Once the snow has thawed out the Rocky Mountains Coloraod becomes an outdoor lover’s playground. After spending 12 summers here, I’ve come up with the complete list of the best places to visit in Colorado in Summer.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for the best day trips from Denver or if you’re traveling to Colorado on a road trip, there’s an amazing array of places to visit in Colorado this summer.
The Local’s Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Colorado in Summer
I travel throughout Colorado almost every week. This Colorado bucket list is designed to bring you the most scenic spots with the best adventures. In this guide you’ll find:
- Information about where to camp in Colorado
- An in-depth look at the best mountain towns in Colorado
- The best towns for hiking in Colorado
- A look at a few quick tips for travel to Colorado
Enjoy Denver’s Social Scene
Denver comes alive in the summer with an array of entertainment from attending concerts to brewery hopping. With so many things to do in Denver, you’ll be busy all summer long. Enjoy Denver’s amazing outdoor eateries or head to a Rockies game. There are lots of ways to spend a weekend in Denver during the summer.
Spot Wildlife at Rocky Mountain National Park
One of the best national parks in the USA, Rocky Mountain National Park has an array of things to do from world-class hiking to wildlife viewing. Be sure to check out one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s best hiking trails for a chance to spot wildlife such as elk, moose big horned sheep, marmots, and other mountain critters.
Go for a Bike and Brew Tour in Fort Collins
The best places to visit in Colorado in summer aren’t just the mountains, but the cities are filled with fun too. Rent a bike (or bring your own) and bike from brewery to brewery in Fort Collins. You can opt to ride on your own terms or join the annual Tour de Fat bike parade at the New Belgium Brewery. The event is free and makes for the perfect party for beer drinkers.
Experience the Garden of the Gods
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Colorado in summer, the Garden of the Gods defies gravity with towering sandstone spires that shoot directly out of the ground. Home to some of the best hiking trails in Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods is a place to get lost in.
Spend Some Time in a Mountian Town
One of the best things to do in Colorado during the summer is to pack up the car and head for the hills. Spend a day (or weekend) exploring some of the best mountain towns in Colorado. There’s a wide array to choose from, but a few local favorites are:
- Buena Vista, Colorado. A home base for river sports as well as hiking many of Colorado’s 14ers. Oh and don’t forget the Colorado hot springs nearby!
- Ouray, Colorado. Nestled at the start of the Million Dollar Highway and home to some of the best Jeep trails in the state.
- Breckenridge. Easy accessible as a day trip from Denver with plenty of mountain fun including the famous Breckenridge Troll
- Crested Butte. A favorite amongst mountain bikers and wildflower lovers.
White Water Raft Outside of Buena Vista
Beat the heat with this splash-tastic Colorado summer activity. Head to Browns Canyon for some epic fun on the water. There’s a lot of white water rafting opportunities around Buena Vista for families and seasoned paddlers alike. Browns Canyon standard route is jaw-droppingly beautiful while the Numbers will give you a run for your money with class V rapids.
Camp at the Great Sand Dunes National Park
In the southern part of the state, you can walk on the biggest sand dunes in North America. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, these tall mountains of sand are something of legends. Home to some of the best camping in Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park is well worth a visit.
Local Tip: Campsites are first-come-first-serve and fill up fast! Get here early or come during the week to reserve your spot.
Drive to the Top of Pikes Peak
Driving to the top of Pikes Peak is a bucket list item for any trip to Colorado. There’s nowhere else on earth where you make your way up perfect tarmac turns to the top of a 14,000-foot peak. Pack your camera because the views are EPIC.
Ride the Narrow Gauge Railway in Silverton
Take an old narrow-gauge train from Silverton to Durango on a scenic journey through the stunning San Juan Mountains. This rail line is a fan-favorite among backpackers since you can hop right off the train and straight on to one of Colorado’s best backpacking trails. Now there’s an adventure of a lifetime!
Catch a Concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater
There’s a reason why so many world-famous artists head to Red Rocks Amphitheater every year. This naturally-occurring amphitheater is surrounded by beautiful red rock formations. It’s incredibly scenic and makes for an epic concert backdrop. Check the Red Rocks lineup for the latest concert details.
Revel in Native History at Mesa Verde
Located in the southwestern part of the state, Mesa Verde is steeped in rich history, making it one of the best places to visit in Colorado in the summer for history buffs. Take a tour of the ancient Puebloan structures built into sandstone walls to learn about the ancient native people who once inhabited this land.
Local Tip: It gets extremely hot in this part of the state during the summer, so be sure to arrive early to beat the heat.
Take a Scenic Drive
Every local knows the best scenic drives in Colorado. If you’re looking for a low-key way to get jaw-dropping mountain vistas, then drive one of Colorado’s scenic byways. A few local favorites include:
- Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park
- The Million Dollar Highway in the San Juan Mountains
- Monarch Pass en-route to Crested Butte
- Mount Evans outside of Idaho Springs
Hike to an Alpine Lake
One of the best places to go in Colorado in summer is the high alpine. The best alpine lake hikes in Colorado can be found throughout the state. Simply pick one that suits your ability and soak in the views. Bonus points if you get up early and catch a sunrise.
Pro Tip: Start your hike early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Getting caught above treeline during a thunderstorm is extremely dangerous. People die every year from lightning strikes so plan to be below the trees before noon.
Visit the Scenic Maroon Bells
One of the most iconic vistas in Colorado is the scene from a fairytale. Take the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop to Crater Lake in order to catch a glimpse of this iconic viewpoint.
Local tip: This trail gets SMASHED in the summer, it’s more like a conga line. Come prepared and leave it better than you found it. To avoid the crowds, head out before dawn and catch a sunrise over Crater Lake.
Mountain Bike in Crested Butte, Colorado
As one of the best places to go on vacation in Colorado in summer, Crested Butte is a gem of a mountain town. Boasting incredible scenery, this charming mountain town is not to be missed. During the summer months, there is an array of top-notch mountain biking trails to explore as well as several incredible wildflower hikes that pop with color.
Go Rock Climbing in Boulder
Located just 40-minutes from downtown Denver, the city of Boulder is home to world-class rock climbing for all abilities. From the famous Flat Irons to the epic multi-pitch routes of Eldorado Canyon and amazing granite in Boulder Canyon, this is the perfect place for beginner rock climbers and experts alike. Hire a guide to head up a classic route, or bring your own rock climbing gear to enjoy some of the most epic rock climbing in Colorado.
Summit a Colorado 14er
Many people seek to summit a 14,000-foot peak in their lifetime. Colorado’s 14ers are well-sought-after summits. The easiest Colorado 14ers are still a real challenge and it’s important to be properly prepared for a 14er hike. However, if you’re in great hiking shape, you start early, and take your time, you should be able to make it to the top.
Take a step way back in history at Dinosaur National Monument. Here you can see real dinosaur footprints and fossils right in nature. The visitor’s center is a really cool place to learn about the big creatures that once inhabited the earth. Dinosaur National Monument is one of the best places in Colorado to Visit in summer for fossil lovers.
Take in the Views at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison plummets over 1,200 feet down to the canyon floor and is only 40 feet wide in spots. It’s an epic canyon with steep, black granite cliffs. Truly a beautiful Colorado gem that you must see. Drive the rim, take a boat tour on the bottom, or go for a daring hike from top to bottom.
How Many Days Should I Spend in Colorado?
You could spend a lifetime exploring all of the amazing places to visit in Colorado. Trust me, I’ve been here for 12 years and I’m still getting to know the Centennial State.
If you’re short on time, you can hit some of the highlights in just four days. However, I would recommend spending at least one week in Colorado in order to really see the diversity in the landscape. Two weeks would be epic and you’d certainly be able to visit off-the-beaten-path places in Colorado.
Planning a Trip to Colorado in the Summer
Headed to Colorado this summer? I’ve got a ton of resources to help you plan: