A state easily made charming by its mountains that offer a variety of activities to engage in while enjoying the vistas, Colorado also has plenty of small towns shining with their own charm to deserve a special mention. Along with the incredibly atmospheric downtowns and friendly locals, the unique history and landscapes amount to countless memories to rack up and bring home upon visiting these thirteen most charming small towns of Colorado.
While not the largest, Breckenridge is one of the most visited ski resorts in the whole Western Hemisphere and the most popular of the state. Its history as a mining town can still be seen in the log and clapboard fronted buildings, dating back to the late 19th century. Being situated at the base of the Tenmile Range, the natural beauty around Breckenridge is undeniable. The picturesque mountain scenery, the Blue River, and the wildflowers along the scenic trails made for hiking attract visitors to the town throughout the year.
This town had a unique past as a hunting ground for the Native American Ute people before becoming a booming silver-mining center of the country in the 19th century. With such diverse roots, the buildings from the 1890s now house boutiques, galleries, and eateries of all kinds. There are many outdoor adventures available to engage in with the beautiful mountains, forests, and streams in the area, framed by towering volcanic cliffs.
Regardless of the season, the charming town of Crested Butte, also known as the "wildflower capital of Colorado," is always in full color. The winter's snow contrasts the quintessentially colorful town's buildings, while the fall colors of all shades brighten up the place to make one feel in a daze. The intensifying display of bright flowers as the season warms attracts most tourists for mountain biking, climbing, and hiking during summer. Crested Butte also brims with historic charm as a former mining town, including the National Historic District with colorful Victorian buildings.
For a good reason, Durango is known as a state's gem, with acres of surrounding forests and wilderness offering a wide variety of natural outings to engage in, such as hiking the 14,000-ft-tall mountains or white-water rafting on the Animas River. Its historic downtown also comes with the main thoroughfare, the Main Avenue, where one can feel a part of an old-time movie in one of the many rustic hotels and saloons lining the streets. Arriving by train will charm even those who claim to have seen it all, with the whole range of the craggy San Juan Mountains on full display behind the town.
Probably most known for inspiring Stephen King's, The Shining with its Edwardian-style Stanley Hotel, those also seeking to explore the charms of the Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the nation's best, have come to the right starting point. From one of the benches, one can take in the vistas of the downtown district with Victorian lights, flowers, and the Riverwalk in the vicinity that contains a sculpture garden. With so much nature around, one can also engage in a full-day horseback-riding adventure, hikes, or bike trips, as well as scenery-ridden skiing during winter.
Georgetown, or the "Silver Queen of the Rockies," is nestled in the Clear Creek Canyon as a former mining town turned into an idyllic getaway with mountain views. The charm is undeniable in its Victorian-styled historic business district that comes with red sandstone sidewalks, specialty shops, and diners. For those curious to see whether the charm was retained from its beginnings in the 19th century, the Hamill House Museum off4rs a viewing into the past complete with furniture and landscaping of local residents. An old-time steam locomotive and the Hotel de Paris Museum provide perfect pastimes for the whole family, while the scenic Georgetown Lake is great for outdoor adventures and picnicking.
Set at 10,152 feet above sea level, Leadville is also called Colorado's "2-mile-high" town. Although the town may be out-shadowed by more spanned-out resorts, the charm of Leadville is undeniable and perfect for escaping the crowds. Possessing the two giant heads of Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive Leadville, the state's tallest peaks, there is also the magnificent Turquoise Lake, offering scenery that cannot be found anywhere else in the region. With the ponderosa pines and majestic red-barked pines, the blanketing landscape during the snow cover promotes the much-needed, down-to-earth lifestyle.
Established as a "scenic health resort" in 1872, the natural mineral springs of the town keep giving virility and prophylactic benefits to its visitors. The Manitou Springs Historic District, complete with old residences, hotels, and other historic buildings, is perfect for wandering around seeing the past story. The mesmerizing outer space-like landscape, with red rock spires and scrublands of The Garden of the Gods, make some reference to the town as "Saratoga of the West", with zip-lining, caving, and ropes courses adventures offered at the Cave of the Winds Mountain Park.
Known to many as "the Switzerland of America", Ouray is surrounded by awe-inspiring mountain vistas of jagged snow-capped peaks and steep valley walls that act as a magnet to pull wonder-seekers throughout the world to visit it. The natural hot springs make for a fine summer pastime, soaking up the lush scenery and the summer sun. A stunning canyon lined with ice walls composes the Ouray Ice Park, where thousands of ice-climbers practice their skill during winter, while others opt-out to go hiking in the scenic Box Canyon Falls Park.
Silverton is set remotely in a scenic valley near the San Juan Mountains. At 9,000 above sea level and with substantial snowfall during winters, its steep mountainsides are adorned by expert skiers. Turning into sun-soaked meadows upon the arrival of the warm season, they are perfect for hiking and picnicking, while the lush trails also lead to waterfalls. For some reminiscence, the historic downtown retains the aura of the Wild-West days of stagecoaches, miners, and train robbers, while a scenic train ride combines history amid landscape views.
The perfect combination of quaint and picturesque makes Steamboat Springs one of the most charming towns of the state set remotely in its northwest corner. With the Yampa River flowing just left of center through the town, and with the Quarry Mountain in the vicinity, coming over the Rabbit Ear Pass into the lush green Yampa Valley also constitutes one unforgettable site. While summertime is never dull with a variety of activities to engage in, the town is known as the "Ski Town USA" for a reason, having over 3,000 skiable acres at budget rates.
The adventure sports fanatics adore telluride for its dramatic canyon within the impressive mountain tundra. It is also impossible to take the free gondola ride up to Mountain Village and forget the fall-time hues of nature's last outburst before going into hibernation when the town will wake up with people during the snow-covered skiing season. The charming small-town facade of the snow-capped San Juan mountain peaks promotes a calming atmosphere, while its downtown strip comes complete with colored Victorian-style homes, galleries, and modern bar-restaurants.
Not surprisingly, Vail's charm is concentrated in the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado's largest ski mountain. Skiers and Snowboarders flee their homes from all over the world to practice their skills in Vail. The town is full of lakes, pine forests, and snow-capped mountains. Even the less active don't mind spending days out wandering the quaint, old-world feel of the Vail Village or getting distracted from their daily being in the winding lanes of the colorful, European-style buildings in the Lionshead district.
With many of the towns starting as humble mining settlements, the residents preserved the past and combined it with the ever-evolving modernity of the downtown area. Set amongst some of the most dramatic landscapes of the country, the atmosphere of these towns will be forever imprinted in the memories of those who visit them.