4 of the Best Day Trips in Colorado

It's almost always sunny in Colorado, so take advantage of the state's natural charms with these mini getaways.


Article QuickTakes:

Ah, Colorful Colorado. You don’t have to go far to find beauty and good roads in this sunny, mountainous state. These short road-trip itineraries will get you out of the city to see some gems without using much gas.

Denver to Nederland

Looking for something funky? Look no further than Nederland, a small town west of Boulder just shy of the Continental Divide. You’ll find art galleries, quirky shops, and some great food. Plus, it’s beautiful; the only way in is on twisty canyon roads, and when you arrive, you’re greeted by Barker Reservoir and views of snow-capped Rockies in the distance.

Getting there: From downtown Denver, head due west on U.S. 6, which will take you past Golden, home to Coors Brewing Company; stop for a snack or, if you have a designated driver, the brewery tour, which runs $20 per person and includes three “free” samples. U.S. 6 turns into CO 93 and heads north toward Boulder. Make a left onto CO 72. Follow that past Coal Creek to the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway and you’re essentially there. The trip takes a little over an hour without stops, but you’ll want to make stops at the lookouts. Once you’ve had your fill of Nederland, head back to Denver on CO 119, which takes you through Boulder Canyon and past Boulder Falls.

Colorado Springs to Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak, the site of the annual Race to the Clouds, is now fully paved, and you can drive your own car right up to the 14,115-foot summit. You’ll do so at a more sensible pace than the racers, of course, but that should allow you to take in the scenery. A few things to note: Timed-entry reservations are required for those driving to the top during peak travel season, so plan ahead for summer visits. Weather can close part or all of the road, so check conditions before you go. If you’re not interested in the drive, the Cog Railway will take you to the summit in a little over an hour. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Getting there: From Colorado Springs, head northwest on U.S. 24 past Manitou Springs to the Pikes Peak Highway. Check in at the gate, and from there, it’s 19 miles (and about 6000 feet) to the top.

Fort Collins to Rocky Mountain National Park

Now you’re really in the Rockies. The park offers 415 square miles of outdoor variety; take a hike, spot some wildlife, drive Bear Lake Road, or camp for the night. For the indoor types, you can stop in Estes Park and take a tour of the Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining. Plan ahead: Park admission requires a timed-entry reservation for day use, and because this is nature, check for closures and advisories before setting off.

Getting there: From Fort Collins, choose your favorite road and head south to pick up U.S. 34. You’ll travel west through the twisties until you come to Estes Park, then follow signs to one of the park’s entrances.

Durango to Telluride

We didn’t forget about the west side of the state. Telluride isn’t exactly easy to get to, but it’s worth it, and the drive is gorgeous no matter which route you choose. Once there, you’ll find a well-kept mountain town with galleries, shops, and a pretty great ski area, plus several festivals throughout the year. Plus, there’s free public transportation via gondola; take the 12-minute ride up to Mountain Village for a bird’s-eye view of Telluride and the surrounding landscape. Bonus: You’re driving from the namesake of one three-row SUV to another.

Getting there: The direct route takes about two hours. Head west on U.S. 160 to CO 184. Hook up with CO 145 north. You’ll know you’re getting close when you pass Wilson Peak, a 14er that you might recognize from a can of Coors Light.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.
author photo
David Gluckman
David Gluckman has over a decade of experience as a writer and editor for print and digital automotive publications. He can parallel park a school bus, has a spreadsheet listing every vehicle he’s ever tested, and once drove a Lincoln Town Car 63 mph in reverse. When David’s not searching for the perfect used car, you can find him sampling the latest gimmicky foodstuffs that America has to offer.