf, black bear, mountain lion and the bald eagle.

Rocky Mountain National Park Moose wade through wetlands and elk graze by the entrance; sightings are frequent and satisfying.

San Juan Mountains On backcountry treks you can spot elk, black bears, mountain goats, beavers, otters and eagles.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park The stomping ground of mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bears and mountain lions.

Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge Bald eagles, coyotes, elk and migrating cranes flank the Rio Grande at dawn and dusk.

Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center Tour this wildlife sanctuary, where there are three subspecies of wolf, plus foxes and coyotes.

Hot Springs

From backcountry pools in the midst of nature to luxurious resorts, Colorado has a healing, natural hot spring with your name on it.

Mt Princeton Hot Springs A bit of everything: relaxation and swimming pools, a spa and a waterslide for the kiddos.

Glenwood Hot Springs The world's largest hot-springs pool has plenty of amenities and a perfect pit-stop location.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs Natural pools by the river outside Steamboat Springs, with lodging and spa packages.

Pagosa Hot Springs Overlooking the San Juan River are 22 pools; some get as hot as 111°F (44°C).

h9am-10pm) Little-known and off the grid, these clothing-optional pools are among the state's most tranquil.

Avalanche Ranch Get away from it all in a Rocky Mountain cabin, steps away from private pools.

Ouray Hot Springs Family-friendly pools along the Million Dollar Highway.


Colorado isn't just about outdoor fun. Stop by the following museums for a dose of local art and history.

Denver Art Museum Has one of the USA's largest Native American art collections, plus fabulous visiting exhibits.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science Dinosaur bones, outer space, Vikings, a planetarium and much more.

History Colorado Center Get up to speed on local history at this fabulous interactive museum.

Clyfford Still Museum The collected works of the little-known but powerful abstract expressionist.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Home to some 23,000 pieces, with a great Latin American collection.

Aspen Art Museum Edgy, contemporary installations in Aspen.

Month by Month

Top Events

Boulder Creek Festival, May

Telluride Bluegrass Festival, June

Aspen Music Festival, July

Telluride Film Festival, September

Great American Beer Festival, October


Crowds are at their thickest around New Year and are present through to Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. In a good year, the snow is as abundant as après-ski parties.

3 Winter X Games

ESPN’s annual extreme winter sports competition takes place at Aspen’s Buttermilk Mountain, with night and day events, including freestyle skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling.

3 National Western Stock Show

Saddle up for the state’s biggest stock show (, a Denver tradition since 1906. We’re talking rodeos, cattle, cowboys, Wild West shows, hundreds of vendors and more.


It's the height of the ski season. Mardi Gras is celebrated and resorts fill for Presidents' Day weekend. Advance reservations are crucial, with discounts available midweek.

z Carnival

Vail's jovial spin on Mardi Gras includes a parade and a king and queen. Breckenridge hosts a masquerade ball and a Fat Tuesday parade.


Coloradans swear the sun is always out – and it often is – but March is the beginning of the real sunshine, and spring break attracts families for the start of spring skiing.

z Frozen Dead Guy Days

Irreverent and a little creepy, this festival suits Nederland. The town welcomes spring by rallying around its cryogenically frozen mascot, 'Grandpa Bredo,' with a snowshoe race, dead guy look-alike contest and beer drinking.


Spring skiing and resort festivals! As room rates dip, midweek deals aren’t hard to find (unless it’s Easter). The Colorado Rockies baseball team starts knocking it out of the park at Coors Field.

3 5Point Film Festival

The Sundance of adventure cinema, with filmmakers celebrating the way the great outdoors transform our lives. Held in offbeat Carbondale, down valley from Aspen.


'Mud season' shuts down the high country, while Boulder and Denver start to warm up. Summer unofficially begins on Memorial Day weekend – time for paddling.

z Boulder Creek Festival

One of Colorado’s biggest festivals comes to town. Boulder’s traditional summer starter is all about food, drink, music and, above all, glorious sunshine. It all comes to a close with Bolder Boulder, a 10km race celebrated equally by wacky participants and spectators.


Summer festivals start, river runoffs peak and Arapahoe Basin finally closes for the season. All mountain passes are open and vacationing families start to hit the major parks and landmarks.

3 Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Thousands of fans descend on Telluride for a weekend-long homage to bluegrass. Camping out is popular at this well-organized outdoor festival. Along with bluegrass, a few straight-up rockers can be found here.

2 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

When the first road to Pikes Peak was complete, this car race was born. Different classes of vehicle (pro trucks, motorbikes, stock cars etc) hammer up 12 miles of road and a climb of 4700ft.

z Colorado Brewers' Festival

Taste the best of in-state suds in Fort Collins, with beers from the more than 40 Colorado breweries participating. Free music, too.


July ushers in 10 weeks of prime time for backcountry hikes and kayaking, now that the snow has melted and water is filtering through streams and meadows.

3 Aspen Music Festival

Classical musicians come from around the globe to play, teach and learn at this famous festival. Top-tier performers put on spectacular shows, while street corners burst into life with smaller groups.


A great time of year to get into the backcountry. Down mountain, bulls and bronco busters square off at dozens of country fairs.

2 Leadville Trail 100

One of the toughest mountain biking and foot races on earth, drawing trail runners – including the famed Tarahumara Indians – to race 100 miles at high altitude. Fewer than half of the competitors reach the finish line before the 30-hour limit is up.


With crisp fall air and golden aspens, the high country is paradise. It's still a great time for biking and hiking, with some off-season deals at resorts.

3 Telluride Film Festival

Holding its own against the likes of Utah’s Sundance, Telluride debuts plenty of celebrated films. It’s helped launch the careers of Michael Moore and Robert Rodriguez, among others.

3 Jazz Aspen Snowmass

This Labor Day festival leans away from jazz and more towards popular rock (the June version satisfies jazz fans). Big-name acts hit the outdoor stage in Snowmass Town Park.


Mud season redux. Weather is turning, but at least the Denver Broncos are back in action. Discounts can be steep – even in Aspen – and you’ll likely see snow fall before Halloween.

2 Emma Crawford Coffin Race

One of the state’s kookier events ( sees custom-built wheeled coffins racing through Manitou Springs in the buildup to Halloween, in honor of the eponymous Crawford (d 1891), whose coffin was unearthed by erosion and slid down Red Mountain.


Ski season begins throughout the state. Early-season ski deals abound, though you won’t find any bargains around Thanksgiving weekend, when the families come back.


While snow cover is still hit or miss, once school lets out airports are jammed, rooms are booked and reservations become a must. Season rates peak during the holidays.

z Snow Daze

Vail lets loose with one of the biggest early-season celebrations, a week-long festival with myriad competitions and activities, as well as plenty of live performances from big-name musical stars.


Denver & the Northern Rockies

9 Days

Combining urban cityscapes with alpine bliss, this is one unforgettable road trip. Crossing five mountain passes, it's only possible in summer or fall.

Start off in Denver, sampling the upstart restaurants and luminary bars of RiNo, museum-hopping and taking in a ball game or concert at Red Rocks. Head north through funky Boulder, pausing to take in some street theater before setting up camp in Rocky Mountain National Park to spend a day or two in the massive wilderness.

Drive Trail Ridge Rd across the Continental Divide (stopping for a selfie with a marmot) and then it's down to Winter Park and Devil's Thumb Ranch, where you can ride horses, mountain bike, fly-fish, hike and much, much more. Climb Berthoud Pass to reach I-70, then it's through the Eisenhower Tunnel or over Loveland Pass to Summit County and Breckenridge. Luxuriate in your last days here, exploring the quaint historical district and cycling, rafting, panning for gold and hiking during long summer days. From Breckenridge it's up over Hoosier Pass, down through the US's highest town – Alma (10,578ft) – to loop around back to Denver via South Park and gorgeous Hwy 285.


Tour de Colorado

2 Weeks

With a couple of weeks you can tour the entire state, from the central peaks to the southwestern desert, from the white water of the Arkansas River to the sand dunes of the San Luis Valley.

For this summer or fall itinerary, start off in idyllic Boulder. Stretch your legs and prep your lungs by cycling the bike paths and hitting the trails of Chautauqua Park between sampling farm-to-table fare, coffeehouses and congenial brewpubs.

Head west on I-70, pausing for a break at Independence Pass or Vail Pass, before stopping in Vail, where you can run a river, cover thrilling terrain while downhill mountain biking and enjoy any number of fine dining options. Continue west, pausing in Glenwood Springs for a soak in the hot springs, to the stunning Wild West scenery of Colorado National Monument, with crumbling red-rock mesas and deep canyons. Camp overnight and hit Fruita for extraordinary desert singletrack, or Palisade for a day-long wine-tasting meander through the vineyards. Head south to the enchanted San Juan Mountains.

Climb back into the high country and dead-end in historic Telluride, in a stunning box canyon surrounded by steep peaks. Here you can take in a festival, ride the free gondola and enjoy the chic mountain vibe. Head out through scenic ranch country, hitting the hot springs outside Ridgway. If you’re here in middle-to-late summer, consider a two-day backpacking trip in the nearby San Juan high country. Explore funky Ouray and link to Silverton via the wild Million Dollar Highway, a sinuous and steep journey through three mountain passes. If you need a break from being behind the wheel, drop into good-vibe Durango via the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Detour to Mesa Verde National Park to explore stunning cliff dwellings. Camp here or enjoy a B&B in nearby Mancos. On your way east, take another soak in Pagosa Springs. Take Hwy 160 east to the Great Sand Dunes National Park on your way to Salida and the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness for world-class white-water rafting and hiking alongside grizzled mountain goats.

Finish with Hwy 24 west to Colorado Springs, where you can indulge with a night at the Broadmoor.


Rocky Mountain High

1 Week

Fuel up with a great diner breakfast in Denver before jumping on I-70 to begin your summer high-country trip.

Veer off for Breckenridge, soaking up the Victorian ambience, stargazing from a hot tub and summiting your first fourteener. Climb higher past the Climax Mine and spectacular peaks and then down to Leadville, and then scoot south on Hwy 82 towards Twin Lakes. From here, it's back to the heavens (with panoramas of the Continental Divide) on curvy Independence Pass, which takes you right into idyllic Aspen.

In Aspen, spend two nights hiking in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, cycling to Ashcroft and eating at the Pine Creek Cookhouse. Continue to nearby but remote Crested Butte via the summer-only Kebler Pass. The wildflower capital of Colorado, charming 'CB' also boasts outstanding hiking, festivals and singletrack trails.

Next stop is the Arkansas River, the delight of anglers and rafters. Enjoy the cute Western atmosphere of Buena Vista or Salida. Take in the picturesque ghost town of St Elmo and soak in the healing waters of Mt Princeton Hot Springs. Meander back to Denver via the mountain route of Hwy 285.


The Southwest

5 Days

From Grand Junction, the largest city on the Western Slope, explore the sublime scenery of the Colorado Plateau and San Juan Mountains.

Begin with the stunning Colorado National Monument – a high desert paradise. Camp overnight, then hit Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness and a hike beneath nine rock arches in Rattlesnake Canyon before heading south to the deep, eerie cleft of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Surrounded on three sides by towering 13,000ft peaks, Telluride is all strong coffee, historic buildings and big nature. You have more hiking to do here, whether it’s to the top of Ajax Peak or Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado’s highest waterfall at 365ft.

Circle around to Ouray, and then follow the white-knuckle Million Dollar Highway through Silverton to Durango – hop on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in either town. Explore the turquoise jewelry and art galleries of the town before driving deeper into the Four Corners and Mesa Verde National Park. These Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings are massive and transporting: every breath of whistling wind feels like it has more meaning here. Spend the night beneath the stars and you might feel your mind wander deep into dreamtime.

Plan Your Trip


Winter or summer, Colorado will blow your mind. Spanning diverse geographic zones from the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains to the desert canyons of the Colorado Plateau, Colorado has a million-and-one adventure activities to get you wet, get you wild and get you pumped.

Top Ten 14ers

In Colorado 54 mountains top 14,000ft. Locals call them 'fourteeners' (often written as '14ers'), and many try to bag 'em all.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Longs Peak

Vail, Aspen & Central Colorado

Mt Elbert

Quandary Peak

Mount of the Holy Cross

Mt Princeton

Mt Massive

Uncompahgre Peak

Maroon Peak

Snowmass Mountain

Southeast Colorado

Pikes Peak

Hiking & Backpacking

Trails across the state beckon for day hikers and overnight backpackers between late May and early October. In the winter, with the right gear and right training, you can head out on snowshoe or backcountry ski to explore the wilderness as you've never seen it before. Many of these trails are accessible by county and forest service roads that are subject to closure; contact the local ranger district if you plan on hiking early or late in the season. Trails are accessible year-round in lower-elevation destinations, including most trails along the front range (outside Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Boulder) and on the Western Slope in places like the Sand Dunes and Colorado National Monument.

Don't want to bring a backpack? Colorado has an incredible system of backcountry huts and yurts, where you can backpack in for a day, or link adventures over several 100 miles. Some of the top hut systems include 10th Mountain Division, San Juan Huts, Never Summer Yurts and Braun Huts.

Excellent long-distance trails for through-hiking include the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.


A Hikers should always have their own maps. Adequate trail maps can be found at park headquarters, ranger district offices or outdoor clothing and supply stores such as REI.

A Weather conditions can change in a blink, so bring layers and rain gear. Mid-to-late-summer afternoon monsoon rains are frequent and lightning is a real concern above the timberline. The catch-all rule is to stay off mountain peaks and passes after noon. It's also best to tell somebody where you are going and when you expect to be back.

A Always carry more than enough food and water (and water-purification equipment). Dehydration will sap your energy and can provoke altitude sickness.

A There are a few animals you may encounter, including cougar, rattlesnake, moose and bear. Generally speaking, it's best to make noise on the trail to avoid encounters, and keep clean campsites.

A If you get into trouble, try to call 911 from your cell phone, signal for help or send someone to find help. The Colorado Outdoor Search & Rescue Card (CORSAR) helps fund search-and-rescue efforts throughout the state, and costs just $3 for one year and $12 for five years. You can buy it at outdoor retailers throughout the state.

Where to Hike

The Colorado Trail

The state’s signature trail, also known as USFS Trail 1776, starts at Chatfield Reservoir near Denver before winding 500 miles to Durango through eight mountain ranges, seven national forests, six wilderness areas and five river systems. The Colorado Trail Foundation ( offers maps and books that describe the trail in detail.

Denver, Boulder & The Front Range

Denver From the Denver Metro Area, you can easily explore day hikes as far-away as Rocky Mountain National Park and Summit County, but there are plenty of hikes just outside the cities on the front range that are worthwhile. Front-range trails can be packed on weekends – consider weekday hikes to have more space to yourself.

While much of Denver's walking and biking centers on its kick-ass off-road bike trails, you can also find plenty of hiking in the mountains rising above the city. Most of these hikes fall within the Jefferson County Open Space.

Colorado Springs There are dozens of really cool hikes from Colorado Springs in places like Garden of the Gods and the wilderness surrounding Pikes Peak. With some fitness, you can ascend Pikes Peak in a day. Some drive to the top, others take the train, but the 13-mile Barr Trail leads from the Cog Railway station through Barr Camp at the halfway point and finally through the scree fields to the summit. You can make it a very doable day hike by taking the train halfway up to a spur that leads into Barr Camp, where you can join the Barr Trail to the summit, then ride the rails back down.

Boulder This visionary small city is surrounded by parkland paid for by a self-assessed tax that has been used to purchase vast swaths of city- and county-owned open space, including Chautauqua Park, which is where you’ll find the best hiking in the area. In the mountains above the city, past the town of Nederland (only a 30-minute drive west of downtown) is the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, where you’ll find miles of hiking trails and backcountry campsites. The hike up to 12,000ft Arapaho Pass, accessed from the Fourth of July campground, is an especially nice day hike.

Fort Collins There are amazing hikes and bikes around Horsetooth Open Space and up the Cache la Poudre Canyon.

Rocky Mountain National Park

One of the top draws in all of Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is intersected by the Continental Divide and offers some of the best wildlife-viewing in the state. Its excellent hiking trails cross alpine meadows, skirt lakes and bring travelers into the wild and deeply beautiful backcountry.

Just know that in the peak season (July and August) you will have to make reservations for backcountry campsites. This is especially true if you plan on climbing Longs Peak and staying overnight on the mountain.


A 'Leave only footprints; take only pictures.' There’s no garbage collection in the backcountry, so make sure that whatever you pack in, you pack out.

A Water. Water. Water. You should have water sanitation or a water-filtration system to enjoy the backcountry. The best way to eliminate potential bacteria is to boil the lake, creek or river water, but filters work well, too.

A Have the essentials: a map and compass, extra layers of clothing, rain gear, extra food and water, flashlight, fire-starter kit (with waterproof matches and/or a lighter), camp stove, first-aid kit (with blister-care items), sunglasses, sunscreen, sleeping bag, tent and pocket knife.

A Only build fires where permitted, and only use dead and downed wood, rather than breaking dead limbs from standing trees. Make sure you put out your fire completely before breaking camp.

A Due to high-density backcountry traffic, Colorado authorities are now suggesting that campers actually pack out their own personal solid waste, and are even offering free bags with which to do the trick. It's no joke – human waste does impact the environment and the new guidelines are a response to that. At the very least, bury yours a minimum of 6in below the surface – at least 200ft from any watercourses – and pack out your toilet tissue.

Central Mountains

Breckenridge, Vail and Aspen are all tremendous resort areas with more hiking trails than can be explored in an entire season. Most ski areas have a summer lift to a ski lodge with trail access. Views can be excellent, particularly in Vail and Snowmass; the groomed trails give you a taste of the high altitude with relatively smooth footing, but it ain’t the wilderness.

One stunning hiking destination is the Maroon Bells. It’s no secret, but if you start early and plan to hike all day, you can avoid the bused-in crowds and head up and over Buckskin Pass, where solitude can be yours and the views are breathtaking. Other options in the Aspen area include a hike to the famous Grottos and a trail to Conundrum Hot Springs. Outside Glenwood Springs, consider a trip to Hanging Lake.

The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness is a close second. Best accessed from Buena Vista on Hwy 24 or Leadville, it has eight peaks above 14,000ft. Vail or Minturn are the best departure points for Mount of the Holy Cross, while Quandary Peak holds the distinction of being the most accessible 14,000ft peak in the state, just outside Breckenridge.

If you want to sample the backcountry without having to rough it, look into the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, which manages 29 backcountry huts between Vail and Aspen. They're stocked with firewood (some even have saunas) and connected by 350 miles of trails.

Northwest Colorado

Dominated by the Routt National Forest, there are three wilderness areas in this region: Flattops Wilderness, Sarvis Creek Wilderness and Mt Zirkel Wilderness. All are laced with excellent hiking trails, but the Mt Zirkel Wilderness is especially magical. Untamed and roadless, it’s dotted with icy glacial lakes and granite faces, and is intersected by the Continental Divide and two major rivers, the Elk and the Encampment, both of which are being considered for protection under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. In the center of it all is the 12,180ft Mt Zirkel.

Fans of canyon country will want to check out Colorado National Monument. Most of the trails are relatively short, but the rewarding 6-mile Monument Canyon Trail skirts many of the park’s most interesting natural features, including the Coke Ovens, the Kissing Couple and Independence Monument.

Southwest Colorado

Colorado’s most diverse region features red-rock canyons, Mesa Verde National Park and spectacular high country – you may just want to head here directly. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a stunning place to stretch your legs. The easy 1.5-mile Oak Flat Trail offers good views of Black Canyon. At sunset take the 1.5-mile Warner Point Nature Trail to either High Point or Sunset View overlooks. Crested Butte has plenty of hiking in the wilderness surrounding town.

Telluride is a day hiker’s dream town, with many trails accessible from downtown, including the 2.7-mile Jud Wiebe Trail. The Bear Creek Trail is slightly shorter – just over 2 miles – but includes a 1040ft climb to a waterfall. This trail also intersects the 12-mile Wasatch Trail. Backpackers should seek their solitude surrounded by the 14,000ft summits in the nearby Lizard Head and Mt Sneffels Wilderness Areas.

The region’s jewel is the epic, craggy range of the San Juan Mountains. There are more than 25 peaks over 11,000ft here, including 14 of Colorado’s fourteeners. Over the years the range has been explored by miners, skiers and mountaineers, but one look is enough to see that it’s still untamed.

San Luis Valley & Southeast Colorado

While there is certainly something to be said for taking down a big-name mountain, backpackers seeking pristine nature, dramatic views and solitude will love the Spanish Peaks Wilderness. Extinct volcanoes that aren’t part of the Continental Divide cordillera include East Spanish Peak at 12,683ft and West Spanish Peak at 13,625ft. There are trails to both summits and spectacular dikes that seem to erupt from the earth. All told there are three campgrounds and 65 miles of trails to explore.

National Parks & Monuments

Skiing & Snowboarding

Colorado’s wealth of ski and snowboarding terrain is well known. There are bunny slopes and moguls, tree runs and back bowls, terrain parks and superpipes – plus the dry snow here is so light that it's often referred to as 'champagne powder.' Winter recreation built this state’s tourism industry, transforming places such as Aspen and Vail and putting towns like Crested Butte, Steamboat, Breckenridge and Telluride on the map. These winter sports remain a central part of the Colorado lifestyle.

All major resorts

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