With the positive feedback on my bucket list post on Asia last week, I’ve decided to publish two travel posts this week! Today’s post features another bucket list destination of mine: the beautiful state of Colorado.
After the amazing time I had adventuring through Alberta last summer, I’ve been obsessing over finding my next physically-demanding vacation. Colorado is one of the great year-round travel destinations that North America has to offer; lovers of the great outdoors will be right at home here with plenty of both wintertime and summertime adventurous pursuits — all set in stunning scenery, from the towering Rocky Mountains to the high desert of the Colorado Plateau. Rent a car, and you can enjoy countless magical drives through the countryside as you pass through the mountain towns. So, let’s run through just a few of the attractions you can visit and the sights to see in this beautiful part of the world.
Rocky Mountain National Park
One of the most popular national parks in the whole of the country, Rocky Mountain National Park, is obviously most famous for its eponymous peaks. With this in mine, there are plenty of alpine lakes, lush meadows, dense forests, and diverse wildlife that could keep you here for days on end. The main driving route through the park is the Trail Ridge Road, which makes it easy to access big parts of this terrain. There are also plenty of hiking trails for when you want to explore the park using your own two feet — as I’ve written about in the past, hiking is a fun activity I like to fit in while travelling. In the summertime, hiking, climbing, camping and fishing are all popular, while snowshoeing or cross-country skiing are both favoured activities during the colder months.
Skiing in the Mountain Towns
During the wintertime, many of Colorado’s mountain towns become hives of activity as skiers and snowboarders descend on them. Vail is always a popular choice, and many of the chalet-style buildings will make you feel like you are somewhere in the heart of the Alps. However, its popularity with the rich and elite means that it isn’t the most affordable place to visit in the world. As an alternative option, you could visit the small town of Breckenridge. This small resort is a popular choice, so check out the best ski rentals in Breckenridge if you are visiting in the winter. Some of the other options in the area include Frisco, Avon and Beaver Creek.
Mesa Verde National Park
If you have never seen cliff dwellings before, Mesa Verde is certainly the place that you should go first. Cliff Palace is the main attraction in the park, and you can visit here on one of the ranger-led tours which operate frequently during the summer months. There are thousands of architectural sites throughout the park, just waiting to be explored. Plenty of hiking trails are available if you want to navigate your own way through the park.
Garden of the Gods
Another aspect of the state’s unique landscape, and certainly worth a visit, is the Garden of the Gods. It consists of a series of stone towers, which reaches heights up to 300 feet. Most of the trails in the area are accessible even for inexperienced hikers, and they give you the opportunity to take in the incredible views. Head over to the visitor centre for more information about the landscape stretching for miles before you. As an added bonus, this place provides you with the perfect setting to enjoy the scenery with a cup of coffee.
Driving on the Million Dollar Highway
Based just off of the name alone, how could you possibly not want to drive on the Million Dollar Highway? This stretch of road takes you between the old mining town of Silverton and the intimate community of Ouray. Though not a particularly long road, there is no doubt that it is one of the most incredible drives in the state of Colorado. If you are planning to be in this area for a longer period of time, you could extend your trip over to the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. This is a loop which starts and ends in Durango, and there are plenty of worthwhile stopping points along the way including the mountain towns of Silverton and Telluride.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
If you want to get a better idea of just how diverse the landscape is in Colorado, this is one of the places that you need to visit. Here, you can climb up the tallest sand dunes in America and enjoy the beautiful backdrop of the mountains in the distance. Even better than climbing up the side of the dunes is sliding all the way back down again, which will certainly be a unique test of your boarding skills! There are plenty of campsites in the area for those who want to stay in this fascinating national park for longer.
Pikes Peak is perhaps one of the most recognizable sights in the whole of Colorado. Standing at over 14,000 feet, it is easily visible from the town of Colorado Springs, which is where a lot of people choose to start. In fact, this is the second-most visited mountain in the world, behind only Japan’s Mt. Fuji. One of the main reasons it is so popular is because of how easily accessible it is. You can drive all the way to the top in around an hour and a half, or you could choose instead to take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway up and back down again. As well as enjoying the views, other popular activities include hiking and mountain biking.
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness
One of the best places to see Colorado’s famous Rocky Mountain scenery is right here. In this area alone, there are six mountains rising up to heights of over 14,000 feet. Conveniently, there are plenty of pre-set trails laid out, so you can get out of your car for a while and really breathe in the fresh air. The high number of outdoor activities in the area is the main reason that people are drawn here in such high numbers.
As you can see, there is plenty to enjoy for adventurous souls in Colorado. What’s more, with such a huge landscape to cover, you can easily keep coming back here over and over again, discovering something entirely new each and every time. For me, I’d be perfectly content just to be able to visit beautiful Colorado once — it’s a travel bucket list destination, for sure!
While Colorado is a great place to experience the active side of the outdoors, its cities are not to be missed. The state capital, Denver, is one such city you will want to be sure you visit. If you find yourself there on vacation or business, you should certainly consider these denver vacation rentals from Stay Alfred.
Have you ever visited Colorado? What are your favourite, must-see locations while visiting? Let me know in the comments!