Full of beauty and wonder, from the Rocky Mountains to the small towns and villages, the ski resorts, and hiking trails, it is no surprise that the Centennial state is a popular vacation destination. However, there are some pretty amazing underrated places in Colorado that often get overlooked. These places offer stunning views, remarkable adventures, and plenty of opportunities to connect with nature while providing visitors a chance to experience all that Colorado has to offer.
The picturesque town of Ouray is located in Southwest Colorado and is often overshadowed by more popular vacation spots closer to Denver.
The town is nestled in the San Juan Mountains and surrounded by towering peaks and pristine forests. Ouray is home to Box Canyon Falls, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area. The waterfall is located in a narrow canyon that the Uncompahgre River carved out.
“Noted as the Switzerland of America, Ouray is surrounded by massive peaks begging to be explored. This area has everything from hiking, biking, climbing, and motorsports. Stop into Ouray Mountain Sports for help getting into the surrounding Rockies. Or if you want a more laid-back vacation, try the local hot springs,” says Steve from Maps Over Coffee .
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Just an hour’s drive from Ouray is The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park that has a canyon that stretches for miles, with steep walls and deep gorges. It doesn’t get as much attention as other national parks in the state, but it is worth making a day trip there from Ouray to experience the narrow, spectacular landscape.
“It’s the least-visited of Colorado’s four national parks, partly because it’s a bit out of the way from Denver and other major cities. That means you can visit the strikingly beautiful canyon – complete with the emerald green Gunnison River flowing through – and have the place almost completely to yourself,” comments Mitch Glass from Project Untethered .
“When visiting, you have to choose between the North and the South Rim. The South Rim is more accessible with paved roads and more viewpoints overall, while the North Rim is more rustic with better views into the narrow section of the canyon. Whichever side you choose, the view will take your breath away,” continues Glass.
Another underrated spot in Colorado is the town of Glenwood Springs. The small town is located about two hours from Denver and sits on the banks of the Roaring Fork River. Glenwood Springs is known for its natural hot springs, a popular destination for visitors.
“Glenwood Springs, CO has so many great places to visit within it. A few of the most popular are the two different hot springs pools and the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. The adventure park is actually on top of a mountain where you take a gondola up, and at the top, they have a small amusement park and cave tours you can take inside the mountain,” shares Kayla from Motivation from Mom .
Nearby is Hanging Lake, a popular hike that leads you to a gorgeous lake. It can be a challenging hike for some, and it can get jam-packed, but it’s a must-see for sure as a day trip from Glenwood Springs.
Also nearby is Rifle Falls State Park. This state park is a little hard to find, but it’s a gem. It has an easy hike and huge waterfalls that you don’t want to miss. If you want your own hot springs pools, head to Avalanche Ranch for the ultimate getaway location.
Fort Collins, located in Northern Colorado, is often overlooked by Denver, only an hour away but has a lot to offer visitors. The city is home to Colorado State University and has a vibrant college town atmosphere. There are also many breweries and restaurants in the area.
“This gorgeous town is nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and is a quaintly beautiful place filled with nightlife, museums, world-class hiking, and some of the best beer and food you’ll find anywhere,” comments Hail Groo from Groo Media .
“It’s large enough to have all the comforts of a midsized city but small enough to have a quaint vibe and feel still. In Fort Collins, you can hike the best trails on the Front Range, see an original Picasso piece, and drink some of the best beer in the world, all in the same day,” continues Groo.
A drive around Horsetooth Reservoir is a must while visiting Fort Collins. The lovely Lake runs for several kilometers and provides breathtaking vistas and numerous activities.
Rocky Mountain National Park is just an hour’s drive from Fort Collins, so be sure to include a day trip to this spectacular National Park when you visit.
Buena Vista is a small town located in the heart of Colorado. The town is situated in a valley and surrounded by mountains. The Arkansas River runs through the town and provides rafting, fishing, and kayaking opportunities.
The area is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who flock to the rivers and lakes searching for white water rapids, trout streams, mountain biking trails, and more.
“Buena Vista is a year-round, outdoor recreation mecca. If you visit in the summer, be sure to drive up to the top of Cottonwood Pass to take in the views or go for a hike before soaking in the hot springs. Downtown Buena Vista might be small, but it’s packed with uniquely amazing restaurants and shops,” comments Mallory Moskowitz from Your Adventure Coach .
“The Whitewater Park is just off the main street and is perfect for watching the whitewater rafters and kayakers and is the start of a great trail system for hikers or mountain bikers. Plus, the trails near town stay dry and clear almost all year,” continues Moskowitz.
Canon City is a hidden gem located in Fremont County. This small town is home to some of the best rafting and kayaking in Colorado, as well as world-renowned zipline tours.
Caitlin Dismore with Twin Family Travels offers, “Canon City is a wonderful small town with things to do for all ages. The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park are nearby, along with a dinosaur experience. There are scenic drives, hiking trails, and whitewater rafting. Get outdoors and explore everything that this little town has to offer without the large crowds of the bigger cities.”
Canon City is home to The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, the United State’s highest suspension bridge where you can walk, bike, or ride the gondola. The park also has amusement rides, a petting zoo, and train rides.
Colorado is a beautiful state with plenty to offer visitors. These underrated places are just a taste of all that Colorado offers, so if you’re looking for a fantastic adventure, put these destinations on your travel list.