As Colorado locals and adventurers, we spend pretty much all of our time in our mountain towns (no, seriously, even our jobs as adventure elopement photographers have us in the mountains on the regular). We’ve had the pleasure of wandering through and working in several of our mountain towns out here. From those experiences, we’ve come up with a curated, ultra-selective list of what we believe are the 9 best mountain towns in Colorado.
We’re big on transparency. There are definitely pros and cons to each of these mountain towns. We’ve spent enough time in each of these mountain towns in Colorado to know the upsides and downsides of each, and we’ll share exactly what those are.
We’ll let you know what exactly makes each of these mountain towns Colorado’s best of the best, but we’ll also share some crucial travel info you’ll want to be aware of when deciding where to visit our great state.
Disclosure: We’ve included lodging recommendations in this guide to the best mountain towns in Colorado. If you choose to book or buy through our links, we may earn a commission, at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support our small Colorado business. All recommendations are crafted with love and expertise, from platforms we use and trust for our own adventures.
We have a lot of mountains out here in Colorado, and a plethora of mountain towns to choose from. There are many amazing runner-ups that didn’t make the list because of this high level of competition.
The best mountain towns in Colorado are the towns that consistently take our breathe away, every time we visit them.
We love it when mountain towns allow for maximum seclusion, but we also know the importance of having things to do nearby. Especially if you’re traveling with family.
In order to have made the list, each of these best mountain towns in Colorado had to have nearby restaurants, adventures (whether it’s white water rafting, climbing, etc.), and town attractions to keep you busy when you’re not out on the trails.
Yes, some of the classics will be on this list of best mountain towns in Colorado. But so will a couple of our personal favorite spots that are less traveled but arguably more epic.
As local Coloradans, we’ve had the pleasure of not just seeing the major mountain towns, but the ones in between, too. And those towns have earned their spot on this list of the best.
Let’s break them down. What are the coolest mountain towns in Colorado? What makes them so special? And why should you bother visiting them?
The underrated, yet absolutely incredible Buena Vista tops our list as the the best mountain town in Colorado.
If you don’t want to deal with the crowds that come with visiting a place like Breckenridge, and you don’t want to pay for the expensive lodging fees of Aspen, but you still want epic views and cool hikes (and to be frank, much more privacy and seclusion), Buena Vista is the go-to.
BV is undeniably one of the best mountain towns in Colorado, but also one of the more affordable ones too.
Some of our absolute favorite hikes, overlooks, and mountain roads (in particular, Cottonwood Pass) are in Buena Vista, Colorado. It’s not here to be bougie or pretentious. It’s a simple place for people who love adventuring and experiencing solitude.
Buena Vista has good hikes for newbie hikers and more advanced adventurers alike, which is one of the best and most special parts of this Colorado mountain town: there’s something for everyone.
If you’re into mountain ghost towns, you’ll want to venture out of town up to St. Elmo. And if hot springs are more your vibe, there are plenty in the area. Mt Princeton Hot Springs is just a short drive out of town, and they have adorable cabins you can stay at on-site.
There are great options for white water rafting on the nearby Arkansas River. And BV is home to one of our favorite boutique hotels in the state, The Surf Hotel & Chateau (we’ve actually written a comprehensive review of the Surf Hotel with tons of photos, in case you’re curious what it’s like).
All of that said, while we consider Buena Vista to be the best, it is one of the smaller mountain towns in Colorado. There won’t be as much to do if you’re looking to spend more time in town vs in the mountains.
Personally, we think one of the most special things about Buena Vista, and one of the reasons we consider it the best of the best when it comes to mountain towns in Colorado, is its central location.
Drive an hour or two in any direction, and you’ll end up in another amazing mountain town. If you want to see as much of Colorado as possible, we think Buena Vista is a great jumping off point.
When deciding on the final rankings for our list of best mountain towns in Colorado, choosing between #1 and #2 was the toughest decision of all. But ultimately Buena Vista, for the reasons we mentioned above, had a slight edge.
That said, Crested Butte is one of our all-time favorite places, and for sure deserves a spot on our list of best mountain towns in Colorado. It’s a little bit hippie, a little bit hiker, and a little bit bougie. And it’s a place we find ourselves drawn to all the time.
Whenever we visit CB, we are reminded of how friendly a place it is. It truly feels like all people are welcome. It definitely has some hippie vibes and the classically laid-back Colorado feel to it. But at the same time, we’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bit bougie (I mean, it’s a top ski destination after all).
So why is Crested Butte so high on the list of best mountain towns in Colorado? CB has some of the most gorgeous fall colors you can see (the drive from Gunnison to CB in the second half of September is afire with aspen leaves changing).
It’s also home to some of our favorite alpine lakes, and the wildflowers in the summertime are to die for (there’s a reason CB is called the wildflower capital of Colorado, and they even have a festival for the flowers).
Not every season in Colorado is created equal, and to see the best of our mountain towns, you have to get your timing right. We’ve crafted the complete guide to the best times of year to visit the Rockies, so you don’t have to second guess.
If you want a laid-back Colorado adventure, camping in CB is an awesome way to experience the area, without stretching your travel budget too thin.
And if you’re looking for epic lodging, Crested Butte has some of the best of any of the mountain towns in Colorado. We’re head-over-heels for this adorable in-town guesthouse that sleeps 2 and this cozy and luxurious cabin that sleeps 8.
If you like the mixture of a town with lots to do, along with plenty of mountain adventures, CB is one of the best mountain towns in Colorado, without a doubt. Every time we’re in town, without fail, we grab a few slices of pizza from Secret Stash.
For coffee, swing by Rumors Coffee and Tea House (an adorable little coffee shop with a bookstore attached) or Camp 4 Coffee. For a sweet treat, you’ll definitely want to stop at Niky’s Mini Donuts.
The downside of Crested Butte and the reason it doesn’t get our coveted spot as the best mountain town in Colorado? It has grown quite a bit in popularity, which means it can get pretty busy.
Drive up some of the nearby mountain passes and dirt roads, though, and you can escape the rush. The popularity of CB also means lodging can get pretty pricey. Our personal solution for this? Book a hotel in nearby Gunnison, CO.
Let’s not kid ourselves. If you’ve been scouring lists for the best mountain towns in Colorado, we’d be willing to bet Telluride is a town you’ve seen ten times over. And hey, we’re not here to disagree.
Telluride is a stunner. Truly, the San Juan Mountains are incredible. While not always the easiest place to get to, Telluride is well-worth the trek and definitely deserves to be added to any Colorado trip itinerary.
If you’re into skiing, Telluride skiing is world class and would probably be enough to put this at the top of our list of best mountain towns in Colorado. If cutesy little mountain towns with adorable architecture are your vibe, you’ve hit jackpot. If boutique restaurants and cafes are your style, Telluride kills it.
And if you’re the type of person who wants to hop in your Jeep and take on some of the most rugged 4X4 trails in the state, welcome to your paradise. For all of these reasons and more, Telluride makes the list of the best mountain towns in Colorado.
We have a few thoughts about the people who like to claim that “Telluride is overrated” or that “it’s not the secret it used to be.” Sure, Telluride has gotten pretty popular lately, but it’s for a dang good reason.
We dare you to take the free gondola up to the San Sophia Overlook at sunset, look at the alpenglow and the tiny little town down below and tell us that it wasn’t worth the trip. Or camp up at Alta Lakes and not be impressed. Impossible.
And that just scratches the surface on what makes this hands-down one of the best mountain towns in Colorado. This place is special in a way that’ll have you craving a visit year over year. We promise.
While being a busy Colorado mountain town, if you want privacy and seclusion you can still find it in Telluride. Sometimes you simply have to hiker farther. Sometimes you have to drag your butt out the door at sunrise, before everyone and their kids rush to the mountains.
But as elopement photographers who document adventure weddings in places like Telluride and Aspen all the time, where people love to visit during the busy season, we’ve been able to find seclusion with ease.
It’s simply a matter of getting up at sunrise (ideally on a weekday). And trust us, the mountains are even prettier at sunrise and sunset than they are in the middle of the day, anyways. The best mountain towns in Colorado are best seen during off-hours.
As with many of these “best of” mountain towns in Colorado, there is a downside. For Telluride, it’s the crowds (finding parking in town can be an interesting exercise in patience, to say the least) and the prices.
Telluride lodging costs can be a bit higher than most mountain towns in the state. That said, there are some epic campsites nearby, and you can look into lodging in nearby Mountain Village as well.
And also, the town of Ridgway is only a little under an hour away and Montrose is about 1.5 hrs away if you need some more budget friendly lodging and are cool with driving a bit to get into town.
Silverton is another Southwest Colorado gem, also nestled in the San Juan Mountains. We like to joke that it’s Telluride’s more casual, laid-back sister, just on the other side of the mountain.
If you like the epic, expansive mountain views and amazing mountain passes and dirt roads of SW Colorado, but want something a little more relaxed and affordable than Telluride, Silverton is one of the best mountain towns in Colorado.
The section of Million Dollar Highway that connects the Colorado mountain towns of Ouray and Silverton is one of our favorite stretches of road in the state. There are so many epic places to pull off and enjoy the views (and some crazy cool off-roading trails are right off the road as you approach Silverton).
If you’re planning on spending 2 to 3 weeks exploring the Rockies, we’ve created an epic road trip itinerary that includes our absolute favorite spots in Colorado. We’ve made sure to include several of the best mountain towns in Colorado in this itinerary, too.
There are several camping options right outside of Silverton, and if you’re looking for a boutique hotel experience, you have to book a stay at the Wyman or the Avon (this hotel has tons of historic mining town charm).
As with Telluride, Silverton is one of those mountain towns in Colorado that is quite the trek to get to. Beware: if you aren’t super comfortable with winter driving on dicey shelf roads, we’d avoid Silverton in the winter months. Million Dollar Highway is no joke to drive, and it’s even more intense in the winter.
That said, we personally love Silverton in the summertime and early fall. Silverton is home to some of the most epic high alpine lakes in the state, and the best time of year to hike to those will be late July and August.
Let’s just say, the breathtaking hiking and off-roading views alone are enough to put Silverton on our list of best mountain towns in Colorado.
Frisco and Breckenridge are only at 15-20 minutes away from each other, so you can totally visit both of these Colorado mountain towns easily in one trip. But if you ask us, Frisco is the cooler, more affordable, and less busy sister of the two.
Some of our favorite hikes are near Frisco (like Clinton Gulch and Mayflower Gulch), and Frisco’s proximity to i70 makes it super accessible if you’re flying in through Denver.
Breckenridge is beautiful, don’t get us wrong. But it’s easy to feel claustrophobic in town, especially with the crowds. Not to say Frisco isn’t also a busy place. It is (pretty much the whole Breckenridge and Frisco area is a top spot for out-of-state visitors and local adventurers alike).
But we personally feel like you get more bang for your buck with Frisco (it’s the more affordable between the two), while also being so close to what Breckenridge has to offer. That’s one of the core reasons why Frisco makes this list of the best mountain towns in Colorado.
As with all the best mountain towns in Colorado, though, crowds can easily become an issue. While not as busy as neighboring Breckenridge, Frisco sees its fair share of tourists.
As a general rule, the best way to avoid crowds is to start your day as early as possible. This is especially pertinent on busy trails where trailhead parking fills up by the early to mid-morning.
There’s something magical about Aspen. It’s the perfect blend of rugged outdoors adventure and luxury…an odd but alluring contrast we can’t help but love. That’s one of the biggest reasons this one ranks as one of the best mountain towns in Colorado: there’s something for everyone.
You have the classic Maroon Bells, with its stunning sunrise alpenglow. You also have lesser-known spots like Ashcroft Ghost Town (one of our favorite spots for fall colors). And then you have the iconic Independence Pass, which connects Aspen to Twin Lakes, and is a must-do drive in the summer and early fall.
If we’re being honest, Independence Pass itself is one of the biggest reasons why Aspen makes this list of the best mountain towns in Colorado. It’s iconic.
As far as things to do in town, Aspen has plenty of options. Swing by JUS for delicious fresh-pressed juice and breakfast and Bear Den for yummy gourmet food with a seriously cozy vibe. For lodging, the iconic Hotel Jerome is a classic.
As the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s no surprise that Estes park is one of the best mountain towns in Colorado. If your goal is to see the best the park has to offer, staying in Estes is your top option.
This mountain town’s close proximity to the park means you have tons of epic hiking trails to explore (many of which make for awesome snowshoe routes in the winter!). We won’t reinvent the wheel here, as our guide to the park covers the best stuff to do.
As far as cons go, we won’t to lie to you, Estes can get pretty busy, especially in the peak season (summer and early fall). It’s one of those mountain towns in Colorado known for fully booking out pretty much all lodging options months in advance. So definitely plan early and book early.
Hands-down the most iconic place to stay at while in Estes is the Stanley Hotel: the hotel that served as the inspiration for the hotel from the Shining. It’s a gorgeous building just a few miles from two of the park’s entrances.
Like we said earlier, you can’t make it onto the list of best mountain towns in Colorado without having food and entertainment too.
When it comes to food and drinks, you’ll definitely want to swing by Bird and Jim for dinner (they’re one of the best rated restaurants in town, and they source their food locally). And be sure to stop at the Barrel for some beer after you eat.
One fun quirk about Estes: it’s home to a pretty wide selection of candy and chocolate shops. So if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll want to plan a trip to Estes Park Sugar Shack to get your fix.
Living so close to Rocky Mountain, we’ve seen this park in every season, year-over-year. And over that time, we’ve curated a list of the must-see trails and sights in the park.
Georgetown, located less than an hour outside Denver, is one of those Colorado mountain towns you’ll pass on i70 on your way to Breckenridge. And if you’re following most of the typical tourism sites and guides, you’ll drive right past and miss one of the best mountain towns in Colorado for gorgeous scenic hikes and iconic seasonal high alpine drives.
But we’re here to tell you: don’t skip out on Georgetown. Even if you just stop by for an afternoon, it’s worth it. For hiking, our favorite trail is Silver Dollar Lake (definitely a summer bucket list must-have, and one of our favorites we’ve done). It’s located off Guanella Pass, which is a stunning drive in both summer and fall, and it takes you up to the continental divide.
We’d also argue that Georgetown is one of the best mountain towns in Colorado if you have kiddos. The Georgetown Loop Railroad is such a fun activity and a truly memorable experience. Go in the fall (specifically very late September or early October) to see the fall colors.
As far as lodging goes, this adorable cabin tucked away in the mountains of nearby Idaho Springs has to be our favorite. The Hotel Chateau Chamonix is also a great option if you want something closer to town that has serious cozy vibes. Generally speaking, Georgetown tends to be one of the more affordable mountain towns in Colorado, at least compared to places like Aspen and Breckenridge.
World-class ice climbing. Insanely adventurous off-roading (Yankee Boy Basin and Imogene Pass are two classics). Mind-blowing hiking trails meandering through the San Juans. What makes Ouray one of the best mountain towns in Colorado is the sheer number of adventure opportunities this town offers.
On top of being a true adventurer’s paradise, Ouray is also under 25 miles to Silverton and under 50 miles to Telluride, making it a perfect destination to explore the San Juans in more detail.
Relax after a day on the trails at Ouray Hot Springs, and then treat yourself to drinks at the rooftop bar at the Imogene Hotel. For lodging, the Beaumont Hotel is a great option if you love the look and feel of a historic mountain town hotel. It is adults-only, though!
Ouray makes this list of the best mountain towns in Colorado not only for the adventure and entertainment it has to offer, but also just how close it is to some of the state’s other must-see spots. It’d be crazy to not add this town to your list.
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