Historic Route 66 in Williams, Arizona. Image credit Aerial Film Studio via Shutterstock

6 Cutest Small Towns in the Colorado Plateau To Visit In 2024

The stunning Colorado Plateau is a region of high desert in the Intermontane Plateaus where the four states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona intersect. It’s a huge area, spanning 130,000 square miles, and known for its spectacular landscape consisting mostly of flat red rock, deep canyons, and towering cliffs. The area’s biggest tourist attraction is the Grand Canyon, which welcomes almost 5 million visitors every year, but it’s also home to cute desert towns where you can learn about the fascinating history of the Old West as you explore its unique geological features. Unearth the best of the region in 2024.

Williams, Arizona

Street scene with classic car in front of souvenir shops in Williams, Arizona.
Street scene with classic car in front of souvenir shops in Williams, Arizona. Image credit Jordi C via Shutterstock.com

If the Grand Canyon is on your bucket list, you will need to stay somewhere nearby. The small Arizona town of Williams is the perfect base for exploring the canyon on foot, by bike, or even by rail — hop aboard the Grand Canyon Railway to take the trip to the South Rim. This historic railway route has been running since 1901 and offers jaw-dropping views of the desert landscape.

Once you have had your fill of the canyon, stick around to enjoy Williams’ many attractions. One of the highlights of this historic town is the Route 66 Museum, housed in a classic 1958 filling station and packed with vintage memorabilia. Head over to the Wild West Junction, a mini Wild West town within the town, where you can drink in a 1900s saloon, enjoy Arizona BBQ at the Branding Iron Restaurant and soak up the cowboy vibe with Old West-themed live entertainment and special events.

Telluride, Colorado

Historic architecture on the main street of Telluride, Colorado.
Historic architecture on the main street of Telluride, Colorado. Image credit Kristi Blokhin via Shutterstock

Deep in the Southwestern corner of Colorado, lies the former mining town of Telluride. This cute mountain village is one of Colorado’s five National Historic Landmark Districts, with pretty Old West-style streets framed by a ring of towering peaks. Also known as the Festival Capital of the Rockies, visit Telluride in June 2024 to experience the legendary Wild West Fest and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival or stop by at the end of August to catch the 2024 Telluride Film Festival.

Visit in the summer to enjoy historic walking tours, which take place at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from June to October. The tiny town is only eight blocks wide and twelve blocks long, so it won’t take you long to visit all the historic sites, including the Telluride Historical Museum, built in 1896, and the Rio Grande Southern Railway Depot, established in 1891.

Gallup, New Mexico

98th Gallup Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial in Gallup, New Mexico.
98th Gallup Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial in Gallup, New Mexico. Image credit Joseph Sohm via Shutterstock.com

Gallup is primarily known for two things — nature and art. There are over 30 miles of hiking and biking trails just a short distance from the downtown core making it a mecca for outdoor adventurers. The town is also a hub for Native American culture. Over 70% of the world’s Native American art comes from the Gallup region, produced by its five Indigenous tribes. Browse this art and pick up a unique souvenir at Perry Null Trading, founded in 1939 and home to a huge collection of handmade art and jewelry.

You can also get a taste of the town’s unique heritage on the downtown mural tour which winds past 12 paintings depicting Gallup’s history. Stop into the Gallup Cultural Center or the Rex Museum to find out more. For a truly memorable experience, visit Gallup in December for its 2024 Red Rock Balloon Rally when over 150 balloons will float in the skies above Red Rock Park in a spectacle like no other.

Moab, Utah

Exterior of stores in the city of Moab, Utah.
Exterior of stores in the city of Moab, Utah.

The gateway to Canyonlands National Park, Moab is known as a premier mountain biking, hiking, and climbing destination. Downtown, you will find the Moab Museum, which traces the area’s history from the first peoples of the Moab Valley to the town’s development as a center of uranium mining and then a tourist hotspot. For a very different kind of museum, head to the Moab Giants Dinosaur Park which offers fun for kids and young-at-heart adults with interactive displays, educational games, and fossil exhibits.

There is more adult fun on offer at the Spanish Valley Winery just south of town. The dry earth in the Moab Valley produces some of the world’s finest white German-varietal wines and the friendly staff at the winery offer tastings and tours to learn more and sip samples.

Aztec, New Mexico

Aztec Public Library in Aztec, New Mexico.
Aztec Public Library in Aztec, New Mexico.

Aztec began life as a trading post in New Mexico’s Taos County but became a fully fledged community in 1887. The town is home to several sites on the National Register of Historic Places including the Aztec Ruins National Monument, the centuries-old ruins of an ancient Pueblo settlement including a 900-year old Great House with more than 400 masonry chambers.

Downtown, one of the best ways to explore this fascinating desert town, is on foot. Pick up a self-guided walking tour booklet at the Aztec Museum and stroll past the 1890 General Store, the 1907 American Hotel, the 1927 Aztec Theater and other historic sights.

Vernal, Utah

Sign for Vernal, Utah.
Sign for Vernal, Utah.

Driving into Vernal, the first thing you will notice is the giant pink dinosaur welcoming you to the town. Famous for its dinosaur bones and exhibits, a visit to Vernal is like stepping into an episode of the Flintstones. Visit the Dinosaur National Monument to hunt for fossils at dinosaur quarry, hike beautiful nature trails, try whitewater rafting, or take it easy with a picnic in the prehistoric setting. Nearby Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is another great choice for scenic summer days. With 360 miles of shoreline, the park offers incredible fishing, boating, and swimming on the banks of the stunning Green River.

Cute Towns in the Wild West

The Colorado Plateau has something for everyone. Experience the historic Old West in Colorado, browse Route 66 Americana in Arizona, admire beautiful Native American art in New Mexico, and go dinosaur hunting in Utah. You will be amazed at how much you can pack into one trip! This complex and captivating region promises much more than stunning scenery with its diverse heritage and history embedded in its picturesque small towns. Come for the Grand Canyon and the unique geological attractions, and stay for the warm welcome in these cute communities.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 6 Cutest Small Towns in the Colorado Plateau To Visit In 2024

More in Places