Colorado is the nation’s 8th largest state, but after a few days visiting the remarkable natural landscapes of this mountain state you’ll think you’ve entered a land where giants live. The geography of Colorado is perhaps what makes the state so unique and beautiful with some of the tallest mountains on the continent and the highest overall elevation of any state in the continental U.S.
Colorado is famous for its vivid and beautiful landscapes and a visit to this state should include exploring as many of the national parks or monuments as you can.
Independence Pass is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado. The scenery at the pass and all along the 44 mile route is some of the most spectacular in Colorado, and the finest from a major highway. The road runs right beneath many great mountains including the highest in the state Mount Elbert and rises well above the tree line while also passing lakes, rivers, steep-sided valleys, thick forests of fir and extensive aspen groves.
There’s no shortage of amazing views as you twist up and around the two-lane road. Many visitors stop at the parking lot and walk the paved path to the scenic overlook.
Garden of the Gods
In beautiful Colorado Springs you’ll find the Garden of the Gods, a one-of-a-kind public park and National Natural Landmark. The park is named after the massive geologic features made up of various sediments that have climbed upward forming tall narrow towers.
Some of the famous sights in the Garden of the Gods are the Tower of Babel, the Cathedral Spires, the Three Graces, the Fountain Formation and Steamboat Rock. There is also a large balancing rock and hogbacks, areas of sandstone ridges rising up to 320 feet tall and several hundred feet long, vaguely resembling the backs and spines of pigs.
This enormous mountain stands at a breathtaking 14,000 feet earning it the name “America’s Mountain.” Visitors can ascend Pike’s Peak by hiking, by car, or via the cog railway. On the route up you’ll find jaw dropping vistas at every turn and a variety of wildlife. The Pike’s Peak Cog Railroad is a popular way to get up the mountain while listening to the conductor or tour guide explain the sights and points of interest.
Located in the city of Colorado Springs this series of seven cascading waterfalls totals together over 181 feet. This beautiful attraction can be visited by climbing a 224-step staircase from the base of the falls to the peak, passing the seven falls along the route.
Mesa Verde National Park
Like Colorado’s other favorite attractions, Mesa Verde National Park is a place for enjoying some of the most beautiful and unique scenery in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its well preserved cliff dwelling and its tall mesas rising above the desert landscape.
There are several visitor centers and viewpoints which offer informative insight into the geology and history of Mesa Verde. Some of the best views can be had at Montezuma Valley Overlook, Park Point Overlook, and Geologic Overlook. The most popular destination in the park is Spruce Tree House, a remarkably well-preserved cliff dwelling.
Top Things to do in Colorado
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
This national park in southwestern Colorado is where you’ll find a beautiful scenic gorge that is 12 miles long. The gorge has sheer cliffs with the largest sheer cliff, called the Painted Wall at 2250 feet tall.
The canyon itself is dark in color, giving it the name Black Canyon, and it is as narrow as 40 feet at some points. The canyon is a great place for bird viewing as great horned owls, peregrine falcons, eagles, swifts, and jays enjoy soaring through the deep narrow gorge. Other wildlife like mule deer, elk, and coyote are also frequently spotted.
Durango Historical Town
This town in the southwestern Rocky Mountains is famous for the railroad connecting it to Silverton. The historic part of Durango features buildings constructed with stone and brick and many shops and boutiques which have kept a historic “western” theme. One of the famous locations in town is the Diamond Belle Saloon which opened in 1957 and has a famous bullet hole in one of the bar drawers.
Denver Botanic Gardens
The Denver Botanic Gardens is a public botanical garden located in the Denver, Colorado. The 23-acre park contains a conservatory, a variety of theme gardens and a sunken amphitheater, which hosts various concerts in the summer.
Denver Botanic Gardens features North America’s largest collection of plants from cold temperate climates around the world, as well as 7 diverse gardens that mostly include plants from Colorado and neighboring states.
Dinosaur National Monument
This national monument is a park with fossils of dinosaurs and some of the most interesting and unique specimens ever discovered. The dinosaur fossil beds were first discovered in 1909 and have since revealed many exciting discoveries. There are two prehistoric sites at the national monument, the Castle Park Archeological District and Mantle’s Cave, both sites of prehistoric residential occupation. Some of the most notable discoveries at the national monument have been a nearly complete skull, lower jaw bones, and the first four neck vertebrae of the Allosaurus Abydosaurus.
The Maroon Bells offer several hikes and some of the most beautiful scenery in Colorado. It’s a Rocky Mountain landscape painted with cascades, lakes, golden aspens, and all against the backdrop of the peaks of the Maroon Bells. The most popular viewpoint is from the shores of Maroon Lake, a pristine alpine lake enveloped by fields of wildflowers. Maroon Bells is widely regarded as one of Colorado’s most photographed wilderness scenes. The view of the twin peaks is like something you might find in a painting, an alpine lake lapping the high slopes of a mountain valley, framing the 14,000-foot domes several miles away.
Things to do in Colorado
A visit to Colorado is like visiting America’s natural wonderland. The most popular attractions in the state aren’t museums or theme parks; they’re nature’s own playgrounds and works of art. In Colorado you can find enough geologic wonders to keep any tourist of any age entertained including towering mountains, majestic plateaus, deep gorges, and beautiful sand dunes climbing toward the sky.