The Animas River winds through the town of Durango in southwestern Colorado, via melissamn /

8 Cutest Small Towns In The Rockies To Visit In 2024

The Rocky Mountains, which stretch for more than 3,000 miles and straddle the U.S. and Canada, might be the world's most beautiful mountain range. Talk about razor-thin ridges, cliffside roads, deep gorges, and a sea of firs, spruces, and pines: The Rockies have it all. Wondering how to explore this outdoor paradise? Pick a cute, small town and set it as a base camp. Spoilt for choice? Discover below the eight cutest small towns to visit in the Rockies in 2024.

Durango, Colorado

A view of Main Avenue in Durango, featuring Strater hotel.
A view of Main Avenue in Durango, featuring Strater hotel. Image credit WorldPictures via Shutterstock

Imagine a painting of a beautiful mountain town, where sweeping plains lead up to rugged peaks, a scenic river runs through, and the downtown, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is packed with unique shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Once a dusty mining town, Durango has metamorphosed into one of the most travel-worthy destinations in the Rocky Mountains, with lots to see and do. The D&SNG Museum tells the town’s story through antique automobiles, railroad artifacts, and a Wright Brothers-style aircraft. The Durango & Silverton train ride comes with views of Colorado's mountain splendor and is a spellbinding adventure that must not be missed. The Office Spiritorium, in the historic Strater Hotel in downtown Durango, serves tongue-tingling meals and cocktails in 1890s decor. Other outdoor spots include the Animas River Trail and the San Juan National Forest, a vast and peaceful expanse of Ponderosa pines, Engelmann spruces, and Douglas firs.

Taos, New Mexico

Buildings in Taos, New Mexico
Buildings in Taos, New Mexico

In pursuit of the fabled Seven Cities of Gold, Spanish conquistadors arrived in the area where Taos is located in the middle of the 16th century. Taos would be established soon after, in 1615. Several Native American sites enjoy UNESCO World Heritage status; however, Taos Pueblo is the only one of its kind that is a living community. Pueblo Indians have lived here for more than seven centuries. Remember to request permission from members of the tribe before taking their pictures. Here is the truth: Everyone will want to visit a town that hosts more than twenty sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Then again, Taos is the headquarters of Carson National Forest, known for what could be the finest mountain scenery in the Southwest. Plus, Taos Ski Valley, the world's only Certified B Corp mountain, is a short drive from town.

Kalispell, Montana

Main Street in Kalispell, Montana.
Main Street in Kalispell, Montana.

A small but vibrant town of about 28,000 residents, Kalispell is the ultimate outdoor adventure mecca. In the town’s backyard are outdoor playgrounds, including Glacier National Park, fondly called the “Crown of the Continent,” Flathead Lake, one of the cleanest and clearest, Jewel Basin, a hiker’s dream venue, and several other shimmering water bodies. Enjoy a round of golf at the Buffalo Hill Golf Club. Amble through the Conrad Mansion or the Northwest Montana History Museum, a nice little museum located in downtown Kalispell and housed in a historic 1894 house. To rest your head for the night, book a room at the Kalispell Grand Hotel. A much-loved historic landmark, this hotel has been a staple of Kalispell since 1912.

Ouray, Colorado

Street view in Ouray, Colorado
Street view in Ouray, Colorado

While it does not get as many mentions as its next-door neighbor Telluride, Ouray is no less pretty. While someone in the northeastern corner of the country may not have heard of it, Men's Journal ranks Ouray as the number one vacation destination in the nation for 2024. Ouray features snow-capped alpine scenery and, for this reason, has been called the “Switzerland of America.” Box Cañon Falls Park defies all adjectives and would be a grave mistake to tour without a good camera. Cascade Falls Park, another stunner, greets the patient hiker with a spectacular view of the cascades and the massive pool it runs into. Also, the Gold Mountain Via Ferrata is incredibly heart-gripping. This adrenaline-heavy adventure is best crowned with a delicious meal when perched 11,000 feet at the top-rated Basecamp Ouray. For a comfortable place to rest after a memorable adventure, the Western Hotel and Spa is just off Main Street.

Telluride, Colorado

The gorgeous town of Telluride, Colorado.
The gorgeous town of Telluride, Colorado.

Telluride is a big name in the Rocky Mountain vacation circles and must be among the best towns to visit in the area. While the accommodation landscape here spans the whole gamut, the rooms at New Sheridan Hotel are cozy, well-appointed, and have noise machines to drown out street noise. The one town in the state closest to a Swiss mountain village, Telluride scores big on both sheer beauty and outdoor adventure. The trek to Bridal Veil Falls is as scenic as it can get while the Sneffels Highline Trail, with its gorgeous wildflowers, is both exerting and exciting in nearly equal measure. Telluride Historical Museum is the place to be if you want to step back in time and is known to detain history lovers for hours. Also, Telluride's via Ferrata route, while not for the faint of heart, can be a fantastic addition to a vacationer's to-do list. Kickstart your trip with a hearty breakfast at the Butcher & The Baker — then follow this up with a filling and delicious lunch at Uno Dos Tres Tacos & Tequila.

Stanley, Idaho

The gorgeous town of Stanley, Idaho.
The gorgeous town of Stanley, Idaho.

Heart-ravishing wilderness beauty pours from every corner of Central Idaho, the region where the charming town of Stanley reclines—as if oblivious to everything that goes on around it. The Salmon River meanders through the town, offering a delightful range of water-based adventure opportunities, including river rafting and fishing. A weekend stay at the Lower Stanley Motel, a lovely accommodation spot framed by the gorgeous Sawtooth Mountains, will leave one wishing they could always live here. Moreover, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, which boasts more than 300 high alpine lakes and 700 miles of picturesque trails, is a vast outdoor wonderland like no other. Whether one wants to swim, hike, bike, or just wander through the woods, the experience here is hard to beat.

Silverton, Colorado

The main street of Silverton, Colorado
The main street of Silverton, Colorado. Image credit Bob Pool via Shutterstock

Silverton is where you will be greeted with mountains everywhere you look, and just about everyone is into hiking, climbing, skiing, and other fun outdoor activities. Kendall Mountain Ski Area, conveniently located a few blocks from the main drag, is a particular favorite with skiers. Still, Brill’s Silverton Mountain, known for its untracked heliskiing runs, could be an excellent alternative. That said, Silverton is not just known for skiing. The town offers world-class ice climbing adventures, is known for one of the West's most scenic train rides, and plays host to the steep and heart-melting Ice Lake Trail—as well as the aptly named Million Dollar Highway, which takes road trippers across dangerous but incredibly scenic cliffsides. This is what you should do: Book a cozy room at the Villa Dallavalle Historic Inn and enjoy the delightful pleasures of the Rocky Mountains.

Leadville, Colorado

The gorgeous town of Leadville, Colorado.
The gorgeous town of Leadville, Colorado.

Colorado’s highest city is surrounded by Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, two of the tallest peaks in Colorado, both of which rise over 14,000 feet. Cute but deceivingly small (the population is less than 3,000), Leadville hosts the iconic Silver Dollar Saloon, an Old West watering hole once patronized by notable guests such as Oscar Wilde and Molly Brown. While the National Mining Hall of Fame & Museum should top a history buff’s list of things to do, Leadville boasts numerous historical sites, including the Tabor Home, once the residence of one of the wealthiest men in America and the founder of the Tabor Opera House, a historic theater that teems with the area’s rich history. Also, the Mineral Belt Trail offers stunning views of the Sawatch Mountains and would be a huge mistake not to explore. Grab a yummy meal at the Mountain Goat before resting for the night at the Historic Delaware Hotel, which has been welcoming guests for more than 130 years.

The Takeaway

A mind-bending expanse that features five national parks, including Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, the Rockies can make one feel like they are watching a movie. The dense forests, pristine lakes, towering peaks, and gushing waterfalls all combine to curate an unmatched outdoor adventure experience. Pick a cute, small town and set off for an adventure like no other. If you're looking for specific recommendations, check out Durango, Colorado; Taos, New Mexico; Kalispell, Montana; and Ouray, Colorado. There is no doubt these are some of the cutest towns in the Rockies.

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