Seven Perfect Days in Colorado: A Guided Driving Tour
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Neighborhoods are undergoing rapid transformation, for better and worse. While many of these neighborhoods are seeing increased economic prosperity, they are also suffering from cultural eradication aka gentrification. The streets are pretty busy with pedestrians here — 16th Street, in particular, is very popular. Downtown also hosts Coors Field and Union Station , the latter of which acts as both train station and ultra-classy cafeteria. Nearby is the ultra-modern Art Museum , which is one of the best places to take photos in Denver. The satellite neighborhoods of Highlands and RiNo are two of the best examples of the previously mentioned urban renewal.
Both are well known for their food, bars, and street art. City Park also has some views of the Denver skyline. Book Your Denver Lodge Here. It is primarily a college town — home to the University of Colorado at Boulder — but is, nowadays, much more. Boulder has a thriving tech scene now, several world-class outdoor companies, and a sizeable population of residents who crave health, nature, and liberalism above all else. Boulder is located only an hour northwest of Denver. It is much closer to the mountains than Denver is and, arguably, a part of them.
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Famous natural landmarks like the Flatirons, Boulder Canyon, and Eldorado Canyon are located on the outskirts of town. For rock climbers, hikers, and outdoors people in general, the sheer proximity of these destinations makes Boulder a paradise. There are lots of shopping centers and trinketry stores in the center of town and on Pearl Street. Boulder also has several breweries that can be visited via the Boulder Ale Trail — a mile walkway that takes you to 10 breweries. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the greater Rocky Mountains near Boulder.
Nearby is also the magnificent Rocky Mountain National Park, which will be discussed in the next section. If you really wanted to get off the beaten path, consider visiting the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This is one of the best places to visit in Colorado but requires both a permit and mile hike to access.
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Book Your Boulder Lodge Here. One of the best things about living along the Front Range is that the Rocky Mountains are so close! Dream Lake and Sky Pond are both accessed via the Bear Lake Trailhead, which also acts as the primary campground for the area. There are several other backcountry campsites around these lakes but a permit — obtainable through NPS — is required to stay at these. Most climb Longs Peak in a day, given they start very early in the morning.
On the way to the summit, climbers will pass by Chasm Lake , which is one of the most beautiful places in Colorado. Note that bivvy sites are sparse and a permit is needed to spend the night around Longs Peak. Fort Collins is a very laid back place and much more authentic than Boulder. It is most well-known for local its prolific breweries, which are among the best in Colorado. The scenery, though more barren and desert-like at times, is still spectacular and definitely worth visiting on any Colorado road trip route. Locations further west like Telluride will be discussed later.
Colorado Springs is the first city that one visits when traveling south on a road trip from Denver. It is a very quiet place that is visited mostly by people who want to see the Garden of the Gods or Pikes Peak. It is very impressive but very small. Pikes Peak is the highest mountain in the Southern Front Range and is notable for the fact that you can drive your car to the very top of it!
The Pikes Peak Highway is definitely one of the best road trips in Colorado — where else besides Colorado can you drive your car to the top of a 14, ft mountain? The summit of Pikes Peak can also be visited by cog train or hiking. Surrounded by epic, craggy peaks and host to the highest dunes in the country, Great Sand Dunes is a must visit on any Colorado road trip itinerary. Wilderness hikers can also explore the nearby Sangre de Cristo range, which is an extremely rugged and beautiful portion of the Rocky Mountains.
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Breckenridge and all of its surrounding neighbors — Silverthorne, Copper Mountain, and Vail — are among the most popular mountain towns in Colorado thanks to their picturesque settings and close proximities to Denver. Those looking to make a quick weekend road trip from Denver will find few places better than these locations. Any of the above-mentioned towns make for good bases to explore the surrounding mountains but Breckenridge is the most appealing.
The city of Breckenridge itself is cozy and charming, if not a little tame compared to more opulent and energized resorts like Aspen or Vail. Those looking for parties may be better off in another town but those looking for serenity will enjoy Breckenridge greatly.
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The skiing near Breckenridge is excellent. Ski areas like A-Basin, Loveland Pass, and Keystone are all a short drive away from Brecky though drive times may be longer due to increased winter traffic. Vail is one of the most expensive ski resorts in Colorado — second only to Aspen. The parties here are, predictably, extravagant if not a complete shitshow. Most people visit Breckenridge in the winter for the skiing; few realize that the area also hosts some of the best hikes in Colorado.
Willow Lakes and Missouri Lakes are farther away from Brecky and take more time to complete but are fantastic hikes. Thanks to loads of attention from celebrities, artists, musicians, and Hollywood, Aspen has become one of the most idolized mountains town in Colorado. It is opulent, exclusive, sometimes debaucherous, and really expensive. Aspen is located in the middle of the Colorado Rockies along Highway It only takes about hours to reach Aspen on a weekend road trip from Denver, which is a reasonable amount of time.
Its accessibility probably adds to its popularity. Aspen was once a mining town and does have a fair amount of history.
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Several of the brick buildings in the town are remnants from this more rustic era and these do give the town a certain ambiance. Increasingly, the more historical parts of the city are being replaced by new urban development and ultra-premium condos. Many Rocky Mountain ski resorts have a reputation for hosting wild parties and Aspen may have the greatest of them. In the winter, Aspen is full of the rich and famous, regardless if they can actually ski or not, which makes the town feel like a Hollywood of sorts in the mountains.
Alcohol and cocaine are consumed in excess. For those who like to party lavishly, Aspen may be the best place in Colorado for you. Regardless of its hedonistic offerings, there are still plenty of outdoor opportunities in Aspen and the mountains here are justifiably amazing. The skiing is world class, of course, and there is plenty more hiking in the summer. It is also home to the most photographed place in the state, Maroon Lake. Book Your Aspen Lodge Here. Grand Junction is the largest city in Eastern Colorado and is visually very distinct from the rest of the state.
Soaring mountains become replaced by grand mesas and the trees give way to endless fields of red rock. We are entering the desert now people. If you are on a weekend road trip from Denver, Glenwood Springs makes for a good rest stop.
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Glenwood Springs is famous for the eponymous hot springs as well as the very popular Hanging Lake. Once you depart from Glenwood Springs, the landscape begins to change. As we travel further east, the Rocky Mountains begin to recede and the Colorado Plateau begins to rise ahead. For desert dwellers, this area is one of the best places in Colorado. With towering rock walls, elegant stone pillars, and that blazingly red rock that has become indicative to the American Southwest, the Colorado National Monument is a must see.
The towns themselves are somewhat less inspiring but do have their merits. Both are famous for their art scenes Fruita, in particular and, interestingly enough, their wine. Be sure to also explore the Grand Mesa outside of Grand Junction. The Grand Mesa is the largest flat-top mountain in the world and has lots of outdoor activities. There are a few scenic byways along the top of the mesa that provide excellent views as well as access to lots campgrounds and trails. There are several long distance bike trails and river rafting routes that start in Grand Junction.
You could bike all the way to Utah or even start a Colorado River rafting adventure from here. Book Your Grand Junction Lodge. Telluride is one of the most legendary mountain towns in Colorado. Telluride also has some of the best skiing, greatest festivals, and best hiking in all of Colorado. The San Juan Mountains surround Telluride. They are among the most rugged and beautiful mountains in Colorado, especially in the autumn when the aspens begin to change colors.
Driving along Highway 62 and over the Dallas Divide will grant you amazing views of the range though you may need 4-wheel drive for this one. Hikers can also explore this part of the San Juans via several trails.