July 22  |  Our Communities


The Ultimate 7-Day Colorado Road Trip Itinerary

While traveling by airplane affords many opportunities to reach far-off destinations in a matter of hours, there’s nothing quite like exploring an area by car. On four wheels, you can control the speed, stop where and when you want, and meander along any side streets your heart desires.

Not to mention, there is so much to see right here in Colorado, from towering peaks to deep canyons, and sparkling lakes to winding rivers. Swap your plane tickets for a full tank of gas and hit the pavement for the Colorado road trip of a lifetime!

We created an extensive (and ambitious!) itinerary circling the western portion of the state, starting and ending in Fort Collins, so you could see as much of beautiful Colorado as possible. You can complete the loop in just seven days if you only have a week to spare, or you can take a more leisurely pace and draw it out over the course of several weeks. And if your schedule doesn’t allow, each destination on this list is worthy of a long weekend getaway, too. It’s really up to you!

Stops along the way include:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Glenwood Springs
  • Colorado Wine Country
  • Ouray + Telluride
  • Durango
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Garden of the Gods
  • And more!

However you wish to approach it, we hope you enjoy your own personalized tour of our beautiful state!

 

DAY ONE

Colorado Road Trip | Rocky Mountain National Park

Drive From Fort Collins to Rocky Mountain National Park

Approximate Drive Time: 1 Hour, 15 Minutes

Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Start in Fort Collins (or elsewhere in Northern Colorado!), and make your way west to Rocky Mountain National Park for a day of outdoor exploration. Whether you like hiking, biking, camping or wildlife viewing, there’s something for you to do at this massive 415-square-mile park. One of the best ways to explore the park is by hiking along a few of its 300+ miles of trails. Overwhelmed? Here are a few of our favorite hiking trails in the Estes Park area. NOTE: At this time, RMNP is requiring reservations at all areas in the park. Get more information here.

Explore Estes Park

Refuel before or after your hiking adventure in Estes Park, which has plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, shops and more to do. Consult our guide for things to do in Estes Park — and our kid-specific guide as well! — to enhance your trip. Of course, don’t miss The Stanley Hotel, the historic and potentially haunted hotel that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining!

Stay in the Estes Park Area

Unless you’re up for staying amongst the ghosts at The Stanley, book your stay at one of these unique getaways in the Estes Park area, which includes everything from tiny homes to treehouses.

 

DAY TWO

Glenwood Hot Springs Resort

Photo Courtesy of Glenwood Hot Springs Resort

Drive From Estes Park to Glenwood Springs

Approximate Drive Time: 4 Hours

Stop in Grand Lake

Drive along Trail Ridge Road, one of the most scenic drives in Northern Colorado, for a slower yet more scenic experience. Towards the beginning of your drive, you’ll pass by Grand Lake, which is on the other side of RMNP (about an hour and a half away). Grand Lake is a quaint, historic town surrounding a large natural lake with the same name. The lake is known for its incredible views and water sports. It is actually the largest and deepest natural lake in the entire state! Visitors head to Grand Lake in the summer for kayaking, boating, fishing, swimming and much more.

Stop for a cup of coffee and breakfast at The Hub, followed by a stroll along the lake. Head to Point Park for the best view of Mount Craig, also known as Mount Baldy, a distinctive 12,007-foot peak. Learn more about Grand Lake in our list of Incredible Lakes to Visit in Northern Colorado!

Pass By Hot Sulphur Springs

You’ll also pass by Hot Sulphur Springs, if you want to pause for a dip in the hot springs! But don’t worry if you’re pressed on time — there will be plenty of hot springs where you’re going.

Stay in Glenwood Springs

Once you reach Glenwood Springs, check into Glenwood Hot Springs Resort for the ultimate luxurious experience. One of Colorado’s most popular hot springs pools, Glenwood Hot Springs offers two large outdoor mineral pools. The cooler of the two has two water slides and swimming lanes, while the warmer has massage chairs for optimal relaxation. Alongside family entertainment, you can enjoy a spa treatment or just bask in the relaxing water nestled in the mountain surroundings. For more information (and a few other accommodation options in Glenwood Springs!), check out our guide to Colorado hot springs.

 

DAY THREE

Colorado Road Trip | Palisade, CO

Photo Courtesy of Visit Palisade

Drive From Glenwood Springs to Grand Junction

Approximate Drive Time: 1 Hour, 20 Minutes

After a relaxing stay amongst the hot springs, make your way to Grand Junction, which is only about an hour and 20 minutes away. You’re in for another day of relaxation and sightseeing!

Visit the Colorado National Monument

Start your visit to Grand Junction by exploring Colorado National Monument, which preserves one of the grand landscapes of the American West. Here, you’ll find sheer-walled, red rock canyons and rock formations composed of granite, gneiss and schist. See it all by taking a drive along the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive, which winds up switchbacks onto mesa tops and along the canyon walls, then descends into the valley below.

Sip Wine in Colorado Wine Country

Backtrack a bit (it’s only a few miles!) to Palisade, which is packed with over a dozen wineries. Known as Colorado Wine Country, this area is known for its premier wineries; in fact, Palisade houses two-thirds of Colorado’s vineyard acreage and more than one-quarter of the state’s wineries. Take a look at all the wineries in the area and plan your very own tasting adventure.

Stay in Palisade

Top off your winery experience by staying amongst the vineyards! Book your stay at Wine Country Inn in Palisade, a luxurious yet relatively affordable place to stay in Colorado Wine Country.

 

DAY FOUR

Colorado Road Trip | Telluride, CO

Drive From Grand Junction to Ouray

Approximate Drive Time: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes

Pass Through Montrose to See Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

A little more than halfway through your drive, you’ll pass through Montrose, which is home to Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park. Here, you’ll encounter some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock and craggiest spires in North America. Over the course of 2 million years, the Gunnison River below has sculpted the rock to create an awe-inspiring display for visitors. This is the perfect place to stretch your legs and snap a picture!

Explore Ouray

Next, you’ll drive about 45 minutes south along US-50 East to reach Ouray, a tiny Gold Rush town known as the Switzerland of America and the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Colorado. Surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, Ouray has breathtaking scenery and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, including Jeep tours (Oh! It’s also known as the Jeeping Capital of the World!). And because it’s Colorado, there are plenty of natural hot springs in the area, including Ouray Hot Springs, Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings or Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs.

Stop by Telluride

If time allows, go off the beaten path a bit to reach Telluride, which is about an hour away — but much closer as the crow flies. Take a stroll through Telluride’s adorable Main Street, take a ride on the free Telluride Mountain Village Gondola for incredible views, and do one of the many outdoor adventures available in the area.

Stay in Ouray or Telluride

Whether you spend the whole day in Ouray or make your way to Telluride, there are plenty of places to stay in these adorable mountain ski towns. Ouray is overall less expensive as far as accommodations go, so you might consider the Beaumont Hotel in Ouray, a lovely restored hotel originally built in 1886 — or any of the hot springs resorts mentioned above.

 

DAY FIVE

Visit Durango, CO

Drive From Ouray to Durango

Approximate Drive Time: 1 Hour, 45 Minutes

Pass Through Silverton

Travel just under 2 hours to reach Durango. Along the way, you’ll pass through Silverton and the San Juan National Forest, providing the perfect mix of food options and gorgeous scenery. You can even hop on board the Cascade Canyon Express!

Explore Durango

Spend a few hours exploring Durango, but preserve some time and energy at the end of your day for one of the largest stretches of driving on this road trip. As both a college town and small mountain village, Durango has plenty of live music, theater, arts, food and drink options to unwind after a day on the slopes during the winter — or a day in the car during the summer. Explore the town then make your way to Mesa Verde National Park, one of only 20 World Heritage sites in the country. Here, you can take a ranger-guided tour of cliff dwellings or embark on your own hike to take in your surroundings at your own pace.

Stay in Durango

Book your stay at Strater Hotel, a historic hotel situated in the heart of downtown Durango. Built in 1887, the hotel has 88 unique guest rooms, plus its very own theatre, restaurant, saloon, and spa.

 

DAY SIX

Colorado Road Trip | Great Sand Dunes National Park CO

Drive From Durango to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Approximate Drive Time: 3 Hours, 15 Minutes

This is a big driving day, so we recommend getting an early start! Plus, the sooner you get to Great Sand Dunes National Park, the less crowded — and hot — it will be.

Explore Great Sand Dunes National Park

Bring plenty of water, snacks and sunscreen for this unique adventure. Great Sand Dunes National Park spans more than 30 miles and contains more than 5 billion cubic meters of sand, making it the largest “sandbox” in North America. Here, visitors come year-round to hike up and then ski, sled or snowboard down these massive dunes. If you’d like to join in on the fun, be sure to bring your own equipment!

Drive From Great Sand Dunes National Park to Colorado Springs

Approximate Drive Time: 2 Hours, 30 Minutes

Pass Through Pueblo

On your way from the dunes to the Springs, you’ll pass through Pueblo. If time allows for a quick pitstop to stretch your legs, you can take a stroll through the Union Avenue Historic District, visit the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk, or see art at the outdoor Neon Alley.

Stay in Colorado Springs

Rest your head in Colorado Springs after a busy day. For a truly luxurious end to your road trip, book your stay at Glen Eyrie Castle, an English Tudor-style castle with 17 guest rooms built in 1871.

 

DAY SEVEN

Colorado Road Trip | Garden of the Gods

Explore Colorado Springs

You’re in for another outdoorsy day! Walk through Garden of the Gods, which was voted the #1 City Park in the USA. Here, you can climb, hike, hop on a Jeep tour, and gaze at the awe-inspiring, towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Next, reach the top of Pikes Peak by car (or by train, when the Pikes Peak Cog Railway reopens in 2021!). Go off the beaten path a bit to Manitou Springs — specifically, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, a group of relocated Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and museums that have been here since the early 1900s.

Drive From Colorado Springs to Fort Collins

Approximate Drive Time: 2 Hours, 15 Minutes

Pass Through Denver

If you have enough energy (and time!) make a stop in Denver for the perfect finale to your road trip. If you want to continue the outdoor recreation theme, stretch your legs at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Or pick up a cone of ice cream from Little Man Ice Cream or a growler to-go at any of the city’s breweries (Denver Beer Co. and Prost Brewing are both near Little Man Ice Cream!). But don’t worry if you don’t have time to stop for beer — there’s plenty more of that where you’re going!

Arrive at Home

You made it! You traversed nearly 1,000 miles across our beautiful state, clocking in almost 18 hours of total drive time. You deserve a good night’s sleep after such an incredible adventure!

 

That’s a Wrap

What stops would you add along the way? Let us know about your favorite restaurant, museum, brewery, trail or other must-do activity along this path.


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