There’s a reason I’m never home on the weekends, I’m out exploring the amazing state of Colorado! Over the past 12 years, I’ve been able to explore nearly every nook and cranny of Colorado and come up with a list of the best day trips from Denver.
It’s so much fun to hop in the car and get out into the mountains. One of the best parts of living in Denver is the access to incredible places just a few hours from your doorstep. Taking a day trip from Denver is an awesome option for a local or someone who wants to really explore the mountains near Denver, but is only in town for the weekend.
The Best Day Trips from Denver
This locally curated list of the best day trips from Denver offers the best things to do within 2 and a half hours from downtown. You’ll need a car to access most of these places, but there are a few that you can get to via public transportation. Here’s what to expect:
- A look at the best day trips within 2 and a half hours from Denver
- What do to in each location
- Where to eat
- Approximate drive times
Go for a Scenic Drive Near Idaho Springs
Located just 45 minutes from downtown Denver, Idaho Springs offers an array of amazing ways to spend the day. Start early with an epic scenic drive to the top of Mount Evans, one of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, for sunrise. Then head out to hike, raft, climb, or zip-line your way through the mountains. Finish the day off with some delicious local eats.
What to do in Idaho Springs: Drive to the top of Mount Evans (open Memorial Day through Labor Day), climb in Clear Creek Canyon, go for one of Denver’s best day hikes at Hell’s Hole or St Mary’s Glacier, pan for gold, visit the Indian Hot Springs, or fish in Echo Lake.
Where to Eat: Smokin’ Yards BBQ, Tommyknocker Brewery, The Frothy Cup (coffee).
Drive time from Denver: 45 minutes
Related: Most Scenic Drives Right Near Denver
Have an Adventure then Relax in a Hot Springs in Buena Vista
Buena Vista, pronounced “bew-na-vis-ta” is an adventure town worth several days. However, it’s still a worthy day trip from Denver. With an assortment of activities from hiking a famous Colorado 14er to making your way down Brown’s Canyon on a white water rafting trip, there’s something for every outdoor adventurer in Colorado’s favorite mountain town.
What to do in Buena Vista: Hike one of Colorado’s 14er’s, go white water rafting, backpack the famous Colorado Trail, go brewery hopping, take a dip in one of Colorado’s best hot springs, visit the splash park, go hunting (fall season)
Where to Eat: The Buena Vista Roastery Cafe, Eddyline Brewery, Simple Eatery.
Drive time from Denver: 2 hours 30 minutes minutes
Check Out Colorado’s Best National Park in Estes Park
One of the best day trips from Denver is to head to Colorado’s most famous national park and explore the nearby town of Estes Park. Make your way through the mountains along one of Colorado’s most scenic drives to the town of Estes Park, a mountain oasis. Explore nearby Rocky Mountain National Park and spot wildlife.
What to do in Estes Park: Shop on the main drag (lots of yummy candy stores!), hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, go for a scenic drive on Trail Ridge Road or the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, go rock climbing, camp, take a wildlife safari tour, visit the haunted Stanley Hotel
Where to Eat: Rock Inn Mountain Tavern, Scratch Deli and Bakery, Notctop Bakery & Cafe, Antonios Real New York Pizza.
Drive time from Denver: 2 hours
Beer Tour Through Fort Collins
Fort Collins, just under 2 hours north of Denver, is home to some of Colorado’s best breweries. Biking to the various breweries is somewhat of a pastime for locals and visitors alike. Just be sure to have a responsible party member to bring everyone home.
What to do in Fort Collins: Rock climb in Poudre Canyon, visit Horsetooth Reservoir, shop in old town Fort Collins, visit Fort Collins breweries on a brew tour.
Where to Eat: Social, Snooze AM Eatery, Maza Kabob, The Mayor of Old Town
Drive time from Denver: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Drive to the Top of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs
A time-honored favorite of the best things to do in Colorado is driving the windy road to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs. This road is so famous, that every year people race down it in rally cars. In fact, despite having an uninspiring downtown scene, Colorado Springs is home to some amazing things to do in Colorado in the winter and summer months. It’s a great way to spend the day.
What to do in Colorado Springs: Drive to the top of Pikes Peak, check out the holiday lights at the Broadmoor, visit Garden of the Gods, visit the Airforce Academy, check out Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, hike up the Manitou Incline
Where to Eat: Phantom Canyon, Piglatin Cocina, Thai Mint, Switchback Coffee Roasters
Drive time from Denver: 1 hr, 30 minutes
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Make a Splash in Boulder, Colorado
If you’re looking for one of the best day trips from Denver without a car, hop on the Bustang and head to Boulder. Just 45 minutes from Denver, this sister city has a lot to offer, including the chance to tube down Boulder Creek.
What to do in Boulder: Head to a farmers market, shop on Pearl Street, tube down the lazy (or crazy depending on the time of year) Boulder Creek, bike along the many bike and MTB trails, go for a Boulder hike, free solo a flat iron, rock climb in Eldorado Canyon, run the hiking trails at Chautauqua Park.
Where to Eat: Boxcar Coffee Roasters, Avery Brewing, Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery (cash only), Nepal Cuisine.
Drive time from Denver: 45 minutes
Spend the Day in Breckenridge
The towns of Frisco, Dillion, and Breckenridge are all located within a 15-minute drive of one another which is why this is one of the most action-packed day trips from Denver. Of course, there is skiing and hiking for days, but you can also enjoy mountain biking, rock climbing, shopping, and stand up paddle boarding just to name a few things.
What to do in Breckenridge: Go skiing at Keystone or Breckenridge resort, wander the streets of Breck or downtown Frisco, climb a Colorado 13er, hike, mountain bike, take a scenic gondola ride (summer), visit the Breckenridge Troll, experience the thrills of the Keystone Adventure Park, SUP in the Dillon Reservoir.
Where to Eat: The Canteen Taphouse and Tavern, Peak of Asia, BreckFast, The Lost Cajun
Drive time from Denver: 1 hour 30 minutes
Check Out the Hiker’s Paradise in Nederland
If you can’t get enough mountain scenery and you love to hike, then Nederland is the place for you. Nestled deep in the Rockies, with endless scenic drives, this quaint town is one of the most incredible day trips from Denver for hikers.
What to do in Nederland: Hike from the scenic 4th of July Trailhead (summer only), ski at Eldora, Fish or hike at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, drive the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, Grab a coffee in a train car
Where to Eat: Randi’s Grill and Pub, Crosscut Pizzeria and Taphouse, New Moon Bakery and Cafe.
Drive time from Denver: 1 hr 20 minutes
Related: Denver, Colorado’s Best Hikes
Rock Climb at Shelf Road Near Canon City
Shelf Road is one of the premier climbing spots in Colorado. Touted as an excellent place for sport climbing, there are literally thousands of routes to choose from. If you don’t climb, it’s still a beautiful place to hike with stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Ranges framed by gravity-defying cliffs. There are a few other things to do in the area as well.
What to do in Canon City: Rock climb at Shelf Road, camp, hike, visit the Royal Gorge.
Where to Eat: Bunk House Burgers Pizza Madness, ITO Japanese Steakhouse Sushi and Thai Restaurant, Coyote’s Coffee Den
Drive time from Denver: 2 hours 30 minutes
No matter what your style, there’s a day trip near Denver for every taste. If you want beautiful mountain scenery and epic adventure, you’re sure to find it within 3 hours of Denver.
Other Resources for things to do near Denver
Looking for more about the best of Denver? As a local of over 12 years, I’ve got you covered: