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Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

Big photos below.
Big photos below.

Just in time for summer vacation season, Cities Journal has come up with its picks for the top twelve small cities in Colorado -- and while there are plenty of great spots that didn't make the cut, those that did are generally worthy selections in our opinion.

Look below to count down the photo-illustrated top twelve, featuring excerpts from Cities Journal text -- and click here to visit the original post.

Number 12: Creede

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

The only municipality in Mineral County, CO, Creede is at the eastern end of the San Juan Mountain Range. Creede has a year-around population of only 400 people, but that number increases dramatically during the summer months as visitors flood into the San Juans for vacation and recreation.

Like many of the one-time mining towns of the San Juans that were established during the gold and silver rush of the 1890s, Creede's economy is now driven by tourism. Creede's visually spectacular geography and wide range of recreation activities -- hiking, climbing, mountain and road biking, rafting and kayaking, ATV trails and 4×4 roads -- keep the town buzzing from May until August....

Number 11: Hotchkiss

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

The population of Hotchkiss is just under 1,000 people. The town is located between Blue Mesa Reservoir and Delta, Colorado on Highway 92. Hotchkiss is one of two towns on this list that was founded by pioneer Enos Hotchkiss, a civil war veteran that moved west with his two brothers Rosewell and Preston in the late 1860s from New York.

After making his fortune in Lake City, CO mining gold, he moved to the North Fork Valley to enjoy milder winters where he established the namesake town....

Continue to keep counting down the twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal.

Number 10: Lake City

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

Lake City was the first town Enos Hotchkiss founded in Colorado. He did so in 1874 after discovering a gold mine that he later named the Golden Fleece. The Golden Fleece was one of the most productive gold mines in the history of Colorado gold mining. As a result of Hotchkiss's find, Lake City's population exploded to a town with more than 200 buildings and ten thousand people.

Today, most of the original buildings are gone, though the jails still stands having been converted into the county museum. Lake City has under 350 permanent residence. Located in Hinsdale County 60 miles southwest of Gunnison, Colorado, Lake City not only has spectacular views within the city limits, but offers access to some of the most stunning views in the state....

Number 9: Silverton

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

The small town of Silverton is one of the Colorado towns with the distinction of having an amazing visual wow factor. On the southern side of the San Juan Mountains, Silverton is just about at the center of the east to west running range. Named after the tremendous amounts of silver that were mined in the surrounding areas, Silverton is the only municipality in the small county of San Juan.

Today, Silverton has a population of just over 500. Unlike some of the other small towns in the San Juans that are only popular tourist destinations during the summer, Silverton's Kendall Mountain Ski Area and Recreation Center keeps the town buzzing year around....

Continue to keep counting down the twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal.

Number 8: Glenwood Springs

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

Glenwood Springs is one of the larger small cities on the list of top 12 in Colorado with a population of 10,000 people. Unlike many of the other small mining towns that popped up in the 1880s and 90s around Colorado, Glenwood Springs continued to thrive even after the gold rush ended.

Located at the west end of the I-70 Corridor through the Colorado Rockies, Glenwood Springs is similar to Hotchkiss in that it is on the threshold between the mountains in the center of Colorado and the desert areas to the west....

Number 7: Telluride

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

Telluride is another small mountain town in the southern San Juans. Telluride is unique in that it was the first city in the entire world to have electric street lights. Located in San Miguel County, even among mountain town in the Rocky Mountains Telluride is unique.

Visitors can drive a paved road -- Route 145 -- to Telluride along the San Miguel River from Montrose though a tight canyon that opens up into the valley where the town is. The town is surrounded by red stone mountains that create a massive amphitheater around Telluride....

Continue to keep counting down the twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal.

Number 6: Aspen

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

Aspen is easily the most famous Colorado Mountain town today. Because of movies like Aspen Extreme and the fact that it is a popular destination for Hollywood stars like Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, Elle Macpherson, and Jack Nicholson.

More impressive than the star who own homes in Aspen are the wealthy people that do. There is an area in Aspen called "Technology Row" where the homes of some of the richest men in America have homes including Jerry Yang of Yahoo, Michael Dell, and Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems....

Number 5: Durango

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

Durango is one of the top 5 Colorado small cities because of the diversity in opportunities it provides. With a population of 17,000 people, Fort Lewis College, the Animas River and two ski areas close by, Durango has something for everyone.

While the town of Durango may not have some of the dramatic views that other mountain towns on this list have, it is very beautiful in its own right and has far more to offer for the person that needs a wide variety of activities to keep themselves occupied than some of the smaller towns....

Continue to keep counting down the twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal.

Number 4: Ouray

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

Ouray is number four on this list simply because it is the most beautiful mountain town in Colorado in respect to the layout of the geography and the incredible amount of relief between the town at the valley floor and the peaks that rise up around it.

Even the mountains and cliffs around Telluride do not compare to the looming monsters that surround Ouray. Though the population of the town is only comprised of 1,000 permanent residence, Ouray attracts ten-fold that number of tourists each year....

Number 3: Crested Butte

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

Crested Butte is actually comprised of two municipalities, the Town of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. The ski area is up the hill in Mt. Crested Butte with the Town of Crested Butte three miles below in the valley.

There are two reasons that Crested Butte is so far up on the list. First of all, Crested Butte has all of the amenities of an Aspen or Glenwood Springs, but it is completely isolated....

Continue to keep counting down the twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal.

Number 2: Steamboat Springs

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

Steamboat Springs is the second largest of the small cities on this list at 12,000 people. In terms of diversity of experience, Steamboat probably has more to offer visitors and residence than any other. The Yampa River -- Colorado's last large free-flowing river -- runs through Steamboat. Steamboat Springs has, dozens of hot springs around the area, the largest of which is right in the middle of town.

Steamboat's ski area has the large feel of some of Summit County's ski areas -- Keystone, Breckenridge, Snow Mass and the like -- yet the towns isolation from both I-70 and the front range gives it a small resort feel....

Number 1: Gunnison

Photos: Twelve best small cities in Colorado according to Cities Journal

There simply is not a nicer town/small city in Colorado than Gunnison. To begin with, it has all the infrastructure required to make a town with a beautiful setting perfectly inhabitable. The states largest tributary to the Colorado River -- the Gunnison -- runs through town and the county built a whitewater park in the mid-2000s that is as good or better than any other in the state.

For the winters, the municipality of Gunnison built an indoor hockey rink with a refrigeration system that keeps the ice frozen even when the temperatures outside heat up....

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Things to Do archive circa June 2013: "Photos: Denver's top twelve tourist attractions."