A friend once said that Colorado was central to everything: the Great Plains to the east, Yellowstone to the north, the ocean to the south—but why travel outside of state lines? Nothing in Colorado is created without the deity, as the saying goes. The Centennial State is diverse, sporting rugged peaks in the Rockies, sandy dunes, deserts, and canyons. It has world-class skiing, mountain biking, hiking, and mountaineering. It has four national parks and a rich history of human activity, mines spread throughout the many peaks in the state, and Mesa Verde’s mysterious cliffside dwellings.
There’s a lifetime of outdoor adventures to explore in Colorado. Get started with 10 of our favorites.
Rocky Mountain National Park is the National Park System’s third most visited national park, receiving over four million visitors in 2015. It is close to Denver, making it an alluring escape for Coloradans and tourists alike.
One of the most unique features in Colorado—an otherworldly desert terrain that seems more fitting of Lawrence of Arabia. Go exploring!
This little mountain town is still relatively overlooked for its outdoor adventures. Hike nearby Mount Antero, known for its deposits of aquamarine. The Sawatch Range boasts 15 fourteeners, and Salida sits at the headwaters of the Arkansas River and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, a kayaking mecca.
One of the newest entrants to the National Park System, the Black is just reaching driving age. It sees very few annual visitors, which is odd considering its beautiful canyon views and a challenging array of descents to the canyon floor.
Nestled at the end of a box canyon in the San Juans, Telluride is one of two mountain towns in the range to circle for backcountry adventure. More upscale than Silverton, it has a glitzier, resort town feel, and the kind of tourists that environment attracts, to boot. Nevertheless, there’s a reason Texans flock to Telluride.
In contrast to Telluride, Silverton has a grittier feel that harkens back to its history as an Old West mining town. There’s plenty of mining history to explore, as well, and one of the most scenic drives anywhere, let alone the West.
The Maroon Bells are one of Colorado’s most-oft photographed scenes, especially in the fall, when the aspen turn a vibrant yellow. That said, there’s a lot more to like here: snowshoeing and cross-country skiing when the snow falls, one of the most-visited hot springs in Colorado, and more.
Some of the best mountain biking in Colorado can be found in Grand Junction. The season starts early here, too, well before the mountains dry out from the winter’s snows.
A place full of mystery, Mesa Verde is a great place to get a fix on Colorado’s human past. The cliffside dwellings here are unreal, entire villages nestled into cracks in the canyon walls.
Outside of Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods is a geological wonderland of rock spires and formations. Its trail network, relatively small compared to other places on this list, still packs in abundant outdoor opportunities in hiking, rock climbing, and horseback riding.