Colorado is home to the Rocky Mountains, filled with some of the most breathtaking views in the United States. In the winter, people swarm to local mountain towns to hit the ski slopes and experience some of the best winter sports conditions in the world. Year-round, outdoors enthusiasts can hike into the mountains to trek the trails, bike, and discover the state’s exciting, rugged culture. If you are visiting Colorado, be sure to check out these top mountain towns.
Best Mountain Towns in Colorado Ranked
The small town of Gunnison has some of the best hiking and biking trails in the state. New to the town is a whitewater park on the Gunnison River – an amazing destination for rafters and kayakers. With Western Colorado University in the valley, there is always something fun happening in the area – whether it be shopping, art shows, or live music. It has a beautiful small-town feel with the exciting energy of a college town.
A College Town in the Mountains
Gunnison’s young residents bring life and excitement into the city. It is a town filled with adventurous people, because the residents have access to some of the best winter sports conditions in the Rockies. Many people who discover Gunnison never want to leave; it’s nestled in one of the most beautiful spots in the state and offers year-round activities and views. Discover the top 10 things to do in Gunnison.
Aspen is a famous winter destination, with world-class skiing and snowboarding. In the summer, Aspen turns into a music mecca – hosting the annual Aspen Music Festival. This beloved event brings the best classical musicians, classes and programs to one massive celebration. Aspen is one of the best mountain towns in Colorado; known for its for its historic past and night life, it even offers evening ghost tours to explore some of the area’s haunting attractions.
A Winter Sports Mecca
About four hours from Denver, Aspen is a secluded getaway from the busy cities during colder months. It is impossible to talk about Aspen without talking about its amazing winter sports mountains. With such great skiing, celebrities have visited this spot to hit the slopes and shop in the downtown business district for years. While lift tickets can get pricey in this area, those that visit for a day trip can experience one of the most famous mountain towns in Colorado.
Breckenridge is another Colorado mountain town known for its amazing ski slopes and fun shopping areas. This gorgeous town is also home to plenty of hikes – including more challenging fourteeners, which are hikes that reach an altitude of 14,000 feet. Beyond the ski lodges, the town of Breckenridge is fun for anyone, filled with shops, restaurants, and lots of fun.
A Lively Arts District
While Breckenridge is most popular for its slopes, it also is beloved for its funky art district. Those who are not winter sports fans have plenty to see and do with numerous art galleries and shops lining the downtown area. During popular seasons, art galleries are open until 8pm – and combined with the breweries, wineries and dining options in the town, it is a great spot for night life.
Keystone is a lesser-known mountain town where many Colorado locals travel in the winter for skiing and snowboarding. In the warmer months, visitors can try horseback riding, white water rafting, and gorgeous hiking. Keystone is a pure mountain town – built for people who want to get outdoors and experience Colorado.
Mountain Access without the Crowds
Keystone is one of the best mountain towns in Colorado because it has the amazing mountain sports, but with more accessible slopes and smaller crowds. Aspen and Breckenridge are often swarmed with people during peak months – but Keystone’s population remains manageable throughout the season. This mountain town is one of Colorado’s most beloved spots.
5. Crested Butte
Crested Butte is one of the best mountain towns in the Centennial State. Athletes can experience exhilarating rock climbing, hiking, biking, off-roading, and camping. Even non-hikers can trek up Mt. Crested Butte in the town’s free bus. In town, there are events throughout the year, like the Crested Butte Arts Festival, their annual film Festival, and Move the Butte dance festival. It’s an extremely pedestrian-friendly area, so visitors can shop and explore for hours.
The Best Mountain Biking in Colorado
Crested Butte is great for plenty of outdoor activities, but its mountain biking trails are some of the best in the world. It is a historic spot for the sport, and the home to the very first mountain biking club. It has valleys filled with wildflowers, and alpine trails that deliver challenging and scenically stunning cycling experiences – making it one of the best mountain towns in Colorado for biking.
Salida is one of Colorado’s most charming mountain towns. People can spend hours walking through the downtown filled with local businesses and awesome restaurants. It is is a must-see for those looking for a great afternoon by the mountains. With a short car ride, visitors have access to killer camping spots and hot springs. In the fall, the aspen trees turn bright yellow – making for some stunning nature walks.
A Small Town with Beautiful Mountain Views
From the center of town, visitors can see Tenderfoot Mountain, which is adorned with a large “S” (for Salida) on the side. This is a great spot for less experienced hikers to catch some gorgeous views at the outlook on top of the mountain. A bit further down the road, more experienced hikers can hop on the famous Colorado trail, where you might run into through-hikers, who hike camp on the trail for weeks to catch the beautiful views.
Known for their famous Leadville 100 ultramarathon in the mountain, Leadville is a wonderful Colorado destination. It is also a historic mining town and the center of the wild west. Besides the amazing outdoor activities, there are numerous museums, tours, and antiquing opportunities.
The Historic Wild West
Stepping into the downtown of Leadville feels a bit like stepping into the streets of an old-fashion western movie. Historic buildings line the main streets and makes visitors feel like they’ve gone back in time. Leadville was originally one of the most famous silver and gold mining towns — so it has several museums and galleries dedicated to preserving its history. The town is also known for being home to the unsinkable Molly Brown, famous for being on the Titanic.
8. Estes Park
Estes Park is one of the best mountain towns in Colorado because it is home to some of the most beautiful views in the state. Besides its location right in Rocky Mountain National Park, the town has opportunities for shopping, delicious dining and historic tourism. Horror fans can even visit the Stanley Hotel, the famous building in the movie “The Shining”.
Gorgeous National Park Access
Estes Park has Rocky Mountain National Park in its back yard. In the fall, visitors head to the area in droves to catch a glimpse of the aspen trees. Those that arrive early in the day during the season can also stop and listen to the elks calling to each other. Some visitors may even see a moose in some of the less-populated areas in the park.
Get your Degree in a Mountain Town
Interested in getting a degree in one of the best mountain towns in Colorado? Western Colorado University is located in Gunnison, one of the best spots in Colorado for outdoor adventurers. Incoming athletes can participate in Western’s Rocky Mountain sports teams or hike in gorgeous national forests and mountains — all while getting an amazing education.
Learn more about Western, and attending college in Gunnison, Colorado today.