With four national parks and an abundance of magnificent natural wonders, it’s hard to know where to begin when choosing the best views in Colorado. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, hiker, or prefer to enjoy your views from the comfort of a train or car, there are plenty of ways to experience all of this state’s best views. And the options are as diverse as they are wondrous! Colorado is home to sights that range from beautifully barren tundra to soaring sand dunes to towering mountain vistas. Here are just a few of our picks for the most breathtaking views in all of Colorado.
Garden of the Gods
The otherworldly landscape of Garden of the Gods certainly lives up to its name, and attracts its share of visitors in Colorado Springs. The jagged red sandstone rock formations that protrude from the ground create a stunning panorama that has taken hundreds of thousands of years to create. You can explore this fanciful landscape, formed by wind and water, on foot, by bicycle, or by conquering its peaks via rock climbing. Keep your eyes peeled for fossils; a brand-new dinosaur species was discovered here not so long ago! The backdrop of Pikes Peak just adds to the beauty of this jaw-dropping location.
Trail Ridge Road
Well-deserving of its nickname, the Highway to the Sky, Trail Ridge Road has “scenic” written all over it. Rising above 12,000 feet, there’s no higher paved road in the United States! Trail Ridge winds through an astonishing alpine landscape comprised of mountain peaks and desolately beautiful tundra, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find more expansive views. Fortunately, there are lots of places where you can get out of the car and explore the scenery by taking a short walk. Look for views of the peaks of the Rocky Mountain Range, and if you’re lucky, you may even see some bighorn sheep to complete your mountain selfies.
Mesa Verde National Park
For a view of a completely different sort, head to Mesa Verde National Park in southern Colorado. Here, you’ll encounter scenery that has it all: gorgeous mountain and valley views, thousands of archaeological sites, and loads of history. Visitors come here for the well-preserved Pueblo sites, which are some of the best-preserved in the United States. Built right into the cliffs or as underground circular stone rooms, these dwellings are ancient and accessible by hiking and climbing – or you can take the easier route and drive by for a peek. Even if you’re not interested in history – or crawling through caves – you’ll appreciate the dreamy views of the plateau.
The Royal Gorge Bridge
If you’re afraid of heights, you may want to find an alternate route! Soaring 955 feet above the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge Bridge in Canon City is not for the faint of heart. It took the river thousands of years to carve the gorge below, and this bridge is the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the dizzying view. As the gaping chasm opens up in front of you, revealing panoramic views in either direction, pat yourself on the back – after all, you’ve just walked across the highest suspension bridge in the country. Looking for more of a thrill? You can bungee jump off the bridge if your courage holds, or take the more relaxing gondola ride. Views from below are also available by train and by white-water rafting. However you enjoy the spectacular views, you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts.
Bridal Veil Falls
Hikers will want to take the time to visit Colorado’s tallest waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls, near Telluride, for a starkly beautiful view. Cascading down the canyon from an impressive height of 365 feet, this fantastic waterfall emerges from the sheer rockface to crash dramatically down to the rocks below. You’ll need to hike less than two miles in one direction (approximately an hour’s hike, for most people) to see this thundering wonder. While you’re here, it’s worth exploring the historical mining town of Telluride, which offers some impressive canyon views of its own. You can visit throughout the year, so try skiing here in the winter for a different take on the view.
For waterfalls with a completely different feel, head to Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon, where natural gardens watered by dozens of little waterfalls hang around the lake. One of the first things you’ll notice here is the color of the water, an unreal shade of turquoise, seeming to be more at home in the Caribbean than in Glenwood Canyon. Depending on the season you visit, you may even be able to see trout swimming at the bottom of the lake (just don’t go into the lake or disturb the wildlife, as this is a fragile ecosystem). Lush vegetation surrounds the lake, which seems to hang as if by magic on the side of the mountain, and the canyon makes the perfect picturesque backdrop. The hike here isn’t the easiest, but it’s relatively short; just be prepared to share the trail with other visitors, as this is one of the most popular views in Colorado.
All of Colorado’s national parks are stunning and deserving of your time. But the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is our pick for the best and most unique views. Aptly named, the Black Canyon features black mountain walls that are some of the oldest and steepest rocks on the entire continent. Over an unbelievable two million years, the Gunnison River has carved these craggy cliffs, forming this narrow gorge. The complex, winding pinkish white markings on the rock offer an amazing contrast to the dark rocs. More than 2000 feet tall at their highest, these spires can be explored by kayakers, hikers and campers.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Looking for a breathtaking view you won’t find anywhere else? There just aren’t enough superlatives to describe Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in southern Colorado. Here, you’ll enjoy views of the tallest sand dunes in the United States, topped by the purple, snow-covered peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range beyond, with the bubbling Medano Creek at your feet. The combination of landscapes is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, let alone imagined you might see in America. Activities here include sandboarding and hiking – and you’ll appreciate having a creek to cool off in after either activity!