How to Spend a Weekend in Colorado Springs: Itinerary & Tips

Colorado Springs is known for being one of Colorado’s top getaways!

Not only is it about an hour from the main city of Denver, but it’s also home to tons of unique outdoor destinations, from Garden of the Gods to Pikes Peak.

This beautiful city is most popularly visited in the summer but is breathtaking year-round, especially in the winter when snow sits atop the mountains. There’s no bad time to visit!

A weekend in Colorado Springs is the perfect amount of time to dip your toes into all that this charming Colorado city has to offer!

Here is the perfect two-day Colorado Springs itinerary for your next trip!

Day 1 of your Weekend in Colorado Springs Itinerary

For your first day in Colorado Springs, plan on spending a lot of the time directly in the city visiting some of the top attractions!

This is the perfect day to get to know the Springs more before you venture out to some of the area’s natural attractions tomorrow!

Eat a delicious breakfast at Urban Egg.

Start the first day of your two-day Colorado Springs itinerary by stopping for a great breakfast at none other than Urban Egg, a daytime eatery.

Before you ask, yes, it is a chain, but it’s a Colorado-only chain that’s known for having some of the best breakfasts in the state!

At Urban Egg, you can expect some of the best ingredients because they’re all locally sourced, which the restaurant chain prides itself in. This way, you can be sure that you’re supporting a local business, something Coloradans love to do!

Their menu has pretty much everything that you’d expect (and more) from a breakfast restaurant. There are tons of pancakes, eggs benedict, french toasts, and more.

If you’re more of a “eat lunch at breakfast” type person, there are also great sandwiches and soups or salads to choose from.

Some of their more unique dishes include Fred’s Hawaiian, a pancake with pineapple, coconut, cinnamon butter, and vanilla cream, or the chicken and waffle eggs benedict, which is served with free-range chicken, waffles, bacon jam, maple butter, and hollandaise.

All of the prices at Urban Egg are mid-range, so you won’t have to worry about paying a ton for your excellent breakfast.

Do a morning hike at Garden of the Gods.

After breakfast, head to Garden of the Gods, one of the most popular destinations in Colorado Springs that you won’t want to miss!

As an insider tip, it’s always best to visit right in the morning if you can. This way, you can miss out on many tour groups and other tourists that tend to file through later in the day.

There are a few ways that you can explore the Garden of the Gods. You could literally just drive your car through it if you wanted, go on a hike (I highly recommend this!), or you could even go on a tour with a park ranger.

Arguably, the best way to explore Garden of the Gods is to go on one of their many hikes, and there are so many to choose from!

Garden of the Gods trail in Colorado Springs with red rocks and dead brush

What’s so great about the hikes at Garden of the Gods is that none of them are difficult. The hardest one is only rated moderate, so even if you’re not an expert hiker, you’ll easily be able to have your choice of trails when visiting here.

Spend the morning doing one of the trails at Garden of the Gods and consider stopping along the way so that you can take in the fantastic views!

The most popular trail is the Perkins Central Garden Trail, but the Ridge Loop Trail are also great, and Chambers/Bretag/Palmer Trail goes throughout the park.

Exploring Garden of the Gods will most likely take your whole morning. Be sure to stop by the visitor center to learn more about the rocks and also grab a map so you can stay on your trail.

Road leading to Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs with green trees and red rocks

Grab lunch at Black Bear Diner.

After spending a few hours of your morning at the beautiful Garden of the Gods, you’re probably ready for some lunch already!

The best spot to eat lunch near Garden of the Gods is only a short drive away at Black Bear Diner.

From the outside, Black Bear Diner kind of just looks like an average restaurant, but don’t be fooled. Once you go inside, you’ll be treated to traditional American diner food, and you can order pretty much anything you could think of.

There’s breakfast served all day in addition to a ton of other dishes, like burritos, cheeseburgers, sandwiches, salads, and more. They’re open all day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner too, so if you love it so much that you want to come back for another meal, you totally can.

Visit the spectacular Glen Eyrie Castle.

Now that you’re all set with a full stomach, it’s time to go back out and explore again!

A short drive from Black Bear Diner is none other than Glen Eyrie Castle. I know what you’re thinking: what, a castle near the Rocky Mountains in Colorado? But yes, it is literally a castle!

The historic castle of Glen Eyrie with tan brick and lots of windows and trees in Colorado Springs CO

This historic castle was built in the 19th century by a man named General William Jackson Palmer.

He’s the one who founded Colorado Springs back in the day, so it only made sense that he had a mansion there! The mansion is huge and is made up of around thirty different rooms.

The best way to explore Glen Eyrie Castle is to go on a tour. These happen daily and usually occur about one to two times a day in the afternoon, but times vary depending on which day you visit.

There are tours on the weekend too! Tickets only cost $12 a person and can be reserved online.

If you want a super fun place to stay the night, you can also rent a room!

Take a tour of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center.

Many people don’t know that there are Olympic and Paralympic training centers right in Colorado Springs, but there are!

They’re located on Olympic Plaza, and there are also other ones out in New York in Lake Placid.

When visiting Colorado Springs, you should absolutely try to go and take a tour of them if you can!

They have a variety of tours available, with names that make a lot of sense given the theme: bronze, silver, or gold. Pricing depends on which one you book but can range up to $75 per person.

For a truly unforgettable experience, consider booking one of the athlete-guided tours!

Prices aren’t listed on the website for this experience because pricing changes depending on which athlete gives your tour.

While you will likely not get Simone Biles as your guide, it’s still a super fun way to actually meet an Olympic or Paralympic athlete and learn all about the training center from someone who uses it!

Photo Credit: David via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Go inside and learn at the Ghost Town Museum.

Colorado has its own fair share of ghost towns. I mean, the Wild West was very alive and well in this area of the United States quite a while ago, and there are remnants of them still available to see today!

To learn all about the Wild West, head to the Ghost Town Museum. It’s located near downtown Colorado Springs and is a famous museum to visit especially if you’re traveling with children.

Inside, you can check out an entire town to see how it would’ve been a few hundred years ago.

One of the more fun things to do at the Ghost Town Museum is to learn all about gold panning! Plan on spending at least an hour or so here to truly get all that you can out of your visit to the Ghost Town Museum.

Explore downtown Colorado Springs.

Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing and just exploring the downtown area of Colorado Springs.

Truthfully, exploring downtown areas is one of the best ways to get more acquainted with a town or city. It’s best to even discover these areas on your own without much of a plan because you never know what you’ll come across during your trip!

If you are the type of person who likes exploring with more of a plan, there are a few places that you won’t want to miss.

Stop by Cacao Chemistry for delicious Colorado Springs chocolate, head to Colorado Co-op for handmade local clothing, and go into Poor Richard’s Books and Gifts for some great souvenirs and toys.

There are also many different great restaurants in downtown Colorado Springs. This area is known for its international eateries and restaurants, so feel free to pop into a few for a quick bite.

Just make sure you don’t eat too much because there’s a great restaurant on the itinerary for dinner!

The downtown area of Colorado Springs CO with a giant clocktower and stone building facade

Grab a tasty dinner at Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub and Restaurant.

Once you are done exploring downtown Colorado Springs and you’re ready to start settling down for the night, it’s time to grab a delicious dinner.

Look no further than Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub and Restaurant! There are quite a few different Irish pubs in Colorado Springs, but this is the most loved.

Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub and Restaurant has a very traditional Irish feel — which you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever been lucky enough to go to Ireland!

It opened back in the 1870s and has been a staple restaurant ever since. Plus, a lot of the building itself is from Ireland, which only adds to the ambiance and atmosphere.

Their menu is absolutely scrumptious. They have great starters like Irish nachos, frickles and frings, poutine, pretzels, and cheese.

Their entrees are just as tasty, with Guinness beef boxty, bangers and mash, pub mac, and of course, alehouse fish and chips. Don’t forget to have a Guinness to top it all off!

the green facade of the irish pub called jack quinn in colorado springs co -- a great spot to visit on a weekend in colorado springs itinerary
Photo Credit: Jim & Robin Kunze via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Day 2 of Your Weekend in Colorado Springs Itinerary

For the second day on this two-day Colorado Springs itinerary, it’s time to venture slightly outside of downtown and check out more of the epic natural scenery.

Sure, you saw Garden of the Gods yesterday, but it won’t even compare to the attractions you see today!

Have breakfast at Rudy’s Little Hideaway Restaurant.

Before starting your day two of adventures, be sure to fill up on breakfast. The most fantastic spot near your first attraction of the day for breakfast is a place called Rudy’s Little Hideaway Restaurant.

It’s a Mexican restaurant that serves up some of the tastiest breakfast you could ever imagine!

Their breakfast menu consists of everything from pancakes and french toast to egg dishes with tasty meats like country fried steak, sausage, and bacon.

For a real treat, have one of their fantastic breakfast burritos. Trust me; you won’t regret it! Anything with green chili is usually an A+ too: it’s a favorite among Coloradans.

All of the food at Rudy’s Little Hideaway is very affordable, with most meals costing under $10!

Marvel at the breathtaking Broadmoor Seven Falls.

After breakfast, head to the Broadmoor Seven Falls. As the name suggests, there are seven waterfalls here, and they’re breathtaking. They’ve been owned by The Broadmoor since they were opened to the public in the 180s.

To get tickets to the Seven Falls, stop by The Broadmoor first. After getting your ticket, there’s a short one-mile trail that leads up to the Seven Falls. It’s paved and only has a tiny incline, so it’s not super difficult to get to it.

If you’re really feeling up for a challenge, consider doing one of the many activities at Seven Falls. You can hike on one of the longer trails or even go on a zipline adventure, which is not for the faint of heart!

a very tall cascade that breaks into seven small waterfalls with a giant staircase that will take you to the top
Photo Credit: Tim Caynes via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Take a trip up to the top of Pikes Peak.

Colorado is home to quite a few 14ers (mountains with higher than 14,000 feet of elevation), but Pikes Peak truly takes the cake!

It’s the tallest one and is located a short drive from Colorado Springs. Take a trip to the top for some of the best views!

One way to get to the top is to drive Pike’s Peak Highway. If you’re not a fan of heights, you’ll most likely not enjoy this scenic drive, but the views are well worth it. Be sure to check the mountain conditions before your trip. It’s not always the safest in the winter.

rock sign at the pike peak summit at over 14000 feet in colorado

Another great (and more popular) way to see the views from Pikes Peak is to book a ride on The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. This is one of the most popular train rides in the entire country, so you won’t want to miss it!

The entire trip is about 3.5 hours, so if you opt to take the train instead of driving, you may have to rearrange this itinerary slightly.

Note that tickets for the cog railway tend to book out at least a week in advance, so book as soon as you can!

famous red railway car with a silver roof ascending pikes peak with view of mountains with light dusting of snow in the distant background

Eat lunch at the unique Airplane Restaurant.

After a morning of outdoor exploring, you’ve probably worked up a great appetite!

You’re in luck because today, you’ll be eating at one of the most unique restaurants in Colorado Springs: the Airplane Restaurant. It is a bit of a drive from the Pikes Peak station, but it’s well worth it.

The Airplane Restaurant is exactly what it sounds like: a restaurant located inside an airplane. It serves traditional American food, but the atmosphere and location alone are reason enough to visit this place.

Children will especially love it, because how often can you say you’ve eaten inside of a historic plane?

The airplane itself is a Boeing KC-97 tanker! It was built back in the 1950s and is still in pretty excellent condition considering it’s been turned into a restaurant.

The restaurant menu includes everything from soups and salads to great sandwiches.

Don’t forget to check out their “jet fuel” drinks section to quench your thirst!

Visit and walk around Manitou Springs.

Now that it’s the afternoon, it’s time to go out and explore one of the most popular spots to visit in the Colorado Springs area: Manitou Springs.

It’s a beautiful Colorado mountain town with a population of around 5000 people. As the name suggests, it gained popularity because of its natural mineral springs.

This town offers some of the best views of Pikes Peak, which was on the itinerary earlier today!

There are quite a few things to do when you visit Manitou Springs. You could stop by Cave of the Winds Mountain Park for amazing zip-lining and spelunking, head to the fascinating Miramount Castle Museum, or hike or bike in Red Rock Canyon Open Space.

If you’re the type of traveler who likes visiting a place without much of a plan when visiting new towns, you can totally do that here too. Spend some time downtown and just explore to really get a feeling for small-town Colorado life.

The locals here are always so kind and welcoming to visitors! You never know either; you might just run into someone who knows of an epic spot that only locals know about, which you can add to your Colorado Springs itinerary.

the reddish rock landscape of manitou springs in colorado dusted with a light layer of snow in the early winter time or late spring

Stop by the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.

Before leaving Manitou Springs, stop by the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.

This tourist attraction is a replica of old cliff dwellings that have now been turned into exhibits for visitors to see and learn more about this area’s history. They’re privately owned but are open to the public for visiting.

During your trip, don’t forget to stop by The Pueblo, where you can learn about more history. Other museums here include the Pueblo Museum and the Cave Museum. Then, consider going on a tour to check out the cliff dwellings!

Hours change a lot throughout the year depending on the season, so be sure to check online and make sure they’ll be open during your trip. Sometimes they can also get pretty busy in the afternoon, but if you visit shortly before they close, it’s not too bad!

historic replica of the orange-stone brick cliff dwellings made by native americans living in this part of colorado many centuries ago

Have dinner at Colorado Mountain Brewery, a local favorite.

For the last dinner of your trip to Colorado Springs, stop by Colorado Mountain Brewery. This is a traditional brewery that you won’t want to miss out on. They even claim that they are the “true taste of Colorado!”

Everything you’d expect to see on a brewery menu is available as an entree here. Enjoy one of their interesting starters to begin, including everything from bison poppers and sweet chili glazed Brussels sprouts to loaded kettle chips and bison queso!

Their entrees are just as delicious. You can order meals like beer can chicken, chipotle maple glazed salmon, bison meatloaf wellington, or one of their well-known 14er burgers. With your meal, don’t forget to have one of their local beers!

They have different ones throughout the year, so be sure to ask a bartender what one they most recommend. They never steer guests wrong!

Spend some time here reminiscing on all of your great memories from this trip before heading to one last stop to satisfy your sweet tooth.

tasting flight of different beers

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Amy’s Donuts.

End your weekend by stopping by none other than Amy’s Donuts. It may look unassuming from the outside, but trust me, this is one of those donut places that have donuts that go viral online because of the crazy flavors!

Amy’s Donuts is a local favorite, and it’s open 24/7, so no matter how long you spend at Colorado Mountain Brewery, you’ll still be able to stop here before heading off after your trip is done.

All donuts at Amy’s Donuts are made from scratch, so you can only expect the best of the best here. Plus, they have tons of crazy flavors, like almond banana caramel, Andes mint, Amy’s Almond Joy, strawberry pearl, and more.

Of course, they do still have traditional flavors, too, if that’s more your thing, like cinnamon glazed twist, glazed donuts, apple fritters, and plain sugar.

If you happen to be visiting Colorado Springs around a major holiday, you won’t even have to worry because Amy’s Donuts has regular hours no matter the time of year. Before heading off tomorrow, consider picking a dozen for your ride home!

The 10 Most Charming Mountain Towns in Colorado

Colorado is known for its incredible scenery, breathtaking drives, and interesting history. Plus, it’s home to some fantastic mountain towns that are incredibly charming and indescribably scenic.

Each Colorado mountain town has its own vibe, which makes it fun to visit multiple on one trip if you can. These mountain towns in Colorado are small and compact, so they’re easy to visit on a day trip from Denver or in between stops on a Colorado road trip itinerary.

Throughout this post, you’ll learn all about the most charming mountain towns in Colorado. They’re located all over the western part of the state, too, so no matter where in Colorado you plan on visiting, you’ll most likely be able to find a great mountain town close by.

Here are all of the mountain towns in Colorado that you won’t want to miss!

Best Mountain Towns in Colorado

Leadville

The Main street of downtown Leadville, Colorado with red brick architecture on a sunny day in the colorado mountains and mostly empty streets.

First up is Leadville, one of the less-visited mountain towns in Colorado.

It’s a pretty small town with a population of around 3,000 people, but it’s known for being one of the higher towns in the state. It sits at an elevation of 10,000 feet – how crazy!

It’s the highest city in all of North America, so you should for sure add it to your must-visit list!

Despite being a small town, there’s quite a bit to do in Leadville.

Stop by the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum to learn more about mining history and its importance to Colorado.

For some excellent cross country skiing, consider going on the Mineral Belt Trail, which offers excellent views the entire way.

Breckenridge

The resort town of Breckenridge in summer with trees, mountains and lots of ski chalets and other buildings

If you’ve heard of Colorado, you’ve most likely already heard of Breckenridge. It’s one of the state’s most popular destinations because Breckenridge is home to one of the state’s best ski resorts (and plenty of great hikes, too!).

Breckenridge is one of Colorado’s most charming mountain towns because it’s set right amongst the Rockies. It has a truly historic feel to it, too, because the town started to come to fruition in the 1800s when it was initially a mining town.

The best thing to do in winter is to have some fun at the Breckenridge Ski Resort, but if you’re visiting throughout the rest of the year, you can enjoy rides on the BreckConnect Gondola, shopping on South Main Street, and going on hikes.

Aspen

The green trees of Aspen Colorado and houses in the town below in the mountains

Another one of the more popular places to visit in the mountains in Colorado is Aspen. Similar to Breckenridge, it’s known for being home to great skiing!

Aspen is located in the Rocky Mountains and serves as a destination no matter the time of year for adventure junkies.

In addition to skiing, there are tons of great things to do while visiting Aspen. Head to the Wheeler Opera House for a dose of beautiful architecture. Take the time to learn more about Aspen’s history at the Wheeler-Stellard House.

To get the most out of the mountain views, consider doing the Crater Lake hike, which will bring you through the Maroon Bells! This is one of the most beautiful mountainous areas in the entire state.

Silverton

Old west style architecture on a main street in silverton colorado a beautiful colorado mountain town

Located in southern Colorado is another charming mountain town called Silverton. You may have heard of it before because it’s known for being home to a great railway that you won’t want to miss.

This is one of the smaller towns on this list, which is part of what makes it so charming. The population is only about 500 people! If you want to get to know some locals in Colorado, this is a great place to visit.

In Silverton, you definitely won’t want to miss out on the Golden Block Brewery for some great locally crafted beers.

You’ll also want to hop on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad if you have time because it’s one of the most scenic routes in the state.

Central City

two cute houses sitting side by side each other in colorado mountains in central city

This small city is incredibly charming and is only a short drive away from Denver, so it serves as a fantastic day trip.

It was founded in the 1880s and is most well known for being a gambler city, as it’s home to a historic casino. (Fun fact: Allison once won a s***ton of money in Central City!)

The drive to Central City will genuinely take your breath away, too, especially if you’re coming from Denver.

You slowly drive higher and higher up the mountains until all of a sudden you’re at a sign that says Central City Welcomes You. Despite being a small town, Central City’s hospitality is alive and well!

In Central City, arguably the best thing to do is try your hand at gambling in the Monarch Casino. You can also stop by the Central City Opera House to catch a great live opera show or attend a local festival.

Steamboat Springs

a red barn against the yellow aspen trees in the mountains near steamboat springs colorado

Steamboat Springs is a quaint mountain time located in the Yampa Valley of Colorado. It is one of the newer charming towns on this list, founded only a little over a hundred years ago in 1900.

As you might have guessed, the town got its name because of its amazing hot springs. If you head to the Old Town Hot Springs, you’ll be able to check them out first hand. There’s also a fitness center here, so you can work out with a view.

In the winter, Steamboat Springs turns into a great winter getaway. It’s home to the Steamboat Ski Resort, and you can even see a lot of the ski runs directly from the town. Consider skiing for a bit and then warming up in the hot springs for a fun time!

Estes Park

Estes Park downtown in winter with plowed streets and the city covered in snow

Located just a short distance from Denver is one of Colorado’s most charming mountain towns, Estes Park. Most people visit here because it’s the perfect home base for those who want to explore Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s located right in the mountains and is incredibly beautiful. The best way to experience the views here is to hop on the Estes Park Aerial Tramway. It will bring you to the top of Prospect Mountain, which is incredible!

Of course, there are other great things to do in Estes Park. You can stop by Snowy Peaks Winery for some delicious drinks. Drive the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway for an incredible road trip.

Also, consider stopping by Lake Estes for some fishing or other water activities!

Glenwood Springs

city of glenwood springs below in the valley floor between mountains in colorado in summer

Glenwood Springs is truly one of the most breathtaking places to visit in the mountains!

It’s kind of on the verge of being a city because of its size, and it’s known for being home to fun resorts that are perfect for families or even romantic getaways.

This town is known for being home to natural hot springs, which visitors can experience while visiting the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool.

The baths here date back to the 19th century! Another spot to experience the hot springs is at the Iron Mountain Hot Springs.

For a real fun time, be sure to also head to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

This is one of the highest theme parks in all United States because it’s situated on top of a mountain. You even have to ride a gondola to get to the top of it!

Idaho Springs

The charming mountain town of Idaho Springs Colorado with lots of old fashioned houses and a yellow-grass mountain with trees

Idaho Springs is an overlooked 19th-century mining town near Denver and Central City.

This tiny Colorado mountain town is filled with great locals and excellent restaurants, as well as beautiful hikes that surround it!

Believe it or not, Idaho Springs is most well known for being the birthplace of Colorado pizza.

What sets Colorado pizza apart is that the dough is made with honey, so it has a slightly sweeter taste! Stop by Beau Jo’s Pizza to try the original.

If history is what you are into, you can visit the Argo Gold Mill and Tunnel. It’s an old mine that now offers guided tours to the public so you can truly step back in time.

A short drive away from Idaho Springs is also St. Mary’s Glacier, one of the only glaciers in Colorado. It only takes a 2.4-mile hike to get to it!

Salida

The Arkansas Whitewater Recreation Area and the red and orange buildings of downtown Salida in Colorado with yellow and green trees in early fall

Last but not least is Salida, a small town in Colorado that is pretty charming!

Similar to most other towns on this list, it’s situated right in the mountains and was founded in the late 1800s.

A lot of the locals like to stay that Salida serves as the true heart of the Rocky Mountains.

Salida is known for being incredibly historic. In fact, there are tons of buildings located in downtown Salida that are known to be nationally recognized historical spots.

Be sure to stop by the town and shop at some of the local stores while visiting to check out the insides of the different buildings here.

This is another great town with hot springs, but these are indoors. The Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center has pools that are fed by the nearby hot springs, making it a really unique place to visit. There are even indoor waterfalls which make it super fun to visit!

If you want some outdoor fun, hit up the Arkansas Whitewater Recreation Area for some fun in the rapids!

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Colorado is truly home to some beautiful and charming mountain towns.

No matter what kind of traveler you are or who you usually travel with, you undoubtedly found a few new places to add to your must-visit travel list!

Have you been to Colorado before? Which Colorado mountain town did you like most?

21 Fantastic Places for Fall Foliage in Colorado

While you may think that you have to head to the northeast for the best fall foliage in the United States, you’d be wrong!

You can make your way to none other than Colorado, one of the most stunning southwestern destinations, for some beautiful colors as well.

In Colorado, most of the state gets all four seasons, including autumn, with one of the most breathtaking shows of color in the country. Because of that, there are countless epic fall foliage destinations in Colorado, from beautiful drives to small towns and even cities.

By the end of this post, you’ll be planning your next fall trip to Colorado. Be sure to save the post for later to make sure you don’t lose it!

Here are the best places for fall foliage in Colorado!

Best Places for Fall Foliage in Colorado

Aspen

yellow aspens and evergreen trees reflecting in maroon lake like a painting with the snow-capped mountains behind it in autumn in colorado

First up is none other than Aspen, one of the top destinations in Colorado to visit if you’re on the hunt for fall foliage.

Most people hit up Aspen in the winter for its skiing and snowboarding, but the fall colors are honestly more magical than the winter snow!

Fall foliage in Aspen starts around September. Because of the different elevations in Aspen, part of the town sees a lot more fall colors than the rest, making for some unique photos and experiences.

Around Aspen, there are quite a few spots to check out the fall foliage. The most popular spot is Maroon Bells, which you’ve probably seen a photo of online already without even realizing it! This area is surrounded by beautiful aspens set against Maroon Lake.

Other significant areas for fall colors in Aspen include Castle Creek Road, Aspen Mountain (try one of the hikes!), and Smuggler Mountain. No matter which you pick, you’ll truly be rewarded with epic views and beautiful fall foliage.

Breckenridge

many evergreen trees in the mountains of breckenridge with visible ski runs in the distance and a cluster of yellow aspen trees in the foreground

This post would not be complete without including Breckenridge! Famously known as a ski and snowboard winter destination like Aspen, Breckenridge is easily one of the best fall foliage spots in Colorado.

During the fall, Breckenridge’s mountains get covered in the most beautiful colors from top to bottom. Whether you like going hiking and want to go to high altitudes to take in the colors from above on one of these great Breckenridge hikes, or you’d rather stay in the town, you’ll be able to witness it all.

One of the best spots to see fall colors in Breckenridge is at the French Gulch. This area is filled with great trails and is near the Golden Horseshoe. Here, you can check out the aspens as they change colors in the fall!

Idaho Springs

Fall colors in trees in Idaho Springs a small town in Colorado

Idaho Springs is one of those destinations that is often overlooked as a place to visit in Colorado.

With a population of less than 2,000, people think that this probably that there isn’t much going on in this small town! However, it’s a beautiful small town in Colorado that’s perfect for checking out fall foliage in the state.

If you’re up for doing a bit of a drive to get fall colors here, consider going on Squaw Pass. It goes between Idaho Springs and Evergreen and goes near the beautiful Echo Lake. It even passes Mount Evans Byway, another excellent road trip spot.

Should driving not be what you’re interested in, head to St. Mary’s Glacier, which you can get to from Fall River Road. Many events are held in the fall in Idaho Springs so that you can take in the colors from downtown!

Estes Park

brilliant orange-yellow trees in estes park along a small river or creek

If you’ve heard of Colorado, you’ve probably heard of Estes Park. It’s located in the northern part of Colorado and is a perfect home base for those who want to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.

The best spot to see fall foliage here is to take the Estes Park Aerial Tramway! This tram brings you to the top of nearby Prospect Mountain. From here, you can look out and see the town and surrounding mountains covered in fall colors.

You can also enjoy the fall foliage by just exploring the town of Estes Park itself. It’s filled with great restaurants and fall events that you won’t want to miss out on!

Rocky Mountain National Park

yellow trees in the distance at rocky mountain national park with mountains and small green trees

Another absolute must-visit spot in the fall to see fall foliage is Rocky Mountain National Park. Most people situate themselves in Estes Park while visiting, but you can also opt to stay in Grand Lake, which is another great town.

The absolute best spot that Rocky Mountain National Park is pretty well known for is Trail Ridge Road. Along this drive, you can see so many amazing views of the fall foliage, and they don’t even compare to other spots on this list.

You could also consider doing one of the many hikes located in the park, like the Keyhole Route, which is recommended for only the most experienced of hikers. A decent portion of it is just climbing rocks, but the view is fantastic!

Steamboat Springs

a large cumulus cloud over orange, yellow and green fall trees in steamboat springs colorado

Next is Steamboat Springs, located in Yampa Valley. This mountain town has a very small-town feel, but it’s still much larger than Idaho Springs, with a population of around 13,000 people.

When visiting Steamboat Springs, be sure to stop by the Old Town Hot Springs. This is one of the best places for fall foliage, and you’ll be able to relax outside in beautiful hot springs while looking around and checking out the colorful mountains.

If outdoor adventuring is more your style versus relaxing, you can go biking on the Steamboat Brew Trail or other trails in the area. You can also consider going hiking or camping!

Independence Pass

driving through the mountain pass of independence pass with road, yellow trees, light snow and mountains in the fall in colorado

Independence Pass is one of the most unreal mountain drives that you can do while visiting Colorado in fall!

As you might imagine, you’ll be able to get unparalleled views during the entire drive, which is why it’s such a great spot to see Colorado’s fall foliage.

This drive which also sometimes still goes by its former name, Hunter Pass, has an elevation of about 12,000 feet. It goes right through what’s called the Continental Divide and passes near Aspen, Colorado, another great spot on this list.

The entire drive only takes about an hour or two, but of course, that depends on the number of times you stop along the drive. Parts of the drive are very steep, so if you’re not a fan of heights, you might want to skip out on this drive!

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

yellow aspen trees, next to some still-green aspens, near mountains in colorado in fall

While most people know Colorado for its four national parks, it has terrific state parks that are perfect for visiting if you want to see fall foliage with fewer crowds. Golden Gate Canyon State Park is no exception to that!

The park covers around 12,000 acres and has more than 40 miles of trails that you can hike if you’re an outdoor lover. Each one of these hikes provides the perfect opportunity to witness Colorado’s fall foliage firsthand.

It’s located near Golden, a delightful small town that’s not that far from Denver. This is a great place to stay while exploring the park. While in Golden, be sure also to check out the local breweries and maybe even tour Coors Brewery if you have the time.

San Juan Skyway

fence with lots of orange and yellow trees in front of snow-capped mountain peaks in colorado in the fall

The San Juan Skyway is one of the most unique drives on this list just because of the fantastic views of the San Juan Mountains. If road trips are your thing, then you’re going to love this drive for checking out the fall foliage.

This is a rather long drive compared to other ones on this list. It’s just over 200 miles long, and you’ll be able to finish the entire drive in about seven hours tops.

However, it could take longer if you make lots of stops along the way. Because of the views, you just might want to!

Great spots to stop off in the area include Telluride and Durango. Durango, in particular, is home to an amazing railroad that allows you to see fall colors from a unique perspective: from a locomotive twisting through the mountains!

Durango

train in durango going by a river with some fall foliage in colorado turning yellow

Next up is Durango, which is a spot near the San Juan Skyway! This town is located in southwestern Colorado near New Mexico.

While it’s a lot further south than most of the other locations on this list, it’s still an epic spot for fall colors in Colorado.

The best way to witness the fall colors here is to ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway. It offers scenic viewpoints the entire way, and you will honestly love the whole experience. Plus, it’s about five hours long, so you get your money’s worth from it.

Another way to witness fall foliage here is to go on one of the many hiking trails! Some of the most popular include the Cascade Creek Trail, Colorado Trail, and Hermosa Creek Trail.

Each one is great, but they range in difficulty, so be sure to pick one based on your hiking experience.

Ouray

the town of ouray at the base of mountains with some trees starting to turn yellow in the fall

Ouray is probably the smallest town on this list, with a population of fewer than 1,000 people. However, it’s nestled right in the mountains, making it a beautiful destination if you plan on witnessing fall foliage in Colorado.

It’s also another destination near the San Juan Skyway. Fall foliage is an absolute must-see in Ouray just because mountains surround it; you can’t possibly miss the changing of the leaves here, even if you tried.

The best time to catch fall foliage here is between September and October. If you come too late in the season that everything may have already fallen off the trees as winter starts to come early sometimes, depending on the year.

Some of the most popular things to do while visiting here are to check out Perimeter Trail, Box Canyon Waterfall and Park, and the Yankee Boy Basin.

Kebler Pass

red and yellow aspen and green evergreen trees in a field area in colorado with mountains covered in snow in the distance

For a beautiful mountain drive, look no further than Kebler Pass. This mountain pass is located at just over 10,000 feet high in elevation, and the drive goes through the mountains and is surrounded by beautiful trees.

To do the drive, you can start in either Panoia or Crested Butte. Both are great starting spots. The entire drive is just around thirty miles long, so it’s not the longest drive. However, there are some fantastic viewpoints along the way, so you may want to make consistent stops.

In total, the drive takes about two hours. Be on the lookout for the beautiful aspen and evergreen trees, which turn into beautiful colors in the fall. Keep in mind that the majority of the road is not paved, so some spots of the road may be kind of rough.

Boulder

fall foliage in boulder colorado changing in front of the rocky mountains flatirons

Known for being one of the best day trips from Denver and also for being home to the beautiful Flatirons, Boulder is one of the top spots to check out fall foliage in Colorado. Boulder is at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and turns gorgeous colors in the fall.

Easily the most incredible way to check out the fall foliage in Boulder is to do one of the incredible hikes through the Flatirons. There is a wide range of trail options, and each one will bring you right along the beautiful mountain range here.

Another great way to enjoy the fall foliage here is to head downtown. This is a great option if you’re not much of an outdoors person. Check out Pearl Street Mall and walk along the street to enjoy some great shops and beautiful trees.

Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest

the beautiful orange and green plains of the arapaho forest in autumn

Colorado is also home to a beautiful national forest called Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest. It’s located near Boulder and Fort Collins, two great spots to situate yourself while exploring this area.

As you might imagine, this is an incredibly epic spot to witness fall foliage because it’s a forest. Almost everywhere you look, you can see the trees in mystical fall colors that will truly take your breath away.

The easiest way to witness the fall foliage here is to go hiking on one of the many trails. They range in distance from three miles all the way to fourteen miles or so.

The most popular hikes here include the Chicago Lakes Trail, Grays Peak National Recreation Trail, Chief Mountain Trail, and Cascade Creek Trail.

Telluride

orange and yellow trees along an unpaved road in telluride colorado in the fall

Telluride is another one of the most popular winter destinations like Aspen and Breckenridge that’s located in the Rocky Mountains.

It used to be a mining town during the Victorian era, so it has a fascinating history that you won’t want to miss out on.

Because it’s located in the mountains, it’s surrounded by excellent fall foliage spots. It starts here around late September and lasts through October. Sometimes it begins in early September, too; it depends on the year.

To get an unforgettable view of the fall foliage while visiting Colorado, you’re going to want to take a ride on the Telluride and Mountain Village Gondola.

It will give you genuinely unparalleled views because the gondola is so high up compared to other spots in the area. Plus, all you have to do is sit and relax in the gondola!

Crested Butte

yellow aspens among small cute wood cabins in crested butte colorado in fall colors

Crested Butte is easily one of the most recognizable spots in Colorado. It’s a great spot that people flock to for winter because of the many Nordic ski routes in the area, but it’s amazing during autumn if you want to check out Colorado’s fall foliage.

There are stunning drives that are incredibly scenic in Crested Butte to witness fall colors. The West Elk Loop is a great one that people love driving, and it can take about a full day or so. Other fantastic rides include Kebler Pass, which was mentioned earlier in this post.

For small-town fall colors, head downtown. The downtown area is filled with great restaurants and fun little local shops worth exploring. Plus, the streets are lined with trees, so you can witness the fall foliage in a fun way. You may even be able to meet with some locals!

If you want an even more amazing time while in Crested Butte, try renting one of the beautiful wooden lodges in the area. Each of them is situated in a spot with great views of the mountains, and they’re all pretty large so you can travel with a large group of people.

Vail

the beautiful mountain town of vail colorado with yellow aspen trees around it

Vail is famous for its skiing trails because it’s home to its epic ski resort of the same name.

It’s a place that almost feels European when you visit it, making you forget that you’re just in Colorado. However, it’s also a fantastic spot to go and check out fall colors in the state.

Fall colors in Vail are pretty easy to spot, but here are a few of the best-recommended spots to check out.

A super-easy way to check out fall colors is to hop on the gondolas, which will bring you up and down the mountain range. The Eagle Bahn Gondola is a popular one to check out, as is Gondola One, located in Vail Village.

If you love the outdoors, you can also consider checking out the many biking and hiking trails. Vail is pretty well known for its excellent mountain biking, so even if it’s entirely new for you, you’ll enjoy it here.

Frisco

the small town of frisco colorado with tall trees rising above it with a view of the water behind it

Frisco, Colorado, is a small town with a population of around 3,000 people. It’s near Breckenridge but is just as much worth visiting if you’re on the hunt for excellent fall foliage in Colorado!

Frisco is a top-rated destination among skiers because it’s right in the mountains — which also makes it perfect in fall in Colorado as well!

For outdoor enthusiasts, be sure to witness the fall colors on the Vail Pass Bike Shuttle. It’s about fourteen miles long and will bring you to downtown from Vail Pass. Plus, it’s a well-paved bike path, so you won’t have to worry about accidentally biking into rocks.

If you’re traveling with kids or you just want to have some fun, you’ll want to hop on the Rocky Mountain Coaster.

It’s located at Copper Mountain and is one of the longest coasters of its kind. It’s just shy of 6,000 feet long and will provide you with epic views of the surrounding area while getting your adrenaline pumping!

Georgetown Loop Railroad

taking the georgetown loop railway with yellow aspens and evergreen trees

While this may seem like a bit of a weird thing to include on this list of the best places for fall foliage in Colorado, it truly is a place with incredible views!

It’s located about an hour or so from downtown Denver, making it a great destination to check out.

The train runs between Silver Plume and Georgetown and is only about two miles long. However, the views along the way are amazing. It crosses some great bridges too, so you’ll be able to look out and take some photos of the landscape.

They only run the train a certain amount of times each day, so you’ll have to check their online schedule to see when you can catch it. While it’s not the longest train to take in Colorado, it sure does offer a fun way to see the scenery.

Denver

green grassy park field with colorful orange and red trees and a manmade lake in denver colorado in the fall

Yes, the city of Denver is actually on this list! You probably think that being a big city, Denver would not be a good spot for checking out leaves and the changing colors, but it totally is. The secret is that you have to check out the many parks in the area.

City Park is one of Denver’s largest parks, and it’s also home to the Denver Zoo. This is a great spot to bike or walk the trails. It’s perfect for outdoor recreation, so you really can’t go wrong here. You can check out the fall colors with all the surrounding trees.

Other amazing spots to check out the fall colors here include Sloan’s Lake Confluence Park. Confluence Park, in particular, has some great hills that look out into the surrounding mountains in the Denver area.

If you really want to enjoy the fall colors while doing something outside in Denver, you could head to Wash Park.

This park has a great lake in it where you can go boating on kayaks, canoes, or even pedal boats. Just head to the boat rental center right by the lake and take your pick of boats!

Your 10-Day Colorado National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

4 of the 61 national parks in the United States are located in Colorado — some 5%! — and they just happen to be some of the parks with the most incredible views!

Colorado is home to Rocky Mountain National Park too, which is one of the most-visited national parks in the United States!

From epic outdoor hikes that lead to unparalleled views to fun activities like sandboarding on sand dunes (yes, we do have those in the United States!), Colorado’s national parks genuinely have it all — and you can see it on on a Colorado national parks road trip!

Throughout this post, you’ll learn the best route to take to visit all of the national parks in Colorado in just ten days! Be sure to save it for later because this is one post you’re not going to want to misplace!

PLANNING FOR COLORADO AT A GLANCE: 

When to Go: From beautiful sunny days, stunning fall foliage, to impressive snowy winters, Colorado is beautiful all year round. But if I had to choose one season, then I'd say summer is the best time to visit Colorado.

However, winter is also a great time to visit if you're into winter sports since Colorado is a haven for that.

Where to Stay: For this itinerary, you'll have sleepovers in Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and Great Sand Dunes National Park.

For Rocky Mountain National park, I suggest staying at Woodlands on Fall River hotel (luxury), Blue Door Inn (motel), Coyote Mountain Lodge (budget), or this cabin for a homey feel. 

While in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, I suggest enjoying the magic of sleeping under the stars at either South Rim Campground, East Portal Campground, or North Rim Campground.

In Mesa Verde National Park, you can stay inside the park by opting for Morefield Campground if you're into camping but if not, then it has to be Far View Lodge as it's the only lodge in the park. 

Great Sand Dunes National Park can be visited without staying overnight but if choose to, then you can stay inside the park and camp on the dunes or at Pinon Flats Campground. If camping is not your thing, then you can choose to stay at Great Sand Dunes Lodge which is located right next to the park, or go a bit further to Alamosa town and sleep at either Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Alamosa, an IHG Hotel (boutique) or Best Western Alamosa Inn (budget).

How to Get Around: A car is essential to fully enjoy the National Parks of Colorado otherwise you'd have to rely on expensive tours. If you're renting a car, compare car rentals and prices from here. Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodations. 

Best Activities: Want to fully enjoy your Colorado road trip without the hustles of planning? Booking some activities will help you with that. You can book a full day tour of Rocky Mountain National Park from Denver so that you can just sit back and enjoy.

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack:  Colorado is all about hiking so a sturdy pair of hiking boots will serve you well -- I love my Ahnu boots. A dual-purpose phone mount and charger will come in very handy and you'll be happy to have a roadside emergency kit should your car break down while road tripping.

Know Before You Go: If you plan to visit multiple national parks in a year, the America the Beautiful Pass will save you a bundle! It costs $80 for an annual pass (for an entire vehicle traveling together) to all US national parks and federally managed sites.  

Colorado Itinerary, Day 1 – 3: Rocky Mountain National Park

Drive time: 1 hour 30 minutes from Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park

Because you’ll most likely come to Colorado from Denver International Airport, the logical first stop is Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s best to spend around three days in Rocky Mountain National Park due to all that there is to explore!

Pick up your rental car in Denver (I suggest booking a rental car via a search aggregator like Rental Cars, which offers the best deals on your rental) and it’s time to hit the road — we’re heading towards the Rockies!

Below are some of the best things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park over the course of three days. Pick and choose the ones that sound most interesting to you!

Sign at the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. Established in 1915

Take a leisurely drive on Trail Ridge Road.

Trail Ridge Road is one of the most unique drives available in the United States. It has the nickname of “highway to the sky” because of its high elevation and impeccable views of the Rocky Mountains from all angles.

Take a drive on this road to take in all of the views. There are occasional spots to stop off, too, so you can soak up the view and also take a photo if you’d like. It truly is unlike any other road in Colorado because it goes high above the trees, and the elevation is just shy of 12,000 feet.

The beautiful snow-covered landscape of Trail Ridge Road in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park

Go on a hike.

Rocky Mountain National Park is filled with tons of hikes for all levels. Here are a few of the most popular hikes, as well as some basic information about them.

  • Dream Lake Trail: This easy hike is approximately 2 miles and is out and back. It’s great for hiking between April and October and offers impeccable views. The elevation gain is slightly over 400 feet, so it’s not too terrible.
  • Emerald Lake Trail: For a moderate hike in the Rocky Mountains, this is the one to do. It’s about 3 miles with an elevation gain of just under 700 feet, located by Estes Park.
  • Sky Pond: If you’re up for a challenge, go on this challenging hike that’s also near Estes Park. It’s about 9 miles long with an elevation gain of about 1700 feet on this out and back trail.
Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park at the beautiful Dream Lake with still, glassy water reflecting trees and snow-dotted mountain peaks

Visit Alberta Falls.

One of the most beautiful areas in Rocky Mountain National Park is Alberta Falls. To get there, you have go on a super easy 1.7-mile hike! Because it’s easy, even children can do this hike to enjoy Alberta Falls at the end of it.

This is one of the most popular hikes to do in Rocky Mountain National Park because of the epic views. It’s known for its incredible aspen groves, so be on the lookout for those during the hike, especially if you’re road tripping Colorado in the fall!

The rushing cascading water of Alberta Falls, surrounded by trees and rocks

Search for wildlife in Moraine Park.

Moraine Park is an area of Rocky Mountain National Park that has tons of wildlife. It’s located near Estes Park and is filled with elk, birds, and other animals. Obviously, you shouldn’t get super close to the animals while visiting the park, but it’s a great way to see wildlife from a distance in the wilderness.

This is also one of the most popular spots to go camping. On the north side of Moraine Park is a campground right among the mountains. This can be a great place to call home base while you’re visiting Rocky Mountain National Park on this part of the trip.

Yellow flowers in a field in Moraine Park Colorado on a sunny summer day

Snap a photo of the view from Forest Canyon Overlook.

For the best views in all of Rocky Mountain National Park, head to Forest Canyon Overlook. This park observation deck offers extended views of the mountains and wilderness, and it’s truly unparalleled compared to other viewpoints in the park.

There’s a short paved walk to get to the observation deck. It’s not the biggest, so if you want to be there when there aren’t any crowds or other tourists, try to get there earlier in the morning. You might even catch the sunrise!

Scenery in Forest Canyon Overlook in Rocky Mountain National Park, view over the trees and mountains

Learn at Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.

No trip to an area is complete without learning, and there’s no better place to do that than at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. This is entirely free to visit and is technically the park’s headquarters.

Inside, you can learn all about Rocky Mountain National Park and even chat with some rangers. This can be a great way to find out what’s going on in the park, and if there are hidden gems you might be able to check out, they would know.

Trees and mountains at Beaver Meadows in RMNP

Explore downtown Estes Park.

Estes Park is a town in Colorado that is known as the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. If you’re looking for a great place to stay while exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, this small town is it.

The town is filled with wildlife, has great views of the mountains, and is even home to the Trail Ridge Road. Be sure to take a ride on the Estes Park Aerial Tramway to visit Prospect Mountain! This is one of the best things to do in Estes Park.

A view of accommodations like cabins and lodges in Estes Park near the base of Rocky Mountain National Park

Where to stay in Rocky Mountain National Park

Unlike other national parks, Rocky Mountain National Park doesn’t have any in-park lodges besides camping. If you prefer having an actual bed, there are great accommodation options in both Estes Park and Grand Lake to consider. But since Estes Park is closer to the majority of the park’s most popular attractions and hikes, I recommend basing yourself here.

CABIN | Located just a few miles away from Rocky Mountain National Park, this beautiful cabin gives the most stunning views in the area. With a large deck that features a hot tub, you can be assured of having a relaxed time while thanking mother nature for the stunning mountainous views. On the inside, the cabin is equally beautiful! The visible wooden beams add a cozy and rustic touch while the large glass doors bring the views right in the living room. The kitchen is modern, the light features are beautiful — there is nothing not to love about this cabin in the mountains.

>> Check photos and reviews on Vrbo

LUXURY | If you’re looking for a luxurious stay, then I recommend staying at Woodlands on Fall River hotel. With ensuite rooms that feature a large kitchen and a living room, this hotel will give you a home away from home kind of vibe. And let’s not forget the cabin-in-the-mountain kind of look that will make your experience in Rocky Mountain National Park even better. On top of all that, this hotel is right on Front River and just a few minutes from RMNP.

>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

MOTEL | If you want something with a mid-range budget without compromising on quality and comfort, then I suggest staying at Blue Door Inn. The motel features a woody charming interior, clean rooms, a swimming pool to cool off the summer heat, and also offers beautiful mountain views from the deck.

>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

BUDGET | If money is a concern but you want a place that’s comfortable, clean, and convenient, then I recommend Coyote Mountain Lodge. The rooms are nice, clean bathroom, and comfortable beds — nothing special to brag about but you can’t get any better for that price. The best part is that it’s perfectly located near RMNP so you won’t waste time on the road.

>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

Colorado Itinerary, Day 4 – 6: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Drive time: 4 hours 50 minutes

For days four through six, hop on the road and get to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This can be quite a drive, but you’ll be going through some beautiful small towns along the way.

If you want to make any pit stops, consider stopping in Breckenridge or Buena Vista. Breckenridge is one of the top-rated places to visit in Colorado, and Buena Vista is a little past the halfway point of the drive.

Here are some of the best activities to fill your few days in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Rock formations in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park with a river below and lots of trees

Watch the stars (and even camp under them!)

Believe it or not, but camping under the stars in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the best things to do while visiting! There are quite a few campgrounds to choose from, so you can pick the one that suits your needs best.

Some of the more popular campgrounds include South Rim Campground, East Portal Campground, and North Rim Campground. North Rim, in particular, is first-come-first-serve because it’s such a nice campsite!

Camping tent in Colorado lit up from within with stars above in the sky

Hike the S.O.B. Draw

The S.O.B. Draw is the hike to do while visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park! It’s only 2 miles long, but it’s one of the most challenging yet most rewarding hikes to do in the entire park and shouldn’t be missed if you’re up for the challenge.

It’s an out and back trail with just shy of 2,000 feet of elevation, which is why it’s such a strenuous hike. It’s almost straight uphill the entire time, and it’s incredibly rocky. Many people who have hiked it even refer to it as a total vertical climb.

Looking straight down into the gorge of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Snowshoe trek through the park

Are you traveling to all of Colorado’s national parks during the winter? Don’t worry – there are still great activities and fun to be had! One of those is snowshoeing through the park on the Oak Flat Loop.

You can either bring your own snowshoes or rent them nearby if needed. It doesn’t take super long to snowshoe the trail, but it’s still great fun, and honestly, the park in the winter is beautiful. Plus, there are considerably fewer visitors during this time.

Snowshoes for hiking in Black Canyon of the Gunnison in winter

Explore the North Rim

The North Rim is the lesser-visited part of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, but that’s why it’s so worth visiting.

There aren’t as many ranger services here, and it’s not as well kept as the rest of the park, and that’s why it’s often overlooked.

However, because there aren’t as many visitors, you can usually get a good chunk of the North Rim just to yourself so you can explore without crowds of people. What’s not to love about that?

River winding through Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Go on a ranger-led boat tour

Yes, there are actually ranger-led boat tours in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park! This is fun for both locals and tourists because it truly gives you a unique experience while visiting, and you’ll get to learn from a ranger along the way.

These boat tours are called the Morrow Point Boat Tours and are only about 90 minutes long. It goes right along the Morrow Point Reservoir, and you do have to make a reservation to go on the boat and pay a small fee.

Water going through Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Take the scenic route: drive through the East Portal

The best way to drive through the park is by driving through the East Portal. Take the scenic route by driving East Portal Road. Though it’s closed in winter, it’s pretty heavily trafficked in the warmer months because it is near some of the best camping and picnic spots.

Keep in mind that the road is very steep, but the views are rewarding. Other great drives in the area include the South Rim Road and North Rim Road. North Rim Road isn’t as high up as the other two, but the views are still incredible!

The east rim of the black canyon on an overcast day

Colorado Itinerary, Day 7 – 8: Mesa Verde National Park

Drive time: 3 hours

Now to Colorado national park number three! Next up is Mesa Verde National Park, which is about 3 hours from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Similar to the last long drive, there are a few points of interest along the way.

If you do want to make a pit stop, I highly suggest stopping in Telluride. Similar to Breckenridge, this is one of the best spots to visit in Colorado, known for its outdoor adventures. Right near Mesa Verde National Park is also Durango, a small town known for its scenic train rides!

Below are some of the best things to do during two days in Mesa Verde National Park.

sign that reads entrance mesa verde national park

Get up close to history on a cliff dwelling tour.

Park rangers run tours of the cliff dwellings so that you can get up close and learn more about them during your visit. This is easily the best way to get educated about the park while also having someone you can turn to if you have any questions about it!

Because these tickets tend to sell out quickly, you can only buy them two weeks in advance. If you know a tour is something you want to do during your trip to the cliff dwellings, be sure to call the ranger’s office and buy them the second they go on sale.

the cliff dwellings of mesa verde national park

Discover at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum.

Located right in Mesa Verde National Park is a small museum called the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. If you want to know even more about the history or weren’t able to grab tickets to the ranger tour, this is the place to go.

This is one of the most historic national park museums and was built in the early 1900s, and it’s made from the same types of materials used to create the actual cliff dwellings. Inside, you can learn all about pueblo life.

the archaelogical museum in mesa verde where you can learn about the cliff dwellings

Drive the Mesa Top Loop Road.

Obviously, by now, you can tell going on a short drive through the national parks in Colorado is one of the best ways to explore them. In Mesa Verde National Park, that road is the Mesa Top Loop Road!

It’s only about 6 miles long but is incredibly scenic. Along the drive, you’ll also be able to pass by remains of old archaeological sites dating back to 550 CE! There are many spots along the road that you can pull off and walk up to them too.

views over mesa verde with trees and cliffs and wood

Wander the Far View Sites.

The Far View Sites are one of the most popular places to visit in Mesa Verde National Park, and for good reason.

This was one of the more populated parts of the cliff dwellings, and 40+ different villages have been found in this area!

These sites are even older than the actual cliff dwellings, which is why so many people like to see them. It’s a great look into the history and the way of life hundreds of years ago.

Some of the top places in the Far View Sites to check out include Pipe Shrine House, Far View House, and Coyote Village.

archeaelogical findings at far view in mesa verde

Eat dinner at the Metate Room Restaurant.

For dinner with a view, look no further than the Metate Room Restaurant. They have sustainable cuisines, and they offer some of the best views of the park from above. This restaurant has even won an Award of Culinary Excellence, so you know it’s good!

The restaurant is only open for dinner with limited hours, usually only 3 to 4 hours a day depending on the time of year. To guarantee a spot, make a reservation 24 hours in advance. Walk-ins are welcome, but the restaurant can’t guarantee you’ll be able to eat there.

Where to stay in Mesa Verde National Park

You can stay overnight in the park but there are only 2 options. Morefield Campground for camping or Far View Lodge but you’ll need to book in advance to get a spot.

>> Book Far View Lodge Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

Colorado Itinerary, Day 9: Great Sand Dunes National Park

Drive time: 3 hours 50 minutes

After Mesa Verde National Park, spend a day or two at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Truly, a day is all you need, but if you want to spend a night in the park, then you’ll have to plan for two days, making this an 11-day road trip instead!

The drive to Great Sand Dunes National Park from Mesa Verde National Park is just shy of four hours, but you can stop at either Durango or Pagosa Springs along the way for a break. Durango is easily one of the best places to visit in Colorado if you’re a fan of locomotives.

Here are some of the best activities in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

The undulating sand dunes of Great Sand Dunes NP in Colorado

Hike to the top of the High Dune.

High Dune Trail is the most popular trail in all of Great Sand Dunes National Park.

It’s only three miles with an elevation gain of just over 600 feet, but it’s rated as difficult. This is because trekking in the sand is a lot harder than you may think it is.

Despite being the most popular trail, most of the year, you’ll find that you may be one of the only people you can see along the route. This is what makes it such a lovely trail to hike. Plus, the views are incredible the whole way.

layers of beautiful sand dunes stacking against each other in the early morning light in colorado

Have a blast sandboarding.

The best activity, without a doubt, in Great Sand Dunes National Park is sandboarding!

Don’t worry; you can rent sandboards right near the park in the San Luis Valley because it’s such a popular activity. Keep in mind that you should rent them before arriving at the park.

If sandboarding isn’t your style, you can also go sand sledding. This is perfect if you’re traveling with children! These can also be rented, or you can bring your own sleds from home if you’d prefer.

people sandboarding and walking up a sand dune

Spot the Milky Way.

To get a great view of the Milky Way, stay until nightfall at the park. There’s something truly magical about seeing the Milky Way while surrounded by sand dunes.

It’s one of those experiences that you can honestly only have while at the Great Sand Dunes National Park! (Okay, except maybe the Sahara Desert)

Don’t forget to bring your camera too, because this is one view you won’t want to miss!

Camp in the sand dunes.

Believe it or not, but you can spend the night directly in the sand dunes if you want.

To do this, you can backpack and camp anywhere within the sand dunes by setting up your own tent, even just sleeping in a sleeping bag in the sand.

Keep in mind that there is wildlife at this park, so be careful with what you bring. You also can’t have more than six people in your group at a time, and only twenty groups can sleep within the park on any given night. Read more restrictions here.

Camping in sand dunes in Colroado with stars overhead

Visit Zapata Falls.

Zapata Falls is one of the best-hidden gems in Colorado, and it’s located right next to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It’s a beautiful waterfall with a 30-foot drop that is a lovely example of Colorado’s nature.

The Zapata Falls Trail to get to the waterfall is less than a mile, with an elevation of around 200 feet. It’s an out, and back trail ranked as easy, so it’s not super challenging to get to the waterfall.

Visiting in the winter? You may find a frozen waterfall!

man hiking to a frozen waterfall in a canyon

Where to stay in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park has no in-park lodges but if you want to experience the magic of the dunes, I recommend camping right on the dunes if you have the permit that allows you to do so or camp at Pinon Flats Campground.

But if camping is not your thing, there are a few accommodation types just outside the park to consider.

LODGE | If you want to stay just right next to the park, I recommend Great Sand Dunes Lodge. There is nothing fancy to write back home about but the rooms are comfortable enough, it has an indoor swimming pool, and you get some nice mountainous views.

>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

If you don’t find a spot in the above lodge, then you can make Alamosa town your base for visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It’s approximately 45 minutes to the dunes but it has a lot more accommodation options.

BOUTIQUE | If you want something familiar that you know will never disappoint, then stay at Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Alamosa, an IHG Hotel. Just like most IHG hotels, the rooms here are comfortable with a chic interior that will make you feel welcome.

>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

BUDGET | If you want to stay on the lower end of the budget with a touch of luxury, then I suggest staying at Best Western Alamosa Inn. Not a low budget per se but definitely a steal for this location and the amenities offered. All the rooms at this hotel feature a refrigerator, a microwave, and a coffee maker should you want to fix yourself a quick drink. And for active travelers, you’ll be happy to know that there is a fitness room to stay in shape and an indoor swimming pool plus a jacuzzi to unwind from.

>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

Colorado Itinerary, Day 10: Back to Denver

Drive time: 3 hours 50 minutes

On the last day, head back to Denver (or wherever you started your trip from). The drive is just shy of four hours, and the halfway point is none other than the fantastic Colorado Springs. This is one of the top places to visit in Colorado and is also one of the best day trips from Denver.

I can’t recommend enough that you stop in Colorado Springs on your way back, just because it’s a great town.

While you’re there, be sure to visit Garden of the Gods, an epic outdoor attraction so beautiful it’ll have you wondering why it’s not another one of Colorado’s national parks!

beautiful light falling on garden of the gods

At Garden of the Gods, there are a few different walking trails ranging in experience level, but each one will take you through the fantastic rock formations so you can check out the park. This is a super popular photography location, too, so don’t forget your camera.

Other fun stops in/near Colorado Springs include Pikes Peak (an epic spot for hiking or rock climbing), The Broadmoor Seven Falls, and Pikes Peak Highway, which will take you up the mountain without hiking. However, it’s often closed in winter due to weather, so keep that in mind!

What to Pack for Your Colorado National Parks Road Trip

I have a complete USA road trip packing list here you may want to go through before your road trip.

Travel guides

While I’ve given you so much useful information in this Colorado road trip itinerary, sometimes it’s hard to include all the little details due to time and resources constraints. However, travel guides do a good job at filling in all the spaces and that’s why I recommend taking this Fodor’s Colorado guidebook on top of my first-hand experience.

Phone Mount & Car Charger

It’s never safe to use your phone while driving or bother your front-seat passenger with navigation help and that’s why you need a phone mount. Also, you’ll need to take a car charger for obvious reasons but instead of taking 2 different devices, I recommend taking this dual-purpose phone mount and charger! I’ve used it on every single road trip I’ve gone to and I can’t imagine going to one without it.

Snacks

Road trips just go better with snacks and let’s not forget how quickly hanger can kick in especially if you don’t want to keep stopping just to get something to eat. Pack a few snacks — and not just the sweet ones but a mix of sweets and salty ones too.

Comfortable Footwear: Colorado national parks have a lot of hiking trails, so you’ll need to take sneakers or comfortable hiking boots (I love my Ahnu Sugarpine boots for women, and for men, I suggest the KEEN Durand boot.) You can go with sneakers but just make sure they have good traction and are comfortable to walk in for an extended period of time.

Bug spray and after-bite care

Nothing ruins an epic adventure in the wild like bugs — those little monsters just know how to change someone’s mood quickly but the good news is that you can protect yourself with this DEET-free lemon eucalyptus-based mosquito repellent — it’s great on even the most stubborn mosquitos.

Unfortunately, sometimes bugs are just too sneaky and they become hard to avoid. When that happens, use After Bite itch eraser to manage itches. It will instantly soothe your skin and you’ll be able to go back to enjoying the beautiful National Parks of Colorado.

Rehydration packets

If you’re like me who gets nasty headaches when dehydrated, you might want to pack rehydration packets. With the scorching sun, uncoordinated meal times, Impromptu hikes, salty snacks, there is no way you can avoid dehydration except if you take these Rehydration packets. I’ve been packing them for years for every road trip and they’re now a big part of my road trip tradition.

Sunscreen

Some people think that just because they’ll spend a good amount of time in the car driving that they don’t need sunscreen but they’re wrong!

While windshields protect against UVB rays (which cause sunburn), most do not block UVA rays, which cause aging and skin cancer. So for that reason, you need to pack and wear sunscreen even when you’re driving. And not just when driving but even when you hit the trails or spend the day on a beach. I love this sunscreen as it prevents my face from breaking out –( my skin is sensitive to chemical sunscreens) but since it’s a bit pricey, I use a cheaper one for the rest of my body.

And remember that it doesn’t matter which skin color or race you are — white, pale like me, Black, Latina, or Asian, you need sunscreen! Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate based on skin color.

If you’re hiking, don’t forget about your scalp either — I often end up with a burned scalp and it’s no fun, often leading to headaches. Buy a special sunscreen for hair and scalp to avoid this!


Don’t forget travel insurance!
Travel insurance coverage helps you recoup your losses in case of emergency, accident, illness, or theft. I’ve relied on World Nomads for my travel insurance coverage for four years with no complaints, and I’m a happy paying customer. I recommend them highly to fellow travelers!

Get your free quote here.

21 Best Things to Do in Boulder in Winter

sunset colors seen from hiking the flatirons in winter

There’s no better place in Colorado during the winter months to visit than Boulder!

A small town (though some may refer to it as a city) located right at the start of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder is one place you won’t want to miss.

Boulder is a common day trip from Denver, but it is genuinely amazing to stay for an entire vacation.

It’s filled with breathtaking hikes, amazing restaurants, and of course, delicious breweries that will leave you wanting to extend your stay!

Without further ado, here are all of the best things to do in Boulder in winter, in no particular order.

a snowy landscape in front of the flatirons section of the rocky mountains of colorado in boulder in winter

Best Things to do in Boulder in Winter

Cross country ski at North Boulder Park.

One of the underrated places to visit in Boulder is a place called North Boulder Park.

This park is often visited by locals in the summer, especially those with families, because there’s a fantastic playground in the park that’s perfect for kids.

However, come winter, North Boulder Park becomes the perfect place for cross country skiing! This is a pretty popular activity for locals.

It’s a lot different than regular skiing, as it’s across flat surfaces of the ground, and you essentially are running with skis on (sort of — it’s hard to explain, but if you’ve tried, you know!).

Keep in mind that cross country skiing is said to be even more difficult than regular skiing, but if it’s something you’re interested in, there are places to rent or even learn in and around Boulder. Just make sure you do your research before paying for anything!

woman in a blue shirt and snow pants with cross country skis exploring in the snow

Walk the Boulder Creek Path.

For a great walk in the winter while visiting Boulder, take a walk along the Boulder Creek Path.

It’s perfect whether you are visiting during a snowy time of winter or a dryer time; just make sure you dress appropriately. The weather in Colorado can be pretty unpredictable sometimes!

The path is relatively long, about 9 miles or so from start to finish. You don’t have to walk the entire path if you don’t want to because even just walking a part of it is a great way to get some fresh air while visiting Boulder in the winter.

This is one of the easiest paths to walk in Boulder, making it perfect for visiting with families or even dogs, as it’s both dog-friendly and stroller-friendly. It’s partially paved and will lead you along a river near the mountains and even into the town of Boulder.

the landscapes around boulder creek in winter: a great place for a winter walk

Shop on Pearl Street.

If you’ve been to Denver before, then you’ve most likely gone shopping on the 16th Street Mall! This is one of the main shopping areas in the city. Pearl Street is the same thing, but with more local shops!

Along Pearl Street, you can find top-rated restaurants, breweries, stores, cafes, and more. Almost anything you can think of, you can probably find a shop that sells it on Pearl Street. A decent portion of it is also pedestrian-only, making it great for walking.

During the winter, you can generally find lots of fun random events happening at the different shops or even just on the street. It’s a great place to walk around and pop into stores to warm up while exploring Boulder.

Photo Credit: Paul Sableman via Flickr

Sled at Tantra Park.

Sledding is an absolute must in the winter, and thanks to Boulder’s proximity to the mountains, you can go sledding while visiting. Plus, if you need a sled, you can buy one at the local shops or the grocery store, King Sooper’s.

Tantra Park may just look like a regular old park during the rest of the year, but it becomes a true winter wonderland in winter. It also has a fun playground so kids can have fun in other ways, too, if it’s not snowing during your trip to Boulder.

There is a great little hill at Tantra Park where most of the sledding happens. If you’re feeling up to it, you can even use the snow to build a fun jump to go over when you’re sledding down the hill.

Photo Credit: Eric Anderson via Flickr

Ski at Eldora Mountain Resort.

No trip to Colorado is complete without skiing. The best ski resort right near Boulder is called Eldora Mountain Resort. Because Boulder doesn’t technically have its own ski resort, this is where all of the locals go.

This ski resort has mostly intermediate runs and a decent amount of beginner, advanced, and expert trails for skiers and snowboarders. No matter what level you are at, you’ll be able to have fun at Eldora Mountain Resort.

There are day passes so that you can easily go to the park for a day, but you can also buy a multi-day pass if you’ll be spending a few days in the area and really want to get the most out of your visit.

If you’ve never been skiing or snowboarding before but want to learn, you can also learn here because they offer lessons. The resort also offers rentals, so you don’t have to travel with your equipment.

a man with a snowboard taking the chairlift up to eldora mountain resort, near boulder colorado in winter

Attend Snow Much Fun.

Another fantastic event to attend in Boulder in winter is one called Snow Much Fun! This event is perfect for all ages and is the best way to see a whole bunch of holiday lights, similar to the ones that you would see in Denver.

Snow Much Fun in 2020 was a bit different than usual, but the event typically includes certain parts of the town being decorated and wholly decorated with lights. It’s mainly in the downtown area as well as the Civic Area.

Boulder’s tourism board will usually have a list of the must-visit places to see the lights, too, so you’ll know exactly where to look. For example, some of the best spots for Snow Much Fun lights last year was Creekside Play Area, Public Art Sculpture, and a whole bunch of spots along Pearl Street Mall.

Watch The Nutcracker with the Boulder Philharmonic.

A fun winter tradition is to see The Nutcracker, and the same is true when visiting Boulder. You can attend the show with the Boulder Philarmonic, put on by the Boulder Ballet.

It usually only occurs on set dates during the winter, so you’ll want to plan for this event and book your tickets in advance.

Sometimes the dates are in November, and sometimes they are in December. It truly varies on the year! Often, they are only for just a few short days, too, usually five performances or less total.

This can be a great performance to attend with families or even if you’re looking for something to do as a couple during your trip to Boulder. It’s an outstanding performance to get yourself and others into the holiday spirit.

Photo Credit: Roger Meike via Flickr

Attend Colorado Chautauqua WinterFest.

Going to festivals around the holidays (especially ones that are all about the holidays) serves as the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit. So, why not go to Colorado Chautauqua WinterFest?

When you think of the word WinterFest, you probably initially think that it’s a bunch of winter-related activities, and you’d be right. WinterFest is an event that usually lasts for a month or so in Boulder and includes tons of different events.

Common events of the past for WinterFest have included Art in the Park, a Cyber Scavenger Hunt, and even free coffee and cookies for guests to warm up. The events tend to change depending on the year, but a visit to Boulder to attend WinterFest is always a good visit.

Drive up (or hike) the Flatirons.

The Flatirons are the mountain range that makes Boulder so popular. They’re part of the Rocky Mountains and are genuinely one of the most iconic parts of the mountain range, too, which is why so many people like to visit Boulder.

While you may think that the mountains must only be accessible in the summer or warmer months, they’re open to visitors year-round.

If it’s super cold, you can drive on the Flatirons Vista Scenic Drive, which will bring you right up the mountain. This way, you don’t even have to get out of the car, but you can still enjoy truly breathtaking views.

Another option is to straight-up hike on the Flatirons in the winter. My first time hiking the Flatirons was actually on New Year’s Day, so this is doable. Plus, this is the time that you’ll also usually run into lots of locals! Just choose your trail wisely because some of them are difficult.

sunset colors seen from hiking the flatirons in winter

Enjoy a hearty breakfast from Snooze, an A.M. Eatery.

Arguably the best spot for breakfast (besides Foolish Craig’s Cafe) is Snooze, an A.M. Eatery. This is a small chain restaurant known for its breakfast, and they have quite a few locations across Colorado.

At Snooze, you can get almost any breakfast that you can imagine. From waffles to eggs benedict to huge breakfast burritos, Snooze has it all.

Keep in mind that Snooze is one of Boulder’s most popular breakfast restaurants, mainly because it’s on Pearl Street. You’ll want to book a reservation ahead of time, which most people will just do on the Yelp app. However, you can only book reservations on the same day!

If it’s super cold during your trip to Boulder, don’t worry. Snooze has lots of indoor seating, but even their outdoor seating gets surrounded by outdoor heaters during the winter, so you can sit outside without freezing.

Photo Credit: Victor Chapa via Flickr

Snowshoe on one of Boulder’s many trails.

Many people overlook snowshoeing as a fun thing to do in the winter because it’s just walking with funky waffle shoes on your feet while you tread snow easily. But it’s super fun and is a great thing to do in Boulder in the winter!

Also, if you’re traveling to Boulder without snowshoes (because why would you be traveling with snowshoes?), then don’t worry; you can rent them at different places throughout the town. The best places to check out for rentals include those that also offer ski and snowboard rentals.

Some of the best spots for snowshoeing in Boulder include Eldora Mountain Resort, Hessie Trailhead, Heil Valley Ranch, and Betasso Preserve. Note that some of these are in Boulder County and not necessarily the town of Boulder.

You could also go snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter!

person snowshoeing in rocky mountain national park

Warm up with a pint from a brewery.

Boulder is known for its amazing breweries, so the best way to warm up while visiting in winter is to head to one and grab a pint. Because there are so many that you can choose from, you have your pick. However, you should check out some of the more popular ones.

Arguably the best place to grab a bint in Boulder is at Avery Brewing Company. This brewery has its own restaurant, so you can eat here while also trying one of their many different drinks on tap. Consider ordering a flight to have a few different flavors.

Another great one that many people don’t even really know about is the Twisted Pine Brewing Co. This place has its drinks but also has tons of events (especially in winter), like trivia and live music. Plus, they have a fantastic pizza menu.

tasting flight of different beers

Go to Switch on the Holidays.

For a great holiday event, go to Switch on the Holidays! It happens right downtown on Pearl Street. If you happen to be staying at Hotel Boulderado, which is the most popular place to stay in Boulder, then you will be right near where this event happens.

This is an annual event that happens only once a year, so if you want to attend, make sure you plan your trip wisely. During the event, there’s a fun sing-along put on by the Boulder Children’s Chorale!

At the end of the event and when they are done singing, Pearl Street gets completely lit up at the Boulder County Courthouse! It’s one of the most magical experiences.

You’ll also be able to see Santa at the end, which is perfect if you’re traveling with children. It’s free to take a photo with him!

Eat a sweet from Spruce Confections.

There’s just something about sweet treats and cold winter weather and the holidays that just all go together, right? So check out Spruce Confections, one of the best spots for an amazing sweet treat in Boulder. They have a right location downtown on Pearl Street, but they have another location uptown too.

The menu has tons of sweet treats, including brownies, cookies, croissants, muffins, and other fun goodies that they make. Plus, they have a long list of hot and cold drinks to go along with your treat.

If you’re not a huge fan of sweets or you want something a bit more savory to eat before having your sweet, then don’t worry; they also have salads, sandwiches, and burritos on the menu. Honestly, you could get almost anything here, but the sweets are the most popular thing to get there.

Ice skate at Winterskate.

Ice skating is an absolute must-do activity when visiting anywhere in the winter, no matter where you are. However, Boulder has one ice skating rink, and it’s at the University of Colorado Boulder. Unfortunately, it’s mainly only open to students and friends of students!

That’s why the best spot to go ice skating near Boulder is Winterskate. It’s technically located a short drive out of Boulder in Louisville, but this is where all the locals go to ice skate near Boulder because it’s the closest place.

During Winterskate, there are also horse-drawn carriage rides, delicious hot cocoa and coffee, heaters, food stands, and fun holiday music to help get you in the holiday mood. The ice skating rink is also relatively large, at around 6500 square feet! There are rental spots right at Winterskate park so that you can rent some skates to have fun.

Red gloved hands tying an ice skate, white jacket and white skates

Take a photo with Santa at Saint Nick on the Bricks.

St. Nick on the Bricks is a fun event in Boulder annually for families and kids in the area. It’s completely free and is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit in winter. The event takes place at the Boulder Visitor Center in the downtown part of the town.

The main attraction at this event is, of course, Santa! Sometimes Mrs. Clause is also there, so you can get a photo with both of them. If you have the kids bring their Christmas list, you can even have them read it and take it to the North Pole.

This event usually takes place for a full day right before Christmas, so if this is something you know that you want to visit during your trip, be sure to plan wisely. Historically, it occurs the weekend before Christmas!

Have tea at Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.

One place that can’t be missed is the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. It’s one of the best things to do in Boulder in general, but it is even more enjoyable in winter because one of the best ways to warm up is to have a tasty hot tea!

This is one of the most unique places in Boulder. The entire building was actually built initially fully in Tajikistan. Then, it was taken apart and shipped all the way to Boulder, Colorado, of all places! Therefore, the teahouse has a unique and authentic feeling to it, unlike many other places in the United States.

There are many spots to sit down and relax here, so you can truly enjoy your drink. Be sure to look closely at the ceiling and the walls because the architecture is truly breathtaking. There are so many little details!

detail at the tajik style tea house at boulder dushanbe tea house

Go to Freezie Fest.

Yes, there is an actual event called Freezie Fest in Boulder! It takes place annually on a single day in December, usually on a Saturday. The event is mainly focused just on snowmen, which is super fun!

During the event, there are train rides, fun outdoor games, Christmas carolers, and even an opportunity to take photos with Santa. This is truly an excellent event for families or anyone who loves the holidays.

So, back to the point: snowmen. Around 25 different stuffed animals of Freezie, the snowman are hidden around the town inside different shops. The goal is to try to find one, and you can end up getting a gift card or another prize after finding one. It’s a fun way to get involved in a town-wide event while also exploring!

Buy a new book at Boulder Book Store.

One of the best things to do in Boulder in the winter is to support local shops like the Boulder Book Store. This historic shop was actually recently ranked number one out of all the independent bookstores in the United States, so it’s already made its mark on the map!

The shop is located right on Pearl Street and is a beautiful place to explore because it’s inside an old building. It covers three floors, and there’s said to be more than 100,000 books inside. There are so many little spots to explore inside the bookshop.

Boulder Book Store also hosts many events throughout the year, so be sure to check out their website to see if there are any events happening during the time you’re visiting. Sometimes they host readings or even author signings for the public.

Photo Credit: Kent Kanouse via Flickr

Grab a bite to eat at the Buff Restaurant.

Last but not least is another great restaurant that’s even better in the winter, the Buff Restaurant. They mainly serve brunch and are best known for their delicious bacon pancakes and fun drinks that they serve in mason jars.

At the Buff Restaurant, they also serve tons of food using local vendors. This includes places like Ozo Coffee, Sherpa Chai, Boulder Granola, and Polidori Sausage. If you want to try some local dishes, this is the perfect place to go and try it out.

The owners also take recycling and being sustainable very seriously, so it’s one of the restaurant’s values. Rest assured, you’re eating at a restaurant that does what it can to pay it forward! They take around 95% of their waste and compost it or make it recyclable.

Your Ultimate Weekend in Boulder Itinerary: 2 Days of Hikes & Hops

Located right outside of Denver, Boulder, Colorado is one gorgeous destination that you’re not going to want to miss! 

From epic hikes to some of the best breweries in the state, Boulder is filled with tons of fun things to do. 

It’s a lively city, in part thanks to the University of Colorado in Boulder, which makes it a fun and youthful college town with ample nightlife.

One weekend in Boulder is the perfect amount of time to scratch the service of this mountain time and enjoy some of the best parts of what it has to offer. 

Boulder also makes a good jumping-off point to other destinations in Colorado such as Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, and Golden. 

Just be sure to stay pretty central when it comes to accommodation so that you won’t have to spend a lot of time on transportation, as that can easily eat into the time you’ve allotted for your weekend in Boulder. (All of our accommodation suggestions are really convenient for this itinerary!)

By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what to put on your Boulder weekend itinerary. Here’s how to spend the perfect two days in Boulder, whether you’re visiting on a larger Colorado road trip or on a weekend getaway from Denver!

Where to Stay in Boulder

If you’re staying in Boulder for just a weekend, I suggest going for a hotel over an Airbnb. Once you factor in service and cleaning fees, hotels are often cheaper and a lot less hassle! 

Hotels are also less destabilizing to the local rental economy. Hotel space is planned carefully for in advance, whereas Airbnbs take up rentals from the local community — many of them students — and make the housing inventory artificially low, when really they have been illegally converted into mini-hotels.

Here are my hotel suggestions for Boulder.

LUXURY | For a luxury stay downtown, it’s impossible to beat the St. Julien Hotel. With a stunning view of the Flatirons and a location within walking distance of Pearl Street, all of the landmarks of Boulder are easily at your fingertips. Plus, it has a gorgeous spa and an outdoor area that perfectly encapsulates the love for the outdoors that embodies the Boulder lifestyle!

>> Book it on Hotels.com | Book it on Expedia

HISTORIC | For a cool and quirky place to stay that is historic, central, and beautiful, I strongly suggest Hotel Boulderado! This punnily-named hotel is just a few minutes’ walk away from the buzz of Pearl Street, while maintaining a quiet residential atmosphere. Enjoy expertly-crafted cocktails at the on-site Corner Bar or pick from an impossible number of places to go out along Pearl Street.

>> Book it on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

FAMILY-FRIENDLY | For a great place to stay for families, I suggest the Colorado Chautauqua Cottages. They are a little off of the main downtown area but the trade-off is beautiful mountains: not a bad bargain! It is affordable, spacious (can sleep up to six in the 2-bedroom cottages), and it has a kitchen so that you can cook meals in case you are dealing with allergies or special diets, or you can dine at the Chautauqua Dining Hall on site (which serves up an excellent array of food, including kids’ meals!)

>> Book it on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

Day 1 of Your Boulder Itinerary

An aerial photo of Boulder Colorado with mountain and hills in the distance

On the first day in Boulder, you’ll be taking the time to see all of the must-see attractions in the town. 

This includes the spots that Boulder is most well known for, including the Flatirons and Pearl Street Mall!

Have breakfast at Foolish Craig’s Cafe.

Photo Credit: Victor Chapa via Flickr

Start the day off right by heading straight to Foolish Craig’s Cafe. 

Located on the other end of Pearl Street, this cafe is known for its delicious crepes that are both sweet and savory! 

Plus, they have tons of other great foods on their menu, too, including chicken and waffles, sandwiches, and even pancakes.

There’s an ample amount of seating at Foolish Craig’s Cafe, including both indoors and outdoors. However, when visiting on the weekend, you want to either call ahead or join their waitlist online because of how popular this place is to eat!

If you’re not convinced yet, Foolish Craig’s Cafe has also been mentioned on the hit Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives! Ever since, it quickly grew to popularity in the Boulder area.

If you forget to make a reservation and the line is way too long, then you might want to consider stopping by Snooze, an A.M. Eatery, which is another fantastic breakfast spot (so good we suggest it on our Denver itinerary too — they have branches in both Denver and Boulder).

 Plus, it’s right next door to Foolish Craig’s Cafe, so it’s an easy back-up plan!

Go on a morning hike in the Flatirons via Chautauqua Park.

The distinctive rock formations of the Flatirons which look like three irons in a row surrounded by trees

No trip to Boulder is complete without hitting one of its many hiking trails and heading to the Flatirons. These are easily one of the most popular spots to visit in all of the Rocky Mountains, so you don’t want to miss them when visiting Boulder!

The Flatirons got their name because this part of the mountains looks like three different irons! It takes a second for you to see it, but once you do, it’s impossible to see the mountains any other way.

All of the trailheads for the Flatirons begin in Chautauqua Park, so that is where you will want to get to. 

Depending on the time of year that you’re visiting, you may also be able to get a free shuttle to the park from downtown so that you won’t have to drive there and fight to get a parking spot.

There are many different trails that you can do along the Flatirons, depending on your experience. 

I suggest checking in with a ranger if there are any there because they usually work on the weekends especially and will stand in the general trailhead area. 

Otherwise, head to one of the maps and pick a trail that’s great for you!

Head to the Boulder Farmers Market.

One of the most fun things to do in Boulder on the weekend is to head to the Boulder Farmers Market. 

It’s only open on Saturdays and takes place in Central Park in downtown Boulder. After that hike, you’re probably ready to take it a bit slower for the rest of the day!

At the farmers market, there are tons of local vendors selling everything from fun snacks to souvenirs. Honestly, even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s fun just to walk around. You never know what you may find!

If you’re driving, there are also quite a few parking spots near the market. The most popular place to park is at One Boulder Plaza, where you could try to stay for the rest of the day.

 Everything else on this Boulder itinerary is pretty much in this same general area of downtown Boulder!

Sip on a tea from Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.

Intricate painted detailing of the Boulder Dushanbe teahouse

After exploring Boulder Farmers Market, go over to the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. You’re most likely ready to sit down now after a pretty eventful morning! 

While they do serve lunch here, try just to grab one of their traditional teas instead because an even better lunch is up next on this weekend itinerary!

This teahouse is unlike any other teahouse that you’d find in the United States. The building itself was even built and then taken apart in Tajikistan and then shipped to Boulder, where it was rebuilt. How cool is that?

The inside of the teahouse feels very authentic to the typical Tajik style, and there’s tons of seating and ornate detailing everywhere. Be sure to pay close attention to the interior because it’s incredible!

Indulge on lunch from Post Brewing or Bohemian Biergarten.

tasting flight of different beers

After a little late morning/early afternoon tea, head over to 13th Street near Hotel Boulderado.

There are two fantastic restaurants for you to choose from for lunch on this avenue near Pearl Street: Post Brewing or Bohemian Biergarten. The only reason I’m mentioning both is that they’re right next door to each other!

Post Brewing is the place to go if you want to try some local brews with your launch. They also serve some fantastic food, ranging from fried chicken to green chili macaroni and cheese (which I highly recommend!). 

They have a lot of both indoor and outdoor seating, and dining here feels like you’re enjoying the best home-cooked meal of your life.

Then, there’s Bohemian Biergarten, which is precisely what it sounds like! 

They don’t have as much seating as Post Brewing does, but their traditional Czech-style food makes up for it. 

Plus, they have tons of fantastic drinks on their menu and occasionally will have live music too.

Shop on Pearl Street.

Once you’re done enjoying lunch, take a short walk to Pearl Street just to do some people-watching, check out the street performers, or peruse some of the local stores. 

Pearl Street is a bit like Boulder’s version of the 16th Street Mall if you’ve been to Denver before.

It’s essentially a pedestrian-only area on the street surrounded by tons of shops, restaurants, and more. 

It honestly only takes an hour or two to explore the whole area, depending on how quick of a walker you are.

Of course, there are a few shops you should stop by. For all of your souvenir needs, head to Where the Buffalo Roam.

You also can’t miss out on Boulder Bookstore, one of the top independent booksellers in the entire country. It’s located inside of an old historic building, and some of the books are even stored inside of old ballrooms!

If it’s super hot during your trip, you could also stop by Gelato Boy for some of the absolute best gelatos you’ve ever had.

Have dinner at SALT The Bistro.

The facade of Salt the Bistro in Boulder Colorado
Photo Credit: Kent Kanouse via Flickr

After spending the afternoon exploring Pearl Street, you’re probably ready to start winding down for the evening. So, head to SALT The Bistro for an excellent dinner.

This is a higher-end restaurant, but it’s right on Pearl Street, and the food is terrific. It instantly grew to popularity in Boulder because it focuses a lot on serving farm-to-table meals. Plus, a lot of what’s on their menu is local!

There are many indoor and outdoor seating here, so you can easily sit outside and enjoy the beautiful Colorado weather. When you’re visiting on the weekend, you may also want to try to call ahead and make a reservation to ensure that you can eat here.

If you, unfortunately, find that there are no reservations available, don’t worry! Pearl Street is filled with so many restaurants that you’ll easily be able to find a different one to go to.

A few other suggestions for where to eat on Pearl Street include: Frasca Food & Wine for upscale Italian cuisine, West End Tavern for tasty burgers, and The Kitchen for contemporary American fare. 

See a show at the Boulder Theater.

Photo Credit: Jesse Varner via Flickr

One of the best ways to start to wind down in the evening in Boulder is to see a show at Boulder Theater if there are any playing during your trip! 

This beautiful theater is located right next to the historic Hotel Boulderado and it’s a great addition to your weekend in Boulder if you want to see a little of the local culture scene.

The Boulder Theater has an art-deco-inspired architectural style, which you can immediately see even from the outside. 

It opened in 1906, and while it is a smaller theater, it’s become a popular staple in Boulder. The theater is even one of the most popular spots to host weddings in the area!

Throughout the year, they play different films and also host lots of artists for live music. Be sure to check online to see what sort of fun show you may be able to catch during your trip!

Grab drinks at Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery.

Photo Credit: emerson12 via Flickr

Finish the night off right by going out for drinks at the Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery

Located right on Pearl Street, this pub serves delicious drinks and often has live folk music. It’s quite a lively place to go in the evening, especially on a Saturday night.

Mountain Sun has about 75 different craft beers that they make throughout the year, so they are constantly rotating what’s available at their pub.

If you’re unsure of what’s worth ordering, be sure to ask one of the bartenders. They’re always willing to help you find something that you’d like!

After having drinks, head to bed! You’ll need rest for your second day in Boulder, which is just as busy as the first!

Day 2 of Your Boulder Itinerary

On your second day in Boulder, it’s time to see some of the attractions that most people overlook when visiting. 

On the first day, you did the touristy stuff; now it’s time to experience Boulder like a local! You’ll also go on a great tour run by a local.

Get your morning coffee from Ozo Coffee Company and catch the sunrise.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Reyes via Flickr

First thing in the morning, before the sun is even up, head to Ozo Coffee Company. Ozo opens right at 6 AM, depending on which location you go to! 

They are a popular local coffee chain in Boulder with quite a few locations.

After you grab your coffee to start waking yourself up, make your way to the National Center for Atmospheric Research. You may be thinking, why am I going to this center super early in the morning? 

And well, the answer is simple. It’s because you’re going to catch a classic and beautiful Colorado sunrise! 

You can drive up to the top of the hill here and watch the sunrise over the Flatirons. Seriously, the view is incomparable! 

There’s a parking lot at the top, or you can walk a bit from the parking lot if you want more of an unobstructed view. It’s entirely up to you.

Have breakfast at Chautauqua Dining Hall.

Photo Credit: Josh Montague via Flickr

You’re most likely pretty hungry after waking up super early to catch the sunrise! So, head to one of the best local places for food in Boulder: Chautauqua Dining Hall.

This remarkable place has tons of seating both indoor and outside. Plus, they have delivery and take-out if you’d rather eat somewhere else! 

This dining hall first opened in 1898, and while they are open for lunch and dinner, people often overlook that they’re also available for breakfast on the weekend.

The dining hall is situated right by the Flatirons, so the view is incredible no matter where you sit here. 

For breakfast, they have everything from traditional beignets to eggs benedict. They even have avocado toast and acai bowls. Seriously, they can satisfy even the pickiest eater here!

Keep in mind that the dining hall opens at 9 AM. Consider getting there right when they open to ensure that you get a great seat. 

If you want to sit outside, but it’s a bit cool, don’t worry. They have heated outdoor seating as an option too!

Rent bikes from Boulder BCycle.

Signs for bicycle paths around Boulder Colorado

After breakfast, it’s time to be adventurous like most Coloradans are and do some biking around the city!

Rent a bike from Boulder BCycle. This works like a lot of other city bike experiences do. 

There are different parking areas where you can just grab a bike and go, and you pay based on how long you ride the bike for.

Be sure to download the Boulder BCycle app to do this! As a first-time rider, there are also sometimes deals where you get $5 off your first ride or something like that, making this an even more affordable fun activity to do in the early morning.

There are quite a few different trails around Boulder, but one of the most popular is the Boulder Creek Path

You could also consider just riding around downtown, which is super lovely in the morning. That’s what I love doing on my mornings in Boulder, at least!

Go on a tour with Banjo Billy.

Photo Credit: Tee La Rosa via Flickr

You may be thinking, who the heck is Banjo Billy? Well, you’re in luck; this Banjo Billy Bus Tour is one of the most unique experiences that you can have while visiting Boulder for a weekend.

Essentially, the Banjo Billy Bus Tour takes place in a funky-looking bus painted red that’s made to look like a hillbilly shack. Yes, you read that right! But that’s what makes it such a fun and unique tour.

You have the choice of what type of guided tour you’d like to do with this fun tour group. They offer history tours, ghost tours, and brewery tours. Some of the tours are walking only, and some include rides on the fun Banjo Billy bus! No matter which one you choose, you’ll have a blast.

Most of the tours are two hours long. Some of them only occur in the evening (like the ghost tour), so you may have to rearrange your Boulder weekend itinerary slightly.

Have lunch at The Buff.

For lunch after your busy morning, head to The Buff. This excellent restaurant in Boulder is known for its breakfast and lunch menus. 

They have an old-school charm at this place, serving up drinks in mason jars and the like.

The restaurant first opened in 1995 and has been a family-run business ever since. The location that they are at now has been a Boulder staple since 2014. 

The menu also features tons of great local vendors, including Ozo Coffee, Sherpa Chai, Polidori Sausage, and Odell Brewing Co. Eating here is a great way to support locals!

On the menu, you’ll find everything from skillets to grilled sandwiches. They mainly only offer a combined brunch menu, so if you still want more breakfast, then you’re in luck. It’s all on the menu!

Drive Flagstaff Road.

Flagstaff Road in winter on a scenic drive in boulder

Once you’re done enjoying lunch, it’s time to take in the views of the Flatirons in a different way: by driving Flagstaff Road, a beautiful scenic drive in Boulder!

This is something that you can only do if you have a car while visiting here, unfortunately, but it’s very much worth it. You could even consider renting a car just for this afternoon!

While driving Flagstaff Road, you’ll be around 7,000 feet high in elevation. So, as you can imagine, the views are epic.

Along the road, there are a few pull-off spots so that you can stop and enjoy the view. No need to rush the drive, or else you’ll honestly miss some of the best viewpoints! 

Some fun spots to pull off at include the Green Mountain Lodge, Flagstaff Nature Center, and the Halfway House along the drive.

There’s also the Flagstaff House, which would be a good lunch spot if you want something fancier, as it offers elegant American dining with stunning views.

Spend the afternoon at Boulder Reservoir.

From driving Flagstaff Road, stay in the car and make your way to have a chill afternoon at Boulder Reservoir. 

It’s located in northern Boulder and consists of a huge body of water set against the mountains. The view is breathtaking.

Here, you can go swimming, have a picnic, relax by the water, or even rent a boat to go kayaking or paddleboarding. Honestly, the possibilities are endless! 

This is a great way to enjoy some of Boulder’s nature while also relaxing at the same time.

If the weather isn’t great during your visit, you could consider checking out the Boulder History Museum or the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art instead for your last afternoon here.

Wind down with dinner from Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant.

Photo Credit: Paul Sableman via Flickr

Once you’re done with your afternoon, it’s time for dinner at one of the best restaurants in Boulder: Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant. This Tex-Mex restaurant serves tons of amazing appetizers, entrees, and more… and even better margaritas!

While it’s not necessarily a “Boulder local restaurant,” it is a chain in the Boulder area. It’s a pretty popular place to eat, especially for lunch or dinner. Plus, if you love this place so much, they also have a Denver location!

You can find dishes like chile con queso, churros, chicken quesadillas, and more on the menu. Everything on the menu is relatively affordable and tends to cost $10 or less, so you’ll be enjoying delicious food without breaking the bank.

It’s up to you whether you’d like to order drinks here, but your last stop on your Boulder weekend itinerary does include a visit to another of Boulder’s best breweries that you won’t want to miss out on.

Have one last pint from Avery Brewing Co.

Photo Credit: Bernt Rostad via Flickr

Celebrate your last night in Boulder with a bang at Avery Brewing Co! This is one of the top-rated breweries in Boulder, and for a good reason. 

While they do serve some fun eats to go along with your drink, their brews are the real star of the show.

Some of their top-rated year-round drinks include their Avery IPA, White Rascal, and Liliko’i Kepolo. They also have many different brews that they serve on rotation throughout the year, depending on the season.

If you’re not sure what to order, don’t worry! Feel free to chat with some of the bartenders because they know everything there is to know about all of the drinks on the menu. 

Honestly, no matter what one you try, you’ll most likely enjoy it. This is one of Boulder’s best breweries for a reason!

What to Do with More than a Weekend in Boulder?

Explore more Boulder County hikes. Hikers will love all that there is to do in the immediate Boulder area — more than just the Flatirons! Here are a few of the best hikes near Boulder.  

Take a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s so easy to take a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. It takes just under an hour to get there by car, or alternately, you can make it even easier on yourself and just take a guided day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, where they’ll handle all the logistics: you just bring your camera and comfortable shoes and enjoy!

Take in a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Located in Morrison, CO just east of Denver, a trip to Red Rocks Amphitheater is absolutely worth the admission cost! It’s one of the most brilliant concert venues in the entire country. 

Other Colorado Travel Guides

I have a great team of Colorado-based writers crafting incredible content on this beautiful state!

Denver

How to Spend A Weekend in Denver
13 Best Day Trips from Denver
The Best Dog-Friendly Hikes Near Denver

Colorado in Winter

21 Delightful Things to Do in Denver in Winter
9 Great Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter
How to Visit the Dillon Ice Castles in Colorado

General Colorado

12 Incredible Colorado Road Trips

21 Delightful Things to Do in Denver in Winter

If you’re traveling to Denver during the winter months, you’re in luck!

This destination is often seen as an adventure lover’s paradise during the warmer seasons for its hiking, but it’s still just that during the winter, if not even more so!

No matter how long you spend in Denver during the winter, you’ll surely have a blast!

Since it’s at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, there’s true beauty everywhere you look, and there’s no better view than the mountains covered in snow.

This article covers all of the top things to do in Denver in winter, whether you enjoy being outside or inside.

This Denver winter guide is perfect for travelers of all ages and interests, so I’m sure you’ll find the right activities for your trip.

So, what are you waiting for? Read on to find out some of Denver’s best winter attractions!

The Best Things to Do in Denver in Winter

See the Dillon Ice Castles.

Blue-tinted ice castle in Dillon Colorado an hour from denver in winter

While it’s not technically in Denver, you have to take the hour drive to Dillon, Colorado, to check out the Dillon Ice Castles.

This is arguably one of the best winter attractions in all of Colorado, so it’s not one that you’re going to want to miss!

This event takes place exclusively in winter for a few months and is filled with tons of mind-boggling sculptures.

You’ll find tunnels, castles, towers, and more. Plus, everything is lit up with lots of fun colors, bringing the place even more alive!

Unfortunately, there is no way to get to the castles using public transportation. If you’re traveling from out of state and don’t have a car with you, it’s worth renting a car to witness these! It’s also an excellent attraction for children.

Adventure through Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park is filled with adventures all year round. In winter, the park comes to life in a whole different way. You’ll be right up next to the Rocky Mountains when they’re covered in snow, which is seriously magical!

Throughout the park, there are lots of great winter activities. You can check out the frozen lakes and waterfalls, catch the sunrise or sunset, take a cold but beautiful hike, or even go snowshoeing.

Another popular winter activity here is looking for wildlife. While many animals hibernate during this time of the year, you can usually still find some extraordinary wildlife from a distance. Just make sure you let the animals do their thing; don’t get too close.

Go ice skating.

Red gloved hands tying an ice skate, white jacket and white skates

No winter is complete without ice skating, and luckily there are quite a few places to go ice skating in Denver!

Don’t worry if you didn’t travel with your ice skates; you can rent them at every place listed below.

The most popular place to go ice skating here is at Skyline Park. The ice skating is outdoors, and the entire rink is usually covered in bright lights, so even when the sun goes down, the ice skating can continue. This is a great family-friendly ice skating attraction.

Another place that there is sometimes ice skating is at the Denver Airport! They’ve done this a few times at the airport, and it was completely free to go ice skating there. This means if you’re traveling through the airport in winter, you may get to enjoy this!

Tour Denver’s Capitol Building.

Denver’s Capitol Building is one of the top spots to see in the city no matter the time of year, so why not visit it in winter?

This 19th-century building truly commands your attention no matter where you are in the city because it has a huge golden dome — but the lights in winter make it even prettier!

The building stands at 272 feet tall, and visitors can tour the building for free. This is a great way to witness the architecture in Denver and also to get one of the best views in the city!

During the tour, guests are brought to the top of the dome, which offers impressive views. You can even see all the way out to the Rocky Mountains.

This view is even better during the winter months because of the snow! Keep in mind tours are only held on weekdays.

Attend the Christkindl Market.

Image Credit: Amy Aletheia Cahill via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of the best things to do in Denver in winter is attending Denver Christkindlmarket. People come from all over to come to this German Christmas market because it’s so fun and the festivities are so lively.

The most popular thing to do at the market is eat at all of the excellent food vendor stands. There are usually vendors selling spaetzle, chocolate, mulled wine, schnitzel, and more. The food is so good that you almost forget you’re not in Germany!

If this is an event that you want to attend, try to visit right when they open. This is one of the most popular Denver winter activities, so you want to get there as early as possible to avoid all of the lines that come later in the day.

Take a day trip to Golden.

A short drive away from Denver is a beautiful town called Golden!

This historic town is one of the most popular day trips from Denver that you genuinely won’t want to miss. Plus, it’s a small town, so it has a very different vibe from Denver.

Golden is a mountain town, so it’s right next to the Rockies. It’s an incredible place to visit when it’s snowing because it feels like a storybook town! There are also tons of great things to do in Golden, from going on a hike to just shopping in downtown.

For an indoor adventure, head to Coors Brewery, which is right in Golden. There’s a free shuttle from downtown Golden that you can get that will bring you there for the tour. Throughout the tour, you’ll learn all about Coor’s brewing process!

Discover the Dairy Block.

Image Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Dairy Block in Denver is one of the city’s newer additions. It’s located in Lower Downtown (LoDo) and comes alive in winter!

The Dairy Block features an alleyway with tons of outdoor seating and heaters for winter and gets completely decked out in fun lights.

You might be thinking, what the heck is The Dairy Block? It’s essentially a whole bunch of things! There are food vendors, sit-down restaurants, a hotel, a bar, and a coworking space. Most people come here to grab some food because the food is delicious, especially the pizza.

Keep an eye on their winter schedule because they usually host tons of fun events once the season rolls around. In the past, they’ve had live music, markets featuring other local vendors and shops, and more.

Visit Union Station.

front of union station in Denver at christmas, colorful rainbow lights and christmas tree

Union Station is Denver’s central transportation hub. Every winter in Denver, it gets all dressed up in tons of fun festive lights that will truly take your breath away!

While you can visit while it’s light out, it’s best to wait until the sun goes down so that you can see it all done up.

At night, Union Station can be spotted from a mile away because it’s so bright. The lights are truly breathtaking, so make sure you bring your camera. Even young kids will love visiting Union Station once the sun goes down.

During the day, Union Station serves as a meeting point for the Amtrak, airport train, and Denver regional trains. The inside of the Union Station building is a hotel but is also filled with lots of restaurants, sitting areas, and shops.

Indulge at The Brown Palace Hotel.

afternoon tea with a tiered tea cake stand and tea cups

One of the top-rated hotels in Denver is The Brown Palace Hotel. It’s a 4-star hotel with relatively comparable rates considering how nice of a hotel it is. It’s also rather historic, having been built in the 1890s.

While you could easily stay here in the winter or any time of year, you’ll want to visit The Brown Palace Hotel to attend their Afternoon Tea. It’s such a fun event to attend, and it’s even more fun in the winter because it’ll warm you up.

This classic tea service happens in the afternoon between 12 and 4 pm, so make sure you plan your trip to The Brown Palace Hotel wisely.

If you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy tea with fun treats, then consider ordering from their to-go station!

Walk around the Denver Botanic Garden at night.

Colorful lights in trees and bushes in the Denver Botanical Garden, with snow on the ground, celebrating Christmas in Denver

Every winter, the Denver Botanic Garden hosts its own fun event! All of the plants get entirely covered in fun lights, which you can only witness at night once the sun goes down.

Tickets usually have to be purchased for this event ahead of time because the garden is one of the city’s top attractions no matter the time of year. It gets even more popular in the winter months because of this event!

As an insider’s tip, don’t try to visit the garden during the day in the winter. It’s not that fun because you can see all of the lights wrapped around the plants, but they’re turned off, so it kind of ruins the experience.

Go skiing or snowboarding.

ski trails in loveland pass colorado

So many people come to Colorado for outdoor sports, and the same is true in the winter. If you’re traveling with a car or have access to one, then you’ll be able to enjoy this famous Colorado pastime.

There are quite a few ski and snowboard resorts within the Denver area. You could consider going to Echo Mountain Resort near Idaho Springs, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, or Loveland Ski Area.

Some of these are smaller ski resorts, but there are still quite a few slopes that you can hit up.

If you don’t have any equipment with you, don’t worry. You can rent them here. If you’re staying in Denver for a longer period of time, consider hitting up Breckenridge or Aspen for a really fun time.

Have dinner in an igloo.

christmas lights in larimer square denver

Denver is known for its fantastic dining scene. The weather is always near perfect in the city, so there are tons of spots for outdoor seating. This still holds true in the winter, but instead of eating directly outside, you can be seated in a fun warm igloo!

There are quite a few places around the city that you can indulge and dine this way. The most popular spot is Larimer Square, which is one of the most historic parts of the city. A lot of this street is pedestrian-only, and the restaurants are top-notch.

Another great spot in the city to try out igloo dining is at Union Station. A few of the restaurants here have igloo spots, including the bar. I do recommend that you make a reservation ahead of time to make sure one of them will be open, so you don’t get seated inside instead.

Learn at one of Denver’s many museums.

The famous sculpture The Yearling outside of the Denver Library

The city of Denver is filled with so many museums. Seriously, no matter what your hobbies or personal interests, there’s probably a museum related to it somewhere throughout the city. So, instead of being freezing outside, consider going to one of Denver’s museums.

The most famous museum in Denver is the Denver Art Museum, which is right next to the Denver Capitol Building.

Other great museums here include the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Children’s Museum of Denver, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

Before you plan your trip to Denver, make sure to check online to see when free days are at the museums. The museums in Denver work hard to be accessible to everyone, so they host multiple free days each month.

Go to Winter Brew Fest.

Image Credit: Jason Cipriani via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Honestly, no Denver trip — winter or summer — is complete without taking part in the local drinking culture.

The city is filled with great local breweries, selling and making everything from ciders to seltzers to great beers.

While most people come to Denver to attend Summer Brew Fest, there’s also one in the winter: Winter Brew Fest. It’s been happening in Denver for about 15 years now!

It’s the perfect way to learn more about Denver’s drinking culture and also to try out some delicious beverages.

The event usually only takes place on one day in Denver in January, so if you know that this is an event you must attend, then be sure to find out when the date is.

Historically, there have been more than 100 different drinks to try at this event!

Shop at 16th Street Mall.

The 16th street mall lit up in colorful lights at dusk

Essentially, 16th Street Mall is a huge pedestrian-only street that’s a little over a mile long. It’s lined with tons of great shops and restaurants.

Some of them are local sellers like Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, but others are more commercial.

The mall gets all lit up in the winter and is completely lined with tons of excellent lights. Sometimes, the mall also hosts its own events. You might find that you’re lucky and attend one during your trip!

Be sure to walk along the mall and see what’s going on. It’s right next to Skyline Park, where the ice skating takes place and is also a short walk from the Christkindl Market, so there’s seriously so much to do in this area.

Snap a photo at Denver’s Mile High Tree.

colorful rainbow mile high tree lit up at night, with snow on the ground

While most cities across the United States get huge real trees that they decorate and light up in one of the city’s most popular areas, Denver at Christmas does something completely different. It gets its own Mile High Tree, which is entirely electronic!

The tree is so unique and fun. When you look at it, it’s almost like you’re watching a light show but without the music. It’s set up right along the 16th Street Mall in the open green space about halfway down the street.

Usually, you can even stand in line to go right inside of the Mile High Tree and snap some photos. This is such a fun experience! You can stand inside of it and look up to be surrounded by flashing lights.

Hike in Boulder.

Winter in the Flatirons of Boulder, Colorado, a popular winter active day trip from Denver

Believe it or not, but hiking is still a fun thing to do in winter in Colorado. The best place to go hiking near Denver is Boulder.

It’s less than an hour away by car and is accessible by public transportation if you book tickets for the Flatiron Flyer.

Boulder has tons of great hikes, but arguably the most popular is hiking near the Flatirons. Because some of the more difficult hikes can get icy and snowy in the winter, try to pick one of the trails that are a bit flatter.

The weather in Denver during the winter is genuinely not that bad. Sure, it snows, but temperature-wise it’s usually not that cold compared to other parts of the United States.

So, hiking is doable in winter! Of course, be sure to still check the weather and dress appropriately for your hike.

Attend the Parade of Lights.

Colorful Christmas lit up floats at a parade
Image Credit: Brian Papantonio via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Parade of Lights is an annual event in Denver in winter held by the local 9News station.

It’s a huge parade filled with all of the Christmas and holiday festivities. It’s the perfect event if you’re traveling to Denver at Christmas with children too!

The parade takes place at night because its main focus is the lights, so that’s something to keep in mind. Young children may need to take a nap to attend!

Throughout the parade, you’ll see tons of giant floats all lit up. People get all dressed up in red and green, and the event truly gets you in the holiday spirit, no matter your age.

Be sure to get there early to save yourself a good spot with a view!

See a Denver Nuggets game.

Basketball players at the arena playing a game
Image Credit: David Herrera via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

If you’re a sports fan, you’ll absolutely love this!

Basketball is a winter sport, so what better time of year to support the local Denver teams like the Denver Nuggets?

The Nuggets play at Ball Arena, which is right next to the Children’s Museum and Elitch Gardens. In other words… it’s right near downtown!

Tickets range in price, usually depending on who the Nuggets are playing. So, make sure you do your research and find out if the game you want to attend will be expensive or not. Sometimes, if you can hold off purchasing until an hour or two before the game, the tickets can be crazy cheap, like $20.

Because of the way the arena is set up, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Plus, there are huge jumbotrons in the middle of the court, so it’s impossible to miss any power plays throughout the game.

The arena also has tons of great places to eat, so you can easily buy yourself something right there if you get hungry during the game. However, it might be a little pricy!

Catch the fireworks.

Fireworks over the city of Denver at New Years

Every year, Denver has its own fireworks to help bring in the New Year. You can usually see them all around the city, so you can try to catch them no matter where you are if you’re in the city’s vicinity.

However, here’s an insider tip: head to either Confluence Park or 16th Street Mall to get an unparalleled view of the fireworks. Sure, these spots can get kind of busy with locals watching them, but the view is so unmatched that it’s worth it.

There’s no better way to bring in the New Year in the Denver area than by catching these fireworks!

Visit the Denver Zoo.

Photo Credit: Greg Goebel via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Head to the Denver Zoo to catch the Denver Holiday Lights! This is one of the most fun things to do in Denver in winter, especially if you’re traveling with children.

The entire zoo gets completely lit up with tons of lights throughout the park. Plus, the animals are still out, so you can visit with the animals and see the lights at the same time.

This is another one of the events during the holidays that you’ll want to purchase tickets for ahead of time if you can because it’s such a popular event.

Be sure to also dress really warmly for this event. The zoo is reasonably sizeable, so you’ll be doing lots of walking, and you never know when it will suddenly start snowing in this city!

The 12 Most Scenic Colorado Road Trips & Drives

If you love adventure and the great outdoors, then you’re going to love Colorado!

Located in the southwestern part of the United States, Colorado is an adventure lover’s dream, filled with beautiful hikes, epic mountain drives, and breathtaking viewpoints throughout.

One of the best ways to explore the beauty of Colorado is to go on an epic Colorado road trip, taking in the scenery and culture at your own pace.

These road trips in Colorado are truly unlike those anywhere else in the United States because of the amazing naturalness of the state.

Throughout this post, you’ll learn all about the very best Colorado road trips. By the end, you’ll want to chase your wanderlust all the way to Colorado!

The Best Colorado Road Trips

Below are all of the must-do Colorado road trips! They vary in length, but some of them are near each other.

You could easily do multiple road trips around the state in the same week if you plan wisely!

Trail Ridge Road

One of the best wonders of Colorado is Rocky Mountain National Park, and the easiest way to explore it is to road trip through it on Trail Ridge Road. This road has been a favorite among nature lovers since it was completed in the 1930s.

While on the road, you’ll be brought through beautiful cliffsides and epic views. It’s most commonly called the Highway to the Sky because it’s the highest continuous paved road in the United States and goes pretty high into the mountains.

Because it’s so high, it’s pretty common to get altitude sickness while doing this drive. Be sure to stay hydrated and pay attention to how you’re feeling along the drive just in case anything takes a turn for the worse.

The halfway point of the drive is also a great stop to relax along the trip. A great mid-way point is the Alpine Visitor Center, so be sure to keep an eye out for it along the way.

For an epic view that you won’t want to miss, be sure to climb to the top of the trail right near the visitor center.

To do this drive, start in Estes Park and follow the road until the end. Along the way, be sure to stop at both Medicine Bow Curve and Forest Canyon Overlook if you have the time.

If you want to get the most out of this drive, be sure to start earlier in the day because then you can also spot some local Colorado wildlife that often hide away as the day goes on.

You’ll also want to make sure to pay attention to the speed limits, especially because the road is cliffside for some of it.

Driving Distance: 48 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 2 to 4 hours

Pikes Peak Highway

Hairpin curve in the mountains with several cars going up the mountain and some light fog, on a popular Colorado road trip

Pikes Peak Highway is Colorado’s most popular and well-known road trip because of its incredible viewpoints. It’s one of the most scenic drives in Colorado!

Located right outside of Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak is a must-visit 14er in the state!

While many people with experience will opt to hike Pikes Peak to get all the fantastic viewpoints, it’s become more accessible to get similar views by road tripping the Pikes Peak Highway.

Because this highway can be pretty dangerous in the dark to it being cliffside, it’s only open to the public between 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., with the last ticketed entry at 6:00 p.m. The highway is also occasionally closed in the winter if there’s too much snow.

To do this drive, it’s pretty simple. After you pay for your entrance onto the highway, you just follow it. Be sure to stop at all of the scenic lookout points because each one is different than the other, and you won’t want to miss them.

In June 2021, the Summit View House is also going to open, which will be an excellent place for you to grab souvenirs or even a coffee on your drive.

Driving Distance: 19 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 2 to 5 hours

Independence Pass

Meadow along Independence Pass Road, in autumn road tripping in Colorado.

Another epic road trip in Colorado is driving the Independence Pass. The road is incredibly narrow, but the views are amazing and are a part of Colorado State Highway 82.

It’s the perfect road trip to do if you want to visit Aspen or Leadville, as it goes right between the two. Instead of just driving the pass, you could make it more of a loop and also visit Aspen and Leadville on your road trip.

Independence Pass is the highest road in Colorado that’s paved because the summit is just over 12,000 feet. As you might imagine, this pass is often closed in the winter due to snow and ice. Be sure to plan your trip wisely if you wish to do this road trip.

Similar to Pikes Peak Highway, this is a pretty simple drive as far as directions go. Just follow the road! However, this is a popular road trip to do, so you’ll want to pay close attention to the other cars, especially when the road gets narrower.

Along the drive, you’ll find a few pull-over spots where you can take in the stunning view. Don’t pass these spots by, or you’ll regret it.

A great nearby attraction that you won’t want to miss is the Independence Ghost Town that once served as a mining town back in the 1800s.

The Grottos Ice Caves are also nearby and worth stopping at if you have the time.

Driving Distance: 32 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 2 hours

Million Dollar Highway

Road against the edge of a mountain with lots of evergreen trees in the distance on a sunny day road tripping Colorado

The Million Dollar Highway is a stretch of U.S. Route 550 that goes through Colorado State. It got its name because it was not cheap at all to build, but it truly offers million-dollar views along the way.

Start the drive in Ouray and end it in Silverton to stay within the state of Colorado. If you’d like to explore a surrounding state, you can also follow it into New Mexico if you have the time.

A decent portion of the drive is up in the mountains, and it’s even more incredible if you can do the drive in the autumn because all of the trees change color.

The best part of the Million Dollar Highway is Uncompahgre Gorge, which puts the highway right against huge jutting rocks and a cliff face with no guard rails along the majority of it, so you’ll want to be careful while driving.

Along the way, be sure to use all the viewpoints to your advantage. One of the best spots to stop along the drive is on Red Mountain Pass. Make sure you don’t miss it!

Also, instead of just driving the road, be sure to take the time to explore Ouray and Silverton. There’s a fantastic train ride in Silverton that’s incredibly scenic, but this could add another day or two to your road trip.

Driving Distance: 25 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 1 day

Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway

Colorado River along the southern border of Arches National Park, Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway, Utah

One of the longer road trips in Colorado is the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway. It covers a good chunk of northwestern Colorado and was named because dinosaurs were rather prominent in the area during prehistoric times.

This road trip technically also dips into Utah, but it’s still considered a Colorado road trip because half of it is in Colorado, too.

The Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway is a great road trip for families in particular, especially families with children who love dinosaurs.

Start the drive by heading to Grand Junction, one of Colorado’s most scenic areas. This is where most people start the drive. Then, go to Fruita and Dinosaur, and then go over to Utah and complete the loop.

Along the drive, you’ll want to stop at some different places and landmarks that you won’t want to miss. Some great spots include the Colorado National Monument, Canyon Pintado National Historic District, and the Dinosaur Journey Museum.

On average, this trip takes about two to three days but can take longer or shorter depending on how often you stop along the way. For instance, this drive could easily be stretched out to even a bit longer if you wanted to spend more time exploring.

Driving Distance: 512 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 3 days

Mount Evans Scenic Byway

Red car going up a mountain pass on a sunny day with hills and mountains in the background

Next up is the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, which is a popular road trip from Denver, Colorado. It’s about 60 miles from downtown Denver.

Similar to Pikes Peak, Mount Evans is another popular drive to take that will bring you up one of Colorado’s 14ers.

Many people opt to hike Mount Evans, but it can be dangerous without experience. So, go to the top of a 14er by driving instead!

The easiest place to start this is from Idaho Springs, a mountain town west of Denver. From there, get to the top of Mount Evans by taking Highway 5. Driving to the top of Mount Evans is consistently ranked as one of the best things to do in Colorado.

Along the drive, you’ll be brought by beautiful lookouts as you go through the mountain. No matter what time of year you visit and do this drive, you’ll have genuinely excellent vantage points that you would not get elsewhere, so take advantage of them.

You do have to pay a fee of $15 per car in order to go on the byway, but it’s entirely worth it. The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is open 24/7, but it’s best to do the drive during the day because it can be a safety hazard if you go in the evening.

Driving Distance: 28 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 5 to 8 hours, or one day

National Parks Loop

Stone dwellings carved into a cliffside and surrounded by trees in Mesa Verde National Park

For a longer road trip in Colorado, look no further than the National Parks Loop. Colorado is home to quite a few national parks, so take the time to road trip and visit all of them!

Start the loop in western Colorado in Grand Junction. From there, drive to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and then to Mesa Verde National Park.

Continue onto Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and try your hand at boarding down the sand dunes! Then, head to Rocky Mountain National Park, the last stop on the loop, and make your way back to Grand Junction.

This could be done in as many days as you want and could definitely become a longer road trip depending on how many stops you’d like to make along the way. I suggest spending at least a day or two at each of the parks, so anywhere between 7 to 10 days is perfect.

Be sure also to purchase a National Parks Pass to save yourself money when entering each of the parks!

Along the National Parks Loop, you’ll also go through some other small towns worth exploring like Telluride, Durango, and Buena Vista.

Be sure to enjoy the small towns along the way and explore the rural side of Colorado too!

Driving Distance: 941 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 7 days

Denver Area Road Trip

Dakota Ridge near Golden Colorado a beautiful hiking area

Just because you’re visiting Denver doesn’t mean you can’t take a road trip to explore more of the area.

On this quick road trip from Denver, you’ll be brought through all of the best small towns and cities surrounding Denver.

Because they’re so close together, you could easily visit two a day to complete the road trip in as little as three days or spend one day in each place on the itinerary.

Start the road trip in Denver; from there, head north to Fort Collins and then make your way to Boulder.

Next, head south to Golden (stop and check out some of the beautiful hikes!) and also Idaho Springs. End the road trip by visiting Colorado Springs.

So many great places are waiting to be explored by you in these towns. Here are some must-visit spots in each town.

  • Denver: 16th Street Mall, Dairy Block, Confluence Park, Red Rocks Amphitheatre
  • Fort Collins: Horsetooth Reservoir, Boyd Lake State Park
  • Boulder: Flatirons hike, Pearl Street
  • Golden: Downtown Golden, Coors Brewery
  • Idaho Springs: Echo Mountain (in winter), Argo Gold Mill and Tunnel
  • Colorado Springs: Garden of the Gods, The Broadmoor

If you’d rather not do all of these places as a road trip, they also make excellent day trips from downtown Denver.

Each place is within an hour from Denver, so you could easily use Denver as a home base and do a whole bunch of mini road trips for nearby sightseeing if you wish.

Driving Distance: 262 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 3 to 6 days

Peak to Peak Scenic Byway

Peak to Peak Highway through the Rocky Mountains near Estes Park, Colorado

One of the most beautiful road trips in Colorado is the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway! To do this road trip, start in Estes Park to I-70.

If you love history, then you’re going to love this drive. It’s the oldest scenic byway in the entire state because it was built in 1918. It’s been a favorite among locals and tourists ever since.

The drive will bring you throughout the natural part of the state and will even bring you through some ghost towns. Plus, there will be some epic lakes along the way, so you’ll have plenty of viewpoints to look out and take a jaw-dropping picture.

Another thing to keep an eye out for along the way are the gold mine remnants. Tons of gold mines in Colorado used to be in this area of the state, and sometimes you’ll even find people panning for gold in the water.

Arguably one of the must-sees along the way are the aspen trees; however, they are only stunning in the fall when they’re yellow. So, try to do this drive in the fall to really get the most out of it.

Driving Distance: 59 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 3 to 5 hours

San Juan Skyway

Fall colors of the yellow Aspens along the San Juan Skyway north of Durango Colorado.

The San Juan Skyway is another beautiful road trip, and it’s even been mentioned in popular news outlets like Travel + Leisure for being one of the best spring drives in the United States — though fall with its golden aspens isn’t bad, either!

Most people will start this drive in Durango. From there, head to Mancos, Dolores, Stoner, Rico, Telluride, Ridgeway, Ouray, Silverton, and then finish by heading back to Durango.

There are tons of great places to visit along the drive, including Mesa Verde National Park, San Juan National Forest, and Bridal Veil Falls.

If you love skiing, you’ll want to check out Durango Mountain, and if you love hiking, visit one of the 14ers, El Diente Peak or Mount Wilson.

If you love scenic train rides, you can even finish out the loop by riding the train from Silverton to Durango. This is one of the most popular train rides in the state.

While you could technically do this entire drive in just 7 hours, I don’t suggest that you fly through it. There are so many epic places to visit and beautiful small towns that you should truly take the time to explore.

Too often, small towns filled with history are skipped for big cities. Don’t let that happen when driving the Suan Juan Skyway!

Driving Distance: 236 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 1 to 3 days

Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway

Fall drive through Phantom Canyon in Colorado, USA with its brilliant yellow aspens

Another of Colorado’s state scenic byways that makes a great road trip is the Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway. This road trip, like you may have guessed from the name, brings you through some of Colorado’s gold rush sites.

The best place to start the Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway is in Cañon City, and then check out the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.

Be sure also to visit Phantom Canyon Road and Victor. Head back and check out Florence, and finish by looping back to Cañon City.

Similar to every other road trip, there are some great places that you won’t want to miss, like the Lowell Thomas Museum, the Ag and Mining History Museum, the Outlaw & Lawmen Jail Museum, and the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

An absolute must-do is the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. It’s a highly scenic drive, and you’ll learn a lot about the area along the way while witnessing it for yourself.

Please note that there are also quite a few ways to do this road trip. It’s best to do it in about two days so that you can fully explore the area, but there are different ways to take in the views.

In fact, some people even opt to take a helicopter tour over the byway to get unparalleled views!

Driving Distance: 131 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 2 days

Highway of Legends

Highway of Legends winding through southwest Colorado on a sunny day

The Highway of Legends is a southern Colorado scenic drive that begins in Walsenburg.

From there, get on the highway and go to Trinidad, Weston, Stonewall, Cuchara, La Veta, and back to Walsenburg to complete the loop.

This road trip can easily be done in just a few short hours, but take at least a full day or two to explore it and see all that it truly offers fully.

For example, you won’t want to drive quickly through the Spanish Peaks, Cuchara Pass, Cuchara Valley, or the beauty in Cokedale or Trinidad.

Trinidad, in particular, is known for its interesting Victorian architecture that will make you step back in time!

If you want to lengthen your trip, then you can easily do so. There are tons of beautiful places to explore here, including San Isabel National Forest, La Veta Pass, and the Spanish Peaks State Wildlife Area.

There’s even a 14er that you can do if you feel up to it: Culebra Peak!

For a great train ride, be sure to check out the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad, which brings visitors right through the San Luis Valley and La Veta Pass.

The views are absolutely incredible, and you can ride inside a vintage train, making the experience even more memorable.

The Highway of Legends is one of the best ways to explore some small towns in southern Colorado, so don’t pass up this road trip.

Driving Distance: 82 miles

Recommended Road Trip Length: 1 to 2 days

2 Days in Denver: The Perfect Weekend in Denver Itinerary

Denver, Colorado, is often seen as the perfect home base for adventuring in the Rocky Mountains, but the city itself is filled with great history, tasty food, and tons of fun things to do.

Whether you’re planning on spending a few days in Denver before exploring the Rockies, or you’re just stopping by for a weekend, this Denver itinerary is the perfect way to find out what’s worth doing in the Mile High City.

Throughout this article, you’ll find out the perfect way to spend two days in Denver if it’s your first time visiting this city. Perhaps you’ll even want to spend longer after reading this! 

Flying into Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport - view of food courts and people walking around the airport interior

If you’re flying into Denver, there are a few ways to easily get into the city.

Renting a Car: In my opinion, this is the best option for this itinerary, which has destinations like Red Rocks Amphitheater on it which are hard to access via public transit (and would require a ~$60 return Uber ride).

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental from Denver here.

Taking Light Rail: The light rail from the airport is a great eco-friendly alternative to renting a car. Not having a car will make some aspects of this Denver itinerary more challenging, but if you can’t drive — or just prefer not to — light rail into the city costs just $10.50 and is easy and convenient.

Uber or Lyft: If you prefer to land and hit the ground running without having to deal with public transit or renting your own car, a ride-share from the airport to your hotel to drop off your bags is the best bet. An Uber or Lyft from the airport costs around $40. 

Where to Stay in Denver

Light rail station in front of Union Station in Denver. Text on building reads "Union Station Travel by Train"

If you’re trying to figure out where to stay on your Denver weekend getaway, we’ve got you covered with a few great suggestions!

In general, on a weekend trip, I don’t suggest Airbnb. Checking in and out can be a pain in the butt with flaky hosts, and Airbnb’s service and cleaning fees have gotten insane lately. 

Here are our suggestions for hotels in Downtown Denver:

LUXURIOUS | For a classic luxury hotel experience, The Brown Palace hotel offers up the best place to stay in Denver. It’s over a hundred years old, and you can sense the history in every nook and cranny of this gorgeous hotel, particularly its stunning lobby. Amenities include twice-daily maid service, six on-site restaurants, and an on-site boutique spa.
>> Book online here

CENTRAL | Another great option on the luxury end of the spectrum is The Crawford Hotel at Union Station. It’s literally part of the train station, so you can enjoy the food hall and restaurants in Union Station right at your fingertips. The rooms have an industrial-chic vibe and the location couldn’t be more central: the light rail is right in front!
>> Book online here

BUDGET | There are a few great hostels and budget-friendly options in Denver. One of the coolest hostels in Denver is Ember Hostellocated in Capitol Hill. This chic hostel has everything from 4 to 16 person bunk rooms as well as private rooms. The furnishings are boutique hotel-level stylish (including the bathrooms!), and there are all sorts of amenities to enjoy like a hot tub, fire pit where you can roast s’mores, and social events.
>> Book online here

Day One of Your Denver Weekend Itinerary

For your first day during your weekend in Denver, you’ll be spending a lot of time sightseeing in the LoDo area or Lower Downtown. 

This is often seen as the main downtown area, and there are tons of things to do here!

The historic downtown area of Denver with summer plants and people out enjoying restaurant seating outdoors

Order breakfast at Snooze, an A.M. Eatery.

Start your morning off right by ordering breakfast at one of the top-rated breakfast restaurants in all of Denver: Snooze, an A.M. Eatery

They have three locations around the city, but you’ll want to make sure you head to the one on Larimer Street because it’s closer to the second stop on today’s itinerary.

Snooze has a very retro diner vibe, but it’s also very vibrant and upbeat at the same time. Each of their locations is pretty similar, with fun orange seating, and there’s usually a lot of spots to sit outside too.

Their menu is pretty extensive with breakfast entrees because that’s what they specialize in. I always order their “Bella! Bella! Benny,” which is an eggs benedict with prosciutto and balsamic.

Here’s an insider tip from a local: Snooze is popularly visited no matter the day of the week. Be sure to join the waitlist on their app because sometimes the wait times can be an hour or longer. 

The earlier you get up to go there, the better your chances of getting seated quickly!

The exterior of the Snooze eatery, a popular breakfast stop on a weekend in Denver
Image Credit: Jeffrey Beall via Flickr

Look for street art in RiNo (River North).

After breakfast, it’s finally time to start exploring all that Denver has to offer!

Begin in the River North Art District, or RiNo, neighborhood, which is most well known for its hipster coffee shops, art galleries, and breweries.

This area of Denver is also known for its fantastic street art! 

A lot of the street art pieces are actually part of the city’s Crush Walls, which means that they get painted over with a new piece of art every year. 

You can download maps of where the current Crush Walls are by looking online at their site and create your own little self-guided street art walking tour.

You can easily try to walk around RiNo if you want, but the neighborhood is pretty large.

Consider renting one of the electric scooters from either Lyft or Lime to get around and be able to maneuver yourself to find some of the best street art here!

Don’t forget to bring your camera, because this is part of the day where you’ll want to make sure you have it. 

Be sure to stop by some of the coffee shops here, because a lot of them have worked with local artists to get personalized street art murals for the outside of their shops.

Mural of a woman looking up to the sky, pop art style, in Denver Colorado
Image Credit: Paul Sabelman via Flickr

Grab lunch at the Denver Central Market.

Exploring the street art in RiNo can really take a lot of your energy, so you’ve probably worked up an appetite! 

Don’t worry; there’s one must-visit place to grab food in this neighborhood: the Denver Central Market, a tasty food hall-style marketplace.

This fun and modern eatery is filled with tons of vendors selling everything from pizza to ice cream and even specialty cheeses. 

These restaurants allow you to either pick up the food to go or eat it right at Denver Central Market!

Open-air seating is abundant here, and the entire outdoor seating area is surrounded by more amazing street art, including a popular mural that says, “Talk Denver to me.” 

Most of the vendors will bring the food directly to your table, too, no matter where you’re sitting outside.

Some restaurants here include GreenSeed, Izzio Artisan Bakery, and High Point Creamery, where you can get a flight of five ice creams with toppings!

Several scoops of Ice cream served in a tray
Image Credit: Jpellgen via Flickr

Stop for a drink at Stem Ciders.

Hopefully, you aren’t too full from lunch because before you leave RiNo, you’ll want to stop by Stem Ciders

This urban city cidery has lots of outdoor and indoor seating and tons of amazing flavors that you won’t want to miss.

They have both seasonal and year-round flavors, so if you were to visit multiple times in a year, you’d find different drinks on the menu. 

Some of their best flavors include Lavender, made with cinnamon and cardamom, and Chile Guava, made with Guajillo chiles.

If you have trouble choosing which flavors you want to try, don’t worry. You can order a flight of four different flavors for less than $10. This is the perfect way to try out a handful of their flavors! 

They have pre-selected flavors in some of the flights, too, so that you can try some of their bestsellers.

A flight of five colorful ciders

Walk around 16th Street Mall and do some shopping.

From RiNo, make your way to LoDo’s 16th Street Mall. 

This mall is a little over a mile long and is essentially a long pedestrian-only street filled with both local and commercial shops and restaurants.

You could easily spend a few hours exploring here, but try not to get too carried away! A few of the shops you absolutely can’t miss include The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Where the Buffalo Roam.

This street has quite a few street vendors too, so if you’re hungry already, you can easily grab yourself a snack.

Don’t worry if you start to get knackered already! 

You can hop on the Free Mall Ride, a free shuttle that runs all the way from Union Station to Civic Center Station, which is right next to the Colorado State Capitol building. The bus stops on every single block, making it easy to get around.

Colorful 16th street mall lit up at late afternoon as the day starts to turn to night

Visit the Colorado State Capitol building.

Next, make your way to the Denver State Capitol building. 

This historic landmark was built in the 19th century and commands your attention no matter where in LoDo you are, so it’s pretty hard to miss it.

While tours are only offered Monday through Friday, it’s still worth stopping by this building just to marvel at its huge gold dome. 

While you’re here, you can also take the time to explore some of the other great spots in this area before heading to the next stop on this Denver itinerary.

One of the spots worth visiting here is Civic Center Park, a huge green space with tons of seating right in front of the Capitol. 

It’s often the place where a lot of Denver’s best events and festivals are held, including the annual Christmas Market!

Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver, summer flowers in front of the building on a sunny day

Go to Union Station.

One of the final stops on your first day of this Denver weekend itinerary is Union Station! 

This historic building is also a hotel and the central transportation hub in Denver. 

It’s where you can catch the train to the airport or even hop on the California Zephyr Amtrak to either San Francisco or Chicago!

This building is glorious, so you’re not going to want to miss it! 

The inside is magical, and there are tons of shops and little restaurants that offer to-go food. Even if you’re a picky eater, you’ll be able to find something to eat here.

Spend some time exploring Union Station and check out the shops! One of the best shops here is the Tattered Cover Bookstore, which is the leading independent bookstore in Denver. 

They have a few locations around the city. While this location is quaint and on the small side, it’s still great to visit and support a local shop.

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during the winter, then you’ll be shocked at how snazzy Union Station gets! 

There’s usually a giant tree that gets placed in the center of the building, and both the inside and outside of Union Station get decked out in holiday lights for all to see.

The exterior of Denver Union Station with cars and taxis in front of it

Grab dinner and relax in Confluence Park.

So, this stop on the itinerary might change depending on the weather or time of year that you’re visiting. 

For example, traveling in the winter or when it’s raining might not be a great time for having a picnic in the park, so instead, consider eating at one of the sit-down restaurants right at Union Station for dinner.

Visiting in the spring, summer, or fall, though, is perfect for this fun itinerary item! 

Get a to-go dinner from one of the restaurants at Union Station and take a short walk to Confluence Park. You’ll have to cross over a bridge that’s considered one of the most picturesque spots in the city.

Confluence Park is a giant green space in Denver right next to the river that’s filled with spots to sit and relax. 

This is an excellent place to have a picnic, which is actually one of my favorite things to do in the city!

After dinner, you could also consider walking along the river a little because there are some great paved trails that will bring you to some of the city’s best natural scenery.

End the day with ice cream from Little Man.

There’s no better time for dessert than after a fun picnic dinner! Arguably the best spot for an ice cream dessert in all of Denver is Little Man Ice Cream

This Denver staple has been a favorite among locals and tourists visiting the city since it opened in 2008 and immediately took everyone by storm!

To get there, you could either take the bus, order a ride-share like Uber or Lyft, or take a walk. The walk really isn’t that long and allows you to explore this part of Denver on foot.

Little Man Ice Cream is situated inside a huge milk jug-shaped stand that takes orders by walking up to the window. 

They have lots of outdoor seating, so you don’t have to worry about walking around while eating your ice cream.

What’s so great about Little Man Ice Cream is its flavors. They switch them out throughout the year depending on the season, so they’re pretty much never the same.

Usually, flavors like Oreo, Snickers, and Twix are always on the menu, among others.

Milk jug ice cream stand in Denver with the text 'little man ice cream'
Image Credit: Vxla via Flickr

Day Two of Your Denver Weekend Itinerary

Hopefully, you got a good night’s rest because your second day in Denver is going to be a full day of fun! 

You’ll be traveling a bit more around the city today, so consider buying a local day pass for public transportation, which costs $6, unless you have a car with you.

Catch the sunrise at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Today, start your day bright and early! 

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is one of the can’t-miss Denver attractions. 

It primarily serves as the Denver area’s main concert venue for excellent live music [editor’s note: I saw an amazing Jethro Tull concert there!], but it’s also filled with tons of other fun things to do that most visitors don’t know about.

Red Rocks opens about one hour before sunrise, so try to get there around that time! 

Take a quick hike up to the concert venue seating and settle in to watch the sunrise. This is truly magical because you’re surrounded by mountains and can watch the sun begin to hover on top of the city!

If you’d rather catch the sunrise by doing something other than sitting, you’re in luck. There’s an easy trail that brings you around Red Rocks (that also opens an hour before sunrise) that you can walk around, or you can use the seating venue as a fitness area.

Remember that Denver is located one mile above sea level — hence its nickname, the Mile High City — so expect any exercise you do to be a little tougher here due to the altitude!

A few other great places to catch the sunrise other than Red Rocks include Lookout Mountain in Golden or The Flatirons in Boulder

All of these are within 30 minutes by car from downtown Denver!

If you don’t have a car, you can take this morning tour of Red Rocks and Lookout Mountain. It starts at 8 AM, so you can sleep in a bit, but you will miss the sunrise.

It’ll bring you back to Denver by noon, so you have plenty of time to finish out the rest of this itinerary.

Book your Red Rocks + Lookout Mountain tour here!

Red rocks amphitheater at sunrise with colors over the horizon illuminating the red rock and stadium steps

Head to breakfast at Syrup.

Another one of the best spots to grab breakfast in Denver is a little restaurant called Syrup.

This popular breakfast and brunch spot opens at 7:30 on the weekends, so it’s sure to be open by the time you get there.

The menu at Syrup is immense. You can find everything from delicious beignets to waffle sliders. They even have specialty “crack bacon,” which is made with black pepper and brown sugar!

Because of the order of things on this Denver itinerary, be sure to eat at either Syrup Cherry Creek (Josephine Street) or Syrup City Park (York Street). 

They’re closer to the Denver Botanic Gardens, which is next on this list!

Biscuits, eggs, hash brows, gravy, and bacon with a bloody mary
Image Credit: Aaron Hockley via Flickr

Spend the morning exploring the Denver Botanic Gardens.

From Syrup, head to the Denver Botanic Gardens

While you may think that this is the sort of landmark that must only be worth visiting in the summer, you’re wrong! In the winter in Denver, the botanical gardens get covered in lights, and it’s truly beautiful.

The Denver Botanical Gardens cover just over 20 acres and are separated into different areas based on the type of flora and fauna. 

There are also a variety of seating areas throughout the park so that you can rest in a truly peaceful and tranquil area.

Tickets cost $15 per person, and it’s best to purchase tickets online

Sometimes it can be challenging if you show up to pick up tickets in person, so don’t take the chance if you can help it. Children and students have a discounted ticket price.

Book your tickets online here!

If you still are a little hungry after breakfast and need a morning pick me up, you can grab one at the Offshoots Cafe or the Hive Garden Bistro

Be sure to check the online schedule to see if the gardens are hosting an event during your visit too!

Lily pads and a pond and a gazebo in Denver Botanic Gardens

Grab some sweets from Voodoo Doughnuts.

While you’re in the area, you have to head to Voodoo Doughnuts. This is the best place to get donuts in all of Denver, even though it’s not a local business.

Voodoo Doughnuts originated in Portland, Oregon. It’s been featured on quite a few episodes of shows on The Food Network and is known for its fun and crazy doughnut flavors that will have you drooling and begging for more!

Some of their flavors include Dirt, Voodoo Bubble, Chuckles, The Homer, and Bacon Maple Bar.

One of the most underrated (but delicious) flavors is Grape Ape, a yeast doughnut with frosting and sour grape candy dust on top. The flavor is so unique and tasty!

Here’s a tip from a local: if you want to save some money, consider purchasing the baker’s pick dozen. 

They’ll pick the flavors for you, but you get a lot more doughnuts for your money versus if you were to buy each doughnut separately. Each doughnut actually costs between $3 and $5.

Tiers of many different kinds of colorful donuts at Voodoo Doughnuts
Image Credit: Davis Staedtler via Flickr

Stop by City Park.

Right in this area is also City Park, a huge park covering more than 300 acres. 

It’s home to the Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and tons of trails for you to walk, bike, or run.

Biking is usually the most popular thing to do here! 

There are bike shops in the area where you can rent a bike, or you can rent a Lyft bike using the Lyft app on your phone, which is what most people do here nowadays. 

Be careful how long you spend on a bike because the price can add up if you’re not careful!

If you’d rather not visit City Park, you could also consider stopping and perusing East Colfax Avenue instead. 

This is one of the more hip areas in Denver, so there are tons of fun little stores to pop your head into and explore.

Bench looking over the lake and pretty structures downtown in Denver

Have lunch at Sam’s No. 3.

For lunch, head to Sam’s No. 3

It’s a local Denver chain with three locations that is known for its delicious food. Their menu has burgers, sandwiches, steak, salads, and more. They also have tons of breakfast items if you want to have breakfast twice in one day!

Be sure to go to the downtown location instead of the one in Aurora or Glendale. No matter what you order on the menu, you’ll surely enjoy it. Plus, the restaurant is family-friendly and has a really fun atmosphere.

The downtown location also has outdoor seating, so if you’re visiting when the weather is nice, you can enjoy yourself and sit outside.

Image Credit: sfgamchick via Flickr

Go on a craft brewery tour, catch a game at Coors Field, or go to the Denver Art Museum.

Oh no, it’s your last afternoon in Denver! Don’t worry; there are a few things you can consider doing in downtown Denver to go out with a bang.

One of the most popular things to do in Denver is try all of the local breweries, so you could consider going on a craft brewery tour. These usually include stops at all of the best breweries in the area and allow you to taste their drinks too.

Book your craft brewery tour online here!

The second option is seeing a game at Coors Field to watch the Colorado Rockies play. 

Try to wait and buy tickets a few hours before the game instead of in advance because they can usually be purchased for less than $20 if you’re up for playing a wait-and-see game.

If possible, you may be able to catch a Denver Broncos game at Mile High Stadium as well, depending on timing.

Last but not least, you could spend the afternoon visiting the Denver Art Museum, which is Denver’s most popular museum. 

If you’re not into art, there are tons of other museums in the downtown area that you could consider visiting instead.

A photo of flowers in front of The Denver Art Museum with Downtown Denver in the background

Head back to LoDo to grab dinner in Larimer Square.

The perfect way to spend your last evening in Denver is to go to Larimer Square, the most historic part of downtown. The Victorian buildings here will take you back in time!

Larimer Square is lined with tons of great places to eat, including French bistro and top-rated Italian restaurants. 

Plus, the area is mainly pedestrian-only, so there is an abundance of outdoor seating options, and the entire square is covered in lights that make the whole street come alive at night.

No matter where you eat here, you are sure to love it!

Windows of the historical brick building on Larimer Square with string lights in front of it

Say your goodbye to Denver.

If you have time after dinner, you can walk to the nearby Big Blue Bear, a 40-foot tall sculpture adjacent to the Denver Convention Center, or you can grab drink at one of Denver’s best taprooms or rooftop bars! 

I suggest FIRE Terrace for a great rooftop bar in Denver atop the ART, a hotel.

colorful view of denver at night with lit up fire pits and city colors

Have More Time in Denver?

If you have a long weekend in Denver planned and need to fill up another day, or are planning a Colorado road trip with other destinations other than Denver, you can add a day trip or two to your itinerary

Rocky Mountain National Park

One of the most bucket-list worthy national parks in the USARocky Mountain National Park is located only a short drive from Denver. The Visitor Center is less than two hours from downtown Denver.

If you rented a car for your weekend in Denver, take that to RMNP and enjoy some of the best hikes and things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park. You can visit for the day or stay overnight in Estes Park.

If you did not rent a car and are relying on public transit for your Denver weekend trip, it’s best to go by guided tour. These are relatively inexpensive and are a great, convenient way to avoid the hassle of visiting the park independently.

Book your Rocky Mountain National Park day tour here!

beautiful mirror lake in rocky mountain national park in summer with small patches of snow remaining

Boulder

Located just over 30 minutes from Denver, Boulder is a fantastic place for a day trip from Denver. 

This vibrant university town is also a hiker’s paradise — and it’s also heaven for craft beer lovers too, as Boulder is one of the brewing capitals of Colorado, with tons of great taprooms and brew pubs!

One thing not to miss on a day trip to Boulder? The Boulder Dushanbe Tea House, which is a Silk Road-style teahouse in the heart of Boulder’s downtown area. 

It was given to Boulder as a gift from its sister city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and it was sent to Boulder in pieces and constructed on-site!

No car? You can get to Boulder easily via the Flatiron Flyer, or via a guided tour — I suggest this beer + hiking themed one!

intricate detailing on the dushanbe tea house in boulder with teal and blue and pink detail

Golden

Another great city just 30 minutes from Denver, Golden is a former Gold Rush town that is a great place to add to your Denver itinerary.

They have several epic hikes in Golden, including the Clear Creek Trail and Lookout Mountain.

There are also excellent museums, including the Colorado Railroad Museum, which has vintage train cars and a 19th-century railroad depot!

Colorado vintage train in the museum in Golden Colorado

Read More

We have a lot of great content and travel tips for Colorado! 

Check out our Denver travel guide that covers all the most useful things to know before you visit Denver.

We also have a post on the best things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park!

We also have posts on hikes in Golden and hikes in Breckenridge on the way!