The gorgeous town of Telluride, Colorado.

8 Of The Most Charming Small Towns To Visit In Colorado

Located within the Rocky Mountains, Colorado is home to rugged terrain, western history, and charming small towns. These towns provide a glimpse into the state’s mining past, vibrant art communities, and scenic wonders. From the northern town of Steamboat Springs, which boasts world-class skiing in the winter, to the Four Corners town of Cortez with its ancient cliff dwellings, Colorado’s charming towns provide memorable adventures. Whether enjoying the renowned Telluride Film Festival or unwinding in the hot springs in Ouray, these charming small towns in Colorado are worth a visit.


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

Tucked away in a box canyon among the majestic peaks of the San Juan Mountains, Telluride is renowned for its outdoor adventures and breathtaking alpine scenery. In the winter, the town provides world-class skiing opportunities at Telluride Ski Resort. During warmer months, enjoy scenic views while hiking and mountain biking on 30 trails in the mountain town, including along the serene San Miguel River. A great way to connect with nature in Telluride is to take the Bridal Veil Falls Trail. The 2-hour hike provides magnificent views of the 365-foot Bridal Veil Falls, the tallest free-falling waterfall in Colorado.

Along with its stunning natural beauty, Telluride is also known for its eclectic arts scene in the Telluride Arts District. The district is home to Gold Mountain Gallery, featuring local photographs and handmade jewelry, and Lustre Gallery, showcasing art inspired by nature. Art lovers and film enthusiasts alike enjoy attending the annual Telluride Film Festival. Held each year during Labor Day weekend, visitors can experience one of the premiere film festivals in the country.


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

Durango is a picturesque town located in the Animas River Valley, offering incredible scenic views, outdoor adventures, and a downtown area with historic buildings. The town is famous for the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a historic steam train that follows the original 1882 line from Durango to Silverton. The trip offers stunning views of the San Juan National Forest as riders are taken into the Rocky Mountains. Before or after the enchanting ride, stop by the free Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Museum to learn more about the history of transportation, railroads, and mining. The town’s mining history, along with a look at cowboys, settlers, and Native Americans, is also on display at the Animas Museum, located in a former Animas city school building from 1904.

With its proximity to the San Juan National Forest, the Durango is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The 1.8 million-acre national forest offers incredible outdoor adventures, such as hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and horseback riding through high desert mesas, alpine peaks, and scenic meadows. Nature lovers can also explore the 44-acre Oxbow Park & Preserve, with access to the Animas River and several walking trails.


Cortez, Colorado, is located in the Four Corners region
Cortez, Colorado, is located in the Four Corners region.

The charming town of Cortez, situated in the Four Corners region, is rich in history and outdoor adventures. Located near the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park, visitors can view ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings and archaeological sites that are more than 700 years old. The park offers scenic hiking trails, ruins to explore, and the history of Native Americans at the Anasazi Heritage Museum. For even more incredible natural beauty, take a scenic drive to McElmo Canyon. The canyon offers incredible birding opportunities in a riparian zone, as well as access to the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The monument showcases ancient sites of the Ancestral Puebloan cultures, such as great kivas, cliff dwellings, and petroglyphs.

The town itself has a rich Native American heritage and offers museums and cultural attractions showcasing the region's history. The Montezuma Heritage Museum shares the history of Indigenous people and early settlers in the region. Visitors can also experience history, art, and culture at the Cortez Cultural Center, located in the 1909 historic E.R. Lamb Building. The center hosts the annual Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival in May and Native American dances in the summer.


Welcome to Gunnison sign at Gunnison, Colorado.
Welcome to Gunnison sign at Gunnison, Colorado. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin /

Surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains, Gunnison is a picturesque town known for its outdoor recreational opportunities. A gateway to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy exploring the park’s deep canyons on the park’s hiking trails, fishing in the Gunnison River, and taking scenic drives along the gorge’s rim. More outdoor adventures await at Curecanti National Recreation Area. The area features three reservoirs where water enthusiasts can kayak, boat, fish, and windsurf. Surrounding the reservoirs are seven stunning hiking trails through pine forests, vistas, and water cascades.

Beyond its natural beauty, the town is steeped in westward expansion history, which is on display at the Gunnison Pioneer Museum. The museum also features the town’s railroad history and an engine from 1882, Cinder Ella. For a modern-day Western experience, enjoy the live country and bluegrass music at I Bar Ranch, a westward heritage event center. The center has converted a hay barn into a stay with musical and other events throughout the spring and summer.


Aerial view of Salida, Colorado
Aerial view of Salida, Colorado.

The charming mountain town of Salida is tucked away in the Arkansas River Valley and is known for its vibrant arts community and outdoor recreation. The downtown area is lined with historic buildings housing art galleries and shops, making up the state’s largest historic district. The town is also a Certified Creative District, boasting more than a dozen galleries in its charming downtown. The Bork and Watkins Studio Gallery features local paintings, while the Green Cat Gallery showcases glasswork, prints, paintings, and sculptures in one of the town’s oldest art galleries. The area is also home to the Museum of Authenticity, a unique art and culture museum with works by artists from Colorado and New Mexico.

Along with its eclectic arts scene, Salida is renowned for its outdoor adventures. The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area is based along the Arkansas River in Salida, one of the country’s best places to whitewater raft and kayak. The area is also a great spot for hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing, with scenic views of the mountains, deep canyons, and the river. The town also serves as a gateway to the San Isabel National Forest, where outdoor enthusiasts can hike, horseback ride, and zipline through short grass prairies and alpine forests.


The beautiful mountain town of Ouray, Colorado
The beautiful mountain town of Ouray, Colorado.

Known as the "Switzerland of America," Ouray is a high alpine town surrounded by rugged mountains and natural hot springs. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy exploring the San Juan Mountains, which offer miles of hiking trails, horseback riding adventures, and world-class rock climbing. A must-see in Ouray is the Box Cañon Falls Park & Nature Center. Visitors can take the 500-foot walk into the plummeting waterfalls and hike along three trails.

After a scenic outdoor adventure, one of the best ways to unwind is in one of the many hot springs in Ouray. The Ouray Hot Springs Pool is open to the public year-round with several pools, including one that reaches 106 degrees. In town, visitors can also explore the region’s mining history at the Ouray County Historical Museum. Housed in the former St. Joseph's Miners' Hospital from 1886, history buffs can explore the mining, ranching, and railroad history of the region.


Aerial View of Creede, Colorado in Winter
Aerial View of Creede, Colorado, in winter.

Situated along the Rio Grande River is Creede, a historic mining town known for its stunning scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities. The town boasts incredible hiking adventures, such as hiking along the Continental Divide Trail and Deep Creek Trail, which offers hiking up a canyon with views of beaver ponds and stunning meadows. The nearby San Juan National Forest is also a great spot to hike, bike, and ride on horseback.

Along with its natural beauty, Creede showcases its western heritage and mining history that began in 1889 with the discovery of silver in town. Visitors can take a guided tour led by retired miners at the Underground Mining Museum to learn more about the rich mining history in Creede. History buffs can also experience what it is like to be underground at Last Chance Mine. Through guided tours, visitors to the mine can view the Amethyst Vein, which contains amethyst, sowbelly agate, and silver.

Steamboat Springs

Main street in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Main Street in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Image credit: Tupungato -

Outdoor adventure meets small-town charm in the northern Colorado town of Steamboat Springs. Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the town is renowned for its skiing and winter sports. Visitors enjoy cold-weather adventures at Howelsen Hill, the oldest continuously run ski area in Colorado. Steamboat Ski and Resort also offers incredible skiing and snowboarding opportunities on diverse terrain and 165 trails. In the summer, water enthusiasts enjoy exploring the town’s surrounding parks, such as Steamboat Lake, Pearl Lake, and the Stagecoach Reservoir. More outdoor adventures await at Fish Creek Falls, where hikers can view the 280-foot waterfall in Fish Creek Canyon.

In town, visitors can explore the boutique shops and art galleries near the scenic Yampa River. Art lovers can explore the Steamboat Art Museum, featuring works by local artists that showcase the state’s Western heritage. Steamboat Springs also offers a self-guided walking tour of the 19 murals displayed on buildings and walls around town. Since the Steamboat Springs Mural Tour is easily accessible by car, foot, or bike, it is a great way to see the historic town.

Exploring Colorado’s Charming Towns

These eight towns in Colorado blend western history with small-town charm and natural beauty. The state offers incredible hiking trails, such as the Continental Divide Trail in Creede and adventurous whitewater rafting in the Arkansas River in Salida. Whether leisurely strolling the streets of Steamboat Springs to view the town's public murals or exploring the deep canyons surrounding Gunnison, these charming small towns in Colorado provide an unforgettable escape for all visitors.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 8 Of The Most Charming Small Towns To Visit In Colorado

More in Places