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With two spectacular national parks (Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison), a handful of scenic byways and more lakes and rivers than any other part of the state, the Southwest region is as wild as Colorado gets.

The jagged San Juan Mountains form the region’s backbone and are a haven for outdoor adventure. Fluffy snow provides world-famous skiing at Crested Butte, Telluride, Durango and Silverton before melting into trickling streams and rivers that cut fantastic gorges, such as the 2,660-foot-deep Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Many of these waters are fishable, too, holding trophy-size trout and kokanee salmon. Moving south, the mountains mellow, and pine-forested alpine slopes give way to semi-arid chaparral desert. On the surface, this is ranching country, but dig deeper and you’ll find rich natural and human histories.

The bluffs and plateaus in the Four Corners area are home to 10,000-year-old hot springs, formed by snowmelt that pools in an underground aquifer, heats up and simmers to the surface.

Nearby, the well-preserved archeological ruins at Mesa Verde National Park and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument offer some of the country’s most stunningly complete records of what life was like for the Ancestral Puebloans, who built entire cities inside gaping caves.

Use the articles and city pages below for ideas on things to do as you plan your next vacation to Colorado's Southwest region.

Learn about Southwest Colorado Heritage