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

9 Fun Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

Rocky Mountain National Park is a winter wonderland located outside the adorable mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado.

The park is 415 square miles and only a two-hour drive from Denver, Colorado, making it an excellent day trip from Denver or an easy addition to your Denver itinerary.

Rocky Mountain is known for its snowy winters and massive peaks. Snow normally begins in late October and ends well into the middle of May.

This pattern attracts ski bums and winter enthusiasts to the area each year. Ice climbing, cross country skiing, and winter hiking are the most sought-after activities here, in this national park that is known for being a winter playground with stunning views of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains.

The activities are limitless and this guide to visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in winter will help you navigate them all!

Rocky Mountains Winter Packing List

Landscape view of Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado with trees in the foreground and mountains in the background.

Locals joke that you need to pack for every season when visiting or hiking in Colorado… well, that joke is actually true!

Sometimes you might start your hike with the weather being sixty degrees and sunny, but as you climb, the higher your elevation is, putting yourself in more extreme weather situations.

The temperature can drop to single digits, with added wind chills on top of it. Layers, layers, and even more layers are the key to staying warm!

Your first layer should be your base layer. Merino wool is known to keep you the warmest and is very comfortable and breathable — we suggest these ones by Merino.tech (leggings + top layer), which use 100% merino wool from farms in New Zealand.

Your middle layer is your insulation layer, which helps you retain body heat. Using fleece (like this one from North Face) as your middle layer is highly recommended and extra comfortable.

Your outer layer is your final layer and where you will be spending most of your money. Heavy winter jackets with protective layers and a hood are preferred — I also use North Face for this layer, in particular, their insulated Metropolis parka (which I’ve had for 15 years and loved!).

In Colorado, you want to make sure you have a reliable windshield in your outer layer, as the wind chill above the treeline or mountains cuts you totally differently. If you also get caught in a snow or rainstorm, this will help keep you dry and protect your other layers.

It is okay if you do not wear all three layers at the start of your adventure — just have them available, as the higher you get, the colder it will get.

That is why it is recommended to have all of these options in your backpack, so you can easily add or remove layers, depending on the weather.

Happy family with arms around each other enjoying beautiful mountain view on winter hiking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park.

A warm winter hat and insulated, waterproof gloves are a must-have. Use fabrics that will not get soggy when wet.

Multiple pairs of socks (preferably wool socks) should always be in your backpack. This is important in case you step into a heavy snowpack or puddle when hiking.

Your socks could become frozen, risking hypothermia or frostbite. Having multiple pairs of socks you can layer up with if you get wet or extra cold is key. It is an extremely lightweight but important hiking hack for winter.

Always remember that when it comes to playing in the winter snow, you must prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. Being over-prepared could save your life — or others around you.

Microspikes and/or snowshoes (depending on the amount of snow on the ground) are needed when attempting any winter hiking.

Microspikes help keep your grip with chains or small spikes that slip over your hiking boots. They help you stay grounded on icy trails and will prevent you from falling. I used and loved these Yaktrax while hiking in Arctic Norway.

They are a lifesaver and it is rare to spot hikers without them! There is nothing worse than losing traction and sliding down an icy mountain.

In addition, after a heavy snowfall, you will need snowshoes. The mountains get pounded with multiple feet of snow and it takes a while for it to become packed down.

In these conditions, one wrong step could have you post-holing, covering your body in the snow!

Snowshoes will keep you above the soft snow instead of having you fall through it out.

Most of the time, you will start off with microspikes until you reach a higher elevation. That is when you swap them out for the snowshoes. They are a dynamic duo for winter mountain hiking and will make your life ten times easier!

Most hiking trails are not even accessible without them. It is ideal to always bring them with you, even if you think you won’t need them.

Snowshoes can be expensive — you can get a cheap-ish pair on Amazon, or invest in a heavier-duty pair from REI — so many people choose to rent a pair in Estes Park if they don’t plan to hike in the snow frequently.

Avalanche Awareness

Sign reading "avalanche area: no stopping or standing next two miles" with snow in the background

According to reports from the CAIC, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, there are over two thousand avalanches in Colorado every season.

It’s important to be avalanche-aware whenever you head out into the winter backcountry.

If you see an avalanche heading towards you, do not try to run away from it. The best thing you can do is move to the side, grab something sturdy, and hold one arm up.

If you have one arm up and get buried, the rescue team will be able to locate you faster, increasing your chances for survival. 

Even though getting caught in an avalanche is slim, it is very important to be prepared!

Having an avalanche transceiver (and more importantly, knowing how to use it) may save your life.

If you stick to more traversed areas of the park, this is likely not necessary, but if you want to go into the backcountry, it is essential.

You are probably wondering how avalanches even start. Simply put, an avalanche occurs when a layer of snow collapses and slides downhill.

There are four factors that cause this natural wonder: a steep slope, heavy snow cover, a layer of snow that is weak, and of course (as all the movies have shown!) a trigger.

Backcountry skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers are the biggest cause of avalanches, due to the vibrations from machinery and boards. Some other causes are earthquakes or even rain and wind combined with heavy snowfall.

Warming temperatures can be a common factor, causing the melted snow to become heavier.

The CAIC has a map on their website that shows the Rocky Mountain Range, including Rocky Mountain National Park.

It is updated every day in the winter months to display what level of threat is in the area: 1 being the lowest and 5, extreme, being the most dangerous.

It is highly recommended to make this website your winter tool before any outdoor activities in the Rocky Mountains. You can view the conditions map here

Winter Road Closures

Snow Covered Trail Ridge Road in  Rocky Mountain National Park in winter before the closed part of the season starts

Trail Ridge Road is 48 miles with an elevation of 12,183 feet at its highest point.

It is one of the most talked-about and famous roads in all of Colorado, and a popular Colorado scenic drive, drawing over 900,000 visitors each month in the summer.

This drive is not for the faint of heart and can be downright terrifying to most people! This is caused by the lack of guard rails and very steep drop-off.

In the summer, you can take the road from Estes Park which is the east entrance of the park, all the way to Grand Lake, which is the west entrance of the park, allowing you to visit both of these Rocky Mountain towns.

Driving the road is allowed in the summer months, depending on when the snowfall declines. It normally reopens around late May to mid-June. 

Don’t worry, you can still explore it during the winter months, but only by foot and by ski! 

The road is plowed up the viewpoint section of Many Parks Curve; cars are not allowed past this point.

Trail Ridge Road is the only road that officially shuts down every winter from October until Memorial Day weekend. The other roads in the park are very well maintained, even after heavy snowfall.

All of the roads are paved and plowed throughout the park, keeping winter visits popular and safe to visitors.

Winter Weather in Rocky Mountain National Park

People walking on the frozen surface of Dream Lake in winter on a sunny day in Colorado

Weather can be tricky at Rocky Mountain National Park in winter!

Colorado is known for its 300 days of sunshine and also snowy destinations, an odd combination for knowing what to expect.

Weather can — and does — quickly change from fifty and sunny to blizzard conditions frequently!

Checking the weather before your departure is always recommended. Being prepared for all weather conditions is a must.

Snow typically begins falling in October and doesn’t stop until late April to mid-May., but keep in mind that every year is different. 

You can call the Rocky Mountain National Park information line at 970-586-1206 for the latest conditions and snow reports.

Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

Ice climb the frozen waterfalls.

Ice climbing is a hard but popular mountaineering activity in Colorado. This fun winter activity includes climbing frozen waterfalls or large rocks covered with ice.

Luckily, Rocky Mountain National Park is home to a remote and scenic ice climbing area, making it a bucket list winter destination for ice climbers.

In the Wild Basin area of the park, you’ll find Hidden Falls, located twelve miles south of Estes Park near the Longs Peak Trailhead.

There will be signs for the horse trail about one hundred yards from the ranger station: that is where the trailhead begins.

If you are interested in ice climbing but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered!

This waterfall freezes in mid-winter, drawing skilled climbers to the region. The trail to Hidden Falls can get very snowy and icy at times. It is recommended to be prepared and have the correct equipment before taking on this challenge.

The American Alpine Institute provides technical climbing education to new students.

This mountaineering school offers courses in ice climbing, rock climbing, glacier skills, and more. They even have an Introduction class to Alpine Ice Climbing, a six-day course led in different locations all around the country.

Whether you want to take on the hobby long-term or just try it out, they are there to ensure you are doing it safely. Check out their courses on their website here.

No time for a long course? The Kent Mountain Adventure Center in Estes Park offers one-day intro classes that get you started on ice climbing.

Have winter fun in the Hidden Valley Snow Park.

Once a ski resort in the 1950s until the 1990s, Hidden Valley was a popular spot for locals to ski and snowboard.

Initially, chair lifts were not available at the resort, causing the skiers to hike up the runs and ski down. Later, lifts were built, creating a full ski experience.

However, the National Park Service eventually closed the slopes in the early 1990s.

Today, the lifts are gone and it has become a backcountry skiing and snowboarding destination. The runs are narrow, allowing skiers to alternate turns down the slope.

In order to get there, enter from the Estes Park entrance and drive to the Hidden Valley picnic area. You will see signs for parking, and a lot of people getting ready to enjoy the area!

If snow tubing is more your speed, then Hidden Valley has got you covered. The bunny hill from the old ski resort is now used for sledding and tubing!

After heavy snowstorms, families and large groups flock to this area. Be sure to bring your own tubes and sleds (or rent them in Estes Park before entering Rocky Mountain National Park) as there are no rentals inside the park!

Children riding on an inflatable snow tube in Rocky Mountain national park in winter

Go cross-country skiing.

Cross-country skiing is a fun sport that involves gliding across the snow while getting a fantastic workout.

Cross-country skiing requires skiers to use a back and forth motion with their legs, as if they are running with skis on. No wonder it’s such a good workout!

In Rocky Mountain National Park in winter, Trail Ridge Road closes to vehicles, allowing cross-country skiers to use the road as their playground, with a stunning workout view at 12,000 feet in the air.

The road is a steady uphill climb on the way up — which makes it even more enjoyable coming back!

Cross-country skiing is a great winter activity in Colorado, and there are lots of options to choose from in RMNP in winter.

If Trail Ridge Road is a little out of your league, you can try Glacier Basin Campground Loop: a beginner-friendly 2.7-mile loop through a forest with stunning views of the surrounding lake!

Tackle some winter hikes.

Dream Lake – Easy

One of the most photographed locations in Rocky Mountain National Park is the famous Dream Lake.

The name fits the scenery and this spot is perhaps even more stunning in the winter! The snow falls around the crevices in the mountain, creating a dreamscape of a winter wonderland.

In cold temperatures — typically by around January — the lake freezes over and is covered with snow, allowing you to walk out to the middle of the lake for that perfect photo opportunity! Note: Be sure to ask a park ranger if the lake is safely frozen over before embarking on this hike

The hike itself is rated as easy and only two miles long. Due to the high elevation of the park, the elevation gain of 426 can be moderate for those sensitive to uphill gain.

Either way, seeing this view in person is worth the extra effort!

You even pass Nymph Lake on your hike back to Bear Lake parking lot, which is another gorgeous place to extend your hike if you want more winter scenery.

Keep in mind that the Bear Lake Parking lot fills up relatively quickly in both the winter and summer months. It is important to get there early as the park rangers will close the road off once it fills up!

The snowy landscape of a frozen-over Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter in Colorado

Emerald Lake – Moderate

About a mile after Dream Lake is Emerald Lake, making it a great addition to your winter hike in Rocky Mountain National Park if you want to get some extra mileage in with even more gorgeous views!

The trail is 3.2 miles and starts at the Bear Lake parking lot, similar to the previous hike mentioned. Once you get to Dream Lake, you will continue north on the trail around the shore of the lake, bringing you through a very lush pine forest.

You will then arrive at Emerald Lake, where you will be able to see the views of Flattop Mountain! The views become even more breathtaking around sunrise and sunset.

Emerald lake in rocky mountains national park, CO in winter with frozen ice sheet on the lake and snow

Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail – Hard

This is a winter hike that is rated as hard but makes it on most visitors’ bucket lists — only tackle it if you are an experienced winter hiker!

Making it to Sky Pond in the winter months is a great achievement for hikers: this 9.4-mile trek through the snow and ice is only recommended to be taken on by hikers with some experience.

If you’ve never hiked in the winter before, stick to one of the previous two hikes, and add this to your Rocky Mountain National Park winter bucket list for future years!

Start at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead parking lot, then begin your journey through the snowy forest.

Eventually, you will reach Loch Lake, which is normally frozen over in the winter months. You can either walk on the lake or around it, depending on how thick the ice is (you may want to ask a ranger before embarking on this hike).

From there, continue on until you reach Lake of Glass. You may think your hike is almost over once you reach this lake, but it is not!

You will then have to climb the falls to the top where Sky Pond is. This can be especially difficult in the winter, but it is doable. It is important to go slow and make sure you have proper hand and footing.

Due to the slipperiness of the icy rocks, it is important that you bring your microspikes!

This hike may be difficult, but the views are breathtaking for the whole 9.4 miles. Be sure to pack some lunch and enjoy it at Sky Pond before heading back.

Hiking Trail to a Frozen Lake Beneath "The Spearhead" in Glacier Gorge, Rocky Mountain National Park

Long’s Peak – Extremely Difficult

This is a Colorado 14er that is rated dangerous and sometimes deadly — so only undertake this with sufficient experience.

Be sure to follow all safety guidelines, let people know where you are going, and have an GPS-enabled SOS device on you such as the Garmin InReach Mini, which can send out an alert in case you get injured or lost without cell reception (which you will most definitely not have out on this hike!).

For the uninitiated, a 14er is a mountain peak that sits at 14,000 feet or more. Colorado has 58 of them located all over the state.

For those trying to tackle all 58 of Colorado’s 14ers, Long’s is a staple in Rocky Mountain National Park, one that is only encouraged to be taken on by mountaineers who are properly trained — especially in the winter.

20,000 people come to Rocky Mountain every year in an attempt to summit this mountain, but only half of those climbers make it to the top and back down. It is rumored to be the most tried and failed fourteener in the state!

Unfortunately, there have been 58 people who have died while trying to complete this hike since the year 2000, so it is not without its risks (hence our suggestion for a SOS safety device).

The difficulty is due to the distance of 14.8 miles and the scramble at the top. The hike turns into a climb accompanied by very steep drop-offs.

One wrong move can become fatal, so experience in climbing is a must. Since the distance is so long, most hikers get an overnight camping permit to break it up. This can also be dangerous due to the quickly changing weather, especially in the winter months.

Long’s Peak is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it takes most people that long to accomplish it. Even though it can be scary, it is a beautiful peak and a good goal to have for those who take it seriously.

View of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Go snowshoeing.

Hiking trails become snowshoeing trails in the winter in Colorado, and Rocky Mountain National Park in winter has plenty of trails to bring them on!

It is common to see the above trails filled with snowshoers in the winter. After heavy snowstorms, hiking the trail without them becomes impossible.

Sometimes the snow is too fresh and can be as high as your chest! The snowshoes allow you to stay above the powder, keeping you safe from falling through.

If you are visiting the area you can rent snowshoes at local mountain shops in the town of Estes Park, Colorado for the day.

Explore the cute mountain town of Estes Park.

The east entrance of Estes Park is the most popular entry point in the winter season.

Since Trail Ridge Road connects you to the west entrance, and it is closed in the winter, there are not many winter activities available on that side of the park.

As a result, the already bustling Estes Park gets even more lively in the winter, as it’s the primary access point into the park.

In the winter, Estes Park resembles a picturesque snowy postcard, filled with mountain views and wildlife. Moose are commonly spotted roaming the streets downtown and outside lodging facilities!

Restaurants and shops line the streets of their quaint downtown area to enjoy after your action-packed day.

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

Enjoy accommodations in the area such as cozy winter cabins or their spooky Stanley Hotel.

The Stanley Hotel is famous in the area, known for its haunting encounters. Author Stephen King stayed at the hotel, which inspired his book and (that was later turned into the famous movie) The Shining.

You can even tour the Stanley Hotel during the day if staying overnight is out of your comfort zone!

Local ranches and farms offer horseback riding activities, even in the winter.

You will drive through the downtown area of this town when leaving and entering Rocky Mountain National Park.

Even if you’re just passing through, it is a convenient place to grab snacks or gear prior to spending the day in the park.

End your adventure by spending some time at Lake Estes, a 185-acre lake with views of Rocky Mountain National Park from afar.

It’s also a great place to visit in the holiday season when the lights are up all over town!

Rocky Mountain National Park Tips

With endless winter activities and stunning views, Rocky Mountain National Park is a winter lover’s paradise!

Making sure you have the proper equipment and gear for winter activities is beyond important in Colorado. A well-stocked hiking backpack will be your best friend in these adventures!

There is a $25 vehicle entrance fee into the park, but if you are planning on visiting multiple times over the course of the winter or multiple national parks, I suggest you buy an America the Beautiful Pass.

It’s just $80 for an annual pass (good for one entire vehicle!) for all the national parks and 2,000+ federally-managed sites!

Buy your America the Beautiful pass online at REI!

Finally, Rocky Mountain National Park is requiring reservations from May 28 to October 11, with their new timed entry permit system. If you are visiting in that time frame you will need to make a reservation online.

It is not stated if they will be extended into the winter months as of yet, but be prepared for that to be a possibility.

The Rocky Mountains are waiting for you to explore their snowy peaks. Come see this real-life winter wonderland for yourself.

7 Tips for Visiting the Dillon Ice Castles in Colorado

The Dillon Ice Castles are a magical place to visit! Located in the heart of small-town Dillon, the Ice Castles are a must-see. 

They are a great place for a romantic date night out, a night of family fun, or a great place to visit with friends.

The Ice Castles are the main attraction in Dillon in the winter months, and it’s a popular winter Denver day trip!

Dillon is just one of the four locations in the US that hosts the construction of these gorgeous man-made ice castles.

How Are the Dillon Ice Castles Made?

Magical ice castle made entirely of water and ice and snow in the sun on a winter day in Colorado

The Ice Castles are hand-built by ice architects! These masters grow then place icicles one by one in the design they want. After, these icicles are sprayed with water. 

They repeat that process many times over the span of two months until the castles grow to the size of their liking. Typically, this requires about 25,000 tons of ice!

Where Are the Dillon Ice Castles?

Area around the Ice Castles in Dillon with trees and mountains behind the castle formation

The Ice Castles are located off of Highway 6, on Lake Dillon Drive in the Dillon Town Park. 

The outside of this attraction can be seen from the streets throughout town, but the inside will blow you away!

From a distance (in the daylight) the castles will look blue because of their density, but as you get closer the intricacies will have you taking a second look. 

Once you walk inside, you enter into another world!

In this article, I am going to give you some tips to make visiting the Ice Castles a smooth trip!

7 Tips for Visiting the Dillon Ice Castles

Get your tickets online in advance.   

The beautiful ice formations in a brilliant turquoise pale blue color against a cloudy winter sky

Getting your tickets online in advance will guarantee you entry into the Ice Castles on the day you want. It is $17.99 to get in during the weekdays and $22.99 Friday through Sunday. You can buy tickets online on their website here.

There are lower prices for children’s tickets as well and children under 3 are free. If you buy tickets the day of, the prices are typically more expensive, and there is no guarantee they won’t be sold out.

When you purchase tickets, you are not only purchasing a ticket for the date you want, but for the time you want to go as well.  No matter what arrival time you purchase tickets for, you can stay as long as you want.

Opening and closing days do vary each year at the Ice Castles due to weather conditions.  Getting tickets online will also ensure that the Ice Castles will be open.

Typically in Dillon, the castles open in late December or early January and close at the end of February or in the first few weeks of March.

Arrive early.

Close up detail of icicles at the Dillon Ice Castles

When you purchase a ticket for the Ice Castles, you are buying an arrival window.  For example, if you purchase an arrival window from 5 PM – 5:30 PM, you can enter the castles anytime between those times and stay as long as you want.

If you arrive before your time slot, you will just have to wait to enter. If you arrive after your time slot, you may lose your ticket and not be able to enter at all. 

You may have to wait in line to enter into the Ice Castles during the more popular times from 4:30 PM – 7:00 PM, so arriving early will ensure you have enough time to wait in line and still enter during your arrival window.

It is also important to arrive early because parking can be scarce. There is a pretty large parking lot right on Buffalo Street in front of the Ice Castles. This is prime parking and it fills up very quickly!

If that lot is full, there is some overflow parking in the Town Hall parking lot. If both of those lots are full, you can find some parking along Lake Dillon Drive, which will leave you a short walk to the castles. Make sure to obey all parking signs in town and only park in designated areas.

If you are looking to avoid the parking situation, look into taking the free Summit Stage Bus from anywhere in the county. The Summit Stage bus drops you off and picks you up right on Buffalo Street.

You can get off at stop number 193 on the schedule if you’re taking the bus from Silverthorne or Keystone. Typically the bus comes every 30 minutes and runs on time.

If you are taking the bus from Frisco or Breckenridge, be sure to check out the Summit Stage schedule online.

Dress appropriately.

Person wearing a jacket and gloves while visiting the Dillon Ice Castles

The winter months in Colorado can be frigid! When visiting the Ice Castles, be sure to wear the correct clothing to ensure your comfort.

I recommend that everyone in your party wears snow pants, base layers (like this merino wool top and bottoms) and mid-layers (like this North Face fleece, one of my winter staples), a winter jacket (I also suggest a North Face parka), and a hat and gloves.

The Ice Castles hardly shut down due to adverse weather so be prepared for anything!

You will be standing on cold snow and ice mixture the whole time, so wearing warm winter socks and boots will help you stay warm. The only kind of boots that will keep your feet sufficiently warm is snow boots (I love these Sorel boots), which will be perfect for the 30-60 minutes you may be in the castles.

Packing some hand warmers in your pockets will allow you to enjoy your stay longer if you do start to get cold! I suggest these Karecel rechargeable hand warmers as they are less wasteful than the disposable ones, and they’re very affordable!

Bring a nice camera.

I know that many of us have really nice cameras on our smartphones that we bring everywhere!

If you really want to capture the intricate details though, I recommend bringing a nice camera and visiting the castles in the daylight to capture each individual icicle in a photo that will last forever.

If you plan to arrive around 4:00 PM, you will be able to see the castles in the daylight, catch the sunset over Lake Dillon, and enjoy the ambiance that darkness creates!

Ice Castles lit up at night with blue light and icicles

Take care of your bodily needs before you enter!

As a ski instructor, we always say “NO PEE, NO SKI” before we take the kids outside to ski. Well, the same goes for the ice castles!

Even though you aren’t going skiing, it’s almost the same in my eyes because there are no bathrooms inside. 

There is also no reentry allowed if you have to leave to use the bathroom. I am just trying to say that you should plan ahead!

No food is allowed inside.

Unfortunately, food is not permitted inside the Ice Castles. Plan to have eaten before you go inside, or plan a meal for afterward. 

Your journey inside can last a long time, especially if you’re into photography and capturing every last detail, so be prepared for anything! 

If you are planning to eat in Dillon afterward, both Pug Ryan’s and Arapahoe Cafe are within walking distance of the castles and have great offerings.

Take your time inside.

One room of the Dillon ice castle with blue, orange, and purple lighting creating a unique ambiance

As soon as you walk into the castles, you will be greeted with so much to look at: beautiful walls, archways, rainbow-colored lighting, and carved ice sculptures!

There are many different rooms to explore all with something different to offer. The castle is lit up with all different colors inside creating a different ambiance in each room.

Insider Tip: If you are looking for a nice romantic or private getaway, be sure to book a VIP experience in a private alcove!

If not, you can explore multiple different rooms, ice slot canyons, and walk under the many arches. Be sure to look up when you’re under the arches, to see what looks like a beautiful ice chandelier!

Looking up at the icicles under one of the arches in Dillon Ice Castles

Don’t forget the ice slides.

If you’re looking for more action, make sure to visit the ice slides inside.  There are ice slides of different sizes throughout the castle.  Believe it or not, many slides are both adult and kid-friendly!

The lines can get long at the slides so make sure to keep your eyes on it. Visiting during the middle of the week and at unpopular times can help you avoid these lines.

If you’re not seeking the adrenaline rush the slide has to offer, you can slide your way through ice tunnels of all different sizes!

They are adult and kid-friendly as well.  As the darkness sets in, the tunnels will light up with all different colors.

Colorful ice castle lit up at night with bright colors of purple and pink

If traveling with kids

If you have young kids, I recommend bringing a sled to tow them around!

Strollers are not permitted in the castles and would be extremely hard to push through the snow. Bringing a sled will allow you to stay longer even if the young ones start to get tired.

***

No matter how you choose to enjoy the ice castles, it will be a great time! 

The Ice Castles are so easy to look at, that you may spend hours wandering around looking at every little detail. 

The architects do an amazing job every year creating these castles bringing something new and different each year to the design. 

I highly recommend planning some time for the Dillon Ice Castles when you are planning your trip to Denver in winter.  This is an experience like no other!

5 Must-Do Hikes in Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge, Colorado is home to world-class skiing in the winter months and exceptional hiking in the summer.

In the summer, hiking in Breckenridge means beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, a myriad of wildflowers, and great forests to immerse yourself in. 

There is truly something for everyone in Breckenridge in the summertime. You can walk down Main Street, window shopping and eating delicious food, or you can dive into the vast trail network in the area.

There are over 100 different hiking trails in Breckenridge, Colorado. The five trails in Breck I will be talking about are a few of my favorites and offer a wide variety of terrain and scenery to enjoy.

A Note Before Hiking in Breckenridge

The mountains around the resort town of Breckenridge Colorado

Hiking and mountain biking are very popular in and around town. Many trails in the summer do become very saturated with mountain bikers.

If you do find yourself on a trail with a ton of bikers make sure to stay alert, always listen for bikes and keep your eyes up.

If you are hiking and encounter bikers, it is always helpful for hikers to step off the trail and let the bikers through so they don’t have to dismount, especially if the bikers are climbing.

The town of Breckenridge is located at an elevation of 9,600 feet. It is important to drink plenty of water in the days leading up to traveling into town as well as continue to hydrate when getting to town. 

Some signs of altitude sickness are headache, fatigue, and trouble breathing in adults.  For children, altitude sickness often manifests as a stomach ache. 

It is important to give yourself time to acclimate before pushing yourself on a challenging hike.

Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks with you on the trails. It is helpful to carry a backpack on all of your hikes.

It is also extremely important to pack a few extra layers. The weather in the mountains can change extremely fast, and oftentimes it does not matter what your weather app says.  Be prepared for anything!

If you have some binoculars, I would pack them as well because there is no shortage of wildlife in this area.

Enjoy your trip!

The Best Hikes in Breckenridge

Bald Mountain Trail

Snow dusted mountain in Breckenridge Colorado hiking trails

Distance: 10.5 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain: 3,075 ft

The Bald Mountain Trail leads you to the top of one of the infamous 13ers in the community, Bald Mountain. 

The Bald Mountain trailhead is located just east of town. On the drive to the trailhead, you get a tour or the beautiful homes in the community. 

For this trail, you park at the intersection of Baldy Rd (Rd 520) and Goldenview Dr, right by the Summit Stage bus stop. After you park look to the other side of the road, for the dirt road that is the Bald Mountain Trail.

This hike is best accessed from June through October.  Snow can still be found along the trail in June as you get higher in elevation. 

This trail offers expansive views of Breckenridge Ski Resort, The Ten Mile Range, and  Mt. Guyot, as well as beautiful wildflowers and some wildlife. 

Look for a cabin in the woods on your right within the first 0.5 mile of the hike! Further along the hike, about 1.5 miles in you will pass by Iowa Mill, which was built in 1935.

When you get to the top, be prepared to put on extra layers as you will be at the top of a 13,000-foot mountain and it can be a bit breezy up there.

When you are finished, you can head back down the same way you came to get back to the car!

Quandary Peak Trail

People hiking up the steep section of Quandary Peak in Colorado near Breckenridge hiking spots

Distance: 6.6 miles out and back

Difficulty: Difficult

Elevation gain: 3,570 ft

Quandary Peak is the only 14er in the Ten Mile Range and is a great  introductory 14er. 

This is a heavily trafficked hike near Breckenridge, best accessed July through September, that offers a spectacular journey through various landscapes. 

When attempting to do any 14er, make sure you are acclimated to the elevation that you are starting at, because you will be going to an elevation of over 14,000 feet. 

Start early, not only because the parking lot can fill up fast, but you want to give yourself ample time to get to the top. 

In the mountains, it is typical for afternoon showers to come in, so getting up and down the mountain as early as you can is helpful. 

Bring layers! Sometimes it can feel like a different climate on the top than it did at the parking lot. A wind/rain layer and an extra mid-layer can help you stay warm at the top so you don’t have to cut your time short.

Last but not least, pack snacks and more water than you think you will need.  Anything can happen on this adventure. You want to be prepared for weather, injuries, and anything else you can think of. 

Parking for The Quandary Peak Trail is located off of Rt 9 on Blue Lakes Road.  Once you park you walk onto McCullough Gulch Rd for a short while until you come across the Quandary Peaks Trail on your left. 

At this point, you will be on a single-track trail that switchbacks through the amazing forest.  After you get above the treeline, you are hiking an exposed ridge with 360-degree views. The trail gets extremely rocky and the wind will start to howl! 

As you get closer to the top you might see some mountain goats. Once to the top, you get great views of the Gore and Sawatch Ranges.

Once you’re done taking in the views, head back down the same way you started. Take your time on the way down and watch your footing.

Spruce Creek Trail to Mohawk Lakes Trail

Mohawk Lake is surrounded by lichen covered rocks. It is a popular hiking trail in Breckenridge Colorado

Distance: 8.4 miles out and back

Difficulty: Difficult

Elevation gain: 2,106 ft

The Mohawk Lakes Trail is a must! This is a heavily trafficked trail, best used from July through October.

You start at the Spruce Creek Trailhead and begin gradually gaining elevation.  Once you get to an intersection of the Wheeler Trail and McCullough Gulch Rd, continue straight to get to the Mohawk Lakes Trail.

There are seven lakes along this trail and you can see all of them if you would like. First you will get to Mayflower Lakes. 

After this, the trail begins to get steeper, but it is worth the effort to keep going to see the biggest lake, Mohawk Lake. Once you get to Mohawk Lake you can turn around to make the hike shorter, or you can continue on to see three more lakes.

I do recommend hiking to all seven lakes if you have the energy to get there as there are not many hikes in the county to see that many alpine lakes!

Gold Hill (Colorado Trail seg 7.1 & 7.2)

A partly cloudy day hiking in Breckenridge with trees and mountains capped with snow in the distance
Photo Credit: Katie Jakubowski

Distance: 7.2 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain: 1,466 ft

The Upper and Lower Gold Hill Trails offer you an opportunity to hike a small section of the Colorado Trail. The Colorado Trails runs 567 miles from Denver to Durango.

You park just off of Route 9 at the bottom of Sherwood Trail Road.  From there you get on the Gold Hill Trail. 

You start to climb on the trail and continue to gradually climb for 3.6 miles until you reach the Peaks Trail. 

Just a quarter-mile into the trail, you get amazing views of Breckenridge ski resort.  When you look back across Route 9, you can see the Colorado Trail switchbacks.

The sage in the area smells amazing and the wildflowers in peak season are incredible. 

You can go as far as you would like on this trail, and even add extra miles on the Peaks Trail if you’re feeling good!

B & B to Reiling Dredge to Minnie Mine

The remains of an old mine by the water in Breckenridge Colorado
Photo Credit: Katie Jakubowski

Distance: 3 mile loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain: 413 ft

This 3-mile heavily trafficked loop trail in Breckenridge offers you a view into history!

Breckenridge started as a mining community. On this loop, you are able to see The Reiling Dredge, which used to mine gold in the area, as well as all of the rock and sediment the dredge left behind.

You park at the B & B trailhead off of French Gulch Road and make your way to the B & B Mine Trail. 

After hiking for about 1 mile, you will come across the Railing Dredge, which has sunk and now sits in the most beautiful water.  

After leaving the dredge you will cross the road and head to the Minnie Mine Trail.  Once you get back to French Gulch Road, make a right to head back to your car.

This is a low-intensity trail in Breck you can do if you just want to get out for a nice walk. You will come across many old artifacts around the trail so keep your eyes peeled! This is the trail to do if you are interested in seeing history.