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Northwestern Colorado

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Northwestern Colorado

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Gore Range from Vail Mountain

Northwestern Colorado is a region of the state of Colorado in the United States of America. It is a diverse area of both red rock mesas and snow capped mountain peaks, as well as the headwaters of the Colorado River. This Rocky Mountains region includes a majority of the state's most popular ski resorts, places like Breckenridge, Aspen and Vail. It is also home to the Western Slope's biggest city, Grand Junction.


Broadly, this region is bounded on the:

  • North, by the Wyoming state line;
  • East, by the western ranges of the Rocky Mountains; This contours along the Continental Divide, an imaginary line that marks the flow of precipitation. Rain falling on the west of the Divide makes its way to the Pacific Ocean. Rain on the east makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • South, The southern borders of Mesa, Pitkin and Summit Counties. This is an arbitrary line 50 to 100 miles south of the east-west running Interstate 70, stretching roughly from the western portal of the Eisenhower Tunnel in the east to the Utah state line in the west.
  • West, by the Utah state line.

Region boundaries in Colorado tend to be somewhat controversial (even in day-to-day life in the state) and are done in an ad-hoc way here. If you're expecting to read about some destination in this article and can't find it, check in the neighboring Front Range, Southwestern Colorado, and even South Central Colorado sections to see if it's covered there.


For a quick list of all Colorado's ski resorts, take a look at Skiing in Colorado.

Other destinations

Independence Monument at Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction

Normally, this section is reserved for places of scenic natural wonder, as well as geologic interest. Here are a few of the region's highlights:

  • Colorado National Monument [6]
  • Dinosaur National Monument [7]
  • Flattops Wilderness Area [8]
  • Grand Mesa National Forest [9]
  • Hunter Frying Pan Wilderness [10]
  • Little Bookcliff Wild Horse Area [11] About 10 mi (16 km) east of Grand Junction. This is an area known for its wild mustang herd. People can go by jeep or car.
  • Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness [12]
  • McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area [13]
  • Routt National Forest [14]


Although there are some famous mountain attractions along the eastern side of the region, most of the area is dominated by high canyon/mesa country rather than by towering summits. A geological formation characteristic of, and widespread in, the region is the Book Cliffs that are shown to good advantage around Grand Junction. A side effect of this geology is that the region is famous for its fossils. Dinosaur National Monument, along the Utah state line and extending into that state, was formed to preserve the enormous fossil beds found there, which are still yielding remarkable paleontological discoveries. There is also an interesting paleontological museum in Grand Junction.

Northwestern Colorado is also home to Colorado's Wine Country, the state's answer to Napa and Sonoma in California.



Get in

Get in

To visit Northwestern Colorado, travelers are going to have fly and/or drive.

By plane

There are major airports in Denver and Grand Junction, and regional airports in Aspen and Vail.

  • Denver International Airport [15], (IATA: DEN, ICAO: KDEN). Commonly referred to as DIA. It is located about 20 miles to the east of downtown Denver. Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines all maintain hubs at the airport in Concourses A, B, and C respectively. Most other major domestic carriers also have service here.
  • Grand Junction Regional Airport [16], (IATA: GJT, ICAO: KGJT), otherwise known as Walker Field, is served by six airlines with nonstop service to Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. Some service is seasonal. For private pilots, it is also possible to fly your small plane into the airport and leave it while you tour the area. Taxi service is also available at the airport.
  • Sunshine Taxi, +1-970-245-8294.
Rental car agencies at Walker Field include:

Taxi service is also available at the airport.

  • Advantage Rent-A-Car‎, 2828 Walker Field Dr Grand Junction, +1-970-243-4469, [1].
  • Alamo, +1-970- 243-6626, [2]. Daily 07AM-11:15PM.
  • Avis, +1-970-244-9170, [3]. Su-F 8AM-10:30PM,Sa 8AM-8:30PM.
  • Hertz, +1-970-243-0747, [4]. Daily 7:30AM-11PM.

  • Vail/Eagle County Airport[17] (IATA: EGE, ICAO: KEGE). Phone: +1-800-225-6136, Located 20 minutes west of Vail in Eagle.
  • Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, (also known as Sardy Field) (IATA: ASE) (ICAO: KASE)), [18]. Major carriers to Aspen include United, US Airways, Delta Airlines, and Frontier Airlines. ASE is a small airport for small planes only, and traffic tends to stop in any inclement weather.

By car

  • Aspen - About 4 hours from Denver on Interstate 70.. There are two major routes from Denver - through Glenwood Springs or through Independence Pass. Independence Pass is only open in the summer months, but provides spectacular views and can be a bit faster than the longer route through Glenwood. To take this route, travel south from Copper Mountain and exit off I-70 to Leadville.
  • Grand Junction, Clifton and Palisade - Palisade and Grand Junction are on Interstate 70, about 40 minutes east of the Utah border and 4 hours west of Denver. From the South, (Telluride, Delta and Montrose), drivers can travel US 50 north.
  • Vail- 100 miles west of Denver on Interstate 70, and about 130 miles from Denver International Airport.

By train

Amtrak [19] serves Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs with the California Zephyr [20], which runs daily between Emeryville (in the San Francisco Bay Area) and Chicago. Amtrak and AAA partner to run several Wine Trains between Denver and Grand Junction each spring. [21]

By bus

  • Grand Junction, Clifton and Palisade
    • Greyhound Bus Lines, 230 S 5th St, Grand Junction, +1-970-242-6012, [5]. But if you're without a car, you'll still need to hail a cab to the vineyards.

Get around


View at Lake Dillon near Frisco and Silverthorne



  • Ski Loveland. Loveland is a ski area located 52 miles west of Denver on the Continental Divide. It offers a large area for a low price, as it is not a resort. It is a favorite spot for locals because of this. It boasts a lift that gives access to hundreds of acres bordering the continental divide. There are two areas called Loveland Basin and Loveland Valley. The latter is primarily for beginners (with a few challenging runs), but the Basin is the top destination.



Stay safe

Get out

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