Toward the end of the 19th century, Cotopaxi became a whistle-stop on the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Named for the Ecuadorian volcano (the highest active volcano in the world), this Colorado town's unique history is the subject of a 1950s master's thesis and novel by area author Nancy Oswald.
Today, this Arkansas River town is known for world-class whitewater rafting. Located between Cañon City and Salida, Cotopaxi is home to rafting outfitters and a campground. Local rafting tours, lasting anywhere from a few hours to six days, leave from here and tumble along the state's most popular whitewater river, facing rapids ranging from the calm, family-style waters outside Cañon City to adrenaline-pumping swells and steep drops near the Royal Gorge.
Or book an ATV tour to rock and roll through lush green thickets that open up to phenomenal mountain views. Along the way, your guide will tell you about the mountains and entertain you with local history — and you'll have plenty of stops for amazing photo opportunities.
Just south of town, the San Isabel National Forest tempts visitors with hiking trails and serene campsites. Since the small riverside town has limited services, most visitors actually lodge in Canon City. In addition to hotels, shops and eateries, Cotopaxi offers bike, book and geological shops, as well as an assortment of antique shops and trading posts. Local food options range from chuck-wagon dinners to Mexican delicacies.