Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Colorado has no shortage of photo-ops, from the soaring Rocky Mountains to sparkling lakes, fantastical rock formations and iconic landmarks. If you want to experience some of the best while filling up your Instagram feed with impressive pics, you’ll want to know where to find those Instagrammable sights. This list could easily make for an unforgettable road trip covering them all too.
YOU'RE ALL SET!
Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.
Hanging Lake, located in Glenwood Canyon just seven miles east of Glenwood Springs, is one of Colorado’s most stunning natural wonders. A National Natural Landmark, they spill into crystal-clear emerald waters, located on a cliffside filled with greenery, which gave the lake its name. Its dazzling hue is the result of travertine (a form of limestone) deposits. A boardwalk surrounds it providing various perspectives to view and capture photos.
Another spectacular National Natural Landmark, Garden of the Gods is just a short drive from downtown Colorado Springs, home to over 300 sandstone formations that sit against a backdrop of towering snow-capped peaks. Most come to enjoy picnicking and hiking the 15 miles trails that wind through the massive rocks, but it’s also popular among rock climbers – if you aren’t into the sport, they’re fun just to watch. At the Visitor & Nature Center, you can learn how the unique formations were created, dine at the cafe and relax on the terrace with a breathtaking view overlooking the park and Pikes Peak beyond.
There are countless Instagrammable moments when riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, from the rushing river below to towering mountain peaks, and great selfies taken while hanging your head outside the window. The historic steam train chugs along at around 18 miles an hour while climbing the steep mountain passes and providing riders with a trip back in time leaving from Durango. Once you reach the tiny town of Silverton, tucked between Red Mountain and Molas Mountain, you’ll enjoy more magnificent views. It also has a very Instagram-worthy National Historic District with saloons, shops and eateries housed in period buildings and interesting landmarks like the San Juan County Historical Society, housed in the old county jail.
Just a short drive from Cripple Creek, which draws many for casino gambling, Victor offers a more authentic trip back in time to the peak of the area’s gold mining days around the turn of the 20th-century. There are lots of great photo-ops with steep streets lined with buildings that have been preserved from the 1890s, while the surrounding hills are dotted with tunnels, headframes and the shells of homes that belonged to the miners and their families. While it once had a population of around 50,000, today only some 400 residents call it home.
Telluride is Victorian-era silver-mining community that’s tucked deep within a box canyon in the San Juan Mountains. Telluride Ski Resort, just above town practically spills into it. One of the most charming towns in Colorado, you’ll find photogenic scenery around every corner, whether looking down from a mountain trail or along the streets. Its surrounded by red stone mountains, while Victorian storefronts and frontier-era facades adorn its compact downtown area. It was the first city in the world to have electric street lights, but it still retains the feel of bygone days, with no stoplights, neon signs or billboards.
The historic Stanley Hotel opened its doors in 1909 by the inventor of the Stanley Steamer automobiles, Oscar Stanley. Located at the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, it’s backed by breathtaking mountains while the exterior features a long, wide porch and steps leading to the entrance that is ideal for photos. When early guests arrived in their stylish Stanley-designed steam cars to see this magnificent hotel in the mountain wilderness, their jaws were said to drop – and today, many still feel the same way when they first lay eyes on it.
After capturing photos of the Stanley Hotel you might want to take a drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, filled with dramatic peaks that soar over 12,000 feet into the nearly always bright blue skies. Trail Ridge Road is one of 10 America’s Byways in Colorado, highlighting entire sweeps of the Rockies in every direction. It stretches for 48 miles from Estes Park on its east side to Grand Lake on the west. At its peak, it winds across the tundra to 12,183 feet in elevation, offering jaw-dropping views and frequent sightings of wildlife like bighorn sheep, moose and elk.
Aspen is one of the world’s most famously beautiful mountain towns, and just a short drive from downtown is the Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed mountain scenes in Colorado. The 14,000-foot Elk Mountain peaks are often reflected across the still waters of Maroon Lake, and when the rising sun colors them golden, it creates an incredibly scenic and photogenic vista. While exploring the area you’ll find spectacular views around nearly every corner.
The drive that follows Highway 550 between Silverton and Ouray isn’t for the faint of heart, with endless twists and turns, many of which travel right along the edge of steep cliffs. Your reward for maneuvering them is some of the most awe-inspiring views on Earth. This area is referred to as the “Switzerland of America,” revealing the dramatic, jagged peaks of the San Juan Mountains with lots of lookout points along the way for capturing postcard-perfect pics. It may be at its most stunning in the fall, with color usually peaking in late September.
The Flatirons are the iconic rock formations that you’ll see when approaching Boulder, and they’re some of the most enchanting. Within them, you’ll find numerous treks to explore, but the Flatirons Vista Loop Trail is one of the best for capturing those Instagram photos. It snakes through ponderosa pines and wide-open spaces that skirt the Flatirons just south of the city. It’s an easy 3.3-mile trek that can be accessed just south of Highway 128 along Highway 93, and you might spot some of the area’s wildlife here too, including lots of mule deer, black bear, bobcat and coyote.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to North America’s tallest dunes and it’s one of the most biologically and geologically diverse places in the country. It also features rugged 13,000-foot peaks, alpine lakes and tundra, forests, creeks, grassland and wetlands. Virtually anywhere you snap a photo here will impress your Instagram followers but one of the best opportunities comes by setting off early in the morning for Star Dune, the tallest of them all, providing a view from the top like no other. Just be sure to slather on the sunscreen and bring plenty of water. You’ll want to be off the dunes well before the frequent afternoon lightning storms arrive and temperatures skyrocket too.
Paint Mines Interpretive Park is less than an hour east of Colorado Springs in the tiny town of Calhan. It’s a geological wonder with colorful rock formations created over time by the elements and erosion. You’ll see all sorts of shades, from white, brown and gray to orange, yellow and purple. They’ve been here for centuries, with ancient people coming here to collect clay for paint and pottery. Capture photos of the brightly colored walls, spires and chasm by walking the four miles of trails that wind through the park.
Crested Butte is one of Colorado’s most jaw-droppingly beautiful Rocky Mountain towns, and it’s also famous for its abundance of colorful wildflowers. In fact, there are so many it’s often referred to as Colorado’s wildflower capital with over 50 types, like Columbine, Lupine, Sunflowers, Indian Paintbrush, and Larkspur. The blooms usually arrive just after that start of summer, bringing a kaleidoscope of color across the landscape, best experienced by hitting the trails on foot or by mountain bike. The 401 trail is a classic loop providing endless views of the flowers, alpine lakes, an aspen grove and the Elk Range.
If a magical winter wonderland is what you’re after, Steamboat Springs is a great pick and there may be no better way to experience it than on a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Of course, you’ll also want to snap a shot of the horses with the mountains in the background too. While you’re here you can enjoy its famous slopes for skiing and boarding, snowshoeing and soaking in the hot springs, with some right in town and others just a short drive away.
The Blue Lakes area, which includes a lower and upper lake, sits within an incredibly scenic glacial basin that’s part of the 16,566-acre Mount Sneffels Wilderness area in the Uncompahgre National Forest. Looking like brilliant turquoise jewels, the only way to get there is via a 4.3-mile hike (each way), but it’s more than worth the reward for the effort. The drive to the trailhead alone, accessed off Colorado Highway 62 between Ridgway and Telluride, is breathtaking, with panoramic vistas of Mount Sneffels.