Last Updated on September 5, 2022 by Laura
Set right on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is a thriving cultural center with enough museums, landmarks, breweries, and restaurants to keep you busy for weeks on end (not to mention some fabulous hotels, to boot). But the Mile High City is also within driving distance to some of the most beautiful peaks, forests, and deserts in the U.S. Here are the best road trips from Denver.
Fabulous Road Trips from Denver
Rocky Mountain National Park
66 miles / 1 hr. 30 mins.
With 147 lakes, 77 Rocky Mountain peaks soaring higher than 12,000 feet, and miles upon miles of hiking trails, this popular National Park is just an hour and a half from Denver. The Continental Divide runs north–south through the park, where ancient glaciers carved out the most mind-blowing landscapes. Plus, the wildlife viewing is top-notch: Expect to see elk, bighorn sheep, and moose throughout the park.
70 miles / 1 hr. 40 mins.
From Denver, I-25 S is usually the fastest route to the town of Colorado Springs, which is worth visiting for its shops and restaurants alone. But the biggest draw to Colorado Springs is the abundance of activities right outside the city. Garden of the Gods has 300-foot towering and unusual sandstone rock formations with a backdrop of Pikes Peak and bright blue skies. Walk, bike, or segway your way through the red-rock park.
156 miles / 3 hrs.
From Denver, follow I-70 W, CO-9 N, and US-40 W and you’ll find yourself in Steamboat Springs. The unpretentious small-town vibe, year-round outdoor recreation, and geothermal hot springs all make this three-hour road trip from Denver worth it. Don’t miss the steaming Strawberry Park Hot Springs near Steamboat Springs for blissful relaxation. Hiking and horseback riding are must-dos in the warmer months. And in winter, it’s an international ski destination with snow so fluffy and fine it’s been dubbed “champagne powder.”
159 miles / 3 hrs. 20 mins.
In a little more than three hours from Denver, you’ll find yourself in one of America’s most popular mountain destinations, with terrific places to stay and play. In the summer, take the shorter route by turning south off I-70 at Copper Mountain. Follow Highways 91 and 24, then turn right at Twin Lakes toward Aspen. In the winter, State Highway 82 is closed due to snow, so it’ll take a few extra minutes to wind around Vail and Glenwood Springs. This winter wonderland has some of the best skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and snowbikes. In the warmer months, the slopes transform into mountain biking and hiking trails for a thrilling wilderness experience.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
239 miles / 3 hrs. 50 mins.
Colorado has its fair share of soaring, snow-capped peaks, but the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado is a lesser-known, not-to-be-missed landscape. From Denver, head south on I-25 through Colorado Springs (be sure to make a pit stop to explore there), then take US-160 W to CO-150 N to the dunes. Reminiscent of the Sahara Desert, this National Park boasts the tallest sand dunes in North America. Sure, you can walk along the dunes, but sledding down them is the best way to experience the park. Trails lead to various ecosystems including grasslands, wetlands, forests, tundra, and alpine lakes like Medano Lake—which is filled with trout and surrounded by tundra wildlife.