13 reasons why Colorado is America’s most beautiful state

written by
Eleanor Aldridge

updated 20.10.2021

Dreaming of adventure in 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.

1. The Rockies have some of the world’s best mountain views

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.

Serrated Rocky Mountain peaks near Telluride

Rocky Mountain peaks near Telluride by Matt Inden/Miles courtesy of Colorado Tourism Office

2. Denver is a really, really good looking city

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.

Denver, Colorado

via Pixabay/CC0

3. The state’s scenic drives are spectacular

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.

Scenic Trail ridge road in Rocky mountain national park, Colorado © SNEHIT PHOTO/Shutterstock

Scenic Trail ridge road in Rocky mountain national park, Colorado © SNEHIT PHOTO/Shutterstock

4. It has one of the world’s most jaw-dropping music venues

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.


© Adam Springer/Shutterstock

5. The alpine lakes are straight out of a fairytale

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.

Maroon Bells, Colorado © Shutterstock

Maroon Bells peaks in Colorado

© Hale Kell/Shutterstock

6. This astonishing ancient cliff city is unforgettable

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.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde - Colorado, USA © Johnny Adolphson/Shutterstock

© Johnny Adolphson/Shutterstock

7. The mountain towns are time-warped perfection

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.


© Anze Furlan/Shutterstock

8. It’s hard to match the state for sheer diversity

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.

A resident herd of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk near Estes Park by Matt Inden/Miles courtesy of Colorado Tourism Office

9. The fall colours are among the best in the US

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.

Aspens in full autumn color

Aspens in fall by Matt Inden/Miles courtesy of Colorado Tourism Office

10. It’s a justly famous winter wonderland

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.

Skiing in Colorado ski resort near Aspen, Colorado © LanaG/Shutterstock

Skiing in Colorado ski resort near Aspen, Colorado © LanaG/Shutterstock

11. It has the most impressive canyon you’ve never heard of

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.


© Paul Brady Photography/Shutterstock

12. You can visit picturesque hot springs year-round

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.

Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs © Tinapat B/Shutterstock

Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs © Tinapat B/Shutterstock

13. The state holds the tallest dunes in North America

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.

The great sand dunes with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background

The great sand dunes by Matt Inden/Miles courtesy of Colorado Tourism Office

Our list of the most beautiful places from all over the US will inspire you for your future travels in the United States.

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.

Eleanor Aldridge

written by
Eleanor Aldridge

updated 20.10.2021

Planning your own trip? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Ready to travel and discover

Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels

Plan my trip ⤍