The Rocky Mountain State has a lot to offer the residents and tourists longing for the standard of living, quality schools, hospitality, pastoral landscape and simple life. And, I believe, the most scenic towns in Colorado – tucked in mountains.
The Continental Divide runs straight through Colorado, along the crests of the Rocky Mountains, the vast country encompasses towns, cities, and regions with varied languages, cultures and residing habits.
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Interestingly, mountain towns in Colorado offer mostly suburban and rural mixed life which is completely different from Colorado’s bustling cities. If you ever wondered how to escape to an outskirt area with rich prosperity naturally, Colorado is the place!
The mountains and hidden layers of Colorado make it naturally prudential for adventure seekers and thrilling voyages. This article gives you an insightful look into mountain cities in Colorado, and rural locals where you can reside.
Before we drive in, let me remind you that every mountain town has its own vibe and charm which is different from another. Though it’s fantastic, it can be expensive, very cold, or very rural. Therefore, learn more and plan your visit accordingly!
Most Beautiful Mountain Towns in Colorado
How does it feel to open your hair free, feel the fresh air on your face, walk through the rugged trails, and smell the roasting chicken over an open fire?
What’s more? I always wanted to go for a high-altitude escape. Probably my Lady Luck was by my side. The unique mountain towns in Colorado with the cute little downtown area, small cafes and shops, made my entire 2 years stay memorable.
In 2020 I’ve spent the entire year in Buena Vista and in 2021 in Crested Butte. Other than that, the other places I’ve gone on the trip with friends or explored alone in some parts of my life.
So, grab the coffee and let’s start!
In the Tenmile Range sits Breckenridge, one of the highest ski towns nearly at the elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level. I hope you’ve heard the name “the Imperial Express Superchair”, yes, Breckenridge is home to North America’s highest chair lift.
Professional athletes and enthusiasts celebrate the Winter Dew Tour in this beautiful ski town in Colorado. Also, back in 1859, it was one of the rich mining towns. You should go to the gold mine tunnel and explore Main Street, and the historic buildings here.
In the Fall season, you have to go either to Boreas Pass, Mayflower Gulch, Breckenridge troll, or Aspen Alley for hiking and know their mining history.
Try to hike to Mount Quandary summit, and participate in Viking-themed Ullr Fest.
Things to do in Breckenridge:
Drive from Boreas Pass road to the Continental Divide, participate in their sculpture completion in January and Food and Wine Festival in July.
2. Buena Vista
Buena Vista is also known as the “Avenue of the Fourteeners” because it is home to 14,000-foot Mountains including Mount Harvard, Mount Princeton, and Mount Yale. How can you miss this beauty? For rafters and hikers, it is paradise.
Just imagine a photo at the backdrop of the Browns Canyon National Monument with the famous coffee in your hand. What do you think about how many likes you can get? For an authentic feel, Buena Vista is the best place to live in Colorado for retirees.
Buena Vista has earned its name as “the best small mountain town in Colorado” for its mesmerizing landscape. For fun in the evening, come to Deerhammer, the best whiskey distillery, and Eddyline for dinner.
Things to do in Buena Vista:
Soak at Mount Princeton Hot Springs or Cottonwood Hot Springs, raft at Arkansas River, drive to St. Elmo and Clear Creek Canyon’s Winfield and Vicksburg, and the famous ghost towns in America.
Keystone is often overlooked by tourists but it is one of the best mountain towns to live in Colorado among locals. It sits at the base of the slopes at 9,280 feet above sea level in River Run Village. It has an urban feel as most business people love to visit.
In summer the town decked up to offer fun and happiness to its residents. The Keystone Bluegrass & Beer Festival and boating on a man-made lake are such grateful memories. Keystone is the best mountain town in Colorado for families.
This gorgeous ski resort town was also featured in 1970 by Max Dercum because of its beauty. If you plan to stay at Adventure Point, you can participate in tubing mountain. Moreover, in winter when the snow starts to fall it looks so beautiful.
Things to do in Keystone:
Come to Arapahoe Basin, ice skating at Keystone Lake, mountain biking at Keystone Bike Park, and bring your kid to a snow fort called Keystone Kidtopia & Snow Fort.
4. Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs is called the “land of water” because of its Travertine Canyon, Hanging Lake, and home to natural hot springs. The rural resort town ensures affordable vacation in Colorado with $1,850 expense for a solo traveler for 6 days.
Along the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers sits the famous natural hot spring pool where people come to soak themselves. The place is surrounded by the White River National Forest making it more natural and scenic.
Glenwood Springs earned the nickname “The Little White House of the United States”. It welcomes people of all ages. It is the place to experience twists and turns of a lazy river.
The Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, which has 1,078,000 gallons of spring water, is the ultimate destination to sit back and soak in the splendor of autumn. Can you imagine that?
Things to do in Glenwood Springs:
Drive to Amtrack, the old train station in Glenwood Spring, head to Iron Mountain Hot Spring, hike to Hanging Lake or South Canyon or Penny Hot Spring and play with your kid at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
5. Crested Butte
Residing at Crested Butte means you’re residing in the “wildflower capital of Colorado”. Did you know that? The lush green grasses, yellow aspens in the fall, and colorful wildflowers are the gems of this beautiful mountain town in Colorado.
Crested Butte is the best Colorado mountain town in summer that sits in the interior of Western Slope at the elevation of 8,909 feet above sea level. Also, for an incredible skiing experience, Crested Butte is a must-visit!
Try to hike Mt. Crested Butte which sits at 9,375 feet above sea level. In Spring, enjoy live music at Wildflower Fest and in summer shake your hips and flow yourself with music at Crested Butte Music Festival. Crested Butte is a little hippie!
Things to do in Crested Butte:
In September, go for a drive to Gunnison from Crested Butte, stay at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, stroll along the downtown, click pictures at the backdrop of Victorian-era buildings, tour Kebbler Pass, stop at Elk Avenue, and there is also a ghost town nearby.
If someone says “mountain getaways in Colorado”, the one name that comes to everyone’s mind is Telluride. From here you get a clear view of the San Juan Mountains and enjoy the south-western hospitality of America.
If you ever dreamt of staying in any postcard-perfect place, Telluride can be no better. Every year hikers from different parts of the world come here to hike Bridal Veil Fall, Blue Lake, and Jud Wiebe Trail.
Telluride was featured in the 15th Season of Bravo’s hit show, Top Chef. Its location in Box Canyon offers endless opportunities for adventure seekers. Winter ice climbing is so popular here.
Things to do in Telluride:
Cable rides in the air – the Telluride via Ferrata, buy gifts from traditional Mexican fare at Esperanza’s Tequila Restaurant, enjoy at Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Telluride Blues and Brews, explore Dunton Hot Spring, and go for a gondola ride up to Mountain Village.
Along the Banana belt sits one of the unique mountain towns in Colorado that experiences the same temperature as Denver. Arkansas River kayak races, view of Collegiate Peaks, Sawatch Range, and Monarch ski area, make Salida the best!
Salida is home to Colorado’s largest National Historic District with beautiful historic buildings. For tubing, white water rafting, kayaking, and mountain biking, Salida is a dreamy destination.
With only 10 violent crimes in 2022, Salida is indeed one of the safest places in Colorado to reside. However, it has recorded 220 property crimes in 2022. Therefore, stay safe and always make informed decisions.
Salida is just a two-hour drive from Colorado Springs with an incredible history and is not far from Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. If you’re here, you should reside at Chalk Cliffs. From enjoying the epic weather to seeing beautiful sights, Salida is my favorite!
Things to do in Salida:
Visit Great Sand Dunes National Park, come to Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center, eat breakfast at The Biker and the Baker, and have a brew party at Benson’s Tavern and Beer Garden.
Related Post: 8 Most Romantic Weekend Getaways in Colorado Springs
To all high-adrenaline adventures, welcome to Ouray! It is also called the Switzerland of America. Along the Million Dollar Highway at the base of Red Mountain Pass sits this gorgeous small Colorado mountain town.
In Ouray, you will witness the raw rugged beauty of San Juan Mountain. Interestingly, it is also home to five sulfur-free hot springs, and a beautiful waterfall. Box Canyon Falls Park and Ouray Hot Spring are must-visit places!
Every January there is an Ouray Ice Festival at Ouray Ice Park where professional athletes come here to compete with each other. Not to that, it has its own 3 breweries, 3 coffee roasters, 2 distillers, and 2 chocolatiers.
Things to do in Ouray:
Tour along the Victorian building, stroll along the main street, soak at Wiesbaden Hot Spring and Vapor Cave, and hike the Blue Lakes trail.
If you’re searching for the highest-altitude mountain town In Colorado then look no further than Leadville. It is incorporated as the highest historic mining city in North America with 10,152 feet above sea level. Leadville is very offbeat!
While the landscape and surroundings of Leadville can be jaw-dropping but it is very harsh to reside in winter. From here you get a clear view of Mount Elbert and Mount Massive as Leadville sits at their foot.
For history buffs, Leadville is paradise; you learn so many things about Wild West roots and Matchless Mine and Baby Doe’s cabin. There are so many museums, galleries, and hotels. It is said that the Main Street of Leadville is so vibe-full!
Things to do in Leadville:
Stop at the National Mining Hall of Fame and the Heritage Museum or Healy House Museum, follow the Mineral Belt trail, unfold history at Camp Hale, drive to Western Hardware Antique, or go ghost hunting at Silver Dollar Saloon, sit beside the Timberline Lake and reflect on yourself, and lastly, go on date at Treeline Kitchen.
I agree, till now I have taken you to too many unique and offbeat destinations but now it’s time to take you to one of the posh mountain getaways in Colorado, and that is Aspen. It sits by the Elk Mountains and in the heart of White River National Forest.
However, Aspen is expensive as it is mostly luxury–inclined with gorgeous mountain resorts, people, art galleries and home to some celebrities. It was Colorado’s first ski resort back in the 1940s. Also, it was featured in the Winter X Games in the 2000s.
The town sits at an elevation of 8,000 feet above sea level with a lot of aspen trees around it. Maroon Bells of Aspen is the most photographed place in North America. I would recommend you visit here in the months of May through October.
Things to do in Aspen:
From November to April you can experience the best skiing adventure, rugged outdoor activities are a must to try in Aspen, come to Ashcroft Ghost Town, Independence Pass, have fresh-pressed juice and breakfast at JUS, and yummy delicious food at Ber Den, and lastly, try to attend Aspen Film Festival in winters.
11. Pagosa Springs
If you want to sail on a still lake, bike on horseback, hike along mountain trails or soak in the hot spring, look no further than Pagosa Spring. It is also one of the cheapest mountain towns in Colorado, which is 17% below the Colorado average.
Pagosa Spring sits over 3,000,000 acres of wilderness and national forest at the elevation of 7,000 feet above sea level. It is filled with ceremonial buildings, deep history of Puebloan people, and dramatic views.
In winter Wolf Creek Ski Area experiences 465 inches of snowfall every year. Do you dare to come here? For any outdoorsman, Pagosa Springs is an ideal mountain town in Colorado with endless thrilling experiences to taste.
Things to do in Pagosa Springs:
Hike to Chimney Rock National Monuments, visit Fred Harman at Museum, explore Navajo State Park, find bald eagles, and lastly, soak at The Springs Resort & Spa, or The Healing Waters Resort.
If you want to move into the mountain towns of Colorado, but money is the barrier then I have an option for you. Mancos is the most affordable mountain town in Colorado for families. Its proximity to Mesa Verde National Park makes it famous.
Mancos is an equally beautiful small American town that was featured on HGTV and Travel Channel. The crime rates are also less with a strong community spirit. Agriculture is the major occupation in Mancos.
Residing here also has one added benefit; you can easily go on a trip to Chicken Creek, Mancos River, Ute Mountain Reserve and the Canyons of the Ancient National Monuments.
Things to do in Mancos:
Take your friend to visit art galleries, drive to San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway or Million Dollar Highway, click the photo beside the colorful murals, and tour historically preserved buildings.
In terms of accessibility from Denver, and proximity to ski-ski resorts, Frisco is a beautiful mountain town in Colorado. You’ll find a lot of people coming here in summer to sail on Lake Dillon and explore Vail and Breckenridge.
Frisco is also called “Main Street of the Rockies”. Soaking at Frisco Bay Marina or hiking to Rainbow Lake or driving to Copper Mountain, everything here is so adventurous.
Frisco attracts young crowds as it is home to many budget-friendly restaurants, cafes and bars. This gorgeous mountain town in Colorado is equally beautiful in winter and encourages dog sledding, zip-lining, river rafting, hiking, and more.
Things to do in Frisco: Hike to Quandary Peak and Grays & Torreys peak.
14. Estes Park
Just a few minutes away from Denver sits Estes Park, the most charming mountain town in Colorado to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. It means you have a golden opportunity to check out epic hiking trails and the historic Stanley Hotel.
However, Estes Park is busy in summer as it hosts Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, summer concerts, a Rooftop Rodeo, and an amazing Christmas Parade in winter. Estes Park Aerial Tramway offers an amazing aerial view of the valley, you can’t miss that!
Remember, it mostly has a wilderness vibe so you might encounter a bear, moose, elk, or mountain lion. Be careful! Apart from this Estes Park is very artistic with local souvenirs, confectionaries, restaurants, and golf parks.
Things to do in Estes Park:
Go for a hike at Sky Pond, Longs Peak, and Emerald Lake, Lily Lake, explore Roosevelt National Forest, don’t miss Trendz at the Park, and catch a movie at the historic Park Theatre.
Have you ever dreamt of spending your life in the largest city on the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway? Welcome to Durango, a quite surreal mountain town in Colorado that is famous for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad steam engine.
This Southwestern mountain town is famous for foodie scenes as it is said that the town has more restaurants per capita – more than 200. Chocolate-filled croissants and chocolate cookies from Jean Pierre are must-try!
Things to do in Durango:
Visit Mesa Verde National Park, drive to Ouray, and experience the Inferno Mountain Coaster.
Creston is one of the surprising spiritual meccas in America that sits at the base of Sangre de Cristos. I would recommend you to come here in late August when they celebrate The Crestone Energy Fair on sustainability and innovation ideas.
At the elevation of 7,500 feet above sea level sits this beautiful mountain town with a lot of monasteries and sacred landmarks. If you’re here in winter, celebrate International Earth Day at Shumel or contact the International Dark Sky Community to experience the surreal night sky.
Things to do in Crestone:
Climb at the top of Crestone Ziggurat, take a yoga class and spend time in the shadow of a 14,000-foot mountain, a trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park or full-moon drum circle, and visit ashrams.
17. Grand Lake
European-style setting with home to the largest natural lake in Colorado, Grand Lake is the perfect hill town just adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park. Here, you can enjoy ample water activities like paddle boarding, fishing, and more.
Just imagine, sitting by the charming lakeside at the elevation of 8,369 feet above sea level with a notebook and a pen in your hand. The sprawling greenery, abundant wildlife, and breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains are bound to make you a poet!
Things to do in Grand Lake:
Grand Lake is the best place for Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. You should contact Grand Lake Nordic Center.
At the heart of the Rocky Mountains with a massive lake, Granby is a true winter wonderland and voted as a “huntsman’s paradise” by locals. Hanging out by the lake or hiking through the trails of Monarch Lake to witness Lone Eagle Peak are just unforgettable memories of Granby, I had treasured in my heart.
With the stunning landscape and access to the national forest with a focused motto “The heart of something grand”, Granby is the best mountain town in Colorado. Grab a coffee from Java Lava Lounge, soak yourself in the sun and just feel the vibe!
Things to do in Granby:
Enjoy ice fishing at Shadow Mountain Reservoir, Skiing at Granby Ranch, camping at Arapaho National Forest, and soaking at Hot Spring.
You’re at the end of the blog, knowing so much about the best Colorado mountain towns to visit and to live in. I know it’s hard to pick anyone out of so many. I’ve spent years finding out by myself but always failed miserably.
Each mountain town holds a special place in my heart. So, let me know where you’re planning your next trip to Colorado. Safe trip! Thanks for reading.
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FAQ – Mountain Towns in Colorado
1. What is the best ski resort in Colorado?
A: Vail Mountain Resort is the best ski resort in Colorado as it is one of the largest resorts in the world with the best terrain. Advanced skiers and such good hospitality make it one of the most desirable places to visit in Colorado.
2. Which part of Colorado has the best mountains?
A: Salida is the best mountain town in Colorado as it is less explored by tourists and you can taste the true rawness of the place. Its unique geography along the Banana belt and home to bright yellow aspen trees make it the best place to enjoy the sun and weather.
3. What are the best rural places to live in Colorado?
A: Breckenridge, Leadville and Crested Butte are the best rural places to live in Colorado with a good mix of history, recreation, relaxation, and pleasing air. These places attract photographers and nature lovers in the summers and fall seasons to outcast and flaunt their beauty.
4. What are the five closest tiny mountain towns to Denver?
A: Boulder, Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Golden, and Evergreen are the five closest tiny mountain towns to Denver. With the gorgeous sight of the Rocky Mountains with shimmering pages of history, lush greenery, wildflowers blooming, and a quality standard of living, these mountain towns are must-visits.
5. What city in Colorado has the best year-round weather?
A: You’ll find people suggesting Pueblo, making it crowded and no more perfect. Whereas, I would rather ask you to come to Grand Junction which does not get a ton of snow but offers pleasant weather all year round. Here, you will enjoy a semi-arid climate with an abundance of sun and fruits to eat!