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Videos: 99 Gorgeous Places in Colorado, Part One

The folks at, the state's official tourism office, set out to compile a list of 99 gorgeous places in Colorado -- a mammoth task, but far from an impossible one given the abundant beauty in these parts. As proof, we present numbers 99 through 81, any one of which would likely finish in the top ten for most other states in the union. Count down part one of the roster below, complete with videos from each item and text.

See also: Photos: Denver's Top Eleven Hidden Tourism Gems

Number 99: Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge

The Scene: Located in a remote mountain valley alongside the Green River just north of Dinosaur National Monument, the refuge is one of the best habitats in the state for spotting bald eagles each winter. Two hundred other species of birds can also be found here throughout the year amid the area's cottonwood groves, meandering streams and marshlands. Nearby Town: Craig.

Number 98: Snow Mesa

The Scene: Reminiscent of the steppes of Asia, this 12,000-foot-high alpine plateau boasts a 20-square-mile summit with unfettered views of the saw-toothed La Garita Range. Snowshoers and snowmobilers love the vast openness and seemingly endless fields of snow. Nearby Towns: Lake City, Creede

Number 97: Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area

The Scene: The nation's second-largest concentration of gravity-defying red sandstone arches is found here. Hiking the area's Rattlesnake Canyon, amid a sprinkling of wildflowers and blooming cacti, visitors will see nine of the most impressive ones. Nearby Towns: Grand Junction, Fruita

Number 96: Colorado State Forest State Park

The Scene: Located on either side of Cameron Pass, the park is in a 10,000-foot-high cleft between the Never Summer and Medicine Bow mountain ranges. Deep coniferous woods and willow-covered streams are the ideal habitat for many animals, one of the reasons it's been named the moose capital of Colorado. Nearby Town: Walden

Continue to keep counting down 99 gorgeous places in Colorado, part one. Number 95: Devil's Head Mountain

The Scene: Named for two rock spires that resemble the devils' horns, the formation is the highest point in the Rampart Range. Near its summit is a well-known fire tower where, after a moderately difficult hike, visitors can climb the stairs to see panoramic views stretching from mountains to plains. Nearby Towns: Sedalia, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs

Number 94: Ice Lake Basin

The Scene: Fields of paintbrush, buttercups, columbines and other alpine wildflowers fill this beautiful basin, where those and other wildflowers blanket a land that's also peppered with small lakes and waterfalls flowing over sandstone rock formations. Nearby Towns: Ouray, Silverton, Telluride

Number 93: North Inlet Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park

The Scene: This trail winds through the park below timberline alongside a rushing creek. Originally an American Indian route, it was reinvigorated by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939. Today it's on the National Register of Historic Places and a great route for elk and moose spotting. Nearby Towns: Estes Park, Grand Lake

Number 92: Skyline Drive

The Scene: This precipitous historic road was built by prison inmates in 1906 as a scenic byway for tourists in horse-drawn carriages. Today, the route has been paved for autos, but it still traces an extremely narrow 800-foot-high ridge, which can at times be a bit of an adventure for passengers' stomachs. Pullouts are provided for those who want to savor the foothill views. Nearby Towns: Cañon City, Florence

Continue to keep counting down 99 gorgeous places in Colorado, part one. Number 91: Sky Pond and Lake of Glass, Rocky Mountain National Park

The Scene: Rocky Mountain National Park welcomes 3 million visitors each year and still manages to nurture cravings for solitude. One of the best places to find it is on the hike to two neighboring high-altitude lakes known for emerald green waters within a glacier-carved valley. Nearby Towns: Estes Park, Grand Lake

Number 90: Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

The Scene: It's a bit surreal to focus a camera's viewfinder on Denver's skyline and have a bison walk into the shot. One of the largest urban refuges in the country is located just a few miles outside Denver. It's home to more than 300 species, including mule deer, coyotes, bison, songbirds and bald eagles. Nearby Towns: Denver, Commerce City

Number 89: Snowmass Lake

The Scene: This lake is situated just below Snowmass Mountain (not to be confused with the ski area of the same title) and the massive snowfield from which it gets its name. The trail to the lake winds through thick aspen groves, beaver ponds and gurgling streams and is a favorite pre-climb camping site for hearty souls who plan to scale the steep peak. Nearby Towns: Aspen, Snowmass, Granite, Basalt

Number 88: Yampa River Canyon, Dinosaur National Monument

The Scene: Craggy hills, striated walls and remnants of creatures from a long-ago world comprise this canyon scene -- as do yelps from whitewater rafters shooting the oxbowed river's rapids. Nearby Towns: Dinosaur, Rangely

Continue to keep counting down 99 gorgeous places in Colorado, part one. Number 87: Wet Mountain Valley

The Scene: The valley nestled between the Sangre de Cristo and Wet Mountains is a bit of a journey back in time. Remnants of old homesteads, barns and one-room school houses are set amid some of the state's lushest country, still dominated by farms and ranches. Nearby Towns: Westcliffe, Silver Cliff

Number 86: Lone Eagle Peak

The Scene: This unique peak is recognizable by its steep, almost dizzying granite spire, which towers above Crater Lake. Even though it tops out at 11,900 feet -- much shorter than Colorado's many 14,000-foot peaks -- it's considered one of the state's most technical climbs. Nearby Towns: Granby, Tabernash, Grand Lake, Winter Park

Number 85: Engineer Pass 4WD Road

The Scene: This rugged and narrow San Juan Mountain pass spirals 12,800 feet high and provides an unsurpassed vantage point for photographs of the serrated Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn peaks. Once a stagecoach route, it's easy to spot structures that remain from the area's hardy mining days. Nearby Towns: Lake City, Silverton, Ouray

Number 84: Ute Mountain Tribal Park

The Scene: This park is only open to the public through a unique program in which Ute guides navigate visitors into the wilderness that abuts Mesa Verde National Park's southern boundary. Thousands of years ago, Ancestral Puebloans built dwellings into the canyon walls, irrigated and farmed the land, and developed a highly sophisticated culture. Nearby Towns: Mancos, Cortez, Durango

Continue to keep counting down 99 gorgeous places in Colorado, part one. Number 83: Gunnison Gorge Wilderness

The Scene: One of only nine national conservation areas in the U.S., the gorge area offers a haven for anglers drawn to the Gunnison River's gold-medal trout-fishing waters. In the lower gorge, folding layers of pink, red and purple rock stretch from the river up the canyon walls. Nearby Towns: Montrose, Gunnison

Number 82: Wetherill Mesa, Mesa Verde National Park

The Scene: Lower-profile than Mesa Verde's famed Cliff Palace, Wetherill Mesa is home to the park's second-largest Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling. A climb behind the Long House dwelling offers a rare look at a seep spring -- a source of water emerging from the cliff that was used by its ancient residents. Nearby Towns: Mancos, Cortez, Durango

Number 81: Comanche National Grassland

The Scene: Defined by surging tides of land that look like a green-and-brown ocean frozen in mid-torrent, this is some of the country's last remaining shortgrass prairie. A number of animals also call this grassy area of Colorado home. Keep an eye out for pronghorn, hawks and pheasants. Nearby Towns: Springfield, La Junta

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts