Many people know that Colorado has beautiful mountain ranges, but it also has many more attractions. But before we cover the best things to do in Colorado, you should know about the best places to visit.
Consider this your complete guide to visiting Colorado, as this list details the best places to go, from mountain hikes to glorious lakes to the state’s capital.
The 20 Best Places to Visit in Colorado in 2023
Whether you have young tots or a group of adults looking for adventure, the places on this list should go on your must-see, must-stop list for your next trip to Colorado.
1. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
If you visit Colorado, you would be remiss if you did not stop by the Red Rocks Park, and if you have time, catch a stellar concert at the amphitheater.
Going to the Red Rocks Amphitheater is a unique experience, as most states do not have many massive outdoor venues for concerts. You’ll be enjoying the music one moment, and the next, you’ll be in awe of the incredible nature surrounding you.
If you have little ones with you or have no interest in a concert, you can still drive to Morrison to see the red rocks in the daylight. You can walk around the amphitheater and see where these incredible music shows take place.
Going to Red Rocks is a must for every Colorado tourist.
2. The Mile High City
The Mile High City is Denver, Colorado, the capital of the state and the largest city. If you fly into Denver International Airport, you’ll land in Denver, making it easy to explore this cultural hub. It’s hard to mention all the incredible things you can do in this city.
But the highlights include strolling along the Crush art walls decked out with murals that constantly change. If you’re a museum lover, you can visit the Denver Art Museum, the Children’s Museum, or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Depending on the season, you can grab a pretzel and a beer at a Rockies game or watch the Nuggets play at Ball Arena. Visit the Denver Zoo or the Denver Botanic Gardens for a dose of nature right in the middle of the city!
For those who love skiing and the mountains, Breckenridge is one of the most popular places to visit. The old mining town has a rich history concerning the Gold Rush and has maintained some old-style Victorian houses and boutique shops you can admire.
The town boasts year-round Alpine activities as it’s based right at the base of the Rocky Mountains, about two hours outside of Denver. The town center is charming with loads of restaurants and shops to explore, but many visitors fall in love with the house styles and overall feel.
Vail has an upscale vibe that’s perfect for a luxurious skiing vacation. While the town is beautiful in all seasons, it is particularly spectacular in the middle of Autumn when the leaves change to stunning colors of gold and orange.
The east coast of the US boasts beautiful Autumns, but Vail is no slouch and is a favorite of tourists and locals for these beautiful Fall views.
The town has kept most intrusive construction at bay, meaning there are no skyscrapers or super modern apartment complexes, maintaining the quaint and natural air the area has. This place is perfect for families who want to enjoy delicious cuisine and appreciate Colorado’s nature.
Boulder is a well-known city labeled as a liberal haven. If you want to visit Colorado for a relaxing vacation where you can appreciate nature and get away from city life, Boulder is a beautiful option. There are tons of parks and walking paths to follow where you can explore the town.
Dip your feet into Boulder Creek and have a picnic beside the water or walk around the Pearl Street Mall in the center of town and check out what the local shops offer. If you love biking and relaxing days in the park, Boulder is a wonderful place to visit.
6. Rocky Mountain National Park
Luckily, it’s hard to visit Colorado without catching a glimpse of the impressive and majestic Rocky Mountains. But if you want to experience this incredible mountain range, you can drive to Rocky Mountain National Park and take in the magnitude of the mountains.
Sit beside beautiful Bear Lake or venture up Longs Peak, the tallest mountain in the park.
Some of the most popular excursions are to drive up and down Trail Ridge Road or the Old Fall River Road. These two paths offer stunning views of the trees, mountains, and bodies of water in the 265,807 acres of this National Park.
Aspen has a nationwide reputation of being where the wealthy go skiing and enjoy the mountains, but Aspen has something to offer everyone.
The ski resort town boasts beautiful views and tasty restaurants for all ages. Shop at the fancy boutiques or enjoy the surrounding nature, where you can explore hiking trails and more.
The gorgeous mountain town also has some history, with landmarks like the Wheeler Opera House and museums like the Wheeler-Stallard House or the Aspen Art Museum. This town can be fun for all families, not just the most affluent. But don’t expect a super cheap vacation either.
8. Castle Rock
This town was named for its landmark rock formation that looks like the tower of a castle. Castle Rock is a quick 20-minute drive from Denver, offering plenty of activities for a wide range of visitors.
For outdoor enthusiasts, there are loads of hiking trails and climbing areas where you can enjoy the fresh mountain air and explore the wilderness. There are zipline adventures and a national forest that you can enjoy in almost all seasons.
But for the indoorsy people, it boasts lovely shopping centers with name brands you know and local boutiques you’ll love. Castle Rock is also a popular golfing spot for people that want to get eighteen holes in on their trip!
9. Mesa Verde National Park
This national park is most famous for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, featuring the impressive Cliff Palace rock formation. Drive around the Mesa Top Loop Road to see stellar panoramic views of the park.
You can also pay for a guided tour of the rock formations along the Petroglyph Point Trail. This park exemplifies how magical nature can be, forming its own kind of art.
After exploring the beauty of the park, check out the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum to learn more about your surroundings and the history behind this national park. Learn about Indigenous culture and how the town came to be what it is today.
10. Royal Gorge Bridge and Park
Maybe skip this one if you’re not a fan of heights, but the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is a unique experience that offers magnificent views of the park from hundreds of feet in the air. You can ride a classic red gondola across the gorge, enjoying unimaginable sights.
But it gets better because the gorge features a whole amusement park along the edge, so you can scream your head off on rollercoasters while taking in the breathtaking mountain views.
If you want to appreciate the natural sights in Colorado but maybe have teenagers that want some more excitement, Royal Gorge is the perfect compromise. There are also casual restaurants and places to shop in the area, so you have everything you need in this rocky town.
11. Dream Lake
Colorado is a landlocked state, so most people don’t think of going for a refreshing swim on their visit. Instead, people imagine whooshing down a mountain on skis.
But if you’re more of a fish, you can still get a lovely swim by visiting one of the most splendid bodies of water in Colorado: Dream Lake.
As the name suggests, this lake is an absolute dream with emerald green and sapphire-blue waters so crystal clear that you can see every rock and pebble at the bottom.
Take a crispy dip in the water while you admire the evergreen trees and bountiful wildflowers that run along the shore. You can also enjoy an easy but wondrous walk by strolling along the 2.2-mile shore.
12. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve are in southern Colorado and have fantastic dunes that tower above you. The sand is soft and silky to the touch. Set up a tent or park your RV on the Piñon Flats Campground and sleep under the clear Colorado night sky
The Medano Pass Primitive Road winds around the back of the park and through some of the biggest dunes, like the giant Star Dune, giving you incredible panoramic views of this stunning and unique park.
The mountains and trees around Colorado are lovely, but these dunes are an extraordinary experience you won’t want to miss.
13. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
If you want another national park that throws away the mold and offers something completely different, visit Gunnison National Park, home to the renowned Black Canyon.
The name is no joke; this canyon is a dark shade of black that almost seems unnatural. But this canyon is just another example of the remarkable nature Colorado showcases.
As you drive along the canyon, you’ll witness incredible cliff drops, the stunning striped Painted Wall cliff, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot wildlife scattered throughout the park. Gunnison Park is full of animals like elk, deer, and the magnificent golden eagle.
14. Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is a wondrous collection of natural rock formations in Colorado Springs. The name alone is enough to entice visitors, but you won’t be disappointed by the marvelous sights.
Folks describe this area as a paradise of plants and rocks, with the lush green plants creating a beautiful contrast with the orange and red rocks.
The area is near Pikes Peak and got its name from a traveler that stated the space was fit for the gods. Don’t pass on an opportunity to explore this heavenly area and snap some stunning photos.
15. Colorado River
The Colorado River runs through seven different US states. This 1,450-mile-long river is a beautiful sight to behold. Water from the Rocky Mountains formed this massive body of water six million years ago, giving you a taste of how magical Colorado nature can be.
There’s a lot to love about the river. You can set up camp along the river and wake up to beautiful morning views of the mountains.
You can go on an exhilarating white water rafting trip that will have you white-knuckling it down. The awe-inspiring canyons make for the perfect vacation photos, and there are marvelous spots to relax and catch some fish!
16. Dinosaur National Monument
If you love history and nature, it doesn’t get better than the Dinosaur National Monument. This area is protected by the National park Service, as it showcases the unbelievably real remains of dinosaurs that roamed the area millions of years ago.
You can see the fossils embedded in rock walls. Fast forward millions of years, and there is even more evidence of life left behind for modern tourists to gaze at.
Many walls have petroglyphs, man-made artwork, and drawings left behind by indigenous people hundreds of years ago. Whether you love science, history, nature, or love adventure, you’ll enjoy the Dinosaur National Monument.
17. Strawberry Park Hot Springs
A list of places to visit in Colorado would not be complete without a hot spring. The Strawberry Park Hot Springs is just one of many natural hot springs in Colorado, but it is one of the most beloved.
Unlike many hot springs, Strawberry Park is a spacious area so visitors can spread out and have some privacy while soaking their muscles. The park is in the picturesque town of Steamboat Springs, an eclectic name to match the charming and humble environment.
You can stay right at the springs in Strawberry Park lodging, where many visitors love to go on lengthy hikes and then soothe their bodies in the springs at the end of the day.
18. Hot Sulphur Springs
Strawberry Park is excellent, but here’s one more hot spring for the list! Hot Sulphur Springs is not only a hot spring, but it’s a town in itself. The town is less than two hours from Denver and offers an immersive hot spring experience.
The entire town has water running throughout it, with tiny bridges throughout. This hot springs town offers everything you could want in a Colorado vacation. There are fabulous restaurants to eat at, quaint lodges to stay in, and plenty of nature to explore.
Most of the area is untouched, giving you the best Colorado nature experience. You can camp, fish, hike, bike, and more all within this small and quiet town.
Telluride is a lesser-known mountain town with ski resorts, quaint shops, and unbelievable views of the Rocky Mountains. If you want a similar experience to Breckenridge or Aspen but don’t want to deal with the crowds or pricey resorts, Telluride is the perfect option.
The town was built in a canyon, so it snugly fits between giant peaks and cliffs, giving it a private and ethereal feel. If you have small children, this can be a great option to take things slow while still enjoying the best aspects of Colorado.
If you want to stay in Denver but still enjoy the Colorado mountains, you can take a quick drive to Golden. The town’s name comes from the beautiful sunshine.
You can leave Denver and be at the top of Lookout Mountain in just 30 minutes. Bring a picnic and gaze at the exceptional mountain and forest views.
Or you can go on a hike through the forest and explore the wildlife that lives there; make sure you bring bear spray! Golden also has some interesting stops like Buffalo Bill’s grave, so you can learn some history about the area on an easy hike.
Things to Consider
You likely don’t have the time or means to do all of the things on this list, so you’ll have to narrow it down. It can be hard to choose what places to visit, so below are some things to consider when planning your trip. Keep these things in mind to streamline your vacation and make it as enjoyable as possible!
Means of Transportation
If you plan to rent a car, you’ll be able to explore the national parks and other places farther from the city. But if you don’t want to rent a car, there is still plenty to do in the bustling city of Denver. But if you want to appreciate and explore the natural side of Colorado, you should rent a vehicle for your time there.
Duration of Visit
If you’re only visiting for a weekend, choose places close together, or commit to one place. Enjoying a national park or experiencing a mountain town often can’t be done in half a day.
And you don’t want to rush. But if you plan to stay for over a week, try to experience a few different places before leaving!
So two factors play into the starting point of your journey: proximity and altitude. For proximity, you’ll want to choose places that are within your range and won’t be a waste of time just getting to.
So consider where these places are in relation to where you will enter Colorado if you drive in. If you fly in, Denver is a must-see. Another thing to consider is how you acclimate to the altitude. If you came from another high-altitude location, then no worries.
But if you flew from the east coast, consider taking a day or two before visiting the super tall mountains, as you may experience symptoms of mild altitude sickness, including fatigue, headaches, and dizziness.
Consider the age and interests of the group you travel to Colorado with. Toddlers may not be able to go on the roller coasters at Royal Gorge.
Or they may not enjoy how loud a Red Rocks concert is. But a group of all adults may love these ideas. Consider everyone in your party when choosing the best places to visit.
Places like Aspen, Vail, Red Rocks, and Denver will be more expensive than places like Gunnison, Boulder, and the national parks. Most national parks are free to visit and have affordable lodging nearby. Consider how much you want to spend and choose your destinations accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
To help you better plan your trip to Colorado, consider these commonly asked questions and their answers below.
What is Colorado weather like?
Colorado weather, despite what many think, is fairly predictable. It gets roughly 300 days of sunshine a year, so you usually don’t need to worry about bringing your umbrella or galoshes. In the winter, expect plenty of fluffy snow, but you’ll still have the beautiful sunshine to brighten things up.
How big is Colorado?
Colorado is 104,185 square miles, which doesn’t mean much to most people. So for better perspective, it takes a little more than six hours to drive from one side to the other. And it takes about five hours to drive from the top to the bottom or vice versa.
How many national parks are in Colorado?
There are four national parks in Colorado, and they all made it onto this list! The Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison are all worth visiting if you go to Colorado.
How far above sea level is Colorado?
Colorado is roughly a mile above sea level, roughly 6,800 feet. But as you move into the mountains, the altitude can increase as high as 12,000 feet above sea level.
How long does it take to adjust to the altitude?
It takes about 24-36 hours to adjust to the high altitude. During this transition period, you may feel slightly hungover and have an overall feeling of weakness.
So, What’s the Best Place in Colorado to Visit?
There are so many excellent places to visit in Colorado, from national parks to mountain towns to hot springs.
Whatever you choose to do, you’ll have the opportunity to breathe that fresh mountain air and fall in love with the culture of Colorado. Outdoorsy people and couch potatoes alike can find something they enjoy in the Centennial State.