Inspiration Destinations USA Hit the Road: What’s Your Colorado Road Trip Style? 

Hit the Road: What’s Your Colorado Road Trip Style? 

September 1, 2023

Rev your engines as you hit the highway with our expert guide to the best road trips Colorado has to offer. 

Experience the crisp mountain air as it dances along the scenic highways of Colorado, traverse the snow capped mountains in the state's breathtaking wilderness, or embark on an adventure along desert trails adorned with iconic landmarks. 

Colorado will keep you busy for weeks on end with some of the most stunning stretches of highways and scenic byways the country has to offer and at the heart of it all lies Denver, the vibrant Mile High City, eagerly waiting to be your basecamp for the road trip adventure of a lifetime.  

We've devised the routes you need to pop on your list according to your individual style including pit stops to make along the way for some well deserved relaxation. Now, grab your keys, fill up the tank and play the ultimate game of connecting the dots on the wide-open road. 

Discover our collection of Colorado offers here and experiences.  

Establish basecamp in Denver’s Mile High City 

Denver boasts an extensive network of bike paths that unveil the city's vibrant neighbourhoods and picturesque landscapes, Denver has become an attraction in its own right. Acting as a gateway to adventure, Denver offers an array of experiences for beer enthusiasts, with over 100 craft breweries, brewpubs, and taprooms to explore. Meanwhile, culinary enthusiasts can relish in the delights of multiple James Beard award-winning restaurants. To add to the city's allure, sports fans can partake in the exhilaration of cheering on six professional teams, all conveniently housed within three downtown stadiums. 

Just a short hour and a half drive from Denver awaits the crown jewel of Colorado road trips—Rocky Mountain National Park. Here, you can immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes of crystal-clear lakes, gushing waterfalls, and majestic peaks. It comes as no surprise that this natural wonderland stands as the most sought-after attraction to see in Colorado. Immerse yourself in Colorado's natural splendour and return to Denver to indulge in the cities restaurants, bars, nightlife and music.

Set up base at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver, an IHG Hotel located in a prime downtown location for entertainment, shopping and sports.

For the Nature Lover: Colorado National Park Adventure 

Denver – Rocky Mountains National Park – Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – Mesa Verde National Park – Great Dunes National Park– Garden of the Gods Park – Denver

Duration: 10 days | Total Drive Time: 18 hours 

Rocky Mountain National Park

Unleash your inner adventurer as you embark on a captivating journey through the untamed wilderness of Colorado's renowned National Parks. Over roughly ten days you can immerse yourself in the dramatic landscapes, encountering roaring rivers and ancient geological wonders along the way. 

Explore the city of Denver then, drive one and a half hours northeast to the famed Rocky Mountain National Park where panoramic vistas, shimmering lakes and waterfalls await. Rocky Mountain National Park must dos include jumping on a nature tour, hiking one of the sixty mountain peaks over 12,000 feet, or relaxing beside one of the Alpine lakes. Estes Park works as a perfect base for your first few nights on the road. Make sure to think ahead as the Park requires a timed-entry reservation from late May through early October.

 Hit the road, heading almost five hours south to Montrose – the jumping off point for another Coloradan National Park. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is best known for its distinctive marbled cliffs. There is plenty to explore during the day (think fishing and hiking trails in summer and snow showing and cross-country skiing in winter) but you should make sure to check out the night sky as the National Park is an International Dark Sky Park. Two or three days will allow you to see the best of the area. 

There is still more to discover. Three hours south towards the border with New Mexico is Mesa Verde National Park where you can admire the relics and cliff houses of ancient inhabitants, including Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America. This is the USA’s premier archaeological site and a designated UNESCO Heritage Site. Make sure to join a guided tour that will leave you in awe, looking back 700 years to 600 A.D. when the first pit-house villages were constructed.  

By this point you will be amazed by the diversity in the landscapes across the State but the final National Park on your road trip, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, is very unexpected and only four hours away. The park will allow you to marvel at the highest dunes in North America with the option to hike, sandsled or board down them. Use Alamosa as your base for exploring the park.

 You are on the homestretch with four hours on the road north to Denver. Make sure to save some time to stop in at Garden of the Gods Park, Colorado Springs. The whimsical rock formation makes a perfect halfway stop between Great Sand Dunes National Park and Denver. You can hit up some of the simple trails to stretch your legs or spend the night at the Garden of the Gods Park campground.  Finish with further discovery of the city of Denver.

For the Wellness Seeker: Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop 

Denver – Steamboat Springs – Glenwood Springs – Ouray – Pagosa Springs – Salida – Denver

Duration: 7 to 10 Days | Total Drive Time: 16 hours 

Pagosa Hot Springs

Snow-capped mountains, crisp fresh air and warm waters; indulge in one of the state’s most surreal phenomena, the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop. On this road trip discover some of the State’s most beautiful spots and rejuvenate in some of its 30+ naturally heated pools. There is a serious variety of wellness experiences to choose from including the world's largest – as well as the world’s deepest – mineral hot springs pool. 

Adjust to the altitude in Denver before taking the three hour journey to Steamboat Springs, renowned for its therapeutic waters and abundance of outdoor activities. The geothermal hot springs that dot the landscape have been revered among Native Americans and pioneers alike. The springs offer the perfect cure after a long day of mountain biking in the summer or skiing in winter.

Next, make your way just over two hours to Glenwood Springs. Glenwood Springs is in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and home to the iconic Glenwood Hot Springs Pool (which is considered the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool!) and the enchanting Hanging Lake. For a unique thermal experience try the vapor caves at Yampah Spa. 

Feeling relaxed, head south for another three hours to the charming town of Ouray. The town is known as “Switzerland of America” due to the iconic and mountainous scenery, locally owned shops and even chocolatiers for road tripping wellness seekers. 

From there, venture to Pagosa Springs which is packed with outdoor adventure and the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring. You can hike, raft and bike from town in summer and it enjoys the most snow in Colorado in the winter months making the hot waters particularly welcoming. The local Southern Ute tribes used the springs for hundreds of years, and “Pag-Osah” even means “healing waters.” 

Heading back towards Denver don't miss the opportunity to visit the delightful town of Salida, where relaxation reaches new heights with reiki, massages, reflexology, Tarot-card readings and other body treatments on offer at Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn and Spa. A quick two and a half hours and you are back in Denver where you can treat yourself to a unique wellness experience at the Beer Spa, where you can indulge in a soak with a beer in-hand. 

For the Connoisseurs: Arts, Wines & Draughts Trail 

Denver – Fort Collins – Loveland – Breckenridge – Hotchkiss – Grand Junction – Glenwood Springs – Denver

Duration: 7 – 10 days | Total Drive Time: 18 hours 

Follow Colorado’s connoisseur trail as you trace this route of cultural and culinary delights over one or two weeks. Beginning in Denver explore the city's best street art as you explore the River North Art District and popular Denver Art Museum and Clyfford Still Museums.  Continue north to Fort Collins, the craft beer capital of Colorado, and take a tasting trail across 20 breweries, stopping for samples at mouth-watering providores including the renowned New Belgium Brewing Co. The town is well known for a thriving art, music and theatre scene too. Fort Collins is just over one hour from Denver.

A short half an hour drive away and you can marvel at the scenic beauty of Loveland. For a unique experience spend the night at Sylvan Dale Ranch where you can get on horseback and have a ranch style meal before indulging in the art extravaganza of Sculpture in the Park and the Loveland Invitational Sculpture Show held every August, Make sure to place your own lock on the Love Lock sculpture before ascending for two hours through the mountains to Breckenridge where you can meander through the vines at the Continental Divide Winery before making a stop at Isak Heartstone the 15-foot tall wooden troll sculpture located on the Trollstigen Trail outside town. Be sure to visit the highest distillery in the world, Breckenridge Distillery. 

Stop in Vail to enjoy the regions many fine eateries and wildflower hiking in the summer or endless skiing in the winter before continuing to discover the delicious produce of Hotchkiss where sumptuous wineries including Leroux Creek Inn & Vineyards and Mesa Winds Farm & Winery beckon.  

On your return to Denver traverse marvel at natural wonders, before stopping in the charming town of Grand Junction, where 30 wineries offer a plethora of tasting experiences –Two Rivers Winery is a popular choice. True Connoisseurs will make a stop in for a day or two of relaxation at Glenwood Springs before heading back to Denver. 

Driving not your style? Board a scenic train journey 

If you need to take a break from driving we recommend boarding one of the many scenic and historic trains across the State. For a unique experience climb aboard the historic train between Durango and Silverton. Watch a picturesque countryside, verdant rolling hills and the magnificent San Juan National Forest stretch out in front of your carriages as you drift through the scenery. For journeys closer to Denver board the magnificent Georgetown Loop or Pike's Peak. Colorado’s scenic train rides to see sights only reachable by rail letting you get truly off the beaten track.

For a luxurious experience step aboard the spacious glass-domed train coaches of the Rocky Mountaineer and be captivated by the awe-inspiring scenery that surrounds you as you travel the famed Rockies to Red Rocks route.

Discover our collection of Colorado offers here 

Looking for more inspiration read Under-the-Radar US Cities That Are Big on Experiences 

About Annabel Fuller
Lover of gelato and all things travel, Annabel is happiest when exploring new places, soaking in the glorious sun rays and scuba diving. When she's not writing about the most glamorous destinations, she's on the lookout for her next adventure.

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