Sunrise at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve; San Luis Valley near Alamosa, Colorado.

Exploring Colorado: 5 Day Trips Outside of Denver

Sunrise at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve; San Luis Valley near Alamosa, Colorado.

Exploring Colorado: 5 Day Trips Outside of Denver

Denver is great, but sometimes it's nice to explore beyond the city limits. Add these 5 day trips to your itinerary.

As the capital of Colorado, Denver offers plenty of attractions and dining to keep visitors busy, but sometimes it’s nice to escape the urban confines for an adventure outside the city limits. There is no better place for a road trip than Colorado, where you don’t have to travel far to find stunning natural beauty and historical landmarks well worth the drive. Get a feel for the adventure and wonder of the state with one of these five day trips.

1. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Drive two hours southwest of the Mile-High City, and you’ll reach the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, where you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back 35 million years. This 6,000-acre monument boasts an ancient lakebed and preserved fossils, including leaves, seeds, and insects from millions of years ago. During your visit, take a stroll along the Petrified Forest Walk, where you’ll see a historic excavation site and petrified Redwood stumps.

2. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Sunrise at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve; San Luis Valley near Alamosa, Colorado.

Explore some of the highest inland sand dunes in the world at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Located about four hours from Denver, the dunes soar to 800 feet high, covering the Colorado landscape with a Sahara-like feel. If you’re feeling active, then you can hike or even sled down the dunes, but the attraction is worth seeing even if you aren’t planning to climb. The dunes are set against the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for a picture-perfect setting that is unforgettable. Other on-site activities include exploring the visitor’s center, swimming in Medano Creek, and horseback riding.

3. Estes Park

An autumn afternoon in Downtown Estes Park with The Stanley Hotel and Rocky Mountains in the background.

A 70-mile drive north of Denver brings you to Estes Park, a mountain village that serves as a base camp to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The town is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with recreational sports like rock climbing, cycling, whitewater rafting, paddle boarding, and more. Take a guided wilderness excursion and see elk or big horn sheep up close, or opt for the aerial tram to get a bird’s-eye view of this majestic area. If you prefer a quieter visit, then the quaint, walkable downtown offers plenty of boutiques, shops, and eateries. Before leaving, stop at — or drive by — the Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s, “The Shining.”

4. Vail

Vail is Colorado’s winter playground, but it offers plenty to do in the summer, too. Skiing and snowboarding are winter staples, but you can also enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and golf in the warmer months. One of the area’s main summer attractions is Epic Discovery, where you can ride a zipline, hit the adventure course, or take in the view on a gondola ride. Head to Vail’s Alpine-style, pedestrian-friendly village for a picturesque place to shop, dine, or enjoy a cocktail. The town is also home to many festivals and events throughout the year, including the Burton U.S. Open, Taste of Vail, Vail International Dance Festival, and the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.

5. Steamboat Springs

Steamboat Springs in Colorado with small houses on rolling hills under a blue sky.

Steamboat Springs is a three-hour drive northwest of the Colorado capital. Known as the original home of downhill skiing, it has plenty to offer snow enthusiasts, but summer months bring the appeal of fishing, kayaking, and tubing — sans the winter crowds. The town is also known for its two hot springs parks, which offer relaxation and rejuvenation all year around.

Do you have a favorite Denver day trip destination? Connect with us on Twitter and let us know where you like to travel.