12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Colorado
1 Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of Colorado's great treasures. This natural area is home to mountains, lakes, and a wide variety of wildlife. The area offers hiking trails, camping facilities, and opportunities for climbing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and fishing depending on the season. One of the best ways to see the park is by driving the scenic Trail Ridge Road. The National Park is open throughout the year but the Trail Ridge Road is only open from the end of May to October due to winter weather conditions. The park is particularly beautiful in spring (June), but most visitors come during the summer months of July and August. The beautiful colors of early autumn mean September is also a good time to visit.
There are numerous hiking trails throughout the park, offering beautiful views of the lakes and mountains. Bear Lake, off the Bear Lake Road, is a popular hiking area with several good hikes including the Bear Lake Trail, Emerald Lake Trail, Dream Lake Trail, and Fern Lake Trail, as well as others.
2 Pikes Peak in Pike National Forest
Pikes Peak reaches a height of 14,110 ft and is located 3 miles northwest of Manitou Springs. It can also be climbed on a difficult toll road, which is the route of an annual car rally held at the beginning of July. From the summit there are breathtaking views, extending on clear days as far as Denver and into New Mexico, which attract large numbers of visitors throughout the year. Katherine Lee Bates was inspired by Pikes Peak to write the words of the song "America the Beautiful". The whole of the mountain is now protected as Pike National Forest.
3 Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is home to some of the United States' most famous American Indian ruins. Cliffside dwellings and other various structures are found throughout the park. Some of these can be toured although in many cases guided tours are required.
4 Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
130 miles southeast of Grand Junction is the spectacular Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a narrow gorge, over 2,600 ft deep in places, cut through dark-colored rocks of the Palaeozoic era.
Wildlife in the area includes black bears, coyotes and the occasional bobcat or cougar.
The North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument is accessible by Highway 92 south of Crawford. The unpaved North Rim Road has six overlooks and is quite often closed during the winter because snow. Hiking trails and lookouts off of this section include the 2.5 mile Deadhorse Trail, the 1.5 mile North Vista Trail, and the Balanced Rock overlook.
The South Rim of the Black Canyon is seven miles long with twelve overlooks. The drive is accessed by U.S. 50, east of Montrose.
5 Garden of the Gods
Located outside Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods is a unique natural area with interesting rock formations. Hiking and mountain biking are popular activities and a good way to explore the scenery. From the park there are good views to Pikes Peak.
6 Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is found within the White River and Gunnison National Forests. The area is known for soaring mountains, rushing rivers, and placid lakes. Many of the peaks exceed 14,000 feet in this 180,000 plus acre wilderness. The mountains are one of the country's most photographed spots, with six peaks. The wilderness area attracts climbers, mountaineers, hikers and nature lovers.
The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness has over 100 miles of hiking trails, with some of the steeper trails sure to take your breath away. In the summer visitors are rewarded with carpets of wildflowers across vast alpine meadows. Wildlife is plentiful here with frequent sightings of mule deer and elk. It is a popular place in the summer with lots of hikers hitting the trails on warm summer days. The nearby ski town of Aspen transforms itself from servicing skiers to servicing summer visitors. Comfortable accommodation is plentiful and less costly than in the winter season.
Vail is a popular ski town and resort destination located only 100 miles from Denver. In winter the town attracts large numbers of skiers from across North America. In the summer Vail maintains a good crowd by hosting various events, from concerts to sports races. This is a beautiful area in all seasons, with mountains and alpine lakes that attract hikers and mountain bikers, as well as the skiing crowd.
8 Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
In southern Colorado is the impressive Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Over thousands of years the wind has carried great masses of sand from the semi-arid San Luis Valley to the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Some of the dunes are over 650 ft high.
The Star Dune is the tallest dune in North America, measuring 750 ft high. During summer visitors should plan to hike the dunes in morning or evening to avoid 140 degree F sand or thunderstorms. In addition, mountain trails with conifer forests, creeks, and alpine lakes can be explored. Nearby Zapata Falls is a refreshingly cool experience with a beautiful view of the valley and dunefield.
9 Mount Evans
The road leading up Mount Evans from Idaho Springs, Mount Evans Highway reaches well over 14,000 ft and is the highest paved mountain road in the USA. From the top, and throughout the journey up, there are great mountain views, with alpine lakes and pastures. This is also a good place to see wildlife, from bighorn sheep to pika. This highway is only open from spring until fall.
10 Black Hawk
In a deep V-shaped valley northwest of Golden, still frequented by numerous hopeful gold-prospectors, is the old Western settlement of Black Hawk. This little town has been nostalgically refurbished, with various attractions to tempt the tourist. Despite the town's small population, visitors will find top end accommodation available.
11 Colorado National Monument
A few miles west of Grand Junction is Colorado National Monument, a nature reserve with bizarre rock formations and canyons. Numerous hiking trails run through the area ranging from a quarter mile to several miles in length. The visitor center at Colorado National Monument is located near the park entrance at Fruita. Visitors can learn about the landscape and the history of the region through a variety of exhibits.
12 Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument, famed for its fossils, lies in Northwestern Colorado, with a tip reaching into Utah. It occupies part of the Yampa plateau, which is cut by the spectacular canyons on the Yampa River and Green River. This extraordinary natural landscape has been created by movements in the earth's crust and the erosive forces of water and wind.
The area round the Yampa and Green Rivers became world-famous when the fossilized remains of saurians (dinosaurs), crocodiles, and tortoises were found in the region. In the Jurassic period giant creatures, including Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Brontosaurus and Stegosaurus, roamed over this part of America.
The Headquarters Visitor Center is located on the Colorado side of Dinosaur National Monument. There are exhibits on the history of the park. The best time for a visit is between May and October.