Visiting different states from your home state is a right of passage for every American citizen. One of the best things about the United States is that there are so many different states that all have something different to offer.
You can feel like you are traveling the world going from state to state and best of all, you don’t even need a passport.
One of the best states to visit if you have limited vacation time is Colorado. There is such a huge variety of things to see and do in this state that you will easily be able to find something that interests everyone in your group.
In this article, we will look at the top 20 attractions and things to do during your trip to the beautiful state of Colorado.
Free Things To Do In Colorado
Sometimes when you travel, you have to stick to quite a strict budget to keep things affordable. However, this doesn’t mean that you are going to be unable to do anything during your trip to Colorado.
Thankfully, in the centennial state, there are a plethora of attractions and things to do that are completely free. Below are just a few of the best things to do for free in Colorado.
1. Hiking Trails
There are plenty of free hiking trails that can be explored throughout the state of Colorado. One of the most striking things about Colorado is the range of hills and mountains that provide incredible hikes and rewarding views.
It is possible to complete some challenging and stunning hikes in the National parks in the state. However, these parks often require a fee to get into which can become costly if you want to complete multiple trails in multiple parks.
Thankfully, there are just as many beautiful hikes with breathtaking views in the Colorado state parks. The state parks in Colorado are free on certain public holidays that might coincide with your trip.
There are also some smaller hiking trails that are free to access all year round such as the Garden of the Gods and the Wildflower hikes.
Often when you are traveling on a budget camping becomes an option for accommodation because it is commonly cheaper than staying in a hotel. However, in Colorado, it is possible to go one step further with your budget accommodation.
There are multiple places in Colorado where you can camp for free. These places aren’t campsites and there are some significant differences between regular campsites and free camping sites.
In the free camping areas, there are no facilities, no toilets, and no water. Therefore, you need to make sure that you take all of your supplies with you. You also need to ensure that you leave no trace when you leave.
3. Visiting Open Space Parks
If there is one thing that there is no shortage of in Colorado, it’s open space parks. If you want to get away from city life and immerse yourself in nature, this is the only activity you need to do, and best of all, it is free.
The open space parks in Colorado allow you to really relax and take in the stunning natural beauty of the state. These are great places to visit with your entire family or even with friends or your other half.
It is easy to spend an entire day in one of the many open space parks in Colorado which can help to lower the cost of your vacation.
4. Visit A Ghost Town
If you are up for a bit of spookiness, Colorado is home to many abandoned ghost towns. Colorado has a long and peppered history.
Because of this lengthy history, there are plenty of buildings and towns that have simply been abandoned to the elements. Thankfully, someone thought to preserve some of these towns just as they were when they were found.
Now, you can pay a visit to the towns to take in the residual energies and really get a feel for life in the state hundreds of years ago.
Many of the ghost towns that you can visit have multiple buildings still intact, including brothels, saloons, and even mines.
It is important to note that many of the remaining buildings are unsafe to enter and could be privately owned. It is also strictly forbidden to take any kind of souvenir from the town. You can take as many photographs as you like though.
If you are a fan of skiing and winter sports, then you have to check out Breckenridge. This town is quite literally a ski town and it is filled with plenty of things to do. Regardless of your skiing ability, Breckenridge is very accommodating, so even if this is your first time hitting the slopes, you will still have a great time here.
If skiing isn’t your thing though, there is still plenty more on offer at Breckenridge. This is a great town to visit in the summer because you can do all sorts of things, some of which include fishing, mountain biking, and regular hiking. Breckenridge is also home to a fine selection of breweries and distilleries if that’s what you’re into!
Breckenridge is a beautiful place, and if you do find yourself in Colorado, you definitely need to check it out!
Telluride is another great place to go skiing and snowboarding in the winter, but there is so much more on offer here, so it very much deserves a place on this list. It is also home to lots of other winter sports, some of which are considered to be quite unusual! In Telluride, you can experience sledding, ice climbing, and even fat-tire snow biking!
If you’re heading to Colorado in the summer, then Telluride is still a fantastic point of interest you should explore. During the summer months, you can take part in lots of activities such as fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and much more.
You can get a fantastic view of the San Juan Mountains if you find yourself in Telluride. It’s one of those views that really needs to be experienced in person to truly appreciate how amazing it is!
If you find yourself in Colorado, you simply cannot miss out on exploring Aspen! There are so many points of interest in this section of Colorado that you could easily spend days here without getting bored!
To help you plan your trip better, we really recommended checking out the Maroon Bells Scenic Area, and the hiking trails in the area. The Maroon Bells Scenic Area is one of the most photogenic areas in the entire state, and you will be able to see lots of wonderful mountain peaks and venture down fantastic hiking trails.
The outdoor activities are mainly catered to the wintertime, but you can enjoy Aspen all year round. Some of the activities here include snowboarding, hiking, fishing, and more!
8. The Arkansas River
The Arkansas River travels through multiple states, which includes Colorado, so if you want to see it for yourself then you can! In the Colorado area of the Arkansas River, people love to go rafting along the river, and it is the perfect activity to try if you’re a bit more adventurous!
If you do go rafting on the Arkansas River, you will be able to see Colorado from a different perspective and one that not many other tourists tend to see. The water is also the perfect way to cool off in the summer months, and you can explore the canyon and natural areas all around the river.
Even if you aren’t a fan of rafting, you can still go for a hike near the river, so you can still enjoy it!
9. Rocky Mountain National Park
The Rocky Mountains are one of the most famous mountain ranges in the whole United States, and a big part of it runs through Colorado! The Rocky Mountain National Park is also one of the most popular and beautiful national parks in the whole US, and there are plenty of things to see and do here, regardless of your hiking ability.
There are hiking trails designed for different ability levels all over the park, and if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can try some of the harder trails that will take you to higher altitudes! The views from the higher points in the Rocky Mountains are absolutely incredible, and you will love every single second that you spend up there.
One trail that is known as the Trail Ridge Road will take you as high as 12,000 feet, so if you’re a regular climber, this is the best one for you to try!
10. Mesa Verde National Park
The Rocky Mountain National Park is definitely worth a visit, but if you want somewhere a bit more unique, then the Mesa Verde National Park is a great place to visit when you are in Colorado.
The cliffs that you will find in the park are ancient, and you will find many ancient cliff dwellings scattered throughout the park. You will be able to see exactly how the Ancient Puebloans lived and preserved their food, and it will really give you a wider perspective and insight into how this ancient culture lived.
In order to view the Cliff Palace, you will need to book a guided tour, but it’s definitely worth it because it’s so fascinating!
11. Great Sand Dunes National Park
It might surprise you to learn that there is sand in Colorado! The Great Sand Dunes are truly a sight to behold and when you see them for the first time, it will take your breath away.
These sand dunes are actually the tallest sand dunes in the entire US, so if you can visit, you definitely should. You can also take part in a very unique activity here, which is sandboarding and sand sledding! If you’ve never tried sandboarding and sand sledding before, you’re in for a real treat when you do it here.
If you go at the right time of year, you can also take a dip in the waters of Medano Creek, but it should be noted that the creek is known to dry up if it’s too hot, so it’s not always guaranteed that you will be able to see it in its full glory.
12. Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs is a town that can be found in Colorado and it is home to not one, not two, but three hot spring areas! Because you can find hot springs here, this makes it a fantastic place to visit regardless of the time of year.
The best-known of these hot springs can be found at the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. You can rent a room at the resort, but if you just want to visit the hot springs, you can purchase a day pass instead! There are quite a few things you can do at the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort without having to spend the night there.
The Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is also home to a pool that is open all year round, so it’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a way to entertain yourself and your whole family. You can enjoy the wonderful views of the mountains while you relax in the hot springs, and it’s an incredibly relaxing experience.
13. Hanging Lake
Hanging Lake is one of the most popular and beautiful tourist attractions in all of Colorado. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to appreciate nature or go for a stunning hike. Hanging Lake is a very unique lake that is a fantastic blue-green color and it gets its color from the minerals and travertine that can be found dissolving in the water.
The lake’s color is preserved by not allowing hikers and visitors to swim in it, so if you do visit, just make sure that you don’t go for a dip! Getting to the lake itself is a very short hike, but it can get quite steep, so make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear and you take your time.
Hanging Lake is one of Colorado’s most popular spots, so if you do find yourself in the state, you shouldn’t miss the chance to go and see it for yourself.
14. Black Canyon, Gunnison National Park
There are so many national and state parks for you to check out in Colorado, and the Black Canyon area of Gunnison National Park is somewhere you absolutely need to see!
You can find some of the oldest rocks in all of America here and the canyon itself is absolutely incredible! This is a fantastic place to go hiking if you are a fan of geology and amazing views.
15. Cherry Creek State Park
Cherry Creek is a short drive away from downtown Denver and it is a great place to take part in multiple outdoor activities. Some things you can do here include horseback riding, swimming, boating, and hiking.
In the winter, you can try sledding and snowboarding, making this a great state park to visit all year round.
16. Mount Evans Scenic Byway
The scenic byway of Mount Evans is the highest paved road in all of Colorado. It reaches heights of 7,000 feet and the views are absolutely incredible.
There is plenty of wildlife for you to see on the drive or hike as well, so keep an eye out for things like bighorn sheep, and even pikas!
17. Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Here’s another hot spring area you should check out. Strawberry Park Hot Springs can be found in Steamboat Springs and they are surrounded by the beautiful Colorado mountains.
You can choose between staying at the resort or getting a day pass, depending on how much time you have. Either way, you can relax and unwind in nature here, regardless of what time of the year it is!
How To Get Around Colorado
One of the most important things to consider when you are planning a trip to anywhere new is how you are going to get around once you are there.
Each state and city has different modes of transportation that work best in its area. Below are some of the best ways to get around Colorado during your vacation.
The Greyhound bus service is the main one that serves the state. If you are planning to visit different cities within Colorado this may be the easiest and cheapest way to get from point A to point B.
Although taking a bus service isn’t the most glamorous way to travel, it can make your trip run incredibly smoothly at a lower cost.
Other than the interstate train options, the rail service in Colorado is quite limited. Within Denver, there is an RTD, but this is only useful while you are within the city limits.
There is a train line that links places of interest such as Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins, Loveland, Vail, Idaho Springs, and more. This can be useful when moving from place to place.
There are also a fair few scenic trains that operate in Colorado, although these are better for sightseeing rather than traveling.
Whether you have road tripped all the way to Colorado or you are hiring a car when you get there, this is the most convenient way to get around the state.
The road conditions throughout the state are generally quite good and other road users are reportedly quite courteous, especially when they see a rental car or plates from out of state.
You can also rent scooters or motorcycles if they suit you and your needs better.
If you are fit and enjoy a little bit of a fitness challenge during your vacations, a bicycle can be a great option for traveling around.
This is a better option for travel when you are spending a few days in a single city or town rather than trying to cycle between cities in the state.
The altitude and heat in Colorado make cycling a great workout as well as a cheap and convenient way to get around.
Colorado is a stunning state that has so much to offer. Whether it is your first visit to the state or you have been before but were unable to explore properly, there is no shortage of things to do.
One of the most impressive things about Colorado, no matter where you are staying, is the stunning natural beauty of the scenery that surrounds you wherever you go.
This state is so incredible that you might have to make multiple trips to really take it all in.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whenever you are traveling anywhere new or unfamiliar, it is sensible to wonder whether the destination is safe for you and your family. When visiting Colorado, you can be secure in the knowledge that it is a state that is as safe as it is beautiful.
Although crime rates have risen in recent years, it is still safe to visit the state and the cities within it. The overall risk rating that Colorado holds is ranked medium. This is a pretty standard rating for American states.
As with any major city around the world, there are instances of property theft and violent crime in Colorado cities. However, these happen in more urban areas and generally occur away from the more tourist districts.
If you want extra peace of mind, staying in tourist-friendly areas will minimize the risk of encountering crime, although you should still be on reasonable alert for pickpockets.
If you prefer to live like a local when you travel and are looking to stay in an Airbnb away from the tourist district of cities, it is important to be aware of your surroundings when you are out and about.
You should also avoid walking alone at night as a safety precaution.
On the whole, the majority of popular tourist sites such as Boulder and Colorado Springs are extremely safe for tourists and actually have lower rates of crime than the national average.
Another crucial consideration when you are planning a trip somewhere is, is it affordable? As with any trip, it can be as expensive or as affordable as you want to make it.
If budgeting is your biggest concern, you may have to make decisions about the activities you can do and the attractions that you can visit.
If you want to keep the cost of your trip to a minimum, you can either choose a single city to stay in and get around by bicycle, or you can travel from place to place using the cheapest form of transportation, the Greyhound bus service.
You can also try to buy all your tickets for attractions in advance of your trip to take advantage of discounts that may be available.
If you want to have a more extravagant trip to Colorado, it is possible to go all out with your accommodation and travel.
There are plenty of resorts across the state that will provide you with high-end hospitality and 5-star treatment.
You can also travel in style by hiring a car or using Uber. There are many experiences and attractions that are more on the expensive side that can be once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Of course, there is also a wonderful middle ground between sticking to a strict budget and splurging when you are in Colorado.
Because of the wonderful array of activities, attractions, and things to do in the centennial state, you are able to customize your trip to suit your needs and your means.
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