While Denver is such a fun town in Colorado to visit, it’s not the only cool thing around. Located less than two hours from the Mile High City are some of the most beautiful hiking trails in Colorado, the highest drivable pass in North America, great beer, hidden hot springs, and some of the most popular ski resorts in the world.
Colorado is truly an adventure lover’s paradise, and you’d be selling yourself short if you didn’t take at least one road trip during your visit to experience all the best that this beautiful mountain playground has to offer.
Shop til you drop at Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, hike the trails you’ve always dreamed about in Rocky Mountain National Park, or see for yourself why Breckenridge is one of the most visited ski resorts in the world. No matter what you do in Colorado, you’re sure to have an incredible time.
Keep reading to learn about all the best Denver day trips, from a local who has tried them all!
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
No trip to Colorado is complete without a road trip to Rocky Mountain National Park! This popular park contains over 415 square miles of trails to enjoy.
If you only have one day in the park, I recommend driving Trail Ridge Road or Old Fall River Road to experience all of the amazing views — without having to step foot out of the car.
As far as hiking trails go, I’d recommend heading to the Bear Lake Corridor. The hikes here range from quick quarter mile nature walks with incredible views, to epic hikes, depending on how far you want to go. Some notable spots to check out along this route are: Bear Lake Trail, Emerald Lake Trail, Loch Vale Lake, and Sky Pond.
If you’re looking for an epic adventure, hike the tallest mountain in RMNP, Long’s Peak.
On your way back to town do as the locals do and stop for a post-hike burger and beer from Wapiti Pub in Estes Park.
GARDEN OF THE GODS
Colorado Springs is one of the easiest and best day trips from Denver! All you have to do is hop on I-25 South for a little over an hour and you’ll be able to experience all of the beauty and fun that lives in Colorado Springs!
If you’re looking for a gorgeous and easy place to go hiking, check out Garden of The Gods park. This park contains so many iconic sites and great hiking trails located conveniently off the main road. It’s free and open to the public year-round, and is a great place to bring kids or dogs to explore the beautiful red rock formations and views of the Rockies all around you.
You can go hiking, camping, take a guided tour in a Jeep, go horseback riding, rock climbing, biking, and more! Some of my favorite hikes in the park are Balanced Rock, Siamese Twins Trail, and Perkins Central Garden.
If you’re going during a weekend in season, I recommend parking outside the park and renting bikes to explore. A visit here is one of the absolute best Denver day trips!
Read More: 31 DELIGHTFUL THINGS TO DO IN COLORADO SPRINGS
There is so much to do in the Pikes Peak region! Visit Garden of the Gods Park, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, hike the Manitou Springs Incline, take a scenic drive on Pikes Peak Highway, or take a train ride to the top via the Cog Railway. If you’re up for a full day of adventure, you can easily visit Garden of The Gods and take Pikes Peak Highway all in the same day.
Driving Pikes Peak Highway takes about three hours to complete and the gate to get in closes well before sunset, so plan your day accordingly. It also takes about half a tank of gas, so fill up before your trip! The views are incredible, especially from the top, so I highly recommend spending at least a full day in the Pikes Peak region.
After a full day of adventure, be sure to stop by the Manitou Brewery for a well-deserved IPA!
EVERGREEN & MOUNT EVANS
Less than an hour drive from the Mile High City is Evergreen, Colorado, the perfect outdoor escape from the city. Here, you can drive America’s highest paved road, Mount Evans Scenic Byway, for incredible views of the Rockies without ever having to step foot out of the car. This byway climbs over 7,000 feet across 28 miles, reaching its peak at the top of Mount Evans at 14,130 feet.
I personally have yet to drive Mount Evans, but I have hiked to the top, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a challenging hike not far from Denver. It passes through a few alpine lakes while showcasing epic views at every turn.
If your lungs aren’t quite ready for a 14er, there are plenty of easier hikes in the area that are just as beautiful! Alderfer/Three Sisters is a great area to check out (I recommend Brother’s Lookout), as well as Elk Meadows and Maxwell Falls.
If you love beer, be sure to visit Fort Collins, Colorado! Fort Collins is a cute little college town located less than two hours north of Denver, and it’s known as being Colorado’s beer capital. Seventy percent of all the beer in Colorado is made in Fort Collins.
During your day trip, I recommend visiting the Horsetooth Reservoir in the morning, exploring the downtown area for lunch, and trying different beers in the evening. Be sure to visit the Anheuser Busch brewery to learn all about the makings of Budweiser, and stop by New Belgium to try some of Colorado’s best and most popular beer.
Make a day trip out of visiting Fort Collins alone, or stop by on your way back from Cheyenne, Wyoming!
Read More: 15 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN FORT COLLINS, COLORADO
If you’re looking to take a step back into the Wild Wild West or just love gambling, be sure to make a visit to Black Hawk, or stop by on your way back to Denver from Idaho Springs.
This old mountain town is most known for its casinos. There are over 18 casinos in this town that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Find one that you love the most or check them all out via the Black Hawk Shuttle Tramway.
If you’re not as much into casinos, this town is still worth a walk around in order to experience the charm of old Colorado and the Wild West.
Located just 30 minutes north of Denver is the beautiful mountain town that stole my heart, Boulder, Colorado. I visited Boulder for breakfast once on my way back to the airport from Rocky Mountain National Park, and it made such an impact that I packed up and moved there almost as soon as I got home to Chicago.
Boulder is truly a town that has it all! It’s most known for being the home of the Flatirons, flat faced peaks along the front range of the Rocky Mountains that contain beautiful hiking trails, world-class rock climbing opportunities, sunset spots, and more. I highly recommend checking out the First and Second Flatirons Loop, as well as Royal Arch Trail.
For sunset, drive to the top of Flagstaff to Lost Gulch Lookout for a gorgeous view of both the mountains and city of Boulder below.
If you have a 4WD high clearance vehicle, drive up Canyon Road into Sugarloaf Mountain to view the lookout along Switzerland Trail, and camp at the top. If you explore a little bit, you may even find the hidden treehouse! I used to go up here every single day for sunset when I lived in Boulder.
There is so much more to do in Boulder than just explore the mountains. Be sure to stop by Pearl Street Mall for shopping and dining. Some of my favorite places to eat in Boulder are The Buff, Hapa Sushi (great happy hour deals!), Alpine Modern Cafe, The Rayback Collective, River & Woods, and The Sink (an iconic staple).
Read More: 24 OUTSTANDING THINGS TO DO IN BOULDER, COLORADO
Canon City is a really awesome town (and highly underrated, in my opinion). Located just south of Colorado Springs, the city is most well known for sightseeing, whitewater rafting in the river, and a plethora of cool outdoor activities to check out in the Royal Gorge area.
The Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge is a world-famous attraction that put Canon City on the map. It is the highest suspension bridge in America, and one of the best views you’ll ever see.
If you want to experience the beauty of Royal Gorge with a little less thrill, I recommend taking a ride on the Royal Gorge Railroad. Take a two hour ride on this 1950s train for a unique experience through some of Colorado’s most incredible views.
Canon City is a 2-hour drive from Denver.
Breckenridge is known for having one of the best and most popular ski resorts in the United States. It is the highest ski resort in Summit County, one of the largest in Colorado, and one of the busiest ski resorts in the world. If you’re visiting in the winter, spending a day skiing in Breck is an item you have to add to your bucket list.
But Breckenridge is way more than a ski resort town. It is also a great place to visit in the summertime! Its landscape includes luscious green meadows where you can get lost in the trees, and mountain peaks that offer incredible views. Some of my favorite things to do in Breckenridge in the summer are visiting the downtown area, going hiking, off-roading, and camping.
Blue Moose, Ollie’s Pub and Grub, and Breckenridge Brewery are the best places to eat and drink in town. You can also ride the gondola directly from town into the mountains!
Silver Dollar Lake is a beautiful hiking trail to complete, and there are also a ton of great hikes in the Mayflower Gulch region. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, Breckenridge is home to two fourteeners: Quandary Peak and Grays and Torreys.
On your way back home, take the scenic route. Visit Loveland Pass for sunset!
Read More: 20+ EPIC THINGS TO DO IN BRECKENRIDGE IN SUMMER
RED ROCKS PARK
Experiencing a show at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is an experience that you have to cross off your bucket list! It is located just west of Denver in the town of Morrison, Colorado. Be sure to check the event schedule when you’re in town, or even plan your trip around it. You won’t regret it!
When there is not a show going on at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the park is open to the public and free to visit. It’s a great place to do yoga or work out, or read or write over views of the mountains below.
There are also a lot of great hiking trails to explore the sandstone formations found all around the park. I highly recommend spending your morning or afternoon visiting Red Rocks Park!
If you love museums or the Wild West experience, be sure to take a road trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming for the day!
Cheyenne is known as America’s rodeo and railroad capital. It is home to many different types of museums, ranches, experiences, and more. Some museums you should be sure to visit on your day trip are Wyoming State Museum, Frontier Days Old West Museum, and the Nelson Museum of the West.
Read More: 15 THINGS TO DO IN CHEYENNE WYOMING YOU’VE GOT TO EXPERIENCE
Glenwood Springs is one of my favorite towns in Colorado! It is located about 3 hours west of Denver along highway 70, and is an adventure lover’s paradise. It is located in a beautiful canyon surrounded by red rocks and green aspens. It is most known for being the home of the world’s largest hot spring, the Glenwood Hot Springs. Stop by for the day, or for your next weekend getaway!
The Colorado River flows right along I-70 through Glenwood Canyon, so this area is extremely popular for watersports, such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, fishing, and stand up paddle boarding.
If you like hiking, be sure to book a reservation to see Hanging Lake.
For dinner, stop by downtown Glenwood Springs for some delicious food, beautiful scenery, and great vibes. Make time to stop by Glenwood Canyon Brewpub, The Pullman, Rocky Mountain Pizza, and Sweet Coloradough.
Read More: 9+ SENSATIONAL THINGS TO DO IN GLENWOOD SPRINGS
My favorite day trip from Denver is a visit to Idaho Springs!
Idaho Springs is most well known for being home to St. Mary’s Glacier. There are a ton of great hiking trails, off-roading trails, and campsites located in and around the glacier.
It’s also home to the Indian Hot Springs, which is the perfect destination for your next relaxing getaway. Spend your day playing in the mountains, and take a dip in their healing waters in the evening.
If you’re visiting the Mile High City in the wintertime and are looking for some easy places to shred some powder for the day, you have plenty of options! Nearby, you’ll find Eldora Ski Resort in Boulder. If you head toward Summit County, you’ll find tons of ski resorts located along the highway.
Loveland Ski Area is one of the more budget-friendly options, and they have great trails for beginners.
Copper and Keystone are nearby, and have excellent views, fun things to do in town, and terrain suitable for all skill levels.
The last ski resort up the road is Arapahoe Basin (or A-Bay as the locals call it), which is the highest ski resort, so it is open first and last.
Winter Park is a great local’s ski resort to visit, though be very careful driving as the road leading up to it can be dangerous in inclement weather. In the summer though the resort turns into the Trestle Bike Park, which is my favorite place to go downhill biking near Denver!
Read More: 3 AFFORDABLE SKI RESORTS IN COLORADO GREAT FOR OUT-OF-TOWNERS
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO COLORADO
- YOUR COLORADO VACATION
- DENVER: 43 Best Things To Do In Denver That You’ll Love
- GOLDEN: 23 Amazing Things To Do In Golden CO You’ll Love
- DURANGO: 21 Amazing Things To Do In Durango CO You’ll Love
- ESTES PARK: 17+ Of The Best Fun Things To Do In Estes Park
WHERE TO STAY IN DENVER
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