Right at the base of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, you will find the city of Denver. This lovely town is known for its fantastic architecture and outstanding natural beauty. Nicknamed the Mile High City thanks to its location at exactly 5,280 feet above sea level, this incredible city boasts about 300 days of sunshine every year and is a wonderful place to take a vacation. The mountain range is really one of Denver's highlights and as you relax around town you will be able to spot nearly 200 mountain peaks, some of which reach over 13,000 feet or more in height.
This city also offers fabulous indoor activities, like the best museums in Denver and some of the most exquisite dining, from Asian specialties to Mediterranean eateries with spectacular views to must-try food trucks with hometown favorites. Denver does have it all!
Although Denver is a beautiful town itself, you might be tempted to go on an adventure outside of the central city limits to explore the Rocky Mountains or one of the other cities located nearby. Luckily for you, there are lots of amazing places for you to check out including ski resorts and all of Colorado's vast mountain parks, like Maryland Mountain Quartz Park, and many of them are perfect for day trips.
If you do decide to take a trip outside of the city, stow your bags safely at a luggage storage location in Denver while you are away. You'll no doubt climb a mountain or two and you won't want extra bags slowing you down.
How to get out of Denver
Denver is a relatively easy city to navigate (see our guide on how to get around), and there are several different options when it comes to getting from place to place. Buses are great for moving from one area to the next, and bikes are a common way to travel short distances. You will find a whole network of bike lanes that make it safe and easy to get around on two wheels, and walking is always an option as well.
If you arrive in the city by airplane then you can simply take the Airport Rail to get straight to Downtown Denver. Additionally, the Light Rail train has 12 lines that cover a distance of 113 miles and can help you travel basically anywhere around the city and surrounding area. Although the trains can help you get to some of your day trips, in some cases you will need to use a car to get to your destination.
From Denver to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
One of the most unique and stunning day trips from Denver, Colorado is the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater. This iconic natural park outside of Morrison is a must-see for anyone who visits the area, especially for those who love nature and music. The Red Rocks Park is a lovely spot to go on a walk thanks to its incredibly scenic atmosphere and wildlife. If you enjoy being active you might want to rent a bike to explore the park, or take on one of the hiking trails to admire the towering red rock formations.
The Amphitheater, which was built in 1906, stands as one of the best concert and live performance venues in the whole country, and since there are events happening regularly you might even get to see it being used. Music festivals, stand-up comedians, group workouts, movie nights and yoga sessions are often hosted here as well. Check their schedule to see if there is anything happening during your visit; it will be an unforgettable day trip!
How to get to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
Unfortunately, the public transport systems in Denver can't bring you straight to the Red Rocks Park entrance. Instead, you will probably have to use a car, although the drive is quick and easy. It is a simple drive and should only take you about half an hour!
From Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park
If you are searching for a truly incredible experience for your Denver day trip, the Rocky Mountain National Park will surely do the trick. This is the ultimate destination for nature enthusiasts and there are over 415 square miles of wilderness to discover. There will be more than enough things for you to do, including 355 miles of walking and hiking trails, so you best reserve the whole day if you want to come here. Inside the limits of the park, there are 100 mountain peaks plus 50 waterways like lakes and streams.
The great thing about the Rocky Mountain National Park is that the hiking paths are suitable for people of all ages as they vary in length and difficulty. Whether you are an experienced outdoorsy person or someone who is just getting started, there should be a trail that is the right challenge level for you. There is also Trail Ridge Road which offers a wonderful scenic drive for anyone who can't hike but still wants to admire the view. Fun fact; it is the highest paved road in the whole United States! Feel like staying in the park for longer than a day? There are some great campsites in the park.
How to get to Rocky Mountain National Park
You will also need a car to reach the Rocky Mountains. It is a very doable drive and should only take an hour and a half. You might want to check out the charming mountain town of Estes Park while you are in the area, too!
From Denver to Eastern Plains
Denver is very fortunate to be situated close to the Eastern Plains which are truly beautiful to visit. This part of Colorado offers a wide range of attractions, both cultural and natural, that everyone will enjoy. Rich with wildlife and natural beauty, you will want to reserve an entire day for a trip to the Eastern Plains.
To start off your day, take a trip to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park. This park, which spans for 750 acres, showcases the gorgeous landscape of Colorado and houses some fascinating historical sites, some of which date back nearly 9,000 years. Your next stop should be the Wild Animal Sanctuary which is dedicated to saving local fauna needing a bit of extra help. Some of the animals that you will see include mountain lions, wolves, bears, tigers and more! If you are looking for more to do, continue north to the Colorado Wildlife Banner Lakes, or maybe take your adventure to the Rainbow River of Cano Cristales.
How to get to Eastern Plains
There is much to explore in the Eastern Plains and the easiest way to get around is by car. The Wild Animal Sanctuary is located under an hour's drive away from central Denver, and places like the Paint Mines Interpretive Park will take a bit over an hour and a half to get to.
From Denver to Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak has earned itself a reputation as one of the best day trips from Denver as well as one of the most famous mountain peaks. It towers over the nearby town of Colorado Springs at 14,000 feet high and you can only imagine how incredible the views are. It is also a National Historic Landmark and well worth a visit, especially if you like hiking and mountain climbing.
To scale the summit of the mountain you can choose from several different methods. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is definitely one of the most popular, and you can just sit back and admire the 9-mile scenic ride to the top. Another option is to take the Pikes Peak Highway and drive yourself to the summit, which becomes a race course during the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb each June. The most adventurous visitors will make the journey by foot on the Barr Trail which is 13 miles long!
How to get to Pikes Peak
To get to Pikes Peak you will need your own car since the buses and trains can't get you there from Denver. The drive takes between two and three hours, depending on which route you take.
From Denver to Golden
Golden is a lovely town valued for its rich history and heritage, although it is also a great retail destination. Nearby, you will find hiking and biking trails of varying difficulty plus opportunities for other adventure sports including water rafting, mountain biking and rock climbing. It is a paradise for adventure and thrill seekers! While you are at Golden, consider adding Lookout Mountain to your itinerary.
Take advantage of all the tourist attractions while you are in Golden, like the museums. Some of the best ones to check out are the Buffalo Bill Museum and the Colorado Railroad Museum. The latter will give you the chance to see some awesome locomotives and you can even take a train ride on a historic train! If you have an interest in beer making you might want to do a Coors Brewery tour, which is the largest brewery in the world. The Golden Ticket in Downtown Golden is where you will want to go for all of your shopping needs.
How to get to Golden
Golden is one of the best Denver day trips because it is so close and easy to get to. The journey is just about a half hour by car but you can also get there using the train which takes only a couple of minutes longer.
From Denver to Hanging Lake
If you are an experienced hiker who is ready for a challenge then the Hanging Lake Trail is a very rewarding day trip. The trail spans for a mile, is in difficult rocky terrain, and is mainly uphill, so it can be a tiring journey. However, if you make it to the top you will get to see one of the most beautiful views in summit county. You will end up in the Glenwood Canyon cliffs where the Hanging Lake is found.
You can not swim in the lake but there will be plenty of spectacular lookout points that are absolutely breathtaking. If you want somewhere to grab a bite to eat, shop or relax for a bit, the mountain resort town of Colorado Springs is a lovely spot to visit.
How to get to Hanging Lake
Do you feel ready to take on the Hanging Lake Trail? You can reach this beautiful park in under three hours by car.
From Denver to Fort Collins
Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University and is a well-known place among the beer-loving community. Nearly two dozen breweries can be found in this one area making it the perfect place to go on a wine or beer tasting journey. You will find guided tours of the breweries, including Budweiser, that can bring you around the area, although you are also free to explore it on your own.
Next, make your way to the Fort Collins Old Town; the area offers shopping boutiques, museums and restaurants as well as architecture from the 19th-century. There is even more stunning natural beauty to admire in places like the Horsetooth Reservoir or the Lovy State Park. If you are in the mood for some outdoor adventuring you can even go kayaking and white water rafting.
How to get to Fort Collins
Getting to Fort Collins is easy from Denver. The drive is straight, easy and will get you there in an hour. You will also have the choice of taking public transport, although it will take much longer. You will need to take a combination of buses and shuttles which will take about three hours.
Denver's Absolute Best Day Trips
We've mentioned some pretty incredible places to go on day trips, and there are even more worth visiting in the area. If you want to explore further than Denver's park system you will have several national parks to check out.
Aside from the ones mentioned above you can also hike around the Pine Valley Ranch Park, go horseback riding in White River National Forest, and trek in Chautauqua Park. You can even take a drive down the Mount Evans Scenic Byway to see the beautiful mountain towns of the summit county. Still looking for more to do? Take the time to visit the Garden of the Gods, a registered National Natural Landmark, or go cross-country skiing at the Breckenridge Ski Resort town!