More than a dozen major ranges grace Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, and from tree to lake to peak, it’s all stunning. Boasting a combination of rugged-chic accommodations and a glamorous, nature-friendly vibe, these areas draw explorers year-round.
From the glitter of Aspen to the pleasant hiking terrain of Estes Park, these five mountain towns have what you’re looking for on your next Colorado vacation.
Found deep in a valley in the San Juan Mountains, this small southwestern city gives sun-seeking visitors many reasons to stop by. Though it’s renowned as a ski destination in the winter, the tiny town offers an array of adventures when the weather warms up, too. In the summer months you can hike, fish, golf and check out one of the city’s many music festivals, from the Telluride Jazz Festival (August 3 to 5) to the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival (September 14 to 16).
You can also catch some tunes while having an alfresco dinner at Siam’s Talay Grille, a local staple serving up contemporary Thai food on the ground floor of Forbes Travel Guide Recommended The Inn at Lost Creek.
Or take in the views on a breathtaking gondola ride from the historic town center to Mountain Village above.
When you’re ready to rest your head, make your way to Four-Star darling Lumière Telluride. At this 29-room retreat, a gourmet hot breakfast is included, and pups are welcomed with locally made dog biscuits. The boutique hotel just refreshed its public spaces, giving them a more modern feel with a palette of slate and other neutrals.
Another option is the Four-Star Madeline Hotel and Residences, An Auberge Resort, where you can lounge by the outdoor pool, satisfy your sweet tooth at Dylan’s Candy Bar or simply stroll through Mountain Village, just steps from your door.
Located at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park, this quintessential mountain town has remarkable views all around it. It’s a nature-friendly place that has little to do with skiing, and that’s just fine since so much goes on in the area.
Estes Park proves the ideal spot to watch wildlife (from a safe distance), including elk, moose, bighorn sheep, black bears and other critters. Rock climbing is another popular pastime here, as is hiking, geocaching, trail-running, fishing, kayaking and biking.
If you want a little more guidance, opt for a tour. Companies like Yellow Wood Guiding provide photos safaris, private hikes, wildlife tours and more to keep you captivated with your surroundings.
At the end of the day, check into The Stanley Hotel, the famously haunted property that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining after just one night. And yes, you can stay in the same room the renowned writer did, though you may have to book several months in advance — No. 217 is the historic hotel’s most requested accommodation.
If you’re not looking for a ghost story to accompany your stay, consider a more secluded retreat at the Romantic River Song Bed & Breakfast Inn, a charming house tucked away from it all.
It’s no secret that this tony town is one of the best places in the state to visit. It exudes glamour thanks to celebrity guests and residents, high-end hotels and boutiques, while staying grounded with an abundance of natural beauty.
Experience the high life by booking a stay at Five-Star The Little Nell, where you’ll find first-class service, roomy-yet-cozy accommodations and the wonderful Five-Star Element 47 restaurant that delivers delicious mountain fare alongside an astonishing 20,000-bottle wine collection.
Aside from basking in luxury, you can participate in wildflower-filled hikes, rafting on the Roaring Fork River, fly fishing and horseback riding in the summer sunshine.
Vail and Beaver Creek
Though these two places are technically neighbors, they’re often lumped together as one scenic Colorado destination thanks to an abundance of shared trails (such as Booth Falls Trail, Piney River Trail and Shrine Mountain Trail), rivers for rafting (Blue River, Colorado River, Gore Creek) and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the highest-elevated botanical garden in the country.
If you seek a little more excitement, Vail is also home to Epic Discovery, an adventure park packed with ziplines, mini golf, a mountain coaster, tubing hills, obstacle courses and more, all surrounded by beautiful alpine vistas.
After exploring the great outdoors, treat yourself to some well-deserved pampering at one of the area’s exquisite spas. Four-Star Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is home to a sumptuous Four-Star facility — don’t miss a thermal dip in the Aqua Sanitas Water Sanctuary — as well as spacious lodging and a huge alfresco fire pit, perfect for roasting s’mores.
For an equally luxurious stay on the other side of town, the Four-Star Four Seasons Resort Vail boasts an outdoor pool, balcony-clad rooms and a spectacular Five-Star spa complete with unique Colorado beer-themed treatments.
Chances are you haven’t heard much about Buena Vista, but this cute hamlet between Denver and Aspen is worth a visit if you want good food, gorgeous views and to get away from the bustle of city life for a while.
The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area within the San Isabel National Forest is a highlight of the region, and one any nature lover will want to explore. Raft down the Arkansas River or simply camp out on the shore and leisurely take in its beauty. The Browns Canyon National Monument features 21,586 acres of unspoiled mountains, rivers and backcountry forest to traverse.
Afterward, stop for a therapeutic soak in one of the nearby hot springs — Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort is just a 23-minute drive from the park.
Recharge from the day’s adventures at the newly opened Surf Hotel, a boutique property overlooking the Buena Vista Whitewater Park. Savor Colorado cuisine at the seasonal restaurant Wesley & Rose or wander down South Main Street, a redeveloped area right on the water that’s rife with chic shops and trendy eateries.