These are the must-see stops on a Colorado road trip — including national parks, hiking trails, a red rock amphitheater, and more!
Colorado has always been a place known for flawless views and landscapes which makes it a great state to road trip through. The long winding roads, the national parks and monuments, there really is no end to the list.
There is so much more to Colorado than what you can see on a once-a-year ski vacation. Consider a road trip to see all that it truly has to offer. Because there are so many things to do and see, here is a list of absolute must-sees to plan around when devising your trip!
Colorado Road Trip Itinerary
Known as the “Mile High City”, Denver is the capital of Colorado so there is no question there is a lot to see! Situated at 5280 feet above sea level, the city offs beautiful sights, as well as many other unique restaurants and experiences.
While visiting Denver, I highly recommend making a stop in Boulder, Colorado, a 30-minute drive from Denver. Boulder has become a popular destination over the years as it’s the perfect combination of urban and outdoors.
Where to Stay in Denver:
Red Rock Amphitheatre
The Red Rock Amphitheatre is an open-air theater build into an incredible rock structure. It is worth seeing even if you’re not going for the live music. If there is a show in town, it may be worth it to check that out as well as it is considered one of the most beautiful music venues in the entire country.
The amphitheater is created naturally around the rocks and you are greeted with views of downtown Denver as well as the surrounding hills and trails. If you’re not interested in the music, that’s okay! There are hiking trails surrounding the theater that make it worth the trip.
Union Station can be referred to as “Denver’s Living Room”. It is a 100-year-old landmark in the heart of Downtown Denver that holds the city’s top restaurants, bars and shopping. If you’re not so much into all the outdoor adventures that Colorado has to offer, Union Station is a vibrant and trendy area to show you the trendier side of the Centennial State.
Where to Stay in Union Station:
Though the springs can be an amazing picturesque moment, be sure to include Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods in your visit to Colorado Springs.
The real gem of Pikes Peak are the views from the 14,000-foot summit, which makes it a popular destination for travelers. Because of its allure, is recommended to make a reservation for your trip to ensure easy parking and a hassle-free experience.
Pikes Peak actually inspired the song “America the Beautiful”, and if that does not speak to the sheer grace to be witnessed there — nothing else will.
Just a short drive from Pikes Peak you will find Garden of the Gods.
Garden of the Gods Park is a National Natural Landmark full of immense red sandstone rock formations, endless hiking trails, and incomparable scenery. This park was voted the best city park in the country as well as the second best in the world!
Where to Stay in Colorado Springs
Did you know that the largest mineral hot spring in the world is located in Colorado? Glenwood Springs offers uninterrupted views, underground caves, hiking trails and the ability to relax and enjoy the hot, natural spring water.
Nature lovers must make a stop at Maroon Bells, about an hour’s drive from Glenwood Springs. With five trails to choose from — from easy to moderate — there’s hiking options for all types of travelers.
Where to Stay in Glenwood Springs
This former mining town is full of picturesque waterfalls, hot springs, cliff walls and even a gondola that can allow you to get an even better view of the spectacular stop. There are many natural wonders that will leave you in awe.
During the winter months this is a notably big ski community. The Telluride Ski Resort is open year-round to travelers who are interested in exploring this Gold Rush territory more!
Be sure to stop at Bridal Veil Falls — at 365 ft, it is noted as the highest free-falling waterfall in Colorado. Though it breathtaking to view in the warmer months, in the winter it can be an exciting challenge to ice climbers!
Colorado National Monument
Set on over 20,000 acres of incomparable views, the Colorado National Monument is full of nothing less than stunning red rock! Within the last few years, the monument has grown in popularity and is visited by over 400,000 people annually.
Serpents trail, Red Canyon Overlook, Fallen Rock Overlook, Highland View Overlook, UTE Canyon, and Grand View are just a few of the iconic trails to go down while visiting this stunning monument.
Where to Stay Near Colorado National Monument
Great Sand Dunes National Park
If the sand is more of your scene, be sure to stop at Great Sand Dunes National Park. It is known for 30 square miles of towering sand dunes including the tallest sand dune in North America. The best part about this park is that it is open day and night so you can stop by at your leisure!
Where to Stay Near Great Sand Dunes NP
Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park
A hidden gem to add to your list is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This is one of the least visited parks in Colorado so it is a great escape from the crowds at the other parks. The Black Canyon is deep, steep and incredibly dark. There are trails around the northern and southern rims of the park that give you plenty to see.
Where to Stay Near Black Canyon of The Gunnison NP
Read more: The Ultimate Packing List for Campers
Rocky Mountain National Park
One of the most iconic parks in Colorado has to be the Rocky Mountain National Park. This park has tranquil mountain views, forests, glistening lakes and alpine tundra.
With plenty to see and do, this is a highlight to add to your trip’s itinerary. It covers a total area of 265,461 acres, including 300 miles of hiking trails and wildlife so spending more than one day here would be ideal in order to take in all that it truly has to offer.
Many times, we focus on the destination, not the journey. The great part of a road trip is that you have so much time to enjoy what is around you. Sometimes driving down the road can be more beautiful than your final stop. There are so many ways you can drive through this serene state.
However; there are two road ways to be sure to factor into your drive.
Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road is considered one of the most beautiful drives in America. It is a 48-mile span of highway throughout the Rocky Mountain National Park. Due to the area’s large amount of snowfall, the road is typically open from the end of May through October.
Million Dollar Highway
The Million Dollar Highway is a 25-mile road that tends to be known as a sort of “rite of passage” to roadtrippers through Colorado. You will go through Durango, Silverton and Ouray and climb 3 large mountains. Unlike Trail Ridge Road, the Million Dollar Highway is open year-round, though inclement weather has been known to make the drive tripterous.
With these striking views comes some risk. This roadway has no guardrails even with its dramatic drops and tight turns. It requires your complete attention, though it is so stunning I’m sure that won’t be a problem.
Colorado Packing Essentials
Winter Gear: If you decide to road trip through Colorado during winter, you’ll want to take advantage of the ski culture. Be sure to bring a pair of snow pants, ski goggles, a beanie, snow boots, and a pair of heavy-duty mittens.
Summer Gear: Sunscreen, sunglasses, a swimsuit, and a wide-brimmed hat will have you all set for your summer in Colorado. Additionally, remember to bring a light sweater or jacket as nights can get chilly.
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