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Colorado’s best small towns for a weekend getaway
Colorado’s best small towns for a weekend getaway

Colorado, officially admitted to the Union on August 1, 1876, is a conspicuous landlocked state in the Mountain West subregion of the American West. “Centennial State” is characterized by its diverse topography, which is characterized by majestic snow-capped peaks, rugged cliffs and deep canyons, mesas, flat grassy plateaus, high plateaus and desert basins. Aside from the state capital of Denver and the second-largest city of Colorado Springs, both of which receive the most tourist attention, the countless small towns that dot Colorado’s bustling 103,000-square-mile area capture the hearts of vacationers seeking a more authentic and memorable experience during their short weekend getaways or long vacations with their loved ones.

Crested Butte

Downtown street in Crested Butte, Colorado.
Street in downtown Crested Butte, Colorado. Image credit: Kristi Blokhin via Shutterstock

Crested Butte is a charming mountain community on the west side of the Slate River Valley in the north-central part of Gunnison County. Nicknamed “The Wildflower Capital of Colorado” in summer and “Colorado’s last great ski resort” In the winter, Crested Butte is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Winter sports enthusiasts from all over the world especially flock here to experience the world-class snowboarding and downhill skiing facilities at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Vacationers must also check out the cross-country ski trails and ice skating rink at the town’s Nordic Center, as well as the various hiking trails managed by the Crested Butte Land Trust. Spend the night at the Elevation Hotel & Spa – the town’s only ski-in, ski-out hotel – and take part in annual fun events, such as the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, Crested Butte Bike Week, Crested Butte International Film Festival, Crested Butte Music Festival and Butte Bash College Ski Week.

Steamboat Springs

Main Street in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Main Street in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Image credit: Tupungato via Shutterstock

Informally referred to as “The boat,” This Routt County seat is located off U.S. Highway 40 in the upper Yampa River valley, just west of the Continental Divide and the Rocky Mountains’ Rabbit Ears Pass. A celebrated winter ski destination, Steamboat Springs is home to the highly acclaimed Steamboat Ski Resort at Mount Werner, which covers 2,965 acres and offers 297 named runs, 44% of which are intermediate, 42% advanced and just 14% beginner. Vacationers can hop aboard the Steamboat Gondola for unparalleled views of the surrounding area, bike the Yampa River Core Trail, be entertained by a performance by the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra, snowshoe the groomed trails at the Haymaker Nordic Center, tour the Tread of Pioneers Museum and Strawberry Park Hot Springs, and relax after hectic exploring at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Steamboat Springs.

Telluride

The beautiful town of Telluride, Colorado.
The beautiful town of Telluride, Colorado.

Telluride, the administrative center of San Miguel County, sits secluded at an elevation of 8,700 feet on the western side of the San Juan Mountains. Once a burgeoning silver mining camp on the 80-mile-long San Miguel River, this picturesque community offers adrenaline junkies the opportunity to participate in a variety of recreational activities, including mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, cross-country skiing, golfing, hiking, camping and trout fishing. The Telluride Historic District, which takes up much of Telluride’s built-up area, consists of countless well-preserved Victorian-era mansions on Colorado Street, the town’s main shopping street. Also not to be missed are the Sheridan Opera House, the Telluride Historical Museum and a variety of independent shops, fashion boutiques, art galleries, bookstores, top-notch restaurants like 221 South Oak and luxury accommodations like the Hotel Telluride downtown.

Durango

Main Avenue in Durango with the oldest bank building in Colorado
Main Avenue in Durango with the oldest bank building in Colorado. Photo credit: WorldPictures via Shutterstock

This quiet home rule community is the county seat of La Plata County and is located in the thriving Animas River Valley at the foot of the La Plata Mountains in the southwestern part of the state. Travelers visiting this settlement, named after the Mexican city of Durango, must stroll the streets of the Main Avenue Historic District and check out the numerous old buildings, boutiques, cafes, art galleries, brew pubs, modern restaurants like Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen and lodgings like the Best Western Plus Rio Grande Inn. Embark on a scenic ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which winds through forests, abandoned mines and mountains, connecting Durango and Silverton. Also visit Mesa Verde National Park, Durango Wildlife Museum & Fish Hatchery, Southern Ute Tourist Center, San Juan Skyway, San Juan National Forest, Purgatory Ski Resort and other notable Durango attractions. Each year, thousands flock to the city to enjoy the Snowdown Festival, the Durango Ragtime & Early Jazz Festival, Music in the Mountains and the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.

Ouray

The historic Main Street of Ouray, Colorado.
The historic Main Street of Ouray, Colorado. Photo credit: Michael Vi via Shutterstock

Ouray is the seat of government of Ouray County in southwest Colorado and is located in a deep valley of the San Juan Mountains at an elevation of 7,792 feet, about 40 miles south of Montrose. “Switzerland of America”, The “Colorado’s Capital of Outdoor Recreation” attracts travelers from all over the world who participate in various recreational activities such as ice climbing, trail running, hiking and four-wheel driving. Ouray’s entire Main Street is registered as a National Historic District and is filled with buildings dating back to the late 1800s, including St. Joseph’s Miners’ Hospital, which currently houses the Ouray County Historical Society & Museum, Ouray City Hall & Walsh Library, the Wright Opera House and the historic Beaumont Hotel. Additionally, vacationers should visit Ouray’s five developed hot springs and countless waterfalls, explore Yankee Boy Basin in the Uncompahgre National Forest, enjoy a drive along the Million Dollar Highway and relax after a day of activities at the Ouray Riverside Resort.

Manitou Springs

Beautiful street view in Manitou Springs, Colorado
Beautiful street view in Manitou Springs, Colorado

Manitou Springs, an idyllic mountain community, is located at the foot of Pikes Peak in western El Paso County. Originally founded in 1872 by Dr. William Abraham Bell and General William Jackson Palmer as “picturesque health resort”, The city is known for its amazing surroundings and natural mineral springs that are scattered throughout the city. The Manitou Springs Historic District is considered one of the largest National Historic Districts in the nation and offers countless 19th-century Victorian frame structures, elegant buildings, museums, churches and public libraries. Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, Iron Springs Chateau Melodrama Dinner Theater, Manitou Springs Incline, Rainbow/Graffiti Falls, Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Broadmoor Manitou & Pike’s Peak Cog Railway are some of the most famous attractions. Have a pleasant stay at the Villa Motel in Manitou Springs and try to catch the town’s annual events such as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Commonwheel Arts and Crafts Festival, Mardi Gras celebration, Soda Springs Park Summer Concert Series and Miramont Victorian Christmas Festival.

Salida

Historic Downtown Salida in Salida, Colorado
Salida Downtown Historic District in Salida, Colorado. By Jeffrey Beall, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Located in central Colorado, this Chaffee County administrative center is in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and borders the Sawatch Range, Monarch Mountain and the Arkansas River. In addition to being the Upper Arkansas Valley’s mecca for tourism, services and amenities, Salida is also a well-known outdoor adventure haven that offers endless recreational opportunities for vacationers of all ages. While visiting Salida, explore Browns Canyon National Monument, hike the Sawatch Range, go whitewater rafting at Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, soothe sore muscles in natural hot springs, fish in the upper Arkansas River, explore mountain bike trails and ski at Monarch Mountain Ski Area. Plus, stroll the streets of downtown Salida and browse the landmarks, distilleries, art galleries, independent gift shops, artist studios, breweries, restaurants like Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub and hotels like Silver Ridge Lodge.

Paeonia

Looking south on Grand Avenue from Paonia, Colorado
Looking south on Grand Avenue from Paonia, Colorado

This statutory city in midwestern Colorado has a population of 1,447 according to the last U.S. census and is located near the head of the North Fork Valley on the North Fork Gunnison River, about 10 miles northeast of Hotchkiss. Paonia was primarily a hunting ground for Ute Indians, and its moderate elevation and pleasant climate have attracted farmers, miners, agriculturists, ranchers, artisans, and outdoor enthusiasts for years. The numerous orchards in and around the city provide residents and tourists with plenty of fresh fruits, including apples, pears, cherries, apricots, peaches, grapes, and plums. Numerous vineyards and notable wineries such as Alfred Eames Winery, Stone Cottage Cellars, Black Bridge Winery, etc. have also been established here to make the most of Paonia’s agricultural produce. While in town, enjoy the lively atmosphere of Grand Avenue (Paonia’s main street) and tour the decorative buildings, shops, galleries and restaurants such as the Root & Vine Market. Stay at the Bross Hotel Bed & Breakfast and take time to attend one of Paonia’s annual events such as the Paonia Cherry Days Festival, Mountain Harvest Festival, BMW Rally, Rainbow Gathering, Paonia Film Festival and Pickin’ in the Park.

From the healing natural mineral springs of the paradisiacal Manitou Springs to Ouray – the “Switzerland of America”, The beautiful, under-the-radar hamlets showcase the true beauty and incredible culture of the 8th largest and 21st most populous state in the United States. With stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, mining-era downtowns, thriving cultural scenes, plenty of outdoor recreation, a welcoming atmosphere, and the friendly hospitality of Coloradans, these charming Colorado towns are perfect for a relaxing weekend.

By Everly