Colorado is one of the 9 Mountain West states in the Western part of the United States. This means that it features some of the most amazing natural landmarks on the planet, including the majestic Rocky Mountains, as well as parts of the Colorado Plateau and the Great Plains.
The state’s capital and largest city are Denver and nearly 3 million people live in its metropolitan area, which is nearly half of the state’s population. It’s also the 8th-largest state in the country but only the 21st-most populous one. This means that the areas outside of Denver are scarcely populated.
So what are the best things to do in Colorado if you plan to visit this amazing mountainous state? In this article, you’ll discover some of Colorado’s most popular tourist attractions.
1. Rocky Mountain National Park
What better place to start your journey in Colorado than the most famous mountain range in North America, the Rocky Mountains. The Rocky Mountain National Park is easily accessible as it’s located at a distance of just 122 kilometers (76 miles) northwest of Denver International Airport. The park encompasses areas within the Front Range, a subrange in the southern part of the Rockies, and is renowned for its incredible natural beauty.
The park has a total of 5 visitor centers and is bounded by the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. It’s one of the most-visited national parks in the country with nearly 5 million yearly visitors. You’ll hardly find a more fascinating place in the world to explore nature and hike on one of the numerous trails available in this pristine piece of nature in Colorado.
Official website: Rocky Mountains National Park
2. Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is another one of the fascinating natural wonders that can be found in the state of Colorado. The name of this attraction refers to a public park located in Colorado Springs which features distinctive rock formations. It became such a popular attraction in the region that it was declared a Natural National Landmark in 1971 as well.
The original name that was given to this fascinating place was “Red Rock Corral” and it wasn’t until the year 1859 that it got its current name. The fascinating red rock formations have been formed in a process that lasted millions of years. These sandstones, conglomerates, and limestones, were gradually pushed vertically and turned into so-called “fins,” together with the uplift of the Rocky Mountains themselves. This is definitely one of the spots you absolutely must visit when you plan to visit Colorado.
Official website: Garden of the Gods
3. Royal Gorge Bridge
The Royal Gorge Bridge is one of the most fascinating man-made tourist attractions in Colorado for multiple reasons. The bridge is the centerpiece of a larger tourist attraction named the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, a park that covers an area of 150 hectares (360 acres). This park is located near Cañon City, a city situated along the Royal Gorge, a magnificent canyon of the Arkansas River.
This fascinating bridge was originally completed in 1929 and was the highest bridge in the world until the completion of the Liuguanghe Bridge in China in the early 2000s. The bridge crosses the gorge at a height of 291 meters (955 feet) and it remains the highest bridge in the United States until today. What’s remarkable about this bridge is that it’s a dead end. You can cross it but you have to turn around and cross it again to get out.
Read more on Listerious: 15 facts about the Royal Gorge Bridge
Official website: Royal Gorge Bridge
4. Mesa Verde National Park
The Mesa Verde National Park is located in Montezuma County and features one of the best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites in the United States. The park is situated near the Four Corners region in the American Southwest and covers a total area of 21,240 hectares (52,485 acres).
The park features an incredible number of archaeological sites, including 600 fascinating cliff dwellings. Most of these were built in the 12th and 13th centuries, and the most prominent one is a structure referred to as the “Cliff Palace,” a complex built between 1190 and 1260 but which was remarkably abandoned by the year 1300.
Official website: Mesa Verde National Park
5. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
We all know that the Ancient Greeks and Romans built magnificent amphitheaters, many of which have been remarkably well-preserved and even more remarkably still serve a purpose today, some 2,000 years after they were built. None of these structures, though, can hold a candle to the magnificent setting of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, a town about 16 kilometers (10 miles) west of Denver.
This incredible amphitheater was built right next to the distinctive rock formations found in Colorado and provides one of the most astounding concert locations in the world. It’s located within the Red Rocks Park and the skyline of Downtown Denver is visible as well. This stunning theater has a total capacity of 9,525 and was opened to the public in 1941, and is pretty much a must-visit spot in case you’re in the Denver area.
Official website: Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
6. Great Sand Dunes National Park
The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve protects an area of 143.8 square kilometers (35,528 acres) which contain the biggest dunes in North America. Some of these dunes reach a height of 230 meters (750 feet) and the combined volume of these dunes is an estimated 5 billion cubic meters (176.57 billion cubic feet) of sand.
One of the most popular ways to explore this amazing region in Colorado is to hike across the dunes, starting by crossing the relatively shallow Medano Creek. Sandboarding and sand sledding are also popular activities, especially with the amazing background of the nearby Rocky Mountains. One warning though, the temperature of the sand surface can reach 66 °C (150 °F) in the summer!
Official website: Great Sand Dunes National Park