Top Denver Road Trip Routes: Scenic Drives and Adventures


Colorado is a road-trippers’ paradise, with endless scenic drives, historic sites, charming mountain towns, and thrilling outdoor adventures. As the gateway to the Rocky Mountains, Denver is the perfect home base for epic road trips across the Centennial State.

Let’s face it-there’s no such thing as a bad day on a Denver road trip. Keep reading to learn about places that should be on your Colorado road trip itinerary.


  • Scenic drives like the San Juan Skyway and Trail Ridge Road offer stunning mountain vistas and golden aspens in the fall.
  • Outdoor adventures abound, from hiking Rocky Mountain National Park to skiing top resorts.
  • Quaint mountain towns like Telluride and Estes Park exude small-town charm.
  • Explore Colorado's wine country with vineyard tours and tastings.
  • Discover Denver's vibrant arts, shopping, dining, and LGBTQ-friendly nightlife.

Scenic Drives and Byways

Crisscrossing Colorado is a network of scenic byway routes perfect for fall road-tripping. The Aspen to Glenwood Springs route treats you to a symphony of golden aspens against a backdrop of rugged mountains.

For a taste of history, journey along the San Juan Skyway. This 233-mile loop winds past Victorian buildings and breathtaking mountain scenery. Be sure to stop at quaint former mining towns like Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride along the way. Search engine queries for this route might include “San Juan Skyway road trip” or “Silverton, Colorado fall drives.”

You may be familiar with the Colorado River that runs through well-known parks such as Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park. However, did you know this mighty river begins in the Colorado mountains? Drive up to Le Poudre Pass Lake to see the birthplace of the 1,450-mile river that flows across five states and into Mexico. You can also drive to Glenwood Canyon to see where the Colorado River runs through Glenwood Springs.

No road trip is complete without driving at least a portion of the Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. This paved highway climbs over 12,000 feet, offering unrivaled vistas of craggy peaks and colorful fall foliage. Optimal viewing occurs from late September through early October.

Outdoor Adventures

From Denver, you have easy access to thrilling outdoor adventures. In Rocky Mountain National Park, hike through golden aspens to Emerald Lake, scramble up the Keyhole Route to the summit of Longs Peak, or spot elk and bighorn sheep. Near the Continental Divide, you’ll find the alpine Bear Lake, just a two-hour drive from the heart of Denver.

World-class ski resorts like Vail, Breckenridge, and Aspen offer downhill and cross-country skiing from November through April. Search “ski resorts near Denver” for the best options.

The whole family can enjoy milder adventures like horseback riding, whitewater rafting, hot air ballooning and rock climbing in destinations near Denver like Boulder, Estes Park, Idaho Springs, and Canon City. You can also drive up to Pikes Peak, which towers over Colorado Springs, or take the Mount Blue Sky Scenic Byway to Mount Blue Sky (formerly Mount Evans).

If you’re up for long, possibly overnight road trips from Denver, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Colorado National Monument offer gorgeous destinations and stunning scenery along the way.

Quaint Mountain Towns

Colorado has no shortage of storybook mountain towns perfect for whiling away an afternoon. Estes Park, located at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, offers boundless outdoor recreation along with abundant elk viewing in the fall. Its historic downtown overflows with eateries, galleries, and shops.

The old mining town of Telluride cradles a thriving arts scene amidst stunning box canyon scenery. Nearby, Ouray delights visitors with its charming Victorian buildings and soothing natural hot springs. Steamboat Springs is an easy drive from Denver and it’s another mountain town offering skiing and hot springs.

For the best mountain town getaways, search “quaint Colorado mountain towns near Denver” or “scenic Colorado fall foliage drives.”

Wine Tasting and Brewery Tours

Oenophiles shouldn’t miss the opportunity to tour Colorado’s vineyards and wineries, many located just outside Denver. The Grand Valley AVA produces award-winning wines in a stunning natural setting. Grand Junction and Palisade offer peach orchards, lavender farms, and dozens of wineries along the Colorado Wine Trail.

Beer lovers can sample Denver’s famous craft brews on tours along the Denver Beer Trail. Don’t leave the state without visiting the Coors Brewery in Golden.

Arts and Culture

Art aficionados will delight in the Denver Art Museum, which houses stunning indigenous works and traveling exhibitions inside its striking Daniel Libeskind-designed building. More treasures await at History Colorado Center, Clyfford Still Museum, and the Molly Brown House Museum.

For an offbeat experience, wander the River North Art District (RiNo) to discover street art, hip galleries, and creative businesses housed in converted warehouses.

Literature buffs can tour the hangouts of the Beat Generation writers like Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg along Colfax Avenue. In the Capitol Hill neighborhood, visit the home of renowned “On the Road” author Jack Kerouac.

You can also explore the nearby cities of Fort Collins, to the north, and Colorado Springs, to the south.

Budget-Friendly Travel

Luckily, you can soak up Denver’s urban energy and access nearby nature without emptying your wallet. The city offers abundant free attractions like the U.S. Mint Tour, State Capitol Tour, City Park, Confluence Park, and Levitt Pavilion concerts.

Affordable lodging options include hostels, Airbnbs, budget hotels, and camping. Look for happy hour deals and all-you-can-eat brunch specials to save money on dining. Use public transportation like the RTD light rail to get around town car-free.

LGBTQ+ and Inclusive Travel

Denver celebrates diversity, welcoming LGBTQ+ visitors with open arms. The city’s lively gayborhood centers around Broadway in Capitol Hill, home to nightclubs, bars, shops, and community spaces catering to queer culture.

Don’t miss the colorful Denver PrideFest held each June, celebrating equality with parades, parties, and performances. Year-round, LGBTQ+ travelers can connect with community groups and causes at the Center on Colfax.


The following FAQs provide more information about Denver road trip routes.

What are the top road trip routes from Denver?

Some epic drives from Denver include the San Juan Skyway (Ouray, Telluride, Durango), Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, the route to Grand Lake via Berthoud Pass, and Interstate 70 into the mountains (Idaho Springs, Breckenridge, Vail).

When is the best time to visit Denver?

Spring and fall are ideal seasons with comfortable temperatures. Fall offers golden aspens, while spring means blooming wildflowers. Summers are hot, and winters are cold, with heavy snow at high elevations.

What is there to do in Denver?

Denver offers urban attractions like museums and galleries alongside outdoor recreation. Visit craft breweries, shop the thriving downtown, see a show at Red Rocks, or take a day trip to the mountains to hike and ski.

Is Denver expensive to visit?

While resort towns like Aspen and Vail carry premium price tags, there are plenty of ways to visit Denver and Colorado on a budget. Opt for free attractions, public transportation, and affordable dining and lodging.


About the author

Shannon Persad

As a seasoned journalist and Colorado native, I bring a deep-rooted connection and comprehensive understanding of Colorado to my work at My appreciation for the state’s rich history, vibrant culture, and pressing environmental issues drives my commitment to exploring its evolving landscape—from the bustling urban centers to the tranquil mountain towns.