Colorado is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the country. Busy metropolitan cities, gorgeous mountains, cooperative neighborhoods, wide swaths of farmland, hip college towns, up-and-coming hot spots, and more all have a place in this diverse state.
Whether you want to make friends, enjoy incredible scenery, get out in nature, or learn more about the history of this state, we’ve got you covered on our gorgeous Colorado road trip — and you might just discover some new favorite stops along the way.
Denver Union Station
Starting your road trip in Denver is a great idea. And since you’re at the beginning of your transportation adventure, visiting the Denver Union Station will get your mental wheels rolling in the right direction, too. This beautifully restored historic transit station, sometimes called “Denver’s Living Room,” has been a hub for downtown activity for years and is treasured by visitors and locals alike.
Its eateries feature a James Beard Award-winning chef, awesome pizza, creative ice cream, innovative tapas, fabulous cocktails, and more. There are lots of shops featuring local crafts, creative gifts, apparel, books, baubles, and fun souvenirs. If you really fall in love with the place, you can stay at the luxe Crawford Hotel conveniently located right at the station.
Start your gorgeous road trip with this precious piece of history that now breathes new life into the heart of Denver’s busy downtown.
Denver Botanic Gardens
Once you’ve enjoyed the hum of downtown Denver, you can experience the tranquility of nature at the magnificent Denver Botanic Gardens. Get out of your car and wander through some of the 24 acres of diverse gardens that highlight local, international, ornamental, shade, and water plants and flowers.
You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Giverny at the huge Monet Pool filled with water lilies. Peak bloom is from June through September, and an annual Water Blossom Festival is celebrated in August. The Science Pyramid offers a unique way to learn more about the interconnection of people and landscapes. Enjoy bonsai and tea gardens and an authentic Japanese Tea Ceremony House, and register for a traditional tea ceremony experience. Other exhibits and collections delve into natural history, art, and science. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll be able to explore the Tropical Conservatory, with one of the world’s most unique collections of exotic plants. Even though you’re still in Denver, you’ll feel like you are exploring all over the world.
You likely won’t find the town of Larkspur on most tourist itineraries, so we’re going to be the ones to tell you to add it to your list. This town of fewer than 200 people is tiny, but mighty fun.
If you like to take the winding road, you might just find yourself driving through farmland. We went to visit friends of ours who were growing lots of heirloom tomatoes. They exchanged tomatoes for fresh goat’s milk cheese from one neighbor and alpaca fertilizer from another. Of course, we had to visit both the goats and the alpacas, and we had a lot of fun.
If you enjoy being around animals or crave a gorgeous round of golf, book a local farm stay or head over to The Golf Club at Bear Dance for spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains.
The Colorado Renaissance Festival offers a touch of medieval magic with strolling musicians, artisan crafters, and costumed revelers bringing the colorful past to life. Chew on a giant roasted turkey leg and tasty apple dumplings and wash it down with an ice-cold mead, or choose from the many food and beverage choices fit for royalty. There’s plenty of entertainment to keep you busy, including stage shows, jousting, music, and more.
Another hidden gem, Evergreen is a great place to encounter the beauty of nature. If you want to get out and stretch your legs, the Evergreen Lake Trail offers an easy loop with gorgeous lake views. Nature lovers can visit the Evergreen Audubon and Nature Center or go fishing, hiking, or biking when it’s warm out. Fly-fishing is available year-round, and ice fishing, skating, and other winter activities are popular on Evergreen Lake. Be on the lookout for the elk, which pop into view as you drive through the woodlands of this beautiful spot that lives up to its name.
Evergreen is also rich in history. The Hiwan Homestead Museum is a 25-room log mansion that covers local history and Native American culture. Of course, since you’re on a road trip, you might just want to hop on the Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway, where you can drive along the historic route traveled by early drivers in the 1920s, when the automobile was first taking hold.
And don’t miss downtown Evergreen, where you can check out a Main Street full of boutiques and specialty shops, restaurants, bistros, coffee shops, and even a local winery.
Pearl Street, Boulder
Boulder is a welcoming and diverse community with so much to do that you could easily spend several days just soaking in the vibe, tasting the amazing food, enjoying the gorgeous scenery, and visiting the local attractions.
But however long your gorgeous Colorado road trip is, you’ll want to spend time on Pearl Street, the heart and soul of Boulder. This historic downtown district makes for a fun and lively scene. Street performers and live music fill the space. Galleries, artisan shops, and outdoor art displays provide plenty for art lovers. Hunt for bargains or unique items at the many retail shops featuring books, crafts, apparel, sporting goods, art, and even soft alpaca items.
There are more than 120 cuisine options for just about every taste, as well as delightful spots at which to try local wine, beer, cider, and even mead. If you’re a tea lover, you’ll want to visit the incredible Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, not only for the wonderful refreshments but also to see the incredible decorative handiwork created by 40 Tajik artisans.
Flatirons Vista Scenic Drive
The Flatirons are one of the most unique features of Boulder. The striking sandstone formations jut out from the foothills and are nearly 300 million years old.
There are several ways to view the Flatirons. You can walk one of the many trails that will lead you to and through them. You can go for a daring adventure by rock-climbing them. Or you can pack a picnic and enjoy a view from Chautauqua Park.
But since we’re on a gorgeous road trip, we recommend taking the Flatirons Vista Scenic Drive. You can enjoy great views of the incredible scenery and see the huge wind turbines of the National Wind Technology Center. Be sure to stop on a hilltop and take in the panoramic views of the open farmlands below. If you want to stop at the Flatirons Vista Trailhead, you can hop out and for a bit of a hike. Or just take in a view of the Rocky Mountains and head back to Boulder, enjoying the loop drive in under an hour.
For a great finish to your Colorado road trip, you’ll want to spend some time exploring Fort Collins. This town has a lot going for it, but it hasn’t become overcrowded or overpriced like other towns in the area. It retains a bit of its rustic roots, while at the same time offering the type of attractions and activities that we love.
Every beverage that you can imagine is taken seriously here — so seriously, in fact, that Fort Collins hosted the first Liquid Arts Research Forum for students and professionals. Visit The Whisk(e)y to explore their 1800+ whiskeys. Anheuser-Busch also has a brewery here, where you can take a tour, enjoy some samples, and meet their gorgeous Clydesdale horses.
The local restaurants offer incredible ethnic fare, charcuterie boards, Colorado-style pizza, seafood, fine dining, and more. Fresh local produce and innovative dishes ensure quality reigns supreme, and places like The Farmhouse at Jessup Farm manage everything from start to finish. More than 70 food trucks rove the streets, and summer events on Tuesday and Thursday evenings bring the trucks together, to the delight of foodies.
Shopping, arts, culture, outdoor activities, and entertainment are plentiful, too. Spend a night or two at one of the many interesting accommodation options, like the historic Edwards House, so you don’t have to rush through this fabulous town.
Pro Tip: One of the most enjoyable parts of a gorgeous Colorado road trip is appreciating the scenic views all along the way. The towns are fun and incredible to visit, but don’t speed along from place to place. Take a comfortable vehicle loaded with snacks, water, and all your basic needs. Go slowly and treasure the beauty around you. This is one road trip where the destinations are great, but the journey really makes the trip worthwhile.