People standing on a peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the best day trips from Denver.

City Guide / Denver

Day Trips from Denver That You’ll Love

By Felicia Brower | Jul 6, 2022

One of the best things about living in Denver, Colorado, is its easy access to some incredible destinations. Whether you want to go for a drive on some of the state’s scenic byways or have a specific spot in mind, it’s easy to find things around Denver to keep you entertained.

We’ve compiled a list of stops around the state to consider visiting on your next road trip outside of Denver. You can visit one or even combine multiple destinations for full fun-filled day trips.

Here are our recommendations for the best day trips from Denver:

Take a walk back in time on a Denver day trip

A storied mining history has left Colorado with hundreds of ghost towns all over the state. Towns like Teller City near Walden and Ashcroft and Independence near Aspen give visitors a chance to see what life in the Old West was like. If you have to pick two must-visit towns, St. Elmo near Nathrop and Dearfield near Greeley are historically significant standouts worth taking day trips to, among these others:

1. St. Elmo

Nearly 2,000 prospectors and residents called St. Elmo home in its prime in the 1890s. After the closing of a major mine in the 1920s and the discontinuation of the postal service in 1952, the mountain town shuttered completely. It’s now one of Colorado’s best-preserved ghost towns where visitors can see the shells of the hotel, saloon, homes, and dozens of other remaining structures. From May through October, you can visit the St. Elmo General Store and pick up souvenirs and antiques.

2. Dearfield

Dearfield was a prominent Black agricultural community dating back to 1910 located an hour north of the city. At its prime, there were 300 residents living there, but a mix of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl led to the town’s eventual collapse as residents moved to the city and other areas. Today you can see a gas station, diner, and home, and there are current efforts to uncover and restore other areas of the town.

3. Buffalo Bill’s Museum and Grave and the Lariat Loop Byway

Buffalo Bill’s Museum and Grave are only 30 minutes away from the city and offer one of the most spectacular, wide-open views of Golden, Denver, and the Continental Divide. When legendary cowboy William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody died, his body was returned to Golden, Colorado, and buried on Lookout Mountain. At the museum and gift shop, you can learn about Cody’s life and his famed Wild West shows and pick up some memorabilia to commemorate your visit.

You can also spend a few hours on a hike at Lookout Mountain or start a scenic drive on the Lariat Loop Byway, a 40-mile loop that takes you along two historic routes: the Lariat Trail Scenic Mountain Drive and the Bear Creek Canyon Scenic Mountain Drive. This scenic drive offers breathtaking views!

4. Royal Gorge Route Railroad

There’s a rich rail history in Colorado and trains that still take riders along the historic routes that travelers have used for more than 100 years. The Royal Gorge Route Railroad in Cañon City, two hours from the city, takes riders on a 24-mile round-trip train ride through the twists and turns of the massive Royal Gorge canyon. See remnants from the early mining days of Colorado along your scenic drive before heading to Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, home of the highest suspension bridge in America.

5. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

The Scenic Round Trip Silverton Train from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad takes you up into the Rocky Mountains with views of the San Juan National Forest in a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive. Riders of the round-trip Silverton train, which departs from Durango, can spend a couple of hours in the historic mining mountain town and enjoy delicious food and drinks and the sights and sounds of Silverton. Day trips to Durango will mean waking up extra early, as it’s six hours from the city, but it’s well worth the trip!

Take a day trip to immerse yourself in the food and drink scene outside of Denver

Downtown Denver has no shortage of notable dining and drinking destinations, but if you want to take a food- and drink-themed trip outside of the city, there are a ton of perfect day trips throughout the state, including:

1. Coors Brewery and Holidaily Brewing Co. in Golden

Golden, Colorado, is located 20 minutes from the city and home to Coors Brewery, the nation’s largest single-site brewery. Set aside an hour and 30 minutes to take a guided tour to see where they brew millions of barrels annually, and end your visit in their tasting room, where you can sample a few of their most popular brews.

In addition to the nearly 10 breweries and distilleries in this tiny Front Range town, Golden is home to Holidaily Brewing Co., the only dedicated, gluten-free brewing facility in the state of Colorado. With zero chances for cross-contamination at their facility, it’s a safe place for people who have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity to taste delicious, locally sourced beer.

2. New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins

New Belgium Brewing, whose roster includes Fat Tire, Voodoo Ranger IPA, and Mountain Time, is located an hour north of the city in Fort Collins. Take a free 45-minute tour teaser that comes with free beer sampling, or pay for a longer 90-minute tour, private tours, or flight tastings.

3. Wine tasting in Palisade, Colorado

If wine and spirits are more your style, leave early from Denver and head 3 hours and 40 minutes west to Palisade, Colorado, a gorgeous small town that is well known for its wine. The grapes grown in this region are used to create one-of-a-kind decadent Colorado wines. With more than 25 wineries in town, you’ll have plenty of places to choose from to take a guided wine tour, learn all about the art of winemaking, and sit back and take in the beautiful landscape.

4. Marble Distilling in Carbondale

Marble Distilling in Carbondale is one of the most sustainable distilleries in the state. After a three-hour drive from Denver, you can taste some of their locally sourced vodka and take a tour of their recently renovated space to see how they capture 100% of their process water and use the energy from their distillation process to heat the facility.

5. Food tours in Boulder

Foodies won’t have to go far from the Mile High City to find tours that give participants the true tastes of nearby cities. The Downtown Boulder Food Tour from Local Table Tours features some of Boulder’s most popular restaurants on and around Pearl Street. At each location, the chef’s food choice is perfectly paired with the bartender’s choice of drinks, ensuring the best meal combination possible. There isn’t one defined tour route, so the tour stops and meal choices change often.

6. The Old Town Food Tour in Fort Collins

Fort Collins has an Old Town Food Tour where you can see the sights of Old Town while enjoying mouthwatering meals and sweet treats from some of the hottest spots in the city. It’s an hour’s drive from Denver, and you can make it a full-day trip by starting with a hike on a trail at Horsetooth Reservoir and a tour at New Belgium before your tasty excursion.

Explore the great outdoors outside of Denver on a day trip

One of the biggest perks of living in Denver is the easy access to outdoor activities just outside of the city, including national parks, state parks, and stunning mountain ranges. Here are our top picks for a day trip from Denver:

1. State parks and national parks outside of Denver

If you’re looking to spend some time in nature, Colorado is home to many state and national parks. Take a scenic drive down Trail Ridge Road, one of America’s scenic byways, at nearby Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, try your hand at sand sledding at the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve near Saguache County and Alamosa County, or go for a migratory bird hike on the paved loop trail at Barr Lake State Park. There are so many places you can get to in a few hours where you can hike, bike, climb, and see jaw-dropping natural landmarks and peaks.

2. Dinosaur Ridge and Red Rocks Park

Dinosaur Ridge near Morrison is 15 miles from the city and features must-see Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus bones and dinosaur footprints and fossils from the 1800s. Take yourself on a self-guided hike to see history up close on your own, or take a guided tour with the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge who can answer all of your burning questions about the Mesozoic Era.

Stop by the nearby Red Rocks Park, formed by the erosion of the Rocky Mountains, if you want to add a hike on a trail overlooking the city or take in the sights from the Red Rocks Amphitheater, a world-famous outdoor music venue. Even better is ending your day trip with a concert at Red Rocks for a bucket list musical experience!

3. Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is an hour-and-15-minute drive down I-25 from Denver and a must-do if you’re making a trip down to the area. With both paved and gravel trails, it’s a gorgeous, family-friendly place to see some of Colorado’s red rock formations and jagged peaks up close. You can also hike on the 21 miles of trails in and around Garden of the Gods, several of which are around one mile, or climb some of the towering sandstone rocks if you’re an experienced climber.

While you’re in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region, test your stamina at the challenging Manitou Incline, a manmade outdoor staircase that gains nearly 2,000 feet of elevation in less than one mile.

4. The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Take a nine-mile scenic train ride on one of the oldest cog railways in North America up Pikes Peak mountain to see the magnificent panoramic views from the place that inspired “America the Beautiful.” The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Cascade has been operating since 1891 and recently underwent massive renovations to improve the rider experience. It’s open year-round, giving you the unique opportunity to reach the peak of a fourteener (any mountain with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet) during every season without having to make the high-altitude trek by foot.

5. Mount Evans

If you want to visit the top of another mountain without having to hike up it, you can drive up Mount Evans, the highest paved road in North America. You can reach the summit by driving the 14-mile one-way road to the peak, which is typically open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Steep drop-offs can make the otherwise scenic drive up Mount Evans seem harrowing, so make sure that you’re okay with heights before you venture up.

6. Ski resorts outside of Denver

Some of the most popular day trip destinations from Denver during the winter are trips to the area’s world-renowned ski resorts. There are more than 30 resorts in Colorado (one of the highest number of resorts in a state!) and several are a straight shot on I-70 to the mountains, including Winter Park, Breckenridge, and Aspen Snowmass. A lot of Denverites love playing in the snow, so add in extra time for traffic.

Looking to move to Denver?

Denver is a short drive from spectacular destinations all over the state, making it a great place to choose when considering where you want to live with Landing. The flexible lease terms and fully furnished apartments are great perks if you’re looking for a place where you can get up early and spend a day on a road trip exploring the state, making the most of your time in Colorado. Learn more about what a Landing membership can do for you today!

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About the author

Felicia Brower

Felicia Brower is a Denver-based freelance writer. She loves exploring the great state of Colorado and is always on the hunt for the next weird, wild, and wonderful adventure.