Colorado is well known for its mountains, landscapes, and a once bustling mining scene. As the decades pass, the communities remain, but the mining rushes have faded away. The state has a very active tourism scene, with the surrounding mountains and wilderness being ideal for skiers. Many tourists tend to stick to larger cities like Denver or Boulder, but they can be quite crowded. These towns are a little more off the radar and perfect for a visit any time of year, although many people would prefer the wintertime activities.
Contrary to its name, the area around Leadville was settled in 1859 during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. The town itself was founded in 1877 by Horace Tabor and August Meyer, both mine owners during the Colorado Silver Boom. The town did have a large amount of lead minerals like cerussite, which contains silver. Since then, the town has grown and now has a population of over 2500 as of 2020, and has had efforts put into tourism to boost its economy. There's a museum called the National Mining Museum and Hall of Fame, which goes over the town's history through artifacts. Leadville is in the San Isabel National Forest and has an elevation of 10,152 feet, making it an ideal destination for campers and hikers in the area. Mount Massive and Elbert nearby can provide even higher views. Food spots include popular local eateries like High Mountain Pies, Quincy's Steak & Spirits, Treeline Kitchen, and more.
A few years after incorporation in 1894, paleontologists in Fruita found the first skeleton of a Brachiosaurus altithorax. This, in combination with its nearby hills, has made the town known for two things: outdoor activities and dinosaurs! The local Dinosaur Journey museum is a well-known spot where people can explore and learn about the creatures that once roamed our planet. The museum also offers dinosaur excavations for people to get hands-on and discover a lot about our past. Nearby is Dinosaur Hill, which is a mile-long hiking trail with ten different spots for dinosaur bones, local scenery, and plaques. There is also the Devil's Canyon Hiking Trails and the Edge Loop Ride for mountain biking. Fruita is home to several festivals and events, like Fruita Fat Tire during April or May, Mike the Headless Chicken Festival in June, Rimrock Rodeo on summer Tuesdays, Fruita Fall Festival in September and the Rim Rock Run in November. After these activities, people can stop at Hot Tomato Pizzeria, Rib City Grill, or the Copper Club Brewing Company for a bite to eat.
The town of Ouray's history lies in mining, which was common during the 19th century. That also means it has a high elevation of over 7,500 feet. The arrival of the Denver & Rio Grande Railway helped bring people to the town before abandoning the service due to the rise of automobiles as well as a decline in mining. Ouray is surrounded by mountains, garnering it the nickname the "Switzerland of America'' because of its setting. People come for the nature and wondrous views achieved by canyoneering, hiking, off-roading, rock climbing, and even ice climbing. The local Canyon Creek leads to a popular site called Box Cañon Falls, which has a 285-foot waterfall into a quartzite canyon. Maps are available on the town's website for people looking to get out and explore. There's plenty of lodging and even a hot spring called the Ouray Hot Springs Pool and Fitness Center for people who want to relax. The Wright Opera House is also in town and has been providing great shows since the late 19th century.
"Bakers Park," which is now known as Silverton, sits on the Animas River and is surrounded by steep peaks. The town itself has an elevation of 9,318 feet and was built on silver and gold before their respective rushes came to an end in the late 19th and early 20th century. Silverton is not exactly easy to get to, with some methods, including the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which provides incredible views throughout a historic route, and the Million Dollar Highway, which is also pretty but actually quite dangerous because of its heights. Combine this with the heavy snowfall during winter, and Silverton is a very desirable yet difficult-to-reach spot, with winter activities including ice climbing, skiing, and snowmobiling. Many of Silverton's historic buildings still stand, available to visit. The General Store, Silverton Meat and Produce, Church on the Hill, and the Silverton City Hall are just some of the buildings visitors go to, with their history intact.
Glenwood Springs gets its name from its local hot springs. It was originally known as "Defiance" in the 19th century, likely due to its history with gamblers and gunslingers. Despite this, Glenwood Springs is known for its hospitality today and is known for that rather than a history of mining or railroad expansion like other towns. There are three hot springs attractions in Glenwood: the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, the Iron Mountain Hot Springs, and the Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves. These are used by locals and tourists alike for relaxation throughout the year. Outside of the springs, Glenwood has places to Ski in the winter, like Sunlight Mountain Resort. Other activities include mountain biking on bike trails that have the town as their endpoints, like The Glenwood Canyon Recreational Trail and The Rio Grande Trail. The Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers converge in the town, making them great for rafting, fishing, and kayaking.
Situated on the North Fork of Gunnison River is Paonia. The town is known for its fruit and vegetables, so the harvest season is the perfect time to visit. Their most popular crop is cherries, so much so that on the week of July 4th, they host the Paonia Cherry Days Festival. Here, there are parades, live musical performances, arts and crafts, and games. It has been an annual festival since 1946, making it one of the longest-running outdoor festival in all of Colorado. Other local events include the Mountain Harvest Festival at the end of September, the BMW rally during mid-summer, Pickin' in the Park, which is when Paonia has live music every Thursday during August in their local park, and the Paonia Film Festival hosted by The Paradise Theater. The nearby Paonia State Park has plenty of open space and wildflowers, along with campgrounds for people wanting to spend the night in the wilderness. The Western Culture Farmstead & Creamery lets people taste the cheese that is made locally using the goats that live there, and the Orchard Valley Farm is for people wanting to pick locally grown cherries, raspberries, peaches, and more!
Colorado.com calls Frisco a "resortless resort town," which is quite fitting. It has an elevation of 9,026 feet and a population close to 3,000 as of 2020. Not directly in but nearby the town are several major ski resorts, including Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, and Copper Mountain, making Frisco a great stopping point for skiers. Close by Main Street is the Frisco Adventure Park, which offers a beginner ski hill for both skiers and tubing people. During the summer, the same park hosts a free skate park, bike park, and chuck wagon rides. Also, during the summer, people visit the Frisco Bay Marina, which has plenty of water activities like fishing, sailing, and even paddleboards to rent. Because the town is so close to major ski areas, there are plenty of places to lodge and eat. The AC Hotel, Bighorn Rentals, Grand Hotel Frisco, and Frisco Lodge Bed and Breakfast are just some of the places to stay that are right near the action. Butterhorn Bakery & Cafe, Deli Belly's, and Abbey's Coffee are just some of the places to stop for a bite to eat in this island resort/not-a-resort town.
The mountainous region of Colorado makes it perfect for a visit, no matter if you stop at a big city or a small town. There is always going to be something for everyone, and the journey to get to these places is well worth it. They're also full of history and are almost always easy to stay in with the amount of lodging and local eateries. Just make sure to plan accordingly for the weather in these towns, as the snowfall higher up in the mountains can be tough.