Home Day Trips 11 Great Day Trips from Denver, Colorado

11 Great Day Trips from Denver, Colorado

by Amanda Morgan
Horseshoe Park in Rocky Mountain National Park

Horseshoe Park in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado on October 15, 2022. Photo by Peter Stringer for Amazing America.

Rugged mountains, stunning national parks, top-notch skiing, raging whitewater rivers, and abundant wildlife make Colorado a dream come true for nature lovers and adventurous travelers from all over the world. The capital city of Denver makes for the perfect home base to get a taste of everything Colorado has to offer, with ample options for incredible day trips into unforgettable spots around the state.

Denver has long been one of the most popular cities in the United States, attracting numerous tourists annually. It’s the perfect city for outdoor enthusiasts and culture lovers alike. Denver day trippers can experience everything from the incredible Rocky Mountains to artsy villages in under two hours of driving.

If you’re planning the perfect trip to Colorado, carve out plenty of time to experience the surrounding nature parks and quaint mountain towns that make the state a beloved destination for so many travelers. Fill up your water bottle, lace up your hiking boots, and hit the road on these unforgettable day trips from Denver.

Pikes Peak

Head south from Denver to experience the rugged beauty of the iconic Pikes Peak. Rock climbers from around the world flock to Pike’s Peak each year along with countless day-trippers from Denver who hope to escape the city and marvel at one of the most impressive peaks in Colorado. Pikes Peak rises over 14,000 feet into the sky and can be hiked, climbed, or enjoyed from the comfort of your car as you drive the winding mountain highway to the top.

A day trip to Pike’s Peak offers plenty of opportunities to capture photographsand show off your adventurous side on your Instagram feed, so make sure to pack a camera. Pikes Peak can be reached from Denver in a little over an hour by car, so kiss the craziness of the busy city goodbye and set off for the perfect day trip.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado on October 14, 2022. Photo by Peter Stringer for Amazing America.

Garden of the Gods is one of the most incredible day trips from Denver and can be reached in a little under an hour and a half by car. It makes an excellent combined trip with Pike’s Peak or the town of Colorado Springs, as all three are in close proximity.

Garden of the Gods features breathtaking red rock formations that erupt from the ground into the sky. You can hike the trails, bike, have a picnic, or book a rock climbing expedition for the perfect day trip on your Denver vacation.

Cave of Winds

After reveling in the majesty of Pikes Peak, stop by the nearby Cave of Winds for an enchanting journey into one of Colorado’s most extraordinary caves. Journey deep underground into a vast cave system that is over a million years old on a cave tour that you’ll never forget.

The caves are rich in history and folklore. The indigenous Jicarilla Apaches wrote of vast caves that they believed to be the home of the Great Spirit of the Wind. They considered the caves a sacred site, and many experts believe they referred to what we now call the Cave of Winds.

Rediscovered by two brothers in the late 1800s, the mysterious and beautiful Cave of Winds are waiting to be explored, just over an hour and a half drive from Denver.

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado, might just be the coolest college town in the country. The local crowd of artistic hippy types and the lively student body who attend University of Colorado Boulder make the gorgeous city one of the trendiest spots in all of Colorado.

There’s plenty to keep everyone happy on a day trip to Boulder. Ample parks and green spaces make perfect places to relax and enjoy the Colorado sunshine and perfectly blue skies. Outdoorsy types will enjoy a hike through the Flat Irons or even test their bouldering skills with a bit of climbing.

Delicious dining options are abundant, and a hip new brewery serving craft beer awaits around every corner. Adorable clothing boutiques and art galleries line the pristine pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street. It’s the perfect place for bohemian types to shop for cute clothes and accessories. If you’re looking for some nightlife, there is almost always live music happening at one of Boulder’s famous music venues. Boulder is only a 40-minute drive from Denver, making it a fantastic choice for a day-long outing.

Roxborough State Park

If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and get out into nature but only have a half day, Roxborough State Park is a perfect choice and makes for an easy day trip from Denver. Hop in the car for a40-minute drive, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by mountains. There are plenty of quick hiking trails to enjoy, with many moderate routes that are only about a mile long.

Throughout the short hikes, you’ll have the opportunity to stop at several lookouts that offer stunning views of the rugged red sandstones and towering rock formations throughout the park. Roxborough State Park is a popular spot for photographers, especially in the spring.

Nederland, Colorado

If you’re looking for a quintessential Colorado mountain town, head to Nederland for your day trip from Denver. A gorgeously scenic hour-long drive will wind you through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains until you reach the quaint village of Nederland. Streets are lined with intriguing shops selling everything from crystals to clothing, and there are a few great restaurants and brewery options to enjoy on your visit.

“Ned,” as locals affectionately call it, has a thriving music scene, beautiful natural surroundings, and plenty of fun events, from street festivals to farmers’ markets.

Vail, Colorado

Winter sports enthusiasts in Denver flock to Vail every weekend to hit the slopes during cooler months. If skiing or snowboarding is on your activity list during your trip to Denver, Vail makes for the perfect day trip as it’s only an hour and forty-minute drive from the city.

Vail Mountain has been a popular destination for skiers since the 1960s and now features 33 ski lifts and countless routes for all levels, making it the perfect spot for both beginners and pros. After hitting the slope, enjoy world-class dining at any of the tasty restaurants in the town before returning to Denver.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado on October 15, 2022. Photo by Peter Stringer for Amazing America.

A list of day trips from Denver wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the incredible Rocky Mountain National Park. No matter what time of year you visit Colorado, RMNP will greet you with astonishing scenery and epic views. The rugged mountains are best viewed up close, and, at Rocky Mountain National Park, you can enjoy the best hiking and mountain biking trails, all of which can be reached in under two hours from Denver.

Three hundred miles of hiking trails and acres upon acres of pristine mountain wilderness make this the perfect day trip for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Watch climbers attempt to summit the famous Longs Peak. Rocky Mountain National Park is also one of the best places to take in Fall foliage in October. (Also, don’t miss our guide to the best Fall Foliage Hikes in Colorado.)

If hiking isn’t your thing, but you still want to experience the National Park’s beauty via windshield, you can enjoy scenic drives through the park on popular routes like Bear Lake Corridor and Trail Ridge Road, which allows you to take in the splendor from an altitude of 12,000 feet. Enjoy plenty of stunning overlooks and pack a picnic so you can pull off and have lunch when you find the perfect view.

Want more ideas for RMNP? Check out our guide to five great lake hikes at Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Rocky Mountain National Park requires reservations in the spring and summer months, and, even after peak season, overcrowding can be an issue. Plan ahead and get there early.

Estes Park

Estes Park is only a stone’s throw away from Rocky Mountain National Park and is worth a day trip from Denver all on its own. The adorable mountain town has a variety of tasty restaurants and bars, making it the perfect stop to experience mountain living outside of the Mile High City.

Recreation opportunities are available around every corner, with plenty of places for adventurous day trippers to book whitewater rafting or climbing excursions. Visitors can often spot wildlife such as elk within the town limits. With lovely wineries, golf courses, iconic hotels, and cute shops, Estes Park is an excellent option for a day trip from Denver and is only about an hour and a half drive from the big city.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park on October 13, 2022. Photo by Peter Stringer for Amazing America

Looking for something a little different? About four hours south of Denver sits Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, which is exactly what it sounds like. The tallest sand dunes in the United States reach up to 750 feet tall, which makes for quite the day hike and some amazing views and photography opportunities across 30 square miles. That’s 1.2 cubic miles of sand, in case you were looking to measure the Great Sand Dunes by volume.

If you’ve never been sledding on a sand dune, this is your chance. The Oasis shop, which you’ll find a few miles ahead of the park’s entrance, rents sleds to the public. To reach the dunes from the parking lots, you’ll have to traverse the relatively shallow Medano creek in spring and summer. By the fall, the creek typically runs nearly dry.

Hiking the dunes will prove harder than it looks, given the trek through Sand. Bring plenty of water in the summer months especially. Whether you’ll be sledding down or walking back down, the views are worth the effort to make the climb.

Golden hour and sunset are especially magical here.

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Red Rocks Amphitheater is one of the most legendary music venues in the United States and definitely an iconic place to listen to your favorite bands play live. The stage appears to emerge from the cliffs as if created by nature instead of man; the surrounding scenery is stunning and the acoustics are perfect. A concert at Red Rocks is an unforgettable experience that ignites all the senses.

Even if you aren’t visiting for live music, Red Rocks is still worth a day trip from Denver, as there are multiple hiking trails. The visitor center is open daily and features tributes to world-famous musical acts who have played at the amphitheater. From Denver, it’s about 40 minutes by car.

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