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10 Beautiful Small Towns In Colorado

Published Jan 30, 2019

If it’s picturesque vistas and exciting outdoor activities you crave then you’ll definitely want to visit Colorado at some point during your travels through the USA. The stunningly beautiful Rocky Mountains run through the state, meaning that you are spoilt for choice when looking to explore stunning landscapes or crave a little snowsports action on one of the many ski resorts that dot Colorado. The state’s role in the famous gold rushes of the 19th century has also resulted in all manner of Victorian-era charms - be it towns like Durango and Cripple Creek, which boast evocative buildings from that time to stunning steam train journeys through the winding and jaw-droppingly beautiful canyons. Whatever your travel intentions you’ll find plenty of picturesque destinations to while away your time. These are just some of the beautiful small towns in Colorado you could visit during your holiday.

1. Telluride (from USD 203)

This former mining town has reinvented itself as a popular skiing and golfing resort - which is sure to appeal to those who enjoy pitting themselves against the slopes and other sporting activities. Naturally, its mountain setting and Telluride’s position within a box canyon means there are plenty of breathtaking sights to enjoy as well - from the majestic Bridal Veil Falls, which overlook the town, to the verdant forests which line the flanks of the hills and mountains. The town’s rich past and culture is also celebrated at the likes of the Telluride Historical Museum - which is set in a late 19th-century hospital - and the Sheridan Opera House, an arts and entertainment venue that is just over a century old.

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2. Aspen (from USD 175)

World famous as a skiing resort, Aspen attracts legions of snowsports fans every year - so if you want to pit yourself against the powder for a little skiing or snowboarding fun, then you’ll definitely want to visit this Colorado town during your visit. But Aspen’s setting amid the Rocky Mountains doesn’t just mean plenty of winter-based fun. The area’s beautiful landscape and a wide array of other outdoor activities attract visitors year-round. Wilderness areas and national forests such as White River and Flat Tops vie for the attention, the latter of which enchants visitors with its array of wildlife, volcanic cliffs, and meadows. But there’s also plenty to enjoy within Aspen itself, from Aspen Art Museum’s mix of contemporary works, from international artists to the landscaped retreat of the John Denver Sanctuary and local landmarks such as the famed Wheeler Opera House.

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3. Creede (from USD 69)

Set amid dramatic rocky mountain landscapes, there’s no denying the drama of the scenery surrounding Creede. Indeed, the stunning rocky pinnacles that tower over the end of Main Street in downtown Creede are sure to make for a few memorable picture opportunities alone. This small community of under 300 people owes its existence to the silver boom of the 19th century, and that fascinating past can also be explored at one of Creede’s local attractions - the Underground Mining Museum. The rugged scenery also provides plenty of walking and hiking opportunities, one of which is the popular ‘Up and Over’ trailhead that ultimately takes you to the pinnacles above the town - for a breathtaking view. Another is the walk up Inspiration pass, which provides beautiful vistas of the Rio Grande Valley. And if you’re a fan of cascading waters then you’ll want to head to North Clear Creek Falls - the “most photographed” waterfall in the entire state.

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4. Manitou Springs (from USD 141)

This resort community is a definite must-see for fans of dramatic scenery, outdoor fun, and the area’s noted mineral springs. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is a particular highlight, its vertiginous ascent up the mountain taking passengers past striking canyons and forested landscapes that will linger long in the memory. The Cave of the Winds Mountain Park provides plenty of zip lining, rope trail and spelunking opportunities to satisfy adrenaline junkies and fans of picturesque landscapes alike. And, of course, then there’s the memorable Manitou Cliff Dwellings - homes that were originally created by the Anasazi people centuries ago and which were relocated to Manitou Springs in the early 1900s.

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5. Durango (from USD 249)

Rail enthusiasts and fans of breathtaking scenery will likely also enjoy this destination, which sits close to the border with New Mexico in the south-west of the state. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad passes through the town, and this 19th-century form of transport still operates today alongside a special railway museum. The latter is home to a number of restored locos and even a train carriage that has been converted for use as a cinema. However, the main attraction of the railroad - aside from the memorable steam trains - are the scenic rides along the track that entice plenty of visitors every season. The town is also well-placed for natural charms - the huge 2 million acres (809371 hectares) San Juan National Forest sits immediately to the north, with its impressive peaks and ancient cave dwellings, and it is through this landscape’s stunning canyons that the railroad passes.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Colorado and also compare the prices with Vacation Rentals in Colorado

6. Crested Butte

This year-round resort is another town which will appeal to outdoor sports fans. Its mountain resort is a popular ski-sports center but is also home to a host of mountain biking trails that criss-cross the slopes and attract biking fans during the warmer summer months. Naturally there are also plenty of walking opportunities too, but if you’d rather experience the stunning local scenery without having to break a sweat then you’ll likely want to go for a drive along the 204-mile (328 km) long West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway, which passes Crested Butte and heads through no fewer than three officially-designated ‘wilderness areas’. The area’s floral charms are also worth a visit - with colorful autumnal sights among some of the trees every fall, and wildflowers proving so popular there’s even a week-long festival centered around them and local hiking trails every summer.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Colorado and also compare the prices with Vacation Rentals in Colorado

7. Silverton (from USD 99)

Another picturesque town which owes its existence to the area’s past mining booms, today Silverton is another of Colorado’s popular skiing destinations, with the small Kendall Mountain Recreation Area located within the town and the Silverton Mountain Ski Area both within easy reach. The latter of these is aimed more at back-country ski-ing and advanced alpine sports fans rather than the inexperienced layman. And, as the name suggests, this town is set at the other end of the stunning Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. However, it isn’t the only picturesque journey you’ll likely wish to experience during your visit. The 25-mile (40 km) stretch of the Million Dollar Highway goes by the town and through the Red Mountain Pass (peaking at 11,018 ft / 3358 meters) - and is famed for its challenging and dangerous mountainside roads through the likes of the Uncompahgre Gorge.

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8. Breckenridge (from USD 129)

From its Gold Rush roots to its modern role as a major year-round alpine resort, Breckenridge offers plenty to interest visitors. Its position at the base of the “Tenmile Range” means it is not just a popular skiing destination but also likely to appeal to fans of rugged natural beauty. But the picturesque charms don’t just extend to the slopes and peaks of the Rockies. No. The town’s historic core is full of colorful buildings that date back to the height of the gold rush in the late 1800s. Indeed, this “Breckenridge National Historic District” will no doubt provide plenty of fascinating sights to target with your camera during your visit - so you may want to take part in one of the local walking tours and learn a little more. And if you can tear yourself away from the scenery and skiing, the area offers plenty of other outdoor and indoor sporting activities - from hiking to indoor climbing at the Breckenridge Recreation Center.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Colorado and also compare the prices with Vacation Rentals in Colorado

9. Cripple Creek (from USD 89)

This picturesque town was at the very epicenter of Colorado’s last great gold rush in 1890, during which as much as USD 500 m worth of gold ore is thought to have been excavated from the surrounding landscape. The good times inevitably couldn’t last forever though and the post-rush slump almost reduced the entire community to a ghost town, which attracted curious travelers eager to photograph the decaying history. However, in recent decades the town has enjoyed a resurgence as a casino resort and many of the charming 19th-century buildings that were once at risk of being lost have been preserved for future generations to enjoy. Today, you can enjoy tours of the historic buildings, and even explore some of the former mines for yourself. And, fans of short scenic trips will also wish to head for the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad, which today ferries passengers along its 4 miles/ 6.4 km (there and back) track past the Cripple Creek Historic District.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Colorado and also compare the prices with Vacation Rentals in Colorado

10. Estes Park (from USD 90)

Wildlife fans looking for a memorable experience will no doubt wish to make a beeline for this town in the north of the state. A popular base from which to explore the Rocky Mountain National Park, it is home to extensive trails and, if you’re lucky, you may just spot some of the stunning wildlife during your travels through the great outdoors - from bears to elk. Those who prefer a good landscape to a bit of wildlife spotting will also not be disappointed. The Estes Park Aerial Tramway ferries passengers to the summit of Prospect Mountain, and its spectacular views and trails. The town also fringes the shores of Lake Estes, which as well as being a popular spot for water sports and fishing, also offers walks plenty of nice views while walking its 4 miles (6.4km) of shorelines. Naturally, the national park is also home to all manner of outdoor attractions to enjoy too.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Colorado and also compare the prices with Vacation Rentals in Colorado

A state rich in beautiful small towns

From the spectacular charms of the Rocky Mountains to memorable wildlife encounters and the picturesque man-made buildings of the area’s Gold Rush days - you’ll enjoy all manner of beautiful sights during a visit to these small towns.

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I'm a writer and photographer based in the heart of the beautiful Scottish Highlands. A professional journalist by trade, I have written for and edited several newspapers, magazines and websites....Read more

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