We may be an SEO and marketing guys, but we have to talk about our state today. Colorado is a place of speechless beauty. The highest state in the USA offers a whole host of highlights, traversed by the mighty mountain ranges of the Rocky Mountains and blessed with natural wonders such as the Garden of the Gods.
Rushing rivers, impressive canyons, a rich cultural heritage dating back to the time of the gold diggers and the highest road in America will be remembered. In this article I introduce you to seven places in Colorado that you must visit.
Surrounded by the gigantic peaks of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is the capital of Colorado. It is 1,600 meters above sea level, which is exactly one mile. Denver is therefore affectionately referred to as Mile High City.
The center of Denver is Lower Downtown, simply called LoDo by the locals. Here you’ll find the vibrant 16th Street Mall, the pedestrian zone and main shopping street with countless souvenir and junk shops, cafes, pubs, and restaurants.
Worth seeing are the Victorian buildings that hide among the modern skyscrapers. They are the remains of a time when Denver was a gold-digger’s paradise.
Extra tip: 16th Mall Street is served by a free shuttle bus that runs regularly up and down and stops at every intersection. You can get in and out at any time.
In summer, LoDo has colorfully painted pianos everywhere, on which passers-by jingle to their hearts’ content, some better, others worse. It is often worth stopping for a while and listening to music.
Just a short walk from LoDo, you’ll find Denver’s artists’ quarter with a high density of museums and galleries, such as the Denver Art Museum, housed in a state-of-the-art glass building. The huge Denver library and the Black American West Museum, which takes you on a journey through the history of colorful cowboys, are also worth a visit.
What you shouldn’t miss in Denver is the Colorado State Capitol, whose gold leaf dome can be seen from afar. It’s to commemorate the former gold rush of Colorado.
On the steps leading to the entrance of the State Capitol, you will find a marker at the spot exactly one mile above sea level. Through the pompous entrance hall, you enter the interior of the building and can admire the Gallery of American Presidents, which extends over all floors.
Extratipp: Take part in a free guided tour, because this is the only way to get into the dome of the Capitol. From here you have the best view of Denver, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the bright white City and County Building on the opposite side.
#2 Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is definitely one of the main attractions for Colorado travelers. No wonder, because it is one of the greatest natural wonders of our world. The famous Trail Ridge Road, America’s highest asphalted road, is a convenient way to explore Rocky Mountain National Park by car.
On 77 kilometers the serpentine road winds its way up to Mount Evans at an altitude of 3,713 meters. Passing lush mountain valleys and a barren tundra landscape, Trail Ridge Road overcomes a huge difference in altitude and offers spectacular views above the tree line.
In my article “On America’s highest road through the Rocky Mountains” you will find a detailed description of the route with many valuable tips to follow.
#3 Garden of the Gods
Everyone knows the impressive nature park Garden of the Gods. It is accessible free of charge and can be explored in many different ways. The easiest is a round trip with your own car. Along the way, there are several great vantage points where you can stop and get off to admire the fascinating red sandstone rocks, many of which are over 300 million years old.
In the course of time, they have been formed naturally into unique works of art, through which today numerous hiking trails lead. Alternatively, you can explore the Garden of the Gods on horseback, join a guided tour or become a mountaineer and climb the rock formations.
By the way, there is a nice story about the name of the park, which can be read in the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center. It says that in August 1859 two surveyors came to the area. One of the two is said to have said at the sight of the red rocks that this is the perfect place for a beer garden. The other guy said, “A beer garden? But one for gods!” And so the park became the Garden of the Gods, but without the beer.
#4 Royal Gorge
Royal Gorge is a spectacular canyon through whose gorges the Arkansas River flows. To explore the canyon up close, I recommend a ride on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.
From Cañon City, the train travels through the narrow gorge, always along the Arkansas River. Through the large panorama windows of the historic train as well as from the open deck you can enjoy the wind and the wonderful view.
Then you have to go to Royal Gorge Park, which was largely destroyed by fire in June 2013. In the meantime, many of the attractions have been rebuilt, such as the gondola lift, where you float in a freely suspended cabin about 365 meters above the canyon with the Arkansas River. A gigantic feeling!
Royal Gorge Park also boasts the famous 481-meter Royal Gorge Bridge, America’s highest suspension bridge. In 291 meters height, you walk over the wooden ground and see the river flowing through under you. This fun is not for people who are afraid of heights, because the suspension bridge can shake quite a bit when the wind is blowing.
Extra tip: On the other side of the gorge there is a tiny cinema, the Plaza Theater, where an interesting film about the Royal Gorge Bridge and the dramatic fire is shown. You should have a look at this one!
#5 Pikes Peak
With one of the highest rack railways in the world, it’s high up. At 4,301 meters to be exact. At snail’s pace, the bright red Pike’s Peak Cog Railway takes you to the summit of Pikes Peak, supposedly the most visited mountain in North America, where the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb car and motorcycle race takes place on the serpentine road.
Arrived at the top station of Pikes Peak, with a bit of luck you will have a magnificent panoramic view of Colorado and the mountain peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
Extra tip: Be sure to pack a warm jacket because an icy cold wind whistles on the summit even in summer. The temperature difference to the valley station can be up to 35 degrees!
#6 Cripple Creek
Farting forbidden stands at the entrance of the tiny passenger elevator that takes you into the shaft of the Mollie Kathleen gold mine at Cripple Creek. Until my trip through Colorado, I always thought I wasn’t interested in boring stuff like dusty old gold mines. I realize that I was very wrong when it goes 300 meters into the depth.
Underground I take part in a one-hour guided tour through the mysterious shafts of the Mollie Kathleen gold mine, where I learn everything about the history of American mining and the hard working conditions of the gold diggers. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see real gold veins.
In the adjoining cowboy town of Cripple Creek, one casino follows another. Those who don’t like gambling should at least stroll through the pretty streets, which especially in the late afternoon when the sun throws its golden light on the old western houses, look like a film backdrop.
#7 Red Rocks
In the mountains above Denver lies the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which you shouldn’t miss on a Colorado trip. Big concerts take place regularly on the open-air stage, which is embedded by huge red sandstone rocks.
The acoustics are so unique thanks to the rocks that artists like U2 have already recorded live albums here. Also interesting is the underground Visitor Center with its Performance Hall of Fame, which lists all the artists who have already played on the open-air stage. Depeche Mode, Bruce Springsteen, Mumford & Sons and the Beatles are also among them.
Extra tip: If there is a concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in the evening, it can happen that the stage is already closed in the afternoon for a soundcheck. The best way to find out about upcoming events is to visit the official website www.redrocksonline.com before you visit. Maybe you even have the chance to experience a live concert during your Colorado trip!