Snow-capped peaks, ridiculous rock formations, arid deserts, rushing rivers, glittering lakes, ancient canyons, cascading waterfalls, scenic byways and expansive forests. Colorado literally has it all—well, except for the beach, though we promise you won’t miss it. Without picking favorites, it’s pretty fair to say that the Centennial State is second to none in the natural scenery department. (Ok, perhaps it’s tied with California, but that feels like an argument for another day.)

So how would one go about selecting the prettiest spots when the list of contenders goes on forever? Good question. It wasn’t easy, but we managed to do it. From charming small towns and national parks to ski resorts, monuments and a legendary music venue, these are the most beautiful places in Colorado to check out ASAP.

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Most Beautiful Places in Colorado GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
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1. GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK

Situated in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, Great Sand Dunes National Park is one of the most famous and fantastical locations on our list. The name should be a pretty obvious giveaway of what you’ll see here. It boasts the tallest sand dune in the country. And, yes, the rumors are true...you can indeed go sandboarding and hiking (duh). That’s not all! The Medano Creek and peaks of Sangre de Cristo round out the otherworldly landscape. A word to the wise: hit up Great Sand Dunes National Park early in the morning because it gets super hot.

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Most Beautiful Places in Colorado GARDEN OF THE GODS
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2. GARDEN OF THE GODS

The most visited attraction in the Pikes Peak region and a National Natural Landmark, Garden of the Gods will make you believe in a higher power. This celebrated Colorado Springs destination is famed for its enormous sandstone formations that seem to touch the sky. Be sure to bring your camera to snap photos of gravity-defying boulders like Kissing Camels, Balanced Rock, Tower of Babel, Cathedral Spires, Three Graces, Sleeping Indian, Siamese Twins, Scotsman and Pig's Eye. Fortunately, these million-dollar views don’t cost a fortune. Quite the contrary, it’s actually free to explore the Garden of the Gods!

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Most Beautiful Places in California CRESTED BUTTE
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3. CRESTED BUTTE

Perched at an elevation of 8,909 feet, Crested Butte is a charming small town in the Rocky Mountains. People flock to this winter wonderland to ski and snowboard on the storied slopes of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Far from a place that hits its highest note in the winter, Crested Butte delights during all four seasons. Hailed as the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, it’s incredible come spring when the blooms create the most vividly picture-perfect panorama. Another scenic selling point? The Quaking aspen trees erupt into a fiery cornucopia of harvest hues in the fall.

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Most Beautiful Places in Colorado MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
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4. MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK

Visually striking and historically significant, UNESCO-listed Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado is not to be missed. It’s home to thousands of impressively preserved Ancestral Pueblo sites—including the Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America. The Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum showcases exhibits on the Ancestral Pueblo life and culture. Besides its archaeological value, Mesa Verde National Park brims with natural beauty. Those looking to add eye-popping canyon views to the mix should drive the six-mile Mesa Top Loop Road. You can see several interesting rock carvings walking along the rugged Petroglyph Point Trail.

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bridal falls beautiful places in colorado
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5. BRIDAL VEIL FALLS

You could accuse us of waxing poetic over the beauty of Bridal Veil Falls. And to that, we’d say “guilty as charged.” But seriously, who wouldn’t get swept up in the magnitude of Colorado’s tallest cascades as it spills down a box canyon overlooking Telluride (which we should mention is a truly dazzling destination in its own right). The two-mile trek out to Bridal Veil Falls affords travelers plenty of time to build up excitement. While the journey back provides an opportunity to remark on the sheer majesty of what you just witnessed.

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Most Beautiful Places in Colorado HANGING LAKE
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6. HANGING LAKE

By now we’ve established that Colorado isn’t lacking in stunning locales. However, Hanging Lake manages to stand out from the rest. Located near Glenwood Springs, this National Natural Landmark and popular tourist attraction remains a remarkable example of a travertine geological formation. Prepare to be impressed by the crystal-clear water, moss-covered rocks and gently cascading falls. Getting to Hanging Lake takes a fair amount of effort. It’s accessible via a scenic—albeit steep and strenuous—backcountry hike. Don’t expect to cool down once you arrive, swimming of any kind is strictly prohibited to protect the fragile ecosystem.

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Most Beautiful Places in Colorado MAROON BELLS
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7. MAROON BELLS

Maroon Bells, just outside of Aspen, are two recognizable and camera-ready fourteeners (mountains taller than 14,000 feet above sea level). Despite being one of the most photographed areas in all of Colorado, pictures don’t do justice to these Mother Nature-made treasures—and, frankly, neither do words, though we’ll give it a shot. The combination of sparkling lakes, rivers, meadows, forests, seasonal blooms and, of course, a duo of peaks create a picturesque setting unlike anywhere else on the planet. And obviously, a post of Maroon Bells is basically guaranteed to garner lots of likes on Instagram.

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Most Beautiful Places in Colorado ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
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8. ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

Few places capture the hearts of so many people from different walks of life as Rocky Mountain National Park. In fact, we can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t be moved by its many mountains, aspen forests, rivers and tundra. Those with mountaineering and hard-core climbing experience can attempt to scale the Keyhole Route that leads up to 14,000-foot Longs Peak. For others, a photo of the prominent summit from a distance will suffice. If you fall into the latter group, head to Bear Lake to take in the splendor of the alpine scenery.

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Most Beautiful Places in Colorado RIFLE FALLS STATE PARK
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9. RIFLE FALLS STATE PARK

Some destinations just have a way of capturing your heart and never letting go. Rifle Falls State Park definitely falls (pun intended) into that category. Best known for its 70-foot triple waterfall, 38-acre Rifle Falls State Park, in Garfield County, also has a deciduous forest, wetlands, limestone caves, fishing ponds, groomed hiking trails as well as thirteen drive-in and seven walk-in campsites. The wildlife situation is pretty epic too. Visitors frequently peep deer, elk, coyote, moose and native birds. Do you blame us for being just a tad bit obsessed?

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Most Beautiful Places in Colorado PIKES PEAK
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10. PIKES PEAK

There’s stiff competition for the title of most beautiful place in Colorado. And while we can’t say for sure which spot takes the cake, Pikes Peak is definitely in the running. Dubbed “America’s Mountain,” this fourteener (in case you forgot, that’s a summit higher than 14,000 above sea level) brings the beauty of its iconic vistas to the masses. By that, we mean that you don’t have to survive some rigorous, quad-torching hike to the top. Just hop aboard the world’s highest cog train, sit back, relax and soak in the panoramas. You’re welcome.

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11. THE BROADMOOR SEVEN FALLS

While not the tallest, The Broadmoor Seven Falls is widely regarded as the Centennial State’s most famous series of cascades. As the name of this privately-owned attraction suggests, this soul-stirring natural phenomenon flaunts seven waterfalls (Bridal Veil, Feather, Hill, Hull, Ramona, Shorty, and Weimer). What its moniker fails to mention? The water gushes 181 feet down from South Cheyenne Creek. Talk about impressive! You’ll often hear people call The Broadmoor Seven Falls “the Grandest Mile of Scenery in Colorado.” That’s because the surrounding landscape wows with a mix of forests, prairies, valleys and rock formations.

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Most Beautiful Places in Colorado RED ROCKS PARK AND AMPHITHEATRE
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12. RED ROCKS PARK AND AMPHITHEATRE

If you travel to Denver and don’t catch a show at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, were you even really there? Jokes aside, this iconic entertainment venue is one of the most impressive sites in the states. The remarkable juxtaposition between natural and manmade really sets it apart. Fiery rock formations beneath the star-flecked night sky and a stage that’s welcomed some of the most talented musical acts of all time. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre also hosts other types of awesome live events like yoga and classic drive-in movies.

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Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway colorado

13. UNAWEEP-TABEGUACHE SCENIC AND HISTORIC BYWAY

Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway isn’t so much a singular locale as a 150-mile stretch of road linking the towns of Whitewater and Placerville. Along the way, this staggering gorgeous route winds through a wild tangle of jagged cliffs, deep canyons, ancient riverbeds, deserts, working ranches, cow pastures and grassy knolls. Our advice for navigating the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway? Put together a cruise-worthy playlist, pack ample car snacks and prepare to stop a lot to snap pics of the otherworldly beauty that’s all around you.

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Most Beautiful Places in Colorado JAMES M. ROBB   COLORADO RIVER STATE PARK
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14. JAMES M. ROBB – COLORADO RIVER STATE PARK

Perched along the Colorado River in Mesa County near Grand Junction, James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park has been wooing tourists with its waterfront charms since 1994. Yes, it’s one of the newer spots on our list but that certainly doesn’t have any bearing on its beauty. This 890-acre bucket-list destination is divided into five sections, all with river access. There are miles of hiking and biking trails as well as swimmable beaches, lakes for fishing and boating, picnic areas, well-maintained campsites and endless opportunities for wildlife viewing.

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Most Beautiful Places in Colorado BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
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15. BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK

Upon first setting sight Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, you’ll wonder how a place this amazing actually exists. (For the record, we had the same thought.) This must-see western Colorado attraction sells itself as having some of the steepest cliffs and oldest rock formations in North America. And ya know what? We’re totally buying into all of it. Of course, travelers don’t go to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park just to stand in awe. The best way to soak it all in is to get out and traverse the many hiking trails.

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