Best Photo Spots in Colorado

Best Photo Spots in Colorado

Strike out around the Centennial State and find these best photo spots in Colorado. From the Front Range, to the Great Sand Dunes, Grand Junction and everywhere in between.

Welcome to Colorado. The Centennial State. Half mountains, half plains. Winding roads through canyons and beeline gunbarrel straightaways across wide open valleys. Hit the gas! From snowy mountain peaks, to rustling forests and golden aspen groves, to steep dunes and shimmering deserts. Overwhelmed? Where do you begin your photographic journey in Colorado? Follow this guide to the best photos spots around this scenic state.

How do you define the best photo spots? In this case, the “best” spots are the ones I like and the ones I’m recommending here. It won’t be an exhaustive list. And it’s purely arbitrary. It’s a whole state, after all. But these are SOME of the best photography spots in Colorado. I’m focusing on natural features and unique views. Most you can reach by car, or with a short hike. Start!

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

Nestled at the foot of the Front Range, Colorado Springs is famous for Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods and the Air Force Academy. In fact, there’s so many great views that I wrote a photography guide to the best photo spots in Colorado Springs.

Best time to visit: Year round, May to November for best weather

Best views: Garden of the Gods, Pulpit Rock, Calhan Paint Mines

Bonus: Do the hike to Mount Muscoco in North Cheyenne Canyon

Victor

Victor

Take Highway 67 south from Divide. The road goes up and up along the back side of Pikes Peak. Forests and mountains stretch to the west, while aspen stands shine from the hillsides. Eventually, you’ll wind up in Victor. Here you can see some of the old time gold mines, historic buildings and views to the Arkansas River Valley far below. (if you’re lucky you might also see bighorn sheep near Highway 67!)

Best time to visit: Summer and fall, especially September

Best views: The Crags, Horsethief Park, Cripple Creek Heritage Center, Victor Gold Mine

Wilkerson Pass

Wilkerson Pass

Get out at the top of Wilkerson Pass and take in a massive view. There’s a platform and a few short trails. The high-altitude basin of South Park (yes, the same South Park from the cartoon) stretches to the horizon, with the Mosquito and Park mountain ranges rearing up beyond. Somewhere out there, you’ll be able to make out the twin Buffalo Peaks. Sunsets and golden hour here make stunning shots.

Best time to visit: Year round

Best views: Take the paved walking trail to get up and close to the aspens, a few pullouts further down the western slope offer different compositions

Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes is one of those places you can always come back to. No matter how many times you’ve been, you can always manage to find a new surprise. During winter, the lake turns to ice, and sunrise sepia tones fall through gray clouds. Summertime light shines through the valley at the west, bringing the lake to life. And in September and early October, the mountains run with rivers of gold.

Best time to visit: March through October

Best views: Lakeview campground, Interlaken trailhead, Mount Elbert trails (for aspen groves)

Bonus: Drive west from Clear Creek Reservoir to the ghost towns of Vicksburg and Winfield

Cottonwood Pass / Taylor Park

Cottonwood Pass and Taylor Park

Cottonwood Pass offers one of the best “big mountain views”, easily accessible by car. The saddle between mountain peaks sits at 12,100 feet (over 3600 meters). Stop here in summer, and you’ll find yourself looking down at wildflower-dotted slopes, alpine lakes and the still-wild, undeveloped Taylor Park valley. A few walking trails lead to lakes and viewpoints. If you’re continuing west, stop and explore the sage brush hills and rocky shores of Taylor Reservoir.

Best time to visit: June through October, closed winters

Best views: Two viewpoints at the top of the pass, Lakeview Gunnison campground

Crested Butte

Crested Butte

Straight west over the mountains from Taylor Park, you’ll find the quaint mountain town of Crested Butte. For a few short weeks in September, Crested Butte makes one of the best destinations to see the yellow-gold aspens at their peak. The most scenic drives go north from town towards Gothic and Schofield Pass. Still want more? Visit Kebler Pass and Ohio Pass for some of the best views and largest aspen stands around.

Best time to visit: September and October, most mountain roads here are closed winters

Best views: Aspen groves and viewpoints in Washington Gulch, County Road 12 – west slope of Kebler Pass

Dallas Divide

Dallas Divide

For many years, Dallas Divide has been the “best kept secret” among Colorado photographers. Think jagged mountains, quaking aspens and windswept, old west landscapes just about anywhere you point the camera. The now-famous route between Telluride and Ridgeway, on Last Dollar Road and Highway 62, will be your best starting point for photographic fun.

Best time to visit: June to October, especially September

Best views: Nearly anywhere on Last Dollar Road

Bonus: Since you’re in the area, head over to Owl Creek Pass

Wolf Creek Pass

Wolf Creek Pass

A steep, high mountain pass in the San Juan Mountains… Wolf Creek Pass opens up on the southwest end with rocky cliffs, aspen groves growing together in long strands and a panoramic view that will fill your imagination with possibilities. Also check out Treasure Falls, a short hike from the highway. The main valley viewpoint was recently closed for maintenance (in 2019), but reports say that the area is back open!

Best time to visit: Year round, mid-to-late October

Best views: Lobo overlook and Wolf Creek Pass highway overlook

Great Sand Dunes

Great Sand Dunes

These are the tallest sand dunes in North America. Plan a couple hours during late afternoon and hike to the highest dune for sunset. The photo possibilities will be eye-popping, and this will be an experience you’ll never forget. Visit the areas closer to the mountains on Medano Creek, for a taste of where the mountains meet the desert.

Best time to visit: Year round

Best views: High dune, Medano Pass, pullouts near the visitor center during sunrise and sunset

La Veta / Spanish Peaks

La Veta

The Spanish Peaks stand like a lone fortress over the plains. Surrounded by miles of wilderness, valleys and grassland, this is the southeastern outpost of the Rocky mountains. Good places to view the peaks can be found at Lathrop State Park, Highway 160 near La Veta and Raton Pass.

Best time to visit: Year round

Best views: Check out the Devil’s Stairsteps, just south of La Veta on Highway 12

Mount Evans

Mount Evans

The highest paved road in North America guides you through some amazing alpine scenery, to the summit of Mount Evans. Wildflowers, granite cliffs, emerald lakes and a postcard view! Mount Evans wilderness is a perfect place to look for mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

Best time to visit: July to September

Best views: Summit Lake, Mount Evans summit

Estes Park

Estes Park

Even with the proximity to Denver, Estes Park is still a jewel. The most popular reason to visit Estes Park? A chance to see the elk herds during rutting season. The cows group together, while the bulls vie for a chance to mate. Keep an eye out, and in just about any open area around town, you may see the bulls locking antlers in battle.

Best time to visit: September to October

Best views: Lily Mountain, Lily Lake, Beaver Meadows and Fall River Rd (for wildlife)

Bonus: Of course you have to go see the Overlook Hotel

Colorado National Monument

Grand Junction and Colorado National Monument

The western slope of Colorado descends towards the dry Utah deserts.  But before you get there, stop at Grand Junction and the Colorado National Monument. Here you’ll find a “mini” north rim of the Grand Canyon. Gargantuan red cliffs rise from the valley, while giant rock formations and spires tower over canyons. Rim Rock Drive will give you many an opportunity to frame up memorable shots.

Best time to visit: Year round

Best views: Grand View, Independence Monument, Book Cliffs Viewpoint

But wait…

Why didn’t I mention Maroon Bells?  It’s already well known, famous and… crowded. Do you really want to stand in line to get the same shot and composition as ten thousand other people?

Map

View all photo hotspots and export to your phone here!

Itineraries

Time always seems to run short, doesn’t it? Days turn to weeks, and weeks turn to months. You won’t be able to see everything in one trip. Not possible, or practical. Try these three routes as you have time, and modify to suit your own interests.

Ten Days South

Start with two days from Colorado Springs or Denver. Drive to Buena Vista. See Wilkerson Pass and Twin Lakes. Drive through Taylor Park to Crested Butte. Then loop back through the San Luis Valley.

Ten Days South West

Start again at the Front Range. Drive south to Walsenburg, then La Veta. Hike the Great Sand Dunes, then stop at Wolf Creek Pass. Take the long way around to Ridgway and Crested Butte.

Ten Days North and West

Start at Front Range/Colorado Springs/Denver. See Mount Evans, then head to Estes Park. Take the long drive via I70 to Grand Junction, then loop back to Crested Butte and Buena Vista.

Credits

Additional Creative Commons images from Flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/issafly/49714402623/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/timcaynes/2947272252/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/beerandloathing/42645896060/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanicsgroup/6194048605/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/larry1732/31192048978/

Best Photo Spots

Did you plan a trip to Colorado using these tips for the best photo spots? What did you change in the itineraries, if anything? Did I miss anything? Add your own favorite spot… Let me know below.

Best photo spots in Colorado

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