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There are over five million people who call Colorado their home, but the state has been welcoming nearly 87 million visitors annually in recent years. This can make many popular Colorado destinations feel crowded, especially around the Denver metro area and ski resort towns in the winter.
However, there are still plenty of hidden gems throughout the state where you can find peace, solitude, and a refreshing dose of nature. Here are some of the best places in Colorado to visit if you hate crowds.
The tiny town of Paonia is a nice place to visit in Colorado if you’re looking for an arts scene, farm-to-table restaurants, vineyards, and mountain views. There are some great wineries here and also opportunities to see live music. Paonia State Park is a great spot for fishing and boating, and there are even campsites here. Hit the road along the West Elk Loop Scenic Drive, pick your own produce at an orchard in the summer or fall, and simply enjoy the uncrowded, small-town life here.
The town of Alamosa, Colorado is near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and in the heart of the San Luis Valley. It’s between mountain ranges in the Rockies and has many unique geological features in the region. In Alamosa, you can find rodeos, farmer’s markets, a historic railway, and, during the winter, snow sports. This is a sunny part of Colorado that’s fun to visit at any time of the year and that’s filled with small-town charm.
Travelers can not only find opportunities for outdoor recreation in Crestone, but also a spiritual place for healing and finding inner peace. Get outside at Baca National Wildlife Refuge, and go hiking or biking around the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. A unique local place is the Crestone Mountain Zen Center, which welcomes guests and hosts lectures and activities. In Crestone, there are Buddhist temples in the area, as well as hot springs where you can relax in geothermal mineral waters.
Creede, Colorado is a historic mining town that has lots of character and a small-town vibe. It’s an outdoor paradise during all four seasons with rafting, fishing, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Take a drive along one of the scenic byways in the area, such as the Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byway or the Bachelor Loop. The Creede Repertory Theatre is a fun place to catch classical and new productions in the summer, while the Taste of Creede is an annual festival on Memorial Day. The Wheeler Geologic Area is a great place to avoid crowds if you’re into hiking or 4×4 off-roading.
Crested Butte is a mountain paradise destination that sees fewer crowds than many other places in Colorado. It’s a great place to be for outdoor activities, such as biking, camping, horseback riding, and fly fishing. Breathe in the fresh mountain air, and take a walk down Elk Avenue in this very pedestrian-friendly town. To get away from any crowds, go cross-country skiing instead of heading to the ski resort.
With farm and winery tours, mountain biking, and peaceful vibes, Palisade, Colorado is another lovely spot to get away from the crowds. There’s a thriving creative community here with local artists, music festivals, and farmer’s markets selling crafts. You can travel along the Fruit & Wine Byway to experience this unique part of Colorado and make a point to check out the Colorado Mountain Winefest in September. For some solitude, get outside on the over 50 mountain biking trails in the region.
The southwestern town of Cortez, Colorado is known as the gateway to Mesa Verde National Park (a top national park in Colorado), but there are plenty of things to see and do right in town and in the surrounding area too. Popular attractions for historic and cultural experiences are the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and Hovenweep National Monument. The Carpenter Natural Area and Hawkins Preserve offer opportunities for hiking, biking, rock climbing, wildlife watching, and stargazing. A great first stop in town is the Cortez Cultural Center, with other popular spots being the Main Street Brewery, Guy Drew Vineyards, and Sunflower Theater.
Ouray is a southwestern Colorado destination that is a hub for outdoor recreation and a place where you can still avoid crowds despite its growing popularity. It’s been called the “Switzerland of America” and is home to hot springs, historic buildings, locally owned shops, and excellent restaurants. Ouray is a fun place to visit for rock climbing, off-road Jeeping, hiking, and sampling local beer. There are opportunities for camping here and also shops with artwork made by local artists.
Steamboat Springs is a chill and welcoming community in Colorado that has a mix of cowboy culture and outdoor adventure. It’s among the Rocky Mountains and has some nice opportunities for skiing, mountain biking, natural mineral springs, and learning about ranching heritage. It’s about a three- to four-hour drive from the Denver airport, so you can easily get away from the city crowds here. If you want to avoid the largest crowds in Steamboat Springs, plan your trip outside of ski season or go to areas where there are no chairlifts. Early December and late-March/early-April are good times to visit, for example.
Lake City is a remote Colorado town where you can really get away from it all. This small mountain community near Lake San Cristobal has a historic downtown area. This part of the state is great for 4×4 off-roading, hiking, and gazing up at the stars at night due to very little light pollution. To really escape the crowds, there are even a couple of ghost towns nearby that you can check out: Carson and Old Carson. Check out the ice climbing park in the winter and also the small ski hill if you visit during the cold months.
Located in southern Colorado near the New Mexico border, Trinidad is a laid-back town with a historic downtown, eclectic restaurants, and a mix of vintage and trendy shops. You can find peace and solitude with boating, fishing, and hiking around Trinidad Lake State Park and the various lakes in the region. There’s a nice riverwalk in town, as well as a history museum, the A.R. Mitchell Memorial Museum of Western Art, and the Main St. Live. Summer is typically the busiest time to visit Trinidad, so plan your trip during another time of the year for fewer people around.
Mancos, Colorado is a cozy, artistic, and cowboy-inspired town that has a low population and limited crowds. It’s close to Mesa Verde National Park and filled with historic buildings, including one of the oldest operating bars in Colorado. It’s nice to explore the Chicken Creek trail system when you’re looking for some peace and quiet on foot, by bike, or on skis. Mancos is also known for its local artisans that make bronze sculptures, jewelry, and craft beer and cider. The nearby towns of Dolores and Cortez are also in this region and great places to check out for next to no crowds and plenty of fun.
If you’re looking for somewhere tiny and remote in Colorado, consider a trip to Platoro, Colorado. This town is surrounded by the Rio Grande National Forest and is about two hours east of Pagosa Springs. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere and has an elevation of just shy of 10,000 feet. Some seasonal lodging options are available but typically close down during the cold winter months. This community is a former mining camp and got its name from the Spanish names for silver and gold. Check out the Platoro Reservoir for fishing, camp at the Stunner Campground northwest of town, and hike around the national forest when you come here for vacation.
Lyons is a Colorado town that’s known for being a small place with big character. You can avoid crowds here by getting active with outdoor recreation on the river and the hiking and biking trails. There are lots of independently owned local businesses here with a charming Main Street to take a walk down. Lyons is about an hour from Denver and 20 minutes from Boulder, but you’ll escape the big-city crowds by calling Lyons your home base. If you don’t mind a few extra people around though, make sure to check out one of the music festivals that take place here, such as Planet Bluegrass or the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival.