Colorful vivid village houses in Crested Butte, Colorado. Image credit Kristi Blokhin via Shutterstock

6 Delightful Towns to Visit in Colorado

The mountainous Centennial State of Colorado has much to love in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Hidden in the creases under the shadowy peaks, the smallest towns harbor the biggest delights for every type of traveler, year-round. For instance, Palisade is surrounded by vineyards along the majestic banks of the Colorado River.

Steamboat Springs, known as "Ski Town USA," offers 3,000 skiable acres without Aspen's prices or crowds. Meanwhile, Crested Butte, the "Wildflower Capital," features its own world-class ski resort just north of town, catering to all levels of skiers. Sandwiched between Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs was built around eight mineral springs. Its historic district and new-age shops attract the outdoorsy and wellness seekers, offering a perfect spot to soak after a day of adventure.

Crested Butte

The Company Store in Crested Butte, Colorado
The Company Store in Crested Butte, Colorado, via Andriy Blokhin /

Crested Butte, known for its delightful springtime flower display, attracts Denverites year-round to experience the four-season wonders of nature. It's easy to fall captive to the charm of the "Wildflower Capital of Colorado" in the breathtaking alpine landscape, from the gorgeous autumn reds, oranges, and yellows to the soft blanket of snow over the holiday season. Offering world-class downhill skiing just north at the resort, Crested Butte Nordic features cross-country skiing terrain, lessons, rentals, and a free ice rink. When the meadows shed the snow for flower-filled biking trails, the surrounding region becomes a paradise for hiking, mountain biking, and climbing.

Peppered with vibrant Victorian architecture, the National Historic District complements the natural beauty with the timeless allure of the mining days, perfect for strolls through the past. The Secret Stash is a must-visit pizza restaurant next door to the Crested Butte Museum. Located in the heart of the Rockies, the seemingly isolated town charms from the first glance and sees you out via the picturesque West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway. Just in time for a music and art festival in the summer, visitors can enjoy kayaking and rafting, from lazy float trips to Class V kayaking on the Gunnison and East rivers, as well as the Taylor River, renowned for its brown and rainbow trout runs.

Cripple Creek

Downtown Cripple Creek, Colorado
Downtown Cripple Creek, Colorado, By David Shankbone - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

On the southwest slopes of Pikes Peak, overlooking mountain peaks to the south, Cripple Creek delights new and returning visitors with its history and outdoor attractions. Peppered with restored turn-of-the-century buildings turned into unique shops, antique stores, and restaurants, the town offers an old-school vibe at Bronco Billy's Casino and a fascinating experience at the Outlaws & Law Men Jail Museum, one of the best of its kind in the state for Old West fans. The Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine Tour offers an exploration 1,000 feet (305 meters) underground, while the surrounding Pike National Forest bursts with opportunities for fresh-air adventures.

Cripple Creek Heritage Center is an engaging museum focused on mining, while the popular Vindicator Valley Trailhead features two miles of moderate hiking through old mines just to the east. From the Cripple Creek District Museum to the Old Homestead House Museum, the colorful town spotlights Rita the Rock Planter, accessible via a fun, beautiful hike from the Little Grouse Mountain Trailhead. Another highlight is the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad, with trains departing from an 1894 depot for a scenic 45-minute steam-engine journey, including views of historic mining sites.

Grand Lake

Grand Avenue entering the town of Grand Lake, Colorado
Grand Avenue entering the town of Grand Lake, Colorado

Nestled against two connected lakes, Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake, which together comprise Colorado's largest and deepest lake, Grand Lake is ideal for water enthusiasts and adventurers on a summer getaway to the western Rocky Mountains. At the park's entrance, the reputable Kawuneeche Visitor Center offers info, maps, shops, and books for a complete experience to explore the vibrant Kawuneeche Valley, a lush ravine. Beacon Landing Marina offers guided tours and rentals of pontoon boats or canoes. Grand Lake's array of lakes, waterfalls, valleys, and mountains lends a blue-green aura to the area, particularly along the hiking trails.

One of the prettiest spots, Point Park, with its smooth path and boardwalk between the lakes, is just a hop from the Trailhead, part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. From sightseeing and hiking to boating, biking, and golfing, the North Inlet Trailhead is a popular trek, with a chance to dive into the aquamarine waters afterward. Follow it up with dinner at Sagebrush BBQ & Grill, an unmissable spot in the area. The small town offers opportunities for a fun and unforgettable weekend any time of the year, including snowmobiling, visiting the Grand Lake Area Historical Society, and driving the Trail Ridge Road for an easy and scenic way to enjoy the foliage views along the highway.

Manitou Springs

Beautiful street view in Manitou Springs, Colorado
Beautiful street view in Manitou Springs, Colorado

This charming little town, nestled between Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak, features a delightful downtown area with a historic district and new-age shops. From gem shops to art galleries, unique boutiques, and bookstores, it is a joy to browse through beautifully restored buildings. Best known for its eight different hot springs, Manitou Springs attracts outdoors enthusiasts, wellness seekers, and shoppers alike, with no better way to wind down a delightful day than by soaking in the minerals and views at the SunWater Spa. Home to unique restaurants like Crystal Park Cantina, known for homestyle Mexican cuisine, the town also boasts Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, which is full of scenic amusement rides. Outdoor adventures abound, just a stroll away from an array of galleries and sculptures, as well as a music venue and theatre in town.

Manitou Incline, the most popular hiking area just south, is a former cablecar track turned into an intense uphill climb of over 2,000 feet. Open daily, Manitou Cliff Dwellings is a vast outdoor archaeological museum where visitors can explore recovered cliffside structures dating to the year 1200, alongside an on-site museum showcasing the prehistoric Native American lifestyle. Miramont Castle Museum and The Queen's Parlour Tea Room is a beautiful local museum with a rich history that began just before the turn of the 20th century as a private residence for Fr. Jean Baptiste Francolon and his mother. It is now a Victorian museum with nine different architectural styles, four tourable floors with over 30 rooms, and 14,000 square feet to explore on a self-guided tour or reserve the popular multi-course teas in the Queen's Parlour Tea Room.


Crowd at the International Honeybee Festival in Palisade, Colorado
Crowd at the International Honeybee Festival in Palisade, Colorado

This delightful little farming community overlooking the Western Slope is perfect for strolling under the watchful eye of Mt. Garfield, accessible via a trailhead just to the northwest. A real epicurean paradise, there's something for every group to enjoy, from the colorful storefronts and dozens of fruit farming stands to the farm-to-table bistros and numerous vineyards dotting the outskirts. The highly acclaimed Plum Creek Cellars offers tours and tastings of fine wines made from locally grown grapes in an elegant atmosphere featuring antique furnishings, fine art, and Oriental rugs.

Nestled along the lush banks of the Colorado River, this vibrant town, with a spirit to celebrate the everyday, has much to love in the scenic heart of Colorado Wine Country, including all the wineries along the Palisade Fruit and Wine Byway. Starting each morning with a stroll through Riverbend Park against mountain views, it is a great place to return for the sunset over the reflecting peaks. Open 24 hours a day, the Palisade Rim Trailhead offers a hike with many great valley views. From Carlson Vineyards Winery to the Motor Speedway go-karting track, the vast Tilman Bishop State Wildlife Area is just across the river.

Steamboat Springs

The downtown area of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
The downtown area of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Editorial credit: photojohn830 /

In the embracing beauty of the Yampa Valley, Steamboat Springs is a delightful town with open views from horizon to horizon. It delights visitors with the scenic wonders of Colorado's northwest region, with the surrounding peaks of Mount Werner overshadowing attractions like Rabbit Ears Pass, the famous hot springs, ski resorts, and the cozy Whistler Park, popular for picnics. Fish Creek Falls is a nature area with hiking trails to the upper and lower eponymous 280-foot waterfalls. Yampa River Botanic Park features weekly concerts. Summertime tourists can also enjoy fishing and boating down the river.

Acclaimed as “Ski Town USA,” there's no beating Steamboat Ski Resort in terms of world-class 3,000 skiable acres with runs and terrain for all levels, without the Aspen prices or crowds. Three hours from Denver, the town is also home to Steamboat Powdercats, shops like Ski Haus, and affordable places to unwind like the Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails, right across from an art museum. After a day in the snow, the relaxing and therapeutic Old Town Hot Springs offers slides for family fun, while the popular Strawberry Park Hot Springs just north will soothe your muscles against easy-on-the-eye views.

From foliage drives to waterfall chasing, Grand Lake, the gateway to Kawuneeche Valley, lies at the edge of greatness—the largest and deepest lake in the state. Steamboat Springs is home to two popular hot springs and the delightful Yampa River Botanic Park, which hosts summer concerts.

Manitou Cliff Dwellings is a vast outdoor archaeological museum where visitors can explore ancient cliffside structures from the year 1200. Nearby is the Miramont Castle Museum, a beautiful local museum featuring nine architectural styles and steeped in history. Visitors can enjoy a self-guided tour and popular multi-course teas in the Queen's Parlour Tea Room.

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