Are you ready to immerse yourself in unrivaled scenic beauty and discover the best views in Colorado? With its expansive skies, towering mountains, and vibrant landscapes, Colorado is nothing short of a visual masterpiece and a great place for every travel enthusiast. Each site on our meticulously curated list promises an experience steeped in natural beauty and awe-inspiring vistas. Here are the 15 most beautiful places to visit in Colorado
15 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Colorado
Embark on an unforgettable expedition through Colorado’s stunning terrain, where every corner unfolds into a masterpiece of nature's splendid beauty. The state offers 15 spectacular spots that stand as testaments to its enchanting allure, waiting to be explored and adored by eager travelers like you.
1. Rocky Mountain National Park
This rises majestically, with elevations ranging from 7,860 feet to an astounding 14,259 feet, hosting sixty glorious peaks that soar over 12,000 feet, crafting a scene of internationally acclaimed beauty. Sandwiched between the charming towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west, with Lyons, Winter Park, Granby, and Boulder nearby, this park is a gateway to an extraordinary canvas of varied mountain environments. Visitors are greeted with rolling meadows in the montane life zone, reflective alpine lakes, and towering peaks, offering a bounty of discovery at every elevation.
Adding to its allure, the park provides access to an estimated 355 miles of trails, meticulously maintained for hiking, biking trails, snowshoeing, and horseback riding adventures, making it a treasure trove for those hungry for both visual feasts and active exploration.
2. Garden of the Gods
A revered site steeped in history, Garden of the Gods boasts stunning rock formations that have captivated visitors. Once a significant site for various tribes, including Apache, Cheyenne, and Ute, its awe-inspiring landscapes and the name bestowed by early visitors echo its sublime beauty and heritage.
The park, featuring towering sandstone structures, views of Pikes Peak, and various hiking trails, provides a rich tapestry of experiences. Housing the historic Rock Ledge Ranch, it offers a glimpse into the past, standing as Tripadvisor's #1 US Park. Free admission promises unforgettable scenery and memories, whether for a brief visit or a day-long exploration.
3. Mesa Verde National Park
In Southwestern Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park is a treasure between Cortez and Mancos and is close to Durango. This unique park, positioned 10 miles east of Cortez and 35 miles west of Durango, isn’t merely a national treasure but also a proud member of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is the United States ‘ largest archaeological preserve, holding the guardianship of over 5,000 archaeological sites, including an impressive 600 cliff dwellings.
The name “Mesa Verde,” translating to “green table” in Spanish, perfectly encapsulates its essence with a flat top adorned with perpetual greenery from piñon and juniper trees. This enchanting locale doesn’t just offer a visit; it opens a doorway to traverse through historical lanes while basking in the serene beauty of nature’s grand tableau.
4. Great Sand Dunes National Park
Nestled where the Sangre de Cristo Mountains meet the San Luis Valley, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve boasts North America's highest dunes, reaching up to 750 feet. Spanning 30 square miles and formed over eons by unique winds, this expansive sandbox offers visitors engaging experiences from sand sledding to hiking.
With additional attractions like picnicking areas, camping sites, Medano Pass’ scenic four-wheel drives, and horseback-riding trails, the park is a delightful blend of serene wilderness and enticing adventure for travelers of all ages.
5. Maroon Bells
Situated south of Aspen, the iconic Maroon Bells are among North America's most photographed mountains, soaring over 14,000 feet with striking summer snow stripes. Their distinctive color comes from the oxidized iron in the Maroon Formation’s red shale and siltstone.
Visitors can expect challenges from alpine scrambling to technical climbing amidst these unique rock formations, making Maroon Bells a compelling destination for photographers, observers, and climbers, promising captivating visuals and adventurous exploration.
6. Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak, standing tall at 14,115 feet, is the 31st highest among Colorado’s 54 peaks and the easternmost prominent peak in the Rocky Mountain chain. Its unique geographical position garnered it significant attention and fame among early explorers, pioneers, and immigrants. It eventually became a symbolic beacon during the 1859 Gold Rush with the “Pikes Peak or Bust” rallying cry.
This majestic mountain, shaped during the geological Laramide Orogeny event, stands today as a towering testament to the adventurous spirit and promising opportunities that have long characterized Colorado’s rich history and stunning natural landscape.
7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Nestled in western Colorado, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park mesmerizes visitors with its steep, narrow canyons, carved meticulously over millions of years. The Gunnison River, meandering through approximately 1.7 billion-year-old Precambrian metamorphic rock, has crafted this marvel with only 14 of its 48 miles within the park. Visitors are greeted with towering cliffs of gneiss and schist, including the renowned Painted Wall — at 2247 feet, Colorado’s tallest cliff.
Often bathed in shadows, the cliffs’ darkness gave the park its name. Noteworthy is the river’s steep descent, averaging 43 feet per mile, with a dramatic 240 feet at Chasm View, marking some of North America’s most precipitous descents. This park is a symphony of ancient rocks, steep descents, and breathtaking beauty, offering a visual spectacle that echoes nature's mighty and relentless forces.
8. Red Rocks Amphitheater
Located in Morrison, Colorado, merely 20 miles from Denver, Red Rocks Amphitheater is a unique and stunning outdoor concert venue within a natural rock structure. This venue, with a seating capacity for approximately 10,000 people, is enveloped by majestic 300-foot red sandstone walls that rose from ancient ocean floors millions of years ago. The amphitheater is flanked by two colossal walls known as “Ship Rock” and “Creation Rock,” which stand sentinel over the rest of Red Rocks Park.
The amphitheater's distinctive structure, created by bright red sandstone rocks, provides an awe-inspiring setting for concerts, with attendees granted the additional visual treat of downtown Denver and the rolling foothills in the distance. With its unparalleled natural beauty and excellent acoustics, Red Rocks offers performers and concert-goers an unmatched musical experience under the open sky, making it a must-visit for music and nature lovers alike.
9. Royal Gorge Bridge
Situated west of Cañon City, Colorado, the Royal Gorge Bridge proudly holds the title of America's highest suspension bridge and ranks seventh highest globally. Just over an hour's drive from downtown Colorado Springs, this architectural marvel is conveniently located at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, a site bustling with family-friendly activities and a welcoming visitor's center.
Remarkably, constructing this iconic bridge took a dedicated crew of 80 workers only seven months. Unlike many bridges built during its time, the Royal Gorge Bridge was not conceived as a transportation route. Still, it was intentionally designed to be a magnetic tourist attraction, offering breathtaking views and an unforgettable experience for all who visit.
10. San Juan National Forest
Spanning approximately 1.8 million acres, the San Juan National Forest nestles in Colorado’s southwestern corner, presenting a vibrant tapestry of high-desert mesas and lofty alpine peaks, including the picturesque San Juan Mountains. This expansive area, diligently managed for diverse uses, invites visitors to indulge in its beauty while respecting the delicate balance of its natural resources.
With its headquarters situated in the dynamic town of Durango and additional district offices located in Bayfield, Dolores, and Pagosa Springs, San Juan National Forest stands as a testament to nature’s bounty and resilience, offering an exquisite escape for those eager to explore the silent, breathtaking dialogue between the desert and the mountains. Planning your visit at the best time ensures you witness this landscape at its most enchanting
11. Dinosaur National Monument: A Portal to Prehistory
Situated in northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah, Dinosaur National Monument serves as a valuable repository of history and prehistoric life. Neighboring the town of Dinosaur in Colorado and not far from Vernal, Utah, this remarkable desert area, established in 1915, initially sought to preserve its renowned Dinosaur Quarry. However, acknowledging its profound natural history significance, the monument substantially expanded in 1938.
Today, it is a celebrated destination, meticulously safeguarding its precious fossil beds, including an impressive array of dinosaur remains, offering enthusiasts and casual visitors a fascinating glimpse into Earth's distant past.
12. Manitou Springs: Embracing Nature and Culture
Deriving its name from the Algonquian word signifying “great spirits,” Manitou Springs is enveloped in a rich tapestry of history and natural allure. Set at the foot of the venerable Pikes Peak, it was a revered location for the Cheyenne, Mountain Ute, and Arapaho tribes, who once graced its land with their presence. Today, visitors can explore the natural mineral springs scattered throughout the historic area, each offering a unique experience and connection to the past.
Beyond its springs, Manitou Springs is celebrated for its vibrant living environment, characterized by a mix of suburban tranquility and lively social venues. With many bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks, it’s a beloved home for young professionals, retirees, and families, creating a dynamic and friendly community where most residents opt for home ownership. Whether you are drawn by its sacred springs, inviting atmosphere, or spirited community life, Manitou Springs beckons with promise and vitality.
13. Denver Art Museum
Internationally recognized for its Indigenous Arts of North America collection, the Denver Art Museum is a hub of cultural heritage and artistic excellence. It highlights Indigenous and Latin American Art and offers a glimpse into the Art of the Ancient Americas.
With over 70,000 artworks across 12 unique collections, the museum celebrates global cultures, showcasing African and Oceanic art to modern and contemporary works, providing visitors with a rich, diverse exploration of worldwide art and creativity.
14. Million Dollar Highway
Venturing through the Million Dollar Highway, or U.S. Route 550, offers travelers a thrilling and visually stunning journey between Ouray and Silverton in Colorado's southwestern corner. This 25-mile stretch, renowned for its steep grades and twisting turns, presents a challenging drive, often traversing avalanche-prone paths with no guardrails for added adventure. Its name, often joked about by locals, either derives from the intimidating nature of the drive – worth a million dollars for the brave-hearted – or possibly from the considerable expense incurred in its expansion and paving.
Among the highway’s many breathtaking features, the Uncompahgre Gorge is a favorite, captivating visitors with its deep canyons, sharp cliffs, and the river intricately carving its path below. The indescribable rugged peaks encountered along the way will undoubtedly have travelers reaching for their cameras to capture the unforgettable beauty unfurling at every turn.
15. White River National Forest
Situated at the Rocky Mountains' core, the expansive White River National Forest stretches across 2.3 million acres, marking one of the National Forest System's largest and most picturesque segments. This illustrious forest is the setting for globally acclaimed ski resorts and stands as the origin of designated Wilderness Areas, offering something captivating for every lover of the outdoors.
The forest boasts 10 towering peaks surpassing 14,000 feet and houses eight spectacular Wilderness Areas, collectively spreading over 750,000 acres. Visitors will be enchanted by world-famous scenery, including the renowned Collegiate Peaks, Eagles Nest, Flat Tops, Holy Cross, Hunter-Frying Pan, Ptarmigan Peak, Maroon Bells-Snowmass, and Raggeds Wilderness Areas, each offering a unique and breathtaking slice of Colorado’s untamed beauty.
The 15 Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Colorado
In the heart of America lies a state adorned with natural wonders and cultural gems that beckon explorers and seekers of beauty. Colorado covers whether you're searching for outdoor activities, a perfect place to escape, or a destination to enjoy any time of year. From the grandeur of Rocky Mountain National Park, with its towering peaks and pristine wilderness, to the ancient echoes of Mesa Verde's cliff dwellings, Colorado boasts an unparalleled range of experiences.
As you venture further, the striking hues of the Maroon Bells, the geological wonders of Garden of the Gods, and the rugged allure of the Million Dollar Highway promise captivating journeys. The Dinosaur National Monument takes you back in time for history enthusiasts, while the Denver Art Museum unveils the diverse tapestry of human creativity. Lastly, the serene White River National Forest invites adventurers to uncover its lush landscapes and pristine wilderness. Colorado's most popular places for exploration are a testament to the state's abundant beauty, inviting travelers to embark on unforgettable adventures across this captivating landscape.