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7 Must-Visit Small Towns in Colorado

by Staff

Colorado is the land where seasons go to play. It is where water, freshly dropped from the clouds, creates white-water vacations. Walk through the history that evolved with the landscape of the Rocky Mountains. The air of Hanging Lake waits to be smelled. The Maroon Bells wait to be gazed upon. The Garden of the Gods awaits an acolyte. Hop in the car and head straight for the Centennial State.

Gunnison

Gunnison is a Town in South Central Colorado.

A world of exploration is waiting in Gunnison. It is difficult to decide when the best time to visit Gunnison is. The melting ski slopes in the summer open up over two million acres of public lands to hikers and mountain bikers. Scenic River Tours Incorporated has great first-class tickets if you’d like to safely ride the white waters of the Gunnison River. Jorgenson Park has BMX that can be rented for an adventurous afternoon. The Park features an indoor and outdoor skating rink, concession stands, and a pond for fishing. One-of-a-kind finds can be found in the galleries at the Gunnison Arts Center. Check the Center’s website for special events and shows.

Carbondale

Mount Sopris View from Mushroom Rock, Carbondale, Colorado
Mount Sopris View from Mushroom Rock, Carbondale, Colorado

Experience dreamy tastes and aromas at an elevation of 6,171 feet with Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard’s restaurant, The Goat. The Roaring Fork River runs through Carbondale on its way to Glenwood Springs, one of the largest natural hot springs on the planet. The Thunder River Theater Company has spectacles that are truly enthralling and a must-see. Similarly, the Crystal Theater is a fascinating converted space that was originally the W. M. Dinkel Mercantile Company store in 1912. Another worthwhile attraction is the 2.2-mile out-and-back route leading to Mushroom Rock. The Inn at the Marble Distillery offers a comfortable place to stay and is a company that produces a range of spirits with sustainable methods. 

Trinidad

Aerial view of Trinidad in winter.
Aerial view of Trinidad in winter.

One can find both tranquility and adventure on Trinidad Lake. The lake in the town of the same name has a popular archery range, as well as a lifejacket loaner program, should a spontaneous boat trip arise. Like many towns on the Santa Fe Trail, Trinidad is replete with art galleries and museums. Time truly stands still with the excitement of live theater. Main Street Live has been hosting a variety of shows for over 20 years. The next generation’s defining artists can also be found at Corazon Gallery. Lastly, a crow’s eye glimpse of the area from Simpson’s Rest is well worth a visit.

Telluride

Aerial view of Telluride and the San Juan Mountains in winter.
Aerial view of Telluride and the San Juan Mountains in winter. 

The Telluride Ski Resort has almost 150 trails and is considered one of the state’s most popular ski towns. The San Miguel River, as well as a network of creeks, runs through Telluride. Another winter activity is the ice rink at Telluride Town Park. The greenspace that is surrounded by peaks is a gathering space in the summer and an outdoor rink in the winter. Special events programmed by the Ah Haa School for the Arts are a wonderful way to spend an afternoon as well. Afterwards you can find a rotation of permanent and seasonal ales at the taproom of the Telluride Brewing Company, open 2 PM-7 PM every day. 

Fruita

Beautiful Sunset on Colorado National Monument in Fruita, Colorado.
Beautiful Sunset on the Colorado National Monument in Fruita, Colorado.

Fruita’s Dinosaur Journey Museum will leave you feeling like you’ve time-traveled back millions of years. Dinosaur Journey has over 15,000 fossils and reconstructions of many ancient giants, including the Tyrannosaurus Rex. An exciting afternoon activity involves rafting in the Colorado River with Rimrock Adventures. A nice way to spend a long weekend, nine holes at a time, is at the 27-hole Adobe Creek Golf Course. Each set of nine is laid out according to three landscapes: the mesa, the monument, and the desert. The vistas that await Mary’s Loop are lovely as well. Lastly, do not leave town without a wearable keepsake from Happy Trails Colorado t-shirt shop.

Manitou Springs

Aerial View of Downtown Manitou Springs, Colorado
Aerial View of Downtown Manitou Springs, Colorado

Manitou Springs has beautiful sights, such as the Manitou Incline Trail, which rises over 2,000 feet in less than a mile. The Cliff Dwellings Museum invites tourists to learn about the relocated Puebloan ruins that are 800-1,000 years old. The Garden of the Gods Park will help visitors fall in love with natural history. Towering rock formations carved by the formation and melt of ice during the Pleistocene Ice Age in the Park are a great visit as well. For those entranced by more recent history, Arcade Amusements has a massive collection of video games and penny arcade games, some of which date back to the 1930s.

Salida

People enjoying scenic browns canyon on the Arkansas river in Salida, via ColoradoTravis J. Camp / Shutterstock.com
People enjoying scenic Browns Canyon on the Arkansas River in Salida, via ColoradoTravis J. Camp / Shutterstock.com

Downtown Salida has so many scenic views you won’t want to blink. The town has the largest historic district in all of Colorado. Travelers’ stress can be cured at Salida’s Hot Springs Aquatic Center, featuring one of the largest indoor hot spring pools in the US. The water is piped directly from underground springs that are eight miles away. The temperature keeps itself at the relaxing range of 82-84 degrees. Climb Riverside Park’s bouldering wall with the lively din of the Arkansas River alongside. The town’s best ales can be found at Soulcraft Brewing. Soulcraft’s taproom is open Monday through Sunday, 12 to 8. One thrilling activity would be white water rafting at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.

The official nickname of Colorado is the Centennial State, as it was given statehood 100 years (plus four weeks) after the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Coloradans and frequent visitors, however, know the state as Colorful Colorado. Anyone who’s ever taken an autumn stroll in Colorado can attest to that. Help keep Colorado’s many colors pristine by picking up found trash and leaving no physical trace of visits to state parks.

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