Nestled in the heart of the American West, Colorado stands as one of the most beautiful states in the country. Colorado offers unmatched natural beauty and stunning landscapes from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains. But it also boasts world-class famous ski resorts and vibrant urban centers like Denver and Colorado Springs. For anyone who’s an outdoor enthusiast, Colorado might be a little paradise. Let’s discover how tall is Colorado!
Colorado is roughly 280 miles (451 kilometers) tall from its northernmost to southernmost point.
Facts to Know About Colorado
- “Centennial State”: Colorado’s nickname, the Centennial State, originates from its admittance as the 38th state in the Union in 1876, 100 years after the Declaration of Independence.
- Mile-High City: Denver, the state’s capital, is exactly one mile (5,280 feet) above sea level. The NFL stadium for the Denver Broncos is called Mile High Stadium.
- Highest City in America: Alma, a small town in central Colorado, has an elevation of 10,578 feet (3,224 meters), making it the highest incorporated municipality in the United States.
- Home of the Fourteeners: Colorado boasts 58 mountain peaks rising over 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) in elevation, known as “Fourteeners.”
- Microbrewery Capital: With over 400 microbreweries, Colorado earned the nickname the “Napa Valley of Beer.”
- Dinosaur Fossils: Colorado is home to famous dinosaur excavations, including the Morrison Formation and the Dinosaur National Monument.
- Olympic Training Center: In Colorado Springs, the country’s top athletes prepare for international competition at the United States Olympic Training Center.
Becoming Part of the United States
In the late 16th century, Spanish explorers, including Juan de Onate, were among the first Europeans to explore the region. They claimed Colorado as part of New Spain. Three centuries later, half of today’s Colorado was part of the vast region known as the Louisiana Territory under French control. After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, Colorado came under American jurisdiction. At the time, it was sparsely populated and largely unexplored.
In the 19th century, Mexico tried to claim some areas of Colorado as part of its northernmost provinces. Tensions quickly rose with the United States, and alongside other events, it led to the Mexican-American War between 1846 and 1848. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in 1848, officially ended the war in favor of the United States and established the Rio Grande as the southern border of Texas. This treaty transferred present-day Colorado’s western and southwestern portions to the United States.
In the mid-19th century, in 1858, the discovery of gold in the Pikes Peak region brought many settlers to the area. During the peak year of the rush, 1859 the settlers earned the name “Fifty-Niners.” This event marked the beginning of the Colorado Gold Rush. The population grew rapidly, and the region became the Colorado Territory in 1861.
Colorado’s path to statehood followed, and it was admitted as the United States’ 38th state on August 1, 1876. It also earned its nickname of the “Centennial State” as it gained statehood during the centennial year of the United States’ Declaration of Independence.
Geography of Colorado
Colorado often ranks as one of the best and most beautiful states in the United States. Located in the Western United States, Colorado is famous for its stunning natural features with spectacular mountains, alpine lakes, expansive plains, and deep canyons.
Colorado’s eastern half consists of vast plains and plateaus. The eastern plains extend from the foothills of the Rockies to the Kansas border and feature grasslands and fertile farmland. This geography is perfect for agriculture, particularly wheat, corn, and cattle ranching, which thrives in this region.
The southwestern part of Colorado is home to the Colorado Plateau. This is a unique geological formation with canyons and mesas. This region is home to landmarks like Mesa Verde National Park, famous for its well-preserved cliff dwellings of ancestral Puebloan people and the sandstone arches of the Western Slope.
Additionally, Colorado has an extensive network of rivers and lakes. The Colorado River originates in the Rocky Mountains. It winds through the state, carving out the landscapes of canyons such as the Grand Canyon and the Colorado National Monument. The Arkansas River is another prominent Colorado waterway famous for white-water rafting adventures. Colorado is home to popular lakes like Grand Lake, Blue Mesa Reservoir, and Dillon Reservoir, ideal for boating, water sports, and fishing opportunities.
Undoubtedly, the most iconic feature in Colorado is the Rocky Mountains. These majestic mountains dominate the state’s landscape, from the northwest to the south-central regions. Colorado is home to 53 of the 58 “Fourteeners” in the United States — mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) in elevation. These summits, including Mount Elbert and Longs Peak, attract hundreds of hikers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts yearly.
Plus, these mountains are the perfect place for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. They offer some of the best ski resorts in the country and the world, like the famous Aspen and Vail.
When visiting the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, a stop in its national parks is almost mandatory. These include the Rocky Mountain National Park, Gunnison National Forest, and San Juan National Forest. All are protected areas to preserve the region’s natural beauty and provide numerous opportunities for wildlife viewing and recreational activities.
Adding to the visit, Colorado boasts some of the most beautiful drives in the United States. The Million Dollar Highway, the Trail Ridge Road, and the San Juan Skyway are just a few examples.
Additionally, it is a great place to learn about the profound significance of the Rocky Mountains to the native tribes.
Overall Size of Colorado
In the Western United States, Colorado is a geographically significant state. With a total land area of approximately 104,094 square miles (269,837 square kilometers), it ranks as the 8th largest state in the United States. Colorado’s dimensions stretch roughly 380 miles (612 kilometers) from its northernmost point to its southern border and around 280 miles (451 kilometers) from its easternmost to westernmost points. Colorado’s dimensions extend approximately 280 miles (451 kilometers) from its northernmost point to its southernmost point, and its width spans roughly 380 miles (612 kilometers) from east to west at its widest point.
Despite being one of the largest states in the United States, Colorado only represents 2.9% of the country’s landmass. This relatively small percentage relates to the vastness and diversity of the United States as a whole.
As of the 2022 estimate, Colorado had a population of approximately 5,839,926 million people, making it the 21st most populous state in the U.S. Its population density varies significantly across regions, with large cities like Denver, Colorado, and Aurora, being some of the most populated areas in the state.
Colorado’s population has been steadily increasing over the years. In 2023, Colorado was the 6th state with the highest population growth, with an increase of 12.57% in only a year. A large majority of Colorado cities see their population growing every year. Between 2010 and 2020, mid-size cities reached population growth numbers ranging from 50% to 80%
This high population growth is driven by multiple factors, including economic opportunities, high quality of life, and the appeal of the state’s natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities.
Where Is Colorado Located on the Map?
Colorado is in the heart of the Western United States. The Centennial State is strategically positioned between the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Great Plains to the east. The landlocked state is famous for its incredible geographic diversity and stunning landscapes.
Colorado also borders several states, including Wyoming to the north, Utah to the west, New Mexico and Oklahoma to the south, and Kansas and Nebraska to the east. All these states are significant to Colorado’s regional and economic relationships.
Colorado Height in Comparison to Other States
Let’s compare Colorado’s length from north to south to some other states.
|North-to-South Length (Approximate)
|801 miles (1,289 kilometers)
|770 miles (1,239 kilometers)
|485 miles (781 kilometers)
|395 miles (636 kilometers)
|370 miles (595 kilometers)
|350 miles (563 kilometers)
|280 miles (451 kilometers)
|279 miles (450 kilometers)
|255 miles (410 kilometers)
Wildlife in Colorado
Colorado’s diverse landscapes support a wide array of wildlife species. The state’s rich biodiversity and various ecosystems make it a haven for nature and wildlife enthusiasts.
With all of these species, Colorado is one of the best places for wildlife viewing. National parks, state parks, and wildlife refuges have viewing areas and trails designated to observe animals in their natural habitats. Visitors can join guided tours to learn more about Colorado’s wildlife and increase the chance of spotting elusive species. As always, visitors should remember to watch from a safe distance.
Additionally, the state places a lot of effort to preserve and protect its wildlife and ecosystems. Actions include habitat restoration, wildlife research, and initiatives to protect threatened and endangered species.
Rocky Mountain Species
The Rocky Mountains provide a critical habitat for many iconic species. Elk and mule deer are some of the most commonly spotted mammals in these high-altitude regions. In the alpine and subalpine zones live the bighorn sheep and mountain goats. Additionally, Colorado is one of the few places in the lower 48 states where a self-sustaining population of gray wolves still lives. However, they are incredibly elusive and hard to spot.
Small Mammals and Predators
Small mammals live in Colorado, including raccoons, foxes, beavers, and various squirrel species. It is also home to elusive predators like coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions. Black bears live in the mountainous regions of Colorado but are sometimes spotted in suburban areas foraging for food.
Colorado has a rich avian diversity, with over 400 bird species recorded. Bird species in Colorado range from raptors like bald eagles, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons to songbirds like the meadowlark, mountain bluebird, and western bluebird. During the spring and fall, locals and tourists can observe large pods of birds during their migration.
The state’s official fish, the greenback cutthroat trout, is native to the region. Brown trout, brook trout, and rainbow trout also live in its cold mountain streams. The Colorado River itself is home to several species of fish. It includes various types of trout, mountain whitefish, and the endangered razorback sucker and humpback chub.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Colorado’s population of reptiles includes several snake species, like the garter snakes and western rattlesnake, as well as lizards, such as the collared lizard and horned lizard. Amphibians living in Colorado are the northern leopard frog and the tiger salamander, among others.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © AndrewSoundarajan/iStock via Getty Images
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