Known as the “Centennial State,” Colorado lies at the heart of the Western United States. Indeed with its stunning mountain vistas, renowned natural beauty and activities (ideal for both winter and summer adventurists), and fascinating local history, America’s 21st most populous State is never short on excitement. For visitors looking to get a real taste of what makes Colorado such a unique and special place, a stop in its wonderful towns is a great way to experience what Americana is all about. From charming local hospitality and natural awe, these Colorado towns will make any trip memorable.
The town of Carbondale is surrounded by the beautiful Rocky Mountains and is in the heart of the Roaring Fork Valley. Home to just under 6,500 residents, this picturesque getaway is a great place with never a dull moment. For the outdoor adventurer, plenty of opportunities for rock climbing, biking, hiking, and even horseback riding are on hand, while just a leisurely stroll through Main Street shows Carbondale’s charming small-town atmosphere. Meanwhile, in the summer months, visitors will not want to miss the Wild West Rodeo every Thursday. Here old fashioned cowboy fun, bull riding, calf roping, and other activities bring guests back to the days of Western yore.
The seat of La Plata County, the town of Durango, is a historic railroad town founded in 1880. Located along the picturesque San Juan Mountains, Durango is indeed a welcoming and charming place for visitors of all ages. Home to a population of just over 19,000 residents, tourists can explore the town’s rail past with a lovely train on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Rail Line, with a memorable stop at the mining settlement of Silverton. Meanwhile, at the nearby Purgatory Resort, wonderful opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and even exciting ziplining can be enjoyed in a warm and comfortable atmosphere.
Ouray has been unofficially called the “Switzerland of America” for its beautiful mountain panoramas and alpine climate. The seat of Ouray County and home to a population of just over 1,000 inhabitants, the town offers very comfortable summer temperatures that rarely exceed 80 F. An ideal spot for hiking, rock climbing, and biking, stunning vistas of the San Juan Mountains make Ouray a most exciting place to discover. Meanwhile, in the town’s historic center, a number of Victorian-era buildings can be explored, all bringing visitors closer to Ouray’s mining foundations. Indeed, founded in 1884, the entire Main Street of Ouray has been designated as a National Historic District for its cultural significance.
A perfect place for history-loving tourists and outdoors enthusiasts, the former mining town of Telluride was founded in 1878. The seat of San Miguel County and home to a populace of 2,607 residents, Telluride is located right in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. In the historic downtown, several preserved Victorian-era buildings, art galleries, boutique shops, and great local dining can all be enjoyed in this spot on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, Telluride is known for its famed Ski Resort and beautiful hiking and camping areas. Spend time at the Mountain Village, some 10,000 feet in the air, for some of the best and most breathtaking vistas in the State. And for the cinema lover, Telluride hosts its annual Film Festival every September, attracting filmmakers from across the world.
Founded in 1891, the once bustling town of Victor is now home to just over 400 permanent residents. Still, this former gold mining town remains a picturesque and fascinating locale to explore for all those in Central Colorado. Located on the western side of Pikes Peak and adjacent to the community of Cripple Creek, visitors will surely feel the sense of traveling back to the 19th century with the town’s assortment of historic buildings and surroundings. These include the Victor Hotel (1899) and Masonic Hall, featured on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can also spend time at the Gold Coin Mine and the Victor Downtown Historic District, learning more about its importance in the Western United States’ economic growth. And with a moderate and comfortable climate, spending time in this most charming small town is an enjoyable outing throughout the year.
Despite a population of only 257 permanent residents, Creede serves as the seat of Mineral County. Formally incorporated in 1892, this picturesque small town is situated within a former volcanic caldera in the San Juan Mountain Range. Surrounded by stunning and imposing rock cliffs, visitors will also discover plenty of fascinating cultural attractions. An assortment of 1890s buildings, tasty local restaurants, and cute boutique shops dot the landscape, while visits to some of Creede’s museums are always a delight. Stop by the Creede Historical Museum and the Underground Mining Museum, where the history of the town and mining region is highlighted in a most engaging manner. And, of course, outdoor enthusiasts will never be short on activities in this town. Enjoy rock climbing, hiking, and biking in the summer, while opportunities for skiing and snowshoeing are popular in winter. Indeed no matter what time of year, time spent in Creede is sure to be a most memorable excursion.
Located in northern Colorado at the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park, the beautiful town of Estes Park was first settled in the 1850s. Now home to a population of just under 6,000 residents, the stunning mountain scenery makes this a most alluring and charming place to visit. Indeed with its location along the Big Thompson River and its surrounding alpine peaks, time spent outside in Estes Park is always filled with beauty. Enjoy great views of streams, waterfalls, and lush valleys, while miles of hiking and biking trails are perfect ways to get acquainted with raw nature. In addition, a number of great local restaurants, boutique shops, galleries, and even a golf course can be appreciated downtown, including some historical landmarks. These include the Stanley Hotel (1909), and the Baldpate Inn (1917), bringing guests back to the turn of the 20th century.
Just some 27 miles from Estes Park, the town of Fort Collins serves as the seat of Larimer County. Formally established in 1883 and home to Colorado State University (1870), this mid-sized college town is a charming and lively place full of great eateries, bars, shops, and a superb music scene. Known for its breweries, Fort Collins hosts the annual Colorado Brewer’s Festival in June and is the headquarters of the New Belgium Brewing Company. In addition, several fantastic opportunities for outdoor activity can be enjoyed at places like the Corral Center Mountain Bike Park and Lory State Park, with some 26 miles of hiking and biking trails and beautiful vistas. Meanwhile, at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, more than 30,000 items and artifacts tracing the town and region’s history and growth are sure to inform and entertain the whole family.
Paonia was first settled in the 1880s and today maintains a humble population of just under 1,500 residents. Situated in Delta County, the town was named for the Latin spelling of peony, which is abundant in the area. Indeed, in addition to its flowers, Paonia is known as an agriculturally rich land where fruit and vegetable farms are essential to the local economy. Residents and visitors can take advantage of fresh, locally sourced food and other tasty products at the Mountain Harvest Festival and the Cherry Days Festival. Meanwhile, a number of great local galleries, shops, restaurants and historic buildings can be found in the downtown district. Catch a movie at the historic Paradise Theater (1928), or simply take in the views of the North Fork Valley. When in Paonia, there is never a shortage of charm and beauty.
Crestone is a small town community with a population of only 141 permanent residents, according to 2020 census numbers. Still, this charming place in the San Luis Valley is a picturesque and welcoming locale known particularly for its religious tolerance. Indeed despite Crestone’s size, visitors can find Christian churches, Buddhist temples, Hindu shrines, and Zen centers, among others. In addition, visitors can enjoy such public events as the San Luis Valley Energy Fair and the Crestone Music Festival, while for the outdoors enthusiast, opportunities for hiking, biking, and climbing are all on hand at the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
The seat of Garfield County in northwestern Colorado, Glenwood Springs, was first settled in the 1880s. Now home to just under 10,000 inhabitants, this pretty destination at the meeting point of the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers attracts many for its hot springs. With several resorts dedicated solely to this unique geothermal wonder, tourists from across the country descend on Glenwood Springs for some spa-like relaxation. In addition to the town’s easy access to the rivers mentioned above, great opportunities for fishing, swimming, and even whitewater rafting can be enjoyed. Meanwhile, even just a casual stroll downtown will leave one with a positive impression. Here an assortment of tasty local restaurants, cafes, and boutique shops offer an authentic slice of small-town USA in a splendid Colorado ambiance.
Colorado forms a key part of the Western United States, and with its stunning natural surroundings and fascinating cultural allure, it is not difficult to see why it is a popular place to live and visit. From mountain panoramas, old Western charm, and plenty of opportunities for physical activity, the “Centennial State” and its towns offer all who visit a unique experience. Indeed for a trip filled with natural beauty and intriguing cultural locales, Colorado’s small towns are the perfect place for anyone with a love of America.