Springdale, Utah, USA. Editorial credit: f11photo / Shutterstock.com

7 Most Idyllic Small Towns in the Colorado Plateau

Stretching across the Southwestern states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, the Colorado Plateau is a wonderland of stunning scenery and rugged landscapes. Within this picturesque region are idyllic towns that blend charm with natural wonders to discover. From Moab, Utah, the gateway to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, to Durango, Colorado, located in the shadow of the San Juan Mountains, each town provides a playground for adventure and rejuvenation. Whether taking in views of the towering Red Rocks in Sedona, Arizona, or the historic charm of Telluride, Colorado, these idyllic towns in the Colorado Plateau offer endless opportunities to explore the Southwestern United States.

Moab, Utah

Tourists enjoying the natural beauty of the Double Arch in Arches National Park. Editorial credit: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
Tourists enjoy the natural beauty of the Double Arch in Arches National Park. Editorial credit: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

Nestled within the diverse landscapes of the Colorado Plateau is the picturesque town of Moab, Utah. The town showcases its idyllic high desert beauty and serves as a gateway to two national parks. Arches National Park, with its striking red rock arches, petrified sand dunes, and scenic hiking trails, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Nearby is Canyonlands National Park, boasting deep canyons, towering mesas, and the confluence of the Green River and Colorado River. The tranquil waters of these rivers offer the perfect opportunity for kayaking, canoeing, or guided float tours, providing a unique view of the surrounding wilderness.

The town itself boasts a vibrant arts scene and a historic downtown area with charming theaters and galleries. Moab Made offers an eclectic mix of works by local artisans, such as jewelry, Southwestern prints, and upcycled bags. For a unique experience, enjoy a show at the Moab Backyard Theater. Performances range from bluegrass music to magic shows and even fire dancers, all under the incredible Southwestern sky.

Durango, Colorado

A view of Main Avenue in Durango, featuring Strater hotel.
A view of Main Avenue in Durango, featuring Strater Hotel.

In the mountain town of Durango, Colorado, outdoor adventure meets historic charm. One of the best ways to enjoy the idyllic town and surrounding area is by hopping aboard the historic Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The train ride takes visitors through the Rocky Mountains with mesmerizing views of the San Juan National Forest. For those wanting to explore the forest, Durango serves as a gateway to incredible hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking trails.

In town, nature enthusiasts can explore the 44-acre Oxbow Park and Preserve, with walking paths and access to the beautiful Animas River. History buffs can visit the Durango & Silverton Railroad Museum and book a guided tour to learn more about the area’s railroad history. More history is on display at the Animas Museum, housed in a 1904 Animas City School Building. The museum features local historical exhibits of Native Americans, cowboys, and settlers and restored early 20th-century classrooms.

Bryce Canyon City, Utah

Hikers in Bryce Canyon resting enjoying view.
Hikers in Bryce Canyon resting and enjoying the view.

Although Bryce Canyon City, Utah, has a population of only 332 people, the town is big on outdoor exploration. Just outside the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon City serves as a gateway to the park's incredible landscapes of crimson hoodoos and tall and thin rock spires. Visitors can hike among the park's unique rock formations or enjoy stargazing in one of the country's darkest skies. For an unforgettable experience, visit the park during sunrise or sunset, when the hoodoos cast an orange glow and deep shadows across the canyon.

For more adventures, visit the Wildlife Museum, just outside of the quaint downtown area. Located along scenic Byway 12, visitors can hand-feed exotic deer and view more than 1,600 butterflies. In town, relax and unwind at Ebenezer's Barn and Grill Dinner Show. Open from April through October, visitors can enjoy live country music and a delicious meal.

Sedona, Arizona

Merry-go-round Rock in Sedona Arizona at sunset.
Merry-go-round Rock in Sedona, Arizona, at sunset.

The breathtaking town of Sedona, Arizona, is a great spot to connect with nature as the sun rises and sets over the Red Rocks towering against the endless sky. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, Sedona offers hiking among sandstone formations in Red Rock State Park and scenic views along hiking trails along Oak Creek Canyon. The enchanting desert oasis is also surrounded by the Coconino National Forest, where visitors can explore hiking trails, ancient Native American ruins, and cliff dwellings and connect with nature through meditation.

The town itself features upscale restaurants, boutique stores, and art galleries in the renowned Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village. Featuring cobblestone streets, craft stores, and art galleries, visitors can view works by local artists and artisans at Honshin Fine Art, enjoy a delicious Southwestern meal at El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano, and finish off the outing with homemade ice cream or dessert at Cream and Cake Couture.

Jemez Springs, New Mexico

Fall color along highway 4 through Jemez Springs in the mountains of central New Mexico.
Fall color along Highway 4 through Jemez Springs in the mountains of central New Mexico.

Jemez Springs, New Mexico, is a tranquil oasis nestled within the rugged beauty of the Jemez Mountains. Known for its natural hot springs and stunning landscapes, visitors can unwind at one of the town’s many hot springs, such as Jemez Hot Springs, a spa with mineral-rich waters near the Jemez River. The town is also a great place for outdoor enthusiasts to connect with nature. Explore the Valles Caldera National Preserve, a 13-mile depression in the earth caused by a volcano more than 1 million years ago. Nature lovers and history buffs alike can explore the serene mountain meadows on hiking trails, fly fish in the preserve’s creek, and discover the Native American history of the area.

More history is on display at the Jemez National Historic Landmark, featuring remains of a village from more than 700 years ago by ancestors of the Jemez Pueblo. After exploring the rich history of the landmark, take a scenic drive to the Gilman Tunnels along Forest Road 376. The tunnels have been featured in several movies, including The Lone Ranger and 3:10 to Yuma.

Springdale, Utah

Springdale, Utah, USA. Editorial credit: Christophe KLEBERT / Shutterstock.com
Springdale, Utah, USA. Editorial credit: Christophe KLEBERT / Shutterstock.com

On the western side of the Colorado Plateau is the quaint town of Springdale, Utah, with a population of only 629 people. Despite its small population, the town delivers idyllic natural beauty and a charming downtown. Surrounded by canyon walls, visitors can leisurely stroll the picturesque downtown and explore the town's art galleries and museums. Discover works by dozens of local artists at the Worthington Gallery and the DeZion Gallery, featuring photography, jewelry, and sculptures.

Springdale also serves as the gateway to Zion National Park, providing access to one of the most iconic landscapes in the American West. Visitors can explore the park's towering sandstone white cliffs, hike along scenic wilderness trails, and take a float trip down the Virgin River. The national park is also home to Zion Human History Museum, a great place for history enthusiasts to learn more about the region’s past. With its blend of history, tranquil outdoor beauty, and scenic downtown, Springdale provides a rejuvenating and relaxing experience.

Cortez, Colorado

View of "Cliff Palace" dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez, Colorado.
View of "Cliff Palace" dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez, Colorado.

Located near the Four Corners region is Cortez, Colorado, a charming small town surrounded by idyllic natural landscapes and rich cultural heritage. Cortez serves as a gateway to Mesa Verde National Park, home to ancient cliff dwellings and 700-year-old archaeological sites of the Ancestral Puebloans. Visitors can explore the park's well-preserved ruins, hike its scenic trails, and learn about the area's indigenous history at the nearby Anasazi Heritage Center.

Cortez itself offers a quaint downtown area with local shops, restaurants, and art galleries on Main Street, such as the Turquoise Raven Art Gallery. Another great spot to view art and enjoy a glass of wine is ZU Gallery, which hosts several musical and artistic events throughout the year. Located nearby is the Montezuma Heritage Museum, which showcases the history of Indigenous people, early miners, and settlers. It also has programs that provide a more in-depth look at the region’s history. After exploring the charming downtown area, enjoy a bite and a pint while relaxing at Main Street Brewery and Restaurant.

These seven small towns offer a perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural charm, making them ideal destinations for those seeking an authentic Colorado Plateau experience. Visitors can explore the diverse landscapes in the country, such as the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park in Bryce Canyon City, Utah, or rejuvenate in the natural hot springs in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. Whether enjoying a leisurely art stroll through scenic downtown Springdale, Utah or exploring the rich history in Sedona, Arizona, these idyllic towns offer a memorable Colorado Plateau getaway.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 7 Most Idyllic Small Towns in the Colorado Plateau

More in Places