This article of the World Landmarks series explores the most famous landmarks in Colorado. From the majestic Pikes peak and the beautiful Lakes to the historic town of Durango, Colorado is full of natural wonders and impressive human-made landmarks. As usual in these posts, we invited a few fellow bloggers to share some of their favorite Colorado landmarks.
From rocky mountains to the Colorado river and old wild west towns, there are many things Colorado is famous for. Still, the landmarks in Colorado are magnificent and contribute significantly to Colorado’s reputation as one of the best outdoor destinations in the world. If you love outdoor travel, visiting Colorado is a no-brainer!
So, without further ados, let’s explore some of the most famous landmarks in Colorado.
Famous Natural Landmarks in Colorado
Vicky of Buddy The Traveling Monkey
One of the best Colorado landmarks is Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado. Getting there is easy, as it’s only about a 25-minute drive from Downtown Denver. There is a Visitor Center, which also includes a Discovery Center. The center has exhibits, a simulated dig site, snacks, and a gift shop.
The best part of Dinosaur Ridge is outside, though. Visitors have the option of taking a paid 45-minute shuttle tour or doing a free self-guided tour. If you take the self-guided tour, there are over 15 detailed signs along the ridge, so you’ll always know what you’re looking at.
Learning about the geology of the area is fascinating as well. The bone quarry has fossils that are most likely from stegosaurus and apatosaurus, and it’s interesting to find out how they got there. You can also see over 300 footprints left by various dinosaurs and one crocodile.
Fun fact: The first Stegosaurus discovery in the world was at Dinosaur Ridge!
Dinosaur Ridge is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM from May through October and from 9 AM to 4 PM from November 1 through May 1.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
By Sophie and Adam from We Dream of Travel
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the latest national parks in the US, upgraded from a national monument in 1999. With only 12 miles in length, it may not be the most famous landmark in Colorado, but it makes up for it with one-of-a-kind views of one of the sheerest, deepest, and narrowest canyons in the US.
In fact, the canyon walls are so steep that some parts receive only 33 minutes of sunlight per day, hence the name Black Canyon. Within the Narrows, the width of the canyon reduces to just 40 feet.
For those wishing to visit, it is worth noting that the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is divided into two distinct regions: the North Rim and the South Rim. These sections are separated by the mighty Gunnison River Below, with no bridges available. Therefore, despite being only a stone’s throw away, those wishing to visit both will need to drive 77 miles to get from one entrance to the other.
At both rims, several scenic viewpoints can be found just a short walk from the road. For the truly adventurous, it is possible to hike to the canyon’s bottom from both rims via one of several drop points. However, a permit is required as it can be a dangerous hike as there is no official trail, and it is almost an entirely vertical journey via unstable ground.
Riffle falls are located in the Rifle falls state park, about 185 miles away from Denver which should take roughly 3 hours driving. As they are situated about 50 yards from the parking lot and the trail is relatively flat the Rifle falls are some of the most accessible waterfalls you’ll find.
With 80-foot high, the riffle falls are the highest triple falls in Colorado, and one of the most famous natural landmarks in Colorado. The scenery is unique, with 3 distinct falls spaying the water and creating mist over the rocks, bush, and trees. The caves hidden along the waterfalls make everything even more spectacular.
The hike from the park to the falls is paved and handicap-accessible. On other hand, the trail to the top of waterfalls is steep and rocky, and clearly not possible for handicaps. Yet, it’s not too long (1-mile round trip) and you don’t need to be fit to hike it. This trail also takes you to a rock ledge behind the falls offering an enchanting, misty scene.
Rifle Falls State Park is also a great place for a picnic and camping as it has a grassy year, restroom, and potable water. It is one of the most popular state parks in Colorado and a perfect year-round destination.
By Meg of Fox in the Forest
Nestled in Glenwood Canyon, the Hanging Lake hike is a true Colorado classic and a trail that should be on everyone’s bucket list. What makes it so special is its unique geological formation, with unique flora and mineral-rich water cascading down to create a stunning scenery of crystal clear water tinted by shades of teal and blue. Simply put, the entire region looks as though it came straight out of a fairytale and is hands down at the top of the list of the most scenic places in Colorado for all the right reasons.
The Hanging Lake hike is so popular thanks to its smooth access right off Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, which makes it a super easy stop on a road trip or a quick day trip from Denver. If you are coming from Denver, you will need to exit 121 on 120 on the I-70 (also known as the Hanging Lake Rest Stop) and get off the highway before heading eastbound. Next, exit on the Hanging Lake exit to reach the trailhead.
Colorado National Monument
By Ashlee Fechino of The Happiness Function
Located between Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado, minutes from I-70, The Colorado National Monument was established in 1911 due to John Otto’s advocacy and the Antiquities Act, passed during President Taft’s administration.
The Colorado National Monument is about 250 miles from Denver and roughly 100 miles from Moab, making it the perfect stop when exploring Colorado or even Utah’s famous National Parks.
The annual America the Beautiful National Park Pass is accepted to enter the Colorado National Monument.
This National Park Service site is known for its world-class 23-mile scenic drive. Rim Rock Drive tours visitors through breathtaking red rocks and towering monuments with options to explore 19 viewpoints. Independence Monument is one of the famous monoliths visitors flock to photograph. The Colorado National Monument is also home to 14 different hiking trails and is popular for road cyclists.
It is easy to spend a day at the Colorado National Monument, hiking the trails and touring the park along the scenic drive. The Monument Loop Trail takes hikers right next to Independence Monument! The best time of year to visit is during late spring and early summer to see the cactus in full bloom! Be sure to bring a camera to capture incredible views at this famous Colorado landmark.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
By Agnes from The Van Escape
Great Sand Dunes National Park is worth visiting because it is home to the highest dunes in North America. The highest dunes reach up to 750 feet (230 m) tall. The dunes cover an area of about 30 sq mi (78 km2). The park was established in 2004.
Located in the southern part of Colorado, the park is approximately 235 miles south of Denver and around 170 miles east of Durango. The best place to stay for the night is in Alamosa, where there is a wide choice of hotels for all budgets. From Alamosa, it is only about 35 miles to the park. Inside the park, you can stay at the campground.
In addition to the impressive dunes, the park is also home to a variety of fauna. There are such animals as the bison, puma, antelope, marmot, white-tailed eagle, golden eagle, and peregrine falcon.
The National Park offers a wide variety of activities. It is a great place to relax with children. You can wander the dunes and explore the area. But the most popular entertainment in the park loved by both kids and adults is sandboarding and sand sledding, and splashing in Medano Creek. The park also has free Ranger Programs, the most interesting of which is the night stargazing. Moreover, experienced drivers with 4×4 off-road cars can go on an extreme ride through Medano Pass Primitive Road.
Necessary to know, especially if you plan your visit in the summer months, that you should protect yourself against sunburn. A head covering, sunglasses, light clothes with long sleeves are a must. And it would help if you also cover your feet. The sand is so hot that it can hurt them. It is also worth taking a larger supply of water for a dune hike.
Garden of the Gods
By Daria from The Discovery Nut
The towering red rock formations of Garden of the Gods create a memorable backdrop for hiking at one of Colorado’s most scenic landmarks.
The well-maintained trails and paved paths that wind through the park makes this a family-and beginner-friendly destination. While the park is popular enough that you won’t have the tracks to yourself, there are miles of trails to explore, so you can pick and choose your route to either escape the crowds or follow the well-used paths to the popular viewpoints.
Access to the park is free, but finding parking can be challenging, so consider arriving early or taking the complimentary shuttle. Don’t forget to bring your camera! For a bonus, time your hike to catch the sunrise or sunset.
The Garden of the Gods Inner Loop starts on the Perkins Central Garden Trail, a paved lollipop loop that is wheelchair- and stroller-accessible. This short loop packs a scenic punch as it passes some of the most significant rock formations in the park. On the west side, you will spot the famous Kissing Camels, and to the east, White Rock.
You can branch onto the Sleeping Giant Trail near the southern end of the loop, a short loop off the main paved path leading to the Sleeping Giant rock formation base.
By Michelle Moyer from Moyer Memoirs
Pikes Peak is near Colorado Springs, practically in the very center of Colorado and a little over a 1-hour drive south of Denver. This beautiful Colorado landmark is one of the few 14,000-feet mountains that visitors can drive to the top of to reach the summit.
The drive up Pikes Peak is along Pikes Peak Highway, a 19-mile winding road that will take a total of about 3 hours to travel round-trip. The highway is open year-round for driving access to the summit on a guided tour or a DIY tour in all seasons.
Another way to reach the summit includes the new cog railway, initially built in 1891 and recently remodeled in conjunction with a new summit visitor’s center. Adventurous travelers can also reach the summit by hiking or biking.
Pikes Peak is famous for its many sightings of the famous Big Foot! Hikers along the trails and tourists of all ages have claimed they have spotted the creature, but no one has been able to get that crystal clear photo as the ultimate proof.
In addition to being named “America’s Mountain” for its majestic views and inspiration for the “America the Beautiful” song, Pikes Peak is the route for the famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb or Race to the Clouds. This 12.4-mile race up the mountain is an invitational auto race held annually in June for racers from around the world. Spectators marvel as the cars whip around the 156 switchbacks to quickly reach the summit.
Ridgway Scenic Overlook
By James from Wanderus Living
An often overlooked yet incredible landmark in Colorado is the scenic overlook of the Sneffels Mountain Range. Arguably the most beautiful and picturesque view in all of Colorado, and located only 10 minutes from Ridgway, Colorado. One of the most unique things about this location is that there is no official name.
It is located on Highway 62 West of Ridgway, at 323 CO-62, Ridgway, CO 81432. The best time to visit is in early October when the trees are a crisp orange, yellow and red. The tops of the 14,000-foot mountains have just seen their first snowfall, which makes the entire landscape come alive.
The Sneffels Mountain Range spans from Ouray to Telluride, with the tallest peak standing at 14,158 feet. The view is truly incredible as it is a part of the San Juan Skyway.
While in the area, consider checking out Ouray, as there are some incredible hikes and hot springs in the area. Ouray has such a relaxed downtown environment as the town is set right at the base of large mountains on all sides.
By Trijit Mallick from Budget Travel Buff
Located just 64 miles northwest of Denver on the edge of Estes Park, this stunning mountain lake is a perfect weekend trip destination from Denver. Estes Lake is spread across 185 acres and was created by the Olympus Dam. The lake has 4 miles of shoreline where you can enjoy a picnic, fishing, paddle boarding, or kayaking.
Estes Park is the gateway to the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park. It features a picturesque lake trail, and circular paved path and offers varieties of outdoor activities to enjoy with your family and friends. You can find Lake Estes as soon as you drive into Estes Park, and signs will guide you to the main area. The lake is the most appealing attraction of Estes Park. When you are done with trails, come to Lake Estes Marina. You can rent canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, fishing boats, and pontoon boats from here. On the lake, you can discover surrounding mountains and landscapes from a different angle. Simply relax on the boat, enjoy a small picnic and explore the inlets at your own pace.
Estes Lake is an excellent place for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. You can spot various native and migratory birds such as Mergansers, American Dippers, Goldeneyes, Warblers, Violet-green Swallows, and many more. Keep your eyes open, and you may be able to spot elk, mule deer, and the occasional moose.
Please Note: Swimming is not allowed in Lake Estes. Paid parking is available near the lake.
By Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages
Located in Rocky Mountain National Park right near Estes Park, Emerald Lake is one of the top Colorado landmarks that nobody should miss out on when visiting the state. It’s famously known for being a beautiful teal/emerald color in the summer and a winter wonderland location in winter.
To get there, you have to hike along the Emerald Lake Trail, which is about 3.2 miles long. There is a slight elevation gain of 700 feet, but a lot of the elevation is right at the beginning and end of the trail, making it moderate compared to other trails in the national park.
Along the trail to Emerald Lake, you’ll also pass a few other notable landmarks in Rocky Mountain National Park, including Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, and Dream Lake. There genuinely are exceptional views the entire way, making it one of the most popular trails to hike in the park.
Should you be hiking in winter, bring spikes for your hiking boots and poles. This trail, in particular, is known for getting quite icy the second snow reaches the park, and you’ll want to be prepared. The trail is also a lot less busy in winter!
Famous landmarks in Colorado – Man-made
By Talek Nantes from Travels with Talek
Durango is a cute, southwestern Colorado town that has it all. In fact, it could be considered the southwestern Colorado town per excellence. The town prides itself on its Old West history and strives to showcase that history to its many visitors.
One of its best attractions is the vintage Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, connecting the two towns. The train was completed in 1882, around the time Durango was founded. The train ride has been voted best scenic train ride and is a National Historic Landmark.
The train chugs along between the two western Colorado towns crossing the majestic San Juan Forest. The views from the train’s windows are breathtaking, and the accompanying historical narrative adds to the enjoyment.
While in Durango, an ideal place to stay is the historic Statler Hotel. The hotel entices guests with the tagline, “Admit it; you’ve always wanted to spend the night in a museum.” Built in 1887, the Statler Hotel has been welcoming guests since its inception. The décor is pure Old West. The hotel’s saloon is wildly entertaining. The staff is dressed in period costume right down to the chorus girls’ fishnet stockings and feathered headdress. Staying at the Statler Hotel in Durango is more than a night’s stay; it is an experience.
The Stanley Hotel
By Michelle from That Texas Couple
The iconic Stanley Hotel looks as if it is standing watch over the small mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado. This grand hotel has welcomed visitors since 1909 and is given credit for putting the small town of Estes Park on the map. For you see, the Stanley Hotel brought the glamour of the east coast into this part of Colorado.
The Stanley Hotel fell into disarray in the 1970s, until the famous author Stephen King spent one night in the hotel and was inspired to write his book The Shining. The television mini-series about this novel featured the Stanley Hotel and helped restore it to its former glory.
Located just an hour outside Denver, getting to the Stanley Hotel is relatively easy, thanks to Denver International Airport. One of the best things to do in Estes Park is to visit this Colorado landmark. You can stay there during your time in Estes Park, or you can take one of the hotel’s guided tours. The Stanley Hotel offers a guided historical tour and a spirited night tour. Of course, the spirited night tour is often the most popular, thanks to the hotel’s paranormal activity.
By Katie and Ben from Two Wandering Soles
If you’re a live music fan who’s ever thought about visiting Colorado, chances are you’ve heard of Red Rocks Amphitheater. Located in Morrison, Colorado, just 10 miles southwest of Denver, this massive open-air theater is built into the rock structure, creating a striking visual effect and optimal acoustics.
It is said that the natural amphitheater took over 200 million years to form. Once Denver acquired the property in the 1920s, the space was built out to what it is today. A large outcropping of rock stands up behind the stage, while massive rocks angle outwards and upwards from stage-right and stage-left.
With a capacity for over 9,500 concert-goers, this venue is quite possibly one of the most famous outdoor music venues in the country and certainly considered one of the best things to do in Denver. Trust us — it’s an experience you won’t want to miss!
The venue has hosted performances by various notable artists, from world-renowned Opera singers to The Beatles. But that is not the only reason to head to Red Rocks. There are plenty of other events like Yoga on the Rocks and Movies on the Rocks that happen regularly during the summertime. Not to mention the daily crowds of workout enthusiasts, hikers, and tourists who take advantage of the empty arena, which is open to the public during the day.
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde
James Ian from Parks Collecting
Cliff Palace is the largest and most famous cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park. More than 700 years ago, the Ancestral Puebloan people built their homes, storage rooms, and ceremonial sites in alcoves that naturally exist in the cliffs. They farmed on top of the mesas and then climbed down into their homes using hands and footholds they carved into the sheer cliff face.
Cliff Palace is not a palace but was called that because of its size. There are 150 rooms and 23 kivas, circular ceremonial rooms, that housed about 100 people at its busiest time. The site was abandoned around CE1300. No one is quite sure why. It was ‘rediscovered’ in the 1880s.
The site has been partially restored. It can be visited in season on a guided ranger-led tour. You will need moderate mobility, as you will need to climb down and upstairs to get there, though it is more accessible than most of the dwellings in the national park.
Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its large concentration of well-preserved cliff dwellings. The park is in the southwest corner of Colorado. You will need to drive to get there. The nearest big town is Durango, though Cortez and Mancos are even closer.
Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings
By Melissa from Navigation Junkie
A short distance outside downtown Manitou Springs and only 10 minutes outside Colorado Springs, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings are authentic, reconstructed Taos Pueblo Indian dwellings carved out between 800-1,000 years ago. The dwellings once sat in McElmo Canyon in Southwestern Colorado. Still, they were relocated in the early 1900’s to preserve the dwellings and give people the opportunity to see and learn about the history of this group of people.
Today, when visiting the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, you are free to wander the grounds and walk through the dwellings. You will find plaques throughout the dwellings that tell you about the structures, what you are looking at, and the history of the Taos Pueblo Indians that lived in them. One of the best parts about the Manitou Cliff Dwellings is that it is interactive, and you are free to touch them, climb up/through them, and even find a reconstructed balcony and ladder to climb up into the dwellings.
Next to the dwellings, you will find a replica of a Pueblo that contains a museum about the way of life of the Taos Pueblo Indians and replicas of pottery, weapons, and tools. You can also find a gift shop within the building and a small café next door for some snacks.
The best way to reach the Manitou Cliff Dwellings is by car. The entrance to the dwellings is off US Highway 24 and easily accessible if staying in nearby Colorado Springs.
Tread of the Pioneers Museum
By Eileen P. Gunn from FamiliesGo!
Steamboat Springs is a great ski town, in part because there is a good choice of fun things to do off the ski slope, too. The Tread of the Pioneers Museum is one block off of the town’s main commercial street, Lincoln Ave.
The museum building is historic in itself, a gingerbready 1901 Victorian house with a wrap-around porch. Some of the rooms are furnished to show how pioneer families who had prospered lived at the turn of the 20th century. Other rooms explore local history with permanent and rotating exhibits. One permanent exhibition explores the evolution of skiing in Steamboat from a source of local fun to big business. Other offer details and insights into the life of 19th-century settlers. It includes Native American artifacts, a chuck wagon, and a plethora of antique guns.
A highlight of the visit is the product case for a traveling sweets salesman, with several of his hard candies and lollypops still there! Rotating exhibits might include the works of featured photographers or in-depth looks at women, local tribes, and how historical events like the world wars impacted the area. One exhibit looks at how the local hot springs have been used for commerce, tourism, health, and more through the decades. On days when the weather works against you for skiing, hiking, and other outdoor pursuits, this hidden gem is a surprisingly engaging place to spend an afternoon.
By Nikki from She Saves She Travels
If you are looking for the most famous Colorado landmarks to visit, then the Breckenridge Troll must be on your list! It’s a fun piece of artwork near downtown Breckenridge. The area is known as a ski town and summer hiking and adventure destination. Yet, there’s a troll lurking in the woods near downtown!
The Breckenridge Troll – named Isak Heartstone – by the world-famous artist Thomas Dambo is a free attraction. The artist creates trolls from scrap wood to promote the value of recycling. Once located near a neighborhood, it became such a massive attraction in Colorado that it had to be relocated to its current spot.
To get to the Breckenridge Troll, you can walk from downtown (about a mile). Although an easier way is to take the free shuttle from downtown Breckenridge. Parking is limited at the trailhead, and it is recommended to start from downtown. Once you arrive at the trailhead, it’s a simple 0.25-mile walk to see the troll.
The Breckenridge Troll is one of the more interesting things to see in Colorado and is a fun stop as a part of a more extensive Colorado trip or part of a vacation in Breckenridge.
Four Corners Monument
The four corners monument marks the point where four USA states, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, meet. This is the only quadripoint (point on Earth where four distinct territories meet) in the USA.
The monument attracts thousands of tourists each year, who want to visit this geographic landmark, and if possible, be in the four states at the same time.
The monument consists of a round bronze disc with the demarkations of the four states, and cycling the disc, you can read “here meet in freedom under God four states.” Surrounding the monument is the four corners monument, you will find the flags of Arizona, the Navajo Nation, Utah, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation, Colorado, New Mexico, Navajo Nation (third instance), and the flag of the United States.
Controversially the monument doesn’t actually mark the exact locations where the four states meet; the exact point is 1800 feet east of where the Four Corners marker had initially been intended to be located by the US Congress in 1863.
Royal Gorge Bridge
By Corritta Lewis from It’s a Family Thing
The Royal Gorge Bridge is every adventure seeker’s dream. Only a short hour and a half drive from Colorado Springs, the Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in America. The easiest way to get there is driving, so it’s the perfect day trip, or make it a fun staycation if you call Colorado home.
The gorge was a creation of mother nature over millions of years. In 1929 the Royal Gorge Bridge was completed in just seven months. This phenomenal piece of architecture withstood the test of time until 2013 when a wildfire ravaged the bridge and the park along with it.
With over 1200 planks and 4100 cables suspended 950 feet above the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge Bridge has to be on your itinerary on your next trip to Colorado.
There is more to this place than just a bridge. There is the cloud scraper zip line if you are up to it, which is a staggering 1200 feet from the Arkansas River. There is the via Ferrata, which is a guided climbing tour with an experienced climber to enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of the Royal Gorge. For a more relaxing view, you can take the ariel gondola 2,200 feet across the Royal Gorge and catch some of the most breathtaking views.
If you are a nature lover, you have to add the Royal Gorge Bridge to your plans. Plus, there is a train that goes through the Gorge so that you can spend one day in the sky and the other on the ground.
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