5 Memorable Day Trips from Denver

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As the capital of Colorado, Denver is a busy city! Taking a few day trips from Denver can help you relax and enjoy some of the most stunning areas in the United States. Whether you’re a Denver local or just visiting for vacation, Denver day trips are a must. 

From Rocky Mountain National Park to Boulder, I have been on many different day trips from Denver. My brother has lived there for several years, so I try to visit him as often as possible. Colorado’s landscape is breathtaking and worth exploring every chance you get. 

If you’re in Denver for a few days and want to get out of the city for some fresh air, don’t miss out on these top day trips! 

denver day trips, sunset over downtown denver

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Visiting Denver & Day Trip Highlights

Denver is known as the “Mile High City” since it’s 5,280 feet above sea level. When visiting Denver, most people spend their time eating and shopping downtown. The city has tons of fun things to see and do. 

You should spend about five days in Denver to eat at all the best places and see the attractions. You might also want to plan an additional 2 or 3 days to go on some day trips! 

Denver has some of the best day trips in this state since it’s close to several national parks and other Colorado towns worth checking out. Here are some of the best day trips:

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1. Rocky Mountain National Park 

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular day trips from Denver. While people travel worldwide to visit this park, people in Denver only need to drive an hour and a half. Most of the park is mountains, making it a great place to get fit on some difficult hiking trails. 

The most famous hiking trail is Trail Ridge Road. From the top, you get an incredible view of the Rocky Mountains. The trail is also great for wildlife viewing. 

If you want to head out of Denver for more than just the day, consider camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

If you want to do a few more national parks in Colorado, there are tons to choose from! They are further from Denver, so you will need to plan a road trip and spend a few nights in or near the park. 

Here are some of the best national parks near Denver:

  • Black Canyon National Park is in western Colorado, about 5 hours from Denver, so this is definitely more of a weekend trip. Hiking is the main activity in the park, as there are dozens of trails to choose from. They all have incredible views. You can also go horseback riding and fishing.  
  • The Colorado Sand Dunes are incredible and well worth the drive from Denver. Some of the best things to do here include hiking, sand sledding, and swimming. If you want to camp here, make sure to come in April through October, as these are the only months when the camping is open. 

If you’d prefer to do things besides visiting the national parks, check out some of these other things to do near Denver! 

lake and mountains in rocky mountain national park, best day trips from denver

2. Boulder

Some people argue that Boulder is even better than Denver. People who are tired of Denver’s big city life are moving to Boulder. It’s still close enough to visit Denver every weekend, but it has its own smaller-town feel. 

Boulder has tons of outdoor activities to choose from. There are also great restaurants and breweries. 

Here are some of the best things to do in Boulder:

  • Go tubing. If you’re visiting in the warmer months, you can go tubing down Boulder Creek. The best place to enter the creek is by Boulder Public Library if you have your own tube and don’t want to book with a company. You’ll see many locals and visitors tubing in the summer. 
  • Listen to music at the Fox and Boulder Theatre. The theatre always has music events going on, from well-known bands to local artists. They also have live comedy nights. 
  • Go brewery hopping. Boulder’s breweries are arguably better than the ones in Denver. For the best tastes of Boulder, check out Upslope, VisionQuest, and Avery. 
  • Go swimming in the Boulder Reservoir. This is another perfect activity to do during the summer months. You can also go boating, fishing, and picnicking. 
  • Go hiking. There are endless places for hiking in Boulder. The most popular spot is Chautauqua. They also have a disc golf course and a dining hall with amazing brunch. 
downtown boulder, day trips from denver

3. Fort Collins 

Even though Fort Collins is mostly known for being home to Colorado State University, it’s much more than just a college town. It’s only about an hour from Denver, so it makes for a great short day trip. 

Like many other places in Colorado, Fort Collins has plenty of outdoor activities, including Horsetooth Reservoir, where you can go fishing or kayaking near the marina. 

Cache la Poudre River Canyon is the place to go if you’re adventurous and want to do some white water rafting. 

Despite all the outdoor activities, Fort Collins has plenty of things to do indoors. This makes it one of the best day trips from Denver in the winter. 

Here are the best things to do in Fort Collins, including some great indoor options for the colder months. 

  • Shop in downtown Fort Collins. The downtown area is small but has tons of boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. There are also some tour options, including brewery tours, ghost tours, and historic tours. 
  • Sit inside and enjoy a beer. There are tons of breweries in Fort Collins. Most have indoor seating and heaters on the patio, making it a great winter activity. Check out New Belgium and Odell for the best craft beer. 
  • See a show at Open Stage Theatre and Company. Choose from various shows to watch, including puppet shows, musicals, and plays. 
  • Eat at the Colorado Room. This is one of the best restaurants in Fort Collins, with a whole menu of gourmet burgers. They also have fresh salads and veggie burger options. 

4. Golden

If you’re crunched for time and want to take a quick Denver day trip, you can check out Golden. It’s a popular weekend trip for Denver residents. Golden residents often take a weekend trip to Denver since the cities are so close together but have very different things to offer. 

Golden has many more outdoor activities than Denver since it’s closer to the mountains. It also has the famous Lookout Mountain, where you can head for hiking. Lookout Mountain is said to have the best views of the Denver Skyline. 

You might also know Lookout Mountain because it’s home to the Buffalo Bill Museum. Definitely tour the museum if you’re a fan of Wild West movies or if you’re interested in the Native American history of Colorado. 

Before heading back to Denver, you can tour the Coors Brewery. Spots fill up in the warmer months, so consider making reservations online beforehand. 

golden colorado, downtown area, welcome to golden sign

5. Eastern Plains 

This Denver day trip is only 45 minutes out of the city, making it a great choice for a half-day trip. It has a dedicated national wildlife refuge. While Denver might be famous for its zoo, this is a much better place to see animals. 

The Wildlife Animal Sanctuary saves animals from horrible captive situations and brings them here. You’ll be able to see various animals, including lions, tigers, wolves, and bears. 

You’ll be able to see the animals up close from the walkways through the sanctuary. The organization uses all the money from the tickets to help and provide for the animals. 

There are also a few other things to do in the Eastern Plains:

  • Pop A Top Saloon: Head here after the animal sanctuary for great food and atmosphere. The drinks are known to be super strong, so you might want to give yourself some extra time before driving back to Denver!
  • Paint Mines Interpretative Park: This is a great place to see natural rock formations. It’s also an ancient Native American site that archaeologists think dates back 9,000 years. You can go sightseeing and take great photos of the rock formations. Climbing the rocks is not allowed, and you can get fined if you’re caught. 
  • Colorado Wildlife Banner Lakes: It’s worth stopping by if you’re in the area. It’s a preserved wetland area where you can see wildfowl. You can also go through the walking trails and eat in the small picnic area. 

Top Things to Do in Denver

Done with your day trips and want to see the best that Denver has to offer? Here are the things not to miss!

  • Explore City Park. Despite the busy downtown area, Denver has many green spaces to relax in, including the City Park. You can rent a paddleboard to take out onto the lake or hit the trails for hiking and jogging. 
  • View the art collections at the Denver Art Museum. Denver has plenty of museums; this one should be on your bucket list. You could easily spend a whole day here as there are over 70,000 pieces of art in different exhibits. 
  • Roam through the Botanic Gardens. If the weather is warm and nice, head to Denver’s famous Botanic Garden. Most of the exhibits are rotating, so check their calendar ahead of time to see if there is something that interests you. 
  • Explore the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. If you’re interested in the nature side of Colorado or want to learn more about the natural history of the Midwest, this is the place to go. It’s also an amazing place to bring the kids. 
  • Walk around Larimer Square. This area has stunning historic buildings that have been transformed into shops, cafes, and restaurants. While it’s nice to visit any time in the area, it’s best when they hang up lights and decorations everywhere during the holidays. 
  • See a show at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre. You can view their calendar of events and concerts to decide if there is something you want to see while in Denver. Watching a concert set in front of the giant red rocks is incredible. It’s definitely not your typical concert experience. 

This post has more information about the fun things to do in Denver.

red rock amphitheater in denver

How to Get to Denver 

Denver has a large international airport (DEN) where you can fly both domestically and internationally. They have daily flights from all over the world, including with some budget airlines in the United States, like Frontier and JetBlue

Downtown Denver is about 30 minutes from the airport. If you want to drive, Denver is well connected to other parts of the USA by road.

The best way to explore Denver and take day trips is to rent a car. This allows you to travel in and out of the city as much as you want without worrying about catching buses or paying for expensive taxis. 

denver airport, weekend trip to denver

When to Visit Denver 

Denver can be really hit or miss with the weather. The best part about Denver is that there is almost always sunshine. Even if it’s cold and snowing, the sun is out. 

For the best weather and little chance of snow, try to visit Denver in April or May. September and October also have rare chances of snow. 

Don’t Miss These Fantastic Day Trips from Denver! 

Ready to plan a few day trips from Denver? The possibilities are endless. Some people even spend more time taking day trips than in the city of Denver. If you have time, definitely do a little of both! 

Most Denver day trips are nature-related since the state is known for beautiful national parks, stellar hiking, and unique outdoor breweries. 

Are you planning one of these Denver day trips? Which one is first on your list?

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