Main Street in Telluride, Colorado. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin /

7 Coolest Towns In Colorado For A Summer Vacation In 2024

Located in the Western United States, Colorado is known for its relaxed atmosphere, varied landscapes, and national parks. In the summer, Colorado’s small towns come alive with annual festivals, incredible outdoor adventures, rich history, and artistic communities to explore. From the vibrant wildflower blooms of Crested Butte to the adrenaline of Gunnison's rodeo in July, each small town in Colorado provides a unique adventure for everyone. Whether soaking in Ouray's hot springs or experiencing the art scene in Steamboat Springs, here are seven of the coolest towns in Colorado for an unforgettable summer vacation in 2024.

Crested Butte

Crested Butte, nestled in the mountains of Colorado
Crested Butte, nestled in the mountains of Colorado.

Crested Butte, known as the "Wildflower Capital of Colorado," transforms into a breathtaking display every summer. Even though the wildflowers begin to bloom in late spring, the town explodes into a vibrant tapestry of color in the summer, boasting over 200 wildflower species. The peak bloom coincides with the beautiful Crested Butte Wildflower Festival from July 12 to 21, 2024. Hikers and bikers can explore miles of scenic trails teeming with these floral gems throughout town. Outdoor enthusiasts also enjoy the stunning wildflower and mountain scenery while kayaking or paddle boarding in the Slate River.

Although the town is known for its wildflowers, Crested Butte’s charm extends far beyond its floral crown. Nestled within the majestic Rocky Mountains, the town boasts a rich coal mining history, which visitors can explore at the Crested Butte Museum. Situated in the historic downtown, Elk Avenue is lined with colorful historical Victorian-era buildings from the 1800s, with a stunning 360-degree panorama of the surrounding peaks. This unique blend of natural beauty, historical intrigue, and a unique summer festival makes Crested Butte an unforgettable summer vacation destination.


Downtown Telluride, Colorado.
Downtown Telluride, Colorado.

Nestled in a dramatic canyon carved by glaciers, Telluride offers incredible natural views. Towering San Juan Mountains frame this charming mountain town, where outdoor lovers can hike or bike over 30 scenic trails. For an outdoor adventure, take the Bridal Veil Falls Trail. Although the hike takes around two hours to complete, it is well worth the time to view Colorado's tallest free-falling waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls.

Beyond its natural charm, the picturesque town offers an eclectic downtown to explore. History buffs can learn more about the town’s history at the Telluride Historical Museum, which opens on June 3, 2024, for the summer season. For art enthusiasts, the Telluride Arts District offers something for everyone, from local photography at Gold Mountain Gallery to nature-inspired art at Lustre Gallery. Art lovers and cinephiles will both want to vacation in towns during the prestigious Telluride Film Festival, held August 29 - September 2, 2024. Visitors can experience one of the coolest film festivals in the country, making Telluride an unforgettable summer destination.


The gorgeous town of Ouray, Colorado, surrounded by mountains
The gorgeous town of Ouray, Colorado, surrounded by mountains.

Often referred to as the "Switzerland of America," Ouray is a charming mountain town with a population of around 1,000. Nestled in a narrow valley surrounded by rugged peaks, Ouray is famous for its natural hot springs, historic architecture, and scenic hiking trails. Hike or horseback ride on miles of trails in the San Juan Mountains, or challenge yourself with world-class rock climbing. After a day filled with outdoor adventures, soak in the rejuvenating waters of the Ouray Hot Springs Pool.

For those wanting to view incredible nature from the comfort of a car, take a scenic drive along the Million Dollar Highway. The 25-mile stretch of highways goes from Ouray to Silverton, but be sure to stick to the speed limit since the road is narrow. One of the coolest times to visit Ouray in the summer of 2024 is June 20-23, during the fifth annual Ouray International Film Festival, when visitors can view independent movies from around the world.


Aerial view of Durango, Colorado.
Aerial view of Durango, Colorado.

Situated at the base of the San Juan Mountains, Durango offers a vibrant blend of history, adventure, and scenic beauty. History buffs can delve into the town's rich mining and transportation past at the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Museum. Afterwards, hop aboard the iconic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a historic steam train following the original 1882 route through the breathtaking San Juan National Forest landscapes.

With its stunning location, there are many outdoor adventures for visitors in the summer. Hike or bike through diverse terrain in the San Juan National Forest, from high desert mesas to alpine peaks. For a tranquil outdoor experience, explore the 44-acre Oxbow Park and Preserve, which provides walking trails with access to the Animas River. One of the best times to visit Durango in the summer of 2024 is during the Animas River Days, held on June 1 and 2. The event features several water events, including river surfing, freestyle kayaking, and the eclectic river parade viewing party.

Steamboat Springs

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

Surrounded by the beauty of the Yampa Valley, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, transforms into a summer haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Although the town is known for its world-class skiing in the winter, Steamboat Springs transforms into a haven for outdoor recreation in the summer. Trade winter skis for hiking boots and explore the majestic Rocky Mountains on foot, by bike, or even on horseback. Soak up the sun at cool spots like Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake, or delve into the charming downtown area brimming with boutique shops and art galleries.

Art lovers can immerse themselves in the Steamboat Art Museum's collection, showcasing the rich Western heritage through local artists' works. Explore the town's unique character on a self-guided walking tour of the Steamboat Springs Mural Tour, admiring the 19 vibrant murals in town. For more summer fun, visit during the lively Art in the Park festival on July 13 and 14, 2024. This free event features a vibrant array of handmade art, live music, delicious food vendors, and family-friendly activities, making Steamboat Springs a delightful summer escape.


Arkansas Whitewater Recreation Area in Salida, Colorado
Arkansas Whitewater Recreation Area in Salida, Colorado.

Nestled in the Arkansas River Valley, Salida is one of the coolest towns in Colorado to visit in the summer due to its history, vibrant arts community, and outdoor adventures. This charming mountain town boasts the state's largest historic district, features a delightful downtown area lined with historic buildings housing over a dozen unique shops and art galleries. Salida's designation as a Certified Creative District further shows its commitment to the arts. Explore local paintings at the Bork and Watkins Studio Gallery or admire the diverse collection of glasswork, prints, and sculptures at the Green Cat Gallery.

Beyond its artistic vibe, Salida is known for its abundance of outdoor activities. A gateway to the San Isabel National Forest, hikers, mountain bikers, and rock climbers can conquer scenic trails with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and canyons. In town, the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area is based along the Arkansas River, a haven for whitewater rafting and kayaking enthusiasts. Salida's signature event, the FIBArk "First in Boating on the Arkansas" Whitewater Festival, takes place from June 14-16, 2024. This energetic festival, established in 1949, is the nation's oldest whitewater festival, making Salida a must-visit for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike.


Gunnison, Colorado.
Welcome to Gunnison, Colorado. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin /

Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, Gunnison is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise in the summer. A gateway to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, nature lovers can hike through the park's deep canyons, take a scenic drive along the dramatic rim of the gorge, or fish in the Gunnison River. More water adventures await at Curecanti National Recreation Area, where visitors can kayak or boat in three reservoirs, cast a line for a trophy fish, or windsurf. Seven stunning hiking trails wind through the surrounding area, offering breathtaking vistas of pine forests and cascading waterfalls.

Gunnison's charm extends beyond its natural wonders. Step back in time at the Gunnison Pioneer Museum, where exhibits showcase the town's fascinating history, including its railroading past with the iconic 1882 locomotive "Cinder Ella." For a modern-day Western experience, visit during the town’s legendary Cattleman's Days Rodeo from July 11-13, 2024. Held annually since 1900 and known as the "Granddaddy of Colorado Rodeos," vacationers can experience the town’s Western spirit with professional competitions and lively festivities.

Colorado’s Summer Vacation Towns

These towns offer an authentic Colorado experience in the summer. Whether taking a historic train ride in Durango or hiking through the stunning wildflowers in Crested Butte, each town showcases the beauty of the state. From Salida’s thrilling whitewater festival in June to the world-renowned Telluride Film Festival in late summer, these small towns provide Colorado adventures throughout the season. For those looking to experience Colorado's laid-back Western vibe, a trip to any of these small towns will provide a memorable 2024 summer vacation.

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