Colorado road trips you’ll love (2023)

Colorado is justly famous for its breathtaking landscapes: mountain vistas, sun-drenched plains, red rock mesas and high deserts. All of which look especially fetching through a windshield.

In between the extraordinary vistas, tempting stops abound: unexpectedhistoric sites,charming townsplusoutdoorrecreation opportunities of every sort.Miles and milesof well-maintainedScenic and Historic Byways wind through the state’sdiverse attractions, providing easy access toit all. So, grab your keys andpowerup: these are the best road trips in Colorado.

Further reading: When to visit Colorado

The views will astound over Independence Pass

Twin Lakes–Aspen; 27 miles/44km

Theribbon of roadbetween thehistoriccommunity ofTwin Lakesandtheswank town ofAspenforms the backbone of one ofColorado’s most epic drives. Along this part of the Top of the RockiesScenic Byway, the views are cinematic and spectacular. Swatches ofsnow are visible along the ridgesjust below the knife edge of peaks, and tundra blooms at the top of the pass, where at 12,095ft you’ll be on the edge of the Continental Divide. Expect several of your own IMAX moments.

Though the pass is closed in the winter, the rest of the yearthe drive is short and sweet – and we’d recommend you take your time. Check outTwin Lakes Reservoir, an angler’s andpaddleboarder’sdream; its shoresaredotted withhistoricruins, includingInterlaken, once Colorado’s largest resort, built in 1879.Or head for a hike onMt Elbert, one of the “easier” fourteeners in the state(start your hike early!).And don’t missIndependencenear Aspen– a ghost town dotted with weathered wood cabins, this was the first mining site in the Roaring Fork Valley, and today offers a window back in time.

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Stay above 9000ft as you follow the Top of the Rockies

Minturn–Aspen; 115 miles/185km

If you liked the drive over Independence Pass, extend it to take in thisScenic Byway. One of the highest in the US, this road seldom drops below 9000ft as it really does follow the mountaintops. You’ll go through three spectacular mountain passes, cross the Continental Divide, take in two Colorado giants (Mt Elbert and Mt Massive)and roll through historic towns in central Colorado. And if outdoors recreation is your thing, the route passes through three National Forests offering countless opportunities to hike, climb, fish and ski. Not bad for a single day’s drive.

Along the way, tinyMinturnis big on small-town charm; in the summer, pick up road provisions at the bustling farmers market (the kids can pet goats while youshop). InLeadville, learn all about Colorado’s rags-to-riches mining beginnings in its historic district, which includes theNational Mining Hall of Fame;Twin Lakes, meanwhile, offers opportunities to wander through a historic mining camp. At end of the tour isAspen, one of the state’s poshest and most cultured places– and a must-stop.

Further reading: Top 5 best hikes in Colorado

Colorado road trips you’ll love (1)

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Follow switchbacks across the Continental Divide on Trail Ridge Rd

Estes Park–Grand Lake; 47 miles/76km

Rocky Mountain National Park’s signature drive,Trail Ridge Roadis the highest continuously paved through-road in North America, climbing to 12,183ftin a matter of minutes.It follows the same path thatgenerations of Ute, Arapaho and Apache used as a traderouteto traverse Milner Pass.Expect outrageous views:snowcapped peaks, meandering streams,tight switchbacks across the Continental Divide,high-country meadows,wildflowersgaloreand (with luck) some wildlife, too.Be sure to stopatsome of the countlessturnoffs to explore tundra trailsor, at least,to take selfies from the top of the world. Note that the road is closed in winter and spring due to snow.

Further reading: Colorado's best beaches

Colorado road trips you’ll love (2)

Take in peak foliage on Peak to Peak Hwy

Estes Park–Nederland; 42 miles/68km

Colorado’s first Scenic Byway, Peak to Peak Hwy is a year-round hit, winding past towering mountains like Longs Peak (14,255ft) and lush alpine valleys, plus a handful of one-horse towns. The road is especially stunning in the autumn, when the mountains become a quilt of gold, yellow and orange, and brings bugling elks searching for mates…not to mention carloads of leaf peepers.

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Set aside a couple hours for the drive. Before leaving Estes Park, enjoy the riverwalk or take a spooky ghost tour of the historic Stanley Hotel. Along the route, consider stopping in Ward, a former boom town and bohemian magnet that has settled into an artfully ramshackle state of disrepair, or Peaceful Valley, notable for its little onion-domed church perched on a hillside. Another pit-stop idea: a hike in one of the nearby national forests and wilderness areas (the route passes three: Arapaho, Roosevelt and Indian Peaks). At the end, stroll through Nederland, a hippie holdout known for its quirky shops and colorful cafes.

Further reading: Introducing Colorado's National Parks

Get close to Southwestern history along the Santa Fe Trail

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site–Trinidad; 116 miles/187km

History buffs will love this day-long drive along the Santa Fe Trail, the Old West’s first “highway,” which once extended from Missouri to New Mexico. Sun-drenched prairies and wheat fields, sugar-beet farms and railroad yards unfurl on this open two-lane highway, providing a rich mix of history and natural wonder.

The route’s signature sight is the phenomenalBent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.PerchedontheArkansas River and theerstwhileUS-Mexicoborder,the fortmarked a cultural crossroads where Arapahoe, Cheyenne,Mexicans and Americans met, mingled, traded andcoexisted. While initially built for trade, the fort was later seized by the US Army – and is a reminder of the military presence that remains strong in Colorado even to this day.Trade declined as thousands of settlers poured into the frontier after the Louisiana Purchase, and in particular after a cholera epidemic greatly affected the region’s Indigenous tribes.

In nearbyComanche National Grassland, homestead ruins and authentic Santa Fe Trail wagon ruts are still visible;PicketwireDinosaurTracksite, the largestdocumented dinosaurtrack sitein North America, is a highlight of the park (4WD and reservations required). Make time to checkoutTrinidad, too: tucked into a chimney-top mesa,the townwas once an important stop on the Santa Fe Trail.

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Further reading: Best free things to do in Colorado

Colorado road trips you’ll love (3)

Skip I-25 and explore small towns along the Hwy of Legends

Trinidad–Walsenburg; 82miles/132km

Steeped in mining folklore and Native American legends, the sleepy towns and majestic mountain passes of the Hwy of Legends provide a beautiful detour from the I-25 throughway, which brings visitors through some of southeastern Colorado’s most glorious countryside. Budget two hours to drive the route, more if you stop to take in the sights.

HistoricTrinidadisone ofthe shining starsof the route,its Main Streetan important stop on theSanta Fe Trail, where Mother Jones later led marches withstrikingminers (theTrinidad History Museumoffers an excellent primer). Standing like forgotten sentinels along the road, rows and rows of coal ovens are unmissable in Cokedale. Two charming towns are worth a stop too: Cuchara for its views of the Spanish Peaks and the Great Dikes that jut from meadows to mountains, and La Veta, where there are more churches than paved roads.Thisbeing Colorado, there areplenty ofrecreational opportunities to be had as well: the CucharasRiveroffersterrific fishing, while the hiking in theSpanish Peaks Wildernessis some of the best in the state.

Explore Indigenous American culture along the Trail of the Ancients

Mesa Verde National Park–Ute Mountain Tribal Park; 113miles/182km

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The Trail of the Ancients is the only National Scenic Byway dedicated to archaeology. This beautiful and eye-opening route windsthroughthecanyons, mountains and plainsonce inhabited by Ancestral Puebloansandlaternomadic Navajo, Apache and Ute tribes.Thoughthe route isjustover 100miles, the sites themselves are fascinating andworth lingering over, making this a good multi-day trip.

Mesa Verde National Parkisthe crown jewelof theroute, home to over 5000 archaeological sites, including 600 Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings (a guided ranger tour is highly recommended). Just north, theAnasazi Heritage Centerhasinteresting films,hands-on exhibits and artifacts dating to 400 CE.Canyon of the AncientsandHovenweepNational Monumentare Ancestral Puebloan treasures that have been largely left alone for hundreds of years–perfectfor DIY exploration.AndUte Mountain Tribal Parkhouses a number oflesser-knowncliff dwellings; petroglyphs and even shards oforiginal potterycan even be seen here(a Ute guide must accompany all visitors).


How many days are enough to visit Colorado? ›

There is a lot to see and do in Colorado, and if you want to visit all four national parks, ideally you need at least 10 days. Even with 10 days, you will be moving very quickly.

What is the most scenic route from Denver to Yellowstone? ›

Route 1 has the advantage of driving past the Shoshone National Forest and passing between the Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest on the way to Yellowstone. Along with the drive around Jackson Lake, this has got to be one of the most stunning drives in the United States.

Why do I love road trips so much? ›

You can be more spontaneous

As touched on above with flexibility, when you're driving in a car you're able to be more spontaneous. You're able to stop and go as you please and see whatever extra sights you didn't plan for along the way. Spontaneity can make an adventure that much more fun and enjoyable.

Why would I want to visit Colorado? ›

There's so much to do from admiring the magnificent peaks of the Rocky Mountains, visiting the red rock formations, running wild in vast grasslands, swimming in tranquil lakes, and discovering some of the highest sand dunes in North America.

What month is best to go to Colorado? ›

Typically, however, the best weather can be found between June and October. During this warm-weather window, snowfall is unlikely (but not impossible) and the sun is almost always shining. If you run hot, skip July and August, which are usually the warmest months. Instead, plan your trip for the spring or fall.

What month is best to drive to Colorado? ›

The best time to visit Colorado is from June through October. The weather is warm and, in most cases, the snow has melted so mountain passes are open and you can spend time outdoors.

Is Grand Teton better than Yellowstone? ›

Yellowstone might be the best option if you're looking for a variety of scenery and are travelling with a family. On the hand, Grand Teton is a better choice if you want to focus on hiking and mountain scenic views.

What town is closest to a Yellowstone entrance? ›

What is the closest town to Yellowstone National Park? The closest towns to Yellowstone are Gardiner, Montana which lies 3 minutes (0.7 mi) from Yellowstone's North Entrance. West Yellowstone is the next closest town and it is 4 minutes (0.9 mi) from Yellowstone's West Entrance.

What is the most remote place in the US Yellowstone? ›

Most Remote In Lower 48

The Thorofare in northwest Wyoming encompasses parts of Yellowstone National Park and a designated wilderness area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

What is too long for a road trip? ›

How many miles should you drive a day on a road trip? Many experts say that as a general rule, you shouldn't drive more than 8 hours a day. I'll be honest though, I drive much further than that all the time. I frequently make road trips where I'm driving 10-12 hours a day.

What do you call someone who loves road trips? ›

Hodophile (n.): One who loves to travel; a traveler with a special affinity for roads.

How often should you stop driving on a road trip? ›

Take regular breaks along the way to stay fresh and alert, stopping roughly every 100 miles or two hours. “Also, try to avoid driving between 1 and 3 p.m., when the body's temperature is lower and people are naturally drowsy,” says The Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus.

Why do people love Colorado so much? ›

To many, Colorado is a fairly exotic destination. The mountains are picturesque, the weather is great, and the people are generally friendly, but the state often seems far from reach. Thousands of miles separate New York and Los Angeles from the slopes of the Rockies, which can make a move feel risky.

What is so special about Colorado? ›

Colorado is best known for the Rocky Mountains, and the natural scenery that's found in them. The state of Colorado is also known for all the outdoor activities the mountains inspire like hiking, rafting, climbing, and mountain biking.

What is Colorado rainiest month? ›

May is generally Colorado's wettest month, Becky Bollinger of Colorado State University's Colorado Climate Center, said. And this year especially, the moisture is welcome.

What month is the coldest month in Colorado? ›

On average, the winter temperatures range from 11-47 degrees Fahrenheit (-11.6-8.3 degrees Celsius) from December to February. December is the coldest month, but with sunny weather, temperatures can get as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).

What month is the rainy season in Colorado? ›

The monsoon typically starts around July and peaks in August. By September, it comes to an end as the wind pattern changes.

How many driving hours do you need in Colorado? ›

At the time you apply for your driver license, you are also required, by law, to submit a log of your driving experience. The log sheet must show a minimum total of 50 hours, with 10 hours of those 50 hours having been driven at night.

What is the 6 month driving rule in Colorado? ›

For the first six months, no passengers under 21, unless a parent or other licensed adult driver over 21 is in the vehicle. For the next six months, one passenger under age 21. Medical emergencies are exceptions. At any time, no more than one passenger is allowed in the front seat.

What time is traffic the worst in Colorado? ›

Learn Peak Rush Hour Times

Rush hour in Denver is at its busiest in the hours between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. for the going to work crowd, and between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. for the post-work crowd.

Why is the Grand Teton so famous? ›

Grand Teton is famous for spectacular mountain scenery and wildlife. Park boundaries include approximately 310,000 acres, 485 square miles. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

How close is Jackson Hole to the Tetons? ›

Grand Teton National Park, which is less than five miles away from Jackson Hole, is currently open to visitors.

Why is Grand Teton so expensive? ›

Because it's a ski resort, it's quite expensive. You're paying for extremely nice accommodations, resort amenities (stargazing tours, mountain biking, climbing, disc golf, golf, etc.), nice restaurants nearby, and close access to Grand Teton.

How far is Jackson Hole from Yellowstone? ›

How far is Jackson Hole from Yellowstone? Jackson Hole is about 57 miles from Yellowstone National Park's South Entrance. The route simply follows U.S. highway 89/191 through Grand Teton National Park, offering drivers scenic mountain views all along the way.

What is the best town to stay in when visiting Yellowstone National Park? ›

To quickly and easily access the Yellowstone National Park North Entrance, you'll want to stay in Gardiner, Montana. Every year there seem to be more north Yellowstone hotels. Gardiner is still a small town, but like many towns at the gateway to National Parks, it is packed with tourist amenities.

Are there grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park? ›

Yellowstone is home to two species of bears: grizzly bears and black bears.

What is the most isolated spot in the United States? ›

In the lower 48 mainland, the place furthest from a road - and therefore the remotest spot on the United States mainland - is in the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Is Yellowstone unexplored? ›

Much of Yellowstone is still unexplored and unsurveyed to this day. Numerous hot springs, creeks, lakes, canyons and waterfalls have still never been documented in the park's pristine wilderness.

What is the most isolated place in Wyoming? ›

The Teton Wilderness is a part of the 20 million-acre (81,000 km2) Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Among many other features, Teton Wilderness is notable for having the most remote location (farthest from any road) of any place in the contiguous 48 states of the US.

Is my car too old for a road trip? ›

Age usually doesn't determine if you should drive your car long distances or not. An older or high-mileage vehicle that is regularly maintained should be safe to drive on a road trip.

Are road trips hard on your body? ›

And while the open road can be a great opportunity to relax and spend time with family, driving long distances can be very hard on your body. Long periods of sitting can quickly take a toll on your spine and lead to miserable back pain. This brings the question: how can I avoid back pain after a road trip?

Are long road trips bad for your health? ›

Take Breaks During Your Long Drive

Sitting for too long in the car can contribute to fatigue, and it can also lead to dangerous situations like blood clots or back injuries. Make sure that you take breaks every few hours on your trip to walk around the car, relax your eyes, and step away from the road.

What does Hodophile mean? ›

Smart Wizards - Word of the day: Hodophile (Ho-do-phile) Hodophile (adj.) Origin: Greek. Definition: “Lover of roads”, or better “love of travel.” # smartwizards #newwordseveryday #smartwizardsvocabulary #Hodophile #lovetravel #travellinglove #loveoftravel #loveoftraveling #loveofroads #roadlove #roadlovers | Facebook.

What do you call someone who is always on the road? ›

Other forms: vagabonds; vagabonding; vagabonded. A vagabond is someone who moves around a lot.

What do you call a person who travels alone? ›

Solo traveller definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary.

Is a 12 hour drive too long? ›

Simply put, driving for straight 12 hours is safe if you don't have any medical issues that may aggravate because of it. Plus, it would help if you were equipped with the right road trip supplies to make the driving stress-free and safe. That means you should do hands-on research on tips on driving long distances.

What is the longest you can drive without a break? ›

Drivers must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption.

How long is too long for a vacation? ›

How Long Is Too Long For A Vacation? Just over a week is the optimal duration for a vacation as the benefits associated with vacationing start tapering off after the eight-day. After two weeks, not only does the vacation become less enjoyable, and stress can accumulate. So, 2 weeks is too long for a vacation.

Why are people leaving Colorado? ›

Of those leaving the state, 'family' was the top reason (35 percent), followed by 'job' (29 percent), and 'retirement' (21 percent). Meanwhile, of those moving to the state, 'job' was the top reason (32 percent), followed by 'family' (31 percent), and 'lifestyle' (23 percent).

Is Colorado a liberal or Republican state? ›

Once considered a purple state that used to be somewhat Republican, Colorado has been trending Democratic since the early part of the 21st century due to changing demographics and a rising number of the large unaffiliated bloc of voters leaning Democratic.

Is it cheaper to live in Colorado or Texas? ›

Colorado's cost of living is 21 percent higher than the national average. Housing alone is a whopping 66 percent higher than the national average. Texas, on the other hand, has a much lower cost of living–6.1 percent lower than the national average and 27.1 percent lower than the cost of living in Colorado.

What is the most visited city in Colorado? ›

1. Denver. The capital of Colorado, Denver is a sprawling metropolis that is home to the Denver Art Museum, landmark 19th-century buildings, and the mansion of Titanic survivor Molly Brown.

What food is Colorado most famous for? ›

The number one most famous food in Colorado is Rocky Mountain Oysters. Somewhat of an acquired taste, this is the “exotic” dish I alluded to earlier. What is this? Sometimes called prairie oysters, cowboy caviar, swinging beef, or meat balls, these oysters have nothing to do with seafood.

What is Colorado minimum wage? ›

Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, which is lower than the 2023 Colorado state minimum wage of $13.65. Therefore, based upon current information, covered employers in Colorado will have to pay their employees the higher value of $13.65 per hour under Colorado law beginning January 1, 2023.

Why do people want to visit Colorado? ›

There's so much to do from admiring the magnificent peaks of the Rocky Mountains, visiting the red rock formations, running wild in vast grasslands, swimming in tranquil lakes, and discovering some of the highest sand dunes in North America.

Why do people go to Colorado for vacation? ›

Breathtaking scenery

In fact, Colorado has some of the most varied landscape in the world. Visitors can marvel at red rock formations, prairie grasslands, serene lakes and forests, plenty of wildflowers, some of the highest sand dunes in North America, as well as some beautiful towns throughout.

Is 4 days enough to visit Colorado? ›

You could easily spend more than 4 days in Colorado and we have so much of the state left to explore, but if you're considering heading to The Centennial State for the first time and want to visit some of the main cities (Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs) and Rocky Mountain National Park without breaking the bank, ...

Is 5 days in Denver enough? ›

From hiking, to rock climbing, to whitewater rafting or mountain biking, everything is within your reach. 5 days in Denver alone is a lot of time,but that gives you plenty of opportunities to get out of the city and enjoy the best that Colorado has to offer! With 5 days in Colorado, you can get a lot of adventure in.

How many days in Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park? ›

Ideally, plan on spending at least three days in Rocky Mountain National Park. This gives you enough time to drive Alpine Ridge Road, Old Fall River Road, and hike a few of the trails. If you are an avid hiker, I recommend spending five or more days in Rocky Mountain National Park.

How much money do you need for a week in Colorado? ›

The average price of a 7-day trip to Colorado is $1,307 for a solo traveler, $1,985 for a couple, and $4,136 for a family of 4. Colorado hotels range from $65 to $288 per night with an average of $105, while most vacation rentals will cost $200 to $580 per night for the entire home.

Can you do Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak in one day? ›

Located within a few miles of Manitou Springs, you can visit Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak in the same day. The views of both will keep you on a rocky mountain high for days. Garden of the Gods is a wonder at night.

How long do you need to acclimate in Colorado? ›

Symptoms of altitude sickness

Honigman said it takes about 24 to 36 hours to acclimate. People with persistent headaches, loss of appetite, vomiting and continued lack of sleep by the second night should seek medical attention.

What month is best for Denver? ›

The best times to visit Denver are April through May and September through October. The city's shoulder seasons are characterized by comfortable temperatures, fewer tourists and lower accommodation prices than the summer high season.

Is Denver a walkable city for tourists? ›

Denver sets itself apart. It's an outdoor city filled with urban adventure, 300 days of sunshine, a walkable downtown, chef-driven dining, thriving arts and culture and diverse neighborhoods, not to mention its status as the top craft beer city in the nation.

How long does it take to drive from Denver to the Rocky Mountains? ›

At only an hour and a half drive from Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park, the park is a memorable summer day trip — and at $25 per automobile per day, it's also a very affordable one.

What part of Colorado is the most scenic? ›

The San Juan Mountains (Southwest CO)

Although there are many beautiful mountain ranges across Colorado, the San Juans are arguably the most scenic. The San Juan Mountains tower above southwest Colorado with year-round access to breathtaking views often nicknamed the “American Alps.”

Which is better Colorado Springs or Estes Park? ›

Both have nature and hiking. Estes Park has great resorts with cabins, cottages, lodges, etc., while Colorado Springs is more of a hotel stay in my opinion. I would say as far as tourist attractions go, Colorado Springs has more but I still liked Estes Park better. It's just so beautiful there and RMNP is stunning.

What is the busiest month at Rocky Mountain National Park? ›

Trail Ridge Road is typically closed from late-October to late-May, depending on the yearly snowfall—although it is open to Many Parks Curve. Another thing to consider is the crowds; summer is by far the busiest season of the year, followed closely by fall weekends.

Is Estes Park worth a visit? ›

Estes Park is so popular because it is well-located near Rocky Mountain National Park. Additionally, it is an iconic Colorado mountain town that is a great place to go on outdoor adventure, catch local wildlife and enjoy stunning alpine beauty.

How much money is it to go to Rocky Mountain National Park? ›

$30.00. 1-Day Vehicle Entrance Pass: this pass is valid for one private vehicle to enter RMNP for one day only. All passengers inside the vehicle are covered.


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