Whether you know it for its sensational folklore, stop-in-your-tracks natural beauty or exhilerating adventure offerings, Colorado in America's rugged west is definitely worth adding to your bucket-list in 2018. Get your boots on, hit play on some John Denver and prepare to be captivated by this postcard-perfect destination...
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The National Parks, obviously
There's no denying that Colorado's most cherished attraction is its spectacular National Parks. With four on offer and each completely different from the other, the state is blessed with unbelievably dramatic scenery and over 950 species of fascinating wildlife.
Arguably it's most well-known park, Rocky Mountains National Park is a real must-visit, with snow-capped peaks, mountain lakes and emerald fields dotted with wildflowers in the summer. Sprawling across 1,074 square kilometres, it's enough to make you feel tiny in comparison. Also sure to humble you with its grandeur, Black Canyon (pictured above) is known for its dramatic walls that plummet steeply into a gorge below, carved by the restless Gunnison River. Or, for something completely different, make your way to Great Sand Dunes National Park with – as the name might suggest – gargantuan dunes, or check out Mesa Verda National Park and its ancient cliff dweller sites.
A place of incredible legend and history, Colorado is sure to enchant history buffs and romantics alike. Known for its gold rush past and tales of the Wild West, this spellbinding destination is peppered with quaint towns that seem, thankfully, frozen in time.
Stop in at Silverton, Cripple Creek, Victor and Creede for streets lined with turn-of-the-century redbrick buildings and 1890s mine structures. And don't miss the Nationally Registered Historic District of Durango in the state's southwest. A whimsical mix of modern cosmopolitan lifestyle and 19th-century architecture, the town's streets will make you feel like you're walking back in time.
The growing culinary scene
It's not all cowboy chilli and beef stews in Colorado. There's a growing farm-to-table scene here, with many restaurants working with local farmers to serve the freshest produce with high-end flair.
Foodies, start your culinary journey in the sun-kissed city of Denver. Also beloved for its music scene (definitely catch a show at the Red Rocks Ampitheatre if you get a chance), the Mile High City boasts everything from mood-lit dive bars to fine-dining restaurants. The drinks aren't bad here, too, with many breweries and distilleries calling Denver home. Hungry for more? An hour away, Breckenridge also keeps the spirits high, with plenty of new distilleries, wineries and craft beer breweries throwing their doors open. Whatever your poison of choice, Colorado has something for you.
Ziplining over the Snowmass wilderness
Adventure-seekers are spoilt for choice when it comes to thrilling experiences in Colorado. If you've had your fill of hiking, biking, horse-riding and white water rafting, head to Aspen Snowmass for the Canopy Run Zipline Tour. Taking in breathtaking mountain and forest views (albeit very quickly), the experience features seven different zip-lines, with one stretching across 402 metres. If you prefer your white-knuckle action to be land-based, weave your way through the forest on Aspen Snowmass's aptly named Breathaker Alpine Coaster.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Looking straight out of a John Wayne film, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad would have to be one of the world's most picturesque rail journeys. Winding through canyons, remote wilderness and the two-million acre San Juan National Forest, its historic steam train travels between Durango and Silverton along the same tracks used by cowboys, miners and settlers over a century ago. Take in your majestic surroundings with a scenic trip or go all-out and book one of their wine or brew journeys for an amazing Colorado adventure.
Taking a dip in Glenwood Springs' hot springs
Picture the scene – you're letting your stresses dissolve away as you float in a giant mineral hot spring sheltered by towering snow-capped mountains. Sounds heavenly, no? Situated between Aspen and Vail and home to the world's largest hot springs pool, Glenwood is a haven for wellness-lovers. Known to the Ute Indians as Yampah (meaning 'big medicine'), the 120-metre pool is believed to be rich with health benefits but, if you ask us, it's the perfect excuse to float around and just unwind.
The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering
If you're wanting a peek into Colorado's famous cowboy culture, time your visit for early October (4-7). Held in historic Durango, the Cowboy Poetry Gathering brings together artists, performers and enthusiasts from across the state to celebrate all things Wild West – from its poetry and songs to its fashion and art. A real highlight, the festival's parade is definitely worth seeing, featuring beautiful horses, historic coaches and wagons, and locals in brilliant period costume.
As the air cools and the mountains become shrouded in snow, Colorado becomes a winter wonderland for avid skiers. You'll discover a range of wonderful ski-in/ski-out hotels spread across the state, including the new Limelight Hotel in Snowmass Base Village. One more reason for skiers to escape to Colorado? Ikon Pass holders now have access to five of the state's top ski areas, such as Aspen Snowmass and Steamboat.
For more travel inspiration, visit the Colorado Tourism website here.
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Image credits: Jeremy Swanson and Yvonne Lashmett, and sourced via www.breckenridgedistillery.com/ and www.durangoherald.com/