16 best places to visit in Colorado in the winter
When you think about visiting Colorado in the winter, it’s usually for one reason: to ski.
The US state’s renowned for its number of fabulous ski resorts, complete with snowy scenic backdrops.
However, aside from the skiing, Colorado also has plenty of pretty towns that make a great winter vacation.
Many of them resemble a scene straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie, offering visitors a traditional and fantastical escape.
Listed in alphabetical order, we’re visiting 16 of the best places to visit in Colorado in the winter.
A name synonymous with winter in Colorado and its skiing resorts, it’s little wonder why many visitors flock to Aspen.
The Aspen Snowmass resort is one of the most famed in town, featuring not one, but 4 ski mountains. Non-skiers are catered for too, with activities like the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster and tubing on the schedule. These donut-shaped tubes are a whole lot of fun come summer on the water, or winter on the slopes.
Christmas is also well celebrated in Aspen, with a special event in town called the 12 days of Aspen.
Taking place during the last 12 days of December, Aspen transforms into a Christmassy festive wonderland. Family-friendly activities like ice skating and cookie decorating are just a handful of the happening events.
The 12-day celebration ends with a colorful fireworks display at Aspen Mountain on New Years’ Eve.
Where to stay in Aspen
Off the resort is the Limelight Hotel Aspen. A great location in the town, enjoy the large-sized rooms and freshly cooked breakfasts.
The super-stylish Hayden Lodge 2304 lets you wake up to views of the Aspen landscape. With 3 bedrooms, 4 beds and 3 baths, it can sleep up to 8 guests.
2. Beaver Creek
A town in Colorado that was made for winter, Beaver Creek resort is the all-in-one destination.
Beaver Creek Mountain is packed with plenty of powdery snow, ideal for any type of winter sports.
Once you’ve had your fill on the slopes, it’s time to head back to Beaver Creek Village. There are more than 20 places to eat and drink, and over 35 shops to flex the credit cards. The village also includes different types of lodging, as well as the facilities to accommodate the resort’s activities.
Beaver Creek is around a 2-hour drive from Colorado’s capital city, Denver. Offering guests complimentary hot chocolate and freshly-baked cookies every day at 3pm, Beaver Creek knows how to treat its clientele.
Where to stay in Beaver Creek
Away from the resort, but close enough to the activities if the Beaver Creek Lodge, Autograph Collection. Grand suites, big bedrooms and bathrooms and wine tasting every day at 6pm, it ticks plenty boxes.
Tradition and comfort go hand in hand at this beautiful condominium in Beaver Creek. It’s ideal for 4 guests, with 1 bedroom, 2 beds and 2 bathrooms.
The small town of Beaver Creek is one of the best places to visit in Colorado in the winter
“Many of them resemble a scene straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie…”
Sitting at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado is the city of Boulder. Named one of the best places to spend Christmas in the USA, Boulder is magically transformed come winter.
Lights, lights, lights — places to visit in Colorado in the winter
The only other place that probably can rival Boulder’s Christmas lights is Vigo in Spain. A Christmas tradition that happens every year, the city places its iconic holiday star atop Flagstaff Mountain. Consisting of 365 energy-saving LED lightbulbs, you can see the giant star from anywhere in Boulder.
The city has even more LED-light displays downtown, as well as in the Chautauqua district. Other notable winter highlights include a holiday hike, holiday tea services and a larger-than-life Christmas tree.
Each year, Hotel Boulderado puts up the two-story tree beneath its dazzling stained-glass mezzanine. The setting’s also where they serve a delicious afternoon tea with plenty of finger sandwiches and cream-filled cakes and pastries.
Where to stay in Boulder
In the center of the city, the Bradley Boulder Inn is a comfortable and affordable choice. Rustic surroundings, home-made breakfasts and within minutes’ walk to the city’s attractions, it’s one to consider.
Stay in the heart of the downtown area of Boulder, at this sleek and stylish carriage house. A unique blend of industrial chic and modern design, it’s your chance to experience life like a local.
The sparkling Christmas lights in Boulder ©Twitter.com/onlyinboulder
One of the best-known winter destinations in Colorado, Breckenridge sparkles like a snow globe when the festive season arrives.
A backdrop of snowy peaks and frosted trees, Breckenridge is small town USA winter charm at its finest. In the run-up to Christmas, the town sparkles under an umbrella of 250,000 LED lights.
Annual December events include the Lighting of Breckenridge and the Race of the Santas. Pack the right winter clothing for outdoor activities such as sledding and snowboarding.
My personal favorite is a scenic horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow. Stay snug beneath a warm blanket with a mug of complimentary hot cocoa and homemade cookies.
Where to stay in Breckenridge
An aparthotel that meets all of your needs, Welk Resorts Breckenridge The Ranahan is worth considering. It has 2 pools on site, complimentary WIFi and is in a good location for accessing the slopes.
Add a little hipster chic to your Breckenridge stay at this superb cool condo. Cozy furnishings, a hot tub (communal) and a central location make this an ideal choice. The condo can host up to 3 guests.
Jump on board a horse-drawn sleigh ride in Breckenridge
5. Crested Butte
Plenty of snowing, sledding and other winter sports activities await you at Crested Butte.
This idyllic small town in Colorado transforms into the prettiest winterfest, starting with a lighting of the town’s grand tree.
One of the most adorable winter events is its annual reindeer scavenger hunt. Fun for children and adults, it’s a weekend of tracking down one of Crested Butte’s beloved reindeer.
The colorful street of Elk Avenue is like something cherry-picked straight out of a Hallmark movie. Filled with artisan shops and boutique finds, you’ll feel like you’re on a real-life movie set.
The town welcomes in the new year with a torchlight parade followed by a cracking fireworks display. It’s a town where long-life memories are made.
Where to stay in Crested Butte
The Purple Mountain Bed & Breakfast & Spa is just 2.9km from the Crested Butte Mountain Resort. With beautiful bedrooms, an on-site spa and free bikes for its guests, it’s a good option for Crested Butte.
Less than 4 minutes’ walk to the main base area of Crested Butte is this gorgeous lodge-style home. A free bus is just 100 yards from the front door. After a day on the slopes, relax in the hot tub and enjoy the glorious mountain views.
Even prettier in the winter, Crested Butte in Colorado
A small city in southwest Colorado near the border with New Mexico, Durango goes all when winter arrives.
The Christmas holidays are well celebrated here, with events running throughout December such as the Winter Solstice Artisans’ Market. Goods are made by local artists and craftspeople, so you can feel assured that you’ll be supporting a good cause.
One of the top ski towns in America, visitors flock to try out the terrain in Durango. However, the city also has other non-skiing activities to try, like snowmobiling and dog sledding if skiing’s not for you.
Polar Express Train Ride — places to visit in Colorado in the winter
Climb on board the magical Polar Express Train, which takes you and your family to the ‘North Pole’.
Based on the 2003 animation movie, the ride culminates in meeting some of Santa’s elves, reindeer and Santa himself.
Children receive a special gift, and everyone receives hot cocoa and cookies at the end of the adventure.
Where to stay in Durango
Just 5 minutes by car from the center of Durango is the very comfortable Homewood Suites by Hilton. Offering all the amenities you need for your stay, it’s a good, and affordable choice.
Enjoy the best of Durango by booking a few nights at this modern condo with pool and hot tub. Hiking and biking trails are right outside the house, leading you to the best views in the city.
Winter fun and adventure on board the Polar Express Train ©Reddit
7. Estes Park
Get closer to the wildlife, and nature, with a visit to the picturesque Estes Park.
Visitors tend to use the town as a base for visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park. Come winter, the town hosts a number of events, guaranteed to draw out the Christmas spirit.
Pencil in the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony and a light parade that takes place over Thanksgiving weekend. For adults, the holiday pub crawl to breakfast with Santa will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen, or done, before.
One highlight of the winter season is the Yuletide lights driving tour in Estes Park. Print out a copy of the map from the website, and enjoy a self-drive of the town’s prettiest buildings.
Where to stay in Estes Park
Wake up to the best of the Colorado nature with a few nights at Boulder Brook on Fall River. Rooms come with a patio and a river view, and there’s also a hot tub for guests to use.
Pet-friendly and offering stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, this hilltop hideaway is worth considering. It has 3 bedrooms, 6 beds and 1.5 bathrooms and can accommodate 8 guests.
Explore the snowy landscape in Estes Park
Adventure and adrenalin are the keywords when you visit Frisco, Colorado in winter.
The small town’s packed with tons of activities, which will easily fill up your itinerary. A first stop for adventure seekers should be the Frisco Adventure Park. They’ve a multi-lane tubing hill plus a beginner ski and ride hill.
Within the park is the Frisco Nordic Center. It boasts 27,000 ski trails and 20,000 snowshoe trails with lessons and classes also available. The park also offers snowshoe tours that’ll take you through the snowy and scenic trails.
Another annual event worth mentioning is the Soup Cup Classic. Here, local restaurants and amateur cooks battle it out to see which soup reigns supreme. It’s the guests that’ll judge the soup, and decide who will win best professional soup and best amateur soup.
Where to stay in Frisco
Located 200m from the Frisco Historic Park is the Frisco Inn on Galena. Offering guests cozy bedrooms, homemade breakfast and a central spot, you’ll have a comfortable stay.
Test out the soups on offer in Frisco
Just 45 minutes west of Denver is the municipality of Georgetown.
Steeped in history, Georgetown was the former silver mining camp along Clear Creek in the Rocky Mountains.
However, when winter, and the holiday season arrives, the town’s transformed into a scene from Christmas’ past. Horse-drawn wagon rides through the snow, sparkling Christmas lights and plenty of festive food and drink marks the winter season.
The annual Georgetown Christmas market is more than just a place where you can stock up on festive gifts. Carolers and dancers in Victorian costume entertain the crowds, leaving you to concentrate on eating, drinking and being merry.
The market also pays tribute to some of the European Christmas market traditions, such as the Santa Lucia children’s procession. Free to visit, it’s a winter must-see event.
Where to stay in Georgetown
Charming and inviting is the best way to describe Hotel Chateaux Chamonix.
Located in the historic center of Georgetown, the hotel’s an easy 10-minute drive from the Loveland Ski Area. All bedrooms come with mountain views.
Christmastime Pretty in winter, Georgetown, Colorado
10. Glenwood Springs
In a city known for its hot springs, there’s no escaping a visit when in Glenwood Springs.
Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is home to the world’s largest hot springs pool.
Mineral water from the nearby Yampah spring produces over 3.5 million gallons of water each day. And, at temperatures of 50°C (122°F), it makes this the hottest springs pool in Colorado.
However, fret not, as the resort doesn’t intend to cook its guests. The spring water’s cooled down before entering its 2 pools. Open throughout winter, it takes me back to my Blue Lagoon experience in Iceland.
The resort has 107 rooms, and is 320m from the town center.
Made for wellness — places to visit in Colorado in the winter
Along with hosting a number of winter sports, Glenwood Springs is also known for its wellness facilities.
Follow in the footsteps of the Ute Indians, by taking a time out in the Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves. Mineral-rich steam enters the underground caverns, allowing you to soak up its healing properties. It’s an experience that’ll leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Relax in the warm thermal waters at the Glenwood Springs Resort
The origins of the name of this small town in Colorado lies within its history.
What was once a gold rush town, is today a place of agriculture, industry and development. When winter arrives, the locals in Golden make the most out of the snowy weather.
Whether it’s hiking, biking or ice climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, people here like to be active. Golden Gate Canyon State Park tops the list for its spectacular hikes and views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.
Exploring downtown Golden during the holidays, is akin to walking into a light extravaganza. The season also welcomes boutique shops, as well as an art market showcasing the work of Colorado artists.
Home to the famous Coors Brewery, end your day in Golden with a refreshing pint (or two).
Where to stay in Golden
Less than 800m from the Coors distillery, the location of The Golden Hotel, Ascend Hotel Collection, is unbeatable. Spacious rooms, complete amenities and a restaurant on site, it’s an all-in-one accommodation package.
This historic carriage house in Golden is coziness personified. It’s good for 2 guests with 1 bedroom, and is ideal for exploring Golden and the surrounding area.
Grab a cool Coors beer while on your winter trip to Golden
12. Leadville and Twin Lakes
Boasting the title of the highest incorporated city in North America, is Leadville and Twin Lakes. Surrounded by larger-than-life mountains and glorious scenery, it’s little wonder why Leadville is sometimes called the city in the clouds.
Taking after its location adjacent to the 2 largest glacial lakes is Twin Lakes. The reflections in the lakes of the largest peaks makes it a popular spot for photographers. Hiking, biking, canoeing and kayaking are a handful of activities on offer.
Come winter, Leadville has more than 100 miles of multi-use winter trails. This makes ideal conditions for cross-country skiing as well as for snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
After a long day on the slopes, relax in one of the coziest lodges in town. The Colorado Trail House is a 120-year old Victorian house, with 8 bedrooms. Traditional yet comfortable, it’s also ideal for exploring the high country of the Rocky Mountains.
Where to stay in Leadville
Try your hand at winter biking in Leadville
Known as the ‘Switzerland of America’, you’re in for a serious winter vacation treat in Ouray. Named after Chief Ouray of the Ute Indians, the town was once a beacon for miners searching for gold.
Follow the blue glow — places to visit in Colorado in the winter
When winter arrives, so too does the heavy snow. The glow from the Ouray Ice Park adds a touch of brilliant blue to the town’s bright lights.
Its ice park is world famous, attracting visitors from the four corners to try out its ice climbing. And, while you might think it’s not for you, you’d be wrong. Ouray offers classes for beginners, so if you’re thinking of trying it out, you’re in the right place.
Like Glenwood Springs, Ouray also has natural hot spring pools that remain open even throughout winter. Let the hot mineral water melt away any stress and tension, and give your muscles some much needed attention.
While here, you might be swayed into taking a snowshoe tour of several of its ghost towns. It’s your chance to learn more about their past, plus what it was like to live during the period.
Where to stay in Ouray
Beaumont Hotel and Spa is made for rest and relaxation. This adults-only hotel in downtown Ouray has a spa on site to help you relax after a long day’s exploring. Ouray Hot Springs is 800m from the hotel, and Ouray Ice Park is 1.6km away.
Just 1 block from Main Street, Ouray is this cute and cozy pet-friendly condominium. Offering the best of both worlds, you’re close enough to the center, but can still enjoy the surrounding nature.
Would you try ice climbing at Ouray?
14. Steamboat Springs
Famed for its Champagne Powder snow, 6 towering peaks and 3,000 skiable acres is the very pretty Steamboat Springs.
The town’s also home to more Olympic skiers than other towns in North America. But, if your skiing skills are far from the likes of Lindsey Vonn, don’t worry. There are plenty more things in Steamboat Springs to keep you busy.
Saddleback Ranch offers a range of other non-skiing activities such as horseback riding, snowmobile tours and dinner sleigh rides.
The 280ft frozen waterfall at Fish Creek Falls attracts hikers, ice climbers and anyone that wants to see it.
I can’t write about Steamboat Springs without mentioning the Steamboat Ski Resort. It hosts a range of winter sports activities, most notably, night skiing. Your night time adventure will take you across 5 trails, which include See Me, Stampede and Lil’ Rodeo.
Where to stay in Steamboat Springs
Less than 5 minutes by car to the slopes, the Inn at Steamboat offers large rooms and mountain views. Also, on site is a swimming pool and a well-equipped fitness center.
Enjoy your very own log cabin in a picturesque part of Steamboat Springs. With 2 bedrooms, 2 beds and 1 bath, it can comfortably sleep 5 guests.
Snowmobiling tours are popular in Steamboat Springs
While skiing may be the main reason why visitors come to Telluride, it’s not the only one.
The holiday season’s undeniably one of the prettiest in Colorado, with Christmas lights adorning every shop window downtown.
Seasonal events are aplenty in this former Victorian mining town. They include a North Pole area at Mountain Village, complete with Santa, train rides, refreshments and holiday-themed concerts.
My personal favorite is a horse-drawn sleigh ride against the backdrop of the snow-covered San Juan Mountains.
More than skiing at Telluride — places to visit in Colorado in the winter
Put down the skis and pick up your skates. There are 2 ice-skating rinks in town, one at Telluride Town Park and the other at Hotel Madeline at Mountain Village.
Be sure to try out the FREE Telluride and Mountain Village gondola. More of a cable car than a traditional Venetian gondola (!), the views are spectacular and far reaching. In fact, on a clear day, it’s possible to see as far as the La Sal mountain range in Utah.
Where to stay in Telluride
Add a touch of luxury to your stay in Telluride at the Madeline Hotel and Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection. Overlooking the San Juan Mountains, the rooms, services and food in Mountain Village live up to its 4-star title.
Go for a boutique, and more affordable option, with this cool and chic 1-bedroom apartment. Good for 3 guests, it provides comfortable accommodation in what’s arguably one of the most expensive ski towns.
The colorful downtown area of Telluride
Set at the base of the Vail Mountain is the small town of the same namesake.
Also taking after its name is the town’s famous, and huge, Vail Ski Resort. Villages with accommodation ranging from mid-range to luxury allow you to stay closer to the action.
Skiers are spoiled at Vail with 5,317 acres of skiable terrain right on their doorstep. Different areas of the resort offer unforgettable views and the chance to ski all of Vail’s seven back bowls. These are the snow-filled alpine basins, stretching 6 miles from east to west.
When it’s time to dine, there’s one option that beats the rest: on-mountain dining. Vail Ski Resort has 3 places to dine on the mountains, offering American cuisine and wine with a view.
Non-skiers are not forgotten at Vail. Jump on board the mountain coaster, which takes you down 3,400ft surrounded by Vail’s scenic mountains.
As in Telluride, Vail’s gondolas are a great way to see the sights and are family friendly too. Unlike in Telluride, however, the gondola rides aren’t free.
How to get to Vail?
There are a few options on how to reach Vail.
Denver International Airport is 100 miles away, while Eagle/Vail Airport is just 30 miles from Vail. Another option, and one that’s also affordable, is the Epic Mountain Express / Colorado Mountain Express shuttle service.
It will take you directly from Denver International Airport to towns including Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Vail.
The view overlooking Vail Ski Resort at sunrise
Where to stay in Vail
Right in the center of Vail is the sublime The Lion Vail. With huge rooms and suites with luxury touches, it’ll be hard to leave come checkout. The Nordic Center is 3.5km from the property, while Adventure Ridge is 7km away.
Snuggle up beneath the covers at this gorgeous modern 2-bedroom loft. With wooden-beam ceilings and a stone-tiled fireplace, it’s rustic chic at its finest. What’s more, the apartment’s on Vail’s bus route, giving you easy access to the resort and town.
Have you visited Colorado in the winter? Would you like to spend the holiday or a winter break in one of these small towns? Let me know in the comments below.
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....