Boulder is one of my favorite cities in Colorado. The views and the vibe are awesome. But one of the best things about the city is its strategic location, which provides a huge variety of nearby attractions that can be easily enjoyed via day trips from Boulder.
Whether you’re a local or just visiting Boulder, this post will help plan some excursions to some of the best excursions you can take in a day. Whether you want outdoor mountain adventures or big-city museums and food, you can get to it all pretty easily from Boulder!
Oh, and before you dive in, be sure to bookmark my mega list of the best stuff to do in Boulder. It’ll help you come up with fun activities for those days you just don’t feel like venturing out for one of these day trips.
Table of Contents
- 25 Best Boulder Day Trips
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Brainard Lake
- Fort Collins
- Castlewood Canyon State Park
- Red Feather Lakes
- Eldorado Springs
- Red Rocks & Morrison
- Golden Gate Canyon State Park
- Wild Animal Sanctuary
- Mt. Evans
- Colorado Springs
- Pikes Peak
- Central City/Black Hawk
- Estes Park
- Lookout Mountain
- Cheyenne, Wyoming
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25 Best Boulder Day Trips
It may be an obvious one, but the Mile High City is definitely one of the most fun day trips from Boulder! There’s so much to do and see in Denver that you could make several day trips to the city and still have more to do.
Visit the Colorado State Capitol Building, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, or the Denver Art Museum. Then grab a handcrafted cocktail and dinner at the Dairy Block. If you need some new reading material, hit up one of three Tattered Cover bookstores downtown.
👉 Pro Tip: Denver makes for a fun weekend getaway if you want an overnight city. Check out our guide to where to stay and our epic list of the top Denver hotels if you’re looking for a weekend city break.
Nederland sits along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway that runs from I-70 to Estes Park, so you can take a drive for amazing mountain views! Kids (and adults) will have a blast on the Carousel of Happiness with its hand-carved animals. You will also find tons of hiking trails throughout the area – one of the prettiest is a 1.4-mile hike to Lost Lake which is pictured above.
After a day of hiking, treat yourself to dessert or coffee at The Train Cars Coffee, a coffee shop located in a train car that’s over 100 years old!
Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance from Boulder: One hour | Google Maps | Rocky Mountain National Park Website | 👉 Discover Rocky Mountain National Park from Boulder
Travel Lemming’s #1 recommended day trip from Denver is also a great excursion from Boulder too.
Rocky Mountain National Park has everything from easy trails for kids to serious mountain climbing to the top of Longs Peak, and it’s just an hour’s drive from Boulder! The Sprague Lake Loop takes you on an easy walk around a lake that perfectly reflects the mountains.
The Moraine Park Discovery Center has exhibits for young kids to explore, and the drive up Trail Ridge Road takes you above 12,000 feet and gives you the best overview of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Brainard Lake has hiking trails, places to fish, and places for mountain biking as well. The lake is also well-known for being a great place to snowshoe and cross-country ski in winter and there are several trails people use for winter activities.
Frisco is definitely one of the most fun day trips from Boulder! It’s nestled in the Rocky Mountains, next to Lake Dillon, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to do. Check out the Adventure Park – in summer, you can go biking, hiking, skateboarding, or play disc golf.
In winter, the park transforms into a tubing hill with some beginner skiing and riding available, too. You can also hike in the area, or boat on the lake. Downtown Frisco has quaint shops and places to eat so you can make a day of it.
Downtown Fort Collins was the inspiration for the creator of Disneyland’s Main Street USA, and you can definitely see similarities when you wander the area!
Along with shopping and great restaurants, Fort Collins is home to the main campus of the Colorado State University system, and it’s well-known for the New Belgium Brewing company. There’s plenty of hiking and lots of water sports on the Horsetooth Reservoir also.
Castlewood Canyon State Park
Castlewood Canyon has a variety of hikes – paved trails at the top give you views of the canyon, or you can take the dirt trails down to the creek at the bottom where you can cool off. You can also hike to see the remains of the Castlewood Dam, which burst in 1933 and sent a huge wave into Denver. There are several rock climbing areas at the park also.
Oh, and Castlewood Canyon is home to one of the largest turkey vulture populations in all of Colorado during the summer, in case you want to do a little bird-watching!
Red Feather Lakes
The Red Feather Lakes are a quieter, less popular area of Colorado (most people seem to congregate farther south) but that’s the exact reason why they’re a great place to visit!
The area is surrounded by the Roosevelt National Forest and the Cache La Poudre River is nearby with fishing, kayaking, and whitewater rafting. The Shambhala Mountain Center is a nice place to retreat and meditate on the beauty all around.
Breckenridge is a gorgeous mountain town in Summit County, nestled in the Rocky Mountains. There’s a world-class ski resort there if you visit in winter, and in summer you can go mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and walk through the historic downtown area.
More than just a ski resort town, Breckenridge offers plenty of shopping and restaurants. Or you can check out the informative and fun tour at Breckenridge Distillery.
Golden is a historic town that’s just twenty minutes from Denver and half an hour from Boulder. Browse the shops and restaurants along the main street, or take a brewery tour at the Coors Brewery. You can also go tubing on Clear Creek River during the summer (just be prepared for some chilly water), or visit the excellent Colorado Railroad Museum.
For a real treat, head up Lookout Mountain for some sweeping panoramic views of the Front Range. These are truly some of the most spectacular views you’ll find in the area. So fantastic the mountain earns its own entry on this list of the best day trips from Boulder.
Eldorado Springs is home to Eldorado Canyon State Park, where you can go hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and take amazing nature photographs. Eldorado Canyon is also well-known for its rock climbing.
Not far from the park is the historic Eldorado Springs Swimming pool, which opened in 1905. The pool is fed from an artesian spring and is a popular swimming spot more than a century later.
👉 Pro Tip: The Eldorado Swimming Pool is currently closed for renovations. Be sure to check their website for the latest.
Red Rocks & Morrison
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is an iconic spot to visit if you’re near Boulder or Denver! It’s a favorite concert venue for many musicians because of the views and the smaller, more intimate space.
But Red Rocks is a great spot during the day as well – there are hiking trails throughout the park, and you can check out the Colorado Music Hall of Fame and the Visitor Center to learn more about the famous musicians who played there. At less than an hour drive from Boulder, Red Rocks makes for an easy but fun day trip from Boulder.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Golden Gate Canyon is a beautiful park in Golden that’s popular with locals for hiking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, and rock climbing. The park allows dogs on leashes, so it’s a great place to hike with your furry pal as an easy excursion from Boulder.
Wild Animal Sanctuary
The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg encompasses thousands of acres on the Colorado plains, where animals including lions and tigers and, yes, bears, have been rescued from terrible experiences in captivity.
They’re rehabilitated and they roam natural habitats at the sanctuary. Visitors can watch the animals from a catwalk high above the enclosures and can learn about the work the animal sanctuary does to help them.
👉 Pro Tip: If you’re visiting in summer, it can get very hot! Plan a summer trip for earlier in the morning or closer to the end of the day – you’ll see more animals that way, too.
Lyons makes a fun day trip from Boulder, and it’s also a good spot to stop off on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park. There are parks and open space areas where you can go hiking, biking, and fishing. Downtown Lyons is small, but with some fun places to visit like the original Oskar Blues Grill and Brew.
Be sure to check out Lyons Classic Pinball, which boasts they have Colorado’s largest public collection of pinball games. It’s worth the trip all on its own!
Evergreen is a quaint little town in the foothills of the Rockies, with a lake and a downtown area. In summer, you can paddleboard or rent a pedal boat to ride on the lake.
In winter, you can ice skate or ice fish. Wander downtown for the shops and restaurants like the Wildflower Cafe and Revival Brews.
Mt. Evans is one of only two “fourteeners” (mountains over 14,000 ft high) where you can drive to the summit. The drive makes a great day trip from Boulder – just be sure to take your time and pull off frequently. At a little over 10,000 feet up you’ll reach Echo Lake, which is a great spot for a picnic before you reach the summit.
👉 Pro Tip: Because of weather conditions, the road to the top of Mt. Evans is generally open Memorial Day to Labor Day, so be sure to check its current status to be sure before planning a trip.
Probably the top attraction here is Garden of the Gods Park, which is a great place to spend the day. You can also test your athleticism on the Manitou Incline (yes, we all wheeze like that, you’re not alone), or hike the Broadmoor Seven Falls. Reward yourself afterward with ice cream in nearby town of Manitou Springs!
📚Related Reading: If you’re spending a few days in Colorado Springs, check out our list of 22 Fun Day Trips to take in the Colorado Spring area!
Pikes Peak is a bit of a drive, but it’s an unforgettable day trip from Boulder! You can drive to the top of the peak, or take the newly restored Cog Railway for a fun ride to the top. There are lots of places to stop and admire the scenery along the way, and nearby towns where you can grab ice cream or coffee before heading back to Boulder.
Along with Rocky Mountain National Park, Pikes Peak is easily one of the most famous places to visit in the Colorado mountains.
Central City/Black Hawk
Central City and Black Hawk are one and a half miles apart, so you can even walk from one mountain town to the other! The towns are each home to several casinos and you could easily spend your day hitting the slots.
Central City also has a historic area, and nearby Nevadaville is a ghost town you can explore. As with most Colorado mountain towns, there’s also plenty of hiking and mountain biking. The towns are along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway if you want to take a scenic drive.
Estes Park is a small town best known for being the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. However, there’s a lot to do in town also!
Visit the Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King to write The Shining after his stay at the Stanley Hotel. There are plenty of shops and restaurants downtown, and hiking and fishing nearby. You can even try whitewater rafting, or golfing while you’re there.
So definitely visit Rocky Mountain National Park, but plan to spend some time in Estes Park as well. It’s worth its own weekend getaway or day trip from Boulder, Colorado!
Part of the fun of this day trip from Boulder is the stops along the way. Take a few minutes to visit Buffalo Bill’s Grave, and stop off in Genesee Park to see the bison herd that grazes alongside I-70.
When you get to Lookout Mountain, there are several trails for all levels of hikers. The nature center has lots of information on wildlife at the park, and kids will love the special area just for them! The Arts & Crafts style Boettcher Mansion next to the nature center is fun to walk through also.
Keystone is a great ski resort in winter, with plenty of trails for snowboarding or skiing, but there’s lots to do in summer as well! You can bike or hike, or take part in a yoga class at the top of the mountain. The area also has a golf course, mountain bike park, stables, and a lakeside village.
Georgetown is striking because the little town sits right under these huge mountain cliffs that seem to jut up on all sides. You definitely know you’re in Colorado here! The historic downtown area has shops, restaurants, and ice cream.
Kids (and anyone who loves trains) will enjoy the Georgetown Loop Railroad, which is a narrow-gauge train ride. For even more scenery, take the drive over Guanella Pass for breathtaking views.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how close Boulder is to Wyoming! If you want to put another pin in your “States I’ve Visited” map, or just want to really get out of town for the day, head up to Cheyenne.
In summer, you can see Western skits and gunfights in Gunslinger Square, or check out a local rodeo. There’s plenty of hiking, boating, fishing, and cross-country skiing or iceboating in winter.
Hopefully, these suggestions have given you an idea for a day trip (or several!) from Boulder!
What’s your favorite excursion around Boulder? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Enjoy Boulder and your adventures around the area!