Denver, Colorado’s capital city, is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and is not just a USA bucket list destination but also a terrific vacation destination with a variety of activities for city and nature enthusiasts equally.
People here enjoy being outside, are big sports fans, enjoy a drink with a view (extra points if it’s one of the many local brews), and are generally polite and hospitable.
But what if you want to see more of Colorado than Denver has to offer?
You’ll be pleased to learn that some of Colorado’s top attractions are conveniently located near Denver.
While there are many possibilities, this list will help you reduce them down to only 11 of the greatest day trips from Denver, Colorado.
The Best Day Trips from Denver, CO
- Bishop Castle
This is undoubtedly the “weirdest” location on the list, but what is life without dipping your toes into the strange?
Bishop Castle, named after its builder, is a one-person endeavor that has become a renowned Colorado roadside attraction. It’ll undoubtedly be one of your most memorable visits!
There are no guided tours available here; the castle is always open and free to guests, who are encouraged to explore at their leisure.
The castle has a huge ballroom, strange architecture, and a fire-breathing dragon thrown in for good measure. The castle has tall stone and iron towers with fantastic views (you can see for over 100 miles), a grand ballroom, odd architecture, and a fire-breathing dragon thrown in for good measure.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Okay, 2 hours and 30 minutes are perhaps pushing the limits of a “day excursion,” but a journey to Glenwood Springs is well worth it!
Take a lovely drive into the mountains from Denver to start your day. The scenery is breathtaking!
Then head to Hanging Lake Trail, one of Colorado’s most popular treks, just outside of Glenwood Springs (but make sure you plan and get a permit).
It’s a short hike (about one mile), but it gains a lot of elevation in that time, making it quite difficult.
After that, drive to Glenwood to soak your post-hike muscles in the wonderful hot springs.
Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park is a beautiful alpine town located just northwest of Denver, Colorado.
Visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park usually stay here because of the range of activities available and the proximity to the park entrance.
The Estes Park Aerial Tramway offers breathtaking views of the valley. A visit to the Stanley Hotel, which was featured in Stephen King’s film “The Shining” and just so happens to be one of Colorado’s most haunted hotels, will delight (and immediately recognize) horror enthusiasts.
And, of course, Estes Park offers a wide range of outdoor activities — which is so Colorado!
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
The vast sandstone formations in the area give Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater its name. It is located just west of Denver in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
There are lots to do here during the day, as it is a National Historic Landmark.
Red Rocks Park is the ideal location for some high-quality outdoor recreation. Hiking, trail running, and mountain biking are all possible among the stunning environment, which includes vistas of downtown Denver to the east.
Visitors can also utilize the amphitheater steps to increase their workout intensity – but be warned: it’s difficult, especially at higher elevations!
However, seeing a play at Red Rocks in the evening is the greatest way to go! Every year, the concert lineup features the finest of the greatest.
They host unique activities like stand-up comedians, large group workouts, and a weekly movie series in the summer.
Breckenridge, located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, is home to a booming ski resort (aptly named Breckenridge Ski Resort) as well as a historic tiny town with plenty of alpine charm.
It is a fantastic winter holiday destination, with activities centered on all things snow, including skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and other winter sports.
Biking, hiking, and alpine activities take precedence when visiting outside of the winter months.
But, regardless of when you arrive, there are lots of fantastic restaurants to try, small stores to browse, and pleasant residents to meet.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of Colorado’s most popular tourist destinations. In reality, the park attracts over four million people each year who come to experience the park’s 400+ square miles of breathtaking alpine scenery.
Visitors can enjoy scenic driving, fishing, horseback riding, animal observation, and more throughout the park.
Trail Ridge Road is particularly popular, and it also happens to be the country’s highest continually paved road! That makes sense when you consider that it’s also known as the “Highway to the Sky.”
And it doesn’t matter when you go to RMNP! Throughout the year, a wide range of activities is available. RMNP is a short day trip from Denver with plenty of activities for the entire family to enjoy.
Georgetown Loop Railroad and Mining Park
The Georgetown Loop Railroad and Mining Park, located 45 miles west of Denver, is a historically immersive experience. You can board the train and journey back in time to the 1800s.
The trains on the track are steam-powered behemoths that have been preserved and maintained for nearly 120 years. The circle connects travelers between Georgetown and Silver Plume, two mountain mining villages.
Bring the whole family along for a day of fun on the train, a visit to a silver mine, or learning to gold pan.
Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark that is only a short drive south of Denver.
With almost 1,300 acres to explore and breathtaking views of towering red rock formations, it’s easy to see why this is such a favorite Denver destination.
There are several methods to see what the park has to offer. It’s ideal for biking, hiking, equestrian riding, and rock climbing.
To wrap up your day trip from Denver, go to the adjacent Manitou Cliff Dwellings and Cave of the Winds Mountain Park.
Blackhawk/Central City, Colorado
A trip to Blackhawk/Central City is like taking a trip back in time. Back to the Wild West, and what Colorado would have looked like when the first people arrived and established themselves.
Today, however, these modest, historic towns are better known as Colorado’s prime gaming destination! There is a fair mix of high-end casinos and smaller, local establishments to enjoy.
And no matter where you end up, you’ll have access to the greatest gaming Colorado has to offer.
Although Boulder is only a short drive from Denver, it feels like a world away when you arrive.
Boulder has a small-town feel to it, with a strange blend of posh and hippie vibes. Boulder is a great destination for city folks to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
In Boulder, you can climb Chautauqua Park, see the historic Pearl Street pedestrian mall, sample some of Colorado’s greatest beers, and dine at one of the city’s flourishing restaurants.
There are so many things to do in Boulder that a day excursion might easily be filled with unforgettable new experiences. So make sure to add some more time to your agenda to allow for more exploration!
The Coors Brewery, located just outside of Denver in Golden, Colorado, is the world’s largest brewery.
Golden produces more beer per capita than any other city on the planet, due largely to Coors! They also offer complimentary 30-minute tours of their facilities daily.
On the brewery tour, visitors get a firsthand peek at what goes on behind the scenes. The malting, brewing, and packaging procedures used to get Coors beers to the end customer are all visible here.
You’ll also receive lots of beer samples along the route, of course.
But don’t believe there’s nothing else to see here! There are so many things to do in Golden that you could easily spend an entire day or longer visit one of Denver’s nearest mountain towns.
Despite its status as a college town (where Colorado State University is located), Fort Collins has evolved into a true beer lover’s dream. There are more than two dozen breweries in the city, several of which have tasting rooms and offer brewery tours.
When you’re not enjoying the city’s craft beer scene, wander through the Old Town neighborhood, which is home to locally owned boutiques, restaurants, and museums.
Visit 80’s Pizza for a throwback and the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery to learn more about the town’s history.
Enjoy magnificent drives, picnics, whitewater rafting, and hiking in the neighboring Cache la Poudre River Canyon, or go fishing, boating, and kayaking at Horsetooth Reservoir.