If you’re looking for the ultimate winter wonderland then you’ve got to check out the many Colorado winter vacations on offer. From ski bunny holidays to backcountry hut trips, there are many reasons to book a winter vacation in Colorado.
The snowy season here in the Centennial State brings plenty of the white fluffy stuff, but it also boasts lots of sunshine too. In fact, you can ski in the mountains in the morning and enjoy a 60-plus-degree day in Denver in the afternoon.
I’ve spent the last 12 years living and exploring all around Colorado. As a long-time local, I want you to experience the magic of a winter vacation in Colorado just like a seasoned pro.
So dig into this list of the most amazing Colorado winter vacations to add to your wish list.
About This Guide to Winter Vacations in Colorado
Inside this local guide to the best winter vacations in Colorado you’ll get expert advice on the top winter wonderlands in the state. Here’s what to expect:
- Things to do in Colorado in the winter besides ski
- What makes visiting Colorado in the winter so great
- The top Colorado winter vacations including what to do and where to stay
- Additional Colorado travel resources
What is There to Do in Colorado in the Winter?
Okay, so skiing in Colorado may be the most obvious choice for wintery fun, but if you don’t ski, don’t fret – there are plenty of things to do in Colorado in the winter.
In fact, many of the hottest Colorado winter vacations don’t involve skis or expensive lift tickets. A few of my all-time favorite winter pastimes include:
- Checking out some of the best winter hikes in Colorado
- Stay in a cozy cabin or yurt and relax
- Go fat biking
- Try ice skating on a frozen lake
- Give snowmobiling a try
- Take an ice climbing lesson
Is Winter a Good Time to Visit Colorado?
If you want to experience the magic of the Rocky Mountains mountains during the snowy season, then winter is an excellent time to visit Colorado. The mountains look dramatic and beautiful this time of year. Not to mention, the smoky skies of summer are long gone, giving the landscapes a crisp look.
Winter is also a cheaper time to visit Colorado if you aren’t staying near a ski slope. This means you can find excellent deals on lodging and you don’t have to fight through lots of crowds.
The downsides? A lot of the dirt roads are not maintained over winter, meaning you don’t have many options for exploring (but most mountain towns are still alive and well). Also, take note that many hiking trails in Colorado are exceptionally dangerous in the winter due to avalanche hazards.
The Top Colorado Winter Vacations
If you’re looking for fun in the snow, then you’ve got to check out this list of the best places to visit in Colorado in winter. From iconic national parks to quiet, pristine mountain towns, there’s a lot to explore!
Known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is one of the most perfect winter vacations in Colorado and is only a short drive (about an hour and a half) from Denver. Nothing beats RMNP for a snowshoeing adventure in Colorado, since many of the hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park are awesome on snowshoes. Don’t miss Dream Lake, which is definitely a bucket list hike in Colorado!
After spending a chilly day outside, you can warm up at one of the many excellent breweries, bars, and restaurants in the town of Estes Park. If you want to truly treat yourself, make sure to visit the rustic yet incredible Bird & Jim for a meal you’ll remember well past the winter.
What to do: Snowshoeing in RMNP, Backcountry Skiing, catch a sunrise at the Many Parks Overlook, Wine & Chocolate Festival
Where to stay: Winter is a little cold for camping in RMNP, so you could stay warm inside at the Stanley Hotel. But it’s the infamous inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, so you might get goosebumps from the ghosts!
If you’re looking for a city winter vacation in Colorado, head to Denver! You can explore downtown by checking out the Denver Art Museum and get a respite from the cold in the Botanic Gardens. Get active by ice skating at the rink in Skyline Park or check out one of the easy hikes near Denver. Then toast to one of the greatest Colorado winter vacations at a local brewery, like Cerebral Brewing or Crooked Stave.
Local Tip: Denver in winter can be quite mild or bitterly cold, so be sure to check the weather before you visit!
What to do: Ice skating, Visit museums, explore the Botanic Gardens, sample local brews, eat at top restaurants, visit one of the many ski resorts near Denver.
Where to stay: There are obviously tons of lodging options in Denver, from big hotel chains to little Airbnbs, but Hostel Fish is definitely the coolest spot to sleep. This fun and funky hostel make a great basecamp for your Colorado winter vacation since it’s centrally located downtown and is within walking distance of Union Station.
The namesake attraction is the Winter Park Resort, where you can hit the slopes from the bunny hills to black diamonds. As one of the classic places to enjoy winter in Colorado, you can easily spend several days in the area. Nearby Granby Ranch offers even more terrain for skiing. If you prefer a powered ride, you can enjoy lots of snowmobile trails in the area or even go dog sledding!
What to do: Skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing at Devil’s Thumb Ranch, dog sledding at Snow Mountain Ranch
Where to stay: The Vasquez Creek Inn is a lovely place to lay your head and is located right downtown so you can easily walk to the shops and restaurants. It’s also a stop on the Winter Park shuttle.
One of the most popular things to do in Colorado besides ski is rock climb, and in Cañon City, you can climb all year round. Shelf Road is the place to climb during the winter in the Front Range, since the desert-like climate keeps the walls warm and sunny most of the time.
And after a long day of climbing, you can soak your tired muscles in one of the nearby hot springs. Don’t forget to take a hike around the Royal Gorge too!
What to do: Rock climbing at Shelf Road, soak at Desert Reef Hot Springs, visit Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
Where to stay: At the Royal Gorge Cabins, you can stay cozy in the winter in a cabin complete with a fireplace. There are also some great Airbnb options in Cañon City, or you can camp at Shelf Road.
If you’re into skiing, then Breckenridge is where you want to be! With quick access to Keystone, Breckenridge Resort, Copper Mountain, and Arapahoe Basin there are plenty of slopes to choose from! You could spend at least a week just cruising around to different ski resorts.
If skiing isn’t your thing, you can check out the Breckenridge Ice Sculpture Festival in January, go for a snowy Breckenridge hike, or enjoy a vibrant mountain town. This kid-friendly destination has the most on offer out of all of the mountainous Colorado winter vacations on the list.
Local tip: Stay in nearby Silverton, Frisco, or Dillion for slightly more affordable accommodation.
What to do: Skiing, snowboarding, nordic skiing, snowshoeing the Sallie Barber Mine Trail, sledding at Carter Park or Country Boy Mine, ski biking at Keystone
Where to stay: Gravity Haus is a modern lodge which is definitely a splurge, but worth it for the Japanese bathhouse with soaking tubs and a sauna.
Known as the “Switzerland of America,” Ouray is a must-see place in Colorado in the winter and is a mecca for ice climbing. The Ouray Ice Park is a great place to get an introduction to the sport, and the pros visit Ouray in January every year for the Ouray Ice Festival.
If you get the screaming barfies (read: numb arms), the Ouray Hot Springs or Orvis Hot Springs (clothing optional) will bring the feeling back into your frozen hands and body. Don’t forget to take a sunset drive along the Million Dollar Highway afterward!
What to do: Ice Climbing at Ouray Ice Park, Relax in some of the best hot springs in Colorado, scenic driving on the Million Dollar Highway, Box Canyon Falls,
Where to stay: The Ouray Inn is a quirky little hotel to sleep in comfort, or you can go all in with the Switzerland theme at the Matterhorn Inn.
Yet another ski and snowboard-friendly destination along the I-70 corridor, Vail is a luxury town that’s focused on slopeside activities. From boutique shopping to unbelievable spas you can relax in style.
Skiing not your thing? Don’t worry! Vail also happens to have some of the most incredible cross country skiing at the Vail Nordic Center. If you’re feeling adventurous you can take an ice climbing lesson with the Colorado Mountain School at one of the most iconic ice climbing areas in the country. Sleigh rides are a fun way to pass the time too!
What to do: Skiing, snowboarding, scenic gondola rides, snow tubing at Eagle’s Nest, sleigh rides at 4 Eagles Ranch, ice climbing, cross country skiing
Where to stay: Vail is quite the fancy mountain town, which is reflected in the upscale prices of most accommodations. But if you head to nearby Avon, you can stay at the cute Cohabit for a reasonable rate.
There are plenty of Colorado Springs activities that you can still enjoy even in the winter. The Springs doesn’t see as much snow like the higher-altitude locales, but what it lacks in the white stuff it makes up for in stunning red rocks and unique experiences. Home to the Air Force Academy and famous Broadmoor Resort let you enjoy a different side of Colorado. Don’t forget to go for a hike at Garden of the Gods!
What to do: Hike or climb in Garden of the Gods, visit Cave of the Winds, take a Jeep tour, check out the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center, walk the grounds of the Broadmoor, visit the Air Force Academy.
Where to stay: If you’re on a budget, check into the ColoRADo Adventure Hostel or upgrade to the bunkrooms or suites at Kinship Landing (you can even bring your own tent or hammock and set up on the Camp Deck).
Okay, so I may have a personal bias here, but absolutely love Steamboat Springs. Home to some of the top tree skiing in the nation this family-friendly resort has a laid-back vibe and fewer crowds.
Snowmobiling is another famous pastime, and one of the few places to safely rent your own sleds and head out into the wilderness. The food in town is absolutely amazing – definitely try O’Neil’s Tavern and Grill for an unexpected meal. Afterward, don’t forget to go for a relaxing soak in the Strawberry Hot Springs or splurge for a massage in a private grotto!
What to do: Soak in Strawberry Hot Springs, Tree Skiing, Ice Fishing, Ride the Mountain Coaster
Where to stay: To spend as much time as possible soaking in the hot springs, you can stay right at the Strawberry Park resort. Another good option is the vintage Rabbit Ears Motel along the Yampa River downtown.
Another one of the top mountain towns in Colorado, Crested Butte is a must-see town. Nestled at the base of Crested Butte Resort, this tiny mountain town is packed to the brim with charm. Definitely grab a slice at Secret Stash after a day shredding it up on some of the toughest ski terrain in Colorado.
There are lots of incredible (and avalanche-safe) winter hikes right near town, making it one of the best places to try snowshoeing in Colorado. Go shopping along Main Street or try fat biking in the snow.
What to do: Skiing, nordic skiing, fat biking, snowshoeing, rum tasting at Montanya Distillers
Where to stay: Although there are lots of free camping nearby, in the winter, you can hunker down at Purple Mountain, a friendly B&B featuring a hot tub and daily local craft beer tastings.
Located about 40 minutes from Crested Butte, this unassuming ranch town shows a different side of Colorado. As one of the topmost affordable Colorado winter vacations, Gunnison is worth a stop. Aside from having easy access to Crested Butte, you can also check out the South Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This incredible canyon system can be tough to navigate in the snow, but it’s a sight to behold with 1,700-foot-high walls with a thundering river below.
What to do: Snowshoe in the Black Canyon, Cross Country Ski South Rim Drive
Where to stay: Winter backcountry camping is allowed beyond Pulpit Rock Overlook in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, but be prepared for it to be bone-chillingly cold and wood fires are not permitted. You can stay warm at the welcoming Wanderlust Hostel, which offers communal rooms and small private rooms.
One of the most under-rated winter vacations in Colorado, Grand Junction is actually pretty fantastic. In fact, I come here every winter. Lodging is beyond affordable. With a solid mix of red rock country (you may just think you’re in Moab), wine tasting, and even skiing nearby, you can get a taste of everything. And the best part? There are no crowds to be seen.
Local Tip: Check out a sunset in the Colorado National Monument. Dusted in snow, this red rock canyon system is unbelievable.
What to do: Skiing & snowboarding at Powderhorn Resort, cross country skiing on the Grand Mesa, ice fishing in lakes & reservoirs, soak in the Orvis hot springs (day trip), driving and hiking in the Colorado National Monument, wine tasting in Palisade, mountain biking (coldly) in Fruita.
Where to stay: If you’re hardy enough to handle winter camping, there is lots of BLM land around for dispersed camping. If you prefer to sleep inside when the temps drop, try out the Hotel Maverick, a sleek spot on the campus of Colorado Mesa University.
A great winter getaway in Colorado if you want to experience both the Tenmile and Sawatch Ranges, Leadville is an excellent destination. Affordable AirBnBs and cute cabins make for a great home base to explore nearby Copper Mountain. Or you can spend your time fat biking the town’s bike trails and snowshoeing at the base of the Sawatch Range.
What to do: Skiing at Cooper Mountain, cross Country Ski at Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, attend the Ski Joring & Crystal Carnival Weekend
Where to stay: For a one-of-a-kind place to stay, head to the Slumberyard at Freight. Each of the unique cabins is named after one of Leadville’s legendary “women of the night.” You can also pitch your tent for winter camping at Twin Lakes or Turquoise Lake.
Buena Vista and Salida
These sister mountain towns make for one of the best places to visit in Colorado in winter if you don’t ski. With no ski resorts nearby, you don’t get bogged down with ski season pricing. In fact, the affordability of these destinations during the winter is certainly a huge plus.
In terms of what to do, you can embark on a dog sledding adventure, go snowmobiling, enjoy snowshoeing, and even driving to the top of Cottonwood Pass if the road is open. That’s if you even want to leave your cute accommodation (both towns have plenty of cozy cabins). Don’t forget to soak in the Princeton Hot Springs.
What to do: Snowmobiling on the Continental Divide, dog sledding in Monarch Park, soak in Mount Princeton Hot Springs
Where to stay: Enjoy the European stylings and adventure atmosphere at the Surf Hotel & Chateau along the river in downtown Buena Vista, or enjoy the on-site soaking pools at the Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa.
Another premiere luxury destination, this top winter vacay spot in Colorado features the quintessential mountain charm you’re looking for with plenty of luxurious accommodations, shops, and restaurants. In fact, some of the most expensive vacation rentals in the state can be found in the hills outside of Telluride.
Telluride Resort has several options for skiers and riders of all abilities. If you aren’t into slopeside activities, then head out for a scenic drive of the San Juan Scenic Byway, backcountry skin to a famous San Juan Hut, or go ice climbing.
Local Tip: Ouray is about an hour and a half drive, giving you more activity options.
What to do: Skiing & snowboarding, helicopter skiing, ice climbing at Bridal Veil Falls, skiing to the San Juan Huts, drive the San Juan Scenic Byway
Where to stay: Telluride is a pricey place to stay, but if you want to winter camp, you’ll find plenty of dispersed sites down any dirt road. Otherwise, check out nearby Ridgway for more budget-friendly accommodations, like the cool Basecamp 550 where you can spend the night in a tiny home.
Home to a few of Colorado’s top ski resorts, Aspen gets a lot of attention in the winter. In fact, this ritzy mountain town is often featured in movies and pop culture throughout the decades. Home to the winter X Games, this happening place features high-end luxury shopping, top fine dining, and even an art museum, and even a few nightclubs. You come to Aspen to be seen, and stay for the unbeatable views of the Maroon Bells.
What to do: Skiing & snowboarding at four resorts (Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, & Snowmass), enjoy Ullr Nights, take a snowcat to a special dinner, see the sunrise over the Maroon Bells.
Where to stay: The charming Tyrolean Lodge on Main Street is surprisingly affordable for Aspen, or you can splurge a little more at the Limelight Hotel Aspen or the Little Nell.
Don’t let its lower elevation fool you, Durango is still a wintery wonderland! Another great option for a winter getaway, this fun-filled town on the Western Slope has plenty on offer. Go for a sleigh ride, take a scenic train through the mountains, or enjoy a log cabin experience. You can even ski at Purgatory Resort if you’re up for some turns.
What to do: Skiing & snowboarding at Purgatory, ride the Polar Express on the Durango & Silverton Railroad, snowshoeing a section of the Colorado Trail, celebrate winter at the Snowdown Festival
Where to stay: Stay in a lovely log cabin along the Florida River at the O-Bar Cabins. You can borrow snowshoes to explore the property, then warm up at the outdoor fire ring and hot tub.
Known for its hot springs and breweries, Pagosa Springs is an excellent spot for a Colorado winter vacation if you’re looking for some RnR. Opt for a snowmobiling adventure, or spend the day jumping from pool to pool at the Pagosa Hot Springs, The Springs Resort and Spa, Healing Waters Resort and Spa, or the Overlook Mineral Spring Spa. With so many places to soak you can unwind and feel the restorative energy of the mineral-rich waters.
Local Tip: This hot spot is one of the best romantic getaways in Colorado thanks to the spa-friendly vibes and beautiful scenery.
What to do: Soak in Pagosa Hot Springs, ice skating on the River Center Ponds, ice fishing in Williams Creek Reservoir, cross country skiing at Pagosa Nordic Club
Where to stay: Motel SOCO is a vibrant place to stay in every way, from the retro decor to the lively atmosphere at the El Camino Lounge Bar & Patio, which features craft cocktails and year-round live music.
Additional Colorado Winter Vacations Resources
Visiting Colorado in the winter? Check out these handy resources: