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

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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

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