Colorado could possibly be one of the most underrated states in the USA. I’ve spent years visiting Los Angeles and NYC, unknowingly flying over one of America’s greatest secrets: Colorado.
Colorado has long-been a beacon of liberalism and progression in the USA. Not only is it still the healthiest state in the country (forget Runyon Canyon, the Centennial State has some of the most beautiful hikes in the world), but in the ‘50s, the state’s capital, Denver, became a hub for travelling beatniks and was famously frequented by Jack Kerouac, who wrote a love-letter to the city in On The Road. With a new direct flight from London to Denver, there’s no better time to visit. And here are 6 reasons why…
The state of Colorado has over 1,500 ghost towns. And why? Because the majority of Colorado was inhabited during the gold rush. Small mining towns popped up all over the mountains, but when the gold ran out, so did the people, leaving behind almost 100-year-old ghost towns that look like something straight out of a horror movie. Be sure to visit the abandoned village of Gothic (yes, that’s it’s actual name) even if it’s just for the ‘gram. It’s seriously worth it.
This is the Colorado equivalent of Malibu. The former Victorian mining town is the ultimate celebrity hideout (Aspen is a bit cliché now btw) and has a great film festival around Labor Day weekend. Drive out to Telluride from Denver (unbelievably beautiful) and spend a night at one of the mountain hotels. Food in the town is ridiculously good (La Marmotte is a must), as are the local saloons. In the morning, you have to take a 4×4 jeep tour of Imogene Pass, it’s the best off-road experience you’ll ever have, winding through old mining roads etched into the San Juan Mountains and moving through three or four micro climates in the 13,000 ft climb.
Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains, Crested Butte is a former coal-mining town with a population of 1,500 people. Known as one of the state’s last great skiing resorts, Crested Butte is perfect in and out of season. The town has hundreds of miles of breath-taking hiking trails (some of the best in the country) so be sure to take the Silver Queen ski lift half way up Mount Crested Butte, then hike the rest. It takes around two hours, but it’s worth it for the wild flower soaked meadows, cliff-side trails, aspens and baby marmots.
Located in the heart of Colorado, there’s the small town called Fairplay (yes, that’s actually its name), which is the original inspiration for the TV show South Park (Trey Parker grew up 40 miles east of Fairplay). It’s a tiny town that was originally inhabited in the 1860s and is nestled perfectly on the grassland flats beneath the Rocky’s. It’s a drive-through town that’s worth the stop off. Sit by the Arkansas River, or just take that very necessary photo of the town’s sign.
Colorado National Monument
By far the most unexpected and beautiful part of Colorado is easily the National Monument. And it’s not what you might expect – it’s not a greying statue – but a sweeping red rock canyon that pours from Colorado into Utah. It looks more like Arizona than Colorado, which is a testament to the state’s incredible, ever-changing geology. Drive up the winding roads to reach the very top of the cliff-side mountain. Post up with a picnic and look out in to the vast expanses of desert and rock and remind yourself that a mere two hours ago you were driving through dense green forestry.
The mile-high city is having a culinary renaissance at the moment. If you’re looking for super clubs and ratchet basement spots, Denver isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for chill dive bars, incredible food and endless space, then it is. The food scene in Denver is booming (which I’m sure has nothing to do with everyone having the constant munchies) with new restaurants popping up everyday and award-winning chefs like Justin Cucci and Troy Guard at the helm, there’s no better time to visit. Spend your days hiking up Red Rocks, checking out the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Denver Art Museum. Grab lunch at Union Station and end your day with a nightcap and dinner at Rioja.
Flights are £179 with Air Norwegian from London Gatwick to Denver. norwegian.com