Telluride, Colorado. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin /

8 Must-See Historic Towns In Colorado

Admitted to the Union in 1876, the "Centennial State" of Colorado continues to be one of the Western United States' most important economic and cultural centers. With its abundance of splendid natural geography and special frontier history, Colorado offers a trip full of rich experiences. By exploring some of Colorado's smaller historic towns, another side of the State can be appreciated, giving visitors unique insights into America's westward expansion. So, whether it is mountain vistas, small-town charm, or American history one is looking for, Colorado is the place to be. Hit the road and see these wonderful historic towns firsthand!

Estes Park

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado on a sunny day.
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado on a sunny day.

First settled back in the 1850s, the historic town of Estes Park lies at the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado. Home to a modest population of nearly 6,000 inhabitants, the locals and visitors alike can bask in some of Colorado's best mountain views while the beautiful Big Thompson River is always ready to offer fun outdoor activities. Partake in cycling and hiking, all while surrounded by nice streams, waterfalls, and lush valley scenery.

As a mid-19th and early 20th-century town, Estes Park has several historic landmarks that guests can explore. These include the renowned Stanley Hotel (completed in 1909 and included on the National Register of Historic Places) and the Baldpate Inn (1917). Add in a fine assortment of cute local shops and restaurants, and the charm of Estes Park is complete.


The historic town center of Victor, Colorado.
The historic town center of Victor, Colorado.

Once a booming gold mining town, Victor was officially founded in 1891, but today, just under 400 permanent residents call it home. While its glory days may be behind it, Victor remains a historically fascinating place for the whole family to explore. Situated adjacent to the similar mining community of Cripple Creek and on the western side of Pikes Peak, loads of intriguing historic landmarks can be appreciated here that really do create a sense of time travel.

Spend time at the Downtown Historic District and the Gold Coin Mine, where insights into the town's past and its role in the Gold Rush are highlighted. Meanwhile, buildings like the Masonic Hall and the Victor Hotel (1899) are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And do not forget about the Gold Belt Tour Scenic and Historic Byway, where a panoramic car trip and plenty of photo opportunities await!


The charming town of Telluride, Colorado.
The charming town of Telluride, Colorado.

The seat of San Miguel County, historic Telluride, was founded as a mining center in 1878. Home to a modest population of just over 2,600 inhabitants, this scenic community is situated right in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It is indeed an ideal stopover for all those looking for natural beauty and historic allure. Explore several well-preserved Victorian-style landmarks in the Historic District, which as a whole is included on the National Register of Historic Places, while browsing through the town's welcoming local eateries, boutique stores, and other galleries make it a most pleasant experience for all.

For the outdoors enthusiast, visiting Telluride would not be complete without hitting the slopes of its famed Ski Resort, while scenic hiking and biking trails and charming camping spots are always popular in the summer months. Do not forget about the Mountain Village, which, at an elevation of some 10,000 feet, offers some of Colorado's most stunning views. And, of course, in September, guests will not want to miss out on the Telluride Film Festival, where stars and filmmakers from across the globe come to town.

Glenwood Springs

Colorado River, Glenwood Springs
Colorado River flowing through Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Image credit: Steven Martin via

Glenwood Springs can trace its modern history to the 1880s, and today, this seat of Garfield Springs boasts a population of nearly 10,000. Situated in the northwestern portion of Colorado, right at the junction of the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers, many have descended on the town over the decades for its welcoming hot springs. Home to several resorts offering great access to these geothermal wonders, the spa treatment is never far away in Glenwood Springs.

Meanwhile, with such easy access to the aforementioned rivers, activities like swimming, fishing, and even whitewater rafting entertain the truly adventurous tourist. In addition, the Strawberry Days Festival in June is a can-not-miss event, where every June, the oldest continuous operating fair in the State offers tasty treats and tons of fun for the whole family!


Downtown Creede, Colorado.
Downtown Creede, Colorado. Editorial credit: Zachj6497 /

Creede was formally incorporated in 1892, and today, just over 250 people reside there permanently! Still, this seat of Mineral County remains a splendid historic destination with plenty of natural beauty to admire. Located in the San Juan Mountain Range within a former volcanic caldera, dramatic and stunning cliffs populate the landscape, making for a most special photographic experience. With loads of inviting opportunities for cycling, hiking, rock climbing, skiing, and even snowshoeing, Creede should be on the list of any traveler looking for a challenging outdoor adventure.

As a 19th-century town, guests can expect to find an assortment of buildings from the late 1800s while several fascinating museums shed light on the town and region's growth. These include the Underground Mining Museum and the Creede Historical Museum, which both celebrate the Wild West and the importance of mining to the history of Colorado and the United States.


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

The historic rail town of Durango was founded in the 1880s, and today, just over 19,000 inhabitants continue to enjoy its most unique charm. The seat of La Plata County and scenically situated along the San Juan Mountains, guests can enjoy plenty of fun outdoor activities here, perfect for the casual and ardent adventurist. These include mountain biking, hiking, and even ziplining, while at the nearby Purgatory Resort, skiing is always in demand.

Durango's storied past can be appreciated through visits to the Main Avenue Historic District, where several buildings from the 19th century are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include the Strater Hotel (1887) and the First National Bank (1892), amongst many others. And, of course, remember a most special and memorable train ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Line, which includes a stop at the nearby former mining town of Silverton.


Silverton Historic District in Silverton, Colorado.
Silverton Historic District in Silverton, Colorado. Editorial credit: Nick Fox /

Just some 48 miles north of Durango (and accessible via the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Train Line), Silverton is one of Colorado's most fascinating historic mining centers. Founded in the 1870s, this San Juan Mountain community boasts a most humble population of just over 600 permanent residents. But with its charming allure and historic significance, it surely is not a place to pass over, and, the town in its entirety was listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Surrounded by dramatic and inspiring mountain peaks (many of which reach over 13,000 feet tall), the natural beauty of Silverton is only rivaled by its special historical heritage. Though no longer an active mining center, Silverton's ambiance maintains a unique 19th-century feeling, and guests can explore a number of buildings from the era. These include the Teller House (1896), the Silverton Depot (1882), and the First Congregational Church (1870), amongst others. Add in a fine assortment of local diners, gift shops, and other galleries, and spending time in Silverton will absolutely leave a smile on one's face.


Aerial view of Ouray, Colorado.
Aerial view of Ouray, Colorado.

Formally incorporated in the 1880s, Ouray, or the "Switzerland of America" as it has been affectionately called, is a most pleasing and scenic town where Colorado's natural beauty and 19th-century history come together. Home to just under 1,000 residents, Ouray's alpine climate and stunning mountain views have made it a favorite destination for many tourists in the State. And with moderate temperatures (particularly in the summer), the town is ideal for many outdoor activities to be enjoyed in comfort.

From biking, hiking, and rock climbing, the breathtaking vistas of the San Juan Mountains never go out of style. And of course, as an 1880s town, tourists can find plenty of historic charm in Ouray as well. Visit the historical center where several Victorian-style landmarks can be found (including the old City Hall and fire station). And with the entire Main Street listed as a National Historic Landmark, all who explore Ouray may surely feel a feeling of time travel.

One of the Western United States' most important geographic, cultural, and historical centers, the "Centennial State" of Colorado has long been a popular place for tourists to discover. And with so much natural beauty and fascinating history to get acquainted with, it is not difficult to see why. While major urban centers like Denver still attract much attention, many of Colorado's smaller historic towns are worthy of appreciation. From the gold mining streets of Victor to the rail town of Durango, these and other charming historic Colorado towns effectively showcase another side of the State that is not always adequately valued. So come visit Colorado and see these wonderful historic towns, where the best in the State's natural beauty meets with some of the best in American history.

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