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-footpeaks, 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 city of Boulder and nearby Eldorado Canyon State Park. Next stops are Lyons, Estes Park and then Rocky Mountain National Park where wildlife and incredible hikes await. From there head west to the charming town of Grand Lake, which sits at the park's West Entrance, before heading to Glenwood Springs to soak in the town's legendary hot springs. Continue west to the awe-inspiring red-rock landscapes of Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction. From there, experience incredible alpine scenery and swaths of agricultural land as you travel south through Montrose and the majestic Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Farther south, you'll discover ancient history in Mesa Verde National Park and authentic towns like Durango, South Fork and Alamosa along the way to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. 

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.

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

Rent an RV with Outdoorsy
Do this road trip in an RV to stay close to nature. Or check out Destination Delivery: Have an RV delivered directly to a campground or parking site to camp in style without having to get behind the wheel. www.outdoorsy.com/rv-rental/colorado

World-Class Views at Eldorado Canyon State Park

Eldorado Canyon State Park near Boulder, Colorado

Eldorado Canyon State Park

On your way to Rocky Mountain National Park, take the path less traveled to, Eldorado Canyon State Park, one of 41 stunning Colorado state parks. As you hike in the solitude-filled Eldorado Canyon, you may find it hard to believe you're minutes from Boulder, a thriving university town.

Great Getaway at Lyons

WeeCasa Tiny House Resort in Lyons, Colorado

Tiny House Resort in Lyons

Looking for a small historic town near Rocky Mountain National Park but far from crowds? Head to Lyons, a charming 2,000-resident artsy town with great cuisine. Here's 7 reasons to stop.

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.

Walden of the West

Footbridge at State Forest State Park near Walden, Colo.

State Forest State Park

Looking to escape the crowds after you visit Rocky Mountain National Park? Head to State Forest State Park in Walden, Colo., an hour and 30 minutes from Grand Lake. Alpine lakes, magnificent peaks and a mixture of yurt and cabin rentals await. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for moose. The North Park area is considered Colorado’s "moose capital."

Soak in Steamboat Springs

Soak in Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Don't miss these top sights in one of Colorado's most authentic modern cowboy towns on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park. Here are four ways to relax in Steamboat Springs: Hike to a waterfall, soak in hot springs, take an iconic selfie, and explore the riverside downtown while tubers float by.

Strawberry Park in Steamboat Springs is just one of our nine favorite hot springs in Colorado. Here's the complete list to explore on this trip.

Colorado National Monument

Panorama of Colorado National Monument in western Colorado

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

Family mountain biking near Fruita, Colorado

Family mountain biking near Fruita, Colorado

Singletrack, World Famous Pizza and a Headless Chicken in Fruita
Known as a fall and spring destination at the entrance to Colorado National Monument, Fruita's temperate weather attracts those seeking relief from the Rocky Mountain snow. But any local will tell you, Fruita is incredible in the summer too – the key is getting wet

Sip and Sleep Well
Few know there’s a wine scene in Grand Junction and nearby Palisade, and while there are a number of national chain hotels to choose from here, the Holiday Inn Grand Junction can arrange wine tasting opportunities provided by Two Rivers Winery.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Painted Wall at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Painted Wall at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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.

Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff Palace Tour at Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff Palace Tour at Mesa Verde National Park

48 Hours in Mesa Verde
Only have 48 hours to explore Mesa Verde National Park? Stick to our detailed itinerary to hit all the most important stops. There's more to do beyond the main attraction of touring ancient cliff ruins. Take a hike, gaze from a fire tower or have dinner with a view.

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.

Best of the West in Durango

Horse Trail Ride in Durango

Trail Ride in Durango

You'll find a mix of hip restaurants and Old West charm in Durango. In its heart is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad which attracts 200,000
passengers per year.

Courtyard and bike at the Rochester Hotel and Leland House in Durango, Colo.

A guest cruiser bike parked at the shady courtyard at the Rochester Hotel and Leland House

History, Scenery and a Foodie's Paradise at the Rochester Hotel and Leland House
"Everyone's welcome here." It's the best reason to stop in Durango, Colo. on your way to Mesa Verde National Park.

Stop in South Fork

Mountain Biking near South Fork, Colo.

Mountain Biking near South Fork, Colo.

Don’t let this sleepy town tucked into the folds of the mountains fool you. South Fork's small size is counteracted by the extraordinary amount of energy its 350 year-round residents generate through outdoor recreation.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park in Springtime

Great Sand Dunes National Park in Springtime

48 Hours in Great Sand Dunes National Park
Make your time in the park count with our detailed itinerary! This other-worldly park boasts the tallest sand dunes in North America.

A Local Taste of Alamosa and San Luis Valley
Base in Alamosa to explore Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and dine in a farm-to-table restaurant.

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.

Stones that Hold Secrets
Discovered in the sands of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, oddly shaped stones play rock music.

Spring into Fun at Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods in front of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods in front of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs

4 Adventures in Colorado Springs
From Bigfoot sightings to summiting a 14,000-foot-peak by car, Colorado Springs is a place to spend several days. The bonus? Many of our favorite attractions are free

End: Denver

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Want a Longer Trip? Take This Spur Trip from Denver

See more wildlife by making your way from Denver to a lake park home to thousands of birds and an animal sanctuary on this short side trip.

Brighton's Gems near Barr Lake State Park

Eagle flying back to its nest near Brighton, Colo.

In Brighton, you’ll find bald eagles, a nationally recognized barbeque competition and a brewery housed in a refurbished Tibetan temple. Here's why Brighton is a stop worth making.

Pat Craig's Wild Idea of an Animal Sanctuary

Tigers in the habitat at Wild Animal Sanctuary

Tigers in the habitat

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

Related

Scenic road in Rocky Mountain National Park

Win a Colorado Road Trip Vacation

Go from guided hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park to sandboarding the drifts in Great Sand Dunes National Park, with stops for hot springs, lakes and river rafting.

Estes Park Aerial Tramway.

6 Things to Do in Estes Park

Known for its lodging, small-town charm, and knowledgeable outfitters, Estes Park serves Rocky Mountain National Park and access to the national forest.