If you live in Denver and want to leave the city or just want to visit Mile High City, there is a lot to do and see on a day trip from Colorado’s largest city.
Rocky mountains at your doorstep with skiing, hiking, scenic roads in the clouds and picturesque lakes between snowy peaks. There are also historic towns, miners and even a refuge for wolves.
Here is our list of the 20 best daytrips from Denver.
1. Red Cliff Park and Amphitheater
30 minutes from Denver (19 miles)
Incredible scenery of the Red Cliffs Amphitheater overlooking Denver City.
Red Rocks Park is just 19 miles from downtown Denver, and we’ve added it to our list of Denver’s top classes!
A day trip from Denver may be very short, but there are two good reasons why you should consider getting in your car and coming to Red Rocks Park.
The first reason is the spectacular amphitheatre, which is located in the middle of some of these red rocks and from where one has a fantastic view of the stage below.
There are a number of summer concerts, but if there are less than 10,000 seats, tickets can be purchased in advance, so be sure to check the artists’ schedules in advance.
Red Rocks Park itself is perfect for a short walk. Formerly known as the Garden of the Titans because it was a red rock tower on hilly terrain and there is ample parking space, it is one of the easiest ways to leave the centre of Denver and explore the natural world.
2. Mount Evans Stage – Highway
1 hour 30 minutes from Denver (60 miles)
Typical view of Mount Evans as it climbs to the top of the mountain
This epic street starts just 40 minutes from the centre of Denver in the town of Idaho Springs. Denver itself sits at a relatively high altitude, giving it the famous nickname Mil-Hi.
The stage route from Mount Evans is much higher. Leaving exit 241 of highway 70, the road rises to 7,000 feet (14,130 feet) above sea level at an altitude of 4,310 meters (14,130 feet).
If you like a view that stretches far into the distance, there are many along the way: The rocky mountains stretch out to the west and Denver beneath you to the east. Mount Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in North America and the fifth highest paved road in the world. So there are not many places where you can make a trip to the top!
Because of the weather it is only open from Memorial on weekends until Labour Day. The trip to the top costs $10, but it’s worth it with its breathtaking views, huge accidents, bends on peaks and everything we like about a good car ride.
3. Rocks, Colorado and Chautaukva Park
50 minutes from Denver (31 miles)
Mountain view from Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado.
Another daytrip that won’t last long is a trip to Boulder, near Denver.
Boulder is a small town located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, which, compared to the atmosphere of the big city of Denver, gives the feeling of a big small town. Like many other places in Colorado, Boulder is best known for its outdoor life.
Of course there are great restaurants, artisan breweries and beautiful mountain scenery, but the best is to walk 300 miles of trails through the Flatirons, whether you come in summer or winter.
Most of the paths around Boulder are in Shautaukwe. In this vast open space next to the boulder there are paths leading to high peaks and mountain passes with breathtaking views and an abundance of clean mountain air (the height of the boulder is more than 5,000 feet above sea level).
If you come from Denver in winter and want to be even more active, there are several mountains in the Rockies where you can ski for 30 minutes.
4. Valley, Colorado
1 hour 40 minutes from Denver (97 miles)
Picturesque city Vale, Colorado.
Vale is best known as the largest mountain in Colorado and is one of the most famous ski resorts in the United States. There are good reasons for that: 193 official ski runs and 7 ski trophies covering all the faces of Mont Vail!
Although skiing is not Vale’s only activity.
The town of Vale and its valley are worth a visit at any time of the year. There are summer and autumn festivals, skiing in winter and spring. There’s hiking, ATVing and the world’s tallest botanical garden, followed by snowmobiling and night skiing (yes, that’s the thing) during the cold season.
The city itself is unusual among the large ski resorts. There are different parts of Vail that have very different characters and feelings – Vail Village is the heart of the resort and exudes an almost European charm, while the Lyonshead area is a fantastic hotel that needs a big wallet.
With so much to do, it’s a great idea to stay in Vail for the weekend, but it’s perfectly feasible in one day from Denver, and you can be there in an hour and a half if the traffic and conditions are comfortable for you.
5. Cheyenne, Wyoming
1 hour 40 minutes from Denver (102 miles)
The majestic Wyoming Capitol Building in Cheyenne.
Cheyenne, which is often overlooked as a destination, is a beautiful city just across the border from Wyoming if you travel north of Denver.
This quiet city is the capital of Wyoming and is ideal for a day trip. There are several interesting museums about the history of the city and the state, including the Governor’s House, which has been a museum since 1976.
It’s very nice to walk in the middle of Cheyenne. The capital Wyoming and its surroundings are a good starting point. There are 5 museums nearby or you can take the Cheyenne Street Tramway, which uses centuries-old buses to show you the best spots.
Cheyenne is also home to the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. So if you come on a day trip in the summer and want to see what you have to offer, you should try to come by car on Saturday. Cheyenne Border Days is a big event in the rodeo and west at the end of July – the city is very popular with visitors from all over the country, but it’s also a great excuse to get there!
6. Central City and Blackhawk
50 minutes from Denver (40 miles)
Historic buildings in Blackhawk, Colorado
Vicky L. Miller/Shutterstock.com
The picturesque towns of Central City and Blackhawk are less than a kilometre apart in the mountains west of Denver.
They originated during the Pike Gold Rush, which began in 1858 and became world famous for the richness of the mountains. But almost as fast as the cities grew, the city was in ruins at the beginning of the 20th century. At the end of the 19th century the mining industry merged because the mines were exhausted.
With the shrinking of the cities, the 1990s saw huge changes with the introduction of gambling and today Blackhawk and Central City share 24 casinos.
There are hotels, restaurants and bars near the casino, as well as two separate highways that lead to each of them as they compete for players. Because Blackhawk was the first city on the original route, it is the busiest of the city’s 18 casinos, but you can stay in any one of them and enjoy the sights because they are so close together.
There are other things to do, like walks and local breweries, but frankly there are better places to go. If you want to play cards or give your dollars to a one-armed bat, you should put a day trip to Central City and Blackhawk on the menu.
7. White River National Forest
1 hour 30 minutes from Denver (87 miles)
Independence ghost town in the White River National Forest, Colorado
The White River National Forest is a large reserve west of Denver that covers much of the Rocky Mountain landscape.
You reach White River National Forest on the I-70, approach Vail and cover much of northwest Colorado.
There are 12 ski resorts, including some of the most famous in the United States, all located in the United States, such as Aspen, Vale and Beaver Creek. But if you don’t like skiing, there’s something to see.
There are 10 14 feet of White River (over 14,000 feet high mountains) and many large wilderness areas that are ideal for hiking – there are 2,500 miles of trails, so you can take day trips every weekend for years and not have to take the same route!
No wonder White River is the most visited national forest in the United States, but given its size and the number of different events, it doesn’t seem crowded.
Watch out for deer, elk and moose on their way to the forest, but be careful because there are lynxes, bobcats and mountain lions in the area, although the chances of encountering one are very small.
If you’re feeling lazy, White River has some great roads running through its territory, and you can take a nice ride instead!
8. Rocky Mountain National Park
1 hour 30 minutes from Denver (73 miles)
Typical mountain forest of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park is another popular place to hike, explore nature and visit the high peaks.
It’s very easy to get there from Denver – take the I-25 north, then Hwy 66 and US-36 to Estes Park. It is the most important visitor base of the national park, with the most important visitor centre and numerous accommodations.
The park offers many hiking trails, campsites and many small lakes nestled between the mountains, giving it a unique look and great opportunities for photography.
Rocky Mountain National Park is located on both sides of the continental divide and includes 5 different parts of the park, which have very different vibes and nature, ranging from large green meadows to steep rocky mountains with glaciers and permanent snow. View your map and plan ahead to make the most of your day!
If you want to dive deeper into the park, you can take the beautiful Trail Ridge Road – it is only open in the summer months, so if you come to the park in winter, you’ll have to make the long journey from Denver via Idaho Falls and around Granby Lake.
9. Georgetown, Colorado
50 minutes from Denver (45 miles)
Georgetown-Loop Railway to Georgetown, Colorado
Georgetown is not what you’d expect from an old mining town an hour’s drive from Denver and the Rocky Mountains.
Georgetown, situated on Lake Georgetown and along the I-70, is surrounded by mountains and known for its recently restored Victorian buildings.
Just outside the town is the Georgetown Loop Railroad, a narrow gauge railway dating back to the 1880s that runs up and down the valley during the summer months.
If you’re visiting Georgetown or just passing through Vale, Aspen or other parts of White River National Forest, it’s worth stopping if you have time.
The top of the route is the Guanella Pass Road, which branches off from the I-70 at Georgetown and climbs the mountains to the south until it meets Grant 285. It is only open during the summer months and guarantees fantastic views and not too many visitors, as it is one of the least known mountain roads in the region.
10. Glenwood feathers, Colorado
2 hours 40 minutes from Denver (157 miles)
View after walk at Hanging Lake at Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Jeremy Janus Photo/Shutterstock.com
Glenwood Springs is another access point from Denver, in the heart of the White River National Forest. Follow the I-70 westbound towards Grand Junction and you will arrive in Glenwood Springs where Highway 82 to Aspen leaves.
The main reason to come here is the huge Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. It is the largest hot water basin in the world, with more than one million litres of water at temperatures between 90 and 93°F (about 33°C).
If you are a little cold, there is a small therapeutic pool (30 metres long!) that stores water at 40° C (104° F). Surprisingly, the water coming out of the Yampa has to be cooled, even in snowy winters, because it burns at 50°C (122°F).
About 10 miles from Glenwood Springs, Hanging Lake Trail. In low season you can park your car and walk about 1.5 km in the mountains to see the beautiful mountain lake, which is located in a narrow gorge.
From May to October you will need to drive to Glenwood Springs and park at the Hanging Lake Visitor Centre to take a shuttle bus instead. Remember, it’s always a good idea to get a permit for Hanging Lake in advance to avoid disappointment and save time.
11. Pawnee National Pasture
1 hour 45 minutes from Denver (109 miles)
Sunset over Pawnee National Grassland in the Field District of Colorado Sunset over Pawnee National Grassland in the Field District of Colorado Sunset over Pawnee National Grassland in the Field District of Colorado Sunset over Pawnee National Grassland in the Field District of Colorado Sunset over Pawnee National Grassland in the Field District of Colorado
Arina P Habitsch/Shutterstock.com
Day trips from Denver usually take you westwards to the Rocky Mountains because of the beautiful scenery, the entertainment, the cities and the nature reserves so close to town.
We felt guilty because the first 10 entries on our list are around the rocks or at least in the foothills, so a daytrip in the opposite direction to the flat plains of Pawnee National Pasture starts here.
Located on the northern border of Colorado, at the junction of Wyoming and Nebraska, this vast area of wild prairie stretches for miles with no hills in sight.
There are several routes and even campsites if you want to stay longer, but you can get a good idea of the area and enjoy it on a day trip from Denver.
Watch out for the network of small roads and dirt tracks that cross the meadows – some are public and some private, so watch out for signs so as not to disturb the local farmers.
12. Bear Canyon Creek and Evergreen
40 minutes from Denver (29 miles)
Incredible view of Mount Falcon Park near Morrison, Colorado.
It’s a short day trip from Denver to Evergreen in less than 30 miles, but it’s worth it, and if you don’t have time, it’s a great way to have fun and get out of town.
Bear Creek is a beautiful road from Morrison to Idleale. The starting point is almost the same place as the Red Rocks Park (see n° 1 above), so you can combine the two and see everything in one day.
When you have finished your journey on Route 74 from Colorado to Idledale, continue on to Evergreen – the scenery is as beautiful as ever and Evergreen is the perfect place to stop and enjoy lunch or even stay for dinner.
There’s a lounge where you can watch the show later, and a Revival Brewery with a dozen unique craft beers to sample (although you may need to book a hotel if you’re coming for a beer tasting!).
In the centre of Evergreen there are a lot of nice neighbourhood shops, and then you can take a walk around Evergreen Lake.
From Morrison to Evergreen there are parks and walking areas on both sides of the highway.
If you take the path to the top of Mont Faucon, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views in all directions. Along the way, Lair o’ the Bear Park offers relaxing routes along Bear Creek.
13. Gold, Colorado
25 minutes from Denver (15 miles)
View of Gold, Colorado, from the mountains above us
Jeremy Janus Photo/Shutterstock.com
Golden is just a short drive from Denver – you can get there in less than half an hour from most central areas of the city, but it can’t help being part of the hustle and bustle of the city.
A short day trip from Denver takes you to a traditional and relaxed mountain town, with two great mountain parks on either side – the Viewpoints Park and the Northern Restoration Mountain Park.
It feels like you’re in the mountains, even though Golden is almost as high as Denver and the vibrations are much colder than in big resorts like Aspen or Vale in the Rocky Mountains.
If you want to get away from hiking, the Colorado Railway Museum is a good place to stop. You can also visit the original Coors Brewery, where the company started in 1873.
14. Colorado Springs, Colorado
1 hour 20 minutes from Denver (69 miles)
Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum Building.
We separated Colorado Springs from the Garden of the Gods and Pike Peak (see below) because there is so much that a day trip would not be enough. You can spend the night and enjoy everything you need to do and see around Colorado Springs or come back several times.
Most people who visit Colorado Springs don’t even come to town, but focus on the mountains and parks that surround the city, but it’s worth it.
The Old Town of Colorado is located west of downtown Colorado Springs and was founded in 1859 as the capital of the state of Colorado. You can walk around and browse the beautiful shops, restaurants and art galleries in the area.
Colorado Springs has some really unusual and interesting museums – from the bizarre Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum to the grandiose Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum, with special museums dedicated to classic carts, aircraft, mining and even a surviving brothel.
15 The garden of the gods and the top of the pike
1 hour 30 minutes from Denver (74 minutes)
Dramatic sunset that can be seen from the Garden of God’s Park
The Peak Pikes is a mountain that towers above the city of Colorado Springs and at 4,302 m (14,115 feet above sea level) is one of the fourteen in the region.
There are many ways to reach the summit – the Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Manitou Springs is one of the easiest ways to reach the summit if you want to spend a relaxing day. The highest railway line in North America is currently closed for renovation and is expected to reopen in 2021.
As long as it’s closed, you can take the Pike Peak Highway up. It’s a toll road, but 19 miles of bends and hairpin bends are worth it – this road is one of the most famous mountain races in the world – the International Peak Pikes climb.
You can walk to the summit, but the 13-mile path, which climbs to an altitude of over 2,400m, takes several hours to complete, so you’ll have plenty of time if you’re planning on going up and down.
The Garden of the Gods is a park located between Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak. It is known for its unusual red rock formations – there are thin high structures, huge tower-like cliffs and rocks in balance, and religious buildings in the aptly named Valley of the Cathedrals.
16. Fort Collins and Lori National Park Bike Lanes
1 hour 30 minutes from Denver (75 miles)
Traces through Lori State Park in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at Fort Collins
Fort Collins is just over an hour’s drive on the I-25 north of Denver and is often overlooked as a place to visit, but you should definitely spend some time in town.
The historic city has a large old quarter where you will find picturesque shops selling everything from silver to spices.
If you decide to spend the night at Fort Collins, you may want to know why the city is known as the Napa Beer Valley – there are two dozen local breweries in the area and you can sample many homemade beers throughout the city.
One of the most remarkable things about Fort Collins are the cycle paths around the city – locals love cycling, and everywhere you look there are special paths. You can even rent a bike if you didn’t bring one with you. You can see it parked anywhere on the bike racks and you can install it in a few minutes for the application.
Lori State Park is located near Fort Collins – to get there you have to go around the Horsetooth tank. Once there you will see many paths through the rugged terrain where you can hike or try your hand at mountain biking.
17. Lac Dillon
1 hour 15 minutes from Denver (69 miles)
Fog rising over Lake Dillon in the Rocky Mountains, a short distance from Denver
Lake Dillon is an artificial reservoir along the Blue River, which flows through the Rocky Mountains. It is a very popular place for tourists all year round, as the lake is an excellent starting point for hikes, mountain tours and skiing.
The tranquil waters of the lake, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, offer several motorhome pitches, cycle paths and fantastic golf courses for those who want to relax during the hot summer months.
There are many summer concerts in Dillon and you can rent boats at the marina from the end of May to the end of September.
In winter (and almost all year round) there are 4 large ski areas within 10 miles of the lake, including the large ski areas of Copper Mountain, Keystone and Brackenridge.
Almost all snow-related activities can be enjoyed here, and given the proximity of these resorts near Denver, it’s easy to take a day trip from Denver to go skiing.
18. Aspen, Colorado
3 hours (159 miles) in the summer of Denver, 4 hours 20 minutes (223 miles) in the winter of Denver
Brown clocks reflecting in Marron Aspen Lake, Colorado
Aspen is another great ski area that is just one day’s drive from Denver, but three hours away it is one of the furthest on the list. You can extend your tour by one day to discover more of what Aspen has to offer.
The fastest way from Denver to Aspen is the I-70 to Mount Copper, then Highway 91 to the south. After a while there is a turn to the right in the mountains on highway 82, which leads to Aspen.
Due to the height of the road in the mountains, Highway 82 is closed most of the year and will not be reopened until the snow and ice have disappeared during the summer months. If you arrive in winter, take the longer I-70 to Glenwood Springs before heading south on Highway 82.
Skiing is the main reason why people come to Aspen, and that’s no surprise – there are 4 separate ski areas on the nearby mountains! These are Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Pakhta and Snow Mass, a few miles away.
But even if you’re not here to ski, there’s plenty to do while you enjoy the fresh mountain air. Beautiful walks, mountain restaurants with incredible views and even the opera house on wheels, built in the 1890s, where concerts and events take place all year round.
19. Central Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center
2 hours from Denver (97 miles)
Wolf and kittens playing on rocks in Colorado
The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Centre is located south of Denver, near Pikes Peak, and you can take the highway through Colorado Springs or take the more scenic route through the mountains and follow Highway 67 to Woodland Park.
You can get closer to the wolves living in the sanctuary – there are several visits available during the day, and although you can choose between the standard visit, the welcome visit, the feeding visit or even the VIP visit, it all depends on how much time you have, what you spend and how close you want to get to the wolves!
In addition to wolves, there are also coyotes and foxes in the city centre, and even within the wolf population there are different species, and you will find this experience really enjoyable and interesting.
The animals will not be able to survive in the wild here and this shelter allows them to live in the most natural environment.
20. Steamship and Fischbach Waterfall
3 hours from Denver (159 miles)
Fish Creek Falls at Stambout, Colorado
You can make a daytrip from Denver in about 3 hours, but you can also do it if you like a good mountain tour.
The steamship town is far enough away from Denver that it looks like you’ve moved to a completely different state. You have the right feeling for the mountain town, the ranch around the city and the large ski area.
A healthy lifestyle is very important here – there are walking trails almost directly from the town, one of which leads to Fish Creek Falls, which is well worth the trip if you have the time to get there.
The town prides itself on having 98 Parokhod Olympians – a strong comeback in a small town in the Rocky Mountains. So the Swiss ski resort Saas Fee is a double steamer!
If you don’t like skiing, you can try other activities in the snow, from snowmobiling to whistling.
In summer, the steamboat ski slopes turn into mountain bikes and the hot springs in the Strawberry Park are a great way to relax after a day’s lessons.
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