Colorado was inhabited mostly by plains tribes until 1858, when gold was discovered along Cherry Creek, sparking the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Today, the state is known for great skiing, ample recreation activities and mild weather. Visitors are often surprised to find that the state's major cities sit near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains but are themselves fairly flat.
Colorado's capital, Denver, sits directly east of the Rocky Mountains and has a population of almost 577,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 estimates. Surrounding metro communities, such as Littleton, Lakewood, Arvada, Aurora and Englewood, boost the total population to 2.4 million. Denver is known for great weather, with more than 300 average days of sunshine per year, and an abundance of recreational activities. In fact, the residents are the thinnest of any city in the country. Denver has the largest park system in the nation, with 205 parks within city limits. Several world-class ski resorts, including Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Vail, are within a one- to two-hour drive from Denver. Denver is home to the Denver Broncos professional football team, as well as professional soccer, baseball and hockey teams.
Colorado Springs sits 70 miles south of Denver off of I-25 and has a population of 372,437. The city is known for the U.S. Air Force Academy and Olympic Training Center. It is also home to Focus on the Family, a large evangelical ministry. Colorado Springs boasts incredible views of the Rocky Mountains and Pikes Peak and offers a host of recreational activities. You can visit Garden of the Gods, a 1,300-acre park featuring red sandstone formations, or take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the Pikes Peak summit. The views from Pikes Peak provided inspiration for Katherine Lee Bates' song, "America the Beautiful."
Fort Collins lies 65 miles north of Denver off of I-25 and has a population of 129,000. Surrounded by farmland, Fort Collins is a quiet college town and is home to Colorado State University. Like most Colorado destinations, it offers quick access to the mountains and numerous outdoor activities, including fly fishing, river rafting, horseback riding, camping and hiking. Beer lovers can tour the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, as well as several smaller brewing companies.
Boulder has a year-round population of around 90,000, although more than 30,000 students live there, as well, to attend the University of Colorado during the school year. Boulder is known for its unique culture, which embraces all things hippie. You can stroll along Pearl Street, where you'll find common suburban retailers, such as Ann Taylor and Starbucks, mingling with herbal apothecaries, organic food stores and arts and crafts vendors. Street entertainers and several natural playgrounds provide diversions for families and shoppers. The Flat Iron mountains are minutes away from downtown Boulder, providing hiking, kayaking and rock climbing opportunities.