The 11 Best Colorado Mountain Towns To Visit

Known for the mountain ranges, Colorado is one of the most scenic states in the United States. These mountain towns with year-round opportunities in the mountains offer the best wholesome experiences for family, a group of friends, or some solitude time in nature alone with vistas.

Aspen

Skiing in Aspen, Colorado
Skiing in Aspen, Colorado. 

A winter sports mecca, Aspen is nestled in the heart of the White River National Forest in the surroundings of the Elk Mountains, as the hotbed for outdoor activities, world-class skiing, and snowboarding. The après-ski scene and fine-dining experience in its unique historic downtown are legendary, as is the Aspen Film Festival and concert series during summer. The event brings together classical musicians, classes, and programs in one massive celebration giving Aspen a feel of a live music mecca. The historical past and vibrant nightlife also combine for the real-deal attraction of the evening ghost tours that explore some of the area's haunted attractions. On the other hand, Aspen comprises the secluded getaway that many seek, with celebrity sightings not uncommon, and as the best wholesome experience in the mountains of Colorado. 

Breckenridge

Aerial view of Breckenridge, Colorado
Aerial view of the famous ski resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado. 

Having begun as a mining community in 1859, Breckenridge today is an absolute classic town base for skiing in the Colorado Mountains with excellent ski runs and back bowls. A favorite destination for other outdoor recreation options makes it a true playground for outdoor enthusiasts, including myriads of trails for varied and long hikes during summer. For the extreme seekers, there are "fourteeners," comprising hikes that take one to the enticing altitude of 14,000 feet. The downtown, lined with shops and numerous art galleries spotted in-between with breweries, wineries, and dining options offering fantastic nightlife, also comes with a funky and beloved art district.

Crested Butte

Aerial view of Crested Butte in peak autumn
Aerial view of the popular ski town of Crested Butte, Colorado in peak autumn colors. 

A town with a real-hip flair and history in mining, Crested Butte shines through the Colorado Mountains as one of the region's most notable and best towns. Despite taking a long drive to reach, it is widely known as one of the "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The off-the-beaten-path location only works for the town, making it a favorite secret gem for many. The abundant outdoor activities come with beautiful vistas, while the downtown brims with the Old West charm. Set at the base of the majestic Rockies, it makes the town a top spot for exploring outings on foot, mountain bike, or skis, with some excellent downhill skiing during winter. One's visit would not be complete without the Taylor Canyon and the adrenaline-infused white-water rafting experience between Gunnison and Crested Butte.

Estes Park

Historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado
Located in Estes Park, Colorado, the historic Stanley Hotel is at the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Estes Park offers access to some of the best hikes at the Rocky Mountain National Park, including Emerald Lake, Sky Pond, as well as the epic challenges of the Longs Peak and the incredible Prospect Mountain. The town's Lily Lake is an especially beloved spot for hiking and picnics during autumn when the aspen foliage around turns to gold. The mountain vistas make camping the most demanded way to stay in town, with all spots often reserved ahead. The spooky Stanley Hotel that inspired Stephen King's, The Shining, is also open to guests. The welcoming atmosphere of the Bird & Jim restaurant, complete with "modern mountain cuisine," an extensive wine list, and intriguing cocktails, offer an unforgettable evening spent, while the Rock Inn Mountain Tavern comes with drinks and live music. There are also the Snowy Peaks Winery, the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, and the Estes Park Aerial Tramway for more scenic outings. 

Glenwood Springs

Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. 

One of the most famous getaways for the state's city dwellers, Glenwood Springs' hot springs and hiking at the Hanging Lake are the highly demanded activities in the region. The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is a mecca for the thrill- and sightseeing-seekers, posing as a one-of-a-kind gem with spectacular mineral formations made of the most beautiful crystals and rocks in Colorado. The Alpine Coaster, Cliffhanger Roller Coaster, Soaring Eagle Zip Ride, and the fearsome Giant Canyon Swing are all part of the deal. There's hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and paragliding for the outdoor aficionados, while the Hanging Lake features turquoise water under a majestic waterfall, drawing hikers for explorations and picnics. The Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is known for the Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves as a natural treatment of geothermal steam bath relief, also coming with two large outdoor pools and two giant water slides.  

Leadville

Snowcats and their operators gathering for the annual Snowcat Jamboree in Leadville, Colorado
Snowcats and their operators gathering for the annual Snowcat Jamboree in Leadville, Colorado. Editorial credit: Zachj6497 / Shutterstock.com

Leadville's classic small mountain town comprises a getaway void of crowds while holding the record as the highest incorporated city in America for real high-altitude life or visit. Its major mining community past can be discovered at one of the eight museums in town, including the Leadville National Mining Hall of Fame Museum, the Heritage Museum, and the Healy House Museum. There are also 50 historic structures sprinkled throughout town to scavenge for as a varied pastime. Promoting a laidback lifestyle for those tired of the hustle-n-bustle of the city, the plethora of art galleries, restaurants, and breweries in-town, are only outshined by the vast national forest and public lands around for scenic escapes.

Ouray

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

Being hailed the "Switzerland of America" makes it enough to make one want to check out what Ouray is all about. A south-bound getaway to the heart of the snow-capped San Juan Mountains, Ouray comes with natural hot springs and beautiful waterfalls for an ultimate getaway throughout the year. Visitors also come for the wildflowers native to the region, with various hikes to discover some of the best natural "rugs" in bloom. As another gold and silver mining town of the past, the Bachelor Syracuse Mine showcases a miner's life back in the day. There are also vapor caves to cleanse and lift one's spirits, or the town's main strip with shopping, as well as the historical and ghost tours.

Salida

A small town with a big personality, Salida is all charm, having been found right in the "true heart of the Rocky Mountains," according to the locals, back in the late 1800s. An incredibly historic town, many of its downtown buildings are nationally recognized as historical spots, with some local housing stores to get an inside perspective on history. The Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center is a real treat for the whole family, featuring pools that are fed by the adjacent hot springs, along with indoor waterfalls. The center of the town provides a clear view of the Tenderfoot Mountain, adorned with a large "S," for Salida, on the side, which visitors can spot from one of the excellent restaurants during a meal. The Arkansas Whitewater Recreation Area offers fun rapids for the brave-hearted, while the famous Colorado trail is open for through-hiking, where one can follow the path with beautiful vistas for weeks.

Steamboat Springs

Aerial view of Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Aerial view of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. 

Known for its Wild West roots, Steamboat Springs is also one of the state's most popular skiing and snowboarding destinations. Set on hilly slopes near the Yampa River, summertime activities offer vast hiking opportunities with campgrounds to take in the beautiful mountain scenes during the day, and the atmosphere, in the nighttime. The river provides excellent white-water rafting and tubing, while the famed springs at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs offer an intimate, authentic, and healing springs experience. The yearly Hot Air Balloon Rodeo and Art in the Park festival held in late June or early July features countless balloons, with some shaped like cowboys, turkeys, and more, for a wholesome family or fun time with friends.

Telluride

A view of downtown Telluride in Spring
A view of downtown Telluride in Spring. 

Telluride is a quintessential mountain town experience set in the former mining region full of historic buildings from Colorado's Old West era. A known hub for artists, athletes, and adventure seekers, the town is tucked away in an isolated box canyon as a secluded getaway to engage in one's favorite pastime while leaving the city life out of sight and out of mind. Surrounded by steep forested peaks, there are many hikes in the area, including the Bridal Veil Falls, which is the longest free-falling waterfall in the state. The ski gondola takes one up the mountain during summer to view the town without lifting a finger or further to the top to see all of the San Juan Mountains. Summertime's many unique festivals include the annual Bluegrass Festival in June, with bluegrass bands coming to the town's outdoor amphitheater for some fun in the sun.

Vail

Aerial view of Vail, Colorado
Aerial view of Vail, Colorado. 

Built as a wintertime skiing destination in 1962, Vail's ski resort is known by many, who still don't realize its sprawling ski area. The Vail Valley also teems with greenery and wildflowers during summer. With accommodations more affordable and fewer crowds on the streets, one can admire all of the town's original and most iconic buildings, such as the Gasthof Gramshammer (aka Pepi's), pulsating with authentic European charm, without the rush. The Bol is beloved for bowling and the eclectic menu of seasonally fresh popular foods, while the Vail Brewing Co. is home to some of the best brews in the Rockies. The Gore Creek is surrounded by rocks that are perfect for meditating on, to the sounds of nature and with sights around, while the Berry Picker Trail weaves its way through the lush pine forests for a great hike. In-town, there is the Vail Farmers Market & Art Show, as well as the Hot Summer Nights free concert series every Tuesday evening at the acoustics-rich mountainside Gerald Ford Amphitheater. 

The most scenic escapes in the nation can be attained by visiting one of these best Colorado mountain towns. Coming with the freshest mountain air, healing springs, and endless vistas for some eye-rest, these all-inclusive getaways offer one to recharge and reset.

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