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.
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:
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:
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.