Independence Pass near Aspen
Independence Pass reaches 12,095 feet before descending in a series of switchbacks between Aspen and Leadville. | Photo by Deborah Ross

By Deborah Ross

To get to know the real Colorado, it’s best to move beyond the convenient images of cowboy boots and ski poles and picture a vibrant place with destinations that run the gamut from sand dunes to timberline highways. Each corner of this rectangular state has its own characteristics, with the Queen City of the West – Denver – taking center stage.

The many charms of Colorado and its cities, towns and open spaces are not lost upon travelers. The state draws in millions of tourists annually, from all over the globe and during all seasons.

Denver, also known as the Mile High City, is not only a destination in its own right, but it also serves as a key hub for travelers. In the winter, it is the gateway to some of the best skiing in the country. Think Aspen, Vail and Telluride. And in other seasons it leads to the discovery of narrow-gauge railways, alpine trails, forests, lakes, streams, hot springs, wildflowers and prairies.

Add to the mix the many historical sites – from Leadville to Bent’s Fort – that help underscore Colorado’s role in the development of the American frontier. Colorado was the backdrop for characters like Doc Holliday, Molly Brown, Butch Cassidy and Chief Ouray, among others. Even prehistory is in the spotlight, with rich evidence of dinosaur life in several areas of the state.

Whatever the destination in Colorful Colorado – a longtime nickname – recreation is likely to play a big role. Residents and visitors happily take advantage of opportunities for bike-riding, fishing, hiking, backpacking, river-rafting, bird-watching and strolls through city parks.

Colorado officials were onto something when they designated the John Denver song “Rocky Mountain High” as the state song. The poetic images of “rainin’ fire in the sky,” “cathedral mountains,” “silver clouds” and “the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake” help validate something that longtime residents already know: The real Colorado is a welcoming place, brimming with grandeur and beauty.

Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
State Capitol
U.S. Mint at Denver

Colorado Springs
Garden of the Gods Park
Pikes Peak
U.S. Air Force Academy
U.S. Olympic Complex
More Colorado Springs

Denver area
Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave
Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve

Central mountains
Black Hawk and Central City
Mount Evans

Estes Park
Fort Collins
Rocky Mountain National Park

Steamboat Springs

Royal Gorge
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Mesa Verde National Park

Grand Junction
Crested Butte
Glenwood Springs
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


Dinosaurs in Colorado
Movies filmed in Colorado

Copyright 2013, Real Colorado Travel LLC