Bison herd can be seen in one of your day trips in Denver

15 Best Day Trips from Denver (By a Local!)

One of the reasons Denver is such a popular tourism destination these days is that it makes a great base for exploring the rest of the Front Range. The Rocky Mountains are likely to be high on anyone’s list of what to do in Denver, but from brewery tours to city breaks, there are just so many excellent options for daytrips from Denver.

I am a Colorado local who left my Denver job to travel the world and write this blog. Every single time I return home to Colorado from my travels, I’m amazed at how incredible my own home state really is. One of the main reasons is that Denver is just perfect for people who love living in a city during the week, but want to take weekend getaways to the nearby nature.

Having taken dozens, probably hundreds, of day trips from Denver over the years, I thought I would write up this quick list of my picks for the absolute best day trips from Denver. I hope you enjoy:

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👉 Visiting and need a hotel in Denver? Be sure to check out my Denver hotel guide for the best places to stay in Denver, Colorado!

15 Best Denver Day Trips

📺 Prefer a video guide? Check out this video by Abigail, another Denver local, rounding up her favorite 8 Denver day trips:

You will need car for most of these Denver day trips, though Golden and Boulder can be easily reached via public transit. There is currently a rental car shortage, so if you need a car I suggest using the excellent search engine Discover Car Hire to search and compare all the major car rental companies.

Rocky Mountain National Park

View of trees in Rocky Mountain National Park
A snapshot I took on a fall visit to Rocky Mountain National Park

🗺️ Distance from Denver: 90 minutes to 2 hours | Google Maps | Rocky Mountain National Park Website | 👉 Suggested Tour

If you only have time for one daytrip from Denver, then take a road trip to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. The park offers stunning year-round scenery and, in my opinion, is the single most beautiful place in Colorado. When my friends visit me in Denver, I always make sure to take them to to Rocky Mountain National Park.

If you’re the active type, there is plenty of hiking and biking trails here, or you feel like being more sedentary, you can take in the mountain views and natural smells while on a scenic drive. Bear Lake Corridor and Trail Ridge Road are popular routes.

👉 Local Tip: From May to October 2022, the park has instituted a timed entry system. You’ll need to reserve ahead, and also be prepared for the possibility of lines at the entrance (RMNP is becoming a really popular day trip from Denver!).

Roxborough State Park

The author with the overlooking view in Roxborough State Park

🗺️ Distance from Denver: 40 minutes | Google Maps | Roxborough State Park Website

If you only have half a day, or just don’t feel like going that far from Denver, an excursion to Roxborough State Park is an excellent way to get a taste of the mountains, some light exercise, and incredible photos. The park offers some of the best short hiking trails near Denver, ranging from easy mile-long walks to more moderate basic hikes.

Along the hiking trails you’ll find spectacular views from several great lookout points offering splendid vistas of the dramatic rising red rock formations which adorn the park. Come at the end of spring for a real treat, when blooming wildflowers create some of the most beautiful photo opportunities near Denver.

Note that entrance to the park is $10 per vehicle, and that Roxborough follows a strict “Leave Trace Policy,” which means no off-trail hiking, no dogs, no biking, and no drones.

Mount Evans Scenic Byway

View of a mountain goat at Mount Evans in Colorado
See mountain goats on Mt. Evans, reached via the highest paved road in North America

🗺️ Distance from Denver: 1.5 hours (to entrance) | Google Maps | Mt Evans Website | 👉 Suggested Tours

Talk to any Denverite long enough and they’re bound to casually mention the number of “14ers” they’ve climbed. The term refers to Colorado’s fifty-three 14,000+ foot mountains.

If you’re looking to conquer one of the easiest fourteeners in Colorado, try hiking Grays Peak. But if you want an even easier option (some might call it cheating…), you can drive to the top of 14,625 foot Mount Evans for some stunning views via the Mount Evans Scenic Byway.

The road claims to be the highest paved road in North America, and it definitely is one of Colorado’s top attractions for natural beauty (keep an eye out for mountain goats and bighorn sheep!).

👉 Local Tip: Note that the access byway is only open seasonally, and a timed reservation system was recently implemented. You’ll need to reserve timed tickets here in advance.

Estes Park

The Stanley Hotel from the outside

🗺️ Distance from Denver: 90 minutes | Google Maps | Estes Park Website | Best Things to Do in Estes Park | 👉 Suggested Tour

Estes Park is celebrated as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, but the Colorado mountain town itself makes for one of the best day trips near Denver. Wildlife is often spotted in the downtown area, especially during the annual Elk Fest that takes place each fall.

The Estes Park Wine Festival also draws visitors, but if you’re visiting outside of August, relax with a cup of vino at the highly-rated Snowy Peaks Winery year-round. I also suggest you take the fantastic Estes Park Aerial Tramway, and check out the iconic Stanley Hotel. It is definitely a unique place to stay in Estes Park.

Garden of the Gods

View of Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the background
A photo I took on the first day trip I took on my most recent trip to Denver

🗺️ Distance from Denver: 1.25 hours | Google Maps | Garden of the Gods Website | 👉 Suggested Tour

I recently returned home to Colorado after spending most of the pandemic trapped in Argentina, and the first thing I did was take a day trip to the incredible Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, where the star attraction is giant red sandstone formations. It was so great to breathe in some fresh mountain air and relax in a favorite childhood spot.

Plus, the jaw-dropping red-colored sedimentary rock formations make for stunning Instagram opportunities. The park also sports several miles of hiking and biking trails, plus picnic spots galore. Adventurers can book spectacular rock climbing excursions through the park, which makes for entertainment for the rest of us visitors.

Best of all, entrance is free, making it a fun daytrip from Denver on a budget!

👉 Don’t Miss: My mega guide to 57 epic things to do in Denver Colorado (by a local!).

Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge in Cañon City

View of the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge near Canyon City Colorado
Ready to take a zip line? 🙂

🗺️ Distance from Denver: | Google Maps | Royal Gorge Website | 👉 Suggested Rafting and Jeep Tours

As a kid, visiting the enormous suspension bridge over the Royal Gorge was always one of my favorite things to do in Colorado, and it is definitely one of the more unique day trips from Denver. Supported by more 4,000 steel cables, the bridge hangs 956 feet above the Arkansas River below, making it the highest suspension bridge in the United States.

Tickets for adults 12 and up cost $30, while child admission runs $25 (age 2 and under free). Admission to the park also includes a ride on an Aerial Gondola over the canyon, or for an extra charge you can try you’re hand at what has to be the scariest zip line in Colorado.

📚 Read Next: The 33 Best Things to Do in Colorado

Boulder

A bench in front of the Boulder Flatirons
The Boulder Flatirons make for a classic day trip from Denver

🗺️ Distance from Denver: 40 minutes | Google Maps | Boulder Website | 👉 Suggested Tours

Denver’s hip cousin, Boulder is part university town, part liberal enclave, and part mountain base. It’s close enough to the Front Range that you can go hiking straight from the city center, but still offers a solid selection of restaurants and nightlife along the famous Pearl Street pedestrian mall.

Be sure to check out the craggy rock formations at the Boulder Flatirons, and all of the fun things to do in our article on the best Boulder activities.

Boulder makes a great day trip from Denver without a car, as you can get there very simply via the Flatiron Flyer express buses that leave frequently from the Mile High City’s Union Station for Boulder, Colorado.

📚 Read Next: Our epic list of the 25 best day trips around Boulder, Colorado.

Pikes Peak

A red tram climbs Pikes Peak
The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway is one of several great ways to visit Pikes Peak

🗺️ Drive from Denver: 1.5 hours (to entrance) | Google Maps | Pikes Peak Website | 👉 Suggested Tours

Arguably the most famous mountain in Colorado, Pikes Peak makes for an excellent and relatively easy day trip from Denver. Named a National Historic Landmark, the 14,115 foot peak towers over the city of Colorado Springs and can be scaled on foot or, if you’re not up for the grueling hike, by driving your car up the winding road to the top.

It’s definitely not a good route for beginner drivers, but it’s also not that bad if you’re accustomed to mountain driving generally. In fact, every June more than a dozen race car drivers speed to the top as part of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

Note that during the summer high season, you’ll need to complete the final stretch to the top via shuttles.

🚆 Rather Take a Train Ride to the Top? Consider taking the scenic ride via The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. “The Cog” has been climbing to the top of Pikes Peak since 1891, and is one of the most famous trains in Colorado.

Fort Collins

View of foothills near Fort Collins Colorado
The Ft Collins foothills are gorgeous

🗺️ Drive from Denver: 1.25 hours | Google Maps | Ft Collins Website | 👉 Suggested Tours

Though Denver has plenty of great beer of its own, true hopheads will want to venture up to Fort Collins, one of the best day trips from Denver, Colorado.

The city is becoming a mecca for microbreweries, headlined by the fast-growing, employee-owned New Belgium Brewing Co. You can sign up for a tour through many of the breweries, or find organized brewery-hopping tours on offer from Denver.

Fort Collins is also a great place to get outdoors, there are so many fun outdoor activities in Fort Collins. Check out Laura’s list of the best hikes near Fort Collins for inspiration.

Black Hawk & Central City

View of the Central City Downtown and some small shops in it
(photo: Jim Lambert / Shutterstock)

🗺️ Drive from Denver: 50 minutes | Google Maps | Black Hawk Website | 👉 Suggested “Gold Rush” Tour

If you enjoy casinos, or just historic mountain towns, considering taking the winding mountain road from Denver to Black Hawk. The main attraction in this mountain town is the more than a dozen casinos and hotels, sporting thousands of slot machines and plenty of card tables.

If you’re looking for Vegas-style luxury, try the Ameristar or Isle of Capri casinos. If get tired of gambling, head on over to Maryland Mountain Quartz Park for some picturesque hiking or go shopping at Gregory Street Plaza (under construction, as of summer 2022).

You can also check out the next door Central City for more shopping and dining options, plus tours of historic Colorado mines.

Golden

View of sign over street in downtown Golden Colorado
Downtown Golden is one of the easiest day trips from Denver, Colorado. (photo: mikle15 / Depositphotos)

🗺️ Distance from Denver: 25 minutes | Google Maps | Golden Website

Part frontier town, part modern adventure paradise, Golden has an enviable and picturesque setting at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Perhaps most famous as the home of Coors Brewery, tours of the brewery remain popular despite the fact that (frankly) much better beers can be found at the many breweries in Denver.

Meanwhile, Golden serves as a popular base for adventure sports, especially white water rafting, mountain biking, and rock climbing. In the summer, you can bring your own tube and brave the ice-cold Clear Creek White Waterpark.

In the evenings, the views from Lookout Mountain overlooking the Front Range are absolutely spectacular. History buffs and kids will also love the Colorado Railroad Museum and nearby Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, which honors the local legend.

👉 Read Next: The Best Things to Do in Denver with Children

Breckenridge

View of sunset over Rocky Mountains with the town of Breckenridge in the foreground
Breckenridge is gorgeous

🗺️ Distance from Denver: 1.5 hours | Google Maps | Breckenridge Website | 👉 Suggested Tour

If you want to hit the slopes or go hiking by day, but still be back in town in time for a brew or a show, Breckenridge is always a good bet (alternatively, nearby Copper Mountain and Keystone are other Colorado destinations that also make great day trips from Denver).

Some of the best skiing and snowboarding near Denver can be found in Breckenridge. The price is right and you won’t have to shell out for pricey mountain winter accommodation if you’re visiting as a winter day trip.

The resort town of Breckenridge itself also offers plenty of shops, art galleries, and tasty restaurants. If you do decide to stay overnight instead of heading back to Denver the same day, then Breckenridge Ski Resort offers plenty to do any time of the year. Be sure to bookmark our epic guide to 31 fun things to do in Breckenridge.

📚 Read Next: Don’t miss my guide to the best neighborhoods in Denver!

Idaho Springs

View of main strip of downtown Idaho Springs
Idaho Springs is one of those classic Colorado mountain towns. (photo: littleny / Depositphotos)

🗺️ Distance from Denver: 40 minutes | Google Maps | Website | 👉 Suggested Tours

Since it is one of the mountain towns with the shortest drives from Denver, Idaho Springs is definitely one of the most popular day trips from Denver, Colorado. The town is steeped in mining history, and you’ll find lots of mining-related attractions in Idaho Springs, including the Underhill Museum, the Phoenix Gold Mine, and the Might Argo Mill and Tunnel.

You’ll also find lots of adventure sports in the area, including skiing, tubing, ATVing, rafting, ziplining, and more. You’ll also find some of the closest hot springs to Denver.

Read More Day Trips and Excursions: From Boulder, From Colorado Springs, From San Diego, From Seattle, From Orlando, From Phoenix, From DC

Red Rocks Park

View of seats at Red Rocks Ampitheatre
Red Rocks is a world class concert venue, and a great day trip from Denver in its own right

🗺️ Distance from Denver: 30 minutes | Google Maps | Website

No list of the best day trips from Denver, Colorado would be complete without mention of the iconic Red Rocks Park. Located in Morrison, Red Rocks Park is home to a spectacular outdoor Red Rocks Amphitheatre. At least in my personal opinion, it is the best music venue in the entire United States.

But Red Rocks offers so much more than just concerts! You can also come in the morning to take part in the popular Yoga on the Rocks series, or check out the parks’ movie night series.

Even if your day trip doesn’t coincide with an event, Red Rocks is worth visiting just to see it and soak in this incredible attraction near Denver. You’ll find nearby hiking trails that are relatively easy but filled with stunning scenery – a great way to escape Denver for a day!

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

View of bison with mountains in background
The herd was a little far away from the road during my recent visit, but I managed to snap this photo!

🗺️ Distance from Denver: 15 minutes | Google Maps | Website

I recently told my mom about how much I love this little Denver day trip, and I was surprised to learn that she had never been inside the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, despite having spent her life in the Denver area. Indeed, this final addition to our list is a much-appreciated thing to do in Denver.

Located between the city and DIA, the Arsenal is a gigantic outdoor green space and wildlife refuge that is home to more than 300 species of animals, including a herd of over 150 bison.

The park offers hiking trails and fishing, but the best thing to do is to drive the 14 mile Wildlife Loop, where you’ll not only have a chance to spot the animals but will also be treated to scenic views of the downtown Denver skyline with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

👉 Read Next: What are the best months for visiting Denver?

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Which of these Denver, Colorado day trips is your favorite? Rocky Mountain National Park tops my list, but I’d love to hear if you think Mount Evans, Garden of the Gods, Estes Park, or something else entirely should be up there instead! Scroll down and leave me a comment, and enjoy your day trip from the Mile High City!

Travel Lemming editor Abigail Nueve contributed to this list of the best day trips from Denver, Colorado.

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3 Comments

    1. Great Sand Dunes National Park is another great one (and high on our list of places to visit in Colorado). It is an almost 4 hour drive from Denver and requires a lot of time to explore. So, for me it’s better done as an overnight trip from Denver, but it’s certainly possible to make it as part of a long day trip!

  1. Hi, we went to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park in Calhan (closer to the Springs), which is a neat day trip (although better I suppose if you’re staying in CO Springs)

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