Disney, New York City, Hollywood, and other major tourist destinations are popular with millions of people every year. They’re excellent for the economy and fun in their own ways.
But when you’re someone who prefers the isolation of nature and you’re on a budget, it can seem impossible to find a true paradise to explore.
Do you love to hike the hidden, off-the-beaten-path trails of the majestic forests? Or swim in the salty seas without hundreds of other people surrounding you? Is camping under the night stars on your bucket list, but you don’t want the sky hidden by pollution?
All these natural getaways are becoming harder to find, or they’re there, catering to upper-class clientele.
Annoying, isn’t it?
Don’t worry. There’s a solution!
While it’s true that big business has taken over many of the once-secluded places, they’re not all gone. These five getaways in Colorado are still unknown enough that you can get your nature fix without breaking the bank.
1. Estes Park
Locals in this area know that Estes Park is one of the most overlooked places in Colorado, but they’re okay with that. This natural wonder is home to Rocky Mountain National Park and hundreds of unique wildlife creatures.
It’s a romantic getaway, a ghost-filled adventure, and an adrenaline rush, all in one city.
While you’re there, you can stay in a cabin on the river, camp at the park, or enjoy modern comforts at one of the many hotels nearby.
Estes Park is like the “base camp” of the Rocky Mountains. During the day, the national park and its many trails will delight nature-lovers. You may come face-to-face with wildlife like elk, bighorn sheep, and black bears.
For horror lovers, no trip to the city is complete without a visit to the Stanley Hotel. This building was the setting of the iconic classic Stephen King film “The Shining.” Follow up your hotel tour with a stop at the Estes Park Brewery and have some of their famous Redrum ale.
No matter what time of year you plan to head there, Estes Park truly has something for everyone.
2. Colorado Springs
Not sure what to do with your weekend?
A trip to Colorado Springs will keep you busy.
The city is full of culture, including museums, zoos, and historic cable cars. If your goal is to spend time getting fresh air and local history, check out Garden of the Gods.
A registered National Natural Landmark, Garden of the Gods, is the most-visited attraction in the city. It’s big enough, though, that other visitors won’t overcrowd you.
From learning about the red rocks to viewing panoramic vistas, you’ll never forget this experience. Finish the day off with a meal at the glass-enclosed restaurant that overlooks Pike’s Peak for some final selfie snaps.
After the Garden of the Gods, Cheyenne Mountain is next on the itinerary. It sounds like a trip to immerse yourself in nature, but it’s actually a government bunker.
The Space Force Station installed the complex as a defense against Soviet bombers. It’s definitely something you don’t get to see every day!
Those who really want to spend the day on the trails should head to Seven Falls. One of the state’s most scenic wonders, it’s a series of waterfalls tucked in between the Pillars of Hercules.
You’ll need your hiking boots for this walk up 224 steps to get to the trails. The 181-foot majestic view is worth the exercise.
Near the famous Four Corners lies Durango, southwestern Colorado’s perfect getaway destination.
The city is full of entertainment opportunities for family vacations or weekend road trips. Known for its colorful history full of gold miners and railroads, Durango boasts more than 300 days of sunshine every year — a big deal in a state where you can find snow at any given time.
Take a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and see what southwest Colorado’s canyons look like. If you’d rather get in the middle of the real thing, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, skiing, and mountain climbing.
Finish out the evening with an informative walking tour. You’ll see the best places to eat and learn more about the history of the downtown area.
4. Mesa Verde
Mesa Verde is home to the national park of the same name. Recognized for its incredible archaeological significance, the Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors to this ancient area will get to see thousands of historic sites that don’t exist anywhere else. One must-explore spot is the Cliff Palaces, where centuries-old pueblo homes were built inside mountains. You can take a tour through them and see how the now-extinct Puebloan tribes once lived.
There’s nothing like the shopping in these southwestern areas, too. You’ll find traditional Native American crafts like Navajo rugs, handcrafted jewelry full of silver and turquoise, pottery, and more.
Get back to the basics by camping in an area where the stargazing is free from city lights. If you’re not all about the outdoors, though, stay in one of the many lodging hotels nearby.
5. Manitou Springs
There’s a reason people say they “escape” to Manitou Falls. The natural mineral springs in the area, its proximity to Pikes Peak, and the fresh air make this a rejuvenating getaway.
Manitou’s mineral springs are thought to have healing properties. A soak in them can relieve muscle soreness or take away all your stress for a while.
If you’re not sure where to start, Rainbow Falls is the favorite of the locals. Recently restored, it’s a short out-and-back hike to the majestic waterfalls.
Note: There’s no swimming or camping allowed here yet, but this may change when the restoration projects are complete.
Gold panning is another popular pastime for Manitou Springs visitors and residents. The area includes over 2,000 mines, many of which haven’t been totally explored yet!
Fans of South Park won’t want to miss the nearby town of Fairplay. Although it was never “officially” stated, the residents know their town was the inspiration for the show. You’ll find plenty of South Park memorabilia and references everywhere you go.
Big businesses may dominate the major tourist spots, but there are still many hole-in-the-wall places to enjoy.
When you’re in Colorado, and you want to avoid Aspen, Vail, and Denver but still see the wonders, check out these five lesser-known vacation spots. You’ll get your fill of the splendors of Colorado’s nature without having to deal with hundreds of other tourists to get to the views.
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Grove at Ft. Collins to help them with their online marketing.