A street containing stores, shops, cafes and art galleries on September 23, 2010 in Santa Fe, New Mexico

7 Oldest Founded Towns To Visit In the Colorado Plateau

The Colorado Plateau is a physiographic region of the Intermontane Plateaus situated in the Four Corners area of the southwest, including Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. It is well known for its warm temperatures, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and the Basin and Range Provinces, as well as a number of National Parks and Monuments, such as Glen Canyon, Rainbow Bridge, Capitol Reef, and more.

It is no secret that the landscape of the Colorado Plateau reveals a rich history of the earth, with a number of natural marvels that are sure to take your breath away. That said, the small towns scattered throughout the town boast their own unique histories, especially the oldest-founded locations.

Santa Fe, New Mexico (1610)

Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA streets at dusk
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA streets at dusk

Santa Fe, founded in 1610, is the capital of New Mexico, and is home to over four centuries of history, culture, and endless beauty. It boasts a vibrant and lively city energy, with plenty of visual and performing arts scattered along the downtown streets, as well as a number of eateries, shopping spots, and relaxing spas. Delve into the city's history on one of the many walking tours, or pay a visit to historic sites such as the ancient Native American ruins, Loretto Chapel, or Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Situated within the Rocky Mountains and surrounded by 1.5 million acres of lush forests, hiking, biking, and horseback riding is a great way to spend a day adventuring and exploring. 

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico (1615)

Buildings in Taos, which is the last stop before entering Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
Buildings in Taos, which is the last stop before entering Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Established around 1615, the village of Taos Pueblo exposes a rich and interesting history, featuring the only Native American community that is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark. The town sits at the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in New Mexico. This history of the area dates back over 1000 years and the ancient dwellings share insight into life of the past. Just seven minutes outside of the village is the town of Taos, which offers easy access to the unique historic site but also a number of recreational activities that share breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Climb Wheeler Peak, the tallest peak in all of New Mexico, pay a visit to the Rio Grande Gorge, or check out live music at the Taos Plaza. 

Tucson, Arizona (1775)

San Xavier Del Bac in Tucson Arizona
San Xavier Del Bac in Tucson Arizona

Founded in 1775, Tucson, Arizona is well known for its beautiful views and the expansive Sonoran Desert. It is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, with a rich agricultural past and thriving culinary scene, featuring a delightful number of craft breweries and locally owned restaurants. When visiting, pack a telescope and be sure to catch a glimpse of the night sky while camping in the desert, or head out on Arizona Zipline Adventures for a more physically thrilling excursion. Golfing, biking, horseback riding, and hiking are popular in the area, as well as swimming at the Sky Island of Mount Lemmon. Dive into the city's history in Barrio Viejo, one of the first neighborhoods in the area, or check out the All Souls Procession in November, which celebrates all cultures and traditions.

Ogden, Utah (1845)

Aerial View of Ogden, Utah during Summer
Aerial View of Ogden, Utah during summer

One of the most beautiful cities in Utah, Ogden was founded in 1845 and is the state's eighth-largest city. It sits at the confluence of the Ogden and the Weber rivers, where fishers, kayakers, and canoers find plenty of enjoyment throughout the summer. The city offers easy access to popular ski towns and winter resorts, such as Snowbasin, Powder Mountain, and Nordic Valley. The Wasatch Mountain Range, which runs 160 miles from the Utah-Idaho border, is the ideal location for a day of endless exploration, hiking, and camping. For those looking for a slower afternoon and busy nightlife, visit the Historic 25th street, lined with local shops, hotels, and bars.

Salt Lake City, Utah (1847)

County building on a sunny day in Salt Lake City
County building on a sunny day in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City, Utah, founded in 1847, is the state's most populous city and sits in close proximity to the Great Salt Lake. Enjoy a day in the center of the city at the City Creek Center, which is the ideal location for visitors to shop until they drop, featuring over 110 stores and restaurants. For those with an interest in the great outdoors, consider joining the Southwest Adventure Tours and head out on a 6-day guided excursion to the Mighty 5 National Parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion) and other Utah attractions. The mountain town is home to a number of resorts perfect for a relaxing and revitalizing vacation, such as Deer Valley Resort, Capitol Reef Resort, and Zermatt Utah Resort & Spa. 

San Luis, Colorado (1851)

A hilltop church in San Luis
A hilltop church in San Luis

Founded in 1851, San Luis, Colorado sits in the San Luis Valley and houses the oldest church in Colorado. The town earns its fame from the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross, which is a collection of 15 bronze statues built for the parishioners of the Sangre de Cristo Parish. The San Luis Community Park is a great place for bringing the kids and partaking in a picnic. For camping and fishing, visit Rito Seco Park or the Sanchez Reservoir State Wildlife Area. For a taste of the area's history, pay a visit to the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center. Extend your stay in the charming El Convento bed and breakfast, which is a former covenant. There are a number of special events and festivals throughout the year, including the San Luis 10k, Santa Ana y Santiago Fiesta, and the Halloween celebration "Trunk or Treat."

Denver, Colorado (1858)

Rino neighborhood, Denver Central Market
Rino neighborhood, Denver Central Market

Denver, founded in 1858, is the capital of Colorado and documents the history from the Old West era. The Mile High City marries urban life with outdoor adventure, offering everything from a charming downtown to endless opportunities for excursions and day trips. The Larimer Square houses buildings from the 19th century, as well as plenty of unique culinary spots and locally owned boutiques and shops. Cultural attractions include the Denver Art Museum, Clyfford Still Museum, and the History Colorado Center, though there are also over 100 breweries for those in need of refreshments. Its music scene is especially bustling, with the Red Rocks Amphitheatre attracting visitors from far and wide. Other must-sees include a trip to Confluence Park, Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park, and Denver Botanic Gardens.

Pay a Visit to the Colorado Plateau

The Colorado Plateau boasts more than breathtaking natural wonders. It is also home to a plethora of small towns, each of which share a glimpse into the past and feature their own charm and unique, welcoming atmosphere that deserves a spot on any bucket list. Whether the downtown core of Salt Lake City enchants you or the ancient dwellings of Taos Pueblo call your name, there is something for everyone to discover within the Colorado Plateau.

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