Six Great Small-Town Colorado Getaways
Colorado is hot right now! The state is seeing an influx of tourists looking for great Colorado vacations that challenge them physically and change their sight lines, giving them something to look up at instead of staring out of the same old window every day.
If you’re thinking about taking a trip to the Centennial State, here are a few unexpected Colorado destinations to put on your radar:
America’s mountain-biking Mecca, Durango is surrounded by jagged mountains that invite you to grab the nearest thick-tired two-wheeler and start climbing. Ready for a break? Investigate Durango’s Old West heritage, starting at the historic Strater Hotel.
The hiking and whitewater rafting are grand, but so are the views from the Durango & Silverton steam train, as it puffs through impossibly steep canyons. You’ll understand the precipitous nature of travel in these parts on the “Million Dollar Highway” between Durango and Ouray – just keep your eyes on the road and two hands on the wheel!
Also read: How to Travel Europe by Train
Speaking of which, once you make it down the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray, you’ll find a town of barely 1,000 residents, but it might be the most spectacular town of 1,000 in the country.
Nestled in the San Juan Mountains near Telluride, Ouray boasts the fabulous Hot Springs Pool and the amazing vistas of Box Canyon Park in addition to an historic and very Old West downtown. There’s nary a straight or level street in the entire town, which is sort of the point. It’s a place to wander up and down, and get lost in – just not too lost.
Small, yes. Under the radar, no. Everyone has heard of Vail, but who’s actually skied there? Maybe the cost was a turnoff, or maybe it was the appeal of places like Lake Tahoe or Snowbird, but Vail is a flat-out great place for a ski vacation, with amazing runs, deep fresh powder, and an awesome apres-ski scene at hangouts like The Red Lion, Garfinkel's, and Vendetta's, where the Snow Pig is highly recommended.
The further you get from the slopes the less expensive the lodgings may get, and if you go when there’s no snow whatsoever you can get all of the scene with less of the crowds.
The gateway to the Gunnison National Forest and the spectacular Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Gunnison is off-the-beaten-path enough to be both charmingly laid-back (which is what you expect from a Colorado mountain town) and untouristed (which you don’t expect).
Stay in town and use Gunnison as your jumping-off point for excursions into the nearby woods and mountains. Start with a hike up Tenderfoot Mountain, just south of town, and cap off your day with a refreshing dip in the Gunnison River – mild in town, but wild once it heads west.
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Colorado Springs is neither a town nor small, but in a state where Denver, Boulder, Aspen and Vail get all the press, Colorado Springs may seem like an undiscovered gem. And it is.
South of Denver on the divide between tall mountains and high plains, Colorado Springs is home to the Air Force Academy – still architecturally inspiring after all these years – as well as a wide variety of get-up-and-go activities. Just about anything you want to do recreationally, from tennis to golfing to hiking to mountain biking, it’s all no more than a few miles away – and it’s all good, high quality stuff, with some of the best scenery you’ll find anywhere. The food and beverage scene is really popping, too.
Much more of a true cottonwoods-and-sagebrush western town than its neighbors on the other side of the Rockies, Grand Junction gives you a lot of Big Sky feel in addition to a burgeoning wine scene that makes it a great hub for your explorations. Head east and south to the Gunnison Canyon National Conservation Area and the Colorado National Monument, north to the Dinosaur National Monument, and right in town for the Museum of the West. Grand Junction is a different sort of Colorado experience than Denver or Boulder – and that’s just fine.
Whatever town you choose for your Colorado vacation, don’t forget travel insurance from Generali.