Waterton, Alberta - July 9, 2021: Views of the main street in Waterton Alberta

9 Most Beautiful Small Towns in the Rockies You Should Visit

The spectacular North American range of the Rocky Mountains, home to some of the continent's highest peaks, stretches for over 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) in length and up to 300 miles (480 kilometers) in width. Once posing great challenges for the explorers and settlers, the Rockies are an adventurer's dreamscape today and a playground for all the naturalists to immerse themselves in scenic pursuits.

The blessed states that call parts of the Rockies home include Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, as well as an extensive portion of the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Visit one of these most beautiful Rocky Mountain towns in both countries and many in Colorado, home to Mount Elbert, the highest peak at 14,433 feet (4,399 meters).

Breckenridge, Colorado

The ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado.
The ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado.

The most popular town for skiing in the state, Breckenridge, even steals the spotlight from Vail. Not just for the wintertime favorite pastime either; once you hit up Breckenridge's Ski Resort, one of the most visited in the Western Hemisphere, you will be hankering to return in your next imminent time off work. Breckenridge, a real pro at greeting tourists, astounds with attractions for all needs against a spectacular backdrop.

Come in the summer for hiking along perfect trails for all levels, including the wildflower meadows along the Blue River, one of its most scenically demanding sights. The mountain town stuns with an unreplicable, sky-high atmosphere through the glorious downtown area. From its origins in mining to modern-day fun and relaxation amid the seductive remnants of the log and clapboard-fronted buildings, you can stroll back in time to the late 19th century, the era of its prospector-born wealth.

Creede, Colorado

Main street in Creede, Colorado
Main street in Creede, Colorado

Born out of the silver boom in the late 1880s, this stunner of the Rockies at the eastern end of the San Juan Mountains is unlike any other town around as a historic volcanic caldera. Set stunningly wedged in between sheer cliffs, it is a real experience to discover all the sights and pursuits along the stunted downtown's growth, with a concentration of something for everyone. Find authentic 19th-century buildings housing all your shopping needs and dining galore, as well as hotels for every budget.

A wealth of recreational opportunities await beyond, with everything from hiking, climbing, and biking to rafting, kayaking, and four-wheeling through the surrounding breathtaking scenery. For a punch of history, tour the great Underground Mining Museum and Creede Historical Museum. Once home to only 600 and booming to over 10,000 in two years with gold diggers, Creede’s deflated population boasts under 300 along with fantastic popularity among filmmakers. Enjoy the real small town atmosphere at the high elevation in the mountains—the scenery from the 1976 John Wayne film The Shootist and The Lone Ranger, filmed here in 2013.

Crested Butte, Colorado

Village town of Mt Crested Butte Resort in summer with colorful grass and wooden lodging houses on hills with green trees
Village town of Mt Crested Butte Resort in summer with colorful grass and wooden lodging houses on hills with green trees

This glorious mining town in Colorado boomed from coal and silver into a booming outdoor destination with adventuring for every taste. Immerse yourself in its literally rich history through sights along the streets and venture to the wild side of the stunningly beautiful East River Valley beneath the Rockies. As a real deal playground throughout the year, there's no wrong time to visit, just 4 hours from Denver, with stunning scenery no matter the weather outside.

Come this fall for some of the Rockies' best foliage, decorating the Victorian galore in its National Historic District and the surrounding nature bursting with color, while the summer gives the town its scenically telling moniker, the "wildflower capital of Colorado." Crested Butte’s highly strollable downtown with its majestic backdrop is a dream for photographers and history fans. Tackle the surrounding landscape with hiking, skiing, mountain biking, and climbing, and try to keep your eyes on the road while driving along the western West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway.

Estes Park, Colorado

The mountains in Estes Park, Colorado.
The mountains in Estes Park, Colorado.

Estes Park, the "central command" for Rocky Mountain National Park, is the ultimate outdoor retreat for every taste, year round. From wintertime skiing to summertime hikes, you can enjoy historic sights and nature anytime through the changing foliage. Take a tour of the notable Stanley Hotel, the Edwardian icon from 1909 that inspired Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel from The Shining.

Just an hour and thirty minutes of scenic driving from Denver into the lush Rocky Mountains embrace, the famous mountain town greets you with lakes, nearby rivers, and a spanning forested valley. While the summer remains the most popular time among tourists due to work and school vacations, visit now for the most spectacular gift you can give yourself amid the vibrantly colored foliage and the most haunted hotel in time for Halloween.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

The town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in summer.
The town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in summer.

The historic town of Glenwood Springs at the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers is like a dialed-down Vail resort town that gets overrun just enough to stay lively while still offering that respite you desire. This, Garfield County's seat and its most populous town, is a hot springs destination in West Colorado. Visit the small town anytime to soak in the good vibes and benefits of the mineral waters with restorative powers, or plan a wintertime skiing trip with snow fun for everyone at the spectacular Sunlight Mountain Resort.

Glenwood Springs swarms in the warmer months with a fantastic boardwalk scene for hikes and sunset strolls along the picturesque Hanging Lake. Start your morning here with a cup of coffee to relax, steps away from the best thrills in nature like paragliding, rafting, and scenic fishing. Enjoy the famous hot-spring amenities, Gold Medal fishing, or a laidback bike ride along the river trails. As the "Most Vibrant Small Town Arts Environment in the United States" in 2015, Glenwood Springs' leveled-up downtown area offers even more cultural sights, food, and drinks!

Jasper, Alberta

Street view in Jasper, Alberta, via Shawn.ccf / Shutterstock.com
Street view in Jasper, Alberta, via Shawn.ccf / Shutterstock.com

This magical town, the star of Game of Thrones, at the crossroads of the majestic Canadian Rockies offers mountainous wilderness like you have never encountered. Just head north of Banff, or some four and a half hours from Calgary, and four hours via regular buses from Edmosnton, the cheapest way, for the untouched natural beauty. From great bucks wandering along the road to the brilliantly green northern lights in the night sky, you will enter a whole other realm in the surroundings of deep blue mountain lakes. Immerse yourself in this pristine environment with low crowds and a small but active local population to join their Wild Side through unforgettable adventures.

Equipped with everything you need to stay comfortable, you can explore for days and still have boundless natural ways to uncover. From climbing the icy, frozen canyons to traversing magnificent glaciers, you can also simply relax while letting the atmosphere soak into your every pore. Hop on the Jasper Skytram for easy, breath-taking views. Breathe like you've never breathed before over mountaintop yoga or take a raft ride beneath refreshing waterfalls—Jasper is up for the challenge! Are you?

Ouray, Colorado

The mountain town of Ouray in Colorado.
The mountain town of Ouray in Colorado.

Unlike any other town in the state except for the same stunning alpine environment of the Rockies, Ouray, the heart of the San Juan Mountains, is also the "Switzerland of America". Needless to say, Ouray boasts popularity among sightseers, nature lovers, and culture fans looking for unique things to do with the best views. Visit the small town for hot and chill pursuits anytime, like the renowned ice climbing at Ouray Ice Park with other world-wide visitors for this attraction. Hike the spectacular Box Canyon Falls Park, bursting with scenery through the fall as an all-season wonder with stunning foliage and refreshing waterfalls.

This tiny town is a mecca magnet for awe-inspiring mountain vistas and a world-wide destination for its head-spinning Ice Park, an icy canyon to test your metal. Come for the lush greenery in the summer months—a perfect time to soak in the town's natural hot springs, soaking up the scenery and sun. Enjoy easy access to its remote locale, surrounded by jagged snow-capped peaks and steep valley walls, from Telluride, another town worth visiting on your Rockies road trip, or drive 6 hours from Denver.

Telluride, Colorado

Historic architecture on the main street of Telluride, Colorado. Image credit Kristi Blokhin via Shutterstock
Historic architecture on the main street of Telluride, Colorado. Image credit Kristi Blokhin via Shutterstock

When we said that Telluride is really worth a visit when in the Rockies, that was an understatement. This small town boasts mecca popularity as a real-deal Main Street town of the range, with a whole 80 acres in the Downtown strewn with history from its former silver mining camp days. Now a cultural hub for the region, you can feast on eye-candy sights, delicious food, and fine boutiques for all you shopaholics. Feel the embrace of the warm ambiance here, awash with historic buildings from the 19th-century mining boom in the area.

Come in the wintertime for an unforgettable vibe and scenery with the best cheer and shopping through the holidays in downtown with easy access to some of the best skiing in the state—just a gondola ride away to the Telluride Ski Resort. Despite being six hours southwest of Denver, Telluride is popular year-round with scenic drives, hiking trails, and your favorite recreational pursuits once you reach the famed Bridal Veil Falls, like picnics and photoshoots. Soak up the unreal scenery via an aerial tram through the canyon for panoramic landscape vistas and old mining settlements dotting the hills.

Waterton, Alberta

Waterton, Alberta - July 9, 2021: RCMP station in Waterton Alberta, via Todamo / Shutterstock.com
Waterton, Alberta: RCMP station in Waterton Alberta, via Todamo / Shutterstock.com

The historic town of Waterton in Alberta, straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie, is a place of natural wonder in its own right where tourists travel from near and far to connect profoundly with the people's culture and nature of the region, which are deeply intertwined. Immerse yourself in the slower pace and go with the flow while exploring in and around the Rocky Mountain wildlife, with sights guiding you through activities. With no malls here, you get some top-notch restaurants for fine dining, including amazing seafood, excellent local shopping, and cozy stays.

Get a real respite from everything you know about the city in Waterton. This town transports you back to a simpler time while you interact with globetrotters, friendly locals, and captivating nature all around. Enjoy the small-town atmosphere that never gets too crowded, even with over 400,000 annual visitors, and reconnect with Mother Nature in your close group. Waterton Park is a real Canadian treasure cove strewn with natural gems to discover through many nooks and crannies to find your perfect secret hideaway to relax and take it all in.

Occupied by people for over 12,000 years and explored by Europeans, the Rockies today warmly welcome families, friends on a road trip, and romantic escapees. The Rocky Mountains are home to former mining and timber industry towns, now exposing their deeply historic hearts, strewn with modern-day attractions and forested surroundings.

Breathe the fresh alpine air mixed with pine scent and relax or work off the energy along some of the trails with birding and wildlife sightings like golden eagles and grizzly bears. Housing spectacular scenery are the National parks of the region, like Yellowstone, Jasper, Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay, while the range offers a destination for winter sports with plentiful skiing resorts.

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