The Getaway
Fun Things to Do in Colorado

The Rocky Mountains are majestic, and Denver is a beautiful and bustling city. However, you owe it to yourself to see more of Colorado than these popular destinations. Cities like Fort Collins and Colorado Springs greet guests with brewery tours, beautiful skylines, and inspiring art installations. Nature enthusiasts can seek out marshes and wetlands, and many scenic rivers just begging to be explored. If you want to make your trip to Colorado truly memorable, be prepared to seek out the locations other tourists — and even some locals — tend to overlook.

Advertisement

01 Behold the awe-inspiring Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods at Sunrise

Colorado Springs is home to the Garden of the Gods, a series of stone towers and fans that reach heights of 6,400 feet above sea level. According to the Foundation that runs the protected area, the rocks are the remains of ancient mountains. Today, fifteen miles of trails are available to hikers who want to take a closer look at this National Natural Landmark. Look out for special events that provide new ways to connect to this astonishing piece of Colorado landscape. In March, there’s a Women’s History Hike, and there are arts and crafts gatherings held here throughout the year.

Advertisement

02 Ride the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway

Historic steam engine train travels from Durango to Silverton through the San Juan Mountains along the Animas River in Colorado, USA

Billed as the modern way to enjoy the Golden Age, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway offers Western hospitality and incredible scenery. The views as you chuff along the traditional railroad are out of this world. During the summer months, the steam train takes visitors between Durango and Silverton, a 19th-century town with a rich mining history. In winter, the train travels through the Cascade Canyon offering unforgettable vistas of the Animas River and snowy Rocky Mountain peaks.

Advertisement

03 Catch a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Famous Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison.

Part of the Denver Mountain Parks system, Red Rocks Amphitheater is an outdoor concert venue that uses the natural rock structure to provide seating and incredible acoustics. The sound is helped along a little by some good old human ingenuity. The result? A venue that attracts stars and bands from Marshmello to The Dead South. The natural arena is even used for religious services, such as the Easter Sunrise Service held once a year. Always check with the venue before traveling as, due to its remote location, not all routes are constantly open.

Advertisement

04 Discover the Mile High City with a bicycle tour

Biking on weekend in downtown Denver, Colroado

Denver is a beautiful city packed with art, culture, and history. You can discover the city by walking, but why walk when you can ride? Get to sites quickly, then dismount and take all the time you need to learn something new about a Denver hidden gem. Many tour providers offer bikes, helmets, and accessories at an all-inclusive price. Take a whole day to explore the whole city or focus on one specific area like Downtown.

Advertisement

05 Admire the shops and architecture of Pearl Street Mall

Pearl Street Mall during tulip bloom in early Spring

Pearl Street Mall in Downtown Boulder is more than just a great place for shopping. It stretches across four blocks and boasts over 200 stores and eateries. It was even named one of the Great Public Spaces by the American Planning Association. If you drive in, park on the street by 16th Street Mall and enjoy the rest of the Mall on foot. Get some retail therapy or wind down at one of the many vibrant bars. In summer, keep your ears open for live music during the annual Bands on the Bricks concert series.

Advertisement

06 Immerse yourself in the past at Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Parks, Colorado, USA

Over 700 years of history are available for exploration at Mesa Verde National Park. Home to the Ancestral Pueblo people, the cliffs house evidence of ancient, thriving communities nestled among stunning natural beauty. Once you’ve exhausted the wonders of the human-built wonders, you have the chance to spot one of over a thousand species that live within this National Park. Some of these animals and birds aren’t found anywhere else in the world. Visitors have an opportunity to watch the film Footsteps of Our Ancestors which explains more about the fascinating history of this national park.

Advertisement

07 Explore the haunting remains of Ashcroft Ghost Town

Three buildings in the city of Ashcroft, a ghost town in Ashcroft, Colorado

Ashcroft briefly showed promise for silver mining and once, was more prosperous than Aspen, just 11 miles to the north. Instead of fulfilling its potential as a rival ski resort, it dwindled and emptied until, by 1939, not one original resident was left. All that remains today are unsettling empty buildings amid glorious alpine meadows. nearly became a ski resort, but the area is long deserted. There’s a small charge to enter the area and explore, usually managed by the simple application of an honesty box. You can find more information from the local Aspen Historical Society who work to preserve the town.

Advertisement

08 Get déjà vu on Main Street in Fort Collins

Even if you've never visited Fort Collins before, something about Main Street in Downtown might strike you as familiar. That’s because this area was some of the primary inspiration for the famous Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland. One of the designers of the Disney Main Street actually hailed from Fort Collins, hence the similarities. Downtown Fort Collins has its own unique charms, from a delectable dining scene to splash pads, live music, and numerous craft breweries.

Fort Collins, Colorado dlewis33 / Getty Images

09 Take a train up the mountains with the Pikes Peak Cog Railway

ourists enjoy the view after arriving to Pikes Peak on the cog railway

The Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway provides one of the most exciting ways to get to the summit of Pikes Peak. Gain an elevation of just over 14,000 in a three-hour round trip, including 40 minutes to explore the Peak itself. Passengers enjoy breathtaking views of Deer Park, Minnehaha Falls, and Englemann Canyon on a nine-mile trek through the mountains. Watch out for local wildlife and, if you want to hike around the mountains, get a one-way ticket and start your own adventure as you disembark.

Advertisement

10 See the riches of the Argo Gold Mine and Mill

Large, red painted Argo gold mine and mill with a historical mining museum in front of a rising mountain.

Argo Mill and Tunnel is one of the best preserved and biggest historic gold mines anywhere in the world. Visitors can take a guided tour, following in the footsteps of those swept up by the Colorado Gold Rush. If you book a tour, you also get to have a go at panning for gold. Experts show you the technique, and if you want a little bit of gold-inspired merch to take back with you, there’s the popular Mercantile store. Call ahead to check availability or book online, and arrive ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

Advertisement

11 Explore cascading waters at South Mineral Creek Falls

South Clear Creek Waterfall in Mineral County, Colorado

Considered one of the hidden gems of Colorado’s San Juan National Forest, South Mineral Creeks Fall is a crashing cascade of snow-melt into vivid turquoise pools. The waterfalls spill over ancient red rocks into a vivid turquoise pool. Thanks to the surrounding mountains, this snow-fed waterfall continues all year round. This jaw-dropping spectacle is visible from two different heights — go for both if you can. South Mineral Creek Falls is accessible to people visiting the South Mineral Creek campground near Durango or Deep Lake Campsite atop Molas Pass.

Advertisement

12 Take a horseback ride at Grand Canyon National Park

tourists on horseback during an excursion

If you want to set your trip to the Grand Canyon apart, schedule a horseback tour of the area. Outfits like Sombrero Ranches and National Park Gateway Stables can work with tourists who want to go on a guided exploration of the area. For seasoned and newer riders alike, the tour can provide a great way to cover more territory and see more sights.

Advertisement

13 Marvel at the wildlife at Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado’s stunning Rocky Mountains have over 350 miles of hiking trails stretched along crystal-clear lakesides and steep paths. This incredible landscape is the perfect place to catch views of a diverse range of wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep, and bobcats. Take a walk, book a camping trip, or simply take a scenic drive. There are also plenty of areas to enjoy picnicking, fishing, or horseback riding. In the summer, visitors can enjoy ranger-led nature programs and learn a little more about the natural world of the Rockies.

Rocky mountain, Aspen, Colorado, USA Tyler Stableford / Getty Images

14 Take in the sights along the San Juan Scenic Byway

Couple at San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway Colorado USA

Designated as a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1988, the San Juan Scenic Byway loops through the heart of the San Juan Mountains. Starting and ending in Durango, Colorado, the Scenic Byway passes Mesa Verde National Park, Telluride, Red Mountain Pass, and several historic ghost towns. Stretches of the Byway are referred to as the Million Dollar Highway, named after the gold found in the nearby Idarado Mine. You can see some of the remains of mining fixtures and trestles along the route. Remember to check road conditions before you travel.

Advertisement

15 Traverse a trail at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is considered one of the steepest, narrowest, and deepest gorges for outdoor enthusiasts to explore. Experienced hikers can venture down into the inner canyon with available spots for rock climbing, hiking, and kayaking. There are also some easy routes further up, such as Cedar Point Nature Trail. This 3-mile round trip includes stunning views of the river at the base of the canyon, 2,00 feet below. Certified as an International Dark Sky Park in 2015, Gunnison is one of the best places in Colorado to enjoy dazzling star-studded night skies. Safety first: drinking water isn’t always available in the park, and opportunistic bears have been known to try and steal hikers’ snacks! Keep your backpacks on your backs wherever possible.

16 Ride the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Have you ever been sandboarding or sand sledding? Both are options in the vast, awe-inspiring expanse of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. It’s home to the tallest dunes in North America and a top destination for hiking, backpacking, and riding the dunes. If you want to know what sandboarding feels like, think of snowboarding and imagine it being just a little tougher to turn on the rough sand. For more conventional activities, there’s swimming, surfing, and sandcastle building at the nearby Medano Creek. Another International Dark Sky Park, you can hike here during a full moon without a flashlight.

Landscape view of dunes with mountains in the background at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, the tallest dunes in North America. BlueBarronPhoto / Getty Images

17 Ski the slopes in Aspen

Aspen hosts four ski areas with slopes for any skill level and breathtaking views of the Elk Mountains. Even in the off-season, there's plenty to do, with mountain biking, hiking, and rock climbing in the spring and summer and fantastic fall foliage in the autumn.

Riding the Chair at Aspen gladassfanny / Getty Images

18 Ascend to the clouds on Trail Ridge Road

Want to drive on the highest continuous paved highway in the United States? Head to Larimer County, Colorado, and find Trail Ridge Road in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Known as the Highway to the Sky, this road runs for 48 miles, many of those above the treeline. Visitors eventually reach heights of 12,183 feet and can witness some of the most jaw-dropping views of the Rockies as they span out before you in all directions. Remember to check before you travel as the road is often closed in winter and inclement weather. Charge your smartphone — you’ll want to take a lot of pictures.

Sprague Lake Hallett Peak and Tyndall Glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado USA benedek / Getty Images

19 Denver - the mile-high city beckons

Denver, the vibrant capital of Colorado, is a treasure trove of culture, history, and natural beauty. Nestled against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, the city is a kaleidoscope of experiences. Explore the Denver Art Museum, savor culinary delights in trendy restaurants, and take a leisurely stroll through the Denver Botanic Gardens. As the sun sets, the city comes alive with music and entertainment. Whether you're an art enthusiast, a foodie, or an outdoor lover, Denver has something for everyone.

Japanese garden at Denver botanic gardens JUN DONG / Getty Images

20 Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve -  an oasis in the mountains

Imagine towering sand dunes juxtaposed against snow-capped mountains. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a surreal landscape that seems to defy logic. Here, you can indulge in the thrill of sandboarding or sledding down the dunes. The park is a playground for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. As the day wanes, the sunset paints the dunes in shades of gold and amber, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve zrfphoto / Getty Images

21 Visit the inspiration for a horror classic and stay at Stanley Hotel

Nestled in the quaint town of Estes Park, the Stanley Hotel is a destination for fans of both history and mystery. This Georgian Revival-style hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King's "The Shining" and the subsequent Stanley Kubrick movie. Rather than driving guests away, the hotel has embraced its connection to the macabre and even has a Stephen King room. People travel here to ghost hunt, take in local history, and stay amidst the beautiful Rocky Mountains while enjoying luxurious amenities.

Angled view of Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado gregobagel / Getty Images

22 Discover a mountain paradise for all seasons at Vail

Vail is synonymous with mountain grandeur and outdoor adventure. In winter, the snow-laden slopes beckon skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. But Vail is more than just a winter wonderland. When the snow recedes, the summer heat reveals rolling green landscapes perfect for hiking and mountain biking. There’s also the charming town of Vail, dotted with boutique shops, gourmet restaurants, and cozy lodges. Add in a cozy community atmosphere and that’s what makes Vail the perfect mountain getaway.

Vail, Colorado, USA Drone Village Skyline Aerial Kruck20 / Getty Images

23 Ride the rapids through the Royal Gorge

Known by many as the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge offers some of the most thrilling white-water rafting experiences in Colorado. The Royal Gorge is very narrow, incredibly fast, and breathtakingly beautiful. It’s also around ten miles long, providing a wealth of adventures for all outdoors types. Talk to a local expert about the right kayak supplies and what routes suit your skill level.

White Water Rafting in Colorado Sportstock / Getty Images

24 Indulge in luxury amid the natural beauty of Aspen

Aspen, Colorado is famous for its world-class ski resorts, including Buttermilk, Snowmass, and Aspen Highlands. The town of Aspen also offers a rich cultural scene with high-end shopping and dining. Like Vail, Aspen offers plenty for visitors even in the summer months. The mountains come alive with hikers and bikers exploring the trails, but also luxury lovers looking to enjoy the local spas, fine-dining restaurants, and boutique hotels.

Aspen colorado overlook Jonathan Ross / Getty Images

25 Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad - step back in time

All aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for a journey through time and beauty. This historic train has been in continuous operation since 1882, transporting passengers through the breathtaking San Juan Mountains to the old mining town of Silverton. The ride offers a unique perspective of Colorado's rugged landscape, with the Animas River flowing below and the peaks of the Rockies towering above. It's a trip that combines history, adventure, and natural splendor into one unforgettable experience.

Durango, Colorado, USA September 30, 2021: Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Paul Hamilton / Getty Images

26 Discover a mountain town for all seasons at Breckenridge

Breckenridge is a charming mountain town that offers a wealth of activities throughout the year. In winter, the town is a picture-perfect snowy paradise, offering world-class skiing and snowboarding. Come summer, the mountains become a playground for walkers, cyclists, and nature lovers. The town itself is a hub of culture, with visitors loving the many craft breweries and unique restaurants. There are also plenty of independent boutiques as well as big brands for avid shoppers.

Scenic view of Breckenridge ski resort , Colorado. Glenn Pettersen / Getty Images

27 Enjoy mountain adventure at its best in Telluride

Nestled in a box canyon and surrounded by towering peaks, Telluride is a mountain lover's dream. Once a mining town, Telluride now offers a range of outdoor activities, from mountain biking in the summer to ice climbing in the winter. There are gondolas up into the mountains, festivals, and even a bar near the site of a bank robbed by Butch Cassidy. Wherever you decide to shop, eat, or drink, you can enjoy incredible mountain views in the setting of this historic town. Telluride is a six-hour drive from Denver and close to Montrose Airport, so easily accessible wherever you’re coming from.

Downtown Telluride in the Spring danicachang / Getty Images
Share

Scroll Down

for the Next Article

The Getaway Badge
Sign up to receive insider info and deals that will help you travel smarter.
Advertisement
Advertisement