Best of Colorado Road Trip Featuring 6 National Park Sites

Natural hot springs, high peaks and national park sites dominate this 1,130-mile tour through Colorado starting and ending in Denver.
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Moose at Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Moose at Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Few road trips take you past spectacular 14,000-foot peaks, soothing hot springs and fantastic historical towns like this Colorado loop.

Start in Denver to sample the city's thriving art and food scene. Then head to the vibrant university town of Boulder and nearby Eldorado Canyon State Park. Next stop is Rocky Mountain National Park where wildlife and incredible hikes await. From there head west to the charming town of Grand Lake before heading west to Glenwood Springs to soak in the town's legendary hot springs and experience its adventure park. Continue west to the awe-inspiring red-rock landscapes of the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction. From there, experience incredible alpine scenery and swaths of agricultural land as you travel through Delta, Montrose and Ouray.

Discover ancient history in Mesa Verde National Park and authentic towns like Cortez, Durango, South Fork and Alamosa along the way to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve before heading to Arvada and ending in Denver. 

Map

Start: Mile High Fun in Denver

Union Station in Denver, Colo.

Union Station in Denver, Colo.

From fine art to trendy restaurants, use your feet to explore Denver. The top six things to do include enjoying a Rockies game, visiting the Denver Art Musuem, and seeing the zoo.

Colorado History Museum
Don't miss the We (Heart) Rocky Mountain National Park exhibit.

World-Class Views at Eldorado Canyon State Park

Eldorado Canyon State Park in Colorado

Eldorado Canyon State Park

A magnet for climbers from around the world, Eldorado Canyon State Park features jaw-dropping cliffs that soar into the blue sky. As you gaze at the walls above you, you’ll start to spot tiny, bright-colored figures climbing the park’s 500-plus climbing routes. Bring a picnic.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking Fern Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking Fern Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Home to herds of elk, majestic moose and Longs Peak that summits at 14,000 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park is a hiker's and wildlife-watcher's paradise.

Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park.

In the summer, you'll travel across the park on its highest road, Trail Ridge Road. The road is closed in winter due to snow, at which time visitors travel south of the park to reach Grand Lake, the park's western gateway town.

YMCA of the Rockies is a Camp for All Ages
Choose between the Estes Park Center on the park's east side or Snow Mountain Ranch on the west side for great activities and lodging options.

GyPSy Guide Tour App
Download the Rocky Mountain National Park tour app that’s like listening to a tour guide in your car. GyPSy Guide automatically plays interesting and entertaining commentary as you go.

Soak in Steamboat Springs

Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Top 9 Colorado Hot Springs Soaking Spots
Colorado is blessed with healing mineral waters. Here are our favorite places for apres-anything soaking including Strawberry Park in Steamboat Springs.

Colorado National Monument

Cyclists on Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument

Cyclists on Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument

Desert Solitaire Near Grand Junction
On the central edge of Colorado sits Colorado National Monument, a spectacular, crumbling stretch of land filled with decaying red rock and deep canyons.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Sunset at the Painted Wall in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Sunset at the Painted Wall in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The Steep Walls of the Black Canyon
Carved through solid granite over countless millennia, the canyon walls plunge an awe-inspiring 2,700 feet to the Gunnison River below in western Colorado.

Ride a Steam Train to the Best of the West in Durango

Durango at dusk

Durango at dusk

Ranked among Outside Magazine’s 2016 “Best Towns," its heart is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad which attracts 200,000 passengers per year.

Authentic Old West Experience
Stay at the historic Strater Hotel, one of the West’s iconic hotels 2-blocks north of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff Palace Tour at Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff Palace Tour at Mesa Verde National Park

6 Four Corners Gems in Mesa Verde Country
Go native. Explore Mesa Verde National Park plus five hidden gems for some rare hands-on opportunities in one of the nation’s most archaeologically rich areas.

Palaces of the Past in Mesa Verde National Park
Experience the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans who inhabited this enchanting landscape for more than 10,000 years.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Twelve miles from Mesa Verde, this national monument often falls off travelers' radar screens, making it a fantastic place to discover solitude and ancient history.

Keeping Up With South Fork

Mountain Biking near South Fork, Colo.

Mountain Biking near South Fork, Colo.

Where crowds are scarce and backcountry roads, trails, and streams are abundant! Join the locals who seem to get outdoors as often as they get out of bed.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Hiker at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Hiker at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Colorado's Sandy Surprise Trapped Against a Mountain
Bring your sled, beach chairs and shade umbrella to explore the tallest sand dunes in North America near Alamosa, Colorado.

4 Places to Shoot in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
It’s hard to understand this park's scale. But don’t be daunted—we asked professional photographer Andre Costantini where to approach the dunes for the best photos.

The Mighty Arvada, Denver's Satellite Olde Town

Eating ice cream at Arvada's Scrumptious dessert spot

Eating ice cream at Arvada's Scrumptious dessert spot

Just 15 minutes from the state’s capital in Denver, have dinner at a renovated schoolhouse or burgers served from an airstream. Then see the smallest urban wildlife refuge.

End: Denver

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Have more time? Visit Pat Craig's Wild Idea of an Animal Sanctuary

Lions Yawning at Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado

Lions Yawning at Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado

See nearly 300 lions, tigers, grizzly bears, wolves, and other rescued large carnivores as they roam freely on the rolling plains of Colorado.

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