Many people immediately jump to ski resort towns when considering the top mountain towns to visit in Colorado, and rightfully so – it’s what put most of them on the map. A rental management company has amazing places to look into when looking for a place to stay. However, there are many other things to do and places of natural beauty to see, including incredible historical locations to visit year-round.
There are plenty of mountain towns to visit in Colorado; in fact, Colorado has the distinction of being the state with the highest average elevation. The highest peak in Colorado is Mount Elbert at 14,439 ft. Mountain peaks between 14,000 to 14,439 feet are called fourteeners, and fifty-eight (58) are across the state. In addition, there are 637 thirteener peaks falling between 13,000 and 13,999 feet.
To understand what makes a “mountain town” what it is, you should at least have a working definition of what that means. Denver, the Capital of Colorado, is called “the Mile High City” because it has an elevation of 5,279 ft (1,609 m). Most towns considered to be “mountaintops” in Colorado range in height from 9,000 to 11,000 ft (2,743-3,353 m).
From a historical point of view, one of the top mountain towns to visit should be the oldest. There has been an ongoing debate about which mountain town holds this distinction as, until the mid-1850s, Colorado was part of Mexico. It wasn’t until the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on February 2, 1848, to end the Mexican-American War that the United States expanded its borders west to the Pacific Ocean and south to include Texas.
The City of Central
Qualifying as a mountain town at an elevation of 8,510.5 ft (2,594 m) and commonly called Central City, the City of Central is arguably the oldest mining town in Colorado. In May 1859, miners discovered a gold vein during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. Subsequently, miners found several other lodes close by, and within one year, 10,000 had infiltrated the town, hoping to strike it rich. It was called “the wealthiest square mile in America.” However, most were not sustainable, and by 1900, the census reflected just over 3,100 inhabitants.
Today the total population is around 800. Central City is bordered to the north by Black Hawk, the town with the smallest population in Colorado at 128 residents. Casinos sustain the sister towns, nine in Black Hawk and six in Central City. Aside from the casinos, which are busy all year long, Central City has an Opera House that presents a full season of productions every summer.
The professional Opera Company at Central City is the fifth oldest in the country. The company owns 27 Victorian-era town buildings, including the 550-seat Opera House built in 1878. The programs have continued since the 1932 premier season.
Aspen cites its elevation at 8,000 ft (2438m) and represents the high-end ski resorts in Colorado. While each resort is unique, they share certain qualities that allow Aspen to define them as a group.
The primary attraction in Aspen (and the ilk) seems to be the illusion that the entire world is rich beyond comprehension, as more billionaires live in Aspen or have family or vacation homes there than anywhere else in the country. All that concentrated wealth has provided a subculture rich in the arts as well as world-class ski venues.
The Aspen Music Festival has been a yearly classical music celebration since 1949. Aspen cultural pioneers and ski developers Elizabeth and Walter Paepcke founded the classic festival. Multiple professional courses of musical study are offered, along with many performances throughout the season.
Another tourist draw, the Aspen Art Museum (AAM), requires a day or more to explore. Four levels display 33,000 square feet of exhibitions. In addition, there is a rooftop sculpture gallery and an outdoor commons on the ground level.
Outdoor activities for families and children continue past the ski season, including hiking, swimming, rafting, biking, climbing, riding, skating, and more that can keep everyone entertained while improving physical and mental health.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Spanning 415 square miles (265,807 acres), Rocky Mountain National Park boasts a well-established community. There are over 300 miles of hiking trails to visit, and as you walk along the paths, you may see one of the many threatened wildlife species protected in the Park.
- The Wolverine
- The Canada Lynx
- The Mexican Spotted Owl
- The Greenback Cutthroat Trout
- The Arapahoe Snowfly (proposed)
The park is composed of several mountain environments, such as meadows, alpine lakes, and mountain peaks reaching above the clouds.
Estes Park is the town serving as the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park. A tram line that connects the village to Prospect Mountain Peak is a unique experience, but the views of the valley below are fantastic any time of the year.
The local community has created a host of yearly festivities that keep Estes Park a prime destination for tourists. On that note, there is even a phenomenon called “Bigfoot Days” that draws a crowd. That’s right — there is a festival centered around the Yeti sightings in the area.
The Alpaca and llama herders in the mountains come together for the wool market and Fiber Festival, and another attraction, The Estes Park Duck Race, entices participants with a $10,000 first prize. During the competition, each participant adopts a little yellow plastic duck, and as the race begins, they are released into the Fall River.
It’s The People That Make The Towns
Every pioneer to the mountains of Colorado ventured forth without any guarantee of safety or survival. These founders were remarkably strong-willed and self-sufficient, establishing a story rich with the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.
No matter where you find a mountain town in Colorado, the robust population gives the town character. Each settlement faced a unique set of obstacles during establishment, and this tenacity embodies each destination, an enduring legacy that, in itself, is worth experiencing. Visit integratedmountain.com to view unique places to stay.