25 Unique Road Trips from Denver, Colorado
It’s easy to jump in the car and get on your way to some of the nation’s most famous landmarks from Denver, Colorado. The capital city of Colorado is known for its close proximity to awe-inspiring nature stops such as Rocky Mountain National Forest and Great Sand Dunes National Park. In addition to national parks you can easily travel to world-class ski destinations, quirky art towns and more on various road trips from Denver.
Whether you’re embarking on a romantic road trip with your significant other or looking for some family fun, keep reading to discover 25 road trips you can take from Denver in under 14 hours. You can also jump to a specific section below:
1. Boulder, Colorado
Distance: 29.6 miles
Duration: 36 minutes
Just outside of Denver you’ll find an eclectic college town nestled in the foothills of Rocky Mountain National Forest. If you love music, craft beer and small-town vibes, you’ll feel right at home in Boulder.
Take an easy and scenic 2.1-mile hike along the Flatiron Loop Trail. Once you’ve got your outdoor fix in, get a taste of Boulder’s culinary scene at one of the farm-fresh staples in downtown. For shopping, stroll the shops along Pearl Street — or if breweries are more your style, ride or walk the Boulder Beer Trail.
2. Garden of the Gods, Colorado
Distance: 67.6 miles
Duration: 1 hour 14 minutes
Take in awe-inspiring views of red rock formations at this free public park located in Colorado Springs. This national natural landmark is just a short trip from Denver. You’ll find miles of trails, horseback riding, jeep, trolley, and segway tours, disability access and much more.
You can drive through the whole park in about 20 minutes. If you do decide on a self-guided cruise, make sure to stop at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post on your way in the park to get a map and road guide. Sunrises and sunsets are especially spectacular times to take in the park’s expansive views.
Even your pet can come along for the adventure: dogs are allowed in the park, as long as they remain on a leash at all times. Check out our guide on road tripping with your pet.
3. White River National Forest, Colorado
Distance: 70.6 miles
Duration: 1 hour 23 minutes from Denver
If you are itching to hit the slopes, take a short road trip to the most visited National Forest in the U.S. Here you’ll find plenty of adventure: White River National Forest encompasses twelve ski areas, including notable destinations such as Vail and Breckenridge. You can enjoy winter sports, world-class resorts and much more during your trip.
Even if you skip the snow, you’ll find plenty of activities across the 2.3 million acres of protected land. There are over 2,500 miles of trails and 10 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet to enjoy year-round.
4. Vail, Colorado
Distance: 97.1 miles
Duration: 1 hour 44 minutes
One of the more famous stops in the White River National Forest is the Bavarian-style ski village of Vail, Colorado. Vail Ski Resort boasts 5,289 skiable acres, and while winter reigns supreme in this resort town, there’s plenty of activities to do in the summer as well such as fly fishing, hiking, and hot air balloon rides.
Outside of powder and resort activities, check out the nearby Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and the Holy Cross Wilderness Area during your trip.
5. Estes Park, Colorado
Distance: 64 miles
Duration: 1 hour 23 minutes
If you are heading to Rocky Mountain National Park, consider stopping and/or lodging in Estes Park along the way. This quaint Colorado town is home to the hotel that inspired “The Shining,” so there’s plenty of paranormal activity to keep you entertained.
Estes Park is known as the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. If you want to make your trip to the national park an overnight road trip, we recommend lodging here.
6. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Distance: 66 miles
Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes
This Northern Colorado playground is full of waterfall hikes, backcountry activities and tons of wildlife. Join more than 3 million annual visitors to enjoy activities such as scenic drives, hiking, camping, fishing and more.
You’ll want to check out Trail Ridge Road, Bear Lake and Emerald Lake Trail while you’re in the park. And don’t forget to pack your camera: you’ll want to capture all of the epic wildlife and wilderness views along the way.
7. Pueblo, Colorado
Distance: 112.3 miles
Duration: 1 hour 46 minutes
If you are looking for a nearby urban experience, head to “Steel City” Colorado. Check out the Pueblo Riverwalk for some of the area’s best eateries and events. We recommend this road trip in the summertime when the Riverwalk comes alive thanks to the Farmer’s Market, Movie Nights on the River and other seasonal highlights.
You’ll also find outdoor recreation, including hiking, golfing and more. This road trip destination is an easy and affordable trip from Denver.
8. Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Distance: 157 miles
Duration: 2 hours 39 minutes
You can enjoy world-famous hot springs and an epic hike less than 3 hours from Denver. Glenwood Springs is home to the world’s largest hot spring pool and is also just 7 miles from waterfall-fed Hanging Lake.
You can make this trip in one day, or stay overnight at the renowned Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. The areas surrounding terrain is home to caves and the neighboring Colorado River.
9. Aspen, Colorado
Distance: 197.9 miles
Duration: 3 hours 31 minutes
If you are looking for a luxurious trip to the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Aspen is your spot. There are tons of high-end restaurants and boutiques, and you may even spot some celebrities enjoying the slopes during your visit.
Winter is the most active time to visit, but you’ll find more affordable prices and plenty of gorgeous hikes and outdoor activities to enjoy in the summertime as well.
10. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Distance: 237 miles
Duration: 3 hours 49 minutes
The Great Sand Dunes National Park might be the biggest sandbox you’ve ever seen. The sand dunes are the biggest in North America, with “Star Dune” reaching a peak of 750 feet! If you like to camp, you can stay overnight at the Pinyon Flats Campground.
Don’t miss High Dune, the most popular hike in the park. You can also try your hand at sandboarding and sand sledding, two unique activities offered by private companies nearby.
11. Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Distance: 262.6 miles
Duration: 4 hours and 55 minutes
You’ll find fewer crowds and a lower-key experience at this western Colorado park, but plenty of natural wonders. Black Canyon is best known for its steep black cliffs of volcanic rock that plunge 2,000 feet to the river below.
Enjoy rock climbing, backpacking and kayaking in the warmer months and cross-country skiing during the winter.
12. Moab, Utah
Distance: 354.5 miles
Duration: 5 hours 30 minutes
Experience Arches National Park and the awe-inspiring red rock formations in Moab, Utah. In addition to epic views, you can see ancient dinosaur tracks as paleontologists have found dinosaur fossils and other ancient animals in the rock formations here.
Adrenaline junkies will feel right at home in this desert landscape outfitted with biking trails, four-wheel driving, watersports and more. Don’t miss famous scenic spots such as Delicate Arch and the Canyonlands while you’re in town.
13. Sante Fe, New Mexico
Distance: 390.3 miles
Duration: 5 hours 55 minutes
Take a road trip down to New Mexico’s capital city for a vacation in the Sangre de Cristo foothills. Sante Fe is known for its thriving art market, Pueblo-style architecture and scenic views.
The city is over 400 years old and boasts a rich Hispanic culture. You can stay in a scenic resort or boutique hotel, or if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure you’ll find numerous campgrounds and RV parks.
14. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Distance: 370.8 miles
Duration: 6 hours 44 minutes
This UNESCO World Heritage site and national park is home to beautiful mountains and panoramic views, cliff dwellings and Ancestral Puebloans structures. History and culture enthusiasts will love learning about ancient Native American culture while also enjoying epic canyon views.
Located less than 7 hours from Denver, we recommend staying overnight for this road trip to enjoy all that the area has to offer. There is a lodge and campground inside the park, or you can stay at neighboring hotels.
15. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Distance: 367.4 miles
Duration: 6 hours 3 minutes
Explore the Black Hills of South Dakota while taking in views of our forefathers at Mount Rushmore. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum designed this sculpture to feature the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
More than two million visitors make the trip every year, with summer months being the busiest time to visit. In addition to taking in views of the monument, you can also stroll the Presidential Trail, enjoy a guided tour, and walk along the Avenue of Flags. This is the perfect trip for history enthusiasts, art lovers, and outdoor adventurers.
16. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Distance: 374.3 miles
Duration: 6 hours 7 minutes
Another South Dakota stop is Badlands National Park, located in the southwestern corner of the state. The national park was once a sea, and this salty sediment is what helped form the park’s plateaus. You can explore this desert landscape’s rock formations and prairies.
There are campgrounds and lodging in the park for an easy overnight stay: don’t forget to pack these free summer camping games for kid’s printables. Make sure to soak in the epic sunset views and look for the park’s black-footed ferrets during your trip.
17. Telluride, Colorado
Distance: 361.9 miles
Duration: 6 hours 12 minutes
This cozy mountain town sits in a box canyon, surrounded by mountains and cliffs. Telluride was once a gold-mining town, and these old-timey influences are still felt in the town’s attitude and architecture today.
In the winter you can partake in snow sports along the slopes, and during summer you’ll also find a bustling activity calendar and plenty of outdoor activities to partake in. If you enjoy hikes, we recommend stops at Bridal Veil Falls, Ajax Peak and Ingram Falls.
18. Omaha, Nebraska
Distance: 541 miles
Duration: 7 hours 46 minutes
If you love music, craft beer and baseball, consider a road trip to Omaha. This city is also the headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway and the place where billionaire founder Warren Buffet calls home.
Take in a concert at one of the many live music venues throughout the city. Independent record label Saddle Creek Records has Omaha on the map as a thriving destination for indie rock culture. You can also stroll the murals and other public art installations throughout the city and don’t forget to grab BBQ from a local joint.
19. Salt Lake City, Utah
Distance: 517.6 miles
Duration: 8 hours 17 minutes
The capital city of Utah is also the state’s most populous. Nestled near the Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City is well known for its religious influences just as much as its ski slopes.
Winter sports enthusiasts will love road-tripping to this unique metropolis and the nearby Park City ski slopes. The 2002 Winter Olympics were held in and around Salt Lake City, and you can check out some of the sites during a visit to Utah Olympic Park.
20. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Distance: 508.6 miles
Duration: 8 hours and 39 minutes
Calling all adventurers. Yellowstone National Park is the ultimate American road trip. Here you’ll find epic nature experiences you can’t get anywhere else in the world — more than half of the world’s geysers can be found within the park.
There are also more than 290 waterfalls and the largest concentration of mammals in the continental U.S. During your visit, enjoy wildlife spotting, fishing, and boating, and don’t forget to stop by Old Faithful to witness the world-famous geyser eruption.
21. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Distance: 539.7 miles
Duration: 8 hours and 45 minutes
Past Moab you’ll find Bryce Canyon National Park, an area of crimson-colored rock formations. The Bryce Amphitheater is the most popular area of the park, full of cliff trails and picturesque views.
In summertime the park can become easily overcrowded, so arrive early to take full advantage of your day.
22. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Distance: 562.1 miles
Duration: 8 hours 46 minutes
The glistening white sands of this national monument make up the world’s largest gypsum dune field. What looks like white beaches in the Tularosa Basin is actually a unique desert oasis.
Despite its harsh conditions, the monument is home to many interesting and unusual creatures and plant species. In addition to the dunes, don’t miss a visit to Lake Lucero and Alkali Flat Trailhead during your trip.
23. Zion National Park, Utah
Distance: 605.7 miles
Duration: 9 hours 33 minutes
Zion National Park is a 229-mile national park nestled in southern Utah. The park consists of canyons and other interesting rock formations, and lots of unusual plants and animal diversity call this unique geographical site home.
Zion Canyon is made of reddish rocks and sediment that have been forming for over 150 million years. During your trip, don’t miss famous scenic sites such as The Narrows, Angels Landing and Emerald Pools Trail.
24. Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Distance: 621.2 miles
Duration: 10 hours 12 minutes
This slot canyon is picturesque and unique. You can only enter with a guided tour and reservations are required so you’ll want to plan ahead for this trip. Magical views await you in both the Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon that make up this dreamy and otherworldly destination.
If you are heading out to the Grand Canyon for a summer road trip, we recommend stopping here along the way. You can lodge in the nearby town of Page, Arizona.
25. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Distance: 677.8 miles
Duration: 11 hours 8 minutes
The awe-inspiring Grand Canyon is nearly 678 miles away from Denver’s city center, but its epic views make it worth the road trip. The canyon was carved out by the Colorado River and has been forming for nearly two billion years. There is so much to see at this massive park, from the North Rim to the Grand Canyon Village. In addition to hiking and nature views, you can go river rafting and take in gorgeous views of the Havasu Falls.
The guide above will help you find the perfect destination for your Denver Road trip. Whether your adventure is for scenic summer views or to the slopes, there’s plenty of drives worth stopping at near Colorado’s capital.
Exploring these exciting sites and natural wonders have never been easier. Rent a car to get the most out of your Denver road trip.