The 5 Adventurous Colorado Towns You Cannot Miss For Your Next Trip
Updated: Dec 16, 2021
When most people imagine Colorado, they may think of hiking the Rocky Mountains or strolling along Denver's cityscape, but the most unique and beautiful areas of the state lie more Southwest of these iconic places. In these great towns of Colorado, you get to see some of our greatest treasures, from the million-dollar highway to backcountry hikes through the San Juan Mountains, these cities are home to the most spectacular views in the country.
This is why I went on a two-week road trip to explore this area of the state and see all that it had to offer. I took beautiful hikes and drank delicious craft beer all in the name of discovering some of the most unique and adventurous towns of Colorado. If you like intense hikes, 4-wheeling, climbing, zip-lining, white water rafting, and trying all things fun and outdoorsy, then you need to check out these amazing Colorado towns.
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Starting in order of my trip, the first town I hit was Salida. While I'm probably going to say this about almost every town, this was the cutest little mountain town. With a few modern touches, this small town kept the brick facades and classic charm of their historic old town. Walking along the streets there were so many people wandering around, with a live jazz concert playing on stage at the park and locals surfing at the local whitewater park in town, everyone seemed to be so happy here.
Salida is pretty well known for its
amazing whitewater, with whitewater festivals, whitewater paddleboarding, and their own whitewater park flowing right through town, it's no wonder people visit for it. But I wasn't there for the water, I was there for the mountains.
After exploring the town I camped in my car up at Browns Creek Dispersed Camping, where I got to enjoy the beautiful Browns Creek Waterfall Trail the next day. But Salida has hundreds of more hiking trails to offer from mountain biking to summiting 14ers, there is plenty to do around the city.
One of the more unique experiences that I got to attend gave some of the best views that Salida has to offer, all from horseback. I scheduled myself a horseback riding tour through Mt. Princeton Riding Stables, the 2-hour sunset ride took me through the backwoods and mountainsides of Salida. I saw a heron nesting area, spectacular local flora, and the most beautiful landscape views, all with the excitement of riding horseback through private trails. I can't recommend taking a horseback riding tour enough, it is such a fun and unique way to explore the natural settings of the area that you wouldn't be able to see otherwise. Plus, the resort down the way has some hot springs that you can try out after the ride if you're needing to unwind.
This area is a lot more modern, but that doesn't mean the surrounding views arent still naturally beautiful. Their main street is huge, going on for 7 blocks, and is chock full of delicious restaurants boasting about their green chili sauces, along with craft breweries and local shops to buy anything you could possibly need.
I had the pleasure of taste-testing Steamworks Brewing Company and the famous Ska Brewing Company which is located off the main strip but is well worth the trip. But on the main street is the Durango Diner that supposedly has the best green chili sauce in town, while I didn't get to taste it, it comes highly recommended by many people.
Durango is also home to one of the most famous train rides in Colorado, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad which takes you on a 7-hour long train ride (round trip train time) through the San Juan Mountains between the towns of Silverton and Durango. This is supposedly one of the most beautiful train rides in America, especially if you're lucky enough to go when the fall colors are popping.
On this train, you also have the option of a once and a lifetime backpacking trip where the train drops you off at a trail that is only accessible by train. From there, you can stay overnight at the base of multiple 14ers for summiting. Just be warned these spots fill up months in advance, I couldn't even get one for 2 months ahead of departure.
I feel like I should also mention that I ended up not taking the train ride because I knew I would be driving North to Silverton after Durango anyway, so I didn't think it was necessary to do it twice. Plus, the drive to Silverton is still beautiful since you're on the San Juan Skyway.
Durango also offers unique sites, like Mesa Verde, a National Park the holds cliffsides full of ancient Pueblo homes. Along with other sites around Durango that preserve the indigenous culture. Not to mention the 4 corners are close by allowing you to stand in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico all at once!
Driving into Ouray on the Million Dollar Highway (one of the most beautiful drives in the US) you really start to see what Colorado is all about. Some of the tallest, most beautiful mountain ranges surround what is called "The Switzerland of America", and for good reason, the gorgeous San Juan mountain range creates the beautiful valley that is Ouray Colorado.
Here is where you can start finding a lot more intense outdoor adventure. From 4 wheel drive jeep tours to Via Ferrata climbing expeditions to epic mountain hikes, Ouray is your gateway to some ultimate Colorado adventures.
You can also find great quick trips right in town such as Box Canyon Falls, where a short hike can take you to a beautiful waterfall that includes families of rare black swifts living in the walls of the surrounding canyon. You can also walk to the top of the falls and look over the town from a bridge above it all. Another small hike across town can take you to Cascade Falls, a tall waterfall that you can actually walk behind!
If you want to see all of the sites of Ouray at once, I highly suggest the Ouray perimeter hike. This trek takes you 6.5miles around the entire perimeter of the town of Ouray, allowing you to see every side of this amazing spot. You also get to cross all of the major sites in town such as Cascade Falls and Box Canyon Falls, along with backcountry mountain views and the best views of the city. This trail is pretty strenuous at spots but absolutely worth how beautiful and unique it is.