Forget summer at the beach; Colorado’s scenery excites without sandy toes – well, almost!

Colorado will provide the ultimate high if you’re all about getting your kicks in mind-blowing sceneries. Besides its 14,000 foot summits and crinkled Rocky Mountain ranges, feel the buzz below with green-stricken valleys, natural hot springs, lofty sand dunes, and numerous streams suited to all kinds of water activities.

With Colorado’s backyard a colourful patchwork of alpine landscapes, red rocks, tall greens, and streams, you’ll learn Coloradoans don’t shy from adventure; they embrace it. The great outdoors is a way of life in this part of the US all year round, particularly on those glorious long summer days.

Start your Colorado adventure on a high in Denver, aka ‘Mile High City’, and see how this landlocked state woos with natural beauty with our top things to do in Colorado. 

1. Relax in Hot Springs Along the Historic Hot Spring Loop

Location: Start at Buena Vista and follow Colorado Hot Springs Loop to 23 hot springs in an 800-mile loop (1,288km)
Distance from Denver: ~200km
Time from Denver: 2-2.5 hours

Colorado is practically one big hot tub. Geothermal activity from Colorado’s dormant volcanoes boils up to the surface with over 93 known thermal areas containing natural springs and wells (including those amplified for the resort experience). It’s no wonder why Coloradoans are in such good moods with warm wellness retreats within easy reach to dip in and dip out.

Choose to soak up the good times and relax those hard-stretched muscles along the Colorado Hot Springs Loop, a 1,288km loop (800-mile) route that highlights the state’s premier hot springs. 23 springs feature along the loop and range in their surroundings and experiences. 

Depart from Denver and begin your hot springs journey by visiting Chaffee County to dip into the big three – Buena Vista, Nathrop, and Salida.

Go from private baths and terraced pools to the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool at the historic Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. Hardly short on unique experiences, relax your muscles and mind in an underground steam bath known as a vapour cave at Yampah Spa. These rock chambers have hot mineral waters flowing through cave floors that reach 51 degrees, making it one sizzling encounter. Now that’s how to zen out!

2. Take the Road Trip of a Lifetime Along ‘Million Dollar Highway’

Location: Million Dollar Highway, between Ouray and Silverton
Distance from Denver: 484km
Time from Denver: 5 hours 30 minutes

This stretch isn’t called Million Dollar Highway for nothing. The long, winding highway reportedly cost a million dollars to build each mile, but really; we think the name alludes to those views.

The highway passes sceneries worthy of a gold frame, wrapping around the mountain with snow-capped ranges in view, verdant valleys, waterfalls, and gorge vistas. Each turn is a spectacular sight, with many resting stops enroute to take in the dramatic scenes and inhale that fresh mountain air. Hardly a monotonous drive; the highway includes some hairy bends, but it adds to the excitement of driving along one of the world’s most picturesque roads. Get the camera ready when making a well-earned pitstop at Beat Falls (5km from Ouray) and Andrews Lake (13km from Silverton) – just magical.

Keen to extend the road trip? Million Dollar Highway forms part of the San Juan Skyway Colorado Scenic Byway. It’s one of 26 scenic byways AKA roads that safeguard natural and cultural assets in the state, with half of these now accommodating electric vehicles, with the aim for all to become ‘electrified’.

3. Choose Your Sandy Adventure in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Location: Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center
Distance from Denver: 376km
Time from Denver: 3 hours 50 minutes

Choose your own path down North America’s tallest dune system, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserves. The lofty dunes, 49km northeast of Alamosa, aren’t only bizarre in context – at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, winding streams, and montane forests – but offer a unique way to experience Colorado’s outback: on a sandboard or sled.

Great Sand Dunes National Park | Photo by Steve Weaver

It’s a fun but strenuous day out as you go against the grain, climbing dunes until you reach your chosen departure point. Hire a sled or sandboard from Oasis Store in town to make the most of Colorado’s sandy scenescape. There may be a bit of friction at the start, but once you’re moving, it’s an exhilarating ride down the soft mounds. 

There are also many hiking opportunities within the park if you have the energy for it!

Top tip: Wear socks and visit the dunes in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the desert heat and for the best light.

4. Visit Ancient Pueblo Ruins at Mesa Verde National Park

Location: Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center
Distance from Denver: 597km
Time from Denver: 7 hours 10 minutes

Colorado is a state full of big surprises. Forget finding them in small nooks and crannies; you’ll find ’em in canyon walls! 

Mesa Verde National Park, 54km west of Durango, is home to ancient Pueblo ruins that date back to 550AD. There are over 4,500 archaeological remains in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, many of those located in naturally sculptured gaps in canyon walls. 

For over seven centuries, the Ancestral Pueblo people moved along mesa tops, growing crops, hunting, and inhabited cliffs. Call it the OG of high-rise living with sandstone and mud mortar structures built within these overhangs, ranging from small rooms to tiered villages. They abandoned the high life towards the end of the 12th century, moving south to what’s now known as New Mexico and Arizona.

The sacred site is open to visitors, with cliff dwellings Long House and Cliff Palace only accessed via tour, so book ahead on to avoid missing out on exploring these ancient wonders!

5. Double the Mountain Fun Between Aspen and Snowmass

Location: Snowmass Tourism (Visitor Center)
Distance from Denver: 317km
Time from Denver: 3 hours 45 minutes

Two towns, four mountains. Reach natural highs exploring Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. Use either ski towns Aspen or Snowmass (13km apart) as a starting point to enjoy the mountainous scenery. Besides skiing in the winter, try an alternative high-altitude adventure in summer with hiking, mountain yoga, alpine coaster rides, live music concerts, and epic biking trails. 

Another way to take in the glorious mountainous scenery is by e-bike. There are many paved routes, with e-bikes available for hire from Aspen or Snowmass, allowing you to enjoy the mountainside at your own pace. Along the way, look out for Maroon Bells – Colorado’s most famous twin peaks and regarded as the state’s most photographed mountain. Or get up close to the ‘Bells’ by cycling a complete 26km round-trip from Highlands to Maroon Lake.

6. Discover Colorado’s Grandest Stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Location: Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
Distance from Denver: 24km
Time from Denver: 20 minutes

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is one of the most unusual concert venues in the world. In the early 20th century, a visionary named John Brisben Walker recognised that almost 300-million-year-old colossal red rock formations, 24km southwest of Denver, provided a perfect acoustic setting for live performances. 

Denver Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Visit Denver

Since 1906, Red Rocks has been the state’s premier amphitheatre venue, wedged between soaring sedimentary rocks at 6,400 feet (1,950 metres). Geologic uplifts, changing levels of ancient inland seas, and the emergence of the Golden Fault moulded the red megaliths surrounding Colorado’s grand stage.

Its steepness attracts fitness fanatics, ascending 192 steps from top to bottom with an additional 196 steps if you start in the parking lot below the stage. Red Rocks also hosts yoga sessions each summer so you can be at one with nature in a truly unique environment.

Aside from exercise, there’s no better way to experience the majesty of this extraordinary venue than by watching a live concert with Denver’s city lights on the horizon. Check out the summer events schedule to rock on.

7. Encounter a Vertical Wilderness at Black Canyon Gunnison National Park

Location: South Rim Visitor Center
Distance from Denver: 425km
Time from Denver: 5 hours 17 minutes

Consider Black Canyon Gunnison National Park Colorado’s version of the Grand Canyon. Billions of years in the making, the canyon is every bit as dramatic. Shadows often blanket the cliffs, giving the canyon’s ‘blackened’ appearance, depending on the time of day you visit, hence its name. The canyon contains some of the world’s oldest exposed rock, nearly two billion years old! 


Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park | Colorado Tourism Office


This rock-solid, vertical wilderness is perfect for strapping on hiking boots and exploring the park’s many trails, fishing or for something more gripping, scaling its craggy surfaces with rock climbing. Besides its gnarly scenery, the park is classified as a dark sky park, perfect for stargazing.

8. Ride Along Cache la Poudre River

Location: Fort Collins
Distance from Denver: 104km
Time from Denver: 1 hour 4 minutes

Journey a river that’s carved a canyon. Northern Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River begins in the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park along the Continental Divide. It gushes down the Front Range, snaking through the town of Fort Collins, dropping a whopping 7,000 feet (2,133 metres)! So, will the water be fresh? You bet!

There are many ways to enjoy the gnarly rock formations and aspen forests that shroud the Cache la Poudre River, including whitewater rafting, hiking, biking, camping, and fishing. 


Fort Collins, Poudre Canyon | Photo by Ryan Burke


Come winter, the canyon attracts avid snowshoers, cross-country skiers, and snowmobilers, making the river an amusing place to lurk about all year round.

Fun fact: The colourful city of Fort Collins was the inspiration behind Disneyland’s Main Street!

9. Experience God’s Garden at Colorado Springs

Location: Garden of the Gods Visitor Center and Nature Center
Distance from Denver: 114km
Time from Denver: 1 hour 26 minutes

 Colorado Springs is God’s Garden. The region’s premier park, Garden of the Gods, is geologically blessed with its red rock formations and sandstone pillars 300 million years in the making. Strike a pose at the ‘gram-worthy ‘Siamese Twins’ rocky outcrop at the base of America’s natural icon, Pikes Peak. 

Pikes Peak is considered the second most visited mountain in the world. The peak’s raw beauty inspired Katharine Lee Bates’ iconic American anthem, ‘America the Beautiful’, so you know the scenery is something else. Dubbed ‘America’s Mountain’, Pike Peak attracts avid hikers to ascend 14,115 feet (4,302 metres!). 

E-bikes are available for hire if your feet are worn from clambering Colorado’s geological wonder. Or enjoy a bird’s eye view of the region along the country’s highest zip line. The fast-paced trip zips across Royal Gorge with the Arkansas River below your toes and mountains in the distance.

FAQs Colorado Natural Wonders

What’s the best month to visit Colorado?

Colorado’s wealth of outdoor activities makes it ideal to visit any time of the year. Colorado experiences warmer weather between June and October and is perfect for hiking and mountain biking. For winter sports, visiting Colorado between January and March is ideal.


What do people visit Colorado for?

Colorado attracts many visitors for its outstanding recreational activities. It’s the perfect place to have a mountain adventure, whether skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, fishing or hiking. Colorado also attracts creative types for its burgeoning art scene, with many art centres and public artworks throughout the state. For those after a cheeky summer afternoon refreshment, the state has over 400 breweries to choose from – safe to say you won’t be short of options! 


What’s the most visited place in Colorado?

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most visited places in Colorado.


How long should I visit Colorado?

 We recommend spending at least 10 days exploring Colorado’s many attractions. 


What do I need to know before travelling to Colorado?

Bring your adventurous spirit and outdoor attire when travelling to Colorado. To easily travel around Colorado, hiring a car is recommended. If travelling in winter, check road conditions to make sure you can access your destination.  

It’s also advised to book ahead for Colorado’s most popular natural wonders, with Rocky Mountain National Park and Glenwood Canyon’s Hanging Lake having a timed entry system to keep the environments pristine and to avoid over-tourism.

See You in Colorado Summer

Colorado is the perfect place to have a therapy session with nature. It’s where breathtaking has a double meaning, with the state’s wide range of nature-based adventures in its diverse landscapes inviting you to test your endurance or clear your mind. Whichever the pleasure, no doubt you’ll feel renewed in Colorado’s larger-than-life countryside. 


Feature photo by Travel Shooters