There’s a number of lesser-known and unusual places in Colorado that provide a different path for adventure and exploration. From bizarre to historical, following is a sampling of some of Colorado’s more unique places to visit.
Bent’s Old Fort/Santa Fe Trail. Bent’s Old Fort in southeast Colorado was an 1833 fort built for the trade of buffalo robes. For its 16-year existence, the fort was the only major permanent white settlement in the region. It was destroyed in 1849 and a replica of the fort stands in its place today. The Santa Fe Trail, along which the fort is situated, tells the history of the old west with wagon ruts from trappers, traders and settlers.
The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. Set in the Rocky Mountain Foothills of Boulder, The Dushanbe Teahouse was made by hand in Dushanbe, Tajikistan and gifted to Boulder, its sister city. A symbol of friendship and cultural exploration, the teahouse was sent to and reassembled in Boulder and now serves afternoon tea along with other fresh baked treats.
Camp Amache. Also known as the Granada Relocation Center, Camp Amache forcibly imprisoned over 7,000 Japanese from 1942 through 1945 as a World War II internment camp. Today, it is preserved by the Amache Preservation Society where visitors can learn about the history of the site and view the well-maintained camp.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Set in central Colorado, the Florissant Fossil Beds are one of the most diverse fossil deposits in the world. The National Monument features petrified redwood stumps that are up to 14 feet wide, along with thousands of fossils of insects, plants and other creatures. Children can explore even more with the junior ranger program, led by the park’s rangers, and earn their own junior ranger badge.
The Grand Mesa. The largest flat-topped mountain in the world, the Grand Mesa covers hundreds of square miles near Grand Junction and stands more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Visitors can take the Mesa Scenic Byway to explore the area, which offers great fishing, camping and hiking in the summer and the Powderhorn Mountain Resort in the winter for skiing and snowboarding.
Kit Carson County Carousel. One of the fewer than 150 wooden carousels still in existence, the Kit Carson Carousel is on the county fairgrounds in Burlington. It is the only antique carousel in the country with original paint and the only surviving menagerie carousel made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.
Missile Site Park. Weld County is home to Missile Site Park where visitors can get a glimpse into the Cold War Era’s national defense. The missile site, constructed in 1961 and deactivated in 1965, was the location of one of four Atlas E sites that were equipped with nuclear warheads. Visitors can take a tour of the site and see the missile maintenance room, the command control centers and the living quarters.
National Earthquake Information Center. The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) in Golden has the mission of quickly reporting the location and size of earthquakes occurring anywhere in the world. The NEIC gathers and keeps a global seismic database on earthquakes and their effects on the Earth. Visitors can explore the center to learn more about this process and see the tools that accomplish the job.
Picketwire Canyon. Situated near La Junta in southeastern Colorado, Picketwire Canyon is home to the longest set of dinosaur tracks discovered to date. The tracks were made in mud, buried and are now turned to stone. Today, there are over 1,300 footprints visible at the site, as well as Native American rock art dating back 375 to 4,500 years ago.
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The highest train in the U.S., The Pikes Peak Cog Railway takes passengers 14,115 feet above sea level to the summit of Pikes Peak. The cog railway, which combines a historic, nearly nine-mile route offering unparalleled views, takes a bit over three hours round-trip. This includes a stop at the Pikes Peak summit where passengers can see 2,000-year old trees and one of the largest herds of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in the state.
The Real South Park. Bearing little resemblance to the TV show, South Park is home to the towns of Fairplay and Alma along with a variety of heritage areas and scenic sights. The area boats 14,000-foot peaks, a river valley, abundant wildlife and a rich history of mining and ancient trees. Gold prospectors flocked to the area in the 1860s when $1.5 million of gold was extracted in Park County in just three years.
UFO Watchtower. Take the Cosmic Highway just outside Alamosa to the UFO Watchtower. The attraction provides 360-degree views of the San Luis Valley with no light pollution, making for the perfect location to scope out the sky for UFOs. The area is known for strange occurrences and visitors regularly spot unusual lights and objects in the sky from the observation deck.
For more information or a copy of the 2014 Colorado Official State Vacation Guide, visit www.COLORADO.com.