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5 Reasons to Avoid Denver, Colo.

For years now, Denver, Colo., has been one of the trendiest cities to travel to. But in some ways, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

In fact, it may even be worth avoiding entirely for some travelers. Are you one of them? Read on to find out. 

Where Is Denver, Colo.? 

Denver is on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, where the Great Plains transition into the foothills of the Front Range. It’s slightly north and east of center in Colorado.

It lies along the Interstate 25 corridor. It provides north-south access to cities like Colorado Springs and Cheyenne, Wyo., as well as along Interstate 70, which stretches from Utah in the west to Maryland in the east. 

What Is Denver, Colo., Best Known For? 

Denver first came to national attention as a rough and rowdy supply hub for the gold rushes that brought thousands of Americans west during the mid-19th century. Both then and now, it’s a launching point for explorations of the Rocky Mountains and the numerous unique cities and towns along the Front Range.

In recent years, Denver has seen a change in character. It transformed into a younger, tech-friendly city known for its food, beer, and, of course, Colorado’s infamous legal marijuana. Others may be familiar with Denver through its numerous sports teams like the NHL’s Avalanche, NFL’s Broncos, NBA’s Nuggets, and MLB’s Rockies. 

View of Denver Colorado Skyline. Looking at city with mountains in background – Cheeseman Park. Converted from 14-bit Raw file. sRGB color space.

Does It Snow in Denver? 

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Denver is quite snowy. Historically, Denver gets about 4 feet of snow per year in the eastern suburbs. Similarly, it gets more than 4.5 feet downtown and 5 feet or more in the higher elevation western communities near the mountains. However, temperatures are often relatively mild during winters.

This, combined with strong and frequent sunny weather, means snow may not stick around for very long after it falls. 

5 Reasons to Avoid Denver, Colo.

So, with all its apparent popularity, why might you want to skip Denver altogether? Here are some of the biggest reasons. 

1. The High Altitude

Denver is known as the Mile High City, and that’s not a metaphor. The city’s official altitude is 5,280 feet above sea level, or exactly 1 mile. If you spend most of your life at or near sea level, the effect of this altitude change can be significant. Until your body has a few days to acclimate, you’ll likely find yourself more quickly out of breath while doing everyday activities. This can limit your ability to do outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, or other activities the Rockies are known for.

In some cases, high elevations can cause altitude sickness, which results from a lack of oxygen from the thinner air. Those suffering from the condition will experience lightheadedness, nausea, headaches, and other discomforts. It typically clears up on its own as your body gets used to the altitude. That’s great, because no one likes to spend some of their precious vacation time exhausted and feeling ill. 

2. It’s Expensive

Denver is popular, and with that popularity comes high prices. The Mile High City also has a mile-high cost of living, by some metrics, nearly 30% higher than the national average! This is most noticeable in the price of housing and transportation.

These two sectors trickle down to visitors as well through higher prices for accommodations and gas. Denverites also pay big-city prices for restaurants and bars. That means a night out may lead to a bill more reminiscent of New York or Los Angeles than other mountain-west locales. 

3. Too Much Traffic

Every city likes to complain about its traffic. But Denver can truly compete even with towns known for their gridlock like Los Angeles, Houston, and New York. According to a recent study, Denver residents spend an average of 40 hours a year stuck in traffic.

That’s the equivalent of an entire work week, just stuck on the roads. It’s the 15th worst in the country by this metric. That number will likely increase as more employees return to the office post-pandemic. 

Sitting in traffic can be a frustrating way to spend time on a trip and can seriously cut your time to see and do things. So if you’d rather avoid traffic, you may want to avoid Denver.

Image of Denver and busy street with traffic leading to the city.

4. Public Transit Is Worthless

If you’re hoping to avoid the traffic by utilizing public transportation, you’re out of luck. While the city is served by rail and bus operated by the Regional Transportation District, residents and visitors alike have long complained about a lack of reliability.

You may be able to get where you’re going, but the hassle might have you wishing you just took a car or paid for a ride-sharing service. 

5. There’s a Lot of Pollution

You may think Denver residents and visitors enjoy pristine mountain air. Think again. A recent report gave Denver an “F” for high ozone. In fact, data shows it’s the seventh-worst in the entire nation! It’s due to weather patterns that trap pollutants near the surface, drifting smoke from seasonal western wildfires, and other issues. 

Denver often reaches unhealthy levels of air quality when measured by the Air Quality Index. During these days, sensitive groups are advised to limit outdoor activities.

You or your travel party may find yourself stuck inside instead of enjoying the Rocky Mountain scenery you likely came to see. 

Is Denver, Colo., Worth Visiting? 

Travel is a highly personal experience. Therefore, it’s difficult to say for sure whether a given person would enjoy Denver, despite its issues. For some, these problems are insignificant compared to the scenery, food and drink, and unique attractions.

For others, they’re enough to switch their vacation plans from the mountains to the beach. Some will love Denver, and others may hate it. Consider this crucial information to find out which category you fall into!

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