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Sliced through by the majestic Rocky Mountains, blanketed by the seemingly endless Great Plains, and dotted with otherworldly canyons and rock formations, Colorado’s main draw is its unparalleled landscape. An enormous playground, this state is home to four national parks, surging whitewater rivers, and 26 scenic byways.
In the summer months, adventurers trek across hiking paths, launch whitewater rafting trips, and go bouldering and mountain biking in the steep terrain. When winter rolls around and the mountains are transformed into sugary slopes, skiers and snowboarders whoosh around the countryside on world-class runs. The wilderness may be what calls you here, but Colorado’s cities and towns are enthralling, too. Choose from the cultural hubs of Denver and Boulder, the ritzy après-ski scenes of Vail and Aspen, or the frontier charm of mountain outposts Durango and Breckinridge. Wherever you go, you’ll never be far from jaw-dropping scenery, outdoor fun, and delicious food.
Denver International Airport (DEN) is Colorado’s major transportation hub, with several smaller airports serving other parts of the state. If you fly in here, make sure to look up the kooky conspiracy theories swirling around the airport, especially the giant blue horse statue. There are many ways to explore the state of Colorado, scenic road trips being one of the best. Amtrak’s California Zephyr train — which offers sleeping accommodations, dining, and bar options — presents an opportunity to see the Colorado landscape in a unique way, and makes six stops between Grand Junction and Fort Morgan, including Denver. Intercity Bustang coaches connect several popular destinations such as Denver, Durango, and Grand Junction. You can buy tickets online or pay exact fare when boarding.
Planning when to visit Colorado may come down to optimizing for the activities you’re most interested in doing. Winter of course is all about snow sports, summer and fall are ideal times for hiking, and spring is whitewater rafting season, as the rivers swell with snowmelt. Rest assured, this state looks absurdly pretty in all seasons. Colorado experiences 300 days of sunshine a year, but thanks to its high elevation, weather is typically mild. Still, there are some scorchingly hot days, and temperatures do drop below freezing, so plan ahead and pack accordingly.
Visit the state’s natural celebrities, the Rocky Mountains. Located in the northernmost part of the state, about an hour and a half from Denver, this national park also boasts misty waterfalls, bighorn sheep, glaciers, and alpine tundra.
Colorado is a skiers’ paradise, with a scene to suit every taste. Swish down the mountains with glamorous snow bunnies in Vail and Aspen, or opt for a Western vibe in the more low-key outposts of Telluride and Breckinridge. Wherever you are, there are typically outfitters on hand who will rent you everything you need for a day on the slopes.
Colorado offers several choice opportunities to explore ancient history amid beautiful natural settings. At Dinosaur National Monument (located in the wonderfully named town of Dinosaur) you can see magnificent fossils embedded in a landscape of painterly red canyons and roaring rivers. At Mesa Verde National Park you can explore incredible cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Pueblo people for hundreds of years until the 14th century.