5 Under-The-Radar Places You Must Visit in Colorado

Google best places to visit in Colorado and you will find plenty of websites suggesting very similar places. From popular ski towns of Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, and Steamboat, to amazing parks like Rocky Mountain National Park and Great Sand Dunes, to popular destinations such as Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, and Mt. Evans Road, the same places pop up on every list. And, without a doubt, these are all phenomenal places and all worth seeing.

But we like to go against the grain at Vibe and Venture – though we’ve been to all of the above, of course – so we’re going off-the-radar and sharing some of the less talked about destinations in Colorado. Those that are equally, if not more, amazing than what you often find on your typical internet search.

Plus, because we’re flying under-the-radar this means fewer crowds and more time for you to enjoy this gorgeous state with a little peace and quiet and without sacrificing any beauty.

Lake Granby

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular and visited destinations in all of Colorado. In 2018 the park saw nearly 4.6 million visitors. Yes, you read that right!

The park itself is worth a visit and continues to be one of our favorite spots despite the popularity and crowds. There is, however, a gem waiting for you just on the other side of the park. One of our favorites, Lake Granby!

Although there are two quick ways to reach Lake Granby, if you’re headed up in the summer we recommend taking Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National park into Grand Lake.  Grand Lake is an amazing and underrated mountain town due to the fact that it’s not off i70 and therefore home to highly-trafficked ski resorts nearby, And that means, no large crowds. Eat at the popular western-style BBQ joint Sagebrush, and don’t forget to have some fun with the tradition of throwing peanut shells on the floor.

Just about 15 mins away is Lake Granby. With 40 miles of shorelines surrounded by beaches, forests, and mountains there is plenty of serenity for anyone who visits. The Lake has several camping options as well, try Stillwater campground for the best views and access to the lake.

Boating and fishing is also a must and with nearly six marinas and a Yacht Club, there are plenty of options to find what you’re looking for at very affordable prices. Try  Indian Peaks Marina for good quality boats/service and grab dinner at Mustachio’s on The Lake after.

When all said and done this Lake is truly a gem for anyone looking for some fun on the water in this land-locked state. The Lake is large enough to feel like you’re on a big body of water and has a few nice beaches as well. When you sprinkle in the views of the Rocky Mountains right behind it, you will wonder why more people don’t visit this place. But with no popular ski-towns, resorts or hotels, and attractions nearby, you’ll be glad you have this gem all to yourself.

Million Dollar Highway

This 300-mile part of U.S. Highway 50 is one of a kind and a must-do in Colorado. And although you can drive as much of this highway as you want, taking the much shorter part from Ouray to Silverton is much more accomplishable and still very scenic.

While most articles list this road as one of the scariest and more dangerous in the country, it has no greater risks than driving on regular U.S. highways. No guard rails, tons of sharp turns, and narrow lanes might put it on the list of adrenaline-packed roads; but if you drive the speed limit and remain cautious it is a very safe and enjoyable well-paved road.

Road aside, this really is a mesmerizing place. You find yourself on a magical journey, moving through deep canyons, tunnels, and stunning mountain backdrops. You can’t help but wonder about the people who put in years of hard work to allow you to travel through this place by car. The scenery constantly changes, making you feel as if you’re flipping pages through an outdoor magazine.

Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses, with plenty of pullovers there is no shortage of places to take photos and breathe in fresh mountain air. Make sure to stop in the old western town of Silverton and grab some delicious beer at Avalanche Brewing Company. 

Ouray

The towns of Breckenridge, Aspen, Vail, and even Steamboat bask in all the glory and have no shortage of visitors every season of the year. As Colorado tourism often revolves around top ski resorts and winter sports, towns like Ouray get overlooked.

Lucky for you, sometimes not following the crowd can lead to the biggest treasures. And with the nickname of “Switzerland of America,” you will feel like you found your own little gold mine.

This slow-moving town of just 1,000 people is as friendly as it gets. The town is often visited for its great hot springs. Spend the day relaxing at the famous Ouray Hot Springs or opt for the more private experience and stay at the cozy  Box Canyon Lodge.

If the day is nice make sure to head over to Ouray Brewery for some Colorado beer and catch some rays on their scenic rooftop. There are also plenty of good restaurants in town and tons of local shops to browse through. Grab some delicious breakfast at “The Goods” and take advantage of some great local hikes as well.

All in all, this is a great little town with no shortage of fun and photogenic spots. Only 5.5 hours from Denver and worth every minute!

Palisade

When you think of Colorado the first thing that probably pops into your mind are those snow-capped rocky mountain peaks, ski-towns, breweries, and a long list of outdoor recreational activities you can do.

So why should you think of Palisade?

The answer is world class wine in a stunning part of western Colorado. But Palisade is actually most famously known for its juicy peaches amongst Coloradans. So it’s shocking that despite being home to approximately 32 Vineyard’s that produce award-winning wines, more people don’t associate it with wine as well.

Imagine Napa Valley but surrounded by breathtaking flat top mountains made of cretaceous sandstone. Wine Country Inn is a great hotel close to all the vineyards if you’re staying overnight. You can even rent bikes in town and if you’re up for tour de wine.

Palisade also plays host to many great restaurants and shops when you’re looking for a break from the sampling. Take a stroll through Riverbend Park to unwind after a day of drinking or take a 3.3-mile hike on the Palisade Rim Trail. This amazing western Colorado town will have you coming back for more.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs

There is no such thing as bad hot springs in Colorado, or anywhere actually. Crowded, wild, secret or tiny, they all soak away life’s problems at least for the time we are in them.

Therapeutic effects aren’t the only things that draw people to these natural baths, they also make us feel more alive and connected to the great outdoors. Hot springs are natures way of showing us care and love. Mother nature can often be unpredictable and unforgiving, but these natural pools of warm water show us otherwise, she has a loving side too.

When you find yourself researching the best hot springs in Colorado, it’s not about all the amazing ones that pop up, it’s the one that doesn’t. Shockingly one of the best and secluded yet accessible, is lost in the shuffle – Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs sit just outside the very popular town of Steamboat Springs. And while there are no hotels around it and it may be difficult to access them via the bumpy dirt road during wintertime, it is their serene environment that makes them so special.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs feel wild yet controlled at the same time. They have primitive type huts you can stay in overnight if you opt to stay longer. They offer massages in private settings and have little changing areas/bathrooms on site.

Once you’re in the hot springs you quickly forget all these amenities are there. The place is quiet, peaceful, and surrounded by a quaint forest. There are days when it gets a little crowded, but the hot springs boast multiple different pools varied by their temperature and size, dispersing people to their own preferred areas. You quickly feel that all visitors alike are there for quiet relaxation rather than a party.

After all, nature has its way of calming wild souls. Of course, we’re keeping a few hidden gems for ourselves – we can’t give away all of the secrets. Where would the fun be for you in getting out and finding your own adventure? But we do hope this helps guide your next adventure if you’re looking for a place just a bit “off the beaten path.”

If you have been to any of these places and have more to share, please drop us a line below. Let us know if you have any questions as well? We would love to inspire you to go.


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