Vacationing in Colorado’s capital with some extra time to spare? Set aside time in your itinerary to check out some of the best day trips from Denver. With its central location, Denver makes the perfect jumping-off point to explore the Centennial State’s mountainous wilderness, historic towns, and some of the top outdoor recreation destinations in the country.
Within a short drive from Denver, you can reach adorable mountain towns like Boulder and Colorado Springs or hike iconic landmarks like Pike’s Peak. Catch your favorite band at the legendary Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, or enjoy a variety of outdoor adventures like kayaking, rock climbing, and skiing.
Looking to make the most of your time in the Mile High City? Venture beyond the city limits with this complete guide to the top-rated Denver side trips.
Top-rated Denver side trips
Located just 30 miles northwest of Denver, Boulder is Colorado’s hippest college town. The local crowd of artsy locals and fun-loving students at Colorado University Boulder make the city one of the coolest spots in all of Colorado.
Venture to Boulder’s city center to try out new and delicious dining options, and enjoy trendy new breweries serving craft beer around every corner. Adorable clothing boutiques and art galleries line the pristine pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street. It’s the perfect place to shop for cute clothes and accessories, with a focus on trendy, youthful clothing and bohemian trends.
Boulder offers plenty of activities to keep every traveler busy. Enjoy beautifully landscaped green spaces to soak up the Colorado sunshine and gaze up at the bright blue skies. From all over town, you can take in stunning views of the iconic Flat Irons; they’re the perfect place to test your bouldering skills with a bit of climbing or simply enjoy a nice long hike with sweeping vistas of Boulder and Denver in the distance.
If you’re looking to stay for some nightlife, there’s almost always live music happening at one of Boulder’s famous music venues, including the Boulder Theater.
RELATED: Top-Rated Things to Do in Boulder
Boulder is only a 40-minute drive from Denver, making it a fantastic choice for a day-long outing.
Rocky Mountain National Park
A trip to Denver wouldn’t be complete without a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. No matter what time of year you visit Colorado, RMNP delivers breathtaking scenery and epic views.
While you can enjoy views of the mountains from Denver, the best way to experience the Rocky Mountains is up close. On a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park, you can enjoy some of the state’s most popular hiking and mountain biking trails, all within a two-hour drive from the city.
Experience three hundred miles of hiking trails through untouched mountain landscapes. There’s a good reason why RMNP is one of the most popular parks in the United States. Adventurous nature lovers will rejoice at just how vast the park truly is. You’ll love watching the rock climbers attempt a climb up one of the nation’s most challenging routes: Longs Peak.
RELATED: Top-Rated Things to Do in Denver
Don’t worry if you aren’t an avid hiker. You can still enjoy the magic with scenic drives through the park on popular routes like Bear Lake Corridor and Trail Ridge Road, where you’ll take in the splendor from an altitude of 12,000 feet. Enjoy the stunning overlooks and pack some snacks to pull over and enjoy lunch alongside the beautiful vistas.
Another elevated college town, Fort Collins makes a perfect day trip from Denver if you’re looking for the ideal combination of natural beauty and lively brewery tours. Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University and is often named one of the best places to live in the country.
Enjoy fun brewery tours of famous beers like New Belgium, Odell, and Budweiser, or stroll through the picturesque streets to check out little shops and local restaurants.
For nature enthusiasts, plenty of adventurous activities await, too. Outfitters around Fort Collins offer whitewater rafting experiences, and there are plenty of great hiking trails around the city.
Fishing enthusiasts will love a stop at Horsetooth Reservoir, a fun marina that provides boat rentals and kayaking excursions and is always well-stocked with fish.
Head 100 miles south of Denver to experience iconic Pikes Peak. Day-tripping Denverites drive to Pikes Peak in the hundreds, hoping to leave the urban jungle behind and immerse themselves in the majesty of one of Colorado’s most impressive peaks.
Pikes Peak towers 14,000 feet into the blue Colorado skies. On your visit, you can hike, climb, or enjoy from the comfort of your car as you drive the twisting mountain highway to the top. The view from the summit inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write “America The Beautiful.”
Barr Trail is one of the most beautiful hiking trails to tackle Pikes Peak. The 13-mile trail starts in Manitou Springs and gains 7,500 feet in elevation before reaching the summit. Afterward, stop by Pike’s Peak Visitor Center for some delicious donuts.
RELATED: Best Areas to Stay in Denver
A day trip to Pike’s Peak offers great opportunities to capture photographs to remember your trip, so be sure to pack a camera.
Pikes Peak can be reached from Denver in just over an hour’s drive. So, pack the car and hit the mountains for a perfect escape from the busy city!
The state’s second-biggest city, Colorado Springs makes for an excellent day trip. You can easily combine your visit here with an adventure to nearby Pike’s Peak for a full day of activities. You’ll find this epic Colorado mountain town in the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains, a little over an hour’s drive south of Denver.
Hop on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad to experience a one-of-a-kind scenic train ride through the Rockies. Enjoy a fabulous meal of local ingredients on board as you watch the scenery zoom past outside. If you’re feeling like a thrill, try whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River or fly above the Royal Gorge on the world’s highest zipline.
In the mood for a more relaxing day trip? Colorado Springs has some adorable shops, plenty of incredible breweries, and tasty eateries to enjoy. You can also pay a visit to the U.S Olympic and Paralympic Museum or the state-of-the-art Olympic training facilities in Colorado Springs.
Although it’s super close to the Mile High City, Colorado Springs works even better as a weekend trip from Denver. There’s more to see than you can fit in comfortably in 24 hours. Also, due to the higher altitude, it’s a good idea to acclimate for a day before embarking on any strenuous outdoor activities.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is one of the coolest music venues in Colorado and one of the most amazing places in the country to catch your favorite bands performing. If your trip to Denver aligns with a show you’d like to see, go ahead and buy the tickets—you won’t regret it!
With incredible acoustics, a massive stage that emerges from the surrounding cliffs, and 365-degree views, the Red Rocks Amphitheatre is absolutely stunning. You’ll never forget seeing a concert here, and you’ll be delighted by the sensory experience.
Even if you aren’t keen on live music, it’s still worth a day trip from Denver. Multiple hiking trails wind throughout the gorgeous red rocks, letting you soak up the views of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains.
RELATED: Denver Weather by Season and Month
The Visitor Center is free and open daily and features exhibits dedicated to famous musicians who have rocked the theater over the years. Red Rocks Park is only a 40-minute drive from Denver.
Roxborough State Park
Looking to escape the busy city and get out into nature but only have a short amount of time to spare? Roxborough State Park is an ideal option. With a quick 40-minute drive from Denver, you’ll be in the heart of the mountains at this stunning Colorado state park. Enjoy several simple hiking trails of varying intensity, many of which are easy-to-moderate routes only about a mile long.
One of the coolest state parks near Denver, Roxborough State Park offers some nice short hikes that won’t exhaust you if you have a night on the town planned for later in the evening. You’ll have the opportunity to stop at several lookouts that offer incredible views of the park’s red rocks and huge rock formations. Roxborough State Park is a popular spot for photographers, especially during the spring wildflower bloom.
After you’ve enjoyed the trails, head to the nearby town of Roxborough Park for lunch. It’s an especially nice stop for families with kids, as there’s a community park with a large playground and a skate park for boarding, rollerskating, or biking. Both are free and open to the public.
Golden is home to the beloved Clear Creek, where Denver locals flock during summer to float down the pristine mountain stream on inflatable tubes. Perfect for escaping the heat, bring your own tube and enjoy the refreshing water and splash in the friendly whitewater rapids.
Even during the cooler months, there’s plenty to keep travelers busy around Golden, including gorgeous hiking trails just minutes from the town center, tasty local eateries for foodies, and the town’s famous Coors Brewery. Tour the brewery to learn how one of Colorado’s most beloved beers is created before enjoying tastings.
Golden is only about a 30-minute drive from Denver’s city center, making it a quick and easy day trip.
A world-famous destination for skiing and snowboarding, Breckenridge makes a fantastic all-season day trip from Denver. You can reach Breckenridge in about an hour and forty-five minutes. Once you arrive, the mountains will meet you with stunning views, and you’ll be greeted by one of the most picturesque ski towns in the United States.
Summertime in Breckenridge offers constant sunshine and endless miles of hiking trails for exploring the mountainous terrain. In the autumn, the multi-use recreation paths are perfect for mountain biking and walking alike to enjoy the changing season and the colorful fall leaves.
For a dose of history, hop onto a tour, caving through the old Country Boy Mine from back when Breckenridge was an off-the-beaten-path gold mining town. Or take a free gondola ride to Peak 8, the iconic original base ski village.
When the snow falls on the slopes, it’s time to break out the skis—but don’t stop there! Enjoy snow sledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and even dog sledding.
After you’ve had your fill of the sun and snow, head to the historic Breckenridge Main Street, which is lined with adorable shops and restaurants perfect for picking up a great souvenir.
If skiing or snowboarding is on your Denver to-do list, head to Vail. It’s a quick hour and forty-minute drive from Denver, making it one of the most easily accessible ski towns in Colorado. Winter sports lovers from the city flock to Vail every weekend during ski season.
Vail Mountain has been a popular skiing destination since the 1960s. Today, you can experience 33 ski lifts and multiple skiable routes for all levels regardless of experience or skill. Once you’ve taken your fill of the fluffy powder, eat a mouthwatering meal at one of the gourmet restaurants in town before returning to Denver.
RELATED: Top-Rated Things to Do in Vail
If you’re visiting Vail in the summer months, don’t miss Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. The gardens feature a beautiful representation of all of the native plants that grow in the Colorado mountain ecosystem. The Vail Scenic Gondola offers incredible panoramic views year-round. Enjoy plenty of hiking trails like Booth Fall Trail and Shrine Mountain Trail.
Cross another state off your list during your Denver vacation with a visit to Cheyenne, WY. You can get to Cheyenne, the capital of the vast state of Wyoming, in just over an hour and a half drive from Denver.
On a visit to Cheyenne, you’ll have the chance to experience the magic of the American Frontier. Cheyenne celebrates the history of the Wild West, making it the perfect place to visit if you are a history buff.
Visit the cowboy-themed museum Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, attend a real rodeo, or take a tour of all the historic architecture. The Historic Governors’ Mansion, built in 1904, offers a particularly interesting tour.
While walking around town, you’ll most certainly come across the Boots of Cheyenne. Scattered around the city, this collection of more than 25 boot sculptures, created by local artisans, make for great photo opportunities.
If history isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty to explore here. Cheyenne is a haven for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, with great hiking and rivers to paddle. Get up close and personal with bison at Terry Bison Ranch. At the ranch, you can also enjoy a fun train ride through the prairie here or rent ATVs for an exhilarating off-road adventure.
Cherry Creek State Park, CO
If you’re craving some room to roam, you’ll find it in Cherry Creek State Park, Denver’s backyard playground. Located just 20 minutes southeast of Downtown Denver, this scenic oasis sprawls over 4,000 acres, and with a multitude of water and land activities, it’s a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts.
Anchored around an 880-acre reservoir, Cherry Creek State Park embraces a natural prairie environment of gentle, rolling hills set against a majestic Rocky Mountain backdrop.
Pull on your hiking boots and explore 35 miles of multi-use trails designed for everyone, from newbies to old pros. Hop on a bike to explore the park’s thriving ecosystem and take in beautiful vistas of the reservoir, prairie, and wetlands around you. This natural haven is a popular hangout for bald eagles, hawks, and earthbound critters, so keep your binoculars handy.
Waterside, take a dip, sail, kayak, paddleboard, jet ski, or pull out your fishing rod. Bring the pooch along because this park is home to over one hundred acres of off-leash doggie heaven.
Having too much fun to leave? Stake out a campsite, fire up a grill and hunker down to take in sunset views of the Rocky Mountains.