Perfect Spring Road Trips for When You Need to Escape Denver
From cozy towns to stunning vistas, there are plenty of good reasons to take a quick break from Denver.
What’s better than driving through the majestic Colorado landscape, the sun shining, windows down? Not much. Even if you cross state borders, there are many beautiful destinations to behold just a short drive away—and plenty of worthy stops as you drive, too. As we get pulled back and forth between second and third winters and many false springs (if you know, you know), we’re in the season of taking full advantage of sunny days and spending cold, gray ones dreaming about our next adventure. Any of the below destinations are perfect for a day trip, a long weekend, or however much time you can request off from work—spend the time cruising along scenic roads, taking in the Colorado beauty, and soaking up everything these towns and cities just a short drive from Denver have to offer.
Drive time from downtown Denver: 3 hours, 45 minutes
Why not visit Colorado wine country? The valley-mesa juxtaposition here is simply breathtaking, showcasing grand Colorado vineyards against high, rocky backdrops. The wine itself isn’t bad, either; if you’re a first-timer in the area, you can get a good sampling of the wines produced here through a wine tour. For the adrenaline-seekers, Palisade has some of the best mountain biking around—namely, the 32 miles that make up the Palisade Plunge. While this list is intended for those packing up the car and heading out on the open road, there is always the option of taking the Amtrak here from Union Station.
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 1 hour, 40 minutes
One of the premier Colorado ski towns in the winter, the greater Vail area is also a pretty incredible place to visit sans snow. Everything you could want in outdoor adventure is here, from hiking, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting to fly fishing on horseback and plenty of yoga (for those dedicated to the flow). Stay in some of the chicest hotels—like The Osprey or The Hythe—that are just steps away from the exhilarating Vail Valley landscape, or find an Airbnb that best suits your needs.
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Twin Lakes and Leadville are close enough that you can see the majority of both in a single day, but each has its own charm and opportunities for excitement. There are numerous activities—like fishing, paddle-boarding, and boat tours—to do on the lakes themselves, plus plenty of hiking and biking around the area. Every visitor is also encouraged to explore the tiny town of Twin Lakes, which includes the quaint Twin Lakes General Store.
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 2 hours
Hearing “road trip to Wyoming” has many Coloradans assuming it’s an hours-long affair. Though technically true, it’s only about two hours north from Denver to Cheyenne, where you have your pick of outdoor adventures and city excursions alike. Once in Cheyenne, it’s just a quick jaunt to Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, where you have your pick of outdoor recreation from hiking, biking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, and water sports plus a whole lot more. The city itself offers plenty to do by way of local art and entertainment, brushing up on Wyoming history, or really leaning into the Old West of it all, like boot-scootin’ at the Outlaw Saloon.
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 1 hour, 45 minutes
If being transported back to the Old West is your idea of fun, making the trip to Leadville should be at the top of your to-do list. Founded in 1878 and sitting at a breezy 10,152 feet of elevation, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in North America and has tons to see and do. Stroll down Harrison Avenue for quaint coffee shops, boutiques, outdoor retailers, and the Legendary Silver Dollar Saloon, one of Colorado’s oldest operating bars. Or, step outside downtown for outdoor adventure of all kinds, including tons and tons of hiking around Mount Sherman or on the Timberline Lake or Mineral Belt Trails.
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 4 hours, 30 minutes
Taos may be smaller than Denver but she is undeniably gorgeous and full of enough entertainment to occupy you for a long weekend at the very least. Local art and artisans thrive here, with many a gallery and shop for your eyes and wallet to consider, and those interested in learning about Taos and New Mexico history should take time to tour one of the local museums or visit Taos Pueblo, which is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark.
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 4 hours, 50 minutes
Sitting in the breathtaking and tranquil southwest corner of Colorado is this resort town prized for—you guessed it—its abundantly flowing hot springs. Soaking in the warm waters of the San Juan River is certainly a peak Colorado experience any time of year. If that’s not your jam, plenty of fun can be had by checking out Pagosa Street’s shops, restaurants, and museums, where you can sip on something deliciously caffeinated from Root House Coffee & Shop.
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 1 hour, 20 minutes
There’s a reason locals call this college town north of Denver “Fort Fun”—and it’s not just the bar and brewery scene (although those are definitely part of the reason). All your favorite activities—like, all of them—are available from Horsetooth Reservoir to the Cache la Poudre River, and live music is always playing somewhere in FoCo, like at Aggie Theater.
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 2 hours
This kitschy gambling town southwest of Colorado Springs is filled with classic Old West vibes. Founded during the Gold Rush, it was originally a mining camp. There’s even a free-roaming herd of donkeys that include descendants of the donkeys that were used in the original gold mining operations. Along with nine casinos where you can try your luck at becoming a big winner, the town is also home to several historic attractions including the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine and the Cripple Creek Jail Museum.
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Steamboat Springs is yet another destination worth the extra bit of trek. Strawberry Park is one of Colorado’s favorite hot springs destinations and Fish Creek Falls offers waterfall scenes that’ll make NatGeo jealous—plus you’ll get your exercise for the day climbing your way up to it. Downtown Steamboat is charming with its many shops and eateries, like Laundry, where happy hour glasses of wine are the same price as whatever time it is.
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Colorado Springs to the south of Denver is packed with activities, but one of the best is this 1,364-acre park where you can hike, bike, drive, or horseback ride your way around the massive sandstone formations. Plus, entry is free. The park sits at the foot of Pikes Peak, one of Colorado’s “14ers” (a mountain that rises to an elevation over 14,000 feet) and the literal “purple mountain” that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write “America the Beautiful.”
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 1 hour, 35 minutes
For iconic, postcard-perfect Rocky Mountain scenery, it doesn’t get any better than this national park. The 415 square miles of pure alpine beauty is more than worth the drive, especially when rolling along the famed Trail Ridge Road (after it opens for the season in May). Explore the vastness of the park via as much hiking, biking, or driving as you’re willing to commit to, and observe some of the most impressive natural landscapes you’ve ever seen. If you’re lucky, you might even see some elk or a moose.
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Drive time from downtown Denver: 2 hours
As a warning, this destination isn’t for those with a fear of heights. The Royal Gorge Bridge, built in 1930, is the highest suspension bridge in the country, hovering 956 feet above the Arkansas River. And if traversing this feat of engineering isn’t thrilling enough on its own, the park is also home to other attractions including the aerial gondola which you can take back after your trek across the bridge. The gondola spans 2,200 feet across the gorge, 1,200 feet in the air for a truly scenic ride. Or take that same trip, sans the safety of the gondola and opt for the zip line instead—an experience that’s sure to get your heart racing. Most of the activities here are outdoors and subject to weather, but generally the park is open 365 days a year.
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