The capital of Colorado, Denver, is also the largest city in the Rocky Mountains area and a popular tourist destination for those looking to explore some of the most picturesque natural beauty in the United States.
The city is steeped in history thanks to its gold-mining and pioneering past, and these traditions are maintained alongside some of the more modern features of the city.
From museums and galleries, to nightlife and amusement parks, there is something for everyone in Denver.
The city is also surrounded by national parks and villages that provide a great insight into the history and culture of Colorado, as well as giving a great opportunity to take in breathtaking views.
Day trips to these areas can be very rewarding if you are looking to spend some time outside of the city itself.
These are the 15 best day trips you can take from Denver.
1. Rocky Mountain Zipline in Conifer
The dramatic Rocky Mountains are the perfect backdrop for adventure activities, and the zipline at Conifer is one of the closest activities to Denver.
Here you will be able to zip through the mountains and forest at speeds up to 50mph. Starting at 8,000 ft above sea level, you will travel along over 6,000 ft of zipline as you get to take in the breathtaking views and activate your adrenaline.
There are also GoPros available to rent on site, allowing you to capture your memories as you zip through the landscape.
Book online: Rocky Mountain Zipline Adventure Tour
2. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
Located just outside of Denver, the Red Rocks Park is a unique landscape filled with towering sandstone formations.
The huge park is listed as a National Historic Landmark in the United States and welcomes thousands of visitors every year. There are plenty of facilities on site, though we do recommend bringing your own lunch. The Red Rocks Amphitheatre is large and carved into the rocks.
There are concerts held here throughout the year, adding a great ambience to the events. Be sure to check their website before you plan your trip.
3. Bear Creek Canyon
Connecting Morrison and Idledale, the Bear Creek Canyon area is a scenic drive through the natural beauty of Colorado.
Officially part of Denver’s Park System, this drive is a gateway into Colorado’s vast mountain parks and is a great way to check out the scenery if you do not have time for a longer tour.
There are plenty of creeks and native flora and fauna along the way. Stopovers are possible along the way for refreshments and toilet facilities.
Located along the Bear Creek Canyon, Evergreen is a small town that takes you to the heart of rural life in Colorado.
The artsy vibe makes it the perfect place to discover fine art boutiques and craft stores. There are also plenty of entertainment options, and quirky dining experiences ranging from cafes to upscale restaurants.
Nearby there are some great nature-based activities including fly fishing and hiking. There is also a golf course located just outside of the town.
Golden, Colorado, is a historic town where you can learn more about the pioneering history of the state.
The Coors Brewery is located here, offering free tours every day to visitors interested in checking out the largest brewery in the world. Rail enthusiasts will also enjoy the Colorado Railroad Museum, which offers visitors the opportunity to hop on board a historic train.
Buffalo Bill’s grave is also located within the town limits, and a museum dedicated to his life is right next to it.
6. Manitou Springs
Manitou Springs is nestled within the Rocky Mountain foothills and is a great spot for a more relaxing experience of mountain life.
The area is sacred to a number of Native American tribes thanks to the natural mineral water springs which are said to have healing benefits. These springs are free to access, and a great place to unwind after a day of exploring.
The town is also known for its sculptures that line the sidewalks, and there is a vibrant artisan community providing great goods and entertainment across the town.
Sedalia is a small community located south of Denver that was once an important crossroads town.
The old railway line is still the centrepiece of the town, and many of the old buildings remain intact – though they now host a variety of more modern restaurants and craft boutiques.
The Cherokee Ranch is the main attraction in town, built in the style of a Scottish castle. It contains a number of historic artworks from across the globe, as well as a fully operating cattle ranch.
8. Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is another registered National Natural Landmark located just a short drive from Denver. The park is full of facilities and activities to keep you entertained for an entire day.
The large sandstone formations provide excellent natural beauty and show off the unique landscapes of Colorado. There are also rock climbing, fishing, and mountain biking facilities located throughout the park.
The wide array of activities and museums in the area make it a great day trip for families visiting the Denver area, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn about the geology and history of the area.
9. Cañon City
Cañon City is located within the Royal Gorge and is the main gateway to the region. Here you can ride the Royal Gorge Railway – a spectacular train ride through the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Around the Christmas period this also becomes a Santa train, making it a great trip for families who are in Colorado around the holidays.
There are also plenty of nature-based activities including rafting, river tours, and jeep tours.
There is also a museum dedicated to the Colorado prison system, where you can learn about crime and punishment in the state.
Boulder is a city in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains located within an hour of Denver. Traditionally a college town, Boulder is full of excellent nightlife options and sports facilities.
It has also more recently spawned its own alternative communities, with a wide range of hipster spots and counterculture venues across the city. The city is also surrounded by fantastic hiking trails and creeks for rafting and tubing.
In October, local artists also open up their studios to the general public, allowing you to check out their work and purchase your favourite items.
11. Mount Evans Scenic Byway
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is a spectacular journey through the mountains of Colorado.
The highest paved road in North America, it winds around mountains and lakes as you climb towards the peak of Mount Evans – an entire 14,264 feet above sea level.
If you are looking for something a little more physical, you can also stop off at one of the many hiking trails along the way and discover some of the views that cannot be accessed by car.
This road is only open through the Spring and Summer months, as the winter snows make it inaccessible.
12. Central City and Black Hawk
History fans will enjoy a visit to the twin towns of Central City and Black Hawk. These towns have revived their historic buildings to give an impressive display of what houses in the region looked like back when Colorado was first settled.
They are also popular destinations for gambling in Colorado, with the most popular casinos being located on the main streets of Central City.
The spirit of revival is kept alive in the cultural activities in the towns, with theatre productions and street parties being held throughout the year.
13. Colorado Springs
Sitting on the eastern edges of the Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado Springs is a popular tourist resort with plenty of activities to entertain a variety of visitors.
It is a gateway to Pikes Peak, which is great for moderate hiking and taking in the marvellous scenery.
Families will also enjoy the museums scattered throughout the town, as well as a sizeable zoo in the centre. Native wildlife can also be spotted on the outskirts and in the surrounding parks.
Georgetown is another great historical village located within easy driving distance of Denver.
The town is a great place to learn about the gold mining history of the region, thanks to the small museums located in the town and the opening up of old gold mines to tourists.
There is also a firefighter museum where you can discover the history of firefighting in rural America, and the recent influx of tourism has resulted in a variety of restaurants and stores opening up along the streets.
The Georgetown Loop Railroad is also a great historical experience in the town and is very popular with visitors in winter.
Another popular winter destination, Vail is the home of a large ski-resort providing a variety of winter activities.
Skiing and snowboarding are available for visitors of all ability levels, and there are excellent aprés ski facilities dotted around the area. The town of Vail itself has a postcard perfect pedestrian street lined with houses and stores that were built in the style of Alpine villages of the ‘60s.
The transport system in the region is free to use, helping you get between the villages and ski resorts with ease.