With its central location, Denver is only a few hours from many of the state’s most fascinating points of interest, including the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Garden of the Gods. Whether you’re looking for a short trip, weekend getaway, or week-long adventure, you’ll find plenty of day trips near Denver.
1. Alpine getaway in White River National Forest
As one of the most-visited national parks in the country, White River National Forest is one of the best day trips from Denver. Spanning over 2 million acres, White River National Forest holds a number of Colorado’s tourist gems, including Breckenridge and Snowmass.
White River National Forest also has separate wilderness areas across the alpine landscape for hiking, trekking, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities. You can also drive on several roadways to take in the views of the park.
2. Outdoor fun in Boulder
Located less than an hour from Denver, Boulder is the ideal place for outdoor adventure. You’ll find over 31,000 acres of lush parkland filled with hiking trails, dramatic rock formations, and glistening waterways teeming with wildlife. Attractions like Flatirons, Chautauqua Park, and Eldorado Canyon State Park are all in Boulder.
If you prefer culture and nightlife, the downtown area of Boulder has numerous bars, restaurants, and unique locations for sightseeing.
3. Natural splendor in Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is the perfect place for a relaxing getaway from Denver. This collection of striking red rock formations in Colorado Springs is located about an hour and a half from Denver. Created by a geological occurrence millions of years ago, the Garden of the Gods rock formations are a natural work of art that spans over 1,000 acres of land. You can also take four-wheel tours or climb some of the rock formations for a more adventurous outing.
4. Winter wonderland in Aspen
Colorado is known for its ski resorts and dramatic peaks, but Aspen is one of its most notable, and it’s only a couple of hours from Denver. Located in the Elk Mountains of the expansive White River National Forest, Aspen is a former 19th-century mining town that now boasts some of the most impressive winter peaks in the country.
Aspen has four trail-covered mountains and terrain for an array of winter sports, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and hot-air ballooning. Despite the winter fun, Aspen is an outdoor playground year-round, and many visitors enjoy hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and other warm-weather sports in the spring, summer, and fall.
5. Adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park
Located less than two hours from Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most-visited national parks in the country and a must-see day or weekend getaway. This protected natural reserve includes grasslands, shrub lands, forests, lakes, glaciers, alpine tundra, and the picturesque Rocky Mountains that are an outdoor playground for adventure-sport enthusiasts.
Visitors to the park enjoy hiking, camping, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, swimming, and water sports, among other activities. You can also drive down Trail Ridge Road, a long, scenic road that runs through the park and offers views of the landscape from the comfort of a car.
6. Scenic vistas in Buffalo Overlook
Just a short drive from Denver, the Buffalo Overlook is a point of interest in Genesee Park where you can watch peaceful bison roam across the landscape. This location is known for hosting the first reestablished North American bison herds in Colorado in 1914. The overlook is accessible by car, bike, or on foot.
7. Ski paradise in Vail
Beginning in the 60s, Vail became known for its premier ski resort, a skier’s paradise that draws visitors from all over the world. Located at the base of Vail Mountain, the tallest mountain in Colorado, this town is part of the idyllic White River National Forest. The mountain offers multiple ski slopes, nearly 200 marked trails and several lifts, as well as alpine amenities across the town. Accommodation, restaurants, shops, and spas are found throughout.
In spring and summer, the mountainous landscape offers warm-weather sports like zip lining, swimming, hiking, water sports, and gondola rides. No matter the season, Vail is an excellent day trip from Denver for an outdoor enthusiast.
8. Charming retreat in Fairplay
The former Gold Rush town of Fairplay is a short day trip from Denver that offers a range of indoor and outdoor activities. The quaint mountain town has several historic museums and world-class art galleries that showcase the lifestyle and history of the Gold Rush, as well as attractions for gold panning for all ages.
For outdoor adventurers, Fairplay’s location on the Mosquito Mountain Range makes it ideal for a weekend of skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, mountaineering, and ice climbing. In summer, many visitors enjoy rafting, fishing, and fly fishing in the waterways.
9. Paleo paradise at Dinosaur National Monument
The Dinosaur National Monument is a fascinating must-see attraction that’s only hours from Denver. The vast national park site offers an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs that once roamed in the western United States. Paleontologists have identified over 1,500 dinosaur fossils that have been preserved in the face of the monument, which stretches between Utah and Colorado.
The site also has the Quarry Exhibit Hall, which includes petroglyphs and pictographs that have been carved into stone by the pre-Columbian Fremont people who once lived there. With so much to see, it is worth taking a weekend trip to explore the Dinosaur National Monument.
10. Dune playground in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Just a few hours from Denver is the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, a hidden gem of tall sand dunes, forest, tundra, and grasslands for a variety of novel outdoor activities. In addition to camping or hiking, you can ride sand sleds on 750-foot sand peaks, swim in the creeks at the base, or stargaze at clear skies unencumbered by trees.
11. Prehistoric wonder at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is a fascinating display of prehistoric fossils that’s found under two hours from Denver. Fossils from over 1,700 species, including insects, fish, plants, trees, and mammals are showcased within the facility.
Animal lovers will also enjoy the array of extant wildlife that roam the grounds. The montane habitat is home to deer, mountain lions, coyotes, and multiple birds of prey that can be seen on hiking trails, and you may see them while taking a tour of the premises.
12. Scenic vistas at Pikes Peak
If you’re looking for a tranquil day trip from downtown Denver, Pikes Peak offers an unforgettable experience. Like most of Colorado, Pikes Peak gained famed during the Gold Rush of the 19th century, but it’s now a popular tourist destination for nature lovers. Standing at 14,000 feet, visitors can reach the summit of Pikes Peak by car, on foot, or via the Cog Railway, a rail line that travels to the summit to provide sweeping views of the awe-inspiring landscape.
13. History and heritage in Golden
History buffs will enjoy a day trip from Denver to Golden, a historic town that celebrates the pioneering history of Colorado. In addition to the Coors Brewery, which offers tours and tastings, Golden has numerous museums and historic sites to explore. The Colorado Railroad Museum, a railway museum with artifacts of railway history and a historic train for scenic rides, is one of its highlights. Buffalo Bill’s grave and a museum chronicling his legacy are also located within the town, which holds Native American artifacts, Western art, firearms, and arrows.
14. Culture and thrills in Central City and Black Hawk
History and culture enthusiasts will enjoy the day or weekend getaway to Central City and Black Hawk, twin towns with restored historic buildings that offer a glimpse into the early settlements of Colorado. The towns regularly host theater productions and street parties that showcase the history and heritage of the area. You can also enjoy gambling at one of the many popular casinos located on the main street.
15. Wildlife encounters at the Wild Animal Sanctuary
Animal lovers will appreciate a trip from Denver to the Wild Animal Sanctuary, a rescue and educational facility for wildlife that’s just a short drive from the city. Over 300 large carnivore species are free to roam at the sanctuary, and it’s one of the only locations where you can see large groups of carnivores in naturalistic habitats.
16. Road trip on the Mount Evans Scenic Byway
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is a trip that’s more about the journey than the destination. Spanning over 14,000 miles to the summit of Mount Evans, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway takes you along the slope near the peak to enjoy the spectacular views of the landscape from a dedicated viewing platform. To reach the summit, there’s a hiking trailhead from which you can travel another quarter mile on foot. Hiking and biking trails along the mountain can take you to the summit without a vehicle, so you can glimpse local wildlife, such as mountain goats, big horn sheep, and marmots.
17. Dining and shopping in Estes Park
Known for the purportedly haunted Stanley Hotel that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining, Estes Park is a unique destination northwest of Denver. You can take a tour of the hotel and enjoy a different kind of spirit at the Whiskey Bar, or spend your day hiking, fishing, or watching for wildlife in the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. In town, you’ll also find art, jewelry, and housewares stores along the main street.
18. Rejuvenating vacation in Conundrum Hot Springs
Isolated deep in the Rockies, Conundrum Hot Springs is a primitive collection of geothermal springs near Aspen. Only accessible by trail, Conundrum Hot Springs are among the highest hot springs in North America and offer unrivaled views of the surrounding wilderness, such as waterfalls, snow-covered peaks, and colorful wildflowers. In addition to being one of the top day trips from Denver, you can also camp at the site to enjoy the springs for a weekend getaway.
From the great Rocky Mountains to the sites of Colorado Springs, there’s plenty to do near Denver to make the most of your trip. Just hop in a rental car and enjoy a weekend getaway or short trip to one of the fantastic destinations near the Mile High City.