13 Hidden Gems in Colorado Worth Visiting
If you have ever climbed Mt. Bierstadt or hiked to Hanging Lake, you are familiar with the experience of encountering a traffic jam on a mountain trail. It is certainly a unique experience. Colorado’s mountains, rivers, valleys, and canyons create a breathtaking backdrop that attracts millions of tourists and travelers every year. Some come to conquer peaks during the short summer season, while others enjoy skiing on snowy winter weekends.
If you are interested in exploring the quieter side of Colorado, you are in luck. There are still thousands of secluded places in the backcountry that you can explore without encountering crowds or hordes of visitors if you know where to look. In this exclusive guide for my members, I’ve shared thirteen hidden gems, including trails, peaks, lakes, and other unique spots I have discovered through my travels.
When visiting these areas, please be mindful of their pristine nature and the potential for major impacts as more people discover and visit them. Remember to Leave No Trace! Now, let’s get started.
Table of Contents
1. Marshall Pass, Colorado
Marshall Pass offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forests. It is a great destination for hiking and mountain biking, with trails that cater to various skill levels. Unlike the busy passes near Denver like Guanella or Loveland, Marshall Pass is far off the beaten track, and you are not likely to find crowds there.
2. Lost Creek Wilderness
This hidden gem is known for its unique rock formations and scenic hiking trails. The area is perfect for backpacking and camping, offering solitude and untouched natural beauty. Look out for the famous “lost creek” that disappears and reappears along the trails as it winds through massive boulders and rock towers as big as a house.
3. Mount Ouray
As one of Colorado’s thirteeners, Mount Ouray provides a challenging yet rewarding hike with breathtaking panoramic views. It is recommended for experienced hikers seeking an adventure off the beaten path. You won’t see many other hikers or climbers along the trail, so be ready to take care of yourself and be self-sufficient.
4. Spanish Peaks Country
This area is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, and wildlife spotting. The West Spanish peaks were created by volcanic forces and are surrounded by unique geological formations known as the Great Dikes. You can climb the peaks, visit a lower hiking trail, and more in this relatively quiet region.
5. Weston Pass, Colorado
Weston Pass is another scenic mountain pass that offers stunning views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. It requires 4WD to summit, but most of the lower reaches on both sides are 2WD accessible. With great dispersed camping sites along the road, it is a great spot for a scenic drive or a hike along the nearby trails.
6. Grand Mesa National Forest
7. Uncompahgre Plateau
The Uncompahgre Plateau is a rugged and remote area with stunning mesas, canyons, and forests. An uplifted section of the Colorado Plateau, it is located in southwestern Colorado far from major population centers. It offers opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and camping in a peaceful and secluded setting.
8. Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado
Colorado is known for its hot springs and mineral waters, but most are crowded with tourists. If you want a quieter atmosphere, consider Hot Sulphur Springs in western Middle Park. While there are definitely still visitors, it is one of the smaller and more intimate natural spring options in the state. You can stay at the resort in town or camp nearby at one of numerous campgrounds in the area.
9. Painted Mines Interpretive Park
This unique park features colorful and intricate rock formations that resemble painted canvases. Take a stroll along the trails to admire the natural beauty and learn about the geological history of the area. The rock formations are extremely delicate; stick to the trail if you decided to visit to leave no trace and limit your impact.
10. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
With its steep cliffs and narrow gorge, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Hiking, camping, and scenic drives are popular activities in this remarkable national park. It is the least-visited national park in Colorado, so finding a campsite or parking spot is much easier than at Rocky Mountain or Great Sand Dunes.
11. Oh My God Road
This scenic byway overlooking Idaho Springs offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It is a thrilling drive with sharp curves and steep drops, providing an unforgettable adventure for those seeking a unique road trip experience. Along the way, pass by century-old mining tunnels and ruins from the Gold and Silver rush.
12. Lake City, Colorado
Nestled in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, Lake City is a picturesque town surrounded by natural beauty. It offers opportunities for fishing, hiking, and exploring historic sites, making it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s a long way from the Front Range, but that distance has helped preserve Lake City’s small-town charm and character.
13. Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument
Colorado’s newest National Monument is full of history and adventure. The historic site was once a training facility for the 10th Mountain Division during World War II and helped lead to the development of Colorado’s ski industry. It offers a glimpse into the rich military history of the area and provides access to scenic hiking and biking trails along the Continental Divide.
Leave No Trace While Visiting These Gems
When exploring these hidden gems in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, it is important to practice Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment. Remember to pack out all trash, stay on designated trails, and be respectful of wildlife and other visitors. By following these guidelines, we can help preserve the beauty and tranquility of these special places for future generations to enjoy. Here are a few specific tips and practices to remember:
- Pack out all trash and leave the area cleaner than you found it.
- Stay on designated trails to avoid damaging fragile ecosystems.
- Respect wildlife by observing from a distance and not feeding or approaching them.
13 Hidden Gems in Colorado: Now You Know!
Now that you know about these hidden gems in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, it’s time to plan your next adventure! Whether you’re seeking a quiet hike, a scenic drive, or a peaceful camping spot, these lesser-known destinations offer the perfect opportunity to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Colorado. Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the environment to ensure that these hidden gems remain pristine for years to come.