Denver, Colorado is an awesome city with something for everyone and plenty of things to do to keep anyone buy having fun for days on end. Of course, the capital of Colorado also is surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains and pristine wilderness areas in the U.S. Within an hour or two drive of the Denver, world class ski resorts, historic towns and all sorts of other attractions abound.
So when you find yourself in Denver with some free time to explore the area, you’ll have a wealth of options to choose from. Narrowing the list down might be tough though. That’s where we come in to share our picks for the best day trips, excursions, and attractions in the Denver area.
Most of the destinations listed are an hour or under drive time from Denver. None is more than an hour and a half away.
Bear Creek Canyon
About a half hour’s drive from downtown Denver is Bear Creek Canyon. Part of the Denver Park System, the canyon is a gorgeous place for a scenic drive if you only have a short amount of time and a smart choice for hiking and exploring if you want to get out of town but be able to get back to it quick.
Black Hawk and Central City
The neighboring municipalities of Black Hawk and Central City are just under an hour away from Denver by car. So visiting these two historic towns wouldn’t be a gamble with your time. If you were inclined though, you could gamble some of your money though. These former mining towns are now gambling resorts with casinos. In addition to the casinos, there are theaters, dozens of Victorian era buildings, and attractions where you can learn about Colorado mining history.
Less than 30 miles north of Denver is Boulder. A characterful town known for its youthful vigor, independent breweries, and access to hiking trails and whitewater, Boulder offers a whole lot of fun within a compact area for your day off, day (or night) out or whatever you’re hoping to get up to.
Related: Free Things To Do in Denver
An hour and some change straight down I-25 South is Colorado Springs. The state’s second largest city, Colorado Springs has a thriving arts and culture scene with several museums and a zoo. The city is also home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center. For travelers with ample time for outdoor exploration, Colorado Springs is a great base for heading off to Pikes Peak, the highest summit along the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Pike National Forest is about 15 minutes drive from downtown Colorado Springs. Another Colorado Springs spot of incredible natural beauty only about 15 minutes from town is the Garden of the Gods, a 1,300 acre landscape of otherworldly sandstone formations with lots of trails for getting up close to see them.
Among Colorado’s prettiest mountain communities is Georgetown. With dozens of impeccably restored buildings from the 1870s, it’s an ideal setting for antiquing and ambling about. When it’s time to get off your feet, climb aboard the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Powered by steam engine, the journey takes riders on an especially scenic tour along mountain ledges and includes a visit to the 1,000 acre historic mining park. Georgetown is just under an hour drive west of Denver.
Mount Evans Scenic Byway
The highest paved road in North America, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway is only 60 miles west of Denver. The road curves its way up 9,000 feet through five climate zones to the 14,264 foot summit of Mount Evans, one of 54 peaks that are higher the 14,000 feet in the state.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
Just under 30 minutes from Denver in the town of Morrison is one of the world’s most famous live performance venues: the mighty Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. Be sure to check the events calendar whenever you’re taking flights to Denver. You won’t want to miss a concert from your favorite musicians here! Whether or not there’s a show to catch when you’re near, Red Rocks is still worth the visit with trails for hiking and biking and a range of other activities to enjoy including stargazing, movie nights, wine tasting and more.
Rocky Mountain National Park
An hour and a half from Denver, the beloved Rocky Mountain National Park has more than 350 miles of hiking trails, over 140 lakes, 77 mountains higher than 12,000 feet in elevation and protected wildlife including elk, bighorn sheep, and moose. Entry cost is $25 per car. Come here for the mountain vistas you hope see when visiting Colorado.
Got tips for day trips from Denver? We welcome your suggestions!