K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
Read full bio
Colorado is known for its alluring landscapes and outdoor adventures, which can come at a coast. However, there are a number of unforgettable budget-friendly options in the Rocky Mountain State as well. Check out our top picks for the best budget-friendly destinations in Colorado.
At Mesa Verde National Park in southern Colorado, visitors can retrace the ancient footsteps of the ancestral Puebloans who once lived in the park’s magnificent cliff dwellings, and the entrance fee is affordable. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to some of the most-well-preserved archaeological sites in the U.S., with more than 4,500 found within its boundaries, including Cliff Palace which contains 150 rooms, 23 kivas and once had a population of roughly 100. Lodging can be very budget-friendly too, by camping at Morefield Campground which offers a scenic canyon setting just four and a half miles from the park entrance, or you can stay at one of the nearby hotels starting at under $60 a night.
Victor was once a thriving gold rush town, home to nearly 20,000 around its peak in 1900. Today, there are just a few hundred residents in this historic town on the west side of Pikes Peak, and a handful of accommodation options, including the 1899 Victor Hotel that boasts a gorgeous Victorian-style lobby, an authentic birdcage elevator and rooms that are affordable. When you want a more lively atmosphere, Cripple Creek is just a 10-minute drive away and is booming with casinos and tourist attractions.
The Indian Peaks Wilderness is a hidden mountain treasure near the eclectic town of Nederland, just outside Rocky Mountain National Park. The landscape features soaring vertical rock faces, 13,000-foot-high mountains and wildflower-filled tundra, ideal for hiking and climbing, with miles and miles of trails leading. and few ever crowded. Hike the Arapaho Glacier Trail for especially jaw-dropping views and then come back to stay in the state’s quirkiest town. Nederland is internationally famous for its “Frozen Dead Guys,” and visitors can explore the town’s rich mining history, shop for unique items and enjoy an outstanding music scene.
The Red Feather Lakes area offers a year-round playground, renowned for its gorgeous scenery, diverse wildlife, scenic hiking trails and activities on the water. Nearby Beaver Meadows Stables & Resort, a casual ranch-style resort, offers all sorts of things to do, like horseback riding, sleigh rides, fishing and more, along with a wide range of lodging options, including especially affordable camper cabins that include wood-burning stoves and an outdoor fire pit.
While you may think an affordable Colorado ski vacation is an oxymoron, it can be found at Ski Cooper near Leadville. While it may not be as exciting or well-known as Aspen or Vail, lodging is far less expensive and it’s not near as pretentious either. Plus, you’ll rarely have to wait in line for the lift. Leadville is an ideal budget-friendly place to stay, and the highest incorporated city in the U.S. It’s home to everything from charming Victorian inns to inexpensive hotels, along with interesting historical attractions. In fact, the entire town is part of a designated National Historic District.
Glenwood Springs is home to the world’s largest outdoor mineral hot springs pool and an adventure park that’s built on top of a mountain, as well as hosting the opportunity for all sorts of recreational activities. It all comes together to help create an unforgettable yet affordable vacation. Visitors can enjoy whitewater rafting, hiking, fishing and skiing, as well as the famous hot springs, Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and Spa, along with thrilling rides at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. If you’ll be in town on a Wednesday, pack a picnic and enjoy free concerts at Two Rivers Park too.
Situated on the southern side of the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado, Silverton is connected to Ouray by the famed “Million Dollar Highway,” but don’t let the name fool you, this little town may offer million dollar views, but it’s easy to enjoy a budget-friendly vacation here. It’s home to Kendall Mountain Ski Area and Recreation Center as well as numerous opportunities for summer recreational activities, making it a popular destination year round. There are lots of cheap scenic campgrounds in the area, while hotels tend to be significantly cheaper than most Colorado mountain towns.
The Western Slope offers a ton of things to do in the heart of the agricultural region, Wine enthusiasts can discover a wealth of wineries and tasting rooms, and at the Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey, visitors get closeup encounters with dinosaur skeletons, a working paleontology lab and realistic robotic dinosaurs. Between June through October, the orchards offer a bounty of harvests, including grapes, cherries, plums, pears, apples, peaches and apricots, and there are a diverse range of outdoor activities too, from whitewater rafting to horseback riding and hiking.
In the winter, Steamboat Springs is internationally renowned for its champagne powder, and in the warmer months the Yampa River Valley, Steamboat Lake and Zirkel Wilderness Area are transformed into the ultimate wonderland for outdoor adventure, offering boat rentals, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming, camping and more. Grab a tube and glide down the only free-flowing river in the state, and it won’t cost you a thing. Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs not only offers fantastic hot springs to soak in, but affordable and unique accommodations, from camping and cabins to a covered wagon or train caboose.
While Estes Park isn’t exactly known as a cheap destination as the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, Fall River Cabins offers accommodation just two miles from the park. The romantic cabins have a rustic, woodsy feel along with spa hot tubs and fireplaces. If you’re looking for something even less expensive, there are a number of campgrounds like Estes Park KOA which offers camping cabins as well as traditional sites.