Welcome to Colorado!
People have been drawn to this beautiful state because of its gorgeous weather and expansive adventure opportunities. This state offers everything: farmland, mountains, big cities, deserts, and beautiful lakes and reservoirs. It’s no surprise that the people who come to Colorado are looking to get outdoors and have experiences they may not get at home. In this state there are 42 state parks and four national parks, along with 11 national forests and two national grasslands. There is so much protected land in this state for you to enjoy, and from what I’ve seen it will all take your breath away.
Population: 5.4 million
Climate: The state has such a diverse landscape that weather patterns are not consistent across the entire state. In the mountains the air is cooler and there is more precipitation than what you’ll find in the eastern plains or western desert. The mountains bring plenty of snow in the winter time, but it remains sunny and bright making the winters pretty mild. In the summer it is often hot, dry and sunny. There may be short afternoon showers around the Denver area.
Founded: August 1, 1876. It was the 38th state to join the United State of America.
Things to do in Denver
This fast-growing city is home to 663,000 people and an endless supply of fun activities. It’s nicknamed the mile-high city because its elevation is 5,280 feet, one mile above sea level. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Colorado’s capital city.
Sports: For baseball fans, head over to Coors Field to watch the Rockies play. For football fans, head to Sports Authority Field to watch the Broncos play.
Family Fun: Denver has many incredible museums and parks. They are known for their zoo, museum of nature & science, art museum, botanic gardens, and Washington Park, where you can rent paddle boats or ride bikes around the 2.25 mile loop.
Downtown: Every Tuesday at Civic Center Park food trucks line up for lunch! You can stop in and grab food from your favorite local vendors and enjoy the sunshine next to the Capitol building. The 16th Street Mall has many great places to shop and eat, and even offers busses to take you from one end to the other. Almost every weekend there is a festival happening downtown. Some of my favorites are the Chalk Art festival and Denver Pride Fest. For dinner, head to Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar for the best burger you’ve ever had!
Coors: The popular beer, Coors, originated in Golden, just outside of Denver. If you stop at the factory you can take a tour of the factory and enjoy tastings of the beer that’s brewed here.
Colorado has four beautiful national parks. If you have the time, get a national parks pass and make the trip to each.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Drive through the park and experience views of the Rockies from 12,000 feet in elevation. Take hiking trails to beautiful waterfalls and lakes. Have a picnic at one of the many picnic areas located in the park. And before you go, stop in Estes Park to view the Stanley Hotel, which is where Stephen King got his inspiration for his novel “The Shining.” You will most likely see Elk wandering around as well!
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Grab a sled and hit the slopes! These breath-taking sand dunes are best experienced when sledding down them, although running down them is still exhilarating.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Drive through this park and stop at overlooks that will take your breath away. Stare deep down into this canyon and find the Gunnison River, hundreds of feet below you.
Mesa Verde National Park
This park is known for its cliff dwellings. The Puebloan Indians lived and dwelled here from 600–1300 CE. All that remains are these expansive caves they crafted.
With 42 state parks, it can be hard to choose which you should visit. These are two of my favorite!
Staunton State Park
This park offers incredible hiking trails for people of all ages & ability. There are easy elevation hikes around ponds, as well as more extensive hikes to Elk Falls & Lion’s Head.
Eldorado Canyon State Park
This park has beautiful hiking trails, as well as 500 areas for rock climbing! The views of the Rockies are breath-taking, and the Eldorado Canyon trail is moderate in difficulty. It’s one of my favorite hikes of the entire summer.
Other popular state parks include Eleven Mile, Navajo, and State Forest state parks.
Other Parks You Can’t Miss
The Red Rocks are a unique feature in Colorado, not just because of the way these rocks formed, but because an amphitheater was created between them. All summer long you can enjoy movies and concerts on this impressive stage.
These beautiful stone formations are a fun way to spend a day in eastern Colorado. Short hiking trails and lots of incredible views!
Garden of the Gods
This is one of the most popular spots in Colorado, and is located in Colorado Springs. You can walk through these rock formations, and you can also hike a trail around them, giving you spectacular views of the entire park.
If you have the chance, purchase Cog Rail tickets and ride the train to the top of Pike’s Peak! It’s an hour and a half ride to the top, then you spend 30 minutes at the summit, and one more hour on the trip back down. You can also drive or hike, but this was the most fun option. This is a popular 14,000 foot summit and gives you incredible views looking down on the Rocky Mountains.
Pawnee National Grassland
A great way to explore northeast Colorado is by hiking to the Pawnee Buttes, two immense rock structures in the middle of the plains.
This is considered the most popular hiking trail in all of Colorado. Located in Glenwood Springs, this trail winds up to incredible waterfalls unlike any you’ve ever seen before. It’s a challenging hike, but worth it.
Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings
If you can’t make it all the was to Mesa Verde, check out these cliff dwellings near Colorado Springs. You can do this and Garden of the Gods in the same day.
Four Corners Monument
If you’ve never stood in four states at one time, then this is your chance. Experience the four corners of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico at this national monument.
City Life in Colorado
Just north of Denver is the beautiful city of Boulder. There are tons of things to do here, including shopping on Pearl Street and grabbing afternoon tea at Boulder Dushanbe Tea House. If you want to get outdoors, hike the Flatirons or check out Eldorado Canyon State Park.
South of Denver is the fun city, Colorado Springs. There is plenty of shopping, but most people come for the outdoor activities. Garden of the Gods, Pike’s Peak, and Helen Hunt Falls call this city home.
This beautiful ski resort town brings in visitors all year round. Even when the slopes aren’t full of snow, you can ride the ski lifts to the top and hike down them. Beautiful lodges and shop make up this town and offer food, shopping, and fun night life. There are also great places to hike and backcountry camp here in the Rockies.
Photo provided by Morgan Lamberton at Mt Neva in Arapaho National Forest near Winter Park, CO
This town originated as a mining town in the Rockies, and has become a Victorian resort town. It sits in a canyon and is surrounded by mountains on all sides. There are plenty of things to do here from hiking and camping to shopping and festivals. Don’t miss the chance to ride in the free gondola that connects Telluride and Mountain Village.
If you want to take a ride on a railroad, then this is the perfect stop. The Georgetown Railroad winds through the Rocky Mountains, and all riders get a choice of Coach, Parlor or Presidential/Waldorf class seating.
This fun town is at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. The lake draws in visitors who want to paddle board, kayak, and just relax on the beach. It’s like an oasis in the middle of the mountains.
This is just the beginning of all that Colorado has to offer. It seems there are endless possibilities here, and even after 9 weeks I do not feel I’ve seen and done all that I want to. Colorado is easily one of my favorite states, and one I will be happy to return to in the future. If you have the chance to travel around this state enjoy every moment you spend here!