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5 Best Road Trips

Best of Colorado Road Trip Featuring 5 National Park Sites

Fantastic towns, high peaks and national park sites dominate this 1,354-mile tour through Colorado.

Few road trips take you past spectacular 14,000-foot peaks, four national parks and fantastic historic towns like this Colorado road trip.

Start in Denver to sample the city’s thriving art and food scene. Next stops are Lyons, the town of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park where wildlife and incredible hikes await. From there drive through the park to the charming town of Grand Lake, which sits at the park’s West Entrance, before heading up and over two mountain passes to the towns of Dillon and Silverthorne.

Continue west to Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction. From there, travel south to Delta County, visiting towns like Paonia, and then majestic Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Farther south, you’ll discover wine tasting in Cortez not far from Mesa Verde National Park and authentic towns like Durango, South Fork and Alamosa along the way to Great Sand Dunes National Park.

When you return to the Denver area, head east to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg and onto the Fort Morgan area for a unique High Plains experience.

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Road Trip Map

Start: Denver

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

East Gateways to Rocky Mountain National Park

Great Getaways at 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 10 reasons to stop.

6 Things to Do in Estes Park
Perched at 7,200 feet, Estes Park is a fantastic basecamp for exploring Rocky Mountain National Park’s eastern side. Take a stroll down its lively downtown lined with coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques or sit on a bench along the Riverwalk. Here are 6 local tips to have a vacation with fewer hassles and less impact on the environment.

Unplug at the YMCA
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 welcoming to families and pets.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking Fern Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Hiking Fern Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National ParkGrant Ordelheide

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. In the summer, you’ll travel across the park on its highest road, Trail Ridge Road that connects the park’s two gateway towns, Estes Park on the east and Grand Lake on the west. The road is closed in winter due to snow, at which time visitors travel south to reach the opposite side of Rocky.

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.

West Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park

Grand Adventures
Leaning up against Rocky Mountain National Park’s west side, Grand County, home to Winter Park Mountain Resort and Grand Lake, offers unparalleled outdoor opportunities. See our list of thrilling, nature and water adventures.

River Run RV Resort’s Rocky Mountain Retreat
Just 20 minutes from the park’s West Entrance, which sits in Grand Lake, Colo., lies River Run RV Resort, a new 200-acre resort with unparalleled amenities for the area. There’s actually so much to do on property that it may be hard to leave it.

Exit for Dillon & Silverthorne

North Pond Park at Silverthorne, Colo.
North Pond Park at Silverthorne, Colo. (Photo: Courtesy Town of Silverthorne)

Take exit 205 on Interstate 70 to experience two of the Rocky Mountains’ favorite small towns, Dillon and Silverthorne. Located along the shores of Dillon Reservoir, here are eight stops you can’t miss.

Colorado State Parks

Rifle Falls State Park in Colorado
Rifle FallsPhoto by Doskocil courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife

See a Triple Waterfall
Playing in the rainbows of mist from its 70-foot triple waterfall offers a respite from the summer heat as do shady campsites along the river at Rifle Falls State Park. Even for a day trip, make sure to bring a flashlight to explore the caves along the Coyote Trail, one of which has a 90-foot room. Read more about this park included in our list of 8 favorite Colorado state parks.

Colorado National Monument

Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument
Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National MonumentDepositphotos

On the central edge of Colorado sits Colorado National Monument, a spectacular, crumbling stretch of land filled with decaying red rock and deep canyons. Best known for its vistas from the 23-mile scenic drive (or road bike ride) on Rim Rock Drive, the park also is a great place to hike, watch wildlife (such as desert bighorn sheep, coyotes and golden eagles) and stargaze.

Singletrack, World-Famous Pizza and a Headless Chicken in Fruita
The charming city of Fruita is the place to headquarter your trip to Colorado National Monument. An outdoor adventurer’s paradise, it’s still held on to its small-town feel. And, best yet, its vibrant downtown is located just minutes from the monument’s entrance.

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 ParkiStock

Carved through solid granite over countless millennia, the canyon walls of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park plunge an awe-inspiring 2,700 feet to the river below in western Colorado. Intrepid hikers and rock climbers can venture into the depths on several very steep, unmaintained trails. Other visitors prefer to peer into the chasm from a network of trails lining the north and south rims. Anglers love this place for its gold-medal water for trout fishing.

Best Small Towns on Colorado’s Western Slope are in Delta County
Explore the uncrowded side of Colorado in small towns like Delta, Cedaredge and Paonia at the doorstep of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff Palace Tour at Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff Palace Tour at Mesa Verde National ParkGrant Ordelheide

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.

Durango

Wild or Mild in Durango
Your adventure can be as crazy or mild as you want it to be. Choose water, land, train or foodie escapades. In this adrenaline-fueled town, there’s something for everyone.

Eat Your Way Through Durango
Durango has attracted bright and creative chefs from all over the country and each dish has a story. Read more about our favorite Durango flavors.

Charming Creede

One of Colorado’s best-kept secrets, Creede offers incredible theater, downtown charm and fun outdoor activities. Take a stroll through this colorful historic downtown nestled in one of the most striking mountain settings you’ll ever see and you may just want to move here.

Keeping Up With South Fork

Bring a car, ATV, jeep or bike. The area offers hundreds of miles of trails designated for motorized traffic and scenic drives. These trails and roads will take you to mountain peaks and amazing vistas of the San Luis Valley, to creek bottoms and dense forest growth.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park in Springtime
Great Sand Dunes National Park in SpringtimeSheba Olenik

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.

Mile High Fun in Denver

Explore Denver
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.

Pat Craig’s Wild Idea of an Animal Sanctuary

Wildlife Oasis
See nearly 300 lions, tigers, grizzly bears, wolves, and other rescued large carnivores as they roam freely on the rolling plains of Colorado, including the animals left behind by the Oklahoma zookeeper and tiger Joe Exotic made famous by Netflix’s docuseries, Tiger King.

High Plains Scenery in Fort Morgan

Stop by Fort Morgan, Brush and Pawnee National Grassland to stretch your legs and experience a different side of Colorado.