Colorado is world-renowned for its outdoor recreation, cultural attractions, and year-round sunshine. It is the perfect place to unplug and recharge while taking in some of North America’s most iconic landscapes.
While most people who visit Colorado spend a lot of their time in downtown Denver, we recommend getting outside the city and exploring the mountains, sand dunes, lakes, canyons, and more.
To help you plan your holiday, here are 14 day trips from Denver to add to your itinerary.
14 Best Day Trips from Denver, Colorado
There’s no better place than the Rocky Mountains area to spend the ideal weekend getaway. But, of course, Denver, the beautiful capital of Colorado, is the perfect place to start from.
The mile high city has extensive routes towards various tourist destinations in the renowned mountainous terrain. Although you will need a week or at least a weekend to appreciate the picturesque natural beauty fully, there are many day trip options you can go for as well.
Whether you’re looking for a natural escapade or a fun and educational trip through its historical heritage, the best day trips from Denver have it all.
However, the plethora of options can easily confuse first-time visitors. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of Denver road trips so you can choose one according to your family’s preferences. So let’s get started.
1. Rocky Mountain National Park
For those willing to take fascinating trips from Denver in one day, Rocky Mountain National Park tops the list. Located approximately 2 hours from Denver, the road trip itself has some breathtaking scenic views along the way.
No matter which time of the year you make your trip, the park offers breathtaking beauty from 14,000-foot peaks to epic mountain lakes. If you’re in the mood for adventurous activities, consider one of the many hiking or biking trails in the vicinity to spend your day.
On the other hand, if you want a relaxing and sedentary getaway with your significant other, you can spend time walking through the beautiful wilderness or strolling along Lake Estes. Another great idea for couples is to go through the Bear Lake Corridor to enjoy the romantic sunset or sunrise.
Given the rocky, snowy terrain, be sure to grab family travel insurance before you arrive; ending up in the Estes Park hospital is never fun and the bill isn’t either (believe me)!
Top Things To Do In Rocky Mountain National Park
There are many things to do in this national park — fishing, hiking miles of trails, mountain biking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing – you might see some bighorn sheep and black bears! Here are a few of our favorites:
– Bear Lake
As mentioned, Bear Lake is one of the most iconic places to visit in the national park and makes for one of the best day trips from Denver.
This is an incredibly easy hike in Rocky Mountain and it is suitable for people of all fitness levels. At just over half a mile, you’ll be able to see spectacular views while still having time to explore other areas of the national park or the small town of Estes Park.
– Dream Lake
Dream Lake is a longer hike than Bear Lake, but not by much. This 2-mile trail winds through the forest and brings you to one of the best lakes in the park. Bring your hiking shoes, water, and snacks for this fun little outing.
– Longs Peak
If you’re looking for the ultimate challenge, look no further than Longs Peak.
Longs Peak is a strenuous 15-mile day hike but the mountain views at the top are worth every step and the effort it takes to get there. At just over 14,200 feet tall, this is the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park and its surrounding area.
Having hiked to the summit of this mountain many times over the years, I recommend starting early; a 4:30am wake-up call will assure that you’ll make it to the top before the afternoon storms roll in.
If you have time, you can also check out Grand Lake. A beautiful historic tourist destination adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park.
2. The Coors Brewery
If you visit Denver but don’t stop at the Coors Brewery, did you really go to Colorado at all? The Coors Brewery is located just 25 minutes from downtown, making this one of the best day trips from Denver.
Visiting the brewery allows you to see the production of the various beers and how it has changed over time. Even if you aren’t a beer-lover, this tour is fascinting.
For anyone over 21 years old, expect to pay $10 each (unless you are a Colorado resident, who only pay $5). The entrance fee covers the tour of the Coors Brewery, including the fermentation process, which is especially neat.
In addition to seeing how the brewery makes its famous beers, you’ll also be able to sample up to 3 different types of beer (and cider). The beer straight from the brewery is some of the crispest and most delicious beer you’ll ever try.
3. Mount Evans
Craving for the fresh mountain air and the thrill of reaching the summit? Try challenging yourself to an adventurous day trip from Denver to Mount Evans.
It takes nearly two hours to reach Mount Evans from Denver, but if you’re up for a bit of a drive, you won’t be disappointed as this is one of the best day trips on our list.
Near Mount Evans, you’ll find many different 14ers in one area, including Mount Bierstadt, Grays Peak, and Torreys Peak. For more information about hiking those remarkable mountains, check out our post, 13 Easiest 14ers in Colorado to Solo Hike. – After hiking all of these you’ll definitely feel like a mountain goat!
If comfortably cruising is more your style, we recommend taking the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. This is a 28-mile loop drive from Bergen Park to Idaho Springs. This is one of the highest paved roads, gaining over 7,000 feet in elevation. – Why not end your day relaxing in the Idaho Springs hot springs?
Hiking Up Mount Evans
In my opinion, the best way to see Mount Evans is after a long and grueling hike to the summit. While many people decide to drive to the top (this is one of two 14ers you can drive up), the hike to the top is even more magical.
While this hike will leave you breathless (be sure to drink plenty of water), it is more than worth the effort.
Driving Up Mount Evans
The scenic drive from Mount Evans to Denver is one of the best day trips on its own, not to mention the prize at the end.. the summit of one of the tallest mountains in Colorado.
Be sure to bring plenty of jackets, as the weather can get cold at the top. And don’t forget to take your time driving up; 14,000 feet isn’t just a difficult feat for hikers; it can be hard to adjust for anyone that isn’t used to high altitude, even those in cars.
Taking a short drive to Boulder is one of the best day trips from Denver for families and adventurers alike. Just 40 minutes away, Boulder is a small and safe college town with a plethora of indoor and outdoor activities to keep you busy all day.
Those interested in nature-oriented excursions can visit Boulder Creek Park or Chautauqua Park for hiking and trekking trips. Similarly, others can head over to the city’s downtown area for shopping, unique restaurants, and even some interesting street performances.
Top Things To Do In Boulder, Colorado
To make trip planning easier, here are two of the best things to do in Boulder, Colorado during your day trip from Denver:
– Hike The Flat Irons
You simply cannot visit Boulder and not experience the Flat Irons. In particular, we recommend Royal Arch Trail as it is one of the best hikes in the state of Colorado.
This trail is a must for all daytrippers to Boulder. The trail is pretty technical with some scrambling involved, but it is very rewarding as you get to the top of one of the Flat Irons and experience an amazing 360-degree view of the Front Range.
– Stroll Down Pearl Street
Another one of the most popular things to do in Boulder is to stroll along historic Pearl Street. With plenty of restaurants and shops along this pedestrian mall, it is obvious why Boulder is a daytripper’s dream destination.
Be sure to bring your camera since you’ll likely see some of the most unique street performances, ones that are only believable if caught on camera.
5. Garden of the Gods
If you’re looking to add a mini-trip to your Colorado itinerary, consider the 1.5-hour trip to Garden of the Gods; this beautiful place is one of the most convenient road trips from Denver.
Covering over a thousand acres of Colorado land near Colorado Springs, this popular destination more than lives up to its name. The sight of the rustic sandstone spires is enough to leave you awestruck.
Top Things To Do At Garden of the Gods
As you create your itinerary for Garden of the Gods, consider adding a few of our favorites to your must-do list:
– Garden of the Gods Loop
This is one of the most popular hiking trails in Colorado Springs. It’s approximately 3.5 miles roundtrip and it offers some of the best views of the park. It’s also a great bike path if you want to bring your mountain bike.
– Go Rock Climbing
Any rock climbing enthusiast will enjoy the unique and challenging climbing formations at Garden of the Gods. At this Colorado Springs park, the rock is formed in columns and domes, allowing for plenty of challenging climbing routes.
The park is nearby Colorado Springs, so follow this Colorado Springs itinerary to ensure you make the most of your stop.
If you’re okay with spending almost half of your day on the road, you should consider visiting
Aspen, one of the best (albeit long) Denver day trips. Aspen’s location nestled in the mountains is ideal for people who crave some thrill and excitement after a long week of tedious work.
Aspen has some of the best ski resorts in Colorado, as well as hiking trails for summer exploration. Established initially as a mining town, this mountain town is now visited by ski enthusiasts and families escaping the city for an extended vacation filled with ski runs and brunch.
Top Things To Do In Aspen
With continuous fresh snow seven months of the year and beautiful scenery year-round, there are plenty of activities to keep you occupied day or night in Aspen. Here are a few favorites:
– Go Skiing
Of course, one of Aspen’s most well-known activities is skiing. This resort town truly comes alive during the winter months! Even if you don’t ski, take advantage of the incredible views while sipping on a hot beverage in the winter wonderland that is Aspen.
With some of the best ski runs in Colorado, you won’t be disappointed by spending a few extra dollars for a ski pass during your day trip from Denver.
– Hike To Maroon Bells
Personally, I prefer quiet and off-the-beaten-path experiences, but I simply cannot talk about Aspen without mentioning Maroon Bells.
Whether you decide to hike up from the Aspen side of the pass or you want to summit the lesser-traveled East Maroon Pass from the Crested Butte side, you will be treated to some of the most scenic landscapes in all of Colorado.
7. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
If the kids are too excited to handle long road trips, don’t worry. You can still take one of the best day trips from Denver to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater.
Located right outside of Denver, the park is a historical landmark and a fantastic natural getaway. This means there are plenty of options to include in your one-day itinerary.
Choose between hiking, yoga, or nearby bike trails while enjoying the breathtaking scenery. Or, if you’re keen to watch a live music performance at Red Rocks, make that a priority. Watching one of my favorite bands perform at Red Rocks was an incredible experience.
Be sure to check into shows being held at Red Rocks during the summer months and book your tickets in advance to avoid any issues.
8. Great Sand Dune National Park
For nature-lovers, a trip to the Great Sand Dune National Park is one of the best Denver day trips. While the drive to this park from Denver is slightly longer than other destinations, this park is so unique that you must make the trip.
The park preserves some of the tallest dunes on the continent. These not only make for exciting hiking and climbing sessions but are also perfect for sandboarding and sledding.
This may be a good destination for a weekend trip so that you can spend even more time seeing all that the national park has to offer. And of course, you can’t miss out on camping here.
Gazing out at the stars from the top of sand dunes is an experience you likely won’t find elsewhere.
9. Cañon City
Cañon City is another exciting getaway located within a reasonable driving distance from Denver, making it a great day trip option. With a variety of things to see and do, this day trip destination has something for everyone.
Hop in the car for a two-hour drive to reach Cañon City from Denver. Although this might seem like a long excursion, the drive is part of the excitement. You’ll be wowed by all the landforms you’ll see along the way.
Top Things To Do In Cañon City
Since Cañon City isn’t as well known as other day trips from Denver, here are a few activities you shouldn’t miss when in town:
– Stop By A Winery
Attention wine lovers! You’ll be happy with a stop in Cañon City, Colorado.
The most famous winery in Cañon City is the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey. Check out the vineyard or head to the tasting room to sample some of Colorado’s best wine.
– Zipline Across The Arkansas
The Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in the United States, sitting at 956 feet over the Arkansas River! The bridge seems to be the symbol of Cañon City; not only is it stunning, but it also has many activities for guests of all types.
Our favorite activity at Royal Gorge Bridge was the zipline, of course. So, don’t hesitate to add it to your itinerary.
Not a fan of ziplining? No problem. Hop aboard the Royal Gorge railway instead. You’ll get the same views with a bit more security.
10. White River National Forest
Located about an hour and a half from Denver, this national forest has activities to fill any day trip itinerary. From picnics to hiking to camping, White River National Forest has something for everyone.
Our favorite thing to do in White River National Forest is camp. Take advantage of the campsites in this national forest because it is a great place to get away for a weekend.
White River National Forest is located just down the road from Silverthorne, Dillon, Frisco, and Breckenridge. Thanks to its convenient location, you’ll always have something to do.
Top Things To Do In White River National Forest
White River National Forest is an excellent day trip from Denver that provides great opportunities for people to take part in a broad range of outdoor activities.
Here are a few of the most popular things to do in White River National Forest:
– Summit Quandary Peak
Quandary Peak is one of 58 peaks in Colorado that exceed 14,000 feet. This mountain features one of the easiest routes up to the summit of a 14er, so it’s perfect for beginners looking for a challenge.
We hiked Quandary Peak in February and loved every moment of it. The sights from the top will leave you in silence; they are stunning.
– Visit Hanging Lake
One of the most famous hikes in Colorado is the Hanging Lake trail. We recommend coming during the off-season to avoid crowds, but regardless of which time of year you visit Hanging Lake, please practice responsible tourism*.
* Responsible tourism includes Leaving No Trace and treating locals with respect.
11. Roxborough State Park
There’s nothing like the rustic view of red sandstone rocks to cleanse your soul. So, if you’re looking for one of the most relaxing day trips from Denver city limits, then make the 40-minute drive to Roxborough State Park.
Forty minutes may not seem like a breeze of a drive, but in comparison to other day trips from Denver, this state park is one of the easiest.
Many people will enjoy hiking at this state park while others shoot a round of golf at Arrowhead Golf Course nearby. Whichever you choose, be sure to pack your camera; there are plenty of dramatic red rock formations that you’ll want to capture.
12. Manitou Springs
Dotted with natural mineral water springs, the Manitou Springs area is one of the best places to go if you’re in need of some time away from life’s hustle-bustle or want to reconnect with nature at its purest form.
Located just an hour and a half from Denver, Manitou Springs is one of the best day trips to add to your Colorado itinerary if you’re looking for tranquility.
Top Things To Do In Manitou Springs
There’s always something different to do in the historic town of Manitou Springs, no matter what kind of adventure you’re looking for. Here are a few ideas:
– Manitou Mineral Springs
The springs are said to have rejuvenating elements, which you will be able to sample with a tour at Manitou Mineral Springs. Here, you will be able to enjoy the mineralized spring water, each with its own taste.
Besides that, the area around the springs is inhabited by an artisan community. So, after you have spent your time at the springs or hiking, you can head over to the nearby towns for a look into Manitou Springs’ unique culture.
– Manitou Incline
If you really want a challenge, you can’t miss the Manitou Incline.
The Manitou Incline is a 1 mile stretch of trail that gains 2,000 feet in elevation. It’s considered one of the most challenging hikes not only because it’s uphill the entire way but also because you’ll be hiking in elevation.
Attempt at your own risk!
– Pikes Peak
If you intend to spend more than a day in Manitou, you should definitely check out nearby Pikes Peak – another 14er sitting at 14,114 feet. There are three ways to reach the summit:
- By car: a 1 hour drive from Manitou Springs
- By cog railway: 3.5 hours roundtrip
- By foot: a 7 hour 40 minute hike (one way) – Only for experienced hikers!
Note: if you decide to hike up Pikes Peak, you can camp and spend the night; or you can either ride the cog railway back down or arrange for someone to drive you back down.
13. White Water Raft On The Poudre River
I couldn’t talk about the best day trips from Denver without including a ride down the Poudre River in a white water raft. If you crave the thrill of navigating a river full of rapids, then you can’t miss this excursion.
There are many places to go white water rafting in Colorado, but I recommend white water rafting in Fort Collins. For the past 15 years, we have been using Mountain Whitewater. Their guides are awesome, and the journey is even better.
And luckily, Fort Collins isn’t too far from Denver, making the road trip quite easy.
The small town is located south of Denver. The area offers some great scenery and it’s close enough to the city that you can get there within an hour. This is the perfect day trip from Denver if you want something closer than Rocky Mountain National Park or Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Sedalia is a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts with beautiful landscapes and plenty of wild animals. Let’s just say the foothills of the Rocky Mountains are fascinating and well worth a visit.
Top Things To Do In Sedalia
Sedalia, Colorado offers all sorts of adventures that will make any outdoor enthusiast happy. Here are a few of our favorites:
– Devils Head National Recreation Trail
Devils Head National Recreation Trail is a fun and adventurous excursion in Sedalia, Colorado. It offers miles of stunning views as you wind up to the top of Devils Head Lookout, an active fire lookout.
Devils Head Lookout Trail is approximately 3 miles, so it’s a great activity for a day trip.
– Daniel’s Park
Daniel’s Park is a great spot located in Sedalia, Colorado that offers incredible views of the Front Range. There are also bison who roam around freely, and visitors can catch these magnificent creatures grazing from time to time.
The Wrap-Up: Day Trips From Denver
Colorado is a true gem of the United States, it has so much to offer and we want you to get the most out of your visit. These 14 day trips from Denver will help you explore all that our state has to offer.
Whether you prefer hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park or white water rafting down class four rapids, these adventures are sure to leave a lasting impression.
This extensive guide is brought to you by Kyle Kroeger of ViaTravelers.com. Via Travelers is a modern travel blog providing the best tips, hacks, and itineraries to ensure you have an amazing adventure. You can find them on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube to get their latest travel updates in real-time.
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