Outstanding Scenic Drives Near Denver

Last Updated on September 25, 2023 by foxintheforest

You don’t need to plan an all-out suffer-fest in order to enjoy the beautiful scenery near Denver. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your car. Hit the road with these scenic drives near Denver.

As a Denver local for over a decade, I’ve had the pleasure of driving each of these fantastic roads multiple times. They are a great way to experience the natural beauty of Colorado all within the comforts of your vehicle.

The Best Scenic Drives Near Denver

Just 40 minutes outside of the Mile High City you’ll find an array of scenic drives. In fact, there are almost too many options! I’ve narrowed it down to the best scenic drives near Denver. In this post you’ll find:

  • Amazing recommendations for scenic drives
  • Approximate time and mileage for each drive
  • Things to do and places to see nearby
  • Local resources for planning a trip to Denver

Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail Ridge Road is one of the best scenic drives near Denver that boast big mountain views and amazing road conditions. Driving Trail Ridge Road is a top item on any Colorado Bucket List.

The road runs along stunningly scenic ridgelines across Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll need to pay a $25 fee to enter the park if you don’t have a National Park’s Pass.

Local Tip: Trail Ridge Road closes from mid-October until mid-June. Check with the ranger station for current conditions.

Don’t forget to drive Trail Ridge Road in mid-September when it transforms into one of Colorado’s most scenic fall drives.

Time (one way): 1 hr 45 minutes
Mileage (one way): 48 miles
Points of interest/Things to do: scenic pullouts, hiking trails, wildlife viewing, and excellent early fall colors.

Related: The Insider’s Guide to Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park

Best scenic drives near denver

Peak-to-Peak Byway Near Lyons, Colorado

The Peak-to-Peak highway offers a scenic way to access Estes Park, Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park. This winding road provides stunning views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness along with access to Long’s Peak and a bird’s eye view of Estes Park.

Time (one way): 2 hours
Mileage (one way): 55 miles
Points of interest/Things to do: ski at Eldora Mountain, amazing fall foliage, Visit Rocky Mountain National Park, explore mountain towns like Lyons, Estes Park, and Nederland.

Clear Creek Canyon Near Golden

If I-70 traffic totally sucks, take the scenic road instead. Although not quite as epic as some of the other drives on our list, you’ll be treated to towering rock cliffs and beautiful canyon views. Start the trip just outside of Golden and connect with I-70 in Idaho Springs to continue your adventure.

Local Tip: Link up with the Mt Blue Sky (formerly Mt Evans) Scenic Byway for an ultra-beautiful jaunt up the Front Range.

Time (one way): 45 minutes
Mileage (one way): 26 miles
Points of interest/Things to do: Go rock climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, white water rafting, tubing, head to Central City and try your luck at a casino, continue onwards on I-70.

Pike’s Peak Highway

One of the most classic scenic drives in Colorado, Pike’s Peak Highway is a must-do. Located just outside of Colorado Springs you can wind your way to the top of Pikes Peak, a 14,000-plus-foot mountain located an hour and a half from Denver. There are plenty of places to soak in the views along the way.

Local Tip: There’s a $10 charge per person ($5 per child) to use the road.

Time (one way): 1 hour 30 minutes
Mileage (one way): 19 miles
Points of interest/Things to do: Grab a donut in the warming hut at the top, enjoy the epic views, check out Santa’s Village at the base.

mountain drives near denver

Lookout Mountain Road

For a bird’s eye view of Golden, Boulder, Denver and beyond head up to the top of Lookout Mountain. This scenic drive is less than a half hour from downtown Denver and boasts plenty of beautiful views.

Make a pit stop at the Windy Saddle Trailhead for some beautiful views and enjoy one of Denver’s uncrowded hiking trails. Just be sure to watch out for road bikers.

Time (one way): 45 minutes
Mileage (one way): 25 miles
Points of interest/Things to do: Windy Saddle Trailhead, road bike, stop at Buffalo Bill’s Grave, grab a bite to eat in downtown Golden.

The Poudre Canyon Near Fort Collins

The Cache la Poudre Scenic Byway is the longest scenic byway in Colorado, stretching over 101 miles from Fort Collins to the Never Summer Mountains. Expect towering canyon walls, scenic mountain views, and plenty of changing scenery along this road.

Time (one way): 3 hours
Mileage (one way): 101 miles
Points of interest/Things to do: Rock climb in Poudre Canyon, raft the Poudre River, camp, and hike.

Mt Blue Sky (formerly Mt Evans) Scenic Byway

For those that like to reach new heights, check out the highest paved road in the United States. One of the best scenic drives near Denver, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway soars to 14,264 feet above the sea. Stand on the top of a famous Colorado 14er, Mount Blue Sky.

Watch out, since this drive doesn’t have much in the way of guardrails and can get pretty precarious in spots. However, this is one of the best fall drives in Colorado and shouldn’t be missed!

The road is open from the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend until the first weekend in October and there’s a fee of $10 per vehicle.

Time (one way): 1 hour 30 minutes
Mileage (one way): 28 miles
Points of interest/Things to do: Road bike, scenic fall driving, views from the top of a Colorado 14er

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Loveland Pass by the Continental Divide

Loveland Pass is the most recognizable scenic drives in Colorado. It’s easy to access and is yet another amazing drive when you want to beat the dreaded traffic on I-70.

Simply get off the freeway before the Eisenhower Tunnel (coming from the east) and go over Loveland Pass instead. You’ll be greeted with epic views of the Continental Divide and many of the best peaks in the Front Range.

Local Tip: Catch a sunset from the top of the pass. Pack a picnic dinner.

Time (one way): 30 minutes
Mileage (one way): 8.7 miles
Points of interest/Things to do: Backcountry ski or snowboard, hike Mt Sniktau (one of Colorado’s best 13ers), ski or ride Alpine Basin, a quick way to beat traffic.

Guanella Pass near Mount Bierstadt

For fantastic fall foliage and stellar mountain views, take Guanella Pass between Georgetown, Colorado and Kenosha Pass on Highway 285. You’ll pass right by one of Colorado’s easiest 14ers, Mt Bierstadt, and be treated to shimmering aspens the entire way.

Time (one way): 1 hour
Mileage (one way): 22 miles
Points of interest/Things to do: Hike, climb a Colorado 14er, camp (designated areas only)

Jones Pass

If you’ve got a 4WD then you’ve got to check out Jones Pass. Located off of Highway 40 (another scenic drive) you’ll find a glorious stretch of dirt mountain driving. Wind your way to the top of the pass where you can get out and stretch your legs above treeline and hike the Continental Divide Trail.

We make a trip out to Jones Pass every year to enjoy a sunset or casual night under the stars.

Pro Tip: Don’t attempt this drive in winter – we nearly died here after our truck almost slid off the road and tumbled down the mountain. Best traveled in late June through mid-October.

Time (one way): 45 minutes
Mileage (one way): 7.1 miles
Points of interest/Things to do: hike, enjoy some of Denver’s best free camping, backcountry ski, snowshoe, ATV, awesome sunset spot.

most scenic drives near Denver

Berthoud Pass

Another amazingly scenic drive near Denver that gets you to many fantastic points of interest is Berthoud Pass. Make your way up highway 40 towards Winter Park on this scenic slice of road. You’ll be able to easily link this scenic drive with Jones Pass or Trail Ridge Road.

Time (one way): 45 minutes
Mileage (one way): 8 miles of scenic driving
Points of interest/Things to do: Backcountry ski or snowboard, hike to the top of Berthoud Pass, ski at winter park.

Overall there are several amazingly scenic drives near Denver to explore. The next time you hit the road, be sure to check out one of these amazing drives!

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Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

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Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.