Sure, Denver gets all the tourism love in Colorado, but the location of Colorado Springs smack dab in the middle of the state makes it the perfect base for day trips from Colorado Springs. The Springs, as the city is known by locals, makes a great home base for some seriously cool adventures. The hardest part is simply choosing which trip to take on any given weekend!
Never worry, because in this post, I’ll quickly break down the 22 best day excursions from Colorado Springs.
I bet there are some on this list you’ve never heard of!
Table of Contents
- 22 Best Colorado Springs Day Trips
- Garden of the Gods
- Red Rock Canyon
- Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Cave of the Winds Mountain Park
- Eldorado Canyon State Park
- Woodland Park
- Idaho Springs
- Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
- Manitou Springs
- Pikes Peak Highway
- The Broadmoor Seven Falls
- Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site
- Indian Peaks Wilderness
- Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center
- Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway
- Phantom Canyon Road
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22 Best Colorado Springs Day Trips
Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods park is the most visited spot in the area, and makes for an easy day trip from Colorado Springs. The impressive red rocks jutting up into the sky are a good reminder of how the state got its name (which means “colored red” in Spanish). The park has easy, mostly paved trails that make it a great place for families or people with limited mobility. Be sure to stop by the Visitor Center for a breathtaking view of Pikes Peak, one of the most photographed spots in the state.
👉 Pro tip: Want to try rock climbing for the first time? This private rock climbing tour takes beginner to intermediate climbers rock climbing right inside the park. It’s definitely a spectacular setting to learn a new skill!
Red Rock Canyon
If you want the red sandstone rock formations, but not the crowds of Garden of the Gods, add Red Rock Canyon Open Space to your list of day trips from Colorado Springs instead. Red Rock Canyon is a great spot that offers more strenuous hiking trails, along with mountain biking and rock climbing options. There are even dog loop trails that allow you to take your furry friend off-leash to hike with you.
Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
The suspension bridge at Royal Gorge, which spans the Arkansas River far below, is one of the highest in the entire country. Along with the hair-raising experience of walking across the Royal Gorge bridge, Royal Gorge park is also home to the highest zip line in America. You can also ride the The Royal Rush Skycoaster or ride aerial gondolas over the gorge for some truly amazing pictures. You’ll soon realize why Royal Gorge is definitely one of the best day trips from Colorado Springs for families!
👉 Don’t miss: Our guide to the 14 best day trips from Denver for even more ideas on how to explore Colorado.
Paint Mines Interpretive Park
It’s easy to see how Paint Mines Interpretive Park got its name! The multicolored clay found in the hills of Paint Mines Interpretive Park was made by oxidized iron compounds, and was used by Native Americans to make paint. While you explore the four miles of hiking trails in Paint Mines Interpretive Park, interpretive signs along the path will help you understand the history and science of the area.
Rocky Mountain National Park
This is one of the longer day trips from Colorado Springs on this list, but it is well worth it. You’ll love the scenic views of the Rocky Mountains reflected in Sprague Lake, the drive over Trail Ridge Road (which tops out at over 12,000 feet above sea level), the endless biking and hiking trails, and the incredibly diverse wildlife you’ll encounter. If you’re too tired to make the journey back to Colorado Springs that night, book a hotel in Estes Park, a charming town right outside the entrance.
👉 Pro tip: RMNP currently is requiring reservations and has a timed entry system to get into the park. Be sure to plan ahead for this Colorado Springs day trip!
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Spend the day at the tallest sand dunes in North America and check a national park off your bucket list at the same time! The Great Sand Dunes have plenty of hiking and exploring, but you can also try your hand at sandboarding or sand sledding down the dunes. Medano Creek is also a great place to cool off if you hit the park before it dries out for the summer. Whatever you do, you’ll soon realize why Great Sand Dunes National Park is one of the best destinations in the state of Colorado.
Cave of the Winds Mountain Park
The Jicarilla Apaches believed the Great Spirit of the Wind lived in the Cave of the Winds. Today, touring the spectacular caves is one of the most popular day trips from Colorado Springs. Besides the cave, other attractions at the park including climbing a Challenge Course, panning for gold, or riding the Adventure Slide.
👉 Local tip: After your time at the caves, stop in Manitou Springs to see the quaint shops and treat yourself to some ice cream before heading home!
Eldorado Canyon State Park
Eldorado Canyon State Park has just about everything you’d imagine from the Colorado outdoors – beautiful rock formations, amazing scenery, incredible hiking trails through pine trees and forests, and a river. You can rock climb, hike, or bring along a picnic and just enjoy the time outside. Eldorado Canyon State Park is immensely popular and can fill up fast on weekends – your best bet is to get there early, or visit on a weekday if you can.
Distance from Colorado Springs: 30 minutes | Google Maps
Even just the half hour drive to Woodland Park makes this a worthwhile Colorado Springs day trip! You’ll wind through the Rocky Mountains on your way to Woodland Park, where you can hike to Horsethief Falls or look for wildlife at Mueller State Park. If you have kids (or dino-loving adults), the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center shares stories of the dinosaurs they found and there’s a working fossil lab where you can watch specimens being unearthed.
There’s plenty to do in Idaho Springs, including horseback riding, ATVing, touring a gold mine (and panning for gold yourself!), or wandering downtown shopping and looking at the historic buildings. Idaho Springs is also the sendoff point for whitewater rafting trips down Clear Creek, which guarantee you a true Colorado adventure.
👉 Local tip: Be sure to take the short walk to Charlie Taylor’s water wheel, which you can see right from I-70.
Denver makes for an obvious day trip from the Springs, but there are many more activities to do in Denver than you may realize. Go for a drive in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, where you can view bison against the backdrop of the gorgeous front range mountains. Dine or drink at the many restaurants and bars in the RiNo arts district, browse the city’s many world-class museums like the Denver Art Museum, or just wander the fantastic Denver Botanical Gardens.
Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
The Arkansas River sports more than 152 miles of river perfect for rafting, including more than 80 rapids ranging from Class II to Class V. You can also simply float on the river, or mountain bike, picnic, rock climb, and even pan for gold in the Arkansas River valley. It’s a longer drive from Colorado Springs, but well worth it for adventurers.
📚 Don’t Miss Our Guide to the Best Things to Do in Colorado – Check it out here. It’s packed with tons of awesome adventures and activities around the state!
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Learn about Colorado’s prehistoric times at Florissant, where you can see petrified tree stumps, learn about the volcano that erupted in the area, and check out the Fossil Learning Lab where rangers demonstrate how they uncover fossils. The Hornbeck Homestead shares more about the life of a single mother who raised her four children there in the mid-1800s.
The small town of Frisco, tucked into the mountains next to Lake Dillon, offers plenty to do for adventurers and relaxation seekers alike! Take a boat ride on the lake, or rent a paddleboard for an afternoon. There’s a bike park with a pump track, a slopestyle course, a dirt jump facility, and a dual slalom course. Of course, Frisco also has plenty of hiking and mountain bike trails to explore on your own. You can also spend the day shopping and checking out the adorable coffee shops and delicious places to eat in Frisco’s downtown area.
🛏️ Want to Stay in Frisco Overnight? This is one of the further flung day trips from Colorado Springs, so you might consider staying over in Frisco. The Frisco Inn on Galena is a perfect option, as it has indoor and outdoor hot tubs with scenic mountain views, fireplaces, and coffee made from beans roasted on-site.
Distance from Colorado Springs: 15 minutes | Google Maps
True to its name, Manitou Springs offers relaxing hot springs that make for an easy day trip near Colorado Springs. You can take a dip and relax, or explore any of the many other activities in Manitou Springs. For a change of pace, spend some time at the Penny Arcade playing vintage pinball games. If you want to test your athleticism, try hiking the Manitou Incline, which gains almost 2,000 feet in elevation in less than a mile. You’ll be among the ranks of Olympic athletes and military soldiers who have hit the Incline for a seriously insane workout!
Pikes Peak Highway
Pikes Peak is one of Colorado’s 58 “fourteeners” – mountains that are 14,000 feet or higher. It is possible to climb Pikes Peak, but it’s much easier to drive to the top! Pikes Peak Highway takes you 19 miles up the mountain, with plenty of spots to pull off and appreciate the scenery or look for wildlife like bighorn sheep. There are even lakes along the way where you can take a break to fish. When you get to the top of Pikes Peak, on a clear day you can see five states and the curvature of the earth.
👉 Local tip: In summer, visitors to Pikes Peak must park at Mile 16 (of the 19 miles of highway) and take a free shuttle to the top.
The Broadmoor Seven Falls
The Seven Falls are the only waterfalls in Colorado to be listed on National Geographic’s International Waterfalls list. The impressive falls cascade 181 feet down. To view them, you’ll need to head up 220 steps before you get to the hiking trail to the top. Along with hiking the falls, you can zipline, rapel, or cross a rope bridge. If you need a break, there is a restaurant and gift shop on-site.
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site
Bent’s Fort wasn’t actually used for defense – it was a trading site in southeastern Colorado, along the Santa Fe Trail. Fur trappers came to the fort to trade with the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, and travelers would stop and rest awhile. Today you can visit the fort as part of the perfect Colorado Springs day trip for history lovers. You’ll love the living historians, who give a great feel for the history of the fort and demonstrate what life was like in the 1840s.
Indian Peaks Wilderness
Hang out along the Continental Divide in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area near Rocky Mountain National Park. The wilderness area includes a glacier, and plenty of hiking in the alpine tundra. Fish, bird watch, or just enjoy viewing the varied wildlife that live in the wilderness area. Note that snow can impact the region until well into July so be well-prepared for just about any type of weather.
Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center
If you’re an animal lover, this day trip from Colorado Springs is definitely up your alley! The Wolf & Wildlife Center teaches visitors through tours, where you learn about wolves, coyotes, foxes, and other wild Colorado animals. You’ll learn how to help preserve forests and other areas that support these majestic creatures. You can choose from the standard tour where you see these creatures (and end with a group howl), or you can opt for a meet and greet and get even closer to the wolves.
Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway
Lariat Loop, west of Denver, is a scenic byway that takes you through several Colorado landmarks including Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Dinosaur Ridge, and the Coors brewery. You’ll get breathtaking views of the foothills of the Rockies, and you can tailor your drive to take as long as you’d like depending on how often you choose to stop.
📚 Read Next: Check out my post on the best day trips from Boulder for more Front Range inspiration, including lots of excursions near Boulder that could also make for a nice weekend getaway from Colorado Springs!
Phantom Canyon Road
Drive from Colorado Springs: 1.5 hours | Google Maps
Phantom Canyon Road is another scenic drive that will lead you along canyon walls, through hand-cut stone tunnels, and up twisty, narrow roads to three Colorado mining areas – Cripple Creek, Cañon City, and Florence. The Phantom Canyon Road travels almost 30 miles and features breathtaking scenery. Don’t be afraid to make plenty of stops for pictures! You’ll also learn a lot about Colorado’s mining history and about the frontier towns that once thrived in these mountains.
👉 Local tip: The Phantom Canyon Road is unpaved, so make sure you have a good vehicle and plan on driving slowly. Oh, and if you need to rent a car be sure to check out the nifty Discover Cars search engine. There’s a rental car shortage these days, so it does a great job of finding and comparing the best rates from multiple agencies.
That’s it for this list of the best day trips from Colorado Springs. If you have a favorite trip that I missed, be sure to let me know in the comments!
And, before you go, be sure to check out our epic list of the best things to do in Denver. It’s packed with activity ideas even locals may not know about!