Explore Colorado

Colorado Travel Guide

The best-known of the Rocky Mountain states, Colorado is essentially an outdoor paradise and owes its recognition to the majestic mountains that create spectacular scenery, panoramic vistas and an abundance of recreational possibilities. For most travellers, the essential appeal of Colorado is nature-based.<br /><br /> The Rocky Mountains are a year-round destination and boast stunning national parks and forests, scenic canyons, tranquil lakes, flowing rivers and towering peaks that provide opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, fishing and horse riding. Numerous winter resorts nestled in the mountains offer unrivalled skiing and snowboarding amid beautiful alpine scenery. The resort of Vail is considered to be one of the top ski destinations in the Americas and is the most popular, while Aspen is best known for its celebrities and glamorous après-ski scene.<br /><br /> The state capital, Denver, is the obvious starting point for a vacation and is the gateway to the mountains, ski resorts and spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park to the north. Home to many museums, parks, gardens and a lively downtown area, the city offers the comfort and culture of bigger cities like Los Angeles or New York, but at a more relaxed pace. Pikes Peak looms over the popular city of Colorado Springs, famous for the breath-taking views that were the inspiration for the lyrics of 'America the Beautiful' by Katherine Lee Bates. Just outside the city are the fantastic red sandstone formations of the Garden of the Gods.<br /><br /> The western part of the state comprises beautiful, remote desert canyons and the archaeological remnants of the cliff cities left by an ancient civilisation at Mesa Verde National Park, a stark contrast to the alpine wonders that attract most visitors to Colorado.<br /><br />

History Colorado Center

Documenting the colourful history of Colorado and the stories of those who have lived here over the centuries, the History Colorado Center brings to life the world of cowboys and gunfighters, Native Americans, miners and gold panners, explorers, buffalo hunters, wagon trains and railroads. The museum is hugely innovative, blending technology with fascinating artefacts: explore an enormous map of the state with a storytelling time machine, grab a headlamp and enter a hard-rock mine, traverse the plains in a Model T, then soar off the world's first ski jump. Exhibits include portrayals of life in 19th-century Denver, Buffalo Soldiers and the Mesa Verde cliff.<br /><br />

Denver Art Museum

Housing one of the largest Native American art collections in the country, the Denver Art Museum is a huge, seven-storey structure that also features the works of American Western artists, and art from Africa, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. The growing Native American collection displays work from about 150 tribes throughout the country, arranged geographically and spanning almost 2,000 years. Discovery Libraries contain shelves of art objects and prints, a costume closet that allows visitors to try on olden-day clothing, as well as reading corners. The museum is interesting for people of all ages and is open every day except Mondays.<br /><br />

Rocky Mountain National Park

The most popular attraction in Colorado is the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park, with its snow-covered peaks, flower-flecked meadows, alpine lakes, thundering waterfalls and wildlife. These images of beauty have graced countless calendars and coffee-table books and are instantly recognisable as belonging to Colorado. Because of the high elevation of the park, a third of which is at an altitude of more than 11,500 feet (3,505m), there are large areas above the tree line of alpine tundra, meaning constant snow and flora seldom found outside the Arctic.<br /><br /> Although usually considered the realm of hikers, climbers, fishermen and horse riders, it is possible to enjoy the park without breaking a sweat thanks to one of America's most scenic drives, the Trail Ridge Road. Crossing the Continental Divide at over two miles (3km) above sea level, the 48-mile (77km) highway linking Estes Park to Grand Lake is one of the highest continuous highways in the country, affording dizzying views in all directions. The sweeping vistas of snowy peaks and glaciers, forests, streams and meadows where elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep can be seen, are exceptional. The road also provides access to several walking trails. In winter the road is closed, but activities such as cross-country skiing, ice fishing and snow-shoeing are popular.<br /><br /> Most visitors come during the summer months, but the park can get quite crowded and the roads congested; the best time to enjoy the park is early autumn, after the crowds and before the winter snows. The resort village of Estes Park is the eastern gateway to the park and very popular with visitors, while the western resort of Grand Lake is quieter with an idyllic setting on the shores of a large lake.<br /><br />

Denver Mint

More US money is made in Denver than anywhere else in the country, and visitors can take a tour of the Denver Mint to see exactly what's behind that tiny 'D' on most US coins. The Denver Mint opened in 1863, and originally melted gold dust and nuggets into bars for the Federal Reserve. Today it churns out billions of coins each year. Self-guided tours through the visitors' gallery provide a birds-eye view of the coin-minting process, with signs and displays explaining how it works. The whole tour takes about an hour, and reservations are required. There is a gift shop selling historic coins and replicas, which make great souvenirs for travellers (it is also possible to purchase coins online via the official website).<br /><br />

Ski resorts

Boasting some of the world's top ski resorts, such as Vail and Aspen, to name two of the best, the main attraction of the Rocky Mountains has to be its plethora of ski resorts. Travellers looking for the ultimate winter ski holiday are spoilt for choice when they visit Colorado's Rockies as there are at least 20 resorts to choose from. From amateurs and intermediates to those looking to carve their way down pristine black runs, there's a skiing or snowboarding opportunity for everyone. Some of the resorts are glamorous and upmarket and others are more family-friendly. See our more comprehensive resort listings for or a more detailed look at the Rocky Mountains ski resorts.<br /><br />

Mount Evans

Mount Evans, with an altitude of over 14,000 feet, offers visitors truly spectacular views from its summit, as well as the opportunity to see various forms of Rocky Mountain wildlife (American Elk, mountain goats, marmots, big horn sheep) in their natural habitats. Just 65 miles (about 100km) from Denver - including an exhilarating 15 miles on 'America's highest paved road', the Mount Evans Scenic Byway - Mount Evans is perhaps the easiest way for visitors to Colorado to get an authentic 'Rocky Mountain experience'. Mount Evans also offers fishing opportunities, and hiking and bicycle trails; although it is most commonly visited as a day-trip from Denver, and is easily accessible by car for the less fit. Remember to pack a lunch for the summit, as the views will keep you up there for hours.<br /><br />

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is one of those rare attractions that is as entertaining as it is educational, and as suitable for kids as it is fascinating for grown-ups. The museum draws thousands of teachers and students each year, and countless more tourists, all of whom value the unique, hands-on presentation style of the exhibitions. Boasting an IMAX theatre, Planetarium, and an assortment of high-tech, interactive 'discovery areas' (most famously, the 'Space Odyssey' and 'Prehistoric Journey' sections), visitors of all ages are sure to come away from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science enriched, and more enthusiastic about the world's natural treasures. The museum also houses a popular gift shop and cafe.<br /><br />

Elitch Gardens Theme Park

This popular amusement park is conveniently located in downtown Denver, offering about 50 rides and attractions for families in Denver. Rides range from the thrilling ten-storey Twister II roller coaster, to the pretty hand-carved carousel that dates back to 1925. The connected Island Kingdom Water Park offers relief on hot summer days, with around a dozen waterslides, raft rides, and family play areas. Entrance to the theme park includes entrance to the water park at no extra cost. Elitch Gardens Theme Park is seasonal, open between April and October and closed the rest of the year. Visitors should note that the park is open daily in the peak summer months but only sporadically in April, May, September and October; it is essential to check the calendar on the official website listed below before visiting to avoid disappointment. The E and C light rail lines stop near the entrance to the theme park.<br /><br />

Boulder

A laid-back university town, located roughly 25 minutes northwest of Denver, Boulder is a sophisticated and artistic city. The large population of students from Colorado University gives Boulder a lively nightlife, a sense of fun, and a liberal attitude. Taking full advantage of its close proximity to the Rocky Mountains, Boulder is a city fanatical about outdoor activities like hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, camping, and skiing, and has positioned itself as a tourist hub for travellers on their way to the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. Boulder is stunningly situated and has enough impressive views to satisfy anybody in search of Colorado's beauty.<br /><br />

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park provides a glimpse into the Ancestral Pueblo culture (also called the Anasazi), a tribe which inhabited the area for over 700 years from the year 600 to 1300. The park contains thousands of archaeological sites, including hundreds of cliff dwellings. Travellers can start at the Far View Visitors' Center, located 15 miles (24km) from the entrance, and join a ranger-guided tour of popular sites like Cliff Palace, Balcony house, Spruce Tree House, and Long House. Many sites are only accessible on the tours, and may be difficult for those who aren't physically fit. The ruins are incredibly impressive and very well preserved; some of the greatest archaeological treasures in the Americas.<br /><br />

Dinosaur National Monument

One of the best places to see prehistoric dinosaur fossils in the US, Dinosaur National Monument is home to the Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry, a famous archaeological site that still displays thousands of fossils for the public to see, along with exhibits on life during the late Jurassic period. The park was also home to outlaws and homesteaders in the 1800s, and there are a few historic sites relating to their presence, including the Rial Chew Ranch Complex and Denis Julien Inscription to explore. The area is scenically splendid and offers many fun outdoor activities: there are great hiking trails and the extra adventurous can go river rafting down the rapids of the canyons.<br /><br />

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