Colorado is an incredible place to go for summer vacation. With its breathtaking landscapes, cute mountain towns, and endless outdoor activities, it’s no wonder that people flock here from across the globe. Whether you’re seeking a memorable family adventure, a romantic getaway with your significant other, or an action-packed trip with friends, you can find it here in Colorado.
But here’s the thing – with SO many amazing options available, it can be hard to choose where to go for your Colorado Vacation. I get these questions all the time. Should I explore Colorado’s wild western slope, the state’s largest national park, or the more developed front range? With so many great mountain towns, which one would be the perfect home base while exploring?
This post will delve into twelve of Colorado’s best summer vacation destinations. We’ll go over what makes each one great, what to expect, and who it’s best suited for (and who it might not be the best fit for). By the time you reach the end, you’ll have a much better idea of which Colorado destination best resonates with you.
So, where is the best Colorado summer vacation spot for you? Let’s dive in and find out!
Pro’s: Sports. Concerts. Lots of restaurants and breweries. Colorado’s city hub.
Con’s: Busy, expensive, drive to get into the mountains. Not the place to go for an ‘escape to nature.’ Sketchy areas.
Being the largest city in the region, Denver is the place to go for concerts, music festivals, sports, museums, and nightlife. The Mile High City is known for its craft beer scene and close proximity to the Rocky Mountains.
Keep in mind Denver is a large city with the typical benefits and issues. It’s not IN the mountains like many believe, but it’s a relatively short drive away. For those looking to be more immersed in nature, I’d recommend any other location on this list.
Want to learn more? Check out our post “100 Things to Do in Denver, Colorado”.
11. Colorado Springs
Pros: All of the amenities of a small city but with incredible mountain views. Several walkable downtown districts. Great restaurants and breweries. Way less crowded than Denver. Laid-back.
Con’s: Not IN the mountains. Not as “city-like” as Denver, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Situated at the base of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s the place to go if you want to be close to nature while enjoying all the amenities of a small city.
Enjoy endless hiking, driving to the top of Pikes Peak, chasing waterfalls, and strolling through the iconic Garden of the Gods. After spending a day in the mountains, visit a local brewery to enjoy great food and beer on a lovely patio.
In addition to outdoor activities, Colorado Springs boasts three different downtown districts with unique dining, drinking, and shopping opportunities. Downtown Manitou Springs (which is only 15 minutes from downtown Colorado Springs) is a mountain community that was voted one of the top 10 small-town art scenes for the third year in a row by USA Today.
Colorado Springs is an excellent choice for families. Kids and parents will love the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Space Museum, North Pole amusement park, and the Cave of the Winds. Couples will love the luxurious resorts, such as the Broodmoore and Garden of the Gods Club & Resort.
Pros: Beautiful college town next to the mountains. Lots of great restaurants & shopping. Easy to drive into the mountains or to take a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park or Denver.
Con’s: Busy. More of a college-town vibe than mountain town.
Boulder is Colorado’s favorite college town (sorry, Fort Collins!). Walkable Pearl Street Mall is an incredible place to go for breakfast or a post-hike meal. It’s so cute, and the pedestrian-only walkway is lined with boutique shops and local restaurants. If you visit, you can’t miss hiking in Chautauqua Park, where the iconic flat irons are. The Royal Arch Trail is my favorite, but if you want something easier, check out the First and Second Flatirons Loop.
If you want to go into the mountains or see Denver, don’t worry! Both are only a short drive away. In less than an hour, you can be in the small mountain hippie town of Nederland or hiking to stunning alpine lakes.
9. Grand Lake
Pros: Several stunning large lakes. Cute mountain town. Next to Rocky Mountain National Park. Lots of rentable cabins and campsites. Wildlife spotting.
Con’s: Water is freezing year round. Campsites fill up fast.
Grand Lake is the place to go for a Colorado lake vacation. Picture three large lakes surrounded by mountains next to a cute downtown. Visitors can bring or rent kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and motorboats. Anglers will love the ample opportunities to catch trout and salmon. The town itself is charming, with its historic buildings, boutique shops, art galleries, and local restaurants.
Take a break from the lake and spend a day exploring Rocky Mountain National Park. The west entrance is in Grand Lake, making it easy to see the lesser visited side of the park. Hike the endless trails or drive the scenic Trail Ridge Road. Additionally, you can easily see a waterfall only a half-a-mile into the East Inlet Trail.
At the end of the day, curl up in a cozy cabin or beside a campfire at a lakeside campsite.
8. Glenwood Springs
Pros: Incredible hot springs. Beautiful. Close to many iconic hikes. Culture. State Parks.
Con’s: Crowded. Expensive. Limited nightlife and entertainment.
Glenwood Springs offers a mix of natural beauty, rejuvenating hot springs, and epic adventures in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Indulge in the therapeutic natural hot spring pools or the Yampah Vapor Caves. See iconic Colorado landmarks such as Hanging Lake and the Maroon Bells (the most photographed location in the state!). Get your heart pumping on the thrilling rides at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
Visitors have plenty of outdoor activities to choose from, such as hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding. White River National Forest, Rifle Gap State Park, and Glenwood Canyon are nearby. Try out whitewater rafting or kayaking along the Colorado River.
Glenwood Springs has plenty of cultural attractions too. Visit the family-friendly Glenwood Vaudeville Revue for dinner with an entertaining comedy show. Learn about Colorado history at the Doc Holliday Museum, Glenwood Springs Historical Society, and Frontier Museum.
Pros: An adorable mountain town with luxe accommodations and lots of activities. Less than a two-hour drive from Denver International Airport. Great public transport around town and from Denver.
Con’s: Expensive and busy.
Breckenridge is for those wanting to visit a cute + luxe mountain town that’s fairly close to Denver. Although it’s famous as a ski town, Breckenridge has a lot to offer during summer when the slopes are green and covered in wildflowers. All sorts of outdoor activities are available, such as hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Lake Dillon is also nearby, providing plenty of fun water activities like boating, paddleboarding, and fishing.
Breckenridge is also an excellent option for traveling with kids. There are plenty of family-friendly activities, from a mountain amusement park to an arcade. Couples will love the luxurious resort and cabin options, plus plenty of fine dining to choose from.
Aside from the views and charming downtown, one of my favorite things about Breckenridge is how easy it is to get around. Public transport is free. There is even a free gondola that travels between downtown and Peak 8, which is an experience in itself!
6. Rocky Mountain National Park
Pros: Large national park with breathtaking views, incredible hiking opportunities, and wildlife spotting.
Con’s: Super busy. Timed-entry permits can make it hard to access. Camping reservations fill up quickly.
Rocky Mountain National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list. People travel from across the globe to see the park’s rugged mountain peaks, shimmering alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife. Rocky Mountain National Park has some of the state’s best hiking and backpacking trails.
However, what really makes it unique is the ability to drive along the high-altitude, alpine terrain. Trail Ridge Road is the highest scenic byway in all of the U.S. national parks. It allows visitors to see breathtaking mountain views that are typically only accessible by foot.
Keep in mind Rocky Mountain National Park gets BUSY. Start planning your trip early because reservations fill up fast. Yes, that even includes reservations to enter the park. Your best bet to get entry permits or camping reservations is to order them as soon as they become available. So, plan ahead and mark your calendars!
Pros: Remote town known as being one of Colorado’s best hubs for adventure. Not as expensive as more luxe towns in the area. Limited crowds.
Con’s: Difficult to get to. Seven-hour drive from Denver.
Durango is the true wild west of Colorado. It’s the place to go to beat the crowds and partake in epic adventures among the rugged mountain landscape. You can backpack, hike, ride horses, bike, rock climb, camp, kayak – name an outdoor activity (that doesn’t require the ocean!), and you’re sure to find it here!
One of the highlights of visiting Durango is the incredible off-roading trails here. You can reach rugged, high-alpine terrain typically only accessible by foot. You can drive to an old ghost town, off-roading obstacle courses, and even take a shortcut through the mountains to Telluride.
Another major highlight of Durango is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Stepping aboard this steam-powered train is like stepping back in time. Sit back and relax as it chugs through the mountains, offering unforgettable mountain views and a glimpse into the region’s past. Before returning to Durango, guests have the opportunity to explore Silverton – an old mining town that feels like it’s straight out of an old Western film.
So, if you’re looking for a no-frills, full-adventure Colorado vacation, Durango is the place to go.
Pros: Super cute & remote mountain town. Great base for exploring the San Juan Mountains. Public & private hot springs.
Con’s: Far drive from Denver. Limited accommodations.
Like Glenwood Springs, Ouray is famous for its hot springs. What makes it unique, however, is its location nestled in the stunning San Juan Mountains. You’ll have access to the same activities and similar views to Durango while staying in one of Colorado’s cutest mountain towns. I mean, it’s known as “the Switzerland of America” for a reason.
Although it’s a far drive from Denver (six hours!), it also tends to be less busy than places in the front range and i70 corridor. Additionally, it’s right in between Durango & Telluride, making it easy to see both on your trip if you have the time.
Learn more from our post: “The Top 10 Things to Do in Ouray“.
3. Crested Butte
Pro’s: THE place to go for summer wildflowers. Lots of festivals throughout the summer. Mountain town with lots of outdoor activities.
Con’s: Touristy with limited amenities.
Crested Butte is known for vibrant summer wildflowers, colorful Victorian buildings, and lively festivals. All of this, of course, is backed by stunning mountain vistas.
Hikers and bikers will love the diverse trail systems. Trails range from scenic strolls to mountain summits and everything in between. In addition to wildflowers, you can find alpine lakes, waterfalls, lush forests, alpine meadows, canyons, & more.
The historic downtown is lined with cafes, art galleries, and unique boutiques. Throughout the summer, the town hosts lively festivals celebrating the flowers and showcasing live music performances.
Pros: Luxurious accommodations, shopping, and restaurants. In the middle of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Next to Maroon Bells and Glenwood Springs.
Con’s: Very expensive.
Aspen is where luxury and nature seamlessly intertwine. This enchanting resort town beckons discerning travelers seeking a sublime blend of opulence and outdoor adventure. Aspen’s allure lies in its ability to cater to the most refined tastes while immersing visitors in the raw beauty of the surrounding wilderness.
The charming downtown is lined with exquisite art galleries and high-end boutiques. Indulge in world-class dining experiences where celebrated chefs craft culinary masterpieces from locally sourced ingredients.
Beyond the town’s confines, adventure awaits. Immerse yourself in nature as you hike through alpine meadows or navigate thrilling river rapids. For a more tranquil experience, bask in the serenity of Aspen’s glittering lakes. At the end of each day, retreat to one of Aspen’s renowned luxury resorts.
Pros: Incredible outdoor adventure opportunities, luxurious town, very remote.
Con’s: Very expensive. Difficult to get to.
Telluride is a stunning & luxurious mountain town remotely tucked away in the San Juan Mountains. With its stunning natural beauty, luxurious accommodations, and access to endless outdoor adventures, Telluride is the ultimate Colorado vacation destination.
Telluride exudes a captivating small-town charm. Its historic downtown is lined with quaint Victorian-era buildings and boutique shops. What makes it truly unique, however, is the incredible rugged mountain vistas that serve as a stunning backdrop to downtown.
Beyond its picturesque facade, Telluride offers a plethora of outdoor activities. Embark on an exhilarating hike through the San Juan Mountains, see a cascading waterfall, or even backpack to one of Colorado’s tallest mountain peaks.
As the sun begins to set, treat yourself to a scenic gondola ride up to Mountain Village. Here, you can enjoy a delicious al fresco dinner while gazing at the sunset and magnificent peaks.
As you can see, there are SO many great options for a Colorado summer vacation! There are even more that could be added to this list. PLEASE don’t take the rankings too seriously! It really depends on your personal taste. Honestly, every time I look at this I want to rearrange it, again and again.
What are your favorite Colorado summer destinations? Are there any that didn’t make it on this list? Have you been to any that are? Tell me in the comments below!