Sometimes, the best trips are closer than you think. While Denver is beautiful, it’s also important to remember that the rest of Colorado has a lot to offer too! If you have a free weekend coming up, it’s time to hit the road and make some memories. To help you out, we’ve made the ultimate list of the seven most amazing trips you can take from Denver, Colorado.
1. The Royal Gorge
Driving from Denver to the Royal Gorge will put some miles on your car, but it’ll be worth it. This trip covers almost 129.1 miles and will take about two and a half hours driving one way, so we suggest an early start.
The region’s main attraction is the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. You can spend a day walking over the Royal Gorge suspension bridge, take a ride on a 1,200 feet zipline, or ride the attractions at the amusement park.
However, our favorite recommendation is the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. You can take a train ride through the Rockies while being dining on delicious food and drinks.
President Teddy Roosevelt described the train in 1905 as a “trip that bankrupts the English language.” With a recommendation like that, how can you resist?
2. Vail, Colorado
It’s approximately 97.1 miles from Denver to Vail, which translates to just about a two-hour ride one way. Vail is a gorgeous ski town that makes you feel like you’ve been transported to Austria. The small village is walkable and full of fantastic restaurants, bars, and breweries. You can come here in the summer for hiking and in the winter for winter sports.
There is a free transportation system in Vail, which allows you to move from village to ski resorts with minimal effort.
We recommend having some beers at Vail Brewing Co. and visiting the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens for the perfect day trip. These gardens are the highest elevation botanical gardens in the world and are open all year round.
3. Rocky Mountain National Park (Estes Park)
You can drive to Rocky Mountain National Park in under an hour and a half from Denver, Colorado. This drive will be a beautiful one full of gorgeous mountain ranges. Rocky Mountain National Park is a lovely 415 square miles of a stunning mountain environment.
As you drive through this national park, we suggest you stop for a short hike. The Bear Lake Loop is a quick 0.6-mile hike that takes you on a nature trail around the subalpine lake at the end of Bear Lake Road. The elevation gain on this hike is non-existent, so you won’t be too tired to drive home afterward.
As you drive through the national park, keep an eye out for wildlife. You might just see some bighorn sheep, black bears, mountain lions, elk, pika, snowshoe hare, and mule deer.
4. Nederland, Colorado
Nederland is a small town with a population of only 1,336 as of 2019. The town has a fascinating history, originally starting as a trading post in the 1850s between European Settlers and Ute Indians. Today, it’s a lovely mountain town offering a lot to tourists and visitors.
And, we have the perfect day trip for your visit to Nederland all planned out. As you arrive in Nederland, stop by the Train Cars Coffee & Yogurt Company for a coffee and a pastry. This unique coffee shop operates out of three historic train cars, each with a rich history.
Next, take a break and go on a quick hike around Lost Lake. This hike is only four miles around a beautiful alpine lake with a mountain range backdrop.
Lastly, grab lunch at Crosscut Pizzeria & Taphouse for a made-in-house, wood-fired artisan pizza.
5. Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods nature center is about 70 miles away from Denver, making it a 1 hour and 40-minute drive one-way. This registered natural landmark offers colossal sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of greenery and mountains. Visitors can explore the park by driving or biking through it.
You can also sign up for some front range climbing, a guided mindful hike, or a kid-friendly nature walk.
The nature center has a cafe on-site, but we recommend packing a picnic instead to enjoy right in the park.
Historic mining town Georgetown is a short one-hour drive (45 miles) away. Colorado has a long history of gold mining, a lot of which is reflected in Georgetown. The small town is home to several small museums that tell the gold mining history of the area.
This small town is perfect for a relaxing day out. You can explore the Georgetown Loop Railroad, have high tea at the Dusty Tea Room, go fishing in Georgetown lake, and grab a refreshing local beer at Cabin Creek Brewing.
7. Fort Collins
The drive to Fort Collins takes just over an hour, covering 65 miles one-way from Denver. This beautiful city has a lot to offer visitors. First, Fort Collins is known for its craft breweries. This city produces over 70% of Colorado’s craft beer and approximately 7% of the United State’s beer.
Of course, this city has a lot more to offer than just beer. Most notably, a trip to Fort Collins would be incomplete without taking in the spectacular views at Horsetooth Reservoir. Make sure to ride on the famous city trolley, which makes a 3-mile roundtrip from Old Town to City Park.
Honestly, you have no excuse to start crossing off all of these day trips starting this upcoming weekend!