Looking for the perfect base to explore the natural beauty of Colorado? Fill your itinerary with all of the best day trips from Colorado Springs! Resting at the Eastern foot of the Rockies, Colorado Springs offers easy access to Pike National Forest and Pikes Peak, home to some of Colorado’s top sights.
Build anticipation for an action-packed trip by taking a drive on Pikes Peak Highway. The panoramic viewpoints will give you an overview of the otherworldly landscape. See as much of it as possible with sensational hiking trails at Garden of the Gods, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Eldorado Canyon State Park. If you’re not outdoorsy, take a spa day at Manitou Springs or explore the laid-back cities of Denver and Boulder.
Ready for an unforgettable Colorado adventure? Discover the top-rated Colorado Springs side trips with this complete guide!
Top-rated Colorado Springs side trips
Pikes Peak Highway
When it comes to Colorado road trips, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Just 30 minutes outside of Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Highway twists around one of the world’s most visited mountains. The 19 miles of safe, meandering roads finish at the Summit Visitor Center.
Cruise among the heavens as you reach heights up to 14,115 feet. The endless views of El Paso County stretch around every bend. Make sure you take plenty of stops to get your vacation photos. Take a detour to the North Slope Recreation Area, where you can fish for trout, or test your legs with some hiking and biking.
On your journey along Pikes Peak Highway, you’ll make new furry friends like the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep and yellow-bellied marmots. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be able to see Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Kansas, and Colorado.
Discover the magic of healing mineral water at Manitou Springs. This free-spirited town is just six miles from Colorado Springs, making it one of the city’s easiest day trips and one of the must-see attractions around Colorado Springs.
Native Americans drank the sacred spring water in the Manitou Springs area long before any Europeans arrived. The spiritual attitude of the town attracts hippies and wanderers; it’s the perfect place to discover quirky stores, lively street performers, and colorful artwork.
Manitou Springs is surrounded by stunning scenery and adventures. Ride the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the world’s highest cog railway. On your ascent, you’ll see rare rock shapes, imposing canyons, and stunning reservoirs. Challenge your legs on the Manitou Incline, ascending almost 2,000 feet in less than a mile.
History buffs should discover the wonders of Manitou Cliff Dwellings. The Ancient Puebloan architecture has been expertly preserved under a red sandstone overhang. You can touch the dwellings, and visitors are encouraged to take a self-guided tour.
Garden of the Gods
Step into another world at Garden of the Gods. Less than 20 minutes outside of Colorado Springs, this National Natural Park is a geologist’s dream. It’s home to some iconic rock formations, including Cathedral Spires, Balanced Rock, and Kissing Camels.
Photographers will have a fantastic time at Garden of the Gods. Majestic red rock towers stretch from the landscape into the sky. Hike the maze of trails, or come here early for an unbelievable sunrise.
If you want to learn more about the geology and ecology of Garden of the Gods, there’s a fun interactive gallery, or watch one billion years of history in the Geo-Trekker Theatre.
If you’re a climber, you’ll find some of the most unique climbs of your life at Garden of the Gods. There are unusual and exhilarating climbs for all levels but make sure you get a permit before you go.
Climbing not your thing? Have fun admiring the daredevils from the ground, or try out some horseback riding!
Cave of the Winds Mountain Park
If you’re looking for a Colorado Springs day trip that’s crammed with adventure, drive 15 minutes down the road to Cave of the Winds Mountain Park. It’s at the base of Pikes Peak, with caves and canyons sitting at a staggering 7,000 feet. The caves are millions of years old, but they weren’t discovered until 1882.
Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is a treasure trove of stalactites, stalagmites, and underground lakes. Explore it all with an expert guide. Why not take the haunted lantern tour? Like the first people to discover Cave of the Winds, you’ll trek through eerie passageways with nothing but a lantern to light your way. Your guide will share unnerving folklore and ghost stories to make the atmosphere even more spooky.
The activities above ground at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park are just as exciting. Fly down a 200-foot cliff on the Terror-dactyl ride, then test your nerves on the Via Ferrata.
Eldorado Canyon State Park
Get active at Eldorado Canyon State Park. The popular state park is known for its scenic views and keen climbers. There are over 500 technical climbing routes here and a network of hiking trails that connect with Boulder. This park is just under 100 miles away from Colorado Springs, so plan to be out for the whole day.
Wander 885 acres of vast canyon and sandstone cliffs at Eldorado Canyon State Park. Scale the impressive rock faces on one of the best climbing destinations in the US or hike the idyllic Rocky Mountain trails.
If you’re feeling warm after all that action, take a dip in the pool. It’s been there since 1904 and uses the water from the iconic hot springs. Relax and float around to the backdrop of jagged peaks.
Eldorado Canyon State Park is a great spot for a picnic. Choose from 33 tables with grills or be cheesy and bring a cute blanket.
If you like your Colorado Springs side trips with a big dose of snow, check out Breckenridge. It’s 2 hours and 30 minutes away, so leave early to get a full day of skiing in.
Located at the base of the Tenmile Range, Breckenridge is on every skier’s bucket list. And with 3,000 acres of terrain and 300 inches of snow per year, it’s easy to see why!
Breckenridge has one of the longest winter seasons in the United States. Slopes are open into late April, so you can enjoy sunny days without the slush. Take the Imperial Express Superchair, the highest chairlift in North America, to a height of 12,840 feet.
Formerly a mining town, the upscale resort town has a dreamy historic quarter full of colorful Victorian architecture. One of the must-do Breckenridge activities is to browse trendy art galleries and boutiques in Breckenridge Historic District, then stop for a drink in one of the distilleries, wineries, or breweries.
All the fun things to do in Breckenridge don’t stop once the snow melts. As well as hiking and fishing, you can head to Browns Canyon for paddle boarding and white-water rafting. In the summer months, Breckenridge hosts adventure activities like zip lining and a high rope course.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Turn your Colorado Springs day trip into a natural oasis at Rocky Mountain National Park. Stretching 415 square miles across the Continental Divide, this is one of the best national parks in the US.
Drive 2 hours and 30 minutes to Rocky Mountain National Park for hiking, wildlife spotting, or to relax in alpine paradise. With over 60 mountains reaching heights above 3,658m, you’ll be surrounded by endless views of the immense peaks. These are contrasted by the clear blue of 147 different lakes. Explore deep forests and meadows covered in vibrant wildflowers.
Drive scenic routes like Highway 36 and Trailridge Road or follow stunning hiking trails like Emerald Lake Trail and Alberta Falls Hike. On your way, see if you can spot elk, bighorn sheep, and moose.
If you dare, take a trip up to Estes Park to check out the Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining.
Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
Experience spectacular natural beauty at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. The park spans a 1,200-foot canyon along the Arkansas River. Walk 1,257 planks across the Royal Gorge Bridge, the highest suspension bridge in the US.
This Colorado Springs side trip is a little further away, with a three-hour 40-minute drive. But it’s more than worth it. Walk across the bridge at the dizzying height of 956 feet.
If you dare, gaze down at the ragged cliff faces of the Royal Gorge. Experience the gorge from all angles, including on Via Ferrata, by zip line, and on the aerial gondola. Or try the Royal Rush Sky Coaster, which throws you into the air at 50mph.
If the heights of Royal Gorge Bridge and Park are too much for you, have fun exploring Cañon City. There are lots of outdoor activities here and fascinating palaeontologic sites.
Getting tired of all the outdoor action? Throw yourself into the friendly town at the boutiques and antique stores. Or, take part in award-winning wine tasting at the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey.
Take a Colorado Springs side trip to the mile-high city. Denver has an elevation of 5,280 feet and is surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks. Colorado’s capital city is one of the fastest-growing cities in the US, so the music, arts, and gastronomy scene is thriving.
This fun city is only a one-hour-30-minute drive. Denver is popular because it’s very walkable and has a fantastic outdoor culture. Great weather and over 200 parks make it easy to see why Denver’s top tourist attractions hit so many travelers’ Colorado bucket lists. If you’re only visiting Denver in one day, do as the locals do and rent a bicycle to maximize your time.
Check out the funky River North Art District, brimming with street art and warehouse conversions. Wander The Source, a former 1880s brick foundry that now houses artisan stalls and street food.
Thirsty? You’re in luck: Denver claims to be one of the world’s best beer cities. There are over 150 breweries in Denver and the surrounding area, so you won’t struggle to get an epic craft beer here!
Beautiful Boulder is the ideal destination for a Colorado Springs side trip, as it is just one hour and 40 minutes away. It’s nestled in a stunning valley, surrounded by the cliffs of the Flatirons. With a great mix of urban cool and outdoor lifestyle, Boulder is a relaxing and one-of-a-kind place to spend the day.
Boulder’s roots as a hippy capital have evolved into a lively arts and culture scene. You’ll find an eclectic mix of festivals, street performers, and independent stores. If you want to get a true sense of the city’s essence, visit Pearl Street Mall. Not only is it filled with unique stores, galleries, and restaurants, it’s one of the top Boulder tourist attractions and the city’s social and cultural hub.
If you want to stay out of the city scene, take a walk through the peaceful grounds of the University of Colorado campus, or hike to the stunning Chautauqua Park. For a pretty waterfall hidden in a small canyon, take the 10-minute hike to Boulder Falls.
Idaho Springs is a great place to stop before or after tackling all the other best day trips from Colorado Springs. It’s just outside of Denver and on route back from some top destinations for mountain scenery, including Rocky Mountain Park and Breckenridge.
The historic mining town of Idaho Springs was the epicenter of the Colorado Gold Rush. Today, it’s known as a small, friendly city with outdoor activities and quirky attractions.
Unpack Idaho Springs’ mining history at the Argo Mill and Tunnel, the Phoenix Gold Mine, and the Edgar Mine. You can take tours of the mines and try out gold panning for yourself.
After a trip packed with so much adventure, your muscles must be a little sore. Soothe them in the Indian Hot Springs. Soak in the mineral water, relax in the hot tub, or indulge in a spa treatment.