Tons of people are putting Colorado on their vacation list, which is why it's no surprise that 86 million people visited the Centennial State last year. If you're looking to plan a trip to Colorado or looking to simply explore another part of the state, here are six great vacation spots in Colorado to start with.
Easy to get to from Denver and filled with ample activities throughout the entire year, Breckenridge is a great spot to visit if it's your first time to the state. You'll get a taste of the mountains and whatever sort outdoor recreation is in season. In recent years, Breckenridge has made a shift toward being a tourist town – while you might have crowds, you'll find all of the amenities, souvenir shops, and late-night bars you could ever want.
Recommendation: During a multi-day visit to Breckenridge, spend an afternoon in Frisco. It's on Lake Dillon, making it a great summer spot for kayak rentals.
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2. Buena Vista
If it's summertime in Colorado, the Buena Vista area is the spot to be. It's less than two hours from Colorado Springs and surrounded by massive mountain peaks to explore. You'll find camping, rock climbing, hiking, and biking in the area, but what it's really known for is the rafting. Buena Vista's proximity to the Arkansas River makes for an epic time on the water.
Recommendation: Visit during festival season. You'll find everything from arts and entertainment to mushroom hunting minus the same crowds and costs that you'd find in festival towns like Telluride.
3. Glenwood Springs
Smack dab between Aspen and Rifle, the Glenwood Springs area is one spot that you could explore for an entire week or more and still be finding new things to do. One aspect of Glenwood Springs that is especially unique is the number of hot springs in town. They're all great in their own way, but Iron Mountain Hot Springs' riverside location facing the sunset makes it my first pick. If you're willing to drive an hour, check out Rifle Falls State Park or the Maroon Bells.
Recommendation: Check out the Maroon Bells near Aspen and come back to Glenwood Springs for an outdoor sunset soak.
4. Crested Butte
A tiny town at the dead end of a long and winding road, Crested Butte is a bit isolated. Thankfully, a lot of people are coming to Colorado looking for exactly that. Because of the relatively remote location in relation to Colorado's larger cities, this is a great place to escape the crowd and get a true "local's vibe." You'll find beautiful wildflowers in the summer and plenty of powder-packed glades to ski in the winter.
Recommendation: If you're headed this way, try to attend one of the local events. Most of the people there are actually from the area unlike what you might find in a destination that's more popular among tourists. There's a great beer and chili festival in the summer.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of the state, you'll find Telluride far away from any major airports and surrounded by massive cliffs. If you can get there, this part of the state is the spot to spend a summer-long vacation exploring the San Juans. Obviously Telluride has great skiing (perhaps the best in the state), but the off-roading and hiking in the summer are hard to beat. Make sure you check out nearby towns like Silverton and Ouray. Also note that in the late summer/fall, Telluride transforms into a festival town. You'll be able to find an awesome event, but expect crowds and higher costs.
Recommendation: Enjoy the views of the Million Dollar Highway while driving to Ouray and brave Red Mountain Pass before dropping into Silverton. You'll get a real taste for this part of the state and can make the round trip in half a day.
6. Grand Lake
Perhaps the most overlooked vacation spot on this list, it's a shock that the Grand Lake area isn't on every outdoor recreation enthusiast's bucket list. It's a hub for tons of adventure thanks to (1) its location on Colorado's largest natural lake, (2) the town serving as a western gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, and (3) its proximity to ski resorts like Granby and Winter Park.
Recommendation: Skip the crowds at Rocky Mountain National Park by entering from the Grand Lake side. Stick to the trails on this side of the park to avoid many tourists. Come back to stay in Grand Lake and enjoy one of several great local dining options before watching a lakeside sunset.