Mesa Verde National Park, near Cortez, is perhaps the greatest archaeological wonder in the United States and a Unesco World Heritage site. Learn about the lives and history of the Ancestral Pueblo people as you visit Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House, incredible cliff dwellings and mesa-top villages built between 600 and 1300. There are also a few hiking trails available within the park, including one to a petroglyph panel.
Mesa Verde has been inhabited since 7500 BC by nomadic tribes, and the experts estimate that the first pueblos were built in 650 AD. The impressive cliff dwellings that still bring visitors to the park were built in 1200 AD. See the Cliff Palace and spend some time learning about these native americans at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. Don’t forget to explore the Mesa Top Loop Road for some excellent viewpoints and canyon overlooks.
Breckenridge is both a mountain town and a ski resort and is packed with plenty of Colorado history. It’s the oldest and largest town in Summit County, with about 250 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, making its Main Street an absolute dream to wander. There are tons of arts events and festivals all year, plus galleries, studios and shops worth checking out. In summer, you can enjoy the wildflowers in bloom in the surrounding areas, while in winter, Breckenridge Ski Resort provides some 2,908 acres (1,177ha) of the best skiing in the state.
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The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has been the city’s leading cultural institution for more than 100 years. Here, you can enjoy a variety of exhibits on everything from natural history and the universe to biology and even Colorado history. In City Park, the museum also has an IMAX theater, a planetarium and a host of exciting temporary exhibits annually.
Visit any of the 5 visitors centers in the park; one is registered on the National Registry of Historic Places and was designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. There is a variety of landscapes to explore, from mountains to mountain tundra, and a wide array of wildlife. Whether you come for a day and do a short hike, or stay and camp out to go on longer treks, the scenery will impress you. Don’t miss the Arapaho National Forest or Indian Peaks Wilderness.
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Bring your camera to capture the sparkling turquoise waters and melodic waterfalls that feed into the lake. It is home to a delicate ecosystem that is maintained by refraining from swimming or splashing in the tempting water, a sacrifice well worth it to preserve the environment. Enjoy the naturally occurring hanging plant gardens and peace that comes with this tranquil lake.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre provides a unique natural landscape in which to listen to live music. Surrounded by and created from the incredible red sandstone monoliths from which it gets its name, the park offers a world-class line-up of musicians during concert season, from late spring to fall, the Film on the Rocks program and yoga sessions. You can walk around the stage and explore trails throughout the park.
Cross the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and see the many lakes, creeks and mountain ranges – there are 8 ranges in total. Climb Coney Summit, it’s 13,334 feet above sea level. Take a load off your feet and take a horseback ride, or grab a mountain bike. Explore the old mining towns and ancient Indian trails, and you can even treat yourself to a night or two at a ski resort while you’re there.
Although it’s tucked away in Colorado’s southwest corner, Telluride parties so much its known as the festival capital of the West. One of its most well known is the Telluride Film Festival, which attracts celebrities and visitors from around the world. It also claims one of the country longest running film fests, the Mountainfilm Festival, held in late May. Carbondale showcases the 5Point Film Festival in late April, catering to adventure.
Its original dwellers would have climbed the rock face using narrow toeholds; its limited accessibility made it easy to defend against intruders. Cliff Palace was constructed in the cliff face with sandstone blocks, mortar, and wooden beams. It once had over 150 rooms and 25 kivas and was probably used for ceremonial purposes. As with Balcony House, Cliff Palace is only accessible on a ranger-guided tour.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science began with one man, Edwin Carter, who in 1868 moved to a one-room cabin high in the Rocky Mountains and singlehandedly amassed the largest collection of Colorado fauna in existence. In 1908, the museum in Denver formally opened, and it made world headlines when in 1926 museum researchers found fossil proof that North America was inhabited over 10,000 years ago.
The forty-five mile trip takes four and a half hours to ride, as it is still coal-fired, and winds along narrow mountain paths and in and out of canyons. Historic narration is available on the trains for interested tourists. Both the Silverton and Durango ends of the line have railroad museums; the Durango Museum contains artifacts pertaining to the history of railroading, and the Silverton Museum displays a Baldwin Locomotive from 1902 in the original 1882 Depot.
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