What is Colorado Known For? | 17 Things that Make the State Special

Colorado is one of our favorite states in the United States. Its rugged mountains are a playground for families who enjoy outdoor adventure year-round. From ice castles and skiing in winter to its many hiking trails and scenic lakes, the Centennial State is teeming with exciting experiences and impressive landscapes. 

a lake and a mountain to showcase the type of landscapes that Colorado is famous for
Colorado is best known for its topography and nature.

17 Things Colorado is Known For

While Colorado is known for being one of the most beautiful states in the country, its brilliant mountain views aren’t the only thing it’s famous for.  Here are 17 things that make the state special.

Skiing

My husbandSkiing in Steamboat
Colorado has dozens of incredible ski resorts.

Colorado is celebrated for its world-class ski resorts, making it a popular winter destination, particularly for skiers and snowboarders. 

The state boasts some of the highest elevations in North America, ensuring reliable snowfall and a longer ski season. While resorts like Aspen, Breckenridge, and Vail are perhaps best known, don’t discount other resorts like Telluride or Steamboat that are a bit further from Denver. 

With around 30 ski areas scattered throughout the state, you’ll find everything from luxurious resorts to smaller ski hills that cater to local crowds and some of the best ski resorts for beginners

Although Colorado has never hosted the winter Olympic Games, the state does host the Winter X Games and has produced numerous Olympic athletes, cementing its reputation as a leader in the ski industry.

HEADING TO COLORADO TO SKI? CHECK OUT OUR SKI TRIP PACKING LIST HERE

14ers 

the view from the summit of one of Colorados 14ers
The view from the summit of one of Colorados 14ers.

Colorado’s mountains aren’t just popular for winter sports, hiking and climbing are favorite summer activities thanks to the state’s massive concentration of “14ers,” which are peaks exceeding 14,000 feet in elevation. The state has 58 named 14ers, more than any other state in the U.S. 

These towering mountains are magnets for outdoor enthusiasts and climbers, offering everything from relatively challenging hikes to technical ascents that require experience and climbing gear. 

Summiting one of Colorado’s 14ers not only gives you breathtaking views from heights that few people ever see, but it also gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment that makes up for the sore feet and muscles you will almost certainly feel afterwards.

Concerts with a Crazy Cool View 

Red Rocks Ampitheater
Red Rocks Ampitheater is one of the coolest concert venues in the world. | Photo by Marc Pineda from Unsplash

Colorado has one of the most amazing amphitheaters that ever ampitheatered. OK, so ‘ampitheatered’ isn’t an actual word, but if you’ve ever attended a live performance at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, you’ll understand why it is worthy of a made-up word.

The stunning natural beauty and exceptional acoustics of this outdoor venue located near Morrison, just outside of Denver, has put live music on the Colorado map.

Since its opening in 1941, Red Rocks has hosted legendary artists like The Beatles, U2 and Dave Matthews Band. For many music lovers, watching a live performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a Colorado bucket list item.

Cliff Dwellings

Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park.
Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park.

Another thing that makes Colorado special, is it is home to the only national park that has been given its protected status based on man-made creations rather than natural ones. 

Mesa Verde National Park stands out as one of the most unique national parks in the United States due to its exceptional archaeological significance and well-preserved ancient cliff dwellings. 

The mesas and sandstone canyons that make up the park hold the remnants of the ancestral Puebloan people, who built their homes into the sides of cliffs for protection from wildlife and from enemy tribes. 

These cliff dwellings, built between the 6th and 12th centuries, provide a glimpse into the daily lives of these early inhabitants. Among the most notable ruins in the park, the famous Cliff Palace is believed to have once housed up to 100 people. 

Because of its location in far southwestern Colorado, it is an easy addition to a Southwest USA road trip or even a New Mexico family vacation.

The Mile High City

downtown denver
Denver is called the Mile High City.

Colorado is home to the highest city in the United States. Known as the “Mile High City”, Denver is located precisely one mile above sea level, at an elevation of 5,280 feet. This unique feature has shaped the city’s identity, influencing everything from its climate to its culture. 

The term “Mile High” has become synonymous with the state’s capital and sets the city apart from many of the United States’ lower lying cities. 

A point of pride for many Denver residents, the city’s high altitude contributes to the rugged, outdoor lifestyle that it is known for. Even if visiting Denver with toddlers, you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities that even little ones will love.

Its Mysterious Airport 

people playing cornhole at an outdoor area at the Denver international airport
Denver International Airport has a lot of amenities for travelers, like this outdoor lounge area, but it is the conspiracy theories that the airport is best known for.

Colorado is also famous for its largest airport, Denver International Airport (DIA), which is shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories.

The sprawling airport, which is larger than Manhattan, has fueled speculation due to its unusual design elements, such as eerie murals that some interpret as depicting apocalyptic scenes, and its massive horse sculpture with glowing eyes that greet passengers. The airport’s blue horse statue, nicknamed “Blucifer” due to its glowing red eyes and the fact that it killed its creator during its construction, only adds to the intrigue.

Some conspiracy theorists also believe that the airport’s underground tunnels and buildings are part of a secret bunker or a headquarters for the New World Order. Additionally, the dedication stone with the Freemason symbol and references to a “New World Airport Commission” further stoke the flames of conspiracy. 

Despite official explanations and debunking efforts, the combination of these elements continues to make DIA a hotbed for speculation and mystery.

Mining 

a history of mining sign in Telluride Colorado
A sign explaining mining in Telluride.

The state’s history has become a big part of its identity. Colorado’s mountainous areas were once booming with miners, eager to strike it rich.

The discovery of gold in 1859 near present-day Denver sparked the Colorado Gold Rush, drawing thousands of prospectors seeking fortune. Mining towns such as Leadville, where silver and other precious metals were also found in abundance, experienced rapid growth before the population eventually dwindled down.

Today, remnants of Colorado’s mining heritage can be found in historic towns and museums across the state.

Legalized Weed 

a cannabis dispensary sign along a street in Telluride Colorado
Colorado was one of the first states to legalize recreational cannabis.

Colorado is known for its progressive policies and liberal stance on many social and political issues. It was one of the first states in the United States to fully legalize recreational cannabis. In 2012, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, allowing adults over the age of 21 to purchase and possess marijuana. 

The state’s pioneering move marked a significant shift in the national conversation about drug policy and regulation. The state has a well-structured regulatory framework, which other states have tried to model when considering similar legislation. 

Since its legalization, tax revenue from marijuana has brought substantial economic benefits, generating millions of dollars that have been reinvested in public services such as education, and infrastructure. 

Its Craft Beer Scene

A Colorado Native craft beer sitting on the ground at a campsite
Colorado has more breweries per capita than any other state.

Craft beer has been part of Colorado’s culture for decades. In fact, the state really helped pave the way for other states with its craft beer scene. Colorado boasts one of the highest concentrations of breweries per capita in the United States. 

The state is also home to the Brewers Association, which supports craft breweries nationwide, and hosts the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver, the largest beer festival in the country. 

Ironically, even though Colorado is known for its craft beers, the largest brewery in the state is actually not a craft brewery. One of the largest beer brands in the USA, Coors, is headquartered in Golden, Colorado. 

Crazy Tall Sand Dunes

our daughter standing alone with sand dunes behind her
Colorado may be known for its mountains, but its sand dunes are pretty impressive, as well.

One of Colorado’s most famous natural wonders isn’t necessarily its majestic Rocky Mountains, but a unique feature that sits at the foot of one of southern Colorado’s mountain ranges. 

The tallest sand dunes in North America sit directly at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This unique ecosystem with desert-like dunes contrasting with alpine peaks and forests is so unique it has been designated a national park.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a fun place to hike, sandboard, sled, or simply marvel at the patterns of the dunes sculpted by wind and water over millennia. 

Garden of the Gods 

garden of the gods, one of the natural landmarks Colorado is known for
Garden of the Gods is one of Colorado’s most beautiful natural marvels. | Photo by Melanie Magdalena from Unsplash

Another geological marvel that Colorado is famous for – the Garden of the Gods features towering red rock formations that look almost otherworldly. 

Located near Colorado Springs, the natural landmark attracts visitors from around the world. The park’s unique sandstone formations, shaped over millions of years by erosion create a surreal landscape that captivates photographers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts alike. 

Its Shared Border

four feet standing on the four corners monument
Visiting 4 Corners Lets You Be In Four States At Once. | Photo By DHmyoo From Pixabay

Colorado’s rectangular shape may seem somewhat ordinary, but it shares one of the coolest state border points in the USA. 

The Four Corners Monument marks the intersection where the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona converge. Located in the desert landscape of the American Southwest, this unique geographic point is notable for being the only place in the United States where four states meet at a single point. 

Visitors can stand directly on the marker, which is managed by the Navajo Nation, and simultaneously be in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona.

Having the Highest Cog Railway in the World

the train going up the Pikes Peak C
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Not only is Colorado famous for having the highest city in the United States, but the state also seems to take everything to new heights. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which takes you 14,115 feet up to the summit of Pikes Peak from Manitou Springs, is the highest cog railway in the world.

Since its opening in 1891, the railway has provided passengers with a breathtaking journey through rugged mountain terrain as it ascends the railway’s steep grade.

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is not only a historic landmark but also a popular tourist attraction that provides visitors with a memorable experience of Colorado’s high-altitude landscapes without even having to lace up your hiking shoes.

Having America’s Highest Suspension Bridge

The Royal Gorge Bridge, one of the most famous landmarks in Colorado
The Royal Gorge Bridge, one of the most famous landmarks in Colorado. | Photo by Logan Weaver from Unsplash

Continuing with the theme of sky-high attractions in Colorado, the Royal Gorge Bridge, located in Canon City, Colorado, holds the title of the highest suspension bridge in the United States.

Spanning the Royal Gorge over the Arkansas River, the bridge stands at an impressive height of 955 feet (291 meters) above the river below. Completed in 1929, the Royal Gorge Bridge was an engineering marvel of its time and was the highest suspension bridge on the planet for decades. 

A popular tourist attraction, the bridge stretches 1,260 feet (384 meters) in length. Visitors can walk across the bridge, take in the stunning scenery, and even experience additional attractions like the aerial tram, zip line, and the Royal Gorge Route Railroad, which runs along the base of the gorge.

It’s Most Haunted Hotel

The stanley hotel
The Stanley Hotel is considered one of the most haunted hotels in the United States.

This one is actually for movie and literary lovers. Colorado’s charming mountain town of Estes Park has a few skeletons in its closet… or should we say ghosts? Often considered one of the most haunted hotels in the United States, The Stanley Hotel is famous for inspiring the horror novel “The Shining”, after author Stephen King stayed at the historic hotel. 

Built in 1909 by Freelan Oscar Stanley, the hotel exudes an antique elegance. But it wasn’t until1974, after King stayed in the hotel and was startled away from a horrifying nightmare that the hotel gained its haunted reputation. His stay inspired him to write his best-selling novel which later became a classic film. 

The Stanley Hotel embraces its eerie reputation, offering ghost tours and paranormal events that attract thrill-seekers and fans of the supernatural. And for those who want to, you can even stay at The Stanley Hotel, like we did. Although forewarned is fair warned, your stay may not be as supernatural as you might expect.

Cute Mountain Towns

acute walkway strung with lights in Breckenridge
Colorado is known for its cute mountain towns, and Breckenridge is one of them.

If you want to feel like you are in the middle of a Hallmark Christmas movie, pack your bags and head to basically any of Colorado’s charming mountain towns. Nestled amidst the Rocky Mountains, you’ll find towns like Telluride, Crested Butte, and Breckenridge that will captivate visitors with their quaint main streets lined with cozy cafes, boutique shops, holistic spas, and historic buildings. 

Many of these towns are also renowned for their stunning natural beauty often surrounded by towering peaks and serving as the base areas for ski resorts. 

Most Dangerous Airport in the USA

The ascent out of the Aspen airport during winter.
The steep ascent out of the Aspen airport during winter.

And finally, we end our list of things Colorado is known for with one of its more dangerous claims to fame. 

Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, also known as Sardy Field, is renowned for being one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to its challenging approach and landing conditions. The airport sits at an elevation of 7,820 feet, surrounded by high peaks and rugged terrain. 

Pilots must navigate a steep descent and a narrow valley, often dealing with unpredictable mountain weather, strong winds, and rapidly changing visibility to land or take off. 

Additionally, as a small airport, pilots also have the challenge of a short runway that requires exceptional skill and precision. 

Conclusion: What is Colorado Known For?

The leaving Colorful Colorado sign
Colorado is often called the Colorful State.

There’s a chance after finding out all the things Colorado is famous for; you may be just as fascinated by the state as we are. It stands as one of the top states for natural beauty, adventure, and peculiar intrigue. Whether you are drawn to the state’s ski slopes or the lively urban areas; after traveling to Colorado, you’ll discover why it holds a special place in the hearts of those who call it home and those who visit.

Do you have a question or comment about any of these things Colorado is known for? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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