Telluride, Colorado: Small town with city sign, historic architecture, and mountain view. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin /

7 Most Beautiful Historic Towns in the Rockies

The Rocky Mountains are a range of mountains that stretch from Northern Canada all the way down to the state of New Mexico in the United States. It covers several American states, namely Colorado, and provides not just economic opportunities, but tons of recreational and historical landmarks for nearby residents too.

Explore seven historic towns in The Rockies that will add some fun and education to any road trip; whether it is a look into the mining economy, the many historic railways that pass through the area, the native presence, or more, you are sure not to be disappointed with this list.

How many of these small towns will you add to your next trip?

Telluride, Colorado

Colorado Avenue, Telluride, San Juan Mountains view, historic mining town, ski resort.
Colorado Avenue, Telluride, San Juan Mountains view, historic mining town, ski resort. Editorial credit: Nick Fox /

Telluride, Colorado, a gem nestled in the San Juan Mountains, is a picturesque town that seamlessly combines natural splendor with a rich historical tapestry. Originally a booming mining town, Telluride has transformed into a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike. What sets Telluride apart is its remarkable preservation of the past amidst stunning alpine scenery. It is home to the Telluride Historic District, where Victorian architecture lines the streets, offering visitors a connection to the late 19th century.

Be sure to visit the iconic Telluride Historical Museum, housed in the former miners' hospital, which provides a deep dive into the town's mining and skiing history. The Sheridan Opera House, a nearly century-old theatre, showcases Telluride's cultural heritage. Another significant site is the Idarado Mine, which represents the town's mining heyday.

The Telluride Ski Resort is a world-renowned destination that offers amazing skiing opportunities a short drive away.

Breckinridge, Colorado

Aerial view of Breckenridge, Colorado, surrounded by mountains.
Aerial view of Breckenridge, Colorado, surrounded by mountains.

Breckinridge, Colorado, boasts a rich history that echoes through its well-preserved landmarks. Initially founded in 1859 during the Colorado Gold Rush, the town became a hub for miners seeking fortune. The Breckenridge Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, showcases over 200 historic structures, offering a glimpse into this exciting past.

The Edwin Carter Discovery Center, once home to a 19th-century naturalist, highlights the area's commitment to preserving wildlife. The Barney Ford House Museum, a tribute to an African American pioneer, reflects Breckinridge's often overlooked diverse history. The meticulously restored Briggle House and the Country Boy Mine serve as living testaments to the town's mining heritage.

While the town embraces its historical roots, Breckinridge's Main Street teems with shops and restaurants catering to locals and visitors alike. Be sure also to go skiing if you're there in the winter atop Peak 8 just west of town.

Cody, Wyoming

Downtown street in Cody, Wyoming.
Downtown street in Cody, Wyoming. Editorial credit: Jillian Cain Photography /

Cody, Wyoming, is a town of around 10,000 residents. It is located in the northwestern portion of the state, where the Rocky Mountain range meets the prairies of the midwest. Stiing near the Shoshone Rover, Cody was an essential hub for European and American pioneers and native inhabitants alike while they were traveling through the area.

To catch up on the history of the area, check out the Buffalo Bill Center of the Wild West, an ode to the legendary figure of the same name. The Old Trail Town is an outdoor pioneer museum where you can immerse yourself in what living was like in the area in the eighteenth century. There is also the Cody Dug Up Gun Museum, where you can take the opportunity to see even more Wild West artifacts from the surrounding area.

Do you want to see a show while you're here? Definitely be sure to visit the historic Wynona Thompson Auditorium in the center of town.

Red Lodge, Montana

Downtown streets of Red Lodge, Montana, near Beartooth Highway.
Downtown streets of Red Lodge, Montana, near Beartooth Highway. Editorial credit: melissamn /

This small town is a gem in south-central Montana. With a population of just about 2,300 residents, it is a place to go when you want to truly break away from the crowds. It is also a splendor for those who are into the history of America.

For those who love to photograph nature, the Beartooth Scenic Byway offers an incredible view of the nearby Rocky Mountains. The Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary is an excellent spot to see some more wildlife while also learning the history of the iconic Yellowstone National Park. Furthermore, about history, the Carbon County Historical Society Museum is the place to go to learn about the history of Red Lodge and see some artifacts from the original founders.

Be sure to check out Red Lodge Mountain during ski season.

Ouray, Colorado

Ouray: Tourist mountain town with hot springs aquatic center.
Ouray: Tourist mountain town with hot springs aquatic center.

Are you looking for a mountain adventure in the Rockies? Ouray, sitting at 7,792 feet above sea level, may be a top choice. This small town of about 898 residents is in the heart of Colorado's mountainous interior.

When it comes to historic places, you're in luck too here. Several neat museums can be found right in the center of town. Most important is the Ouray County Museum, where you can learn extensively about the history of the area's settlement, along with the history of the native populations that once passed through these mountains. For something unique, you should check out the Ouray Alchemist Museum and Penthouse. Here, you can take a guided tour of this old-time alchemy shop, something that was once more common in the United States.

Just outside of town is the Switzerland of America Lookout Point, a fantastic place to catch a bird's eye view of Ouray. Thirst after your hike? Refresh yourself at the Ouray Brewery on Main Street.

Jackson, Wyoming

Roadhouse Brewing Company in Jackson, Wyoming.

Roadhouse Brewing Company in Jackson, Wyoming. By Tony Webster, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Jackson, Wyoming, is an iconic town that is found near the Snake River to the far east side of the state. It is a paradise for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, being so close to the ever-famous Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone is historically significant, being the first national park in the United States and setting up an enduring legacy for other national park systems. Closer to town, if you're there in the summer, you can view the long-running Jackson Hole Rodeo, a long-standing tradition in many Rocky Mountain towns. The natural history of Jackson is just as fascinating as the pioneers who first settled it. To learn more about the wildlife surrounding the town, be sure to visit the National Elk Refuge and Great Yellowstone Visitor Center.

Taos, New Mexico

Buildings in Taos, last stop before Taos Pueblo, New Mexico.
Buildings in Taos, last stop before Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin /

Taos is one of the oldest towns in North America, having been founded by the Spanish Empire all the way back in the year 1615. It is on the far southern end of the Rocky Mountain range. Not only is it a hotbed of colonial history, but it is also rich with culture from the various native populations who lived here, too.

An example of Puebloan architecture can be seen today at the impressive Taos Pueblo, a massive living complex constructed between the years 1000 A.D. and 1450 A.D. that is still being lived in! It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, too. Taos is home to several museums, too. These include the Millicent Rogers Museum, showcasing local art and pottery, and the Hacienda de Los Martines Museum, a nineteenth-century Spanish home that has been well-preserved.

Check out the historic downtown area of Taos to try any of the fantastic Spanish/native-inspired restaurants like the Alley Cantina.

Experience The Rockies in a New Way

The Rocky Mountain Range is packed with fun stuff to do. Hiking, sightseeing, skiing, you name it! The historical significance of this vast region should not be overlooked, too, and you owe it to yourself to check out some of these small towns next time you are traveling through. With old mining towns, museums with tons of artifacts, ancient architecture, and more, there is so much knowledge to be gained if you know where to look.

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