15+ of the Most Amazing Things to Do in Colorado
Planning your trip to Colorado
Quick Facts about Colorado
- Truly a mile high. The 13th step of the state capital building in Denver is exactly one mile high above sea level.
- The federal government owns more than 1/3 of Colorado land. Hello National Parks, BLM Land, and National Forests.
- The world’s largest natural hot springs pool is located in Glenwood Springs. The drive to Glenwood Springs alone is to die for.
- The highest paved road in North America is the Mount Evans Scenic Byway.
- The Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to the tallest dune in North America. Make sure you rent a sandboard to slide down the dunes while you’re there.
When is the best time to visit Colorado?
Anytime! Every season brings its fair share of outdoor activities to participate in so you can always be busy. From snowboarding to hiking, to mountain biking, to ATVing, you can find it all here in Colorado.
Pro Tip: There is a “mud season” here that could put a damper in your hiking plans. This season refers to the time in between winter and spring (April to May) when all the snow is melting thus making the trails too muddy to be enjoyable.
Here are some activities for each season:
- Winter: Skiing or snowmobiling in the Rocky Mountains. Our favorite resort is Copper Mountain because of the various terrain parks. You can also snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park on our favorite trail, Emerald Lake Trail.
- Spring: Wildflower hikes in the mountains, white water rafting, relax in a natural hot spring, or horseback ride.
- Summer: Visit Colorado’s Wine Country in Grand Junction, hike in Colorado, rent an ATV near Vail. or stay in a treehouse.
- Fall: Two words. Leaf. Peeping. The fall is when the Aspens turn to that infamous golden color. Find a campsite off one of Colorado’s passes and spend the day hiking or driving around to view these golden beauties.
How do I get to Colorado and how do I get around?
The cheapest way to get to Colorado is to fly into Denver Internation Airport (DEN). Something I didn’t realize until I was flying into Denver for the first time is that the city is not in the mountains. Like at all. You can get to the Front Range in about 45 minutes, but that’s from Denver. Our airport is actually a 30-minute drive to Denver and we recommend taking the A-Line Commuter Train to the city for $10.50 one way.
Once you get to Denver I recommend renting a car for the convenience of driving up to the mountains. We recommend booking through Turo or Outdoorsy, which is basically Airbnb for cars, for your trip up to the mountains. You can rent RVs, Campervans, popup trailers, and more!
What to pack when visiting Colorado.
Denver is one of the sunniest cities in America averaging 300 sunny days a year and this isn’t an exaggeration. I still get surprised when it rains.
Hiking Boots: I own a pair of waterproof Keens which I have a love-hate relationship with. I love how they keep my feet dry, but on long, multi-day hikes my feet become sweaty. The waterproofing doesn’t allow my feet to breathe which results in blisters sometimes.
Camelbak: We own two of these and they’re great! I never hike without mine and I actually started skiing with it. It’s big enough to store water and store the layers you shed.
Camping in Colorado
Camping is by far our favorite summer activity. There is a mind-boggling amount of campsites out here that you can either make reservations for or first come first serve.
I can’t possibly list all the campsites available in Colorado, but I will list out some of my favorite spots.
My favorite campsites in Colorado:
Rocky Mountain National Park
An hour and a half from Denver you will find Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. Trail Ridge Road connects the 48 miles from Estes Park to Grand Lake Colorado. Constructed in 1932, Trail Ridge Road will be sure to take your breathe away.
Hike a 14er! Longs Peak is found in RMNP and is 14,259 feet above sea level. This hike is more of a climb that crosses enormous vertical rock faces, often with falling rock.
Want something a little more lowkey? Hike to Dream Lake. Get to the trailhead early or you might not find a parking spot. If you don’t have a car or don’t feel like dealing with parking ride a free shuttle.
Visit The Stanely Hotel. You might have heard of a pretty popular movie called The Shining… Stephen King spent a night at this hotel in the 70s which inspired that novel and movie. Take a ghost tour, spend the night, or try not to get lost in the hedge maze here in at The Stanely Hotel.
Mesa Verde National Park
From 600 to 1300 CE the Ancestral Pueblo people called these parts their home. In my eyes, this National Park is very unique because visitors come here to view the 5000 archeological sites across 40+ miles of roads. When we visited it was very last minute and late in the day so we were only able to tour the Cliff Palace, but I would love to go back and tour the Balcony House which requires a reservation and tour.
Surrounded by the rugged San Juan Mountains, Pagosa Springs, is a sight for sore eyes. This town is one of my favorites in Colorado because it’s a hot springs town split by the San Juan River. The world’s deepest geothermal hot springs can be found right here. We recommend soaking at The Springs Resort & Spa if you’re willing to splurge a little bit. If money is tight I would visit the Overlook Mineral Springs Spa.
If you are tired of camping we HIGHLY recommend staying at Motel Soco. This has been one of our favorite places to sleep because of the hostel vibe, updated amenities, free ax throwing, and awesome bar.
Garden of the Gods
With a name like that it has to be good… right? Garden of the Gods is a public park located in Colorado Springs that has tons of easy hiking trails which is perfect for non-locals. In addition to hiking there are plenty of other activities available in the park:
Biking: Mountain biking is permitted on certain trails and on all one-way roads throughout the park. There are also guided electric bike tours offered by Amp’d Adventures.
Horseback Riding: 1 and 2-hour tours for both beginners and advance is offered by Academy Riding Stables.
Segway and Jeep Tours: Offered by Adventures Out West.
Rock Climbing: Those that feel comfortable rock climbing in the park will need to fill out a registration form and follow the rules. Want to learn how to rock climb? You can learn how to in the park by these companies.
Hiking: 15 miles of trail is available in the park. Download AllTrails to find the perfect hike for you.
Photo captured by Caitlin K’eli
While you’re visiting the Garden of the Gods take a trip up to Pikes Peak! Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the Southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and there’s a road that will take you right to the top. Several gift shops guide you to the top with one shop selling special high altitude donuts. Make sure to snack on the donuts at the top or they will deflate and become mushy at sea level.
There are several ways to ascend the mountain:
Personal car: Vehicles can be driven to the summit via the Pikes Peak Highway. This 19-mile long toll road will take you up a series of switchbacks that you will never forget.
Hike: The most popular trail, Barr Trail, has about 8,000 feet in elevation gain in about a 13-mile hike one-way.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
In south-central Colorado, you will find sand dunes up to 750 feet tall. There is plenty to do while visiting the dunes.
Sandboarding: Outside the park, you will find many outfitters selling sandboards for the day and I recommend bringing your ski goggles because the wind picks up and it gets hard to see. Find the list of sandboard renters here.
Medano Creek: After a snowy season, the snow will melt and create a creek visitors must wade through to get to the actual dunes. Sometimes the water is high enough to tube down, sometimes there isn’t water at all. Check the conditions here.
Camping: There aren’t many options for camping in the area and many are first-come-first-serve so I suggest getting there early. View the camping options here.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
The park’s main attraction is the scenic drive along US Highway 50 and Colorado Highway 92, as well as the south rim. This is the perfect spot for an amazing drive where you can peer 2,000 feet below the often guardrail-less edge to see the Gunnison River.
The east end of the park is the most developed for camping with RV hookups and spots for tent camping, as well as canyon tours, hiking, fishing, and boat tours.
Fun Fact: The canyon’s name owes itself to the fact that parts of the gorge only receive 33 minutes of sunlight a day,
Paint Mines Interpretive Park
You might not find this location on any “Guide to Colorado” and I don’t know why. We were able to visit this park a couple of months ago and we were so surprised! The park consists of 4 miles of trails that rise 500 feet in elevation and you will feel as though you are in a Dr. Suess book. In these grasslands, you will find yourself surrounded by colorful hoodoos, colored clay, and sandstone capped-spires. Have fun exploring the maze of trails.
Boreas Pass Scenic Drive
This 22 mile-drive connects Breckenridge to Como and is suitable for low-clearance 2WD cars, although it does get bumpy in spots. I suggest taking this drive during the fall when the Aspens are golden and finding a camp spot along the drive. This was one of the most memorable drives and camping experiences I’ve had so far in Colorado.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Just outside Steamboat Springs lies one of the most peaceful hot springs I’ve ever been too. The large pool-like hot springs are surrounded by smaller pools for those that are wanting a little bit more privacy. (Clothing is optional after sundown). There are cabins, tent sites, covered wagons, and even a train caboose you can rent for the night.
Radium Hot Springs
While we are on the topic of hot springs I cant’ forget to mention Radium Hot Springs. Unlike Strawberry Park, these hot springs are completely natural and are found at the base of a cliff next to the Colorado River. Take a short hike to this natural pool and you can find cliff jumpers, tubing, and people relaxing in the hot spring. Read more about camping options near the springs here.
Pro Tip: When the river is high, usually in the spring, the pool might not be warm.
You can find the third-largest body of water in Colorado 5 miles outside the town of Granby. Lake Granby is popular with boaters, fishermen, and lovers of the outdoors. We usually spend the Fourth of July on the lake and camp in a nearby National Forest because you do not need a boating license to rent a boat.
Restaurant stop: The Fat Cat Cafe has to be one of the best breakfast places I’ve ever been to. It’s a buffet-style breakfast with tons of pastries, fruit, meat, and other yummy breakfast options.
Creede, Co. One of the most picturesque towns in Colorado. In 1890, Nicholas C. Creede struck silver thus developing a town smack dab in the middle of a canyon.
Bachelor Historic Loop- A 17-mile loop through Creede’s old mining camps. A must-do.
Silver Thread Scenic Byway- 75 miles spotted with waterfalls, mines, and natural landscapes from Lake City to South Fork.