Colorado’s various mountain subranges within the larger Rocky Mountain range conceal secluded towns trapped in time. These small towns each have their own large personalities and offer a new way for Coloradans to experience our state. Sip wine made from Colorado-grown grapes or explore an underground mine that helped make the Centennial State what it is today. Here are some of our favorite small town gems to visit.
If you’re missing Napa this time of the year, head to Paonia for your vineyard fix. This Western Slope town is rife with grape growers and vintners that take advantage of Colorado’s special soil composition to create beautiful and dynamic wines. The micro climate surrounding Paonia sends warm air up the valley during the day and cool air down at night, creating the perfect conditions for growing a variety of produce – grapes included.
As a “certified Colorado creative district”, Paonia continues to attract artists and makers of all kinds, ensuring that its main streets are lined with pretty boutiques, tasty restaurants, and wonderful, seasonal festivals.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Colorful storefronts and historical homes line the main street of Crested Butte, Colorado. During ski season the town fills up, but one might argue that it’s even more beautiful in the summer months. Enjoy long hikes and mountain bike rides straight from town, then finish up in the afternoon by grabbing a beer at one of the many local breweries and bars. CB boasts a variety of cool festivals year-round, including an International Film Festival, a WildFlower festival, and so much more.
To experience real mountain-pass travel, take a drive to Silverton, Colorado and plan a day trip to Ouray along the Million Dollar Highway. This windy mountain road offers breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains’ lesser trafficked southwest region.
The town itself is small, but is home to a few treasured restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. The real thrill is found in the San Juans themselves – some of the most photographed places in Colorado exist here. Hike to the beautiful Ice Lake and dip your feet in sapphire blue waters or visit in the winter and book a Helicopter ski day.
No small town gems list would be complete without Telluride. This famous mountain town is home to the Sundance Film Festival, Oprah Winfrey’s vacation home, and a stunning mountain backdrop. Have dinner at award winning restaurants like 221 South Oak or take a break from outdoor recreation with a luxurious day of relaxation at PURE Beauty and Wellness Spa. There’s a reason that Telluride takes seven hours to get to – it’s nestled amongst some of the most scenic terrain in our entire country.
Travel back in time with a visit to Creede and experience Colorado’s rich mining history. This sleepy southwest town sits adjacent steep mountain walls and hikers can enjoy hitting the trails straight from town. Catch a play at the Creede Repertory Theater or visit its one-of-a-kind underground mining museum. Rent a Jeep and travel the Silver Thread scenic route or plan your trip around Creede’s balloon festival and derby race.
While Colorado’s popularity continues to rise, its tucked away towns offer a break from the hustle and bustle of big resorts, large cities, and popular mountain getaways off I-70. Plan a long weekend to visit any of these cities and you’ll have the opportunity to experience a new slice of Colorado paradise.