What’s your favorite Colorado beauty spot?

(All of them! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Here’s a brief break from the usual political chit chat. I’m about to take a vacation, and I want to keep it in state. I would like to visit a number of the best natural locations in Colorado (accessible by car). Colorado Pols readers are surely a great resource for destination ideas, so let’s have a conversation about the greatest natural places to visit in Colorado.

I know I want to see all three national parks, Chimney Rock, and the Black Canyon. Where else? Thanks in advance for the pointers.

14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JeffcoBlue says:

    Some might find this weird, but I love the Pawnee National Grassland. Just beautiful empty country teeming with avian life. Like the rest of the state, I'll bet it's incredibly green up there right now too.

    • mamajama55 says:

      Yes, it is. But lots of fracking and O&G exploration in the area, too.

      Also, what’s left of St Mary’s Glacier is still beautiful, if scary for its implications about climate change.

  2. Davie says:

    If you need a break from broad, peaceful vistas 😉 then I would highly recommend a ride on the Silverton & Durango train.  Yes, it's a little noisy, and the smoke and cinders aren't exactly the most ecologically clean mode of transport.  However the scenery passing by is unforgettable!  The shimmering waters passing beside and below you are spectacular, and the mineral rich river banks sparkle as if you could scoop up a handful of gold right from the train as you wind your way around the mountains.

  3. MapMaker says:

    If you're in the four corners area be sure to include Mesa Verde.

     

    I've taken the Durango to Silverton train both ways. The second leg can be a bit fatiguing. It's probably better to take the train to Silverton and the bus back.

     

    The train ride from Leadville is fun and only an afternoon long. It's not a steam train, but it's more comfortable than the turn of the century stuff.

     

    If Durango to Silverton intrigues you, the other preserved part of the line is the Cumbres & Toltec. It goes from Chama, NM to Antonito, CO. This is a one way only ride with a bus trip to take you back to your start point. An hour on the bus, eight hours on the train!

  4. BlueCat says:

    I love the views between the Crystal River drive to Redstone and over the pass to Paonia. You get some of everything along the way.

    • ajb says:

      For driving over a pass, I like Independence Pass. 
      For most scenic mountain town, I'd say either Crested Butte or Telluride.
      For lakes you can drive to, I like Trapper's Lake.

       

       

       

      • Duke Cox says:

        Trappers Lake…4 sure. But it does require a short walk, the parking lot being on the edge of the wilderness area.

        Northern Dolores River and the Granite Creek drainage..

        Owl Creek Pass (east of Ridgeway) and the Big Cimarron Valley…

        But a single favorite?   How could there be? 

  5. FrankUnderwood says:

    Mount McKinley as depicted on Bob Schaffer's 2008 Senate campaign website.

  6. Warning – I do too much nature photography. This state is mostly all beautiful, so I'll go on at length…

    I have to agree with Blue – Pawnee Buttes is pretty nice if you can avoid the O&G traffic and don't mind some more environmentally friendly energy sources – the wind farm – in the background. It's not quite the quiet refuge it used to be, but it's still beautiful.

    You mentioned three National Parks, but there are four in the state: Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes, Black Canyon, and Mesa Verde. All are well worth their designation. Some of the Monuments are also great for natural scenery – Dinosaur, Colorado, and Brown's Canyon in particular. (Brown's Canyon is best by raft…)

    Random sites: North Clear Creek Falls outside of Creede (most striking waterfall), Maroon Bells (Colorado's most iconic scenery – ONLY by bus from Aspen during the day, cars off-hours), Rifle Falls State Park (triple waterfall), Paint Mines Interpretive Park (colorful badlands), Garden of the Gods (sandstone formations), Roxborough State Park (little sister to Garden of the Gods, minus Pike's Peak in the background)

    Just plain driving: Independence Pass, US-550 between Silverton and Ouray, Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway, Peak to Peak Scenic Byway (IMHO best in Aspen season), Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road (when it reopens this year) in Rocky Mountain NP.

    If you're feeling a little adventurous, looking for a multi-day trip, and okay on dirt roads – and it's at least late June or July – start in Buena Vista and head over Cottonwood Pass (sometimes rutted and potholed, and steeper/narrower than the rest of this trip, but almost always passenger car passable), going past Taylor Park Reservoir and along the Taylor River; when you reach the highway on the other side, head up to Crested Butte (flowers in July), then from Crested Butte go up over Kebler Pass to Paonia State Park, up over McClure Pass to Redstone, down to Carbondale, up to Aspen (stop at Maroon Bells), and over Independence Pass, which will put you back south of Leadville. During Aspen season, this loop is spectacular.

    • Other not-far-from-the-car beauty spots:

      Brainard Lake (Go during the week, and if you want to hike into the Indian Peaks Wilderness, get there before sunrise or else you won't find parking.)

      Monarch Lake, behind Arapaho Bay in the Arapaho National Recreation Area

      Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon (steep 1+ mile hike one-way, but spectacular National Natural Landmark destination)

      Shrine Pass (dirt road off of Vail Pass) – Views to Mount of the Holy Cross. Hike Shrine Ridge trail for spectacular wildflowers without the 4WD requirement (most of the time – check road conditions or be careful) of the best San Juan and Crested Butte wildflower destinations. Flowers best early – mid July.

      Mt. Evans road, or Pike's Peak road. I'm partial to the Mt. Evans road myself. 14,000 feet in a car with great views, wildlife…

    • bullshit! says:

      Damn! You're right about Black Canyon being a national park. I would have realized it when I got there. 🙂

  7. bullshit! says:

    Thanks to everyone.

  8. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Some points:

    1.  Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is worth checking out.

    2. St. Mary's Glacier is not a glacier; it's a stationary body of ice that completely disappeared during the 2002 drought. The way to tell if it's a glacier is if it's grinding rock, which can be noted by a milky color in St. Mary's Lake. No milky color.

    3. Good. No one identified my secret and very special place in Colorado, easily reachable by car, which means there won't be a massive influx of people, as happens when Backpacker Magazine "outs" a destination.

    Hint: it is west of the I-25 corridor.

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