Here are the most beautiful places in Colorado that will make you plan a road trip now.
When it comes to gorgeous views, the Colorado scenery is sure to please.
The Centennial State doesn’t slack when it comes to insanely pretty destinations. In fact, we can hardly think of a state as diverse and beautiful as Colorado (but don’t tell the others we said that!).
Simply put, listing all the most beautiful places in Colorado is a pretty challenging task, but we decided to take on the challenge and create a shortlist of the ones that stand out from the crowds to make the planning stages of your trip a little easier.
From towering sand dunes to ancient cliff dwellings and charming alpine towns that will make you feel as though you’ve been transported into the Alps, here are some of the most beautiful places in Colorado you’ve got to place on your bucket list right now!
23 Most Beautiful Places in Colorado
Tucked away in the San Juan Mountains and nestled inside a box canyon, Telluride is one of the most beautiful places in Colorado for all things alpine scenery and old-world charm.
This beautiful mountain town has pretty much everything you could wish for when it comes to an escape in the mountains.
Towering snow-capped mountains, a colorful historic downtown, idyllic lakes reflecting nearby peaks, beautiful waterfalls (don’t miss out on Break Creek Falls!), and hiking trails that will take you through aspen forests, canyons, and historic mining sites are just a few of the things this incredibly picturesque town in the Rockies has to offer.
Besides, a free gondola connects the town with Mountain Village, where there’s excellent skiing.
2. Rocky Mountain National Park
Home to five glaciers, a whopping 156 alpine lakes, amazing wildlife, and striking mountain peaks, Rocky Mountain National Park is probably the most iconic spot for quintessential Colorado scenery.
No trip to the Centennial State is really ever complete without checking out a few of its natural wonders!
With over 110 trails on its menu, hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park is the ultimate way to explore this gem.
Because the park is home to more than a hundred 11,000+ feet peaks and some of the tallest mountains in North America, narrowing down the best trails is a pretty difficult feat, but among the best ones to start tackling are Emerald Lake, Bear Lake, Longs Peak, Sky Pond, and Mount Ida (to name just a few!).
Rugged mountains aren’t the only highlight here, though. As you meander through the park, you’ll stumble across mazes of evergreen trees, pristine lakes, fields of colorful wildflowers, grassy meadows, boulders, and more.
Moreover, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the top destinations for wildlife viewing in the USA, with species like moose, bighorn sheep, black bears, and even mountain lions roaming within its boundaries!
Needless to say that Rocky Mountains is one of the best places to visit in Colorado!
Backdropped by a dramatic set of rock formations known as The Flatirons, Boulder is a hip student town nestled in the foothills of the Front Range Mountains that oozes that super laid-back charisma.
Even though this college town has a ton to offer, including great entertainment options, farm-to-table restaurants, a great beer scene, and a river-lined downtown you can stroll for hours, Boulder is also an excellent place to base yourself and explore further afield.
Besides, Boulder is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The mountains that frame Boulder are excellent destinations for all things outdoor adventures, including hiking in Chautauqua to get an up-close look at The Flatirons, tubing down Boulder Creek, or playing in the water at Boulder Reservoir.
4. Crested Butte
Once a coal-mining center, today, Crested Butte is a charming mountain setting located at the base of Mount Butte that will make you feel as though you were transported right into the heart of the Swiss Alps.
Even though Crested Butte is known for its ski resorts, it’s also a lovely destination to visit year-round, with enchanting forests, mighty peaks, and some of the most beautiful places in Colorado for nature, including the West Elk, Raggeds, and Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area surrounding its borders.
As if that weren’t reason enough to visit, Crested Butte is famed for its abundance of wildflowers, so much that it’s considered the wildflower capital of Colorado.
Come late June, thousands of blooms carpet the entire area, creating a breathtaking kaleidoscope of colors that will make you feel as though you’re walking inside an early Van Gogh painting!
Read next: Secluded Cabins in Colorado
Standing tall at just over 10,000 feet above sea level, Leadville is the highest city in the United States, which pretty much translates into a go-to place for incredible mountain scenery.
Leadville is a pretty great site to visit, especially if what you’re after are laid-back vibes, lower price tags, and a more low-key atmosphere than those of fancier alternatives like Vail or Breckenridge.
Simply put, Leadville is a wonderful destination for fresh mountain air, amazing views, and historical goodness (it has a centuries-old mining history behind it!)
Two of Colorado’s tallest peaks, Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, stand right next to Leadville, meaning gorgeous sweeping views of the mountains are guaranteed no matter where you stand.
During your visit, you can explore its beautiful downtown, enjoy the many alpine lakes that surround the town, hike through the San Isabel National Forest, or even put your mountaineering skills to test by conquering a few peaks!
6. Great Sand Dunes National Park
A sea of towering sand dunes probably isn’t the first image that comes to mind when you think of Colorado, but the Centennial State actually happens to be home to the tallest ones in entire North America!
Snuggled between the Sangre de Cristo and the San Juan Mountain Range, this 30 square mile park is a colliding landscape of massive sand dunes backdropped by striking snow-capped mountains.
The entire scene looks straight out of another planet, especially when you consider the tallest sand dune at the park, Star Dune, rises above 700 feet above the floor, making it not that much smaller than the mighty peaks that frame it!
7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison
When it comes to Colorado scenery, Black Canyon of the Gunnison takes the price when it comes to mystery.
The park is basically made up of a canyon so sheer and deep that sunlight only touches parts of its gorge for just 33 minutes a day, making its name, “Black Canyon,” a pretty literal one!
The best way to explore this eerie-looking national park is by driving the Rim Drive, which offers twelve vertigo-inducing viewpoints of the canyon, each one more strikingly beautiful than the last.
Hiking is also popular here, with the ultimate trail being one that takes you all the way to the bottom of the canyon.
Keep in mind, though, that this is considered a wilderness area, and there are no maintained trails available, making it a hike only super experienced hikers should attempt.
The hike is by no means easy, but getting to stand at the chasm of the canyon provides such dramatic views you’re bound to keep talking about your experience in one of the deepest canyons in the US for years to come!
8. Mesa Verde National Park
As far as national parks in the United States go, Mesa Verde is probably the most unique of them all.
Rather than being a place focused on nature, this park houses architectural and anthropological wonders, giving visitors a chance to walk around Cliff Palace ruins which paint a pretty good picture of the way the Ancestral Pueblo once lived.
Even though no one knows exactly what caused the civilization to collapse, today, you can hike a few of the trails at Mesa Verde National Park, where you’ll get access to a window into the past.
While hiking through canyons, mesa tops, ridges, and overlooks of cliff dwellings and excavated mesa-top villages, you’ll get to glimpse into 700 years of Ancestral Pueblo history.
Moreover, you can also book yourself a seasonal Cliff Dwelling Tour in order to visit a few cliff dwellings!
9. Trail Ridge Road
Eleven miles of this breathtaking paved road are set above the treeline, which will make you feel as though you’re driving to the sky!
Covering 48 miles between Estes Park and Grand Lake (deepest and largest natural lake in Colorado), Trail Ridge Road provides panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains in every direction of the way, thrilling wildlife encounters (watch out for grazing moose!), and the chance to traverse various landscapes, including aspen forests, lush mountain meadows, subalpine forests, and alpine tundra.
Due to weather conditions, the Trail Ridge Road is generally only open between late May and mid-October.
During the summer, you’ll be treated to gorgeous carpets of wildflowers while the fall months bring in dreamy fall foliage, so try planning your trip accordingly!
10. Bridal Veil Falls
This may come as a surprise, but Colorado doesn’t really have a ton of waterfalls in its repertoire, which makes Bridal Veil Falls a pretty unique sight in the Centennial State!
Falling 365 feet over the edge of a canyon, it’s the tallest waterfall in Colorado and by far the most popular one in the Telluride region.
The Bridal Veil Falls are accessible via various methods, including hiking, biking, or driving a four-wheel vehicle to the top.
During the winter, though, the falls freeze and become an ice-climbing feat!
We recommend doing the hike, as it’ll give you the chance to get close and personal with the nature that surrounds the area.
As you hike, you’ll get to walk amid beautiful mountain meadows, colorful wildflower patches, and verdant forests before reaching the falls.
Fun fact: There’s a hydroelectric power plant standing at the top of the Bridal Veil Falls, which supplies a pretty high percentage of Telluride’s electricity!
11. Pikes Peak
As the highest summit of the southern Front Range, Pikes Peak near Pike National Forest may just be the most iconic of Colorado’s 54 fourteeners (mountains that ascend past 14,000 feet above the ground).
The Ute people originally described it as the Mountain of the Sun because it was the first thing to be illuminated by the sun every morning, but today, it’s often called “America’s Mountain”.
Standing at the top of this majestic peak is an experience unlike any other, with vistas of the Continental Divide, Garden of the Gods, and other smaller peaks being just a few of the things you’ll get to witness.
12. Hanging Lake
Standing on Hanging Lake is as close to a fairytale-like setting as you can get. Snuggled up inside Glenwood Canyon, this gorgeous lake is unlike anything you’ve seen before!
When a large part of the valley floor clipped off from the area’s fault line, a lake was formed amid unique geological formations.
Today, the setting looks as dreamy as ever, with greenery blanketing the rocky walls that surround it and turquoise-colored water cascading down from a cliff!
So if you’re visiting Glenwood Springs, you might want to hike this trail and then relax in one of the hot springs in town.
13. Garden of the Gods
Its name will probably clue you in, but Garden of the Gods is easily one of the most beautiful places in Colorado and one that shouldn’t be missed on any itinerary, especially if you’re in Colorado Springs or Manitou Springs.
A true geological wonder, this park is a unique mix of grasslands and pinon-juniper woodlands with strange red rock formations towering over the landscape (not to mention stunning views of Pikes Peak looming in the distance!).
This beautiful park has miles of walking trails and many opportunities for rock climbing, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Simply put, the landscape you’ll find at Garden of the Gods feels as though Alaska and the American Southwest were put together into one single image, and the result is simply swoon-worthy.
14. Royal Gorge
With the Arkansas River flowing amid its towering granite walls, this 10-mile canyon is easily one of the prettiest places in Colorado and a must if other-worldly-looking landscapes are your jam.
Shaped by the flow of the Arkansas River, Royal Gorge is a deep, narrow, exceptionally scenic, and incredibly long canyon.
The best way to see it in its full splendor is by walking atop America’s highest suspension bridge or braving the most sought-after zip line in Colorado.
15. Paint Mines Interpretive Park
If you love vibrant colors, Paint Mines Interpretative Park is guaranteed to leave you awe-struck.
Disguised inside an unsuspicious prairie landscape, Paint Mines is what can only be described as a labyrinth of hoodoos that come in all shades of oranges, yellows, purples, and pink contrasted against white rock, creating a kaleidoscopic-looking scenery that looks straight from another planet!
16. Maroon Bells
Maroon Bells, together with the Maroon Lake, is widely regarded for being one of the most photographed of Colorado sceneries, but here’s a little secret: no matter how beautiful the place might look on images, nothing compares to seeing it with your own eyes!
Much like any quintessential Rocky Mountain destination, Maroon Bells is dotted with idyllic lakes, cirques of aspens, and gorgeous scenery all over.
What makes this place stand out from the crowds, though, are the two twin peaks that tower high above it: North Maroon Peak and South Maroon Peak, two striking bell-shaped fourteeners that look as impressive as ever when reflected on the lakes!
17. Longs Peak
As the northernmost fourteener in the Rockies and one of the most iconic mountains in Colorado, Longs Peak is one of the most coveted summits in Colorado.
Even though you can see it from afar from pretty much any spot on at Rocky Mountain National Park, actually conquering it is one of the most sought-after experiences to tick off in the Centennial State.
There are several routes to reach its peak, but the most popular one is the Keyhole Route, a 15-mile (round trip) hike named after its passage through a keyhole that will have you scrambling narrow ledges, loose rock, and steep cliffs.
Do note that this isn’t a trail for inexperienced hikers, so make sure you’re prepared for the feat!
Dubbed “The Heart of the Rockies,” Salida is a delightful town tucked away in the mountains that brims with history, a lively arts scene, and excellent dining options.
Downtown Salida is home to the largest National Historic District in Colorado, with over a hundred gorgeous turn-of-the-century buildings dotting its streets.
Moreover, it’s also home to the state’s first Certified Creative District, which brims with locally-owned art studios, galleries, restaurants, and boutique shops guaranteed to get your creative juices flowing.
The Sawatch Range, the Arkansas River, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and the Browns Canyon National Monument surround Salida’s boundaries, making it an excellent destination to base yourself in to explore a few of these pretty places in Colorado, with hiking, biking, rafting, and kayaking being a few of the outdoor activities on offer.
Another highlight of Salida is the fact that it’s a popular destination for natural hot springs, with three of them open to the public (Chalk Creek, Cottonwood Creek, and Poncha Springs).
These geothermal waters are said to contain healing properties and were also used in the times of native people for that very purpose!
Standing at a whopping 5,280 feet above sea level, Denver is one of the liveliest capital cities in the entire United States, especially if a quirky art scene, great eats, a craft beer culture like no other, and the great outdoors sounds like a great mix to you.
You will want to visit the beautiful City Park, where you can find walking trails, picnic spots, and more.
But the cherry on the cake is the iconic view of the skyline and the snow-capped mountains.
As if that weren’t reason enough to convince you to linger a while here, the Mile High City is also a wonderful place to explore some of the most beautiful places in Colorado.
With places like Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, Roxborough State Park, Breckenridge, and many others being just a stone’s throw away!
Read next: Best Day Trips from Denver
20. San Juan Mountains
Home to 13 out of 58 of Colorado’s fourteeners, alpine lakes galore, tons of waterfalls, and gorgeous mountain towns, the San Juan Mountains are one of the most beautiful places in Colorado and a must if you’re keen to pack several beautiful destinations into one visit.
Not only do the San Juan Mountains boast some of the best natural scenery Colorado has to offer, but it also encompasses some of the prettiest mountain and mining towns in the entire state, including those like Ouray, Durango, Silverton, and Telluride.
Moreover, it’s also a region that brims with history, with tons of abandoned mines and ghost towns, dotted all across, many of which you can visit and take a trip back in time to the 19th century!
Vail is probably the most stunning mountain resort in Colorado and one of the most famous alpine destinations in the entire world for all things winter goodness!
Not only is Vail home to world-class skiing, but it’s also an incredibly scenic village that was designed to look and feel just like a charming mountain town in Tyrol, with cobblestone streets and European-style buildings creating an atmosphere that lives up to Vail’s ritzy reputation.
When the slopes close (or you simply happen to be visiting outside the ski season), you can spend your aprés time off dining at some of the best restaurants in Colorado, head to a chic bar for a glass of wine, or catch a live performance!
22. Red Rocks Amphitheater
Seeing your favorite band playing live is pretty cool, but it doesn’t quite compare to seeing them perform at an open-air amphitheater carved into a red rock structure!
Yes, this place does exist, and you’ll find it right by the beautiful town of Morrison near Denver.
This amphitheater is a unique one in the world and one you should witness with your own eyes regardless of whether you plan on catching a show or not.
Aside from the amphitheater itself, the entire scene looks as though it came straight out of Mars, with disc-shaped rock towering behind the stage as well as massive vertical rocks and various outcrops blending outwards!
Red Rocks Amphitheater was opened to the public back in the 40s, which pretty much means many iconic bands and artists have stood on its stage, including The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Sonny, Cher, U2, Depeche Mode, and so many more!
23. Crystal Mill
Located about 90-minute drive from Aspen, Crystal Mill is an incredibly quirky and beautiful place in Colorado. Built in 1892, this historic place was once a powerhouse, and now is a major attraction in the state.
Photographers, hikers, and curious people flock to this quiet landscape to admire the quiet serenity of the mill sitting high atop the rushing river.
The surrounding forest and mountains make it a perfect photo spot. To get to the mill, you can hike or bike your way there. Alternatively, you can also reach the mill by Jeep.
Final Thoughts on Colorado’s Most Beautiful Places
We hope this list of pretty places in Colorado helped you plan the perfect trip.
Whether you’re planning a scenic road trip through the Centennial State or you’re a local keen to explore your own backyard, these spots are fantastic to start getting to know the best Colorado has to offer!
Have you ever visited any of these beautiful places in Colorado? Which one was your favorite? Let me know all about your experience there in the comment section below!