Aerial view of Glenwood Springs, a community in the mountains where two rivers meet.

Colorado's 7 Most Underrated Towns to Visit in 2024

Colorado is an iconic representation of dramatic natural scenery in the United States, largely due to the presence of the impressive Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding mountain ranges of the infamous Rockies. However, given the spectacular stature of incredible national attractions in Colorado, some small towns fall through the cracks of popular opinion. Whether looking for underappreciated adventure in towns like Durango or the unique appeal of the Ice Cave in Ouray, every traveler can find some of the best-hidden gems in the United States in this list of Colorado's seven most underrated towns to visit in 2024. 

Glenwood Springs

A historic street in Glenwood Springs.
A historic street in Glenwood Springs. Image credit Kristi Blokhin via Shutterstock.

For a small town statute, Glenwood Springs has a bursting abundance of activity. Its principal attraction is the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, complete with a full-sized lounge and athletic club, beautifully accented by the rugged Rocky Mountain ranges, specifically the peaks of Lookout Mountain and Stormy King Mountain. Doc Holliday's Grave Trailhead is the most underappreciated attraction in this secluded town, made unique by surprise prayer flags and a general sentiment of rough Old West intrigue that complements expansive mountain views and low-lying greenery. Conversely, the most popular attraction here is the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, which holds dramatic amusement rides and impressive sculptures. Winter visitors should try to visit in late 2024 to witness the historic Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony. 


Main Street in Durango. Image credit WorldPictures via Shutterstock.
Main Street in Durango. Image credit WorldPictures via Shutterstock.

Durango is an underrated small town because of its inherent duality: the town unofficially connects the ending of the lush, forested beauty of the mountain ranges in the San Juan National Forest to the dramatically barren and rugged Colorado Plateau region, capitalized by the nearby Mesa Verde National Park. The shift between these two ecosystems is symbolized by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad that travels through Colorado valleys, which is made even more inspiring by the red and yellow colors of the fall season. Another underappreciated aspect of Durango's attraction is the unique natural formations and geologic colors popularly experienced on the Colorado Trail Trailhead. There are headline attractions like Durango Adventures and Zipline Tours or the family-friendly Powerhouse Museum. Visit Durango in April to hear the renowned artists showcased in the 2024 Durango Bluegrass Meltdown. 


Mount Sopris view from Mushroom Rock, Carbondale, Colorado.
Mount Sopris view from Mushroom Rock, Carbondale, Colorado. 

The dispersing waters of the Roaring Fork River uniquely define Carbondale. This diverging stream creates fantastic natural scenery throughout town, most notably at the Carbondale Scenic Viewpoint that overlooks the impressive Mount Sopris. There are also undertones of the rugged Colorado Plateau in Carbondale, best experienced through the network of trails on Red Hill that leads to the Mushroom Rock Hike. However, arguably, the most tranquil and underappreciated scenery in Carbondale is accessible from the Carbondale Nature Park, where overgrown natural pastures accent small barn houses against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. For a unique Colorado experience for natural enthusiasts who embrace the rugged scenery, stay at The Diamond Arrow dude ranch. 

Estes Park

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

Estes Park is a picturesque mountain getaway that is less traveled because of its lack of ski resorts, making it an ideal destination for visitors seeking a secluded town within dramatic Rocky Mountain wilderness. Activity in this town is centered around Lake Estes and the Lake Estes Trail, often complemented by visits to the Estes Park Museum and the Estes Memorial Park Observatory. The outdoor enthusiasts who wish to evade the crowds at the renowned Rocky Mountain National Park can instead adventure across the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead towards the beautiful Gem Lake, a small haven popular for relaxing swims. Or, those more ambitious outdoor explorers can continue their trek through the open fields of Cow Creek Trailhead. Visitors should plan to travel to Estes Park by car on the popularly recommended Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. One of the signature events to come in 2024 is the Wool Market, which will be held in early June to promote local natural animal fiber producers and products. 


Ouray, Colorado, is a tourist mountain town with a Hot Springs Aquatic Center.
Ouray, Colorado, is a tourist mountain town with a Hot Springs Aquatic Center. 

Ouray's appeal as a small-town getaway destination is often misguided because of the common traveler's lack of research. Seasoned visitors, however, understand that Ouray's strength shines brightest in the winter season because of the unique Ouray Ice Park, home to extreme outdoor explorers who value the special opportunity for rope-and-axe ice climbing in this spectacular natural gorge from mid-December to late March. Travelers can witness the full spectacle at the 2024 Ouray Ice Festival and Competition. Still, summer travelers can enjoy other underrated attractions by hiking through the mystic waterfalls of Cascade Falls Park or by enjoying the carved rocks of the Baby Bathtubs Trail. The most popular outdoor attraction in Ouray, for good reason, is the Box Cañon Falls Park, featuring its hallmark 85-foot waterfall. 

Steamboat Springs

Valley in Steamboat Springs Colorado. Destination for both Summer and Winter tourism activities.
Valley in Steamboat Springs Colorado. Destination for both Summer and Winter tourism activities.

There are multitudes of untapped experiences in Steamboat Springs. While most travelers come here to enjoy the expansive slopes of the busy Steamboat Ski Resort, visitors should also appreciate the underrated Howelsen Hill Ski Area, the state's oldest continuously operating ski area. Another notable outdoor experience that falls under the radar here is the Spring Creek Trailhead, featuring wide paths through tall birch trees made a beautiful yellow and red in the fall season. Otherwise, outdoor explorers can partially trek Buffalo Mountain to the serene waters of the Upper Fish Falls. Those who don't mind moderate crowds, however, can remain with the popular foot trails of the Yampa River Botanic Park that hosts weekly concerts between May and October 2024. 

Grand Lake

Paddle boarding in the Grand Lake, Colorado.
Paddleboarding in the Grand Lake, Colorado. Image credit Markel Echaburu Bilbao via Shutterstock.

Grand Lake is a fantastic destination for short-term visitors because of its location aside from the Rocky Mountain National Park Scenic Byway of Trail Ridge Road. While it is popular to use this small town as a stepping stone toward the neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park, the town's offerings should garner more attention. Travelers must take time to experience the view from the underrated Point Park that looks over Grand Lake towards Longs Peak and The Sharkstooth in the distance. An even lesser known but equally essential attraction may be the recluded waters of Adams Falls accessible from the East Inlet Trailhead or the North Inlet Trailhead that follows up Tonahutu Creek to the remote Summerland Park campground. Winter visitors should be sure to check out the family-friendly Winter Festival in 2024, headlined by bed-sled racing. 

Between Colorado's tall and dramatic mountain ranges lie underrated small towns that are as impressive as they are surprising. From the hidden swimming havens found around Estes Park, to the rugged red rocks surrounding Carbondale's Nature Park like Mount Sopris, to unique cultural attractions like Doc Holliday's Grave Trailhead in Glenwood Springs, every traveler can find the ideal secluded getaway in 2024 between these seven underrated small towns in Colorado. 

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