These Are the Most Beautiful Places in Colorado
Whether you choose to explore Colorado’s alpine landscapes, pine forests or deep canyons, these are the most beautiful places in the state.
Colorado’s four national parks – Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison – give you an idea of the state’s astonishingly rich natural offerings. While the mountainous region is best known for its skiing, its towering peaks also give way to placid lakes, dunes, forests and mesmerising rock formations. If you’re not sure where to start, allow Plum Guide to direct you to our pick of the most beautiful places in Colorado.
On winter evenings, when the town is blanketed with snow, and its chalets light up with a warm glow, Aspen is truly magical. Once the snow melts, the varied terrains that make this such a popular skiing resort also welcome some of the most beautiful landscapes in Colorado. Wildflowers bloom in profusion in the foothills of Capitol Creek; the twin peaks of Maroon Bells are reflected in the crystal-clear lake below; and the fall colours of the aspen trees after which the town was named are best seen along the Cathedral Lake trail.
There’s a reason that Oprah Winfrey and Ralph Lauren own land in Telluride. Just wandering through the town centre is an experience in itself, as the peaks of the Rocky Mountains tower behind the historic shop fronts, which transport you back to Telluride’s Wild West past. In the winter, the ski resort is a spectacular location for winter sports, with wide runs meandering between pine forests, and incredible views from the gondolas. In summer, the area is transformed, with a colourful patchwork blanketing the slopes, as reddish rock peeks out between fields of golden wildflowers, contrasting with the rich green of the trees, all of which creates a landscape that’s ripe for exploring.
Mesa Verde National Park
Within driving distance of Telluride lies Mesa Verde National Park. The imposing sandstone cliffs of this protected area, and their natural alcoves, would be worth visiting in themselves. But what sets this park apart are the ancient dwellings that have been carved into the cliff face. Constructed by the Ancestral Puebloans, an ancient Native American culture, some of the remains date back as far as the eighth century. The most impressive are from the late-twelfth century, and include the so-called Cliff Palace, which is thought to be the largest dwelling of its kind in North America. There are 600 fascinating cliff dwellings to explore, all of which are surrounded by the remarkable rock formations and coniferous forest of the national park.
Backed by the Rocky Mountains, Breckenridge is ideally located for hiking through alpine scenery. Find your bearings by walking along the historic Main Street, where buildings painted in shades of red, blue and green date back to the 1880s and 1890s. While you’ll want to spend some time exploring the former mining town, it’s the surrounding area that’s particularly beautiful. Hike to the beautiful Lower Mohawk Lake, where mountains dotted with pine and fir trees seem to rise up from the shallow water. There’s also the wide open fields of Hoosier Pass, the waterfalls of McCullough Gulch and the stunning Blue Lake of Monte Cristo Creek. In fact, no matter which direction you choose to start your hike, you’re sure to stumble across some of the most beautiful places in Colorado.
Majestic mountain views, dense forests and the soothing sound of gurgling creeks make Vail a beautiful place to explore. Situated in the White River National Forest – the most visited national forest in the US – the town is surrounded by 2.3 million acres of protected scenery. Visit in the summer months to see the best of the area, before the snow covers its aspen groves and grassy trails. One of the most charming spots near Vail itself is Piney Lake – come as the sun starts to set to see the ochre-tinged peaks of Vail Mountain perfectly reflected in the still alpine lake. Or explore Eagles Nest Wilderness, where a plethora of trails take you past rocky creeks, round cobalt-coloured lakes and along scenic ridges of the now-protected area that was once ransacked by gold miners.
What could be a better way to appreciate Colorado’s scenery than by admiring your surroundings while soaking in hot springs? That’s exactly what you’ll get in the area around Steamboat Springs, where hot spring-fed pools mean a variety of captivating locations to experience Yampa Valley from the warm, even in the colder months. Explore Steamboat Springs’ lush green mountain sides, tumbling creeks and lazy rivers by hiking, biking or even horse riding through this region of Colorado.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Although it’s surrounded by mountains, the interior of this national park is very different to the majority of Colorado’s alpine landscapes. Nestled between the peaks lie undulating sand dunes, which create a desert-like setting. But unlike most deserts, at the foot of these dunes trails the seasonal Medano Creek, which is fed by the Sangre de Cristo mountains, so you’ll feel more like you’re at the beach. That's right: the most beautiful places in Colorado aren't all snow and mountains. Take in the unusual panoramas of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve by hiking up the steep sides of the dunes; splashing in the water; or swooping down the slopes on a sandboard.