Planning a trip to the Centennial State? Perhaps you live here and want to get to know your backyard a little better. Regardless of the reason, putting together a Colorado bucket list is a pretty difficult feat because, well, there’s just too much beauty around!
Some adventures tower high above the crowds, though, and while we advise anyone to create their own list based on their interests, these experiences are absolute non-negotiables when it comes to traveling Colorado, especially if you’re keen to start exploring the more popular sites.
The Ultimate Colorado Bucket List
1. Find Yourself in a Fairytale at Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon
Hidden deep inside the walls of Glenwood Canyon, Hanging Lake is a place where you’ll get to feel as though you’re inside a fairytale. Due to its unique geological formation, beautiful vegetation covering the walls, and teal-shaded water cascading from the cliffs, a visit to this stunning lake will have you wondering if fairies aren’t about to pop out from under the rocks.
2. See Three of the Most Gorgeous Alpine Lakes in the World (plus a secret fourth one)
Probably one of Colorado’s most famous hikes, the Emerald Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is an absolute must on your Colorado bucket list. Even though the trail is relatively short and easy, what makes this hike so famous is the fact that it follows three picturesque alpine lakes backdropped by the most idyllic mountain scenery.
Tip: There’s a fourth lake further into Rocky Mountain in case you’re feeling keen to see even more alpine goodness in a more secluded setting. To get to Lake Hayaiha, you’ll need to hike an extra mile (plus another on the way back), but the views are worth every step of the way.
3. Go in Search of Fall Foliage on the Trail Ridge Road
Regarded as one of the most gorgeous drives in the United States, the Trail Ridge Road stretches from Estes Park to Rocky Mountain National Park and into Grand Lake.
The Trail Ridge Road is as scenic as it gets at any time of the year, but capturing the fall colors of Colorado at their best makes this one of the most epic US driving experiences.
The road will take you above tree line all the way to over 12,000 feet above sea level, providing some of the most striking views of the Rockies down below, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Colorado.
4. Spend Christmas in Vail
Vail is one of the country’s most sought-after Christmas destinations for all the right reasons.
For one, this cozy alpine town is world-renowned for its world-class skiing ops, and while you can enjoy the nature around it any time of the year, Christmas makes the town feel especially enchanting.
Aside from the charming buildings that will make you feel as though you’re exploring a village in the Austrian Alps, Vail is king when it comes to unwrapping the festive cheer. Think twinkling lights adorning every corner, Christmas Markets you can roam for hours on end, and a calendar filled with activities and festivals that will make you wish you could stay just a little longer.
5. Hike Ice Lake Trail
Think dreamy alpine lakes that look straight out of a painting and mountain scenery so good your jaw will drop right to the ground all with a backdrop of snow-capped peaks keeping you company every step of the way. The Ice Lake Trail is touted as one of the most stunning hikes in Colorado, and once you’re there, you’ll see exactly why that is.
Hiking Ice Lake isn’t exactly considered a walk in the park, but with so many views to gawk at along the way, you’ll have reasons galore to stop and catch your breath for a while.
6. Conquer a Colorado Fourteener
In case you’re new to mountaineering language, a fourteener is a name given to mountains that are over 14,000 feet high!
Home to a total of 58 fourteeners, Colorado has a wide array of options when it comes to beautiful mountain views.
An even better way to see these peaks, though? From high up above! Summiting a fourteener in Colorado is definitely an experience that belongs on every outdoor lover’s bucket list.
No Colorado 14er is easy to conquer, but some are considered lighter than others. If you’re not a super experienced hiker, Mt. Bierstadt, Mt. Sherman, Huron Peak, and Handiest Peak are all wonderful options to test your skills.
If you want to try a harder challenge, Capitol Peak or Maroon Peak are both guaranteed a true trial.
7. See a Sea of Sand Dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park
Even though the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Colorado is mountains, this gem of a state is home to a wide array of landscapes. In fact, it’s home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, with the highest one, Star Dune, towering at 755 feet.
Another magical fact about this park? It’s listed as a Sky Dark Territory, meaning there is no light pollution anywhere nearby and making it a prime spot for stargazing (you may even get to see the Milky Way on a clear night!)
Have you ever done any of these bucket list activities in Colorado? Even though this list could be a whole lot longer, these 7 experiences are some of the best The Centennial State has to offer, so they’re a great way to get started exploring!
More Top Tips For Visiting Colorado
Before hitting the road in Colorado you may also want to note:
- Condition’s on Colorado’s mountainous roads can change quickly; check codot.gov for driving advice before you set out.
- You can reach some seriously high altitudes in Colorado. Those coming from sea level may experience some altitude sickness.
- Come prepared for sudden changes in weather! Sunny mornings can swiftly turn into downpours and strong winds, always be prepared when hitting the trails.
- Brush up on your winter driving skills before taking on the mountainous climbs in the colder months.
- The Colorado National Monument Annual Park Pass costs $45 for one year, or America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass is $80, covering all US National Parks and recreation sites. This is likely to be a cheaper alternative than paying a $15 entry fee each time if you’re planning an extended trip to the state.
- Never forget a road trip essential again with our complete family road trip packing list.
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