There is a reason that most Boulder residents never want to leave their area: besides the natural ambiance that enfolds and entrances visitors and locals alike, Boulder also creates a freedom and calm not found in larger metropolitan areas like Denver. However, that is not to say that Boulder is a paradisal anomaly in the great state of Colorado. Taking time to explore the Centennial State reveals many other Colorado wonders scattered about the state yet easily accessible in a day or overnight trip.
Here are five (trust us, there are way more than five!) more Colorado wonders that Boulder residents will appreciate and remember years after their visit…
1. Stroll the Garden of the Gods
Situated in the southern city of Colorado Springs, there is nothing quite so spectacular as a visit to the Garden of the Gods. This National Natural Landmark offers stunning vistas featuring 300-foot tall sandstone rock formations nestled against the famed Pikes Peak. By far the most popular natural attraction in southern Colorado, the park gives visitors multiple methods of experiencing and exploring this natural wonder:
- For intrepid explorers and thrill seekers, take a run up the rocks with the family-friendly Front Range Climbing program; the experience lasts 90 minutes and is certain to be a memory long remembered
- You can leave the driving to the 1909 Trolley Tour guide in a 14-person open air trolley; this 45 minute drive covers major portions of the park (often closed during the winter months)
- Two jeep tours are also available for those who prefer to explore on their own; choose from the 90-minute Balanced Rock and History tour or the 120-minute Short-Line Off-Road tour running through the Cheyenne Canyon Garden
- For those preferring a slower and calmer expedition, try the Adventure Level Segway Juniper Loop tour that brings you up close and personal with the geology, flora, and fauna surrounding you (Segway training provided in advance)
- You can bring your own bikes or rent either standard or electric bikes (e-bikes) to follow where the wind and your desires take you; with both paved and unpaved trails weaving throughout the park, you can spend days without crossing the same bike paths
- For the pedestrian crowd, there are miles of trails and paths to wander among with postcard views greeting you around each bend
2. Brave the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park
About one hour south and west of Colorado Springs, you’ll find Cañon City and the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. The combination of natural wonders and man-made structures impresses visitors by the vastness of the Rocky Mountains, the depths of gorges and canyons carved throughout the range, and populated with bridges, zip lines, and other human inventions and tools galore to experience. For lovers of heights and geology, there is no place more enticing and illuminating than this park. Activities include:
- For a bird’s-eye view of beautiful gorges sculpted by the roaring Arkansas River thundering 1,200 feet below your feet, nothing beats their Aerial Gondola rides that sail 2,200 feet across the mountain range
- If you are all about the breeze in your face and don’t mind a little height (okay, it’s really high!), then their Cloudscraper Zip Line is the event for you; 1,200 feet below you will hear the roar of the Arkansas River in your state-of-the-art harness (including a braking system)
- If zip lines just are not hardcore enough for your heart and nerves, then perhaps the Royal Rush Skycoaster is what you are seeking; up to 3 people are harnessed together, arced up in the air, and then released to swoop down at 50 miles per hour where you momentarily hang 1,200 feet above the roaring Arkansas River before swinging back
- Maybe you prefer something solid underneath your feet; if so, then join hundreds of others for a stroll across the Royal Gorge Bridge, one of the highest suspension bridges in the world
- The Water Clock is also worth a look while visiting; this is a replica of the original water clock that kept accurate time for 30 years (until its destruction in the devastating Royal Gorge Fire)
Finally, be sure to bring your camera for some of the most jaw-dropping and breathtaking views and scenery to be found anywhere in Colorado.
3. Explore Picture-Perfect Maroon Bells
If you want unique and beautiful natural photos for wallpaper or a screensaver, forget downloading something online. Instead, take your camera to Maroon Bells (the two peaks in the Elk Mountains known individually as Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak). Since the trails in this park are recommended for highly experienced hikers, you won’t be elbowing your way through crowds of tourists. Offering perhaps the very best vista in the entire state, Maroon Bells cradles a serene blue lake at its base; one look will explain why this spot is known as the most photographed places in Colorado. Both of these peaks are also popular 14ers (boasting peaks exceeding 14,000 feet in height) but remain difficult to scale because of the incline and loose rock. To conquer the summit requires mountaineering gear, meaning very little traffic at the mountaintop! Maroon Bells is located 12 miles west of Aspen, Colorado’s famed skiing area.
4. Get Back to Nature at Hanging Lake
Another must-see spot in Colorado is Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon (just outside Glenwood Springs and situated between Vail and Aspen in the Rocky Mountains). Fans of clean natural setting will especially love this area, as vehicles remain parked at the Hanging Lake Welcome Center where shuttles will transport you to the trail head. While not as expansive as other natural wonders, the tranquil beauty of a pristine lake fed by three waterfalls delivering crystal-clear waters paints a perfect, relaxing setting. Reaching the three waterfalls entails an hour hike up a 1.2 mile trail.
To keep the lake and its waterfalls in its unspoiled condition, the following rules and conditions apply at Hanging Lake:
- There is no restroom at the lake; visitors are encouraged to use the restroom in the Welcome Center before their trek
- You are secluded enough that cell phone service is not available
- Swimming, fishing, and standing on logs at Hanging Lake is prohibited
- Wear hiking gear, especially footwear; leave the flip-flops and sandals back home
- No pets allowed at the Welcome Center or on any trails (dog daycare options are available)
- Drones cannot be operated in the Hanging Lake vicinity
All of which means you are truly back to nature!
5. Discover the Past at Mesa Verde National Park
Of both historical and anthropological interest, Mesa Verde National Park carries its visitors back in time. Nestled in southwest Colorado, Mesa Verde was declared a national park in 1906 and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Visitors can glimpse into the past and learn how the Pueblo tribes lived in cliff dwellings for more than 700 years (from 600 to 1300 A.D.). Currently, the Mesa Verde National Park protects close to 5,000 archaeological sites; this includes the 600 cliff dwellings which attract thousands of visitors each year.
Families can also camp or lodge at Mesa Verde, while enjoying any of the four restaurants in the park:
- The Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe offers casual fare for lunches and dinners; dine inside, on the patio, or get it to go and enjoy the scenery while supping
- The Metate Room Restaurant at Far View Lodge presents dinners featuring wild game, fresh fish, and local organic produce with a Southwestern style; the restaurant also hosts a popular lounge at the top of the lodge that’s perfect for watching the sunset and the stars light up the night sky
- About a quarter mile down from the Far View Lodge you will find the Far View Terrace Restaurant, which offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Close to the Morefield Campground, campers can find good wholesome dishes at the Knife Edge Cafe when they tire of campfire fare; open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
It should come as no surprise that we have barely scratched the surface of amazing experiences Colorado offers its residents and visitors. While we agree that Boulder is the best place to live in Colorado, do not overlook the rest of the beauty and history contained in this incredible 38th state of America! Want to know more about Colorado in general or Boulder specifically? Contact us because we love to share the beauty and freshness of Boulder and its outlying environs!