The best small mountain towns in Colorado

The small mountain town species does not fall neatly within the lines of any specified characterization. There are the kitschy, constructed ski towns like Breckenridge or Vail, those that lie more in the realm of Wild-West-meets-mining-industry, with names like Rifle and Kremmling, and those that have been so immortalized as epitomes of mountain culture that the average price of a home is upwards of $5 million, such as Aspen.

The mountain town is its own special breed, always beautiful, sometimes utopic, and each with its own certain character. As someone who grew up in mountain towns, I can personally attest to their inexplicable draw despite the potential problems of cultural isolation, and the endless opportunities for exploration that they offer.

Here are some of the best mountain towns with the most authentic character, perfect to use as a base for your next Block Break, escapade, or perhaps eventual permanent home.

Carbondale

Population: 6,427

Highlights: Fly-fishing, rafting, and kayaking on the Roaring Fork River, backpacking in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, hiking and skiing on Mt. Sopris and the surrounding backcountry, finding yourself lost in a sea of hippy culture at the annual Mountain Fair

Perfect for: Yogis, artists, and lovers of the local food movement

Durango

Population: 16,887

Highlights: Water sports activities of all sorts on the Animas River, climbing of all varieties, backpacking in the nearby San Juan mountains.

Perfect for: Enthusiasts of all things active who want a slightly larger population with more social options.

Crested Butte

Population: 1,487

Highlights: Skiing at The Crested Butte resort, mountain biking the classic 401 Trail, exploring the friendly culture of the “last real ski town” and the “wildflower capital of the world”

Perfect for: Classic ski bums

Fruita

Population: 12,646

Highlights: Mountain biking. Pretty much just mountain biking—but also a curiously charismatic downtown culture where you are apt to run into lots of mountain bikers

Perfect for: The obsessive mountain biker

Telluride

Population: 2,221

Highlights: Marveling at panoramic views of the “box canyon” in which Telluride is situated, skiing at Telluride Resort and in the surrounding backcountry, experiencing world-class festivals like Telluride Bluegrass, Mountainfilm, Telluride Jazz, and Blues & Brews

Perfect for: Music-loving skiers

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