Famous for its stunning mountain peaks, idyllic ski resorts and frontier past, Colorado is one of the most picturesque states in the United States. One of Colorado’s often overlooked features is the state’s many great cities. Most travellers only think about Denver, Aspen, Vail and Telluride when planning to visit this gem of a state in the country’s Mountain West region.
While Colorado’s more touristy metros certainly have their appeal, it’s the less-travelled Rocky Mountain ski towns and historic former mining hubs dotted throughout rural Colorado that define the state’s culture, identity and history better than any other single city can.
From the hot springs of Pagosa Springs to the Swiss-themed shops and buildings of Vail, there’s simply no bad city to visit in Colorado, making the Centennial State not just a skiing mecca but a history buff and urban explorer’s dream destination too.
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Towns And Cities In Colorado
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20 Colorado Cities And Towns
Colorado’s largest city and the Centennial State’s capital, Denver, is a fascinating metropolis to explore, brimming with tons of history and culture.
Colorado’s capital city was incorporated in 1861 during the height of the Old West era and rapidly grew in both size and importance after the discovery of gold in the nearby Rocky Mountains.
Modern-day Denver is a contemporary arts hub in the Mountain West region, with many world-class venues to soothe your artistic side, such as the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
The city is also filled with plenty of preserved 19th-century buildings.
It is the perfect destination to explore all the popular ski resorts and charming rural mountain towns throughout the Rocky Mountains that Colorado is famous for.
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2- Colorado Springs
Situated roughly an hour’s drive south of downtown Denver is Colorado Springs, the Centennial State’s second-largest metro area and regularly ranked among the fastest-growing cities in the United States.
Colorado Springs has something in store for all travellers, such as learning more about the various Native American tribes who roamed the region or hiking to the top of Pikes Peak in the nearby Pike National Forest.
The city is also home to a lively downtown neighbourhood with countless other attractions and landmarks to stop by if you’re looking for a good time without exploring nature or getting a history lesson.
From the fascinating U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum to the one-of-a-kind Garden of the Gods Park to stop by, it’s easy to see why this central Colorado city has blossomed into one of America’s most enviable travel and residential destinations.
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Aspen is undoubtedly the most famous and most visited ski town in Colorado, attracting millions of travellers and thrill seekers every year to its abundance of world-class ski slopes and unrivalled natural beauty.
The city includes a pleasant mix of young and old architecture, with high-end boutiques and shops next to theatres and opera houses built in the 1800s.
Skiing isn’t the only outdoor activity that Aspen is renowned for, as the city’s world-class ski slopes open up for excellent hiking and mountain climbing opportunities during summer when the ski resorts close.
Roughly 198 miles (319 km) west of Denver, Aspen’s the perfect weekend destination to escape the city, with limitless outdoor fun, history and culture to soak up in and around this world-famous winter wonderland.
Right up there alongside Aspen as Colorado’s two undisputed best skiing towns, Vail has been a popular wintertime vacation destination in western Colorado ever since its world-class ski slopes and stunning natural beauty were discovered by outsiders.
Vail’s biggest and most popular attraction is undoubtedly the Vail Ski Resort which features over 5,300 acres (2,145 ha) of skiable terrain and 275 unique trails, making it the third-largest single-mountain ski resort in America.
Skiing isn’t the only activity or attraction that travellers can expect in Vail, with the city’s charming European-style neighbourhoods, cobbled pedestrian-only streets and fantastic hiking trails dishing out an endless amount of fun and entertainment all year long.
5- Fort Collins
Charming, lively and surrounded by some of Colorado’s most scenic landscapes, Fort Collins in northern Colorado is renowned for its countless historic landmarks and youthful atmosphere that’s hard to come by elsewhere in the Centennial State.
Fort Collins is home to the main campus of Colorado State University.
It is the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Roosevelt National Forest, two of northern Colorado’s most popular outdoor landmarks.
The city lies 35 miles (56 km) south of the Colorado-Wyoming state border and less than 46 miles (74 km) from downtown Cheyenne, making it the ideal destination to explore everything that southern Wyoming has to offer.
With attractions such as the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, the Avery House and CSU’s main campus, Fort Collins is always a great addition to any Colorado itinerary.
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Boulder is a truly unique Colorado city ranked in the top places to live in the United States thanks to the city’s treasure trove of unique outdoor attractions and reputation as a global leader in academic research.
The city is well-known for the University of Colorado’s main campus, the largest public university in the state, which influences Boulder’s attractions and nightlife.
Boulder’s majesty lies in its ability to offer travellers access to some of Colorado’s best hiking trails and national parks while simultaneously being just 29 miles (47 km) from the attractions and landmarks of downtown Denver.
If the great outdoors isn’t your cup of tea, Boulder’s pedestrian-friendly downtown area and abundance of interesting attractions, such as the Museum of Natural History and the Pearl Street Mall, will make your visit to Boulder incredibly worthwhile.
Enveloped by a series of Rocky Mountain peaks eclipsing 12,000 feet (3,658 m), Telluride is among Colorado’s most popular and most picturesque mountain towns.
Telluride was founded in 1878 as a mining hub for the region during the gold rush of the mid-1800s, with mining remaining Telluride’s only revenue stream until the first ski lift was installed in 1972, forever changing Telluride’s fate.
Today, the city is regarded as a world-class skiing destination that hosts popular annual events such as the Telluride Film Festival, Telluride Jazz Festival and the Telluride Blues Festival, making it a popular tourist destination in western Colorado.
Some of Telluride’s most popular attractions to visit include the 2,000-acre (809 ha) Telluride Ski Resort, the stunning Bridal Veil Falls and the charming Mountain Village neighbourhood, making it a great destination to visit whenever you’re travelling around western Colorado.
Known by many simply as “Breck”, Breckenridge is a former mining town turned top-tier skiing destination packed with flavourful eateries and preserved Victorian-era buildings for visitors to savour.
While towns such as Aspen and Telluride shed much of their mining past, Breckenridge preserved many of its historic saloons and 19th-century Old West buildings, converting them into upscale boutiques and art galleries.
Breck’s entire downtown area is a designated National Historic District, making Breckenridge a real treat for history buffs looking to learn about Colorado’s gold rush past.
Some of Breck’s top tourist traps include the Breckenridge Ski Resort, the Breckenridge Nordic Center, Main Street and the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, all great attractions to visit when stopping by Breckenridge.
Situated in Colorado’s mountainous southwest region, Durango is a deeply historic Rocky Mountain city shaped by the railroad and Colorado’s 19th-century gold rush.
Durango’s striking surroundings have allowed the city to star as the setting for dozens of Hollywood films and series, including ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’, ‘City Slickers’ and ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’.
Home to the famous Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad that’s touted as the most scenic train journey in the United States, Durango is a Colorado city worth visiting whenever you’re in the Centennial State’s southwest.
Top tour: Durango Colorado – Rafting 2.5 Hour
10- Pagosa Springs
Pagosa Springs has been a popular retreat destination in southern Colorado ever since the region’s many natural thermal hot springs were discovered, turning this sleepy little mining village into a relaxing vacation destination virtually overnight.
Staggering peaks of the San Juan Mountains surround this mid-sized city near the Colorado-New Mexico state border.
It offers visitors many year-round outdoor activities in and around Pagosa Springs.
No matter which hot springs resort you decide to frequent or what mountain trail you decide to hike, this charming southwest Colorado city has no end to the fun and excitement.
11- Steamboat Springs
A summertime resort town turned popular wintertime skiing destination, Steamboat Springs in Colorado’s northern region offers travellers the same skiing conditions, picturesque mountain views and exciting attractions available at Colorado’s other popular skiing towns without the large crowds.
The city oozes outdoor fun everywhere, with kayaking and hiking opportunities during the summer and access to world-class skiing and snowboarding opportunities during winter.
Featuring a litany of exciting attractions and landmarks that include the family-friendly Steamboat Ski Resort, the Yampa River Botanic Park and the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, Steamboat Springs is a worthy addition to any Colorado itinerary.
Dubbed the “Switzerland of America”, Ouray is a stunning mountain town in Colorado’s southwest corner that sits nearly 8,000 feet (2,438 m) above sea level at the head of a narrow valley enclosed by tall Rocky Mountain peaks.
The city is 49 miles (79 km) from Telluride and overlooks the picturesque Mount Sneffels southwest of downtown Ouray.
Ouray was initially established and developed as a mining hub during the gold rush of the 19th century but has been transformed into a thriving outdoor wonderland with tons of hiking, wildlife watching, and ice climbing opportunities in more recent decades.
13- Grand Junction
Named after the city’s geographic location at the junction of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers in the Centennial State’s west, Grand Junction is surrounded by Native American history and the stunning landscapes of Colorado’s Western Slope region.
Far removed from the snowy peaks and green valleys in central Colorado, Grand Junction is the largest city in the Centennial State’s Western Slope region and was inhabited by the Fremont and Ute tribes thousands of years before Europeans arrived.
Grand Junction provides travellers with excellent access to attractions such as the Colorado National Monument, the Grand Mesa and the James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park, and several interesting and historic destinations throughout the city’s downtown.
The city of Leadville in central Colorado is, at 10,158 feet (3,096 m) above sea level, the highest elevated incorporated city in the United States.
Leadville is surrounded by Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, the two tallest peaks in Colorado, and treats travellers to some of the best-preserved examples of Old West architecture in the entire Centennial State.
A must-visit destination if you’re an avid hiker or history buff, Leadville’s Wild West-themed saloons, bars and shops backed by some of the tallest Rocky mountain peaks will treat your eyes to a visual spectacle that’s simply unrivalled in Colorado.
Golden is a mid-sized city with a small-town vibe nestled at the Rocky Mountains’ foothills, just 15 miles (24 km) from the bustling streets of downtown Denver.
The city was established in 1859 during the height of the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush and was named in honour of prospector Thomas L. Golden who played a pivotal role in the founding of Golden.
Golden is home to an extensive collection of fascinating historical and outdoor attractions, including the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, the Colorado Railroad Museum and the Golden Gate Canyon State Park, all within a stone’s throw from Denver.
Situated right in the middle of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado near Telluride and Ouray, Silverton is the perfect destination to visit if you’re a lover of the outdoors or a dedicated traveller looking to uncover Colorado’s lesser-travelled gems.
The site of modern-day Silverton was primarily inhabited by the Ute Native Americans before mining claims during the late 19th century drove most of the region’s native tribes away, with Silverton propped up as the region’s mining hub.
Today, the entire city is a designated National Historic Landmark District.
It is home to countless relics from Silverton’s mining past and an eclectic mix of restaurants and novelty shops.
17- Crested Butte
Known as “Colorado’s Last Great Ski Town”, Crested Butte is renowned for its thousands of acres of perfect skiing and snowboarding terrain, far removed from the overrun resorts and pricey boutiques in ski towns such as Aspen and Vail.
Crested Butte prides itself in its authentic atmosphere and down-to-earth feel, attracting tourists and travellers who’d prefer a more low-key skiing experience in a richly historic Colorado town.
Regarded by many as Colorado’s wildflower capital, Crested Butte is the Centennial State’s best no-frills mountain town, treating travellers to some of Colorado’s most scenic forests, recreational areas and freshwater lakes for the ultimate Rocky Mountain experience.
18- Manitou Springs
Overlooking the famous Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs is a rustic and low-key mountain town situated just 6 miles (9.6 km) from downtown Colorado Springs’s popular attractions and landmarks.
The city’s quiet streets are lined with world-class art galleries and street performers, giving Manitou Springs the reputation as an artist enclave at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Manitou Springs is perhaps best known for its many thermal hot springs, which have turned this once sleepy town into an emerging resort city that simultaneously treats travellers to some of the best outdoor attractions central Colorado has in store.
Top tour: Manitou Springs Colo-Rad Zipline Tour
19- Glenwood Springs
Known as the “Land of Water”, Glenwood Springs’ unique location at the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers confluence has made this mid-sized city into one of northwest Colorado’s go-to resort destinations.
Glenwood Springs is, as the name suggests, home to hot springs, several of them, in fact, treating dreary travellers to relaxation and rejuvenation in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
There’s also a bunch of Colorado’s mining past and the great outdoors to savour in and around Glenwood Springs, making it a great destination to stop at whenever you’re travelling around the Centennial State’s northwest corner.
Regarded by many as the most historic and culturally diverse city in Colorado, Pueblo is a truly remarkable destination in Centennial State and home to a state-designated creative arts district.
Pueblo is rumoured to be the site of the oldest permanent building in Colorado, supposedly erected by Lt. Zebulon Pike during his explorations of the American West.
Once a vital steel producer in south-central Colorado, modern-day Pueblo is a fully-fledged tourist trap with many fun shops and restaurants to visit and many art galleries and music festivals to swing by.
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