With its rugged Rocky Mountain terrain, winding trails, and scenic landscapes, Colorado is a premier destination for hiking, skiing, and enjoying the great outdoors. However, the popularity of cities like Denver and resort towns like Aspen also comes with some hefty price tags.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Cheaper alternatives to experience nature like Colorado include areas of Utah like Moab, northern New Mexico, Wyoming’s Wind River Range, the Ozarks in Arkansas, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Black Hills in South Dakota, the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, central Oregon’s Cascades region, and northern Arizona.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore budget-friendly substitutes for Colorado that still deliver breathtaking scenery and outdoor recreation. You’ll find destinations across the U.S. that offer similar natural highlights without Colorado’s steep prices for lodging, food, entertainment and more.
Top 10 Cheaper Alternatives to Colorado
Colorado is renowned for its stunning landscapes and outdoor adventure opportunities. However, it can also be quite expensive to visit and explore. If you’re looking for similar outdoor experiences without breaking the bank, here are 10 cheaper alternatives to Colorado:
Utah offers breathtaking national parks like Zion and Bryce Canyon, as well as world-class skiing in Park City. With its diverse landscapes and outdoor activities, Utah is a great alternative for outdoor enthusiasts on a budget.
2. New Mexico
New Mexico boasts rich cultural heritage and a wide range of outdoor activities. From hiking in the stunning landscapes of Taos to exploring the ancient ruins of Chaco Canyon, this state offers affordable adventures for nature lovers.
Montana is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts with its vast wilderness areas, majestic mountains, and crystal-clear lakes. From hiking and camping in Glacier National Park to fishing in the Yellowstone River, Montana offers affordable outdoor adventures.
Arizona is home to the Grand Canyon, one of the most iconic natural wonders in the world. With its desert landscapes, hiking trails, and affordable camping options, Arizona is a budget-friendly alternative for outdoor adventure.
Oregon is known for its diverse landscapes, including mountains, forests, and beautiful coastline. With its numerous hiking trails, camping spots, and budget-friendly outdoor activities, Oregon is a great alternative to Colorado.
Tennessee offers a variety of outdoor activities, from hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to whitewater rafting in the Ocoee River. With its affordable accommodation options and natural beauty, Tennessee is a fantastic alternative for outdoor adventure.
Wisconsin may not be the first state that comes to mind for outdoor adventure, but it has a lot to offer. From exploring the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to kayaking on the Wisconsin River, this state provides affordable outdoor experiences.
With its rugged mountains, pristine lakes, and vast wilderness areas, Idaho offers plenty of affordable outdoor adventures. Whether you’re into hiking, fishing, or camping, Idaho has something for everyone.
Vermont is a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts. With its picturesque landscapes, charming small towns, and affordable outdoor activities like hiking and skiing, Vermont is a great alternative to Colorado.
10. New Hampshire
New Hampshire is known for its stunning fall foliage and outdoor recreation opportunities. From hiking in the White Mountains to exploring the Lakes Region, New Hampshire offers affordable outdoor adventures.
These alternatives to Colorado provide a wide range of outdoor adventure opportunities at a more affordable price. Whether you’re looking for hiking, skiing, or camping, these states offer budget-friendly options without compromising on the beauty and excitement of outdoor exploration.
What Makes Colorado So Expensive
Colorado is known for its stunning landscapes, outdoor activities, and adventure opportunities. However, it’s also notorious for being an expensive destination. There are several factors that contribute to the high cost of living and travel in Colorado.
1. High Demand
Colorado has become a popular tourist destination and a highly sought-after place to live. The increasing demand for housing, accommodations, and outdoor activities has driven up prices across the state. This high demand has resulted in limited availability and inflated costs.
2. Scenic Locations
Colorado is home to some of the most breathtaking natural scenery in the United States. From the Rocky Mountains to the picturesque valleys, these scenic locations come at a premium price. The cost of maintaining and preserving these areas adds to the overall expenses.
3. Outdoor Recreation
Outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and mountain biking are major attractions in Colorado. The state invests in maintaining and improving its outdoor recreational facilities, which requires significant financial resources.
These costs are passed on to visitors in the form of higher fees and charges.
4. Cost of Living
Living expenses in Colorado are higher compared to many other states. The cost of housing, groceries, and transportation can be significantly more expensive. This high cost of living also affects the cost of tourism-related services and activities.
5. Limited Seasonality
Colorado’s outdoor adventure opportunities are largely seasonal, with peak periods during the summer and winter months. This limited seasonality puts pressure on businesses to maximize their revenue during these periods, resulting in higher prices for visitors.
6. Taxes and Fees
Colorado has various taxes and fees that contribute to the overall cost of living and travel in the state. These include sales tax, lodging tax, and transportation-related fees. These additional expenses can add up and make Colorado a more expensive destination.
7. Infrastructure and Accessibility
Maintaining the infrastructure necessary to support tourism and outdoor activities comes at a cost. Building and maintaining roads, trails, and other amenities require ongoing investment, which is reflected in the overall expenses for visitors.
8. Quality of Services
Colorado takes pride in offering high-quality services and experiences to its visitors. This commitment to excellence often comes with a higher price tag. From well-maintained hiking trails to top-notch ski resorts, the focus on providing exceptional services contributes to the overall cost.
9. Branding and Marketing
Colorado has invested heavily in branding and marketing itself as a premier outdoor destination. These efforts require funding, which is recovered through increased prices for tourism-related activities and services.
10. Economic Factors
Despite the higher costs, Colorado remains a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers. The stunning landscapes, thrilling activities, and memorable experiences make it a worthwhile investment for many.
Important Factors in Choosing a Cheaper Alternative
When looking for a cheaper alternative to Colorado for outdoor adventure, there are several important factors to consider. These factors will help you find a destination that offers similar outdoor activities and experiences at a lower cost. Here are some key considerations:
Consider the location of the alternative destination. Is it close to your current location or easily accessible? Choosing a destination that is within driving distance can help save on transportation costs.
Additionally, consider the proximity to other attractions and amenities that you may want to explore during your trip.
2. Outdoor Activities
Research the outdoor activities available in the alternative destination. Look for destinations that offer a variety of activities, such as hiking, biking, fishing, camping, or skiing. This ensures that you can still enjoy the outdoor adventures you love without breaking the bank.
3. Cost of Accommodation
Compare the cost of accommodation in the alternative destination. Look for budget-friendly options such as campsites, hostels, or affordable hotels. Consider the availability and cost of rental properties if you prefer a more private and comfortable stay.
4. Cost of Food
Research the cost of food in the alternative destination. Look for affordable dining options such as local eateries, food trucks, or grocery stores where you can prepare your own meals. This can help you save money on dining expenses during your outdoor adventure.
5. Entrance Fees and Permits
Consider the cost of entrance fees and permits for outdoor activities in the alternative destination. Some destinations may have lower or no entrance fees, making them more budget-friendly for outdoor enthusiasts.
Research the specific requirements and costs associated with the activities you plan to do.
6. Transportation Costs
Take into account the cost of transportation within the alternative destination. Are there affordable public transportation options or bike rentals available? Consider the distance between different outdoor activity sites and factor in transportation costs when comparing alternatives.
7. Safety and Accessibility
Ensure that the alternative destination is safe and easily accessible for outdoor adventure. Check for any safety concerns such as weather conditions, wildlife encounters, or hiking trail conditions. Additionally, consider the accessibility of the destination for individuals with mobility limitations.
8. Local Resources and Guides
Check if there are local resources and guides available in the alternative destination. These can be helpful for navigating the area, finding the best trails, or accessing insider tips for a successful outdoor adventure.
Look for websites, guidebooks, or local tourism offices that provide valuable information.
9. Seasonal Considerations
Take into account the seasonal variations in the alternative destination. Some destinations may offer cheaper outdoor adventures during off-peak seasons. Research the best time to visit for affordable rates and fewer crowds, while still being able to enjoy the outdoor activities you are interested in.
10. Reviews and Recommendations
Read reviews and recommendations from other outdoor enthusiasts who have visited the alternative destination. Look for feedback on the affordability, quality of outdoor activities, and overall experience.
Online forums, travel websites, and social media groups can be valuable sources of information and insights.
By considering these important factors, you can find a cheaper alternative to Colorado for your outdoor adventure without compromising on the quality of your experience. Remember to plan ahead, compare options, and make informed decisions based on your budget and preferences.
How to Save Money on Your Outdoor Adventure
Outdoor adventures can be exhilarating and memorable experiences, but they can also come with a hefty price tag. If you’re looking to save money while still enjoying the beauty of nature, here are some tips to help you plan a budget-friendly outdoor adventure:
1. Research and compare prices
Before booking your outdoor adventure, take the time to research and compare prices from different providers. Look for deals, discounts, or package offers that can help you save money. Websites like Expedia.com and Booking.com often have special promotions for outdoor activities.
2. Travel during the off-peak season
Consider traveling during the off-peak season when prices are typically lower. Not only will you save money on accommodations and activities, but you’ll also avoid the crowds and have a more peaceful experience in nature.
3. Camp instead of staying in hotels
Instead of splurging on expensive hotels or resorts, opt for camping. Camping not only allows you to be closer to nature but also saves you a significant amount of money. There are many campgrounds and national parks that offer affordable camping options.
4. Pack your own food
One of the biggest expenses during an outdoor adventure is food. Instead of relying on expensive restaurants or cafes, pack your own food. This not only saves you money but also gives you more control over your meals.
Don’t forget to bring plenty of snacks and water to keep you energized during your activities.
5. Rent or borrow gear
If you don’t have all the necessary gear for your outdoor adventure, consider renting or borrowing it instead of buying new equipment. Many outdoor gear shops offer rental services at a fraction of the cost, allowing you to save money and still have the right gear for your adventure.
6. Look for free or low-cost activities
Research the area you’ll be visiting for free or low-cost activities. Many national parks, hiking trails, and beaches offer free admission or have minimal entrance fees. Take advantage of these opportunities to explore and enjoy the outdoors without breaking the bank.
7. Join group activities or tours
Consider joining group activities or tours, as they often offer discounted rates. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also have the chance to connect with other outdoor enthusiasts and share your experiences.
8. Use public transportation
If possible, use public transportation instead of renting a car. This can save you money on gas, parking fees, and car rental expenses. Many outdoor destinations have reliable public transportation options that can easily take you to your desired locations.
9. Take advantage of loyalty programs
Check if the outdoor activity providers or accommodations you’re considering have loyalty programs or membership discounts. These programs can help you save money on future trips and provide additional perks or benefits.
10. Plan and budget in advance
Lastly, plan and budget your outdoor adventure in advance. Set a realistic budget and stick to it. This will help you prioritize your expenses and avoid overspending. Remember, the goal is to have a memorable outdoor adventure without breaking the bank.
By following these tips, you can save money on your outdoor adventure and still have an amazing time exploring the great outdoors. Don’t let a limited budget stop you from experiencing the beauty and excitement that nature has to offer.
Finding Hidden Gems Off the Beaten Path
While Colorado is undoubtedly a popular destination for outdoor adventure enthusiasts, there are plenty of other hidden gems off the beaten path that offer incredible experiences at a fraction of the cost.
Whether you’re looking for hiking, biking, camping, or water sports, these destinations are worth considering for your next adventure.
1. Moab, Utah
Known for its stunning red rock landscapes, Moab offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and off-roading. The famous Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are must-visit attractions in the area.
2. Bend, Oregon
Bend is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with its numerous hiking trails, mountain biking routes, and world-class fly fishing opportunities. The Deschutes River and the nearby Cascade Mountains provide endless possibilities for adventure.
3. Asheville, North Carolina
Surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a haven for outdoor lovers. With its abundance of hiking trails, waterfalls, and opportunities for whitewater rafting, this charming city has something for everyone.
4. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
Spanning the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe offers a plethora of outdoor activities year-round. From skiing and snowboarding in the winter to hiking, boating, and kayaking in the summer, this scenic destination has it all.
5. Sedona, Arizona
Sedona’s breathtaking red rock formations and serene desert landscapes make it a top destination for outdoor adventure. Popular activities include hiking, mountain biking, and Jeep tours to explore the rugged terrain.
6. Chattanooga, Tennessee
With its proximity to the Appalachian Mountains and the Tennessee River, Chattanooga is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Rock climbing, hiking, and kayaking are just a few of the activities you can enjoy in this vibrant city.
7. Whitefish, Montana
Tucked away in the Rocky Mountains, Whitefish offers year-round outdoor adventure opportunities. From skiing and snowboarding in the winter to hiking, fishing, and mountain biking in the summer, this hidden gem has it all.
8. Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is a true natural wonder, with its rugged coastline, lush forests, and granite peaks. Hiking, camping, and wildlife watching are popular activities in this picturesque destination.
9. Black Hills, South Dakota
The Black Hills region is home to iconic landmarks such as Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and exploring the beautiful Custer State Park.
10. Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park is a diverse and stunning destination, with its dense rainforests, rugged coastlines, and snow-capped mountains. Hiking, backpacking, and wildlife spotting are just a few of the adventures you can embark on in this unique park.
By exploring these hidden gems off the beaten path, you can enjoy incredible outdoor adventures without breaking the bank. Remember to plan ahead, pack your gear, and get ready to discover the beauty of these lesser-known destinations. Happy exploring!
Colorado offers outstanding hiking, skiing, mountain vistas, and all kinds of outdoor recreation. But with some strategic planning, you can find destinations across America that deliver a similar experience for a fraction of the price. Use this guide to discover budget-friendly places like Colorado where you can fully immerse yourself in nature without breaking the bank.