There’s no shortage of amazing day trips to take from Denver. With the city standing at 1,609 metres above sea level, Denver has the nickname of ‘the Mile High City’. It has an impressive reputation for its sleek urban lifestyle, with endless opportunities for outdoor adventure on its doorstep.
A trip to Denver can include trekking through the Rocky Mountain National Park by day, and enjoying some of the best breweries and nightlife by night.
The hardest part of exploring this part of Colorado is deciding what to dedicate your time to. There are natural havens and buzzing urban hubs just a short drive away, you’ve gotta make the most of your proximity and get out and explore. Pack your hiking boots and sense of adventure, people!
Stick with us while I unpack the best day trips in Denver.
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Getting Around Denver, and Beyond
A visit to Denver is super easy as it is so well connected by public transport. It’s simple to use, cheap, and convenient! They’ve got buses and a light rail that services the entire city.
Most areas of downtown Denver have great places to stay if you’re after easy public transport access. I recommend staying close to Union Station or Lower Downtown (LoDo) if you want to stay in the thick of the action.
The easiest way to get around Denver and its outskirts independently is by having your own car. There are a ton of rental agencies in the city, but make sure you think ahead and make your booking in advance – cars get booked up really fast during the busy months.
As with anywhere, Denver is known to have a bit of traffic. Those coming in by car will find it easier to stay parked up at your accommodation while you explore downtown Denver. Parking can be expensive and tricky to navigate.
In some cases, public transport may do the trick better than your own set of wheels. For example, if you want to get to the neighboring city of Boulder, you can get there quicker by bus! You can sit back and relax, instead of getting frustrated by the traffic.
Maybe you’re thinking that you’d rather have someone drive you around while you’re staying in Denver. Rideshare services like Uber, Lyft, or taxis are widely available, as are private tours, drivers, and group tours for when you want to visit areas outside of Denver.
Half-Day Trips from Denver
If you aren’t able to dedicate a whole day to exploring, you can still experience some highlights of the area on a half-day trip in Denver.
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is an open-air amphitheater built right into the impressive red rocks. Only 10 miles west of Denver City, the journey there won’t eat up too much time.
The process of building the amphitheatre started in 1936, opening up to the public in 1941. A stage for iconic musical acts and shows, the incredible setting makes for a magnificent performance – and let’s not forget about the insane views of the city!
Making use of its stunning surroundings, the stage incorporates huge red rocks in its setup. Accompany your rocking out with some cool history and scenery.
It’s super easy to reach the amphitheatre if you’ve got your own set of wheels. There are also day trips leaving from downtown Denver that stop by the foothills, and include other notable stops close to the city. It’s worth jumping on one if you’re pressed for time! You can pack your morning with adventure and be back in town for a late lunch before the night begins.
Suggested trip: Foothills Explorer Tour
Colorado has a reputation for excellent craft beer, and a wide selection of breweries. There are a bunch of small towns with ripper breweries in the Rockies.
Famed during the gold-rush, Golden is Colorado’s craft beer center. It still shows off a lot of its 1850s charm in the historical district, which is a beautiful place to explore when you aren’t sipping a beer.
Golden is only a short drive from Denver, and has a bunch of top-rated breweries all within walking distance of one another. Many of them are located in picturesque spots, where you’ll be able to take in spectacular views while you taste some of America’s top brews.
If you’re planning to drive to Golden yourself – driving and craft beer aren’t a great pairing. Be sure to designate a sober driver before you’re too many beers into the day. Alternatively, there are plenty of brewery experts running trips from Denver to Golden. Let them do the hard work while you sit back, take in the views and enjoy the brews.
Suggested trip: Brews & Views Golden Trip
Just a 40-minute drive from Denver, sits the quaint town of Evergreen. A real gem, it is the top choice for Denverites who want to enjoy the mountains without driving too far. Do as the locals do, and find out what all the fuss is about.
There’s a lot going on in Evergreen – think quirky bars with live music, day spas, bike paths, and hiking trails. It is a collection of what Colorado does best. In the winter months, Lake Evergreen usually freezes over, turning into an ice skating rink and ice fishing spot.
You can jump on a half-day trip from Denver that includes a stop in Evergreen. Explore the beauty of the natural surroundings, with a knowledgeable guide at the helm.
Suggested trip: Explorer Tour from Denver
Clear Creek Canyon
Clear Creek Canyon is a fun half-day trip from Denver for a bit of adventure. Located just outside of Golden, it is an easy trip from downtown, taking you out of the bustling city limits and into nature.
Hiking, fishing, climbing, rafting, and mountain biking – there are so many ways to have an adrenaline rush at Clear Creek. That being said, the national park is also a beautiful destination to just relax and enjoy the scenery, wandering through magnificent landscapes.
Clear Creek is a common stop-off on a Colorado road trip for a refresh and little bit of fun.
Suggested trip: Clear Creek Rafting Tour
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Full-Day Trips from Denver
Have a day to spare in Denver? Great! There’s more than enough to do around the city to keep you busy. Check out these day trips!
Boulder has the perfect balance between urban scenes and pristine nature, and is one of the best places to visit in Colorado. It’s got an epic food scene, and, in true Colorado style, an excellent selection of classic and craft breweries. Everything in Boulder is within walking distance, so once you’re there, you can enjoy things at your own pace.
Back in the 1960s, the town was a hippie town, but has since rebranded itself as a hub for wholesome outdoor adventure while retaining its alternative roots. With farmer’s markets on the weekends, and an abundance of live music and breweries, it’s basically a haven for any adventure-loving folk with an appreciation for the finer things.
You can reach Boulder in just a 40-minute drive along Highway 36. There are also cheap public buses that run from city to city.
You may prefer the laid-back vibes of Boulder compared to Denver! Spend a night or 2 in this cute townhouse in central Boulder.
Your inner paleontologist is gonna go nuts! Dinosaur Ridge is an outdoor museum and visitor center where important dinosaur discoveries were made back in the 1800s – including the discovery of Stegosaurus bones, fossils, footprints, and Iguanodon tracks!
Back in the day when dinosaurs roamed the planet, Colorado was covered in an inland sea which helped to preserve many fossils and evidence of the creatures. When you pay a visit to Dinosaur Ridge, you can see the findings of dinosaur activity from many millions of years ago.
It’s only 15 minutes outside of Denver! Load up the kids in the car and take the short drive into history. You can also go with an experienced guide if you want to soak up more knowledge.
Hikers rejoice as you can also spend an entire day exploring the area, which is connected with the beautiful Red Rocks Trails.
Suggested trip: Red Rocks, Dinosaur Ridge & Gold Rush Tour
Rocky Mountain National Park
People travel far and wide to explore the magic of the Rocky Mountain National Park. On one of the best day trips from Denver, you can experience the natural wonders of its pristine mountain terrain in just a 1.5 hour drive.
The Rockies national park is a haven for those who love hiking, climbing, bouldering, photography, camping, fishing, and swimming (if you’re brave enough for the chilly water). The Rocky Mountains has some of the best hiking in Colorado.
For the more gentle adventurer, you can take a scenic drive along Trail Ridge Road. This is the highest paved road in the US national park system, and will allow you to scratch the itch of visiting the Rockies without breaking a sweat. The views are damn spectacular, too!
Top spots to check out in the Rockies include Bear Lake and Alberta Falls, which are easy to tackle on a day trip. If you’ve got more time, stick around and do a longer trek, perhaps even attempt to summit Longs Peak Mountain, the highest in the park.
Suggested trip: Rocky Mountain and Estes Park Tour
A favorite local adventure is outdoor climbing, and The Flatirons is a world-class spot to give it a go.
The Flatirons are a unique mountain range on the southwestern edge of Boulder. The stunning mountains got their unique name from, quite literally, looking like household flat irons. The flat slanted rocks are the optimal climbing conditions for beginner to advanced climbers.
Novice climbers will want to head out with someone who has the gear and expertise to show you how it’s done. Tours providers will take you through safety practices and climbing techniques, and provide all the necessary gear like helmets, harnesses, shoes, and ropes.
This is a pretty epic day trip to take from Denver, and a great way to tire out the kids!
At the foothills of the Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll find the quaint and historic city of Fort Collins.
On a day trip you can enjoy the pleasantries of the city, with theatres, restaurants, craft breweries, a vintage tram, and the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. It’s an artsy place, with many galleries and art shops to keep your cultural side intrigued. There is also some unique public street art, including a collection of painted pianos stationed around town for passers-by to play.
Nature lovers won’t be disappointed, as just west of the city are walking trails that take you out to the Horsetooth Rock formation and Horsetooth Reservoir. With hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, and more, there’s a lot to enjoy in and around Fort Collins.
Why not extend your day trip from Denver and stay a bit longer? This carriage house is a fun and bright spot to base yourself. Fort Collins has plenty of classic Victorian cottages to choose from!
St. Mary’s Glacier and Idaho Springs
What if I told you you could hike to the top of a glacier, and soak in natural geothermal cave pools?
St Mary’s Glacier is located in the Rocky Mountains National Park just a short drive from Idaho Springs. The hike to the glacier itself is pretty short, and the views along the way are beyond picture-worthy. When you arrive at the glacier itself, brave the cold and go swimming, or try tobogganing depending on the season.
On your way back to Denver, stop off in Idaho Springs and enjoy a soak in some geothermal pools. It is the perfect way to rest your weary body – you deserve it!
A drive from Denver to St Mary’s Glacier takes just over an hour, or you can jump on a tour. Rent this cozy modern cabin on the creek in Idaho Springs to extend your trip.
Suggested trip: Glacier Hike and Geothermal Pools
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Denver is a beautiful city in itself, but sometimes you need a break from the hustle and bustle. These days trips from Denver get you out of the buzz and into nature. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to hike through the Rocky Mountains, or go climbing on one of the many spectacular rock walls close to the city!
You might not be be able to do it all, but rest assured that whatever trip you choose, you’ll be treated to sensational views and warm Colorado hospitality.
Happy travels, y’all!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!