Fun Day Trips From Denver for Epic Colorado Adventures

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Day Trips From Denver - Panoramic Mountain Vistas

Denver features iconic mountain views of the majestic Rocky Mountains, and the Mile High City is the perfect homebase to get out and experience more of Colorado’s Front Range. Need some inspiration? Read on for our suggestions on the best day trips from Denver, from the urban corridor to mountain adventures.

I’ve lived in metro Denver for almost four decades now, and my favorite thing about my city is all the possible adventures you can experience within an hour or two. While there are so many fun things to do in downtown Denver, you don’t want to miss these day trips from Denver to make even more memories in Colorado.

Read More: Fun Things to Do in the Summer in Colorado. If you have more time, 12 Best Colorado Road Trips

One Hour or Less: Day Trips From Denver

These quick Denver day trips are perfect year-round getaways, no matter the time of year.

Sweetness overload (but so fun!) at Scrumptious Arvada Colorado. Photo: Diana Rowe
Sweetness overload (but so fun!) at Scrumptious Arvada Colorado. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Arvada, Colorado: 20 minutes from Denver

I might be biased as I live in Arvada, but this urban city is a hidden gem. And travelers won’t have to drive to get here. Instead, take the G-line light rail at Denver’s Union Station, and let the conductor take you directly to Arvada. Here’s what to do in town:

  • Olde Town Arvada maintains its small-town feel with its Olde Town Square, the heart of the city and where the Sunday Farmer’s Market takes place. In the summer months, kids can cool off here in the splash pad fountain.  
  • Stroll the pedestrian-only streets where boutique shops sell handmade pottery, jewelry, and clothing, including our favorite, Carly’s Boutique.
  • Dining options include burgers and pizza, Asian and Mexican cuisine with breweries and taverns as well.
  • The grandkids never miss a chance to stop at the old-fashioned candy and ice cream shop, Scrumptious.
  • Feeling creative? Stop at Into the Fire Pottery and paint your own pottery. Firing takes 3-7 days, so be sure you have time to stop back to pick it up.
  • Bring your walking shoes as Arvada is also home to 125 miles of hiking, cycling, and horseback riding trails.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If driving yourself, visit the Majestic View Park and Nature Center, with hands-on displays wildlife exhibits, kid’s activity area, and outdoor space to stretch your legs.

Golden Colorado welcome sign
The small town of Golden welcomes visitors with a “Howdy Folks” on a sign stretched across their Main Street. Photo credit: Visit Golden

Golden, Colorado: 20 Minute Drive from Denver

Another family favorite is the small town of Golden, 15 miles west of Denver and part of the Front Range Urban Corridor. Golden offers a wide range of activities for all ages. These include hiking trails, biking trails, kayaking, tubing, shopping, cultural attractions, and breweries.

  • Drive the Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway, a 40-mile loop connecting the towns of Golden, Morrison, and Evergreen. Stop at Lookout Mountain to see Buffalo Bill’s Grave.
  • Another stop on the Lariat Loop is the famous Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater with its over 250 million years old Red Rocks sandstone formations, standing 300 feet high. Hike the 1.4-mile trail for some of the best early morning views.
  • Summer in Golden is the perfect time to dip your toes in Clear Creek, which runs through the town. Enjoy whitewater rafting, kayaking, fly fishing, and tubing.
  • Self-guided walking art tours are a fun way to experience the town’s public art.
  • Downtown Golden features multiple restaurants, boutique shops, and brewpubs.
  • Take the Coors Brewery tour. Book well in advance, as these guided tours sell out quickly.
  • The Colorado Railroad Museum is a kid-friendly museum for train fans of all ages.
  • The rooftop patio of the Golden Mill serves up delicious food options, brews, wines, and cocktails. It also offers views of Clear Creek and Coors Brewing Company.
Day Trips From Denver - Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a popular park close to Denver. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

SheBuysTravel Tip: The Golden Gate Canyon State Park is perfect for an overnight camping adventure with hiking trails and fishing. On more than 12,000 acres of forest, rocky peaks, mountain views, meadows, and lakes, it is located 16 miles from Golden, featuring mountain views, and wildlife. It’s close enough to Denver to get a taste of the mountains without the long drive. It also boasts 100 miles of the Continental Divide.

Day Trips From Denver - Junkyard Social Club is a funky and fun adventure in Boulder
Junkyard Social Club is a funky and fun adventure in Boulder. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Boulder, Colorado: 30 minutes from Denver

Another perfect day trip from Denver is Boulder, with its own quirky personality. Boulder also offers access to Rocky Mountain National Park.

  • Downtown Boulder’s Pearl Street is its famous pedestrian mall and part of the Downtown Historic City, with unique shopping, street performers, and other activities. Be sure to visit the candy store, Rocket Fizz.
  • Home to plenty of hiking and biking trails, including at the 1898 Chautauqua Park with trail access to the Flatirons.
  • Boulder is also home to Celestial Seasonings, a well-known tea company. For just $5, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the manufacturing facility.
  • For a unique playground experience that also gives back to the community, stop in at Junkyard Social Club, located on East Pearl Street. This unique rebel museum, adventure playground, and cafe offers 3,500 square feet of indoor space and 6,00 square feet of fenced outdoor space. The play structures are funky art installations, including an antique airplane and giant junkyard giraffe created from rescued junkyard pieces, swing sets, and murals. To see how fun this really is, check out this Facebook Reel.

Central City & Black Hawk: 38 miles

Founded in 1859 by miners, Central City and Black Hawk are historic towns, a short scenic drive from Denver.

  • Stroll the streets with many original buildings, architecture, and gold mines.
  • Fans of ghosts, ghouls, and history will want to join in on the annual cemetery crawl, which starts toward the end of August, strolling through Central City’s 11 cemeteries.
  • Book the Creepy Crawl during Halloween for more spooky history.
  • For an adult-themed day trip, try your luck at the casinos in Central City and Black Hawk.
Day Trips From Denver - Tour Argo Gold Mine &Mill at Idaho Springs
Tour Argo Gold Mine &Mill at Idaho Springs. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Idaho Springs: 40 minutes from Denver

As the closest town to Mount Evans in Clear Creek County, Idaho Springs is a scenic drive on I-70 and another of Colorado’s historic mining towns.

One of the state’s 58 fourteeners, Mt. Evans is west of Denver with access from Idaho Springs. Stretching 14,200 feet above sea level, the road to its peak is a 14-mile climb on North America’s highest paved road. Timed entry reservations are required to access Mount Evans.

  • The Mount Evans Scenic and Historic Byway (Highway 5) is usually open all the way to the summit Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and weather permitting partially open through early October. Keep an eye out for mountain goats, marmots, and other wildlife.
  • On this byway, stop at the beautiful Echo Lake, part of Denver’s mountain park system, located 10,600 feet above sea level and 40 miles from Denver, and stop at the 1926 Echo Lake Lodge with a fireplace, restaurant, bar, and gift shop. The restaurant is known for its pan-fried trout.
  • We often stop in Idaho Springs at one of their many restaurants when I-70 is a traffic jam. Our favorite restaurants are: Beau Jo’s, serving its famous Colorado pizza pies, and Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub, great bar food and beer.
  • Learn about the city’s mining history at the family-owned Phoenix Gold Mine. Take a mine tour at Argo Mill and Tunnel. Stop by the Heritage Museum and Visitor Center, located at the beginning of Mt. Evans Scenic Byway.
  • Visit to the Indiana Hot Springs Lodge (or book a room!) and soak in the healing waters of this indoor hot springs pool and cave baths.
  • Make it a family adventure by booking a zipline tour and skytrek aerial course.
Railroad heritage is a big part of Colorado history, and the Georgetown Loop Railroad was actually one of Colorado’s first visitor attractions in 1884.
Railroad heritage is a big part of Colorado history, and the Georgetown Loop Railroad was actually one of Colorado’s first visitor attractions in 1884. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

All Aboard: Mining Town of Georgetown, 50 minutes from Denver

Known for its Wild West and mining past, historic Georgetown, Colorado, is 45 miles west of Denver on I-70 at Exit #228, Georgetown offers the perfect mountain backdrop for a modern train ride with the Old West flavor just a short road trip away from Denver.

Known as the Silver Queen of the Rockies, this mountain town was found during the mining boom, as one of Colorado’s original mining towns.

  • Explore the town, a National Historic Landmark District. The “village” offers shops, restaurants, and Victorian-era architecture.
  • All aboard! Ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad, one of Colorado’s first attractions way back in 1884.  Get the whole scoop here: tips for taking the kids on the Georgetown Loop.

One- to Two-Hour Day Trips from Denver

Railroad heritage is a big part of Colorado history, and the Georgetown Loop Railroad was actually one of Colorado’s first visitor attractions in 1884.
Railroad heritage is a big part of Colorado history, and the Georgetown Loop Railroad was actually one of Colorado’s first visitor attractions in 1884. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Denver Day Trip to Rocky Mountain National Park & Estes Park

While visiting Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park could easily turn into a 2-3 day adventure, either can be done as a day trip from Denver.

  • Once you’ve visited Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll understand why this is America’s favorite park. It’s so popular that the reservations are required to enter the park.
  • Trail Ridge Road is known as the “highway to the sky,” and the highest continuous road in the United States. Travel the 48 miles and climb 4,000 feet in minutes across and through Rocky Mountain National Park. Fuel up in Estes Park, Colorado, and head east to Grand Lake, Colorado in the west (or vice versa). Allow 3 hours or more (depending on how often you stop).
  • A year-round destination and the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is home to the haunted Stanley Hotel and a long list of things to do. Here you’ll discover bicycle and hiking trails, shopping, restaurants, breweries, and distilleries. Check out this article for more tips on things to do in Estes Park.

SheBuysTravel Tip: This 3-day Rocky Mountain National Park itinerary includes insider tips on how to beat the crowds and skip the NPS timed entry requirement.  

One of the things to do at the Garden of the Gods is to hike its many trails. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak Region: 90 Minutes From Denver

Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs

Always a popular day trip, Colorado Springs is located 70 miles south of downtown Denver. With many must-see attractions, this beautiful city is home to the Pikes Peak region including Manitou Springs and Canon City.

  • Open year-round, our favorite zoo is still Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the highest-altitude zoo in the United States.
  • Perhaps the most popular attraction is Garden of the Gods, with its 300-foot rock formations with a backdrop of Pikes Peak, hiking trails, and horseback riding.
  • Explore nearby historic Manitou Springs with. Stroll Manitou Avenue (Main Street) lined with boutique shops, souvenir stores, and restaurants.
  • All aboard Pikes Peak Cog Railroad with a ride up, up, up to 14,000+ feet of Pikes Peak.
  • Prefer to drive? Buckle up for mountain views beyond comparison and a road trip you’ll not forget.
  • The littles will love a stop at The North Pole, Home to Santa’s Workshop, located at the foot of Pikes Peak. This all-season amusement park, featuring the jolly old man himself, Santa Claus.

Read More: Fun Things to Do in Colorado Springs in the Winter

Things to do in Canon City Colorado
Photo credit: Liana Moore

Pikes Peak Region: Canon City

A day trip to Canon City will be a fun-filled and adventure-packed day, but to truly enjoy this Colorado city, an overnight stay might be warranted. From adventures at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park and whitewater rafting to dinosaurs and wine tasting, be sure to add Canon City to your must-see Colorado destinations.

  • Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Arkansas,” the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is located 956 feet above the Arkansas River. Home to one of the world’s highest suspension bridges, it also includes an amusement park with rides, playground, and other adventures including ziplining.
  • For a different view of the Royal Gorge Bridge, ride the 1950s-era Royal Gorge Railroad underneath the bridge.
  • Whitewater rafting with Echo Canyon River Expeditions is an adventure for all ages. My recent experience was a family float with my 4-year-old granddaughter, but they have rafting for all ages.
  • Drive Skyline Drive, a narrow one-way-only road and a short detour, with the reward of a mountain vistas and Canon City below.
  • Add wine tasting at the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, located on the ground of historic Holy Cross Abbey.

Ski Resort Towns: Day Trips from Denver

Adding ski resort towns to your day trips from Denver will add more year-round adventures to your Colorado itinerary. Interested in extending your stay in ski country? There are many fab and family-friendly ski resorts in the area.

historic downtown Breckenridge Colorado
Exploring the historic charming town is one of the fun things to do in Breckenridge beyond skiing. Photo Credit: Breckenridge Tourism Office / Jeff Andrew

Breckenridge, Colorado: 90 Minutes from Denver

Located in Summit County, this ski resort mountain town is called “Breck” by locals and offers year-round activities.

Read More: Fun Things to Do in Breckenridge in the Summer

Day Trips From Denver - The grandson reaping the benefits of a guided fly-fishing trip by Gore Creek Fly FIshermen in the summer in the Vail Valley.
The grandson reaping the benefits of a guided fly-fishing trip by Gore Creek Fly FIshermen in the summer in the Vail Valley. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Vail, Colorado: 100 minutes from Denver

Winter or summer. Hiking, biking, fishing, skiing, or snowboarding. No matter the season, Vail is your ticket to an epic mountain adventure.

The Village area at Winter Park Resort in Colorado
Photo Credit: Breeze Leonard

Winter Park, Colorado: 80 Minutes from Denver

Families often choose Winter Park as one of their favorite winter playgrounds, and one of the main reasons is that it’s a short drive from Denver.

Read more: Winter Park Family Friendly Place to Ski and Play

Your Rocky Mountain National Park road trip is almost guaranteed a wildlife sighting, including moose.
Your Rocky Mountain National Park road trip is almost guaranteed a wildlife sighting, including moose. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Grand Lake, Colorado: 2 Hours from Denver

Topping our family’s list of best mountain resort towns is Grand Lake and Grand County; we visit at least once a year. Whether for summer camping or winter skiing or snowboarding, this four-season destination is just two hours from Denver with affordable winter sports, scenic hikes, family-friendly restaurants, and so much more.

  • As the “Western Gateway” to Rocky Mountain National Park, access the park from Grand Lake for another park adventure.
  • Historic boardwalks are the first introduction to the lakeside town of Grand Lake with more than 60 shops, restaurants, and galleries.
  • Grand Lake offers kayaking, boat tours, fishing, and more.

Read more: 17 Fun Things to Do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Ride the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley, 1 of 9 fun things to do with kids in Cheyenne, Wyoming
Get to know this Wyoming city with a tour on the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Cheyenne, Wyoming: 101 Miles From Denver

Expand your Colorado adventure into Wyoming with a worthwhile day trip from Denver. Pack your cowboy boots and hat and get ready for a true Western experience. From Bison Ranch to gunslingers and rodeos, Cheyenne is a 2-hour driver and western adventure not soon forgotten.

Read all about it here: Fun Things to Do in Cheyenne

For more than 20 years, Denver-based freelance writer Diana Rowe has specialized in travel, family, and multigenerational family travel — and rightly so, with 10 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. She writes for multiple publications including SheBuysTravel.com and PrimeWomen.com, and her own blogs: TravelingInHeels.com & WineLoversVillage.com.
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