Ever since the weather has warmed up, my craving for travel has reached new heights. Maybe it’s the sunshine or the fact that we haven’t taken a road trip in FOREVER. Or maybe it’s the constant planning for our van conversion. Regardless, I am itching to hit the road. I think this is the reason that I can’t stop daydreaming about places to visit in Colorado.
If you have seen my Top 5 Underrated U.S. Destinations you know how much I love the midwest!
The first time I went to Colorado I almost couldn’t believe it was real. We drove for 24 hours straight to get there, and it was the farthest I had ever been from home. I was floored by the massive amount of natural beauty.
Whether you are sitting in the McDonalds drive-through or hiking along one of the numerous trails, there is a view everywhere. If you haven’t been to Colorado, this is your incentive to get there!
No matter if your heart belongs to the desert, the grasslands, or the mountains, you will find your place in this diverse midwestern state. I have a list of ten places to visit in Colorado that you can’t miss when you visit! Let’s start with the most obvious.
Rocky Mountain National Park
The Rocky Mountain National Park is potentially the most notorious destination in the state, and for good reason. There are over 300 miles of hiking trails filled with gorgeous natural beauty.
From the Bear Lake area to the Kawuneeche Valley you will find spectacular views of the mountains and more activities than you could ever hope to finish. There are tons of campgrounds and more than enough hiking, biking, backpacking, and sightseeing opportunities to keep you busy.
Whether you are visiting for a daring adventure, family time, or solitude you can bet on coming back to experience the breathtaking scenery of this national park again and again.
The peak season is in the summertime since Colorado experiences so much snow throughout the winter. You are guaranteed a multitude of amazing memories to
Keep in mind that most of the attractions are open seasonally. It is important to plan ahead and expect some restriction if you come in the early spring.
If you’re interested in visiting the park, check out these guidelines to help you determine the best time to visit!
Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, Colorado
This one is for my animal lovers out there! The Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, Colorado is a nonprofit organization home to dozens of canines like wolves, coyotes, fox, and other wild dogs.
Most of these pups come from the entertainment industry and cannot be released into the wild.
You guys, this place has wolves. Real live wolves that howl and play with each other right in front of you! It’s located so high up in the mountains that the elevation can make some people sick.
This is called Altitude Sickness and can cause dizziness, headache, nausea, and fatigue. Stay hydrated to combat these symptoms, and retreat to lower ground if it becomes too much.
You can visit the center and take their regular tour for $20.00 USD a person ($15.00 for kids). The tour is given by one of the wolf handlers who spends time with the wolves and knows all of their quirky personality traits!
If you want to spend a little more cash (maybe I should say a lot more… as in $400 plus) you can go into an enclosure with a handler and interact face to face with an actual wolf. They even have a photographer that takes pictures for you!
It is one of the coolest experiences you will ever have. Being up close and personal with a wild animal is thrilling and super educational. You walk away with a broader understanding and appreciation for wolves and wild dogs as a whole.
The Wolf and Wildlife Center is one of the coolest places to visit in Colorado! To book your tour, visit their website and learn about everything they have to offer!
Red Canyon State Park in Pueblo, Colorado
Guys, I truly never knew that there was a desert in Colorado. When I saw the sand and the cacti I was actually really shocked, but equally excited!
I know that my small town childhood is showing through, but I don’t care. Red Canyon State Park was the first dessert I had ever seen in my life, and I fell in love.
This park has been carved into beautiful canyons with an incredible mountain view. The soil is a deep red color, hence the name. You are bound to see some wildlife within these canyons. We saw several deer on our hikes and were able to get pretty close without them running away!
You can camp right in the middle of it and explore miles of winding trail through the canyon. This is the perfect spot to relax for the weekend and reconnect with nature! You can bring the whole family, including the dogs and the horses! Red Cayon is one of the best places to visit in Colorado, especially if you want something different!
Check out this website to learn more about one Red Canyon State Park!
Mount Evans Scenic Byway
Mount Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in North America. It sits about 60 miles west of Denver, Colorado.
Even though This byway is one of the most gorgeous places to visit in Colorado, is not for the faint of heart.
The road winds up the mountain at an astonishing 9,000 feet of elevation. You have to watch out for clouds obscuring the driver’s view and keep in mind that snow can occur anytime at the higher altitudes. There are unprotected dropoffs throughout this 28-mile stretch, so you must be cautious.
Of course, this daring venture isn’t without reward. There are beautiful views along the route, not to mention the view of all views from the top. The byway starts at gorgeous Echo Lake where you can picnic with friends or family and prepare for the drive.
One of the most memorable stops along the way would be The Walter Pesman Alpine Garden where you can see the oldest trees on earth!
Adventurers will have to climb the final 135 feet to the summit of Mount Evans.
If you decided to take this journey, please remember that it is very important to stay hydrated at altitudes this high. It will also be more difficult to regain your breath if you exert yourself.
Find out more here!
Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon, Colorado
Hanging Lake is located in the White River National Forest. It was named a national natural landmark in 2011 because it is one of Colorado’s most beloved hidden gems.
You can get to Hanging Lake by taking the 1.2-mile hike through the rugged, uphill terrain. There is no pretending that this hike isn’t rigorous, but the beauty that awaits you at the end is well worth it.
There are plenty of places to stop and catch your breath on the way up. Take the opportunity to reflect on the beautiful canyon wilderness and capture the perfect photo of the scenery,
There are small, gentle waterfalls spiraling into crystal clear water of the lake. You can explore Hanging Lake from the walkway that surrounds it. If you pay close attention you can see the fish swimming under the surface!
You will need a permit to visit the lake. During peak season personal vehicles are not allowed at the trailhead. There is a shuttle that runs from the welcome center to the trailhead and bikes are always welcome!
The permit and shuttle system is in place to give visitors the best experience possible as well as to protect the ecosystem!
Find out more here!
Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado
The Garden of the Gods is located at the base of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. It is one of the most amazing examples of geological history on the planet. It is also one of the more popular places to visit in Colorado!
The rock formations that the park is famous for were formed over 300 million years ago in the intersection of the grasslands and the American southwest.
Over 2 million people visit the park every year! You can hike, bike, or even segway your way through The Garden of the Gods. There are opportunities to explore the park by horseback or even a jeep tour!
One of the best things about Garden of the Gods is that it’s free to enter! It is recommended to visit the visitor and nature center before heading into the park. This is where you can get the inside scoop on the best trails and learn about the geological history of the land!
Mesa Verde National Park in Mesa Verde, Colorado
Mesa Verde is perched high in the American southwest hills of Mesa Verde, Colorado. It was once home to a population of nomadic Paleo Indians. They left behind over 600 dwellings built into the cliff face.
Like all of the places to visit in Colorado, there is an amazing view everywhere you look. Not to mention the major history lesson right in front of your eyes!
Some of the most famous cliff dwellings you can explore include Cliff Palace, Long House, and Balcony House!
The park is open year round, but tours only happen seasonally! You don’t want to visit the park without experiencing these amazing historical dwellings! Check out the website to find out the best time to visit!
Pikes Peak National Park
You have probably heard of Pikes Peak before. It is the second most visited mountain range in the world, next to Mount Fugi. You can take the scenic Pikes Peak highway through 19 miles of beautiful mountain terrain!
There are multiple overlooks where you can get out of the car, stretch your legs, and take in an amazing view! There are ample opportunities to see wildlife like goats, marmots, and more!
The entrance to Pikes Peak is located in Cascade, Colorado which is west of Colorado Springs. The entrance fee is $10.00 USD for adults and $5.00 for children. A fair price to pay for exploring one of the most famous peaks in the world! They even cut you a deal if you have a carload!
It will take you anywhere from 2-3 hours round trip to see Pikes Peak. Keep in mind that the elevation can affect some people different than others. Remember to stay hydrated and if you start to feel dizzy or sick, retreat to lower altitudes.
It’s important to check the road conditions before you go, and try to come during the warmer months to have the best experience possible!
Check out their website for educational activities and planning resources!
Million Dollar Highway
The Million Dollar Highway, also known as US Route 550 was built in the late-1800s. It runs from Bernalillo, New Mexico all the way to Montrose, Colorado. The section that runs between Silverton and Ouray is typically referred to as The Million Dollar Highway.
This is another drive that will provide you with a backdrop that you’ve only seen in movies!
The Highway received its name from the era in which it was built. People would say “you would have to pay me a million dollars to drive that highway in the snow”. It’s true. This trip is not for the inexperienced driver.
Like most of the quality byways in Colorado, there are no guardrails and countless switchbacks as you make your way across the countryside. As the driver, you have to devote your total concentration. I recommend that you drive in shifts (if you are in a group) so that everyone has the chance to see the amazing view!
The road remains open in the winter months, but like the saying goes, most people wouldn’t risk it for a million dollars. The best time to explore is in the summer months. As long as you go slow and respect the wilderness around you, you will have an amazing expereince!
Learn all of the safety precautions and planning information here.
The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in Golden, Colorado
The Buffalo Bill Museum is a one of a kind experience for the whole family. Learn about the life and legacy of the famous Buffalo Bill! You have the chance to visit his grave site and learn everything there is to know about one of the worlds most famous cowboys!
The museum is located at an altitude of 7,375 feet, so remember to stay hydrated and pay close attention to any physical symptoms.
With a height like this, you know that there is a spectacular view from the museum observatory.
It generally takes about an hour to enjoy everything that the museum has to offer. Allow extra time if you plan to eat at the restaurant on site since everything is cooked to order!
Admission prices are more than fair. They charge $5.00 for adults and only $1.00 for children. Visit their website for tickets and directions from Denver and other surrounding areas!
If you aren’t already convinced to visit Colorado, then you probably live there already! This is truly a state filled with adventure, and if you’re anything like me, you can’t stand to miss a good view!
I can’t wait to go back, and I can’t wait to hear about your Colorado journeys! If you frequent Colorado, drop me a line in the comments and tell me your favorite place to visit!
Happy travels, friends!