16 Best Mountain Towns in Colorado for Outdoor Lovers

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(Last Updated On: May 14, 2022)

Calling all adventurers! You won’t want to miss out on the best mountain towns in Colorado because they’re filled with many fun activities, like hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and more.

Throughout this post, you’ll learn all about the cute mountain towns in Colorado in no particular order. As a Denver local, I’ve taken trips to all of the top mountain towns in the area, including those on this list. So, trust me, they’ve been scouted!

Keep reading to learn all about the best mountain towns in Colorado.

Crested Butte

green forest with mountains in the back at sunrise

Crested Butte is a unique town nestled in the Rocky Mountains. Crested Butte’s trails and surroundings offer an endless amount to explore for those who love the outdoors.

The town itself is also quite quaint, with shops and restaurants that cater to all tastes. Whether you’re looking for a day of hiking or skiing, Crested Butte has something for everyone.

Best Things to do in Crested Butte

Shop on Elk Ave and visit all of the breathtaking historic buildings that line the street. 

Go skiing or snowboarding at Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

Peruse the art at Paragon Gallery, a great spot for art lovers.

Learn at the Crested Butte Museum, an underrated spot to visit in the town.

Where to Stay in Crested Butte

Estes Park

lake with reflection of the mountains behind

Estes Park, Colorado, is a picturesque town located in the Rocky Mountains. The town is known for its incredible views and beautiful scenery. Even though it’s not one of the cheapest mountain towns in Colorado, it’s still worth visiting.

Estes Park is also home to several attractions, such as The Stanley Hotel and Rocky Mountain National Park. The town is a popular tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why – Estes Park is simply beautiful!

Best Things to do in Estes Park

Ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway and get one of the best views you can get of the Rockies.

Have a glass of wine at the popular Snowy Peaks Winery.

Spend a day exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the most popular national parks in the USA.

Learn at the Estes Park Museum and explore their current exhibits.

Take a long walk around Lake Estes, a beautiful spot for a peaceful stroll.

Where to Stay in Estes Park

Steamboat Springs

person paddle boarding on lake in front of tree covered mountain

Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is known for its natural beauty and the excellent recreational opportunities that it offers. The area is also home to several interesting historical sites, but most people visit Steamboat Springs to enjoy the skiing opportunities.

Best Things to do in Steamboat Springs

Ski or snowboard at the Steamboat Ski Resort in winter.

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Relax or explore over at the Old Town Hot Springs, which also features a fitness center.

Peruse the beautiful art at the Steamboat Art Museum, which is located inside an old bank.

Attend a summer concert at Yampa River Botanic Park. This is a great spot to relax and enjoy nature at any other time of the year!

Where to Stay in Steamboat Springs

Breckenridge

aerial view of small town nestled in the mountains

Breckenridge, Colorado, is known for its breathtaking views, fantastic skiing, and great nightlife. The town is located in the Rocky Mountains and has a population of just over 5,000 people. 

It is the perfect place to relax after a long day of skiing or hiking. Breckenridge is a small town that feels like a big city thanks to its many shops, restaurants, and bars. Because it’s not very far from the city, this is a popular day trip from Denver.

Best Things to do in Breckenridge

Ski or snowboard at Breckenridge Ski Resort, the most popular spot for outdoor activities in winter in the area.

Go on a short hike to see the popular Breckenridge Troll, an absolute must for all ages.

Peruse all the local shops in downtown Breckenridge and see what you might find.

Take in the view and have a picnic a the Carter Park and Pavilion.

Where to Stay in Breckenridge

Idaho Springs

rocky bank overlooking a lake at the foot of the mountains

If you’re ever in the area and want to experience some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, make your way to Idaho Springs, Colorado. The town is located high in the Rocky Mountains, and as a result, it has a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. 

It’s only a short day trip from Denver and is filled with fun things to do. Plus, there are some incredible restaurants there, too!

Best Things to do in Idaho Springs

Have a Colorado-style pizza at Beau Jo’s, but get in line early because the line can get long.

Go on a tour of Argo Gold Mill and Tunnel, a historic mine.

Hike up to St. Mary’s Glacier, a short hike with some of the best views in the area.

Drive the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway, one of the most popular roads to drive in the state.

Where to Stay in Idaho Springs

Buena Vista

hiking trail weaving through trees with rocky mountains behind

Buena Vista, Colorado, is a small town located a short drive away from Denver. The population of Buena Vista is just under 3,000 people, and it has a small-town feel with a strong community spirit. 

This may just be a classic small town, but the views there are incredible, which is why it’s one of the best mountain towns close to Denver.

Best Things to do in Buena Vista

Go white water rafting and get your blood pumping with Wilderness Aware Rafting.

Learn at the Buena Vista Heritage Museum, which used to be an old courthouse.

Hike the Barbara Whipple Trail to get out in nature and explore some of the area’s true beauty.

Where to Stay in Buena Vista

Silverton

small town at the foot of snowy mountains

Silverton, Colorado, is a small town in the mountains that has been around for a few hundred years. It has an old mining history and is also known for being home to one of the most scenic train rides in the country.

Today the town is known for its beautiful architecture and stunning views of the mountains. Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, skiing, and other activities in the area.

Best Things to do in Silverton

Learn at the San Juan County Historical Society Mining Heritage Center.

Go skiing or snowboarding at the Silverton Mountain Ski Area.

Take a ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Drive the Million Dollar Highway for some of the area’s best views. Note that it’s not for those scared of heights!

Where to Stay in Silverton

Colorado Springs

large red rock formations coming up through trees

Colorado Springs is a beautiful and historic city located just south of Denver. It’s easily one of the best mountain towns near Denver. Most people visiting the city will take a day trip here!

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It is known for its dramatic mountain views, shopping, and incredible outdoor attractions to explore. The city has a rich history that can be explored at various museums and landmarks. Colorado Springs is also home to the United States Air Force Academy, which has a large campus presence.

Best Things to do in Colorado Springs

Hike around the Garden of the Gods, a breathtaking red rock formation set against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

Take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway up to the top of Pikes Peak for sweeping views.

Pay a visit to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Try your hand at the ropes course at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park.

Go on a short hike to see the Broadmoor Seven Falls.

Where to Stay in Colorado Springs

Aspen

lake leading up to grass and snow covered mountains

Located in the Rocky Mountains, Aspen, Colorado, is a picturesque town that is known for its colorful architecture and stunning landscapes. The town was founded a few hundred years ago and has since grown to be a popular tourist destination due to its beautiful scenery and unique culture. 

The town features many shops, restaurants, art galleries, and performance venues. It is also home to some of the best outdoor attractions in Colorado, like the Maroon Bells, a must-see no matter the time of year.

Best Things to do in Aspen

Shop around downtown Aspen to support the local store owners.

Pay a visit to Maroon Bells, a breathtaking outdoor attraction set against the mountains.

Go snowboarding or skiing at Aspen Mountain Ski Resort.

Find peace and tranquility in the John Denver Sanctuary.

Where to Stay in Aspen

Gunnison

Wooden treehouse in the mountains with river flowing in front

Gunnison is a small town nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It has a small population and is renowned for its stunning mountain views and beautiful architecture.

Gunnison is home to several restaurants and shops, as well as a variety of museums and galleries. The community also enjoys a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, biking, and climbing. Most famously, Gunnison is also by one of Colorado’s national parks.

Best Things to do in Gunnison

Spend a day in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, going on the best hikes.

Learn at the Gunnison Pioneer Museum.

Pay a visit to the Hartman Rocks, where you can go mountain biking or even camping.

See the scenic view at Tomichi Creek State Wildlife Area.

Where to Stay in Gunnison

Telluride

partially snow covered mountain on a cloudy day

Located in the San Juan Mountains of western Colorado, Telluride is a picturesque mountain town that is known for its stunning mountain views, unique architecture, and rich history. 

The town has a small population, and it’s famous for its annual Telluride Film Festival, which features some of the best independent films from around the world. Locals and tourists alike will plan a trip to Telluride because of all its excellent outdoor activities. It’s also one of the best hiking towns in Colorado because there are so many trails in the area.

Best Things to do in Telluride

Go skiing or snowboarding at Telluride Ski Resort.

Hike the Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail to get outdoors.

Attend an event in the popular town park.

Learn at the Telluride Historical Museum.

Ride the seasonal free gondola from the town up to the mountains.

See the view at Bridal Veil Falls.

Where to Stay in Telluride

Durango

small teal lake at the base of rocky mountians

Durango, Colorado, is a beautiful place to live with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. The colors of the landscape change dramatically as you move from elevation to elevation. From the rolling green hills of the valley to the snow-capped peaks in the distance, Durango has something for everyone. 

With its diverse outdoor area, there is something for everyone to do in Durango. There is plenty to keep you busy, from hiking and biking trails to horseback riding and skiing. It’s popularly paired with visiting Silverton.

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Best Things to do in Durango

Take a ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Check out the local art at the Durango Arts Center.

Walk around and shop downtown to support the locals.

Take a short trip to Mesa Verde National Park to see the cliff dwellings.

Have a drink at Four Leaves Winery.

Where to Stay in Durango

Ouray

aerial view of small town in between two mountains

Located in the Rocky Mountains of southwestern Colorado, Ouray is world-famous for its breathtaking scenery, rich mining history, and legendary ski resorts. It’s one of the quaint towns in Colorado you won’t want to miss.

Once a prosperous mining town, Ouray is now a popular tourist destination with plenty to offer visitors of all ages. Come explore this historic town and see why it’s one of the most beautiful places in Colorado!

Best Things to do in Ouray

Take a dip in the Ouray Hot Springs, a must-do in this town.

Hike in Box Canyon Falls Park.

Try an ice climb with a trusted guide at Ouray Ice Park in the winter.

Shop downtown at all of the local restaurants, souvenir stores, and museums.

Where to Stay in Ouray

Vail

ski slope overlooking small town at the bottom of a mountain

Vail is known for its incredible skiing, but it is also one of the best Colorado mountain towns because it’s so picturesque. The colorado blue sky is a constant backdrop to the town’s outdoor activities. From shopping at local boutiques to enjoying live music in one of the numerous pubs, Vail has something for everyone.

Vail is unique because it’s an American city with a European vibe. Even a lot of the architecture is reminiscent of what you’d see in Austria or even Switzerland. 

Best Things to do in Vail

Visit the peaceful Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

Go skiing or snowboarding at Vail Ski Resort.

Check out the beautiful homes along Vail Valley Drive.

Shop at Lionshead Place and try some of the local restaurants.

Where to Stay in Vail

Leadville

historic building on the corner in a small town

Leadville, Colorado, is a small town nestled in the Rocky Mountains with a colorful past. The town was founded in the 1800s and is now known for being the tallest city in Colorado. 

During the 1800s, Leadville was home to some of the most intense and dangerous mining competitions in history. The town’s colorful architecture, landscapes, and people are still visible today. It’s one of the quirkiest and best small mountain towns in Colorado.

Best Things to do in Leadville

Visit and learn at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.

See a show or other concert at the Tabor Opera House.

Shop downtown and support the locals. You never know what hidden gems you might find!

Where to Stay in Leadville

Glenwood Springs

river running through the middle of a small town at the base of the mountains

Last but not least is Glenwood Springs, one of the best mountain towns to live in Colorado. Glenwood Springs is a charming town in Colorado that is known for its stunningly beautiful mountain landscapes. The town is nestled among the Rocky Mountains. 

Glenwood Springs is home to many businesses, including many breweries, wineries, and art galleries. The town also has several attractions, including the Glenwood Caverns and the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool.

Best Things to do in Glenwood Springs

Ride the gondola up to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

Relax at the Glenwood Springs Hot Pool, which dates back to the 1800s.

Pay a visit to the Iron Mountain Hot Springs, which has a great view of the mountains.

Drive through Glenwood Canyon for incredible mountain scenery.

Hike up to the famous gunslinger Doc Holliday’s grave.

Where to Stay in Glenwood Springs

This post was all about the best mountain towns in Colorado. I hope you found the perfect place to visit during your next trip there! Don’t forget to share this post and save it for later.

What Colorado mountain town is your favorite? Leave a comment below!

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