13 Best Weekend Trips from Denver, CO

With national parks, world-class skiing, mountain resort towns, and hot springs, there are so many incredible weekend trips from Denver to check out. With trips ranging from an hour to a few hours drive, there are plenty of weekend getaway options to escape city life and explore the beautiful mountains of Colorado.

Whether you’re driving and staying in a hotel, car camping or you rented an RV in Denver for the weekend, these are the best weekend getaways from Denver, Colorado.

best weekend trips from Denver, Colorado

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1. Rocky Mountain National Park

Peaks rising over 14,000 feet, glistening crystal-clear alpine lakes, luscious meadows filled with wildflowers, and abundant wildlife sightings are just a few reasons to head to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Located just an hour and a half northeast of Denver, this is the perfect weekend getaway destination from Denver. With over 350 miles of hiking trails, scenic drives offering impressive mountain views, ranger-led horseback riding trips, and plenty of camping and backpacking options there are plenty of ways to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park.

While visits in the summer provide the warmest weather, the park is worth visiting year-round. During the winter, the snow-covered peaks and meadows make for a tranquil experience with far fewer visitors than in the summer. However, certain parts of the park are only accessible in the summer. Between June to October cruise along Trail Ridge Road for some of the best views in the park.

Also, as of summer 2020, during the high season, park reservations are required. Acquire your timed entry permit online ahead of time at recreation.gov if you plan to visit from May to October.

best weekend trips from Denver | Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

2. Estes Park

Estes Park is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s about 90 minutes northwest of Denver and is a great pit stop on your way to the park, or a weekend trip destination with all the attractions surrounding this lovely mountain town.

Enjoy views of the Rocky Mountains from the aerial tramway cable car up to the summit of Prospect Mountain. It operates daily from the end of May to early September. Or go for a stroll, fish for trout, or enjoy some water activities on Lake Estes.

Estes Park also offers plenty of accommodations and restaurants downtown. Sip wine at Snow Peaks Winery, adventure off-road on a jeep tour, or head into town to enjoy some local shopping. For a luxury night stay book a night at the historic Stanely Hotel.

With the variety of options from mountains to a chill town, this is one of the best weekend getaways from Denver.

weekend getaways from Denver | Estes Park
Estes Park

3. Colorado Springs: Best Weekend Getaway from Denver

Colorado Springs sits at the base of the glacially carved Rocky Mountains, featuring the prominent Pikes Peak in the distance and the beautiful red sculpted rocks, Garden of the Gods park in the foreground.

Just over an hour from Denver, this city is a great day trip or full weekend trip destination. If you’re an avid hiker, make your way up the grueling trail to summit Pikes Peak. Or for a more relaxing experience, take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway or drive your own vehicle up. But don’t be surprised if you feel a bit dizzy at the summit; at 14,115 ft of elevation, you might feel the lack of oxygen in your brain!

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Colorado Springs is surrounded by over 300 miles of trails throughout the surrounding national forests and in Garden of the Gods park. From the park, you can take the perfect photo of the red rocks and mountain background. Or hike through the unique sandstone formations.

4. Steamboat Springs

Steamboat Springs is about 3 hours northwest of Denver. With its variety of both summer and winter activities, it’s one of the best weekend trips from Denver.

For outdoor enthusiasts, winters here are well known for visits to the Steamboat Springs ski resort. It’s not one of the largest resorts in the state so it’s less touristy and still features great terrain and generally really good snow conditions.

For a relaxing visit, Old Town Hot Springs located in the center of downtown is famous for relaxing in the geothermally heated pools. If you arrive during the summer, ride the scenic chairlifts, go for a hike, go horseback riding, or take a hot air balloon tour.

best weekend trips from Denver | Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs – PC: Flickr

5. Idaho Springs

Idaho Springs is a small historic town located about 45 minutes west of Denver and is just a few miles off Highway 70. It originally grew to fame as a mining town during the 1880s because of the gold rush but is now also visited as a spot for outdoor adventure enthusiasts.

For a summer weekend getaway in Idaho Springs go rafting or camping. If you’re into Gold Rush history visit the Pheonix Gold Mine, check out the Argo Mill and Tunnel, or stop by the Idaho Springs Museum and Visitor Center.

With its close distance to Denver, Idaho Springs is also a great spot for a day trip or a quick weekend trip near Denver.

White Water Rafting in  Idaho Springs
White Water Rafting in Idaho Springs

6. Glenwood Springs: Top Weekend Trip from Denver

Geothermal springs, bright-colored lakes, and a relaxing resort city, Glenwood Springs is located about 4 hours from Denver and is a great weekend trip. This small city is one of the most affordable places to visit in Colorado. Glenwood Springs sits in the rugged part of the Rocky Mountains surrounded by White River National Forest.

Check out Glenwood Hot Springs Pool or Iron Mountain Hot Springs for a nice soak in the naturally heated water while enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery. If you enjoy scenic strolls take a walk along the Rio Grande Trail. For great hiking explore Glenwood Canyon or Hanging Lake.

Hanging Lake is one of the most famous natural formations in Colorado. Its unique geologic formation and appearance were formed when a geologic fault forced the bed of the lake off the above valley, leaving behind Bridal Veil Falls trickling into Hanging Lake.

The lake is a striking bright blue-green color because of the minerals that have dissolved into it over time. Permits and reservations are required to enter so plan your visit ahead of time.

Glenwood Springs | Denver sightseeing
Glenwood Springs – PC: Flickr

7. Great Sand Dunes National Park

This national park is located about 4 hours south of Denver. It’s home to the largest sand dunes in North America with dunes rising around 750 feet tall! Not only is this park famous for its majestic dunes, what really makes it special are the breathtaking mountain peaks in the distant background, making for the perfect photo spot.

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This park is fun for all visitors. There are plenty of hikes throughout the dunes, however, hiking here is much harder than on a regularly maintained trail so prepare for your legs to burn as you climb uphill. In addition to the dunes, the park is also home to miles of trails near alpine lakes, wetlands, grasslands, and shrublands. While visiting, always look out for the diverse wildlife.

For an adrenalin-rushing experience, go sandboarding or sand sledding! You can rent boards at the visitor center or at other nearby shops and slide down the dunes anywhere throughout the dune fields!

If you visit during the summer take a dip at Medano Creek or tour the park during the night for the best photo opportunities of the Milky Way. Check the moon calendar and plan your trip during a new moon for the best views of the night sky.

If you take the western route through the mountains all alien believers should stop at the funky UFO Watchtower attraction in Alamosa.

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

8. Fort Collins

The craft beer capital of Colorado: Fort Collins. Sip brews at some of the largest and most famous breweries in the country. New Belgium Brewing, Odell Brewing Company, and Left Hand Brewing, as well as many smaller breweries, are some of the amazing drinking options you can choose from here.

The city is located just over an hour drive from Denver and is also well known for Colorado State University, its access to outdoor activities, and its bicycle-friendly culture. Downtown is filled with restaurants, local small business shops, and coffee shops.

Near Fort Collins, there are plenty of outdoor activities within close distance to the city. Head to Poudre Canyon to go whitewater rafting or kayaking. Drive a bit west and you’ll end up in Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forest where there is plenty of hiking and camping.

In addition to the public city parks, Fort Collins is also known as a very dog-friendly city in Colorado. The city features several fenced-in dog parks where pets can run off-leash and there are drinking fountains and shade shelters.

Pineridge Natural Area in Fort Collins
Pineridge Natural Area in Fort Collins

9. Crested Butte

A ski town in the winter and a mountain biking mecca in the summer. Crested Butte is a small town nestled high in Colorado’s mountains about 4 hours away from Denver. In the spring and early summer, it’s become well known for the beautiful wildflower blooms.

While Crested Butte is small compared to other Colorado mountain towns, the main street is filled with brightly colored buildings, restaurants, and shops. Explore the town like a local and enjoy your breakfast at Butte Bagels followed by a stop at Townie Books.

Crested Butte is far less visited than most other towns throughout Colorado so it’s a great place to relax for a weekend escape from Denver.

10. Vail

Vail is home to one of the largest ski resorts in the US. It’s known for its incredible, diverse terrain and many visitors say it has some of the best conditions in the country. It’s easily one of the most famous ski options located near Denver.

Vail Resorts also own nearby locations including Keystone, Breckenridge, and Beaver Creek. Located within a few miles you can spend your weekend hopping around to different mountains if you’d like.

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But Vail isn’t only known for its winter activities. The main street downtown is filled with luxury shopping, dining, and accommodations. In the summer spend your day zip-lining, tubing, or whitewater rafting.

Vail
Vail, Colorado

11. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a great long weekend road trip from Denver, CO. Located in the western part of Colorado, it’s about 6 hours away from Denver. It’s famous for its deep, narrow, and steep canyon reaching 2,722 feet deep where it meets the Gunnison River.

The park is home to the Painted Wall, the tallest cliff in Colorado standing 2,250 feet from water to the canyon rim. Hike down into the canyon to discover this area or go on an overnight trip from Denver. Rock climbing and kayaking are also popular activities in the park. The Gunnison River is also famous for its trout fishing.

If you enjoy a more chill national park trip you can drive along both the North and South Rims or take the windy East Portal Road from the canyon rim down to the river. This road is very steep with grades reaching over 16% so make sure your brakes are working!

While summer days bring the most sun to the canyon the hot temperatures are difficult to enjoy. Explore the park at night for a chance to see an incredible stary sky. Or explore the park during the winter when it’s covered in snow. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are popular activities.

12. Ouray

This charming mountain town is known as the Little Switzerland of Colorado. Denver is about 6 hours from Ouray so plan a long weekend road trip to enjoy this area. And while it is most famous as a winter ice climbing destination, it’s a great spot to visit at any time of year.

The downtown area is filled with restaurants, shops, a brewery, and both quaint and modern hotel accommodations. In the summer spend your day hiking, climbing, or on the new Via Ferrata course.

With year-round activities, a friendly local community, the surrounding mountain views, and activities for all types of travelers, this is one of the best weekend trips from Denver.

Ouray
Ouray, Colorado – PC: Flickr

13. Aspen

Aspen is another resort town just over 3 hours west of Denver. The resort, Aspen Snowmass, is well known for skiing and snowboarding in the winter and bike trails and ziplines in the summer. It is also known for its glitzy resort area with hotels, shopping, and restaurants.

Just outside of Aspen is a famous wilderness area called Maroon Bells. It’s one of the most visited areas in Colorado and features some of Colorado’s iconic mountain peaks. There are plenty of hiking and backpacking trails throughout that region.

Fall in Aspen
Fall in Aspen

With the massive Rocky Mountains, relaxing resort cities with spas, unique parks, and plenty of outdoor activities there are so many weekend trips from Denver, Colorado for any type of traveler. With such a variety throughout the state, there are plenty of places to visit at any time of year. So start planning your weekend getaway now to see the best of Colorado!

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2 Comments

  1. Marina Teramond (NMPL) says:

    Even though some people might say that the nature of Colorado is pretty dull and has the same parks, mountains, and hitching spots all around the state, I am personally very much amused by the environmental features of Denver. I have been there three times and all of them were not similar to one another. I had an incredible experience meeting the gorgeous nature of Denver, and highly suggest everyone go and visit the amazing places listed in the article.

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