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6 Under-the-Radar Family Vacations in Colorado

Lyn Mettler

Discover kid-friendly places to explore with the gang.

You've probably heard of Colorado vacation destinations such as Vail, Aspen, Denver and Colorado Springs, but this photogenic state is also home to out-of-the-way towns and villages that offer the same stunning beauty without the crowds. With the Rocky Mountains in the backdrop and abundant natural wonders, Colorado appeals to outdoorsy families with a zest for adventure. Here are six picturesque Colorado family vacations to consider on your next trip to the Centennial State.

Telluride

While Telluride is difficult to reach, with the closest major airport located about two hours away, it's well worth the effort. This beautiful town, which was established during the Colorado mining boom in the late 1800s, is surrounded by the jagged peaks of the San Juan Mountains. The site of Butch Cassidy's first bank robbery, Telluride beckons to adventure lovers of all ages. The Hotel Telluride, which is just steps away from downtown, offers a convenient home base with a free shuttle to trailheads, dining spots and the local Town Park, which is home to countless festivals. Even better, you can enjoy panoramic views on a free gondola ride from the nearby Mountain Village ski area into town.

Beaver Creek

Often overshadowed by Vail, Beaver Creek, which is just a few miles west, offers plenty of charm, quaint boutiques and dining options. Beaver Creek Village is set in a valley off Interstate 70, which runs west of Denver through the Rocky Mountains. And thanks to its smaller size, Beaver Creek commands fewer crowds. In the warmer months, try your hand at mini-golf or the bungee trampoline, fish at Flood's Fishing Pond or take a leisurely ride up the gondola. Older kids will enjoy mountain biking and hiking to Beaver Lake, while parents relax with a concert at the Vilar Performing Arts Center. And everyone can regroup for a family dinner at Toscanini.

Ouray

Pronounced "you-ray," this classic Western town near Telluride is the gateway to the famous Million Dollar Highway (U.S. Route 550). This long stretch to Silverton is known for its hairpin turns and mountain scenery, especially as the aspens turn gold each autumn. Ouray boasts its own natural hot springs, complete with slides and pools. Visitors can experience the life of a miner by touring the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine, a former silver mine, along with natural attractions like Box Canyon Falls, a powerful waterfall cascading down a narrow slot canyon, and frozen waterfalls during winter, where thousands flock to "ice climb." Families can also enjoy a relaxed hike and elevated views on the Ouray Perimeter Trail.

Breckenridge

Located between Denver and Vail, Breckenridge is an authentic Western town with year-round activities for families. During the summertime, Epic Discovery entertains visitors with an alpine coaster, an alpine slide (similar to a luge), zip lines and a ropes course. And in the summertime, you can enjoy a free scenic ride up the gondola. At Breck, families can also horseback ride, and give white-water rafting a try. During the skiing and snowboarding season, visitors flock to its popular terrain parks, which include one of the largest half-pipes in the world. Also check out nearby Frisco, a quaint town that sits beside the Dillon Reservoir and offers opportunities for paddleboarding, boating, kayaking and canoeing.

Crested Butte

Situated near Aspen, Crested Butte oozes small-town charm. Named after the peak that dominates the town's scenery, Mount Crested Butte, the town features many old building fronts and original wood miner's shacks from the late 1800s. After exploring around town, hop on many trailheads from town to check out mountain meadows and forests. The 12-mile hike from Crested Butte to Aspen, also called the West Maroon Pass, takes you to the top of the pass and over to Maroon Lake with views of the Maroon Bells' twin peaks. The Viceroy Snowmass, just outside Aspen, offers a package for hikers that includes transport to the trailhead, pick-up and a gourmet picnic lunch.

Boulder

Boulder is a laid-back college town set near Rocky Mountain National Park. Families with young kids can stroll along Boulder Creek. Hotel Boulderado, a historic property with modern and Victorian-style rooms, is located in the heart of downtown and just a few blocks from the popular Pearl Street Mall. Along Pearl Street, wander into quirky stores such as the two-story Boulder Bookstore, the Into the Wind toy store and the Art Mart. Spend some time hiking in and around the Flatirons, the sandstone peaks that characterize Boulder's skyline, or hop a ride on Banjo Billy's Bus Tour, which will fill you in on the fun local ghost stories and legends.



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