Renowned for champagne powder in the winter and a summertime of enchanting wildflowers, Colorado is an undeniable feast for the five senses.
But a strict appraisal of half of the state’s seasons would be selling it short: pink, red and yellow landscapes are replaced by gold and bronze in Autumn, while icing-sugar white peaked landscapes turn to warm sites for life to flourish in the Spring – opening Colorado visitors up to a variety of attractions.
With more than 250,000 square kilometres to choose from – encompassing regions of alpine, tundra, grassland, sand-dunes and cityscapes – selling a state as diverse as Colorado to its full potential could be a daunting and time consuming prospect for agents.
For travellers longing for unexpected experiences that break travel-stereotypes, and for agents eager to meet the demands of an evolving industry, Travel Weekly has selected five memorable, thought provoking and wide-reaching experiences of Colorado.
Make your way to a byway: the Colorado catalogue of renowned roads
Among its undeniable natural pleasures, Colorado is also home to some of the United States’ most renowned byways, including the country’s highest paved through-road, Trail Ridge Road, which takes travellers above the tree-line and into Rocky Mountain National Park.
Eleven of Colorado’s 26 scenic and historic byways have been recognised by the US Department of Transportation as America’s Byways; stretches of road eliciting archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic significance.
Colorado’s cities: the state’s beating heart of culture
Several such byways intersect at the urban adventure centre and capital of Colorado, Denver – affectionately known as the gateway city. Found at the base of the Rocky Mountains, and just an hour’s drive from the Rocky Mountain National Park, Denver is considered the most walkable downtown area in the United States, despite being the tenth largest city in the country.
For sun-kissed Aussie travellers, Denver is bolstered in its appeal by hosting 300 days of sunshine per year, more than 200 labels of craft beer and a wealth of public attractions—from its seven professional sports teams and several museums, to the Denver Botanic Gardens and cultural districts.
With a free shuttle along 16th Street Mall, hundreds of brand-name stores within Cherry Creek Shopping Centre and authentic Western boutiques (including Rockmount Ranchwear where you can pick up a snap-button cowboy shirt), Denver is also a shopping paradise.
Better still is the city’s proximity to National Geographic’s happiest city in the United States – Boulder – fondly referred to as “the city nestled between the mountains and reality.” The Colorado municipality is just half an hour’s drive from Denver and is the home of the state’s university, the University of Colorado.
Locals recommend visiting the Colorado Chautauqua (pronounced shuh-TAW-kwuh), found at the foot of Boulder’s Flatirons mountains. The area encompasses the sprawling lawn of Chautauqua Park, the Colorado Chautauqua historic district and the Chautauqua Trailhead, from which 40 miles of hiking trails can be accessed.
Another world-beater of a destination is Colorado Springs, just over an hour’s drive south of Denver; a city that blends two states-of-mind: relaxed and ecstatic. Experience laid back scenery on a trek of ‘America’s Mountain’—Pike’s Peak; or, after a shot of espresso (make it a double), test your mettle on a zip-line 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River, starting at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.
Visitors can also catch a glimpse into the daily lives of Team USA hopefuls looking to make it to the next Olympic Games at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Centre—look out for the new US Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame opening in early 2020.
Visit Mesa Verde National Park—a monument of North American First Nations history
Colorado is a region steeped in living and archaeological Native American history, with several North American nations calling Colorado home.
Throughout the region are traces of its peoples’ individual histories, with the Ancestral Puebloans having left clues of a rich archaeological heritage—preserved in the establishment of sites like Mesa Verde National Park, a location that gives a sense of the anthropological history of the region.
For a thought-provoking and enlightening experience for the whole family, take a ranger led tour to explore some of the 600 cliff dwellings, including Cliff Palace and Balcony House—both displaying prehistoric remnants of a Pueblo settlement—or follow one of the park’s hiking trails for canyon and valley views.
In addition to a rich catalogue of archaeological sites, Colorado is also famous for its Old West history, with ghost town tours and ranch stays among the crowd pleasers on offer throughout the state. Our personal recommendation would be to experience the high plains of Colorado on horse-back by considering a stay at one of the state’s many dude ranches.
Take a rail journey through the Colorado wilds
Navigating lovingly restored, historic railroads and byways, each of the rail journeys throughout Colorado offer their own unique charm and experience, ranging from overland seasonal trips, including winter craft beer and music inspired Polar Express excursions, to a pair of Amtrak routes providing spectacular views of remote Colorado.
These include the California Zephyr, which runs from Chicago and San Francisco has six stops in Colorado between Fort Morgan, Denver and Grand Junction; and the Southwest Chief, which runs between Chicago and Los Angeles with stops in Colorado at Trinidad, La Junta and Lamar.
Relax and unwind with a tour of the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop
By taking a road trip along one of Colorado’s byways, travellers have access to some of the state’s loveliest national parks and monuments, including Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison national parks, as well as some of the world’s most renowned mineral hot springs.
Consider a week-long spa getaway by taking on the 1,100 kilometre Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop, touring some of the state’s premier hot springs destinations, including Chaffee County, Pagosa Springs, Steamboat Springs and Ouray.
For a jaw-dropping experience, travellers should make it their mission to visit Glenwood Springs – considered the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool, which features the award-winning Spa of the Rockies.
Moreover, the wider region of Glenwood, which sits at the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers, is an historic town known for its snow sports, Gold Medal fishing, rafting and miles of scenic hiking/biking trails.
Colorado spoils travellers for choice, and perhaps that’s one reason for tourists to take the time to consider their next trip to The Centennial State. For those caught under a cloud of indecisiveness, here are a few wise words from Travel Weekly to make a good holiday a great one: just add water.
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