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Taking in Colorado’s wonders on a budget
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By Joshua Pilkington

With the sun really starting to beat down for the first time in 2019, both long-time residents and visitors to Colorado are looking for ways to get outside, stay cool and maintain a budget.

“Camping is usually one of the easiest ways to see our state and save some money,” said Mark Riggs, who has spent the better part of a decade traveling on a budget after the financial crisis of 2008 took hold of his company. “We used to travel to some pretty exotic places, but, honestly I feel just as comfortable and relaxed in a tent in Crested Butte as I do in Milan - probably more so.”

Though few would voluntarily trade a vacation to one of the world’s most renowned spots for design and architecture - not to mention prestige among fashionistas - for a vacation to Colorado’s mountains, many do not have a choice. For them, vacationing on a budget is a must.

“Disneyland, resorts on the ocean, five-star restaurants, I mean they are all fine like once every five years or so, but to make it an annual thing is just overkill in my mind,” Riggs said. “It’s exhausting to stand in those lines under a hot sun all day. If I’m going to walk 5-10 miles, I want to the payoff to be spectacular and, when you’re in nature, that is always the case.”

For those looking to get out without breaking the bank, Riggs has some recommendations and they start up the I-70 corridor.

“Mountain towns are the best,” he said. “I have seen the big cities, I have stayed in the finest hotels and I can promise you that nothing is better than pitching your own tent and sleeping in nature in our mountains.”

Several of Colorado’s mountain towns include historical districts that not only recount the history of the town itself, but make up a large part of Colorado’s history as well. Towns like Georgetown and Breckenridge count among their modern architecture, historic buildings that were among the first erected in the Rockies.

Other historic districts can also be found further South and Southeast from the Denver Metro area. Manitou Springs, Durango, Telluride and Crested Butte all feature historic districts that have managed to weather the test of time and maintain a portion of their originality.

On the other end of that spectrum are Colorado’s ghost towns which did not receive much TLC, yet still remain landmarks due, in part, to their eerie appeal.

“I love ghost towns,” Riggs said. “It seems like everywhere you go there is that one thing that they tell you, you have to see. I don’t care for that. It’s a paint-by-the-numbers way to travel. Ghost towns are like a blank canvas. You have to decide what is worth capturing, what image will say a thousand words. I just love that.”

One of the best-preserved ghost towns in Colorado is St. Elmo. Lying just west of Buena Vista, the ghost town has everything one would expect from a ghost town from wooden storefronts to dusty roads. Just beyond St. Elmo is another famous ghost town, Tin Cup, which was known for its wild west atmosphere, much of which can still be seen there today.

Other options for traveling around the state on a budget include visiting Colorado’s famous rock structures at Garden of the Gods, Dinosaur Ridge and Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre; taking one of the state’s many scenic and historic byways; or stopping by one of the state’s hundreds of breweries or distilleries for a free tour.

For other low-budget summer ideas, visit the Colorado Tourism Office at





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