Spanning over 3,000 miles from Canada to New Mexico, the Rocky Mountains dominate Colorado’s landscape. The Rocky Mountains is a mountain range that is considered to be one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world, and Colorado is home to some of the best of the Rockies. Home to more than fifteen separate mountain ranges, Colorado is best known as the state that houses 58 mountain peaks that rise more than 14,000 feet above sea level (the Fourteeners).
Due to its towering mountain landscape and high plateaus, Colorado is considered the tallest state in the United States. In fact, even its capital, Denver, is nicknamed the “Mile High City,” because its elevation is a mile above sea-level. Although the tallest peak in the contiguous United States is in California, Colorado boasts the highest number of fourteeners in the country, two of which, Pikes Peak and Mount Evans are accessible by car.
Spanning thirteen counties and approximately 150 miles, The San Juan Mountain Range, nicknamed the San Juans by locals, claim the title as Colorado’s largest mountain range and are considered the state’s crown jewel for hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor activities. Spanning across the state’s southwestern corner, the San Juans contain some of the highest and most jagged summits in the continental United States, including thirteen of Colorado’s fourteeners, the highest being Uncompahgre Peak at 14,308 feet. Other notable peaks in the San Juan Mountains include Mt. Sneffels, Redcloud Peak, Handies Peak, Mount Wilson, Mount Eolus, and Wetterhorn Peak.
Another noteworthy mountain range, the Front Range, is home to Colorado’s most populated towns: Colorado Springs, Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins. Spanning for 200 miles and known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Front Range runs north-south from the Wyoming state line to Pueblo, Colorado. Rising nearly 10,000 feet above the Great Plains, visitors can expect to be humbled by towering peaks like Longs Peak, Mount Evans, and Pikes Peak. Within the Front Range, the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway traverses 55 miles of Colorado’s pristine wilderness, alpine lakes, quirky towns and offers views of notable peaks like the rugged Indian Peaks.
Colorado can't boast of the biggest amount of national parks in the USA, there are just four of them in the state out of 62 total. Yet those 4 are truly spectacular and exceptionally diverse - craggy peaks in alpine environment, table-top mountains with cliff dwellings, the highest sand dunes in the USA, and the canyon.
Rocky Mountain with more than 4.5 million visitors in 2018 is one of the most popular national parks. Rocky Mountain National Park is simply one of the finest areas to go hiking and climbing. Even people who normally try to avoid areas that are crowded and full of tourists will make an exception simply to hike the wonderful trails that the park has.
Mesa Verde means a green (verde) mountain with a large flat top (mesa). In contrast to craggy peaks of the Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde features completely different form of mountains looking like a table-top from the distance. The focal point of the park is ancient cliff dwellings making it the only national park preserving the heritage of the ancient inhabitants - the Ancestral Puebloans.
The Great Sand Dunes are the tallest in the USA. One could expect them in a remote deserted area but here they are, mesmerizing sand dunes at the foot of the Rocky Mountains with snow-capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo range in the background. "Their appearance was exactly that of the sea in a storm, except as to color" - said an American brigadier general and explorer Zebulon Pike about this place. By the way, one of Colorado's fourteeners Pikes Peak is named after him.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is the USA's wildest canyon with no signs of human habitation. It boasts some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky. The views are spectacular and this small park is worth the time to visit and explore.
Major Trails and Hiking Areas
The Sneffels Range, which separates the towns of Ouray and Telluride, is one of the most popular hiking areas in Colorado. There are miles of hiking trails available for various levels of fitness. Take the 7.6-mile Blue Lakes Trail to experience beautiful turquoise alpine lakes, pristine waterfalls, and views of the infamous Mount Sneffels, or traverse the more challenging 11-mile trail to Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak to experience two of Colorado’s famed fourteeners.
Rocky Mountain National Park offers visitors over 300 miles of hiking trails and a variety of other recreational activities. Make the challenging trek to Mt. Ida, Longs Peak, or Hallett Peak to experience panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains or take a scenic stroll to one of the park’s popular lakes, like Bear Lake or Sprague Lake.
The Maroon Bells are one of the most photographed locations in Colorado. Characteristic of the Rocky Mountains, Maroon Bells offers visitors scenic vistas, pristine lakes, golden aspens, and an opportunity to be surrounded by the peaks of Maroon Bells. The most popular trail from Maroon Lake offers views of two iconic peaks, Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak.
Pikes Peak offers a unique outdoor experience because the peak can be hiked, backpacked, or visitors can simply take a beautiful scenic road to the top. There is even a historic cog railway to the summit. The Barr Trail, a 26-mile trek, is the most popular trail used to summit Pikes Peak, but there are a variety of trails to choose from.
Major Cities and Resorts
Located just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is considered one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colorado and an ideal basecamp for Rocky Mountain adventures. Experience wildlife, incredible mountain views, and a quaint downtown in this popular Colorado town. Near Estes Park, visitors can experience world-class hiking, backcountry skiing, and scenic drives.
Known for its world-class ski slopes, Telluride is tucked beneath the San Juan Mountains and offers visitors easy access to some of the state’s best hiking trails and over 2,000 skiable acres. Explore popular hiking paths, like the Bear Creek Trail and Jud Wiebe Trail, or simply drive along the San Juan Skyway to get the total Rocky Mountain experience.
Another popular winter recreation destination, Vail is one of the top alpine resorts in the United States. Located in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, Vail offers easy access to the White River National Forest and the Gore Range Mountains. Visitors can also experience a variety of festivals and events or hang out at local museums and alpine gardens.
Colorado's Ski Resorts
The most mountainous state and the world famous Rocky Mountains definitely feature exceptional skiing and snowboarding areas. All these ski resorts are present in the PeakVisor app and provide real-time status information about open lifts and ski runs. Here are the most popular ski areas in Colorado:
Aspen Snowmass is the 2020 Best of the West Resort of the Year according to SKI Magazine. The resort unites 4 ski areas: Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk. Aspen Highlands on the slope of Loge Peak boasts a postcard quality view of Pyramid Peak and famed Maroon Bells, more adventureous and skilled skiers can summit Highland Peak for a better view and thrilling double-diamond descend.
Breckenridge located on the eastern slopes of the Tenmile Range is made up of 5 distinct peaks with terrain ranging from mellow rolling learning greens to majestic high alpine chutes and bowls. The ski area border goes through Peak 6, Peak 7, and the highest of them Peak 8 (at an elevation of 13,002ft is officially a thirteener).
Copper Mountain is a ski resort with a laid-back and inclusive vibe to the west of the Tenmile Range on the slopes of namesake Copper Mountain and Union Mountain. The resort is comprised of three pedestrian-friendly village areas and provides a vibrant atmosphere with lodging, retail outlets, restaurants, bars and family activities.
Vail is farther east by Interstate 70. Having a vast terrain on the slopes of Battle Mountain and Vail Mountain this ski area is conveniently located for Denver residents. The resort was founded in 1962 and became the core of the Vail Resorts, Inc., which operates 12 world-class mountain resorts and three urban ski areas, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado.
Beaver Creek was perfectly designed to welcome alpine enthusiasts of all kinds. The resort offers fantastic mountain terrain for all ages and abilities.
Telluride boasts the highest concentration of thirteeners and fourteeners in the USA. Above the historic mining town of Telluride (you might notice a mining pickaxe on the logo) now there is a modern mountain village connected by a free pedestrian gondola. Telluride highlights are scenic beauty, legendary terrain, and the lack of crowds.
Winter Park may be a small mountain town, but they have been receiving some big accolades. We already mentioned #1 Best of the West ski resort in this list, but according to the USA Today readers, Winter Park Resort is the #1 Ski Resort in North America. World-class skiing, a variety of outdoor activities, great food, and unique culture definitely contribute to this award! Last but not least, it is one of the closest ski resorts to the greater Denver area.
Steamboat is a genuine Colorado mountain town with one of the biggest ski areas in the country. Rich in history, surrounded by ranches, barns, horse and cattle, the resort is nestled in the heart of the American West, with a ranching heritage. But what makes this place exceptional is an opportunity for a relaxing soak in a natural hot springs mineral pool.
Crested Butte located off the beaten path, the ski area is known for some of the best lift-served extreme terrain in North America. The ski area is located on the slopes of the prominent Crested Butte mountain.
Arapahoe Basin opened in 1946 with one tow rope, now offers more than 1,400 acres of skiable terrain, 9 lifts, a kids center and a new European bistro at 12,500 feet with panoramic mountain views (sounds like a Swiss subsidiary in the Rockies). Arapahoe Basin is also known as The Legend for having the longest ski and ride season in Colorado.
Wolf Creek ski resort in the southern Colorado ocuppies northern slopes of Alberta Peak. It is famous for excessive snowfalls, 430 natural inches of annual snowfall bring it the title of “The Most Snow in Colorado”.
Purgatory is not that scary, yet you can get your fair share of screams when running down The Inferno Mountain Coaster. The mountain views are extraordinary, the elevation and turns are thrilling, and as for those quick descents? They may inspire you to scream from the peaks. There is tubing, snowcat skiing, snowshoe walking, snowboarding, sleigh riding and many more amusements for adults and kids alike. Should you wish to master your way down the light, untracked powder through trees, glades and open bowls of varying pitch, you will be given the avalanche gear and even some lunch. Guests can expect an average of 8-10 runs and 10,000′ of vertical depending on skier ability and terrain conditions.
Eldora is a winter-sports playground located less than 50 miles from greater Denver area and just 21 miles from downtown Boulder. The proximity and easy access make it the perfect place to get started in skiing and snowboarding.
Loveland is Colorado’s true winter wonderland. Just 53 miles west of Denver, Loveland boasts 1,800 acres of remarkable terrain and free (yes, you read it right) snowcat skiing along the Continental Divide! The ski area horseshoes around the Eisenhower & Johnson Tunnels and occupies several peaks, Golden Bear Peak is the highest of them.
Powderhorn is tucked along the northern rim of Western Colorado’s beautiful Grand Mesa, 45 minutes from Grand Junction.
Monarch is a hidden gem of Colorado. Perfect for families, the independent ski resort offers a good variety of ski runs for a fraction of the cost.
Sunlight Mountain name comes from more than 300 days of sunshine. Together with an average of 250 inches of snow a year that makes Sunlight a snow-lovers paradise. Whatever your preferences are, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, driving a snowmobile, or just making snow angels, Sunlight is an affordable winter paradise for families.
Cooper’s origin goes back to World War II. In 1942, the U.S. Army selected a training site near an isolated railroad stop of Pando. Nearby Camp Hale was built as a training site for the ski troopers of the famed 10th Mountain Division which played a vital role in the liberation of Northern Italy. Today, Cooper continues to grow and develop organically, so that all of the things that make the Cooper atmosphere unique and special are maintained. The ski area occupies slopes of Cooper Hill.
I was born in the Bavarian Alps and lived the first nine years of my life there, so one could say that I was born with the love of mountains in my blood. A number of years after immigrating to the United States, I eventually moved to Colorado and have lived ever since in a western suburb of Denver, right at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. That’s where my love for the mountains grew as high as the mighty Rockies themselves. Though I have been back to the Alps many times, where I have done some of the finest hikes of my life, I have also hiked in other places around the world including New Zealand, Australia, Borneo, Philippines, Hong Kong, Norway and the United Kingdom. But by far, most of my hiking has been in the United States, and most of that in Colorado over the past 40 years. Since I started keeping records, I have hiked well over 10,000 miles, much of that after I retired in 2008 from a career in Civil Engineering. In the process, I have gained over 2 million feet of elevation (that’s about 390 miles). And I’m still going strong, with my loving wife as my favorite hiking partner.
This 3D model of Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal was made using the PeakVisor app topographic data. The mobile app features higher precision models worldwide, more topographic details, and works offline. Download PeakVisor maps today.
Download OBJ model
The download should start shortly. If you find it useful please consider supporting the PeakVisor app.