Dreaming of getting out into the great outdoors? Wondering which state should top your next travel bucket list? It’s time you considered Colorado.
From its sensational landscapes and soaring mountains to its cool cities and quirky gold-rush towns, the star of the West is home to some of the most beautiful places in the country.
Rocky Mountain National Park was the third most-visited national park in 2015 – and for good reason. The views from these mountains are simply unmatched. A short drive south, meanwhile, summit junkies can hit new highs at Mount Elbert; clocking in at a whopping 14,433ft, it’s the tallest peak in the state.
Whether covered in snow or basking in the summer sun, the hip mile-high city is always easy on the eye. With the regeneration of Union Station, ever-magical Larimer Square and now more than 205 parks within the city limits, Colorado’s capital has never looked better.
You’ll find 11 of 150 routes impressive enough to be designated “America's Byways” in Colorado, just a small indication that this is bona fide road trip country. Trail Ridge Road, which climbs above 12,000ft, is one of the best known and most enjoyable.
Imagine sitting in a natural amphitheatre with a rocky, high-altitude plateau spreading out beneath you. Now, picture some of the world’s best acts on the stage, and you’ve got Red Rocks. This geological phenomenon is simply one of the best music venues in the world, and everyone from The Beatles to Daft Punk has played here.
There’s no better time to enjoy Colorado’s 2000 or so lakes than summer, when they become the ultimate weekend playground. Whether you’re boating or floating, the shimmering reflections of snow-capped mountains in high-altitude lakes such as Dillon and Granby are simply magical.
© Hale Kell/Shutterstock
One of four national parks in the state, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mesa Verde holds over 600 Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. The striking ruins are some of the best preserved in the country, offering a fascinating insight into the people that once lived here.
Colorado has a slew of eerie ghost towns – relics of the 1800s gold rush and mining boom – but some of the most fascinating are still lived in today. Leadville, the highest city in the country at 10,430ft above sea level, is one of the best to visit, with its well-preserved Victorian buildings and pint-sized opera house.
As the country’s 8th largest state, it’s little surprise that Colorado packs a lot into its 100,000 or so square miles. Mountain terrain, endless prairies, canyons, grasslands and even wine country are just a few of the landscapes you’ll find within its borders.
New England isn’t the only place to see spectacular fall colours. Head to Colorado in September to see the aspen transition towards their glorious, golden best. You’ll find Instagram-worthy views across the state, but a few of the best spots are along the Kebler Pass, Peak to Peak Byway and San Juan Skyway, and on the shores of Maroon Lake.
From Aspen and Vail to Keystone and Telluride, Colorado counts some of the country’s finest ski destinations among its 25 or so resorts. There are few skiers haven’t dreamt of hitting the powder here, with the likes of “snow tubing” and sleigh rides to tempt more reluctant adventurers.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison doesn’t trip of the tongue in quite the same way as the Grand Canyon, but it’s no less impressive. Plunging 2700ft down to the Gunnison River, it’s deeper than it is wide at points, with sunlight only reaching the bottom at certain hours of the day.
The world's largest natural hot springs pool at Glenwood Springs might claim the most impressive title, but there are plenty more besides. Try the natural pools at Mount Princeton, the geothermal caves at Indian Springs, or embrace a bit of naturism at Strawberry Park – swimwear is optional after sundown.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is just as great as the name suggests, with the highest dunes in not just the USA, but all of North America. As otherworldly as they are vast, these 400,000-year-old sand sculptures make up one of the country’s most intriguing and beautiful national parks.
Eleanor travelled with carrentals.co.uk, the first major online price comparator in the travel industry, who compare all major international brands including Europcar, Hertz, Avis, Thrfity, Sixt and Alamo.
Header image Rainbow lake by Denise Chambers/Miles courtesy of Colorado Tourism Office.