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17 Most Beautiful Places in Colorado

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This list of the most beautiful places in Colorado is going to make you want to move to the state ASAP!

Colorado doesn’t have a ton of people—though it ranks 8th in size among the US states, it only ranks 21st in population. That’s because it’s crammed full of mountains, valleys, canyons, waterfalls, and other natural beauty.

No matter where you are in the state, you’re guaranteed to have a gorgeous view as soon as you step out your door (unless you’re close enough to the border to see Kansas…no offense, Kansas).

With so many natural wonders and no shortage of outdoor activities, it can be hard to decide where to go first on your visit to this spectacular state. Here we’ll cover the most beautiful places in Colorado to help you get started.

Most Beautiful Places in Colorado

Denver

City skyline under a purple sunset sky.

When most people think of the most scenic places in Colorado, the big city of Denver might not be the first thing to come to mind. But Denver is a perfect jumping-off point for many of the destinations on this list, and a great way to experience Colorado’s natural beauty from a distance. Just beyond the city skyline lies the dramatic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

Denver is also a lovely city in its own right, with colorful murals and intriguing art installations everywhere. When it comes to activities, this city offers something for everyone—zoos, museums, botanic gardens, food, nightlife…the list goes on.

Vail

Aerial view of a town surrounded by mountains with snow.

Less than a two-hour drive from Denver, Vail is one of the most accessible—and beautiful—ski towns in Colorado. In the winter, twinkling Christmas lights and a thick coating of snow will make you feel like you’re living in a gingerbread village.

Vail is equally stunning in the warmer months when the surrounding mountains are covered in green foliage and dotted with wildflowers.

With a whopping 195 runs, Vail puts the “ski” in “ski town” and is a paradise for winter sports enthusiasts. If relaxation is more your thing, there are four ski villages for shopping, eating, and luxuriating at the spa with a drink in hand.

Aspen

Town lit up at night with orange lights right next to a giant ski slope.

True to its name, Aspen is a ski town 3.5 hours west of Denver is filled with aspen trees, making it a great place to see autumn in all its glory. In summer, snowmelt turns the slopes bright green, and hiking and biking trails replace the ski runs.

The village offers plenty of boutiques for window shopping, plus other activities like live music and an art museum. There’s also a free shuttle bus that makes it easy to get around town.

Maroon Bells

Calm dark lake surrounded by a mountain with white snow.

Known as “the most photographed mountains in North America,” these 14ers are best accessed from Aspen. With forests and mountains stretching away on either side and the glacial Maroon Creek Valley below, views from the summit are stunning.

But these are class 3 and 4 hikes, a serious commitment even for experienced trekkers. You don’t have to hike all the way to the top to experience one of the most beautiful places in Colorado—there are plenty of easier trails and campgrounds in the area.

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    Rocky Mountain National Park

    Rocky mountains with snow under a grey sky.

    Complete with brooding mountains, sweeping alpine meadows, evergreen forests, and lilypad-dotted lakes, RMNP showcases the variety of Colorado’s natural beauty.

    It’s a veritable outdoor playground with hiking, biking, fishing, climbing, and many species of wildlife. This is one of the most picturesque places in Colorado; photo ops abound.

    Boulder Flatirons

    Rock formations in a mountain that look like flatirons under a blue sky.

    True to their name, Boulder’s iconic mountains jut out of the earth like flat, triangular metal irons. You can see them from pretty much anywhere in Boulder, which is worth a visit in its own right.

    You can also see them up close and personal on a hike from Chautauqua Park, which offers a variety of trails for all skill levels.

    Garden of the Gods

    Red rocks jutting out of the earth under a blue sky

    This park and nature center just outside Colorado Springs is one of the state’s most iconic natural treasures, and for good reason. Natural red sandstone sculptures provide an adrenaline rush for adventurous rock climbers—and amazing photo ops for the rest of us.

    This unique place got its name in 1859 when surveyor Rufus Cable said, “Why, it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble.”

    Like more conventional gardens, this one is best explored on foot. Many of the trails are paved, making them easily accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. You can also hike or bike through the surrounding wilderness or take a Jeep tour or guided nature walk.

    The visitor center hosts regular events, from learning sessions on the park’s wildlife and geology to painting and meditation classes.

    Pikes Peak

    The hike up Pikes Peak is long and varied, winding through forest and meadow, past impressive rock formations, and finally up a steep boulder field to the summit. Like any 14er, Pikes Peak is a long, challenging hike.

    You can shorten it by driving partway up the mountain to the Devil’s Playground or skip the sweat and drive all the way up to the visitor center.

    Another great way to see one of the most beautiful places in Colorado is on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which has been taking visitors up the mountain for 130 years!

    Paint Mines Interpretive Park

    Yellow, red, and cream rocks under a grey sky.
    Scenery with yellow and red rocks.

    This unique open space in El Paso County, just east of Colorado Springs, is a natural sculpture garden. Its cliffs, spires, and hoodoos are striped with brightly-hued minerals; Native Americans used to gather the colorful clay to make paint.

    The park is a popular spot for hiking and photography, which makes sense—it’s one of the most picturesque places in Colorado.

    Great Sand Dunes National Park

    People walking on big sand dunes under a blue sky.

    Four hours south of Denver, Great Sand Dunes National Park is an otherworldly place that combines a swirling landscape of sand dunes with dusty plains on one side and dramatic mountains on the other. Hiking up a sand dune is a must-do, as is sledding your way back down.

    More conventional hiking trails abound nearby, including one with a dramatic waterfall in a slot canyon.

    Crested Butte

    Green forest next to a big mountain under a blue sky.

    Another ski town deep in the Rocky Mountains, Crested Butte is a little more remote—and thus quieter and less crowded—than the others on this list.

    It’s one of the most beautiful places in Colorado not only because of its panoramic views of the mountains but because its old-fashioned architecture and colorful storefronts practically drip small-town charm.

    Crested Butte is particularly stunning in July and August when it becomes a mecca for wildflower enthusiasts.

    Hanging Lake

    Green emerald waterfall leading into a pool of water

    Located deep in the White River National Forest, a couple of hours west of Denver, this lake is so named for how it seems to “hang” amid the surrounding foliage. Its brilliant turquoise water, fed by shimmering waterfalls, makes it well worth the steep, challenging hike to get here.

    The trail was closed for a year after the devastating Grizzly Creek wildfire of 2020; now, hikers can see burn scars where the fire stopped just inches short of destroying one of the most beautiful lakes in Colorado.

    Royal Gorge Bridge & Park

    Perhaps the most jaw-dropping of Colorado’s canyons (which is saying something), Royal Gorge is a pair of sheer red cliffs towering over the Arkansas River a thousand feet below. The suspension bridge crossing it is the highest in America.

    If that’s not enough palm sweat for you, you can take a gondola, zipline, or sky coaster across. Or try the Via Ferrata, a family-friendly guided rock climb up one side of the gorge.

    Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

    Rocky canyon under a purple sky

    While many of Colorado’s rock formations are made of red sandstone, the jagged, foreboding cliffs at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on the western side of the state are sculpted from black volcanic rock.

    They go almost straight down to the narrow, winding Gunnison River at the bottom. In spring, they’re dotted with foliage; in winter, a dusting of snow makes them look even more mysterious.

    Both rims of this spectacular canyon offer hiking trails for all skill levels and the Gunnison River is known for excellent trout fishing. Thrill-seekers may want to try kayaking or rock climbing within the canyon for even better views of one of the most beautiful places in Colorado.

    Telluride

    View of a small town surrounded by mountains.

    Telluride has the spectacular views and outdoorsy activities you’d expect from a ski town but with a slightly funkier vibe than some of the others on our list. The Telluride Arts District provides art walks, live music, comedy festivals, and poetry readings.

    Telluride also tends to be a bit less crowded since it’s kind of out of the way in the southwestern corner of the state.

    Million Dollar Highway

    Just east of Telluride, this stretch of US 550 between Ouray and Silverton reportedly cost a million dollars to build—per mile.

    It’s a nail-biting drive, twisting and turning around mountains and overlooking cliffs with no guardrails. But the unsurpassed views of the Rockies at every turn are arguably worth the stress.

    The mountain towns you’ll pass through offer plenty of restaurants and breweries to rest your white knuckles, plus great camping and nearby hiking trails.

    Mesa Verde National Park

    People walking around a town carved into the side of a mountain.

    This hidden gem is even farther southwest, nearly seven hours from Denver, but it’s worth the drive. Rugged red cliffs jut out from a backdrop of green trees, with ancient houses, towers, and farm structures carved into the rock by the Ancestral Pueblo people between 550 and 1300 A.D.

    This combination of natural beauty, manmade marvels, and a rich sense of history make Mesa Verde a Colorado landmark like no other. You can take a tour of the 4700+ archaeological sites and imagine what life was like here centuries ago.

    Final Thoughts: Most Beautiful Places in Colorado

    The most scenic places in Colorado include cliffs and canyons, lakes and dunes, small towns, and national parks. That’s what makes Colorado so amazing—it offers so much variety. I’ve lived here almost a decade and still have not seen it all.

    These are some of my favorite spots for stunning hikes, breathtaking photos, and just walking around with your mouth hanging open. Start planning your next road trip or weekend getaway so you can experience the most beautiful places in Colorado!

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