Note: This was written by Lilo, whom I previously shared a travel blog with. She now has her own travel blog, follow her adventure here!
“Wait, what’s in Colorado?”
One day, I was browsing online and saw a deal for $15 one way flight ticket to Colorado from LAX and back. I literally texted my two buddies and we snagged it so fast! I didn’t know much about Colorado, all I knew was that it had rocky mountains but it was actually so much more than that. My travel buddies and I decided to take a two weeks road trip through Colorado and Utah. We all had agreed to make stops along the way and look for hidden gems. To be honest, I would want to keep this a secret but it is just too beautiful not to share. Trust me, you’ll see why. Here are my best spots of Colorado:
Our very first stop was the Devil’s Head Lookout. We had found out that there was a hiking trail that leads to the only standing fire tower at the top so of course, we had to check it out. The view on top of the Devil’s Head Lookout offers a 360º panoramic view, which is absolutely amazing. I actually wrote a post about it so click here to learn more about it!
2. Hanging Lake
This beauty is my favorite. I had no idea what I was in for until I saw this place myself. Pictures don’t do justice for this lovely gem.
My travel buddies and I arrived about an hour and a half before sunset. However, many people who had passed us let us know that it is a challenging hike and will be dark when we get back. Of course, we are stubborn and still head our way there. Realizing that I do not have my phone nor headlights, I knew we would have to hurry. I have never hiked so fast in my life but man, we made it. It was totally worth it.
- No listed address but here’s GPS coordination: 39.5889720, -107.1909640
- The trail is 2.4 miles roundtrip and can take up to 2 hours.
- The trail is very rocky and slippery so make sure to wear good shoes!
- There is a parking lot at the Hanging Lake rest area nearby the I-70. Drive slow and keep an eye out for the exit because it can be hard to miss!
- Go early to give yourself time to appreciate the trail rather than rushing through like us.
- Best time to hike is during fall and spring. Summer usually have large crowds while it is not safe to hike on the ice during the winter.
- Dogs are not allowed, sorry!
- If enough time is allotted, check out the other waterfalls nearby, Spouting Rock Waterfalls.
3. Rainbow Falls
We actually had seen the sign that said, Rainbow Falls when we were leaving Garden of the Gods National Park but we didn’t know what it was. As we were driving to our next destination, my travel buddy had googled it through images and we were blown away at just how this little waterfall is nearby. We knew we had to make a stop and check this out so we added it to the end of our itinerary. By the way, the water was freezing! It was torture to stand still for 30 seconds for this long exposure picture!
It is a relatively, very short hike. Anyone can stop by here, even families. However, I noticed many teenagers would hang out here. Although I am not a huge fan of graffiti, it does bring out the charm for this place. By the way, the water was freezing! It was torture to stand still for 30 seconds for this long exposure picture!
- GPS coordinates: 38°52’04.8″N 104°55’26.9″W
- The hike is 0.2 miles roundtrip (So easy!) on pavement.
- Bring water shoes because it was actually hard to walk through the rocks.
- Take out your trash (it makes me sad whenever I see trash in beautiful places!)
- Be careful if you planning on going up to the bridge. It’s not easy as it looks to get up there.
Ah, the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Just looking at the pictures makes me feel like I am in a desert or somewhere in Eygpt. This place is perfect for sand boarding, hiking, and stargazing at night. Be sure to check out the Milky Way.
Check out my Youtube video on Great Sand Dunes!
- It’s open 24 hours 7 days a week! But the visitors’ office is normally open from 8:30am-6pm during the Summer and 9am-4:30 pm during Fall.
- Keep in mind, the sand is hot during the summer!
- They offer a special type of wheelchair for free for special needs. Pretty cool!
5. Rifle Falls State Park
I was surprised to hear that this state park isn’t as popular as the national parks. What attracted me about this place is the three waterfalls. It is such a beautiful sight to see. You can go around to the back of waterfalls. There are other few hiking trails but we only came to see the 80-foot waterfalls.
- Address: 5775 Hwy 325, Rifle, CO 81650
- Since this is a state park, they do not accept the national parks disability pass. Unless you are a resident of Colorado, there are no discounts for access. Price: $7 per a vehicle
- Hours: 6 am- 10pm
- Be careful if you see Elks or any wildlife. There were many warnings about not approaching the Elks here.
6. Maroon Bells
Ok, this is not quite a hidden gem but it is still a must for anyone to come by and visit. I’ve always seen pictures but when I finally saw it in person, I was literally in awe. So many photographers would come by here and I can see why. Maroon Bells is quite popular no matter what time of day but I would suggest seeing it at sunrise or sunset. Access can be quite hard due to its popularity so you may be required to park and take the bus. However, if you were able to arrive before 8 am or after 5 pm, then you can drive directly to Maroon Bell but must pay $10 per vehicle. It’s still worth a visit!
- Address: Aspen Highlands, Aspen, CO
- You can use your National Parks Pass here.
- Go before 8 am or 5 pm to drive directly to Maroon Bells.
That’s it! These are my favorite hidden gems in Colorado. To be honest, I really did fell in love with Colorado. At first, I underestimated Colorado but with $15 flight, I am so glad I gave it a chance. I hope this post convince you to go out and explore Colorado. There are many beautiful places to see not just in Colorado but anywhere else so don’t be afraid to step off the beaten track!
Do you know any other hidden gems in Colorado?