Colorado is one of the most popular states for tourists and for great reason. It showcases some of the best attractions for visitors to discover year-round in this Rocky Mountain destination.
Whatever kind of traveler you are, there’s something for you to see and do here. From touring a factory to climbing a sand dune, we’ve scoured up the most popular tourist attractions for your itinerary. These are the on-the-beaten-track activities, so expect the crowds and go on a weekday when you can. All of these can be enjoyed year-round.
Here’s a look at the best tourist attractions in Colorado, in no particular order:
This giant canyon is accessed an hour’s drive southwest of Colorado Springs in Cañon City and features a whole slew of activities built around it. The highlight isn’t just the gorge itself, towering 955 feet over the Arkansas River carving through it, but the suspension bridge over it. The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park allows visitors to cross to the other side and play a bunch of cliffside games.
Commercial whitewater rafting trips depart daily during the peak summer season directly through the Royal Gorge. You can also travel along the bottom of it via the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. Or fly high over at the Royal Gorge Zipline. There are so many ways to experience this unique region of Colorado.
Rocky Mountain National Park
This is Colorado’s most visited national park, and among the most visited in the National Park Service, with around 4.5 million guests. Referred to as RMNP for short, Rocky Mountain National Park spans both sides of the continental divide from Estes Park to Grand Lake. You can drive the whole route either way via Trail Ridge Road, though not over the winter when this high-elevation road closes.
Another scenic option between towns is Old Fall River Road, a one-way option from Estes Park over the divide. In addition to these auto tours, there are countless hikes and outdoor experiences, from waterfalls and wildlife to camping under a million stars. Stop by the visitor center and read the interpretive signs explaining highlights along the way to get the best knowledge about the area.
Garden of Gods
Just as the towering skyscrapers attract people to Denver, people come to Colorado Springs for its natural attractions. There are many cool things to choose from for the tourist options in the Olympic City and one of the best is also free. The Garden of the Gods is open to a variety of visitors, more than four million annually.
Driving through, or parking and going for a hike, rock climbing, or visiting the museum are some of the main activities.
This national natural landmark is probably among the most amazing complimentary places to take a stroll in the entire world. Definitely hit this bucket list attraction when you are touring the sights of Pikes Peak Country. At a minimum, take the auto tour through the park, stop at an overlook or two, and admire the giant red sandstones jutting out of the ground.
While in the area, if you haven’t done so before, drive up Pikes Peak (pictured above looming over the Garden of the Gods). You’ll pay to do so, but it will be worth your while. Where else are you going to get up over 14,000 feet in elevation? Mt. Evans Byway is another. There are hiking options too. But Pikes Peak is the most famous and has a fancy new visitor center at the top.
There’s also a Cog Railway up to the top from Manitou Springs. Both the Pikes Peak Highway, which begins in Cascade, and the Pikes Peak Cog Railway departing a little prior to that welcome tourists year-round, weather pending. There are a few parks along the way to get out an enjoy the high country ambiance at one of its alpine lakes.
Great Sand Dunes
It’s just sand, but it’s stacked really high, and in the Rocky Mountains, far from any beaches and ocean sides. Located a short drive from Alamosa in the wonderfully unusual San Luis Valley, this national park and preserve have really but one main attraction, its giant piles of sand blown in from the far reaches.
The Great Sand Dunes were created when sand was brought in via rivers and creeks, along with other sediments into the San Luis Valley. It was blown around by the wind and pushed up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where opposing wind currents helped form them into high dunes at a particular bend in the range.
You can walk out there any time, some say it’s better after dark when you can see the sky. More vigours travelers will hike to the top of Star Dune, the largest in the park, and maybe try to sand surf on the way down. There’s also a campground on-site, some off-roading, hiking, and a seasonal Medano Creek, pictured above, good for splashing around. Zapata Falls is just down the road.
Have you checked out Downtown Denver yet? That’s usually a question of new tourists when trying to offer them suggestions on the big things to see. Once you get down there, it’s an easy area to walk around the capital city, with the 16th Street Mall at the heart of it all.
This pedestrian-friendly, mile-long promenade connects Union Station, where more trains and buses go fun places, to nearby the State Capitol Building. You can tour either of these historic buildings, with formal tours offered of the latter. Best of all, when you get tired of walking, there’s a free bus ride running along the promenade making stops at each of the city blocks.
There are also several parks and the lovely Cherry Creek Trail, which stems from Confluence Park. On the opposite end of 16th Street is Civic Center Park nearby the Capitol. Depending on the season, in the middle of downtown, Skyline Park hosts different attractions, such as a beer garden and a winter ice skating rink.
The proper way to experience this iconic outdoor music venue is by seeing a show there. However, that’s not always possible, so luckily, when not in use you can stop by all year long and treat it as a free park. The Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is a fun place to gaze back onto the Great Plains and the metropolitan skyline below.
Located in Morrison in the foothills, it’s a convenient place to take in the view and move around a bit. Locals use it as a space to get some exercise. Some walk and run the rows (shown above), or just give back closer to the top or stage and enjoy the vibes. Stop by the Colorado Music Hall of Fame located under the Main Stage.
The Coors Brewery brings in all kinds of beer lovers from across the globe. It’s located in the Old West town of Golden at the base of the front range mountains. The town itself is a major destination for people to stroll along its downtown, shopping, dining, and sightseeing. However, going on a Coors Brewery tour is on the vacation itinerary for many sudsy people.
Free tours are given daily throughout the year and come with free beer at the end. You’ll see how the beer is made at one of the country’s leading beer producers and then sample some of their signatures, and hopefully, limited-edition brews. Go on a weekday and preferably earlier in the day for a faster experience…or maybe at last call.
Tucked away in the southwest region of the state, Mesa Verde is a mesmerizing place to visit. It’s centered around the Ancient Puebloan ruins, old homesteads found both built on top of the mesas and into the cliffsides. They were occupied and built in the centuries prior to their abandonment around 1300.
There’s a campground and overnight accommodations within the park at the Far View Lodge. The town of Cortez is less than fifteen minutes away from the park entrance. Be sure to take the full auto tour to see the amazing sights, stopping at all the unique overlooks. Be sure to book at least one guided or two to the cliff dwellings to get the best interactive experience.
Ten miles east of Glenwood Springs, secluded by a long hike is the amazing Hanging Lake. Due to its massive popularity, permits and reservations are required to make the trek up to the lake and waterfalls.
You can access Hanging Lake year-round after you book your spot. Naturally, summer is the peak, but a winter hike or snowshoe, depending on how packed down the snow already is, brings its own magic. It’s a designated national natural landmark because of its splendid hanging garden plant community.
Breckenridge Historic District
Even people that don’t ski and snowboard visit and love the town of Breckenridge. It’s only 1.5 hours from Denver and nestled within the equally stunning Summit County, so there’s easy access to other cool towns and attractions. Aside from its four impressive ski resorts, Summit County offers much more for a multi-night trip or just a day visit from Denver.
Breckenridge has block after block of quaint shops and so many restaurants aimed at the masses of tourists in its pedestrian-friendly downtown. Most of the businesses are housed in historic buildings with plenty of museums and relics to check out. The ski resort is among the busiest in the state, which melts to mountain biking and an adventure park for all ages in the summer.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
The gem of the Southwest, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad brings people from all over the world to check out its alpine train rides. The train depot is housed in the colorful and vibrant mountain town of Durango, with another in the secluded higher-elevation town of Silverton. Everything about the experience feels historic.
There are a variety of train rides offered throughout the year, including some Christmas and other holiday-themed trips. You can take the train round-trip, or one-way from Durango to Silverton, or vice-versa. There’s also an option of taking a bus back along the mesmerizing Highway 550 instead for a quicker tour and different scenery.
While these places are all likely to be bustling with sightseers, you’ll be glad you visited. They are among the best tourist attractions in Colorado.