What is Colorado Famous for

The Rockies, ski resorts, and legalizing marijuana are a few things we instantly associate with Colorado, but besides these, what is Colorado famous for?

Landlocked between Wyoming (north), Nebraska (northeast), Kansas (east), Oklahoma (southeast), New Mexico (south), Utah (west), and touching Arizona (in the four corners), Colorado is a rather big (8th) and high income (11th) state. It is also a popular tourist destination due to its marvelous scenery and famous landmarks.

Nicknamed the centennial state because it became a state 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Colorado was the 38th state to enter the union. Mountains and high altitudes characterize it and contribute profoundly to its popularity as a tourist destination and high living standard.

But for now, let’s analyze what is Colorado famous for!

10 Things Colorado is famous for

Colorado River

What is Colorado famous for? The river that lends the name to the state needs to be mentioned. Colorado River is one of the most important rivers in North America and the most important in the Southwestern USA and Mexico.

With 1,450 miles (2,330 km), the Colorado River drains an extensive, arid watershed that includes seven US states and Mexico. It crosses Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, and two Mexican states (Baja California and Sonora). It is the 5th longest river in North America, including the two biggest reservoirs in the US (Lake Mead and Lake Powell). It is a vital source of water for 40 million people.

Colorado is known for its dramatic canyons, whitewater rapids, and crossing eleven US National Parks. Many of these famous locations aren’t in Colorado, but the river begins in Colorado at La Poudre Pass in the Southern Rocky Mountains at 10,184 ft (3,104 m) above sea level.

Fun fact: The name “Colorado” comes from the reddish color caused by its natural sediment loads. In Spanish, colorado means colorful or reddish.

What Is Colorado Famous For
Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Arizona – What is Colorado famous for | photo by sprokop via Depositphotos

Rocky Mountains

Besides giving birth to the Colorado River, the rocky mountains are State’s defining geographic feature. However, only a small part of the Rockies are in Colorado as they stretch from Alaska to New Mexico, crossing several states and Canada.

The Rockies comprise the highest peaks in central North America. Yet, out of the 100 highest, 78 (including the 30 highest) are in Colorado. Mount Elbert, situated at 4,401 meters (14,440 ft) above sea level, is the highest point in Colorado and the second highest in the 48 lower states.

While the highest mountains in the US are concentrated in Alaska, Colorado is famous for having a considerable number of peaks above 14 000 ft. There are usually called the fourteeners or 14ers, and Colorado has 58 of them, more than any other state. As said above, Mt Elbert is the highest, but Pikes Peak is possibly the most popular.

Famous things in Colorado
Things Colorado is famous for – Pikes Peak | photo by rondakimbrow from Depositphotos

Outdoor activities and landscapes

Colorado is a well-known touristic destination for outdoor and adventure travel, particularly hiking, camping, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing, kayaking, rafting… The variety of activities and the quality of the options are incredible.

The Rockies are the most famous natural sights, wildlife, lakes, waterfalls, and mountain towns like Estes Park. However, the state is widely diverse settings, from the expected snow-capped mountains and pristine lakes to sand dunes, canyons, and plateaus.

All four national parks in Colorado are very popular and attract thousands of visitors:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park – renowned for the lakes with clear water and cascades;
  • Mesa Verde National Park – known for the cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo;
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve – famous for the huge Sand dunes;
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – popular because of the distinctive marbled cliffs;
Things Colorado is famous for
Garden of the Gods Park – Colorado National Natural Landmark | photo from Get Your Guide

Vail, Aspen, and Ski resorts

As mentioned, skiing is one of the favorite activities in the State of Colorado. Furthermore, Colorado has some of the most popular ski resorts and ski towns in the US, making it one of the best winter destinations in the world.

Aspen and Vail are probably the two most famous ski towns in America, both in Colorado. Vail has even been called the King of American ski resorts because of its 200 trails covering more than 5000 acres. However, they are far from being the only ones. Breckenridge, Telluride, Steamboat Springs, and Keystone are also very popular and iconic.

These ski towns offer more than skiing, snowboarding, cross-country, and gorgeous views. They have spas, great bars and restaurants, luxury shopping options, and beautiful hotels. Furthermore, the ski season in Colorado is notoriously longer than elsewhere, extending from October to April.

If you are looking for a fantastic winter escapade, Colorado’s ski towns are the right choice.

Maroon Bell Aspen Famous things in Colorado What is Colorado Famous for
Maroon Bells near Aspen – Famous things Colorado is famous for | photo by twildlife via Depositphotos

Cannabis legalization

In recent years Colorado became famous for being the first state to legalize marijuana for personal and recreational use (together with Washington State). Voters amended the state constitution, establishing a framework to regulate cannabis similarly to alcohol.

The first marijuana shops in Colorado (and consequently in the US) opened on January 1, 2014. The state had to issue legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of recreational marijuana and industrial hemp during the same year.

In 2016, the cannabis industry was already 1.3 billion USD, generating millions of dollars in tax revenues. Cannabis tourism has also become a fundamental part of tourism in Colorado, attracting millions of visitors. Later, more states legalized cannabis, but Colorado was the first to open this door.

In 2000, Colorado had already allowed the medical use of marijuana and currently has listed several medical conditions for which marijuana can be used.

The Mile High City

Denver is the capital and the most populous city in Colorado. Located in the high plains close to the state’s geographic center. It is at an altitude of 5 280 feet above sea level, this is exactly one mile and gave Denver the famous nickname of the Mile-High City.

This is more of a statistical curiosity than anything else. Denver is not the highest city in the US; that’s Leadville (also in Colorado) at 10,151 ft (3,094 m). It is not the highest state capital; that’s Santa Fe (New Mexico) at 7,199 ft (2,194 m). Finally, it’s not even the biggest big city; that’s Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is only a few meters higher than Denver.

The 13th step of the Colorado Capitol building is usually the benchmark of the city’s altitude, as it’s exactly 5280 feet above sea level. Curiously, it has become a Colorado Landmark, and travelers actually go there to take a picture. It has a sign and all…

Though we need to state the obvious: the city is not all one mile high. The elevation of Denver varies from 5,130 to 5,690 feet (1,560 to 1,730 m).

Well known things in Colorado
The City of Denver – What is Colorado known for | photo by TeriVirbickis via Depositphotos

Columbine massacre

Not everything on this list is positive and pleasant. Colorado also has a few negative things, and the most famous is the massacre that occurred in Columbine High School.

Occurred on April 20, 1999, the Columbine High School massacre is one of the most famous school shootings and attempted bombings that ever happened. Twelve students and one teacher died, and many others were injured.

At that time, it was the deadliest high school shooting in US history and later influenced several copycats. Some of them would become even deadlier.

Based on these events, the documentary Bowling for Columbine (2002) became an acclaimed film and critical and commercial success. Columbine is a city in central Colorado, but later it became a euphemism for school shootings.

Old wild west

Mining towns, rowdy saloons, outlaws, pistol duels… Colorado had all of this and much more during the 1800s, during the gold rush that attracted prospectors, miners, and pioneers. They all flooded the state, wanted to make their fortunes, and many towns were born.

This gold rush was not unique to Colorado, but some of the most important and well-known typical old west towns are in Colorado.

When the gold fever started to subside, some towns disappeared, and others turned to tourism and still exist today. Furthermore, with some presentation efforts, some of these Colorado’s old west towns offer a peek into the past that’s not possible anywhere else.

Silverton, Durango, and Leadville are probably the most famous and visited towns today, but there are many other typical small old-west towns like Central City. Creeple Creek, Creede, Ouray, Golden, and Pitkin. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is possibly the most famous landmark of this era. Plus, Durango is one of the best cheap summer destinations in US.

Famous old wild west towns in Colorado | What is Colorado known for
Old wild west – The town of Silverton is one of the most famous in Colorado. | photo by eunikas via Depositphotos

Sports Teams

At traveldrafts.com, we love sports, and one of the things Colorado stands out is having one team in every major sports league. Obviously, it is not the only state holding this record, but it is the least populous state with a franchise in each of the major professional sports leagues.

These Colorado teams are all located in the Denver metropolitan area. It helps that it is the most significant urban area in more than 500 miles. Some franchises are relatively successful, so you’ve probably heard of them, or at least a few. They are:

  • Denver Broncos in the National Football League;
  • Dever Nuggets in the National Basketball Association;
  • Colorado Avalanche in the National Hockey League;
  • Colorado Rockies in the Major League Baseball;

Famous Records and Fun Facts about Colorado

Finally, Colorado holds a few well-known records and is home to curious, fun facts that make it known globally. Let’s explore some of them:

  • Colorado looks like a rectangle (though, in fact, it isn’t);
  • Colorado is one of the four corner states – the only place in the US where you can be in four states at once;
  • The Federal government owns about 1/3 of the land in Colorado.
  • The highest rail train in the world in Colorado – Pike Peak Cog Railroad runs on cogwheels to be able to climb the mountain
  • Leadville, at 10 152 feet, is the highest city in the US.
  • Colorado has the highest average altitude of any U.S. state at 6,800 feet (2,070 meters)
  • The Eisenhower Tunnel is the highest auto tunnel in the United States
  • Colorado once turned down the Olympics. Denver Won the Olympic bid but had to withdraw because voters rejected it.
  • The Humpty Dumpty Drive-in in Denver claims to have invented the cheeseburger and even tried to trademark it in 1935
  • Trinidad, Colorado, was once known as the “sex change capital of the world.” It’s estimated that between 1969 and 2004, about 65% of these operations were done there.
  • With 1,053 feet, the Royal Gorge Bridge in Canon City is the highest suspension bridge in the USA.
  • Colfax Avenue, Denver, is considered the longest commercial street in America.
  • Every year about 160 000 people send a letter to Loveland, Colorado, just to have it postmarked;
  • Star Dune in the Great Sand Dunes National Park is considered the tallest in the USA. It has 750 feet.
  • The largest natural hot springs swimming pool is in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
Interesting things about Colorado
Star Dune in the Great Sand Dunes National Park – What is Colorado famous for | photo by Kamchatka via Depositphotos

* Cover photo by Get Your Guide

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