History & Heritage

The sand-colored cliff dwellings sit under a big rock ledge. On the right side of the image verdant trees grow.

Some of the best things to do on a Colorado vacation revolve around its ancient and historic past. Once roamed by mighty dinosaurs, then formed by native people, westward exploration and expansion, Colorado historic sites and landmarks are waiting to be discovered.

Ancient Colorado History

Stand in the footsteps of Colorado’s oldest residents — the dinosaurs! Dig sites, museums and other family attractions offer access to fossils. At Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur Ridge and Picketwire Canyonlands, you can walk the same paths Colorado’s prehistoric dinosaurs. At the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Dinosaur Journey Museum and the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, explore interactive exhibits about Colorado dinosaurs and learn about other creatures from Colorado’s history.

Visitors can experience Colorado’s earliest human residents, the Ancestral Puebloans, at Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep National Monument and the Canyon of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum. Colorado’s history is full of rich American Indian heritage that can be experienced at galleries and festivals across the state, in addition to history museums and sites such as the Ute Indian Museum, Koshare Indian Museum and along the Trail of the Ancients scenic and historic byway.

Wild West History in Colorado

The exploration of the West and life on the frontier can be seen at numerous historic forts, including Bent’s Old Fort, Fort Garland and Fort Uncompahgre. (Tip: Check the Bent's Old Fort's official website for when it's open while you're planning; its hours can change during different seasons.) Along the Frontier Pathways scenic and historic byway, travelers can experience living on the new frontier and the views that rewarded the settlers as they arrived at the base of the mountains.

The 19th-century mining boom drew many people to Colorado with a hope of striking it rich. Today, travelers can experience a mining train trip 3,000 feet into the Bachelor Syracuse Mine in southwest Colorado and see the prosperous, historic main streets of mining towns such as Breckenridge, Leadville and Central City. Read more about Colorado's historic mining towns and mine tours.

More History Attractions

From cliff dwellings to historic railroads, ghost towns to scenic byways, museums and more — you’ll find many ways to experience our distinctive history and character, as well as plenty Colorado vacation ideas.