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Best Time to Visit Colorado | When to Go & Helpful Tips

Best Time to Visit Colorado | When to Go & Helpful Tips

Thinking of heading out to Colorado soon? It’s an awe-inspiring trip you’ll never forget. Everyone should visit Colorado at least once!

Before you plan out your trip, take a few minutes to learn about the best time to visit Colorado, what sights and attractions are worth checking out, and seasoned traveler tips to make your Colorado experience amazing. 

See the best time to visit overall, the cheapest time of year to go, the least crowded season to visit, and the worst time to go. It’s all here in our quick travel guide! First up: Why Colorado belongs on your travel bucket list. 

Why You Should Visit Colorado

Gorgeous view of the mountains for a piece on the best time to visit Colorado

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Panoramic views of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, vast stretches of sandy desert, and time-carved river canyons draw nearly 90 million visitors to Colorado (the Centennial State) every year. If you’re considering visiting this mountainous state out west, you’re in for a treat.

Colorado’s 4 national parks are breathtaking. Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park are favorite destinations for those who want to view the awe-inspiring landscapes and natural formations that make this state famous. 

Colorado is known for its abundant wildlife and there are 300+ state wildlife areas here. Elk, mountain lions, and black bears roam freely in Rocky Mountain National Park. Bald eagles are often seen soaring over Monte Vista and Alamosa National Wildlife Refuges.

Elk in the Rocky Mountain Meadow during the best time to visit Colorado

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In State Forest State Park, moose are commonly spotted. You’ll find mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn throughout Colorado’s mountains, grasslands, and canyons.

Activities like white water rafting, kayaking, skiing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, biking, swimming (in lakes, streams, and hot springs), and even sand dune sledding await you here. Non-outdoorsy types also find a lot to appreciate in Colorado.

The state is home to bustling cities like Denver (the capital), Colorado Springs, Boulder, and Aspen that provide incredible views at a high elevation – even if you don’t plan on venturing out into the rugged terrain much.

The state is laden with unique shops, upscale lodging and stores, craft breweries, restaurants, and cannabis dispensaries to keep the good times rolling.

Oh, and it’s also the (contested) birthplace of the cheeseburger and much less-beloved Rocky Mountain oysters. Trust us — you’ve got to make the trip to Colorado. 

Overall Best Time to Visit Colorado

Beautiful Colorado mountainscape during the best time to visit, the Summer

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The overall best time to visit Colorado really depends on what you want to do while you’re there. If you’re going for activities and to check out the incredible landscapes, visiting during summer and early fall – mid-June to September – is ideal.

If you’re going to ski or snowboard, visiting during the winter – December to early March – is best. For outdoor adventurers, mid-June marks the real start of warm days and predictably mild weather in Colorado that lasts through September.

If you plan on taking advantage of some of the many outdoor activities the state has to offer, the summer and early fall season is the absolute best time to go.

If white water rafting is a must-do activity on your itinerary, venturing out a little sooner – May or early June – is perfect as the snow melts to fill the rivers with turbulent rapids. 

Guy skiing during another one of the best times to visit Colorado, during the Winter

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For skiers, snowboarders, and anyone who wants to see Colorado draped in snow, the winter months are best to visit during. Ski resorts in Colorado typically open their doors in late November. Some resorts open up in October, but it’s all dependent on the snow conditions that year.

By mid-April, the ski resorts are shuttering for the spring and summer. Snow conditions aren’t always ideal before December or after March, and the snowiest months in Colorado are February and March.

So planning your trip sometime in late February or early March (before Spring Breakers arrive) will give you the absolute best snow conditions and skiing experience. 

Cheapest Time to Visit Colorado

Aspen Colorado pictured during the cheapest time to visit, the Shoulder Season

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If you’re sticking to a strict budget, you should go during the “shoulder seasons” between peak tourism seasons. The cheapest time to visit Colorado is usually late spring (April to May) and early fall (September to October).

Since Colorado has a wide range of seasonal activities that draw different groups of visitors, the shoulder seasons before summer and winter mean lower prices on flights and hotels. 

Hotels are cheapest in Colorado’s ski towns (Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, etc.) just after winter and early spring, during late April and May.

At this time of year, much of the snow has melted and warm weather begins to set in, so fewer people are heading out to the state’s renowned ski resorts. May is also one of the cheapest months to fly to Colorado (along with September and October).

If you’re heading to Colorado for warm weather and outdoor activities, April and May (just before the summer season kicks off) and September through October (just before the winter ski season) are generally cheapest for hotel stays and flights.

The most expensive time to visit during the warm weather seasons are the months of July and August. So if you’re sticking to a budget, avoid flying late in the summer to score the best prices on flights and rooms. 

Least Busy Time to Visit Colorado

Guy backpacking during the least busy time to visit Colorado

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Colorado is less busy during the shoulder seasons – typically in late spring and fall/early winter. April through May and October through mid-December are typically the least busy times if you’re hoping for a more relaxing, less crowded visit.

The weather is a little more unpredictable during these shoulder seasons, making it less attractive for many visitors who want sunny skies and warm temperatures for outdoor activities and exploration.

The shoulder seasons are the best time to visit Colorado if you want to avoid big crowds and higher prices. If you visit during April or May, you’ll benefit from lower prices on flights and hotels due to less demand, no matter what part of Colorado you venture to.

The ski towns drop their prices as the snow is melting and lower-elevation towns drop hotel prices ahead of the much-busier summer season.

This makes April and May a perfect time to visit without big crowds. If you go during October to mid-December, prices may be slightly higher (especially if you’re heading to a ski resort town where the snow may have already begun to fall).

But it’ll still be free from big crowds and give you the solitude and peace you crave! You could see Colorado in all its fall glory by visiting in early October, when the leaves are colorful and temperatures are cooling down.

Be sure to check ahead for current weather conditions if you’re planning on going towards the end of the year, as early snowfall means a major increase in prices in ski resort towns. 

Worst Time to Visit Colorado

Train runs around a bend during the worst time to Visit Colorado, in March

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There’s really no “worst” time to visit Colorado because every season offers something positive for tourists. But if we had to choose the least pleasant time to go, it’s probably the month of March.

Colorado’s cold weather is still going strong in March, making unpredictable, travel-halting snows possible even in the start of spring. Flights and hotels are much higher during March thanks to an influx of travelers during Spring Break. 

If you go to Colorado during March, you’ll be dealing with many negatives and few positives. Large Spring Break crowds, higher prices on flights and hotels, longer lines and waits at restaurants and shops, and unpredictable, snowy weather that can quickly turn stormy make March one of the worst times to go. 

But if you’re set on visiting during March, you can still have a great time skiing, snowboarding, and witnessing incredible, snow-capped views in one of the state’s many ski resort towns.

You may pay higher prices, but not as high as during the month of December. Just make sure to rent a vehicle with 4-wheel drive so you can safely make your way in and out in case of an unexpected spring snowstorm. 

More Things to Consider

Man on top of a dune at the Great Sand Dunes Park in Colorado during the best time to visit

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Learning the best time to visit Colorado is only the beginning – there are a few more things to think about and know if you plan to make the most of your visit. Colorado is beautiful, busy, and breathtaking, but it’s not without its downsides.

Here’s what the locals would warn you about before visiting. This can be really helpful as you plan out your trip! 

  • Be alert and aware of altitude sickness. Colorado has some of the nation’s highest elevation points and altitude sickness is common for visitors who are accustomed to lower elevations. Headaches, extreme thirst, nausea, and fatigue can hit you like a ton of bricks when you venture into the state’s higher points. Drink lots of water, take a few days to acclimate yourself before trekking into higher zones, and take it easy and slow to keep altitude sickness at bay. 
  • Recreational cannabis is legal. Weed is legal for those 21+ in Colorado, though smoking it in public places is not. That doesn’t mean everyone follows the rules, however. So be prepared for seeing people using cannabis (and the characteristic skunky scent) when you venture out into Colorado’s natural beauty or bustling cities. For marijuana tourists, this might be ideal. But if you’re bringing kids or just don’t want to be around cannabis, this is definitely something to be aware of. 
  • Pack the right gear. If you’re planning on enjoying Colorado’s vast wilderness, make sure you pack the right gear! You’ll need comfortable shoes for hiking, sandals for warm days, and lots of layers you can put on or shed as the day heats up and nights cool down. If you’re traveling to a ski town during winter, really bundle up with warm coats, hats, gloves, scarves, snow boots, and quality ski gear. 
  • Fire bans are common. For the most outdoorsy types, there’s nothing more appealing than camping in the Rockies. But overnight temperatures dip considerably, even in summer months, and fire bans are commonly in effect in the most popular camping areas of Colorado. Cold nights with no campfire to keep you warm could turn your campout into an unpleasant experience. So research current fire bans in the area you’re traveling to before you finish planning your camping trip. 
  • Follow skier etiquette. If you’re heading to ski the slopes of Colorado, do yourself a favor and learn about the unofficial “skier etiquette” you’ll be expected to follow. A few examples: The skier in front of you has the right of way. Don’t cut ski lift lines. Don’t smoke weed on the lift. Don’t crowd others on the slopes (and watch your speed – you don’t want to crash into anyone at high speeds). And don’t ski in closed or roped-off areas. 

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Colorado?

Rock formations in Grand Junction during the best time to visit Colorado

Ronda Kimbrow/Shutterstock

Overall, the best time to visit Colorado is during the summer – from mid-June to September, the state sees the warmest weather and has the most options for outdoor activities.

For skiers and snowboarders who are “chasing powder,” the overall best time to visit Colorado is during December through early March. This is when the snow conditions are best – especially during February and early March. 

For budget travelers, the best time to visit Colorado is tied: Both April to May and September through October are budget-friendly times to go. In April and May, ski resorts have already shuttered for the season.

In September and October, there are fewer warm-weather visitors coming in the early fall, so both of these periods have some of the lowest prices on flights and hotels.  

For anyone avoiding large crowds, the best time to visit Colorado is similar to the cheapest time to visit: April to May and October through mid-December.

These shoulder seasons occur in between Colorado’s main summer and winter tourism periods, so there are fewer visitors arriving overall. The exception is ski resort towns, which begin getting busy in late November as the snow begins to fall.

Bonus Tip

Bonus – your stay will likely be a lot cheaper if you go during these less-busy times! March seems to be the worst time to visit because of a few factors. There are large Spring Break crowds in mid- to late March, which in turn drives flight and hotel prices up.

The unpredictable transition from winter into spring makes weather a concern during March, where it can be warm and mild or frigid and snowy. 

Whether you’re heading to Colorado to take in amazing views of the Rockies, explore some of the unique and diverse cities and culture, try your hand at skiing or snowboarding, or experience thrilling white water rafting, you’re going to have a blast in the Centennial State.

Just make sure to keep an eye on your health and fatigue levels as you make your way higher into the mountains.  Altitude sickness is a real thing and your health and safety come first!

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