The 12 Most Beautiful Places in Colorado

Mountain sunrise reflected on lake
Steve Whiston - Fallen Log Photography / Getty Images

Towering, snow-capped mountains, waterfall hikes, natural hot springs tucked into valleys, golden galaxies of aspen trees in the fall—Colorado puts on quite the show. The state is packed with Instagram-worthy photos around every (hairpin) curve, from the northern Front Range to the southern valley.

But a few destinations stand out as shining stars. These are the kinds of places that will take your breath away. So stunning that they seem impossibly otherworldly.

Here are the 12 most beautiful places in Colorado, in no particular order.

01 of 12

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the gods

TripSavvy / Kathleen Messmer

Colorado Springs, CO 80904, USA
Phone +1 719-634-6666

The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is a National Natural Landmark and one of the most amazing places in Colorado for its towering rock formations that seem to defy physics. These monstrous red rocks perched along a fault line were uprooted and tossed about during the earthquake that formed the Rocky Mountains and nearby Pikes Peak.

What remains today is a free, 1,367-acre park with trails winding between a natural attraction like nowhere else on Earth, with towers, boulders, spires, and rocks that resemble fun shapes like kissing camels and praying hands. It’s no wonder the Garden of the Gods is the most visited attraction in the Pikes Peak area. With accessible parking and numerous paved trails, this beautiful natural landmark is easily enjoyed by people who use mobility aids.

Also scenic nearby is the Cave of the Winds, a unique, 500-million-year-old, underground, naturally-occurring cave system. You can walk through these caves and underneath Colorado Springs; the view is amazing, though the photo opps in this dark world are not so much. 

02 of 12

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde

TripSavvy / Kathleen Messmer

Mesa Verde, CO, USA
Phone +1 970-529-4465

Mesa Verde National Park, in southern Colorado, not far from Durango, is stunning in its physical display, depth, and history. Mesa Verde is home to some of the best-preserved ancestral Pueblo sites in the nation.

Here you will find dramatic cliff dwellings built into the sides of steep mountainsides and underground "kivas," ancient circular rooms made of stone. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features more than 4,700 archeological sites you can hike, walk through, climb, and drive past. Impressive highlights include the massive Cliff Palace and Balcony House, which you can only access by climbing a high ladder and scrambling through a narrow cave.

The ancient sites, rock carvings, and remnants of the past are the easy highlight, but the panoramic views across the plateau and deep into valleys are also amazing. 

Mesa Verde's accessibility guides can help you plan your visit if you have limited mobility, vision, or hearing impairments.

03 of 12

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park

pete.lomchid/Getty Images

Colorado, USA
Phone +1 719-378-6395

Head to San Luis Valley in southern Colorado for these views, ones that are far from what you'd expect to find in land-locked Colorado. This park is home to the nation's tallest sand dune. This dune, called the Star Dune, reaches 750 feet.

Prepare to be amazed by towering dunes with purple mountain peaks (the Sangre de Cristo mountain range) in the background. In the foreground, there's a calm creek that you can splash in. This national park is equally as impressive as it is surprising.

Rent a sled or snowboard and go "sandboarding" down the peaks. Hike the dunes if you're up for it (it can get excruciatingly hot); best to set out early in the day when it's cooler. If you have limited mobility, you can reserve a special sand wheelchair while visiting the park. Someone will need to push you, which can be tricky, even with the balloon tires, but it is likely your best bet for traveling short distances around the dunes. Note that there are certain weight and body size limitations these wheelchairs can accommodate. Call ahead at 719-378-6395 to make a sand wheelchair reservation or any accessibility-related questions. 

04 of 12

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Witold Skrypczak
Colorado, USA
Phone +1 970-641-2337

Colorado is home to four national parks, all of which are different and beautiful in their own way. But one place that takes our breath away year after year is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Gunnison and Montrose. There’s something unreal about the black mountain walls of the narrow gorge. 

A favorite photo here is the unusual Painted Wall, named for the series of intricate pink-white markings crawling across the dark, 2,250-foot-tall cliff. This rock face shoots up from the Gunnison River, earning it the honor of the highest vertical rock wall in the state. 

You can experience this park in various ways, such as hiking, camping, and kayaking. You’ll probably want to spend more time on the South Rim if you have limited mobility. There are two accessible campsites located on the South Rim, as well as accessible restrooms. Visitors can also enjoy the visitor center and the following South Rim lookouts with limited mobility: Chasm View Overlook, Sunset View Overlook, and Tomichi Point Overlook. Balanced Rock Overlook, on the North Rim, is also accessible. If you decide to watch the Black Canyon Movie while visiting the South Rim Visitor Center, remember that headphones with audio descriptions are available upon request.

Continue to 5 of 12 below.
05 of 12

The Million Dollar Highway

Silverton, Colorado

David Brossard/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

US-550, Silverton, CO 81433, USA

There are so many fantastic points to visit in the southwestern area of Colorado near Ouray that it’s impossible to narrow it down. Luckily, this one highway crosses many of them. The Million Dollar Highway is one of Colorado's most beautiful road trips; it gives tons of photographic-worthy bang for your buck, without you having to get out of your car. 

Stop in the historic mining town of Silverton, which is still bustling today, and gaze at the colorful, Victorian buildings that line downtown.

Then visit a ghost town: Animas Forks also used to be a mining town, but this one was forgotten after the gold rush died. You have to access it via four-wheel drive, but if you don’t mind the slight diversion, a mountain ghost town is a quintessential Colorado tourist stop. See abandoned wooden shacks and the echo of a time past.

The Million Dollar Highway also brings you past ancient hot springs, like the Durango Hot Springs (which has a history dating back to the Ancient Pueblo people in 1000); the San Juan National Forest (1.8 million acres for outdoor adventure); the charming, small town of Ouray (perched in a circular valley with multiple hot springs); and the Box Canyon waterfall (285 feet tall).

06 of 12

Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove  

Maroon-Snowmass Trail, Aspen, CO 81611, USA
Phone +1 970-925-3445

Maroon Bells, near Aspen, are two of Colorado’s most famous mountains and are well known for their views. They are among the most photographed mountains in the country. 

The views of the Rocky Mountains all come together in this perfect blend of alpine lakes, meadows, and forests.

Also in this area is Independence Pass Summit, which is one of the best routes to drive to see the aspen leaves changing in the fall. This high mountain pass offers endless views. Plus, you can see more fourteeners (mountains taller than 14,000 feet above sea level) than at any other place in the state. 

07 of 12

Royal Gorge

The beautiful Royal Gorge Bridge near Canon City in Colorado


narawon/Getty Images 

4218 Co Rd 3A, Cañon City, CO 81212, USA
Phone +1 719-275-7507

The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park near Canon City will astound you. You can walk across the highest suspension bridge in the country (if you dare). It's worth rallying your courage because the views from the middle of the bridge are unreal, stretching in either direction of the valley. You'll feel like a bird as you look down, down, down 1,200 feet into the canyon of the Arkansas River. The bridge, visitor center, gondolas, and theater are all wheelchair accessible. Unlike many places, there aren't wheelchairs available to rent, so you must bring your own.

You can also experience the gorge via the gondola, where you can sit and take in the views from above. If you're a wheelchair user and want to ride the gondola, you will have to ride it round trip as there is no accessible ramp to exit the ride at the south end. Also, remember that your wheelchair or mobility aid must be 30" wide or less to fit inside the gondola entrance.

You can also enjoy this view from a different perspective: from below, on the train, or on white-water rafting. These rapids get pretty wild, so it's far from the relaxing way to do the canyon. Not all beauty comes effortlessly.

08 of 12

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Brad McGinley Photography/Getty Images

Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado 81426, USA

Bridal Veil Falls near Telluride is Colorado’s tallest waterfall. It spills an incredible 365 feet down the canyon.

To access this site, you can either hike or drive, meaning these falls are accessible for those with limited mobility. The only thing to remember is that you will need a four-wheel drive vehicle to make the journey. The hike is not extreme. It’s less than 2 miles each way and takes most hikers less than an hour each direction.

Telluride is a stunning destination, so after enjoying this dramatic waterfall hike, plan some time to take in the nearby scenery. Telluride is an old Victorian mining town built in a box canyon. It offers excellent skiing in the winter, so views here are accessible (and impressive) year-round.

Continue to 9 of 12 below.
09 of 12

Hanging Lake

Hanging Lake

Rachel Jeffrey/EyeEm/Getty Images

Windsor Ct, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601, USA
Phone +1 303-757-9011

This is another of Colorado's most scenic hikes. Hanging Lake, near Glenwood, is a magical geological phenomenon; this crystal clear lake seems to impossibly hang to the edge of the mountain, glowing green from mossy rocks. Gentle waterfalls spill from a cliff into the lake.

The rare lake, a national natural landmark, was formed by travertine deposition.

You'll need a permit to access Hanging Lake, which costs $12/per person during peak season and $10/per person during the off-season. The hike down to the lake is short but relatively rigorous. Trails can get packed in the busy season, so hike out early in the morning, preferably on a weekday, and leave no trace. Don't try to go into the lake or disturb the fragile ecosystem. Unlike Bridal Veil Falls, you cannot drive down to Hanging Lake, so this is not an option for wheelchair users or those with limited mobility.

10 of 12

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

Regula Heeb-Zweifel/Getty Images

Estes Park, CO 80517, USA

Trail Ridge Road, outside Estes Park in Rocky Mountain National Park, shows its beauty in the form of tall mountains—from 12,000 feet above sea level. That’s above tree level.

This is the highest continuous, paved road in North America and the highest paved road in any national park. You can see as far as Wyoming in the north if you stand on top. It feels like you can see to the edge of the planet.

Trail Ridge Road is on the National Register of Historic Places.

11 of 12

Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak in Colorado

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Pikes Peak, Colorado 80809, USA

The views atop a fourteener are hard to top, but they’re also often not accessible to everyone. Luckily, you can experience a fourteener without having to break a sweat. Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs tops out at 14,115, which means jaw-dropping views. But you can hitch a ride to the top on the world’s highest cog train and check off two bucket list items at once. If you need to bring a wheelchair or mobility aid on the cog train, call the Ticket Office at 719-685-5401 to let them know in advance.

12 of 12

Seven Falls

Tourists at Seven Falls

Sujata Jana/EyeEm/Getty Images

1045 Lower Gold Camp Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80905, USA
Phone +1 855-923-7272

The Broadmoor Seven Falls is considered Colorado's most famous waterfall. This impressive site features seven waterfalls spilling 181 feet down from South Cheyenne Creek. To one direction is the flat prairie. To the other are the steep-walled canyon of the foothills. Look for the Pillars of Hercules, rising 900 feet above the canyon, just 41 feet apart.

Gazing at these falls is just the beginning of this attraction. You can go hiking, ziplining, dining, and shopping at this privately-owned site. Access Seven Falls through The Broadmoor, a luxurious resort in Colorado (you must take a special bus from the resort to the trailhead because there's no public parking). While shuttles are wheelchair accessible, note that stairs leading up to the top of the falls and the hiking trails at the top are also inaccessible for mobility aid users. Unlike some other waterfall hikes in Colorado, this one is not free. 

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The 12 Most Beautiful Places in Colorado