The gorgeous town Telluride, Colorado.

These Towns in the Colorado Plateau Come Alive in Spring

While not as famous as the Rockies or Appalachians, the Colorado Plateau is an American geological region that has more attractions than its notable neighbors. Located in parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, the Plateau boasts nine national parks and dozens more national monuments and wilderness areas that cover high desert nature. It is vibrant in all seasons, but spring brings unique wildlife and activities you can access via small communities. Discover seven bases for a Colorado Plateau spring break.

Moab, Utah

Aerial view of Moab, Utah.
Aerial view of Moab, Utah.

As is typical of Utah, Moab is considered a city despite having just over 5,000 residents. In fact, it is the largest community in Grand County. This grand "city" has a topography that attracts outdoor adventurers during spring. Cyclists ride paved roads through the red rock country of Dead Horse Point State Park and Arches National Park, especially for Skinny Tire Festival, which will have its 24th anniversary in March 2025. Runners arrive at a similar time in a similar terrain for the Canyonlands Half Marathon and 5 Mile, an even older event dating to 1976. In late March or April, depending on the year, thousands of four-wheel drivers hit the trails around Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park for the Easter Jeep Safari, which has been running since 1967.

For a lighter spring activity in magnificent Moab, check out the fine art, music, and food at the Moab Arts Festival on Memorial Day Weekend.

Aztec, New Mexico

Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, New Mexico.
Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, New Mexico.

Named for the misattribution of Indigenous ruins, Aztec is home to the Aztec Ruins National Monument, which was built by Ancestral Puebloans almost a millennium ago. Tourists come year-round to see the monument, but during spring, they can pair this sight with sounds from multiple music festivals. Just north of Aztec in the beautiful Animas River Valley is Tico Time River RV Resort, which hosts Rise & Vibes on the second weekend of May and Tico Time Bluegrass Festival the following weekend. Both fests promise three days of music and entertainment in various forms. Other springtime events to catch in and around Aztec include bike races, motocross races, car races at Aztec Speedway, and, for a slower pace, the Mother's Day Spring Fling at Wines of the San Juan.

Mancos, Colorado

More details The 1905 Bauer Bank Block building in Mancos, Colorado
The 1905 Bauer Bank Block building in Mancos, Colorado. Carol M. Highsmith, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

About an hour north of Aztec over the Colorado border, Mancos is the gateway to Mesa Verde National Park, a 52,000ish-acre preserve of roughly 5,000 archaeological sites. Tours of ancient cliff dwellings, such as Cliff Palace and Square Tower House, begin in May. Tours of Mesa Verde's geological wonders start whenever you like, but it might be wise to commence in spring when many of the park's 640-plus species of plants will be in bloom. After hiking vast canyonlands bedecked by colorful flowers, June breakers can taste the fruits of such flowers at Mancos Valley Farmers Market. May breakers can celebrate spring with food, music, and even a maypole at the annual Mancos Bloom.

Kanab, Utah

The 'Balloons and Tunes' Festival in Kanab, Utah
The 'Balloons and Tunes' Festival in Kanab, Utah. Editorial credit: Layne V. Naylor /

If you thought the other communities were geographic wonderlands, wait till you get a load of Kanab. This extreme southern Utah "city" is surrounded by the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Zion National Park, Pipe Spring National Monument, Moqui Cave, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. These preserves offer springtime entertainment, such as Easter Egg hunting in the pink dunes, relay racing in Zion, and full moon hiking in Bryce Canyon. Moreover, the trails around Kanab roar with ATVs for the Kanab Red Rock ATV Jamboree, while the screens at Kanab's Redstone Theatre come alive for Kanab Film Fest.

Grand Canyon Village, Arizona

Grand Canyon Village, Arizona
Historic Grand Canyon Railroad Depot in Grand Canyon Village, Arizona. Image credit: Marine 69-71 via

As you can probably tell by its name, Grand Canyon Village straddles the Grand Canyon - the South Rim, that is. Unlike the North Rim, whose roads and facilities close from December to May, the South Rim is open year-round, so GCV gets tons of tourists even in spring. The Canyon Rim Trail, Canyon Vistas Ride, Visitor Center Theater, Hermit Road, Grand Canyon Railway, and Colorado River satisfy hikers, mule riders, moviegoers, bikers, drivers, train buffs, rafters, and all-around admirers of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Even stargazers get spring entertainment via the Grand Canyon Star Party. This astronomically unique annual event is scheduled for June 1 to 8, 2024.

Telluride, Colorado

View of Telluride, Colorado, from chairlift
View of Telluride, Colorado, from chairlift.

Located inside a canyon rather than above one, Telluride, like virtually all other Colorado Plateau communities, is celebrated for its nature. However, it has a second identity as a festival mecca. Around 2,600 residents contend with thousands upon thousands of festivalgoers who come for such events as the Telluride Jazz Festival, Telluride Baseball Festival, Telluride Mushroom Festival, Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, Telluride Comedy Festival, Telluride Horror Show, Telluride Yoga Festival, and Telluride Americana Music Festival.

During spring, Telluride hosts Mountainfilm, a documentary film festival held each Memorial Day Weekend since 1979, as well as the Telluride Balloon Festival, a multi-day hot air balloon extravaganza held in late May and/or early June. The town closes out spring/launches summer with the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, which is arguably the highlight of a year-long festival season.

Vernal, Utah

A museum with dinosaur sculptures in Vernal, Utah
A museum with dinosaur sculptures in Vernal, Utah. Editorial credit: Felder Casanova /

Vernal is synonymous with spring. This small community clings to the northern Utah edge of the Colorado Plateau and blossoms with wildflowers in the milder months. This is especially obvious in surrounding wilderness areas like Steinaker State Park, Ashley National Forest (more obvious in summer), and Dinosaur National Monument. The last of those, whose original 80 acres were designated a national monument in 1915, now has over 210,000 acres and approximately 650 species of vascular plants, with potentially 200 to 250 undocumented.

Dinosaur National Monument also offers stargazing and, true to its name, fossil hunting. Park architects have made the latter easy by building the Quarry Exhibit Hall, which displays around 1,500 dinosaur bones. From there, spring breakers can tour the annual Home & Garden Show at Uintah County Western Park in March or tear through SITLA and BLM lands for the Vernal Rock Rally in June.

From a jeep safari in Moab to a bluegrass festival in Aztec to wildflower viewing in Mancos to a film fest in Kanab to stargazing in Grand Canyon Village to balloon launches in Telluride to fossil hunting in Vernal, your spring CP retreat is bound to please. Which town will you choose first?

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