Top Day Trips from Denver
Nine Weekend Getaways in Colorado
Photo by Arturo Rivera on Unsplash
Over the coming years, we may face continued inflation, high gasoline prices, even higher airline ticket prices, and stagnant wages. These are good reasons that we should look for weekend getaway spots closer to home. Lifehacker has a great resource that lists top trips in each state. Below we list our own top day trip destinations for Colorado, and the mileage noted by each location is calculated from Denver. Please note that these are author preferences, not compiled from other lists, so may reflect our personal tastes. Safe Travels!
0 Miles: Stay in Denver
If you’re already in the Denver area, why not plan a staycation? Try one or more of our favorite sights and tastes below:
- Get an interesting themed room at the Curtis Hotel.
- Take in a show at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA).
- The Buckhorn Exchange for the oldest steakhouse in Denver, and also a destination for the fanciful taxidermy on display and the old-timey live country music performances.
- Visit one of Denver’s many prohibition-style speakeasies.
- Visit the Denver National Mint.
- Get evening nosebleed seats for the Colorado Rockies baseball team simply for their price and their view of the sunset over the mountains.
- Visit a microbrewery or custom distillery.
- Go to the Stock Show for some livestock viewing and rodeo-style fun.
15 Miles: Visit Golden
Photo by Steven Miller on Wikimedia Commons
The town of Golden is easily accessible and provides a small town feel a short drive away from the big city. Walk along Clear Creek, dine at one of the many restaurant or bar options along the main drag, and take a tour at the Colorado School of Mines geology museum. Visit Buffalo Bill’s grave on top of the mountain so you can partake of some fudge or ice cream and the incredible views of downtown Denver. If the weather cooperates, you can kayak or tube down the town’s creek.
65 miles: Estes Park / Rocky Mountain National Park / Trailridge Road
Drive up and over Trailridge road for some great views of Rocky Mountain National Park and alpine tundra (only open in the summer). This is one of the highest continuous paved roads in the USA!
Estes Park itself has become a bit of a tourist trap in recent years, but nevertheless has a few points of interest listed below:
- The Stanley Hotel (The Shining, Dumb and Dumber, maybe it’s haunted?)
- Microbreweries & Restaurants
- The YMCA of the Rockies provides a summer camp atmosphere with a swimming pool, roller skating, and fun wilderness survival classes.
80 Miles: Breckenridge
Breckenridge is a lovely ski resort town with a main “strip” that is chock full of curio shops, bars, restaurants, and more. Visit the Breckenridge Troll, go sailing at 9,000 feet on the Dillon Reservoir, shop at outlet malls in nearby Silverthorn, and take in the amazing views with a scenic hike or drive.
97 Miles: Pike’s Peak
Take the recently refinished Old Cog Railway to the top of Pike’s Peak. Go back down and stay in Old Colorado City to sample a few of the town’s great restaurant options and fairly walkable streets. Visit the Garden of the Gods for some stunning natural landscape, or drive a bit further to see the wild colors of the Paint Mines. Visit Colorado Springs for some more attractions including the Broadmoor Hotel, the Rodeo Hall of Fame, and other fine dining options.
129 Miles: Royal Gorge
Walk a suspension bridge or take a cable car to traverse the gorge, 1,000 feet above the Arkansas river. Or you could take a luxurious ride on the Royal Gorge Rail. For the adventurous types, you can test your bravery on a zip line that crosses the expanse or swing out over the gorge!
135 Miles: Salida / Buena Vista
Another town on the Arkansas River, Salida / Buena Vista (pronounced, oddly byew-na) is a great destination for rafting or fishing. Among the many breweries and restaurants to choose from, we recommend Quincy’s, where they only serve one entree per night but do it well and cheaply. You can also visit the nudist (optional) Oriental Land Trust hot springs, do some four-wheeling up into nearby ghost towns, or stay up late to take in some incredible starscapes.
237 Miles: Visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park
The sand dunes here are amazing and can be hiked for hours. As an official “Dark Sky” site, the stars are on full display after dark. You can stay in local campsites, though these get booked up quickly. Other local activities include sandboarding, sand sledding, an alligator and reptile farm, and epic hikes to Zapata Falls, Mosca Pass, or Mount Herard (13,345 ft elevation).
333 Miles: Drive the Million Dollar Highway
Photo by Andreas F. Borchert via Wikimedia Commons
Colorado is full of scenic highway driving, but the Million Dollar Highway rates the highest in our book. Drive from the town of Durango to Ouray or the reverse. Visit a local hotel in Ouray that was built in the 1800’s. Ride the train from Durango up to Silverton for more old-West flavor. Take a side-trip up to the mountain getaway of Telluride.
Honorable Mentions: Idaho Springs for Tommyknockers (Bison Burgers, craft beer, and root beer), Beau Jo’s (Colorado-style Pizza), and a gold mine tour. Morrison for a tiny downtown full of food and entertainment options. The Red Rocks Amphitheater for amazing outdoor performances and views. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal to see some wild bison and other animals on top of a “mostly clean” nuclear and chemical weapons site. Blackhawk / Central City for gambling in a town cut out of a mountain gorge. Drive to the top of Mount Evans on the highest paved road in the US (over 14,000 ft elevation).
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