Alluring views of snow-capped mountains, some of the world’s most sought-after hiking trails, and unparalleled wildlife sightings are just a few of the staples of Colorado, making it a true mecca for those in search of an adventurous outdoor road trip.
If you’re currently plotting your Colorado road trip, chances are you’re feeling super overwhelmed trying to figure out what to see and where to go. The bad news is that seeing it all in just a visit would be impossible, but the bright side is that we’ve put together the perfect 7-day Colorado itinerary that will show you some of the best the Centennial State has to offer.
The Ultimate Colorado Road Trip For Nature Lovers
Boulder is located just a short drive away from Denver, making it the ideal place to make your first stop in your Colorado adventure. Even though Boulder is famed for being a popular college town, the best way to truly get to know it is by exploring its foothills and going for a hike or two.
Depending on how your body is adjusting to the altitude increase, you can go for a manageable hike like the Fowler Trail or the Chautauqua Trail, both of which guarantee picture-perfect views. If you don’t mind a challenge, though, another incredible trail to test your skills at is the 4th of July Trailhead, which provides the most incredible views of the surrounding Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.
Now that you’ve acclimatized a bit to the altitude, it’s time to visit Colorado’s most iconic national park in search of some serious mountain goodness. Boasting over three hundred miles of hiking trails for all difficulty levels, you’re in for a real treat when it comes to spending time in nature.
A little bit of what’s in store for you during your visit includes dreamy alpine lakes, views of snow-capped mountains as far as the eye can see, and a huge menu of outdoorsy activities ranging from lakeside walks for families to conquering some of the most iconic Colorado 14ers for those who love a good challenge.
In reality, you could opt to dedicate your entire visit to Colorado just to get to know Rocky Mountain because the list of things to do is almost never-ending. Because you only have two days, though, the best way to maximize your visit is by hitting the easier (and super classic trails), such as Emerald Lake or Bear Lake.
If you’re an experienced hiker, a great option for you is the Sky Pond hike, which is longer than the former but worth the effort.
NB: Timed entry passes are required over the summer months to control the flow of traffic to one of the country’s most popular National Parks. Day entry is $25 or see more below on annual passes in Colorado!
Ever wondered what living in a dreamy fairytale lake would feel like? A visit to Hanging Lake is as close as you can get to that. This secret spot hidden deep inside Glenwood Canyon is one of the dreamiest destinations in Colorado thanks to its unique geological formation, rare flora hovering over the cliffs, and aqua blue water cascading down from the walls.
Day 5: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Often dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Rockies”, Black Canyon dives almost 3,000 feet down into the ground, making the entire landscape look as though it belongs in the Jurassic Era.
Even though you could spend days inside Black Canyon and the Gunnison, the best way to cover as much ground as possible in a day is by grabbing your car keys and driving the Rim Drive. This scenic road provides twelve viewpoints of the canyon, each more striking than the last.
Afterward, you can either opt for a short hike, do some white water rafting at Gunnison Gorge, or hop on a scenic boat ride to get to know the canyon a little better.
The Million Dollar Highway isn’t a destination per se, but the ultimate way to spend your last days in Colorado is by venturing into one of the most scenic roads in the world. As part of the San Juan Skyway, this highway loops 233 miles across some of the dreamiest Colorado alpine towns: Ouray, Telluride, Durango, and Ridgeway.
The drive itself is relatively short and can be done in two hours. However, give yourself at least two days to make stops along the way to enjoy the stunning views to your heart’s content.
If you’ve got a little bit more time on your Colorado road trip, plan a few overnight stops at each town in order to truly get to get to know each place and the unbelievable nature that surrounds them.
Where to Next?
Check out further itineraries taking you deeper into the Southwest
- Utah-Arizona Road Trip for Desert-Lovers – continue westward towards Canyonlands and Moab to swap mountains for desert in this exciting and adventurous drive through some of the most fascinating rock formations and National Parks in the US.
- For more Colorado inspiration, check out the most incredible places you need to visit in Colorado.
Top Tips for a Colorado Road Trip
Before setting out on a Colorado road trip, there are a few things to be aware of:
- A scenic drive through Colorado involves a lot of mountain driving; expect steep hills, blind corners, and low shoulders. You can come across extreme weather, too, including black ice, high winds, and even rockslides. Before you set out, check current road conditions with COtrip.org.
- June through September is the best time to visit Colorado for warm days and mild evenings. The shoulder seasons in Spring and Fall are undoubtedly less crowded and bring some stunning colors, but can bring unpredictable weather. Meanwhile, winter in Colorado can be a magical wonderland but as it’s all about the snow, involves a very different itinerary.
- We strongly recommend our road-tripping families will get great value from investing in an America the Beautiful annual pass. At just $80 for 12 months of visits, it’s one of the best investments a traveling family can make; otherwise, you’ll be paying entry fees at Rocky Mountain National Park and Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
- Starting your journey from Denver? Check out the cheapest rental car options here or consider taking your accommodation with you and hire an RV with Outdoorsy.
- Never forget an essential item again on your next road trip! Check out our Ultimate Family Road Trip checklist over here with downloadable packing list you can tick off as you go.
We hope this itinerary helped you plan a perfect Colorado road trip. Even though getting to see everything this fascinating state has to offer would take a lifetime, these are some of the best destinations to visit to experience the very best the Centennial State has to offer in just one week.