10 Often Overlooked Mountain Towns You Must Visit in Colorado

The state of Colorado is a popular vacation spot for good reason. With breathtaking views, beautiful weather and endless outdoor activities, there is something for everyone. The Rocky Mountains are a major draw, but Colorado has a diverse landscape, and the lakes, canyons, grasslands, and bustling cities also attract many tourists and visitors. While some spots are hugely popular and rank on any must-visit list of Colorado cities, others are just as beautiful but often overlooked.

1. Reach

Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado. Photo credit Zack Frank via Shutterstock

A small rural town in Northwest Colorado, Rangely offers an array of activities for adventurous visitors. From off-roading, camping, fishing and hiking to whitewater rafting and horseback riding, there are countless outdoor opportunities. The city also has a special rock crawling park and is only 20 minutes’ drive from Dinosaur National Monument, which offers scenic drives. Other attractions include Kenney Reservoir for water sports and Canyon Pintado (Painted Canyon) where you can see historical pictographs left behind by early settlers.

2. Big Lake

A calm day at Grand Lake with scenic views of the Rocky Mountains. Photo credit Markel Echaburu Bilbao via Shutterstock

Grand Lake sits at over 8,000 feet with stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. More remote than other mountain towns, there is something for everyone year-round. In the summer, visitors can enjoy activities such as hiking, biking, off-road driving, boating and fishing in Colorado’s largest natural lake. In winter, Grand Lake becomes the “Snowmobiling Capital of Colorado”. Snowshoeing and skiing are other winter options, and the town offers direct access to Rocky Mountain Park.

3. Canon City

Aerial view of Canon City in Colorado on the Arkansas River. Image credit Jacob Boomsma via Shutterstock

Canon City is famous for the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. At more than 1,000 feet above the Arkansas River, it is the tallest suspension bridge in America. The park is also a popular spot with a theatre, play area and many exciting rides to choose from. Founded in 1860, Canon City has an interesting history that dates back to when the authorities decided to mine for mineral deposits there. Carved of the mighty Arkansas River the ten mile steep granite gorge “Royal Gorge”, a route that visitors can travel by rail. The service was part of a transcontinental route when it began in 1877, but is now just a tourist attraction.

4. Forest Park

A view of Pikes Peak from Woodland Park. Photo credit Rafael Luis Calderon via Shutterstock

Nicknamed the “City Above the Clouds,” Woodland Park, like Grand Lake, is at an elevation of over 8,000 feet. The main attraction is the famous Pikes Peak, visible from the city. Adventurous visitors can hike to the top of the massive 14,110-foot peak, but there’s also a train service for the less daring. Another popular spot for visitors is the Rampart Reservoir, where visitors can camp and fish by the lake, and even ice fish in the winter. The town also hosts many festivals and markets during the summer and autumn months.

5. Frisko

City Clock of Frisco, Colorado. Photo credit Margaret.Wiktor via Shutterstock

Nestled between several ski resorts and at an elevation of 9,097 feet, Frisco is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year. In winter it is the perfect place to set up a base camp for those interested in skiing and snow activities. The town has a busy main street and an adventure park with tubing and ski hills for beginners. Visitors can also enjoy snowshoeing and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Frisco lights up summer and fall with activities like kayaking and fishing on the lake, as well as hiking and mountain biking on the many trails.

6. Ridgeway

Picturesque landscape near Ridgeway Colorado. Photo credit SNEHIT PHOTO via Shutterstock

Visitors to Ridgeway can enjoy classic outdoor activities like camping, fishing and hiking at Ridgeway State Park. However, many people stay in this mountain town because of its proximity to better-known Colorado towns like Ouray (famous for its frozen Slot Canyon and Box Canyon Falls), Silverton (a historic mining town with high-altitude trails), Telluride, and Montrose. All of these cities are within an hour’s drive of Ridgeway, adding to its appeal.

7. Del Norte

Del Norte Peak is a prominent landmark visible from Colorado State Highway 160. Photo credit Robert Waltman via Shutterstock

Once a mining town, Del Norte is now known for its history and outdoor tourism. There are many fascinating structures that evoke the city’s gold mining history. Visitors can drive up the mountains to see the ghost town of Summitville Mine. Wildlife abounds in this area, as does the surrounding Rio Grande National Forest. The forest is a great place for backpacking, rock climbing and big game hunting. In winter, these trails are perfect for snowmobiling. Del Norte also has a thriving local business scene and its honey farms are popular with tourists.

8. Salida

Salida, Colorado, on the Arkansas River, is popular for whitewater rafting. Image credit Jacob Boomsma via Shutterstock

Salida is a vibrant small town tucked away in the mountains and just a few minutes’ drive from other mountain towns like CaƱon City, Buena Vista and Gunnison. The best part is that it has something for everyone. There are numerous hiking trails, from beginner to advanced, all with spectacular views. Visitors can relax in the hot springs or raft down the Arkansas River. There are high ropes courses and zip lines for those who want to enjoy Colorado’s beauty from above, and the food and local festivals are also major attractions.

9. Kremling

Cascade Lake near Kremmling, Colorado. Photo credit Weldon Schloneger via Shutterstock

Known as a “sportsman’s paradise”, Kremmling is a wilderness suitable for the adventurous and adventurous. Visitors can choose from rafting or kayaking on the rapids and ice fishing on the Colorado River. Other options include a hike or horseback ride, wilderness camp and countless trails for ATV/OHV enthusiasts. Those on the lookout for wildlife won’t be disappointed either, as wildlife outstrips humans in some areas. The scenic mountain views and spectacular scenery make the whole experience unforgettable.

10. Westcliffe

Westcliffe, Colorado mountains. Photo credit MDeros via Shutterstock

The remote little town of Westcliffe often escapes attention, but those who visit find the panoramic views mesmerizing. One community dedicated to reducing light pollution is a designated International Dark Sky Community. Many go there to camp outdoors and watch the stars in the night sky. Westcliffe has an observatory called Smokey Jack for visitors wanting to gaze at the stars through a robust, high-tech telescope. A traditional hill town, Westcliffe also offers hiking, camping and other outdoor activities.

Finally

Colorado is a popular tourist destination, but within the state there are many often-overlooked mountain towns awaiting visitors. It’s always good to have several options when planning a trip, especially some that are less crowded and therefore usually less expensive. When you venture off the beaten path in Colorado, you’re sure to find a landscape full of beautiful towns and hidden gems.

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