Busy day on Main Street, Colorado Avenue, in downtown Telluride, Colorado. Editorial credit: Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com

The Most Picturesque Small Towns In Colorado

Colorado is one of the Mountain States in the Western United States, featuring the Rocky Mountain range, the Colorado Plateau, and the Great Plains. Even as these incredible natural features adorn the landscape, others like rivers, forests, mesas, canyons, lakes, and valleys also combine to paint the state in picturesque natural beauty. There is no better place to witness all that breathtaking scenery than the numerous towns spread out across the Centennial State.

Besides being endowed and surrounded by so many iconic natural features, these towns amplify their glamour with colorful downtowns decorated by impressive architecture and buzzing with activity. Whether you are visiting in summer, fall, winter, or spring, these picturesque Colorado towns will surely leave you longing for more.


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

Vail is an adorable town that promises to captivate every visitor with the intimidating frame of Vail Mountain. The mountain is home to Vail Ski Resort, the largest ski mountain in the state and a haven for skiing enthusiasts in winter. Also, Vail has the scenic Gore Creek slicing through it from east to west, making it more gorgeous. Additionally, Vail features one of the world’s highest botanical gardens - Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, located at an altitude of 8,200 feet in the Rocky Mountains. Visitors can explore this garden to see around 2,000 varieties of plants, including wildflowers and alpine plants.

After exploring the garden, head to Ford Park to relax, stroll around, see movies at an open-air theater, and admire its many sculptures. Afterward, hikers can take on some top trails like Lost Lake Trail (3.73 miles) and Meadow Mountain (4.6 miles), while laid-back visitors can head to the scenic gondola that rises above 10,000 feet and features magical views of the Vail Valley.


Creede, Colorado, nestled amid the San Juan Mountains
Creede, Colorado, nestled amid the San Juan Mountains.

Creede is one of the smallest towns in Colorado, with just below 300 people. But what it lacks in size and number is duly compensated for in breathtaking scenic beauty. For instance, while the dramatic San Juan Mountains dominate the landscape, the Rio Grande River flows through it, creating a postcard-perfect spot for nature photography, rafting, and fishing. For history buffs strolling through the downtown, stop at the Creede Historical Museum to immerse in the glory of the town’s yesteryears. At the museum, grab a self-guided tour booklet of the town's historic district and explore the unique spot.

Creede also features Pillars of Hercules, a series of dramatic cliffs rising 1,000 feet to the skies, setting a charming backdrop for photography buffs. Elsewhere, the beauty of the great outdoors shines at the nearby Silver Thread Scenic Byway as it winds through the San Juan Mountains. On the highway, stop at North Clear Creek Falls and relish the dazzling beauty of this waterfall.


The Arkansas River flowing by Salida, Colorado
The Arkansas River flowing by Salida, Colorado.

Salida is a pretty town in Chaffee County featuring an abundance of natural endowments. First off, the scenic Arkansas River runs through the town, while the Sawatch and Mosquito Mountain Ranges dominate its skyline. Visitors can adore the charming Arkansas River from its riverwalk or get into the water for tubing, whitewater rafting, floating, swimming, kayaking, and canoeing experiences. Otherwise, chill at the Whitewater Park to enjoy strolls, picnics, and more gorgeous river views.

Next, ride the Spiral Drive, which rises above 600 feet and presents 360-degree views of Salina. For hikers looking for the next challenge, Mount Shavano is just outside this town and is a worthy 14er to check off one’s list. Meanwhile, history buffs can learn a thing or two about the town’s past and mining heritage through various exhibits at the Salida Museum.

Manitou Springs

Aerial view of Manitou Springs, Colorado
Aerial view of Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Manitou Springs is a lovely small town at the foot of Pikes Peak, featuring impressive mountain scenery. Once here, visitors are invited to relish the natural beauty by hiking to Pikes Peak from the Barr Trail in the town and enjoy the feeling of being atop one of North America’s highest peaks. Next, visit the stunning Cave of the Winds and explore its interiors with a guide to see rare crystalline speleothems, or indulge in other fun activities like zip lining and cliff wall climbing.

For history and archaeological lovers, Manitou Springs is home to the unique Manitou Cliff Dwellings, a group of cliff dwellings constructed to resemble ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings. Daring and adventurous visitors can ascend the Manitou Incline, a series of 2,768 stairs with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet. Although the hike may be heart-pounding, the views of the town from the top are incredibly rewarding.

Steamboat Springs

Main Street in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Main Street in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Editorial credit: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

Steamboat Springs is a picturesque mountain town surrounded by admirable natural views. This town has the Yampa River running through its center, offering great opportunities for fishing, tubing, paddling, kayaking, and rafting. Experience more of the river’s beauty by walking or biking on the well-paved 7.5-mile Yampa River Core Trail that runs parallel to the river. For nature lovers, head to the Yampa River Botanical Park to roam its numerous gardens and marvel at their colorful flora.

Routt National Forest is another interesting attraction in this town worth visiting as it features a short hiking trail leading to the magnificent 280-foot Fish Creek Falls. If time is abundant, take the scenic Steamboat Gondola ride to the top of Mount Werner and enjoy breathtaking views of the Yampa Valley, Flattops Wilderness, and Sleeping Giant Mountain.

Estes Park

Downtown Estes Park, Colorado.
Downtown Estes Park, Colorado. Editorial credit: Melissamn / Shutterstock.com.

Estes Park is one of the most charming small towns in Colorado, majestically laid along the confluence of Big Thompson and Fall Rivers. Here, visitors are invited to hike the 3.7-mile Lake Estes loop trail to enjoy scenic views of Lake Estes and Estes Valley. Afterward, fish in the lake, rent a boat at the marina to tour the waters, or grab kayaks and paddleboards for more adventures. Also from Memorial to Labor Day, visitors can savor the town's adorable scenery via the Estes Park Aerial Tramway that leads to the peak of Prospect Mountain.

Meanwhile, Estes Park is also home to parts of the Rocky Mountain National Park, featuring magnificent lakes like Bear, Grand, and Dream Lakes, alongside mountains, wildlife, and over 300 miles of hiking trails. As a closing act, take the 55-mile Peak to Peak Scenic Byway from Estes Park to Central City, and prepare to be spoilt with mesmerizing views of blossoming flowers, parks, forests, and peaks.


The gorgeous town of Telluride, Colorado
The gorgeous town of Telluride, Colorado. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com.

Telluride is a stunning mountain town in the San Juan range decorated by the San Miguel River. As with many mountain destinations, the best way to enjoy this town's beauty is via hikes, and it flaunts over 30 hiking trails, all lavish with waterfalls, wildflowers, and alpine lakes. If visitors have to choose just one, then it should be the easy 1.8-mile hike to Bridal Veil Falls trail leading to the iconic 365-foot free-falling falls, the tallest in Colorado.

More top hikes that reveal the natural beauty of this town include - Count Creek Falls Trail (0.6 miles) and San Miguel River Trail (7.6 miles). In town, visitors can step back in time at the Telluride Historical Museum or head to the Telluride Arts District to experience the town’s remarkable arts and cultural scene.

Small towns remain some of the most satisfying and beautiful destinations across America as they feature everything from open skies to unsullied natural attractions, colorful downtowns, and fewer crowds. Find these features and more in the charming small towns of Colorado where mountains stand like guards, creating postcard-perfect backdrops, and offering thrilling adventures. Visit these towns today and come with a camera to store their sensational scenery in tangible form.

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