Taking its name from the river that flows through it, Colorado became the 38th state of the US in 1876. It is home to the Southern Rocky Mountains and the western Great Plains.
When you first leave Denver International Airport, and look out across the endless Great Plains at the distant Rocky Mountains, it is not hard to imagine the history of this land, and those who once lived and travelled across it – the Ute, Comanche, Apache, and Cheyenne tribes, as well as the early settlers.
As you may have guessed, from all its history and natural wonders, Colorado has acted as the backdrop to some of Hollywood’s most famous Westerns, including ‘True Grit’ and ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’
From a distance, Denver (the capital of Colorado) sits like a tiny island of skyscrapers on the massive Great Plains, with the edge of the Rocky Mountains as its backdrop. It is currently going though a population boon, and the city seems to be ever expanding, merging into nearby cities, such as Aurora.
With only a short time to explorer this giant state, I set about hunting down five of its most beautiful spots, all within a day’s traveling distant from the state capital.
First up is Red Rocks Park, which contains the popular Red Rocks Amphitheatre. This ancient natural amphitheatre of giant red sandstone rock was turned into a music venue in the early 1900s. Acts such as the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Carpenters, and U2 have performed there. Originally a Ute tribe camping ground, the site was first named ‘Garden of the Angels’ when it was rediscovered by a US army expedition in 1820.
Garden of the God’s:
Found in Colorado Springs, the red rock formation, now called ‘The Garden of the Gods,’ was known and visited by many tribes, including Ute, Cheyenne, Apache, Comanche, and Pawnee.
Red Rock Canyon:
Located near the Garden of the gods, this canyon boasts some similar geological beauty to its neighbour, but on a smaller scale. What helps this popular hiking park stand out, is its colourful lake set against the red sandstone.
Standing over 14000 ft, Mount Evans is a landmark in Denver’s Rocky Mountain backdrop. It’s name actually has a dark history, being named after John Evans -a 19th century governor of Colorado, who infamously was involved in the ‘Sand Creek Massacre’ of Cheyenne and Arapaho people. The peak boasts magnificent views, and a few resident goats.
The university city of Boulder can be found snuggled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It has boutique arty sense about it, and feels a lot more contained and cozy than other nearby US cities. It was once home to the chief of the Arapaho tribe, and more recently Stephen King wrote ‘The Shinning’ while briefly residing there.
With that last sketch, my time exploring the old Wild West around Denver came to an end. I left Colorado, not only impressed by the amazing wilderness, and vast landscapes, but also by the warmth and polite kindness of its people.