Mountain Town Adventures Near Denver
Of all the great things Denver has to offer, the greatest may be its ability to serve as a base camp for incredible one-day excursions. Denver offers quick, easy access to the state’s biggest attraction, the Rocky Mountains, where a wealth of national and state parks, national forests and scenic areas fill your senses.
Central City and Black Hawk
I-70 West, Exit 243
Once called the "Richest Square Mile on Earth", Central City and Black Hawk are two historic old mining towns from the 1870's that have come alive. The two towns offer more than 30 casinos with over 10,000 slot machines, blackjack tables and poker games. In 2009, the stakes in Black Hawk were raised - betting limits are now $100, craps and roulette tables have been added and casinos are open 24 hours a day. In other words, a fun mountain town just got a lot more fun. The two cities are also known for having some of the best-preserved Victorian architecture in the West. Other attractions include the Teller House Hotel where President Grant once stayed and the Central City Opera House, which still features an outstanding summer season of opera. There are mine tours, mining museums and several places offering instruction in the fine art of gold panning in streams where a half billion dollars of the coveted, shiny metal was found.
I-70 West, Exit 228
Located just 42 miles (68 km) west of Denver, Georgetown is a delightful Victorian village set in a spectacular mountain valley with 200 restored buildings from the 1870's. The main street has shops and restaurants and many of the old homes have been turned into antique stores. The Georgetown Loop Railroad operates in the summer months with narrow gauge steam locomotives curling down a mountain ledge, at one point crossing over a 90-foot (27 m) high trestle.
I-70 West, Mount Evans Exit
Mount Evans has the highest paved auto road in North America snaking its way to the 14,260-foot (4,346 m) summit. The road ($10 for a three-day pass) is open only from the Friday before Memorial Day through the first Monday in October, and frequently has snow on it, even in August. (The road closes at Summit Lake after Labor Day, preventing you from reaching the top). The view from the top takes in the entire Front Range. The summit is 60 miles (97 km) from downtown Denver. On your way up the mountain, be sure to stop at M. Walter Pesman Trail (maintained by Denver Botanic Gardens) for a wildflower hike; you won't see anything like the rare flowers and 1,500-year-old bristlecone pine trees anywhere else in the world. The trail winds through subalpine and alpine areas where wildflowers and animals of the fragile tundra live. Volunteer guides from Denver Botanic Gardens give interpreted hikes that follow the trail throughout the summer (call 720-865-3539 for information).
Pikes Peak Country
I-25 South towards Colorado Springs
Pikes Peak Country is located 60 miles (97 km) south of Denver and features more than 40 attractions centered around 14,000-foot (4,267 m) high Pikes Peak. Things to see include the Air Force Academy, one of three United States military colleges; the famous Broadmoor Resort with its lake and three golf courses; the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame with its exhibits on this exciting professional sport; and Garden of the Gods which has gigantic 500-foot (152 m) high red sandstone rock monuments at the base of Pikes Peak.
Rocky Mountain National Park & Estes Park
U.S. 36 West towards Estes Park
Located 71 miles (114 km) northwest of Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park features 400 square miles (1,036 sq km) of scenic beauty, including Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the world crossing the Continental Divide at over two miles above sea level. The park has two information centers, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, tranquil lakes, waterfalls, wildlife and horseback riding. Estes Park is a resort town on the edge of the park with restaurants and shops.
Colorado Ski Country: Summit County & Vail / Beaver Creek
Summit County offers some of the world's best skiing, just a little more than an hour west of Denver. But the area is also a splendid summer resort destination. Breckenridge National Historic District is a 130-year-old gold mining town filled with colorful Victorian buildings which now house shops, cafes and restaurants. Copper Mountain is a modern ski and summer resort offering all forms of outdoor recreation, from golf to tennis to snowboarding and cross country skiing. Dillon/Silverthorne is a lovely town built on the shores of Lake Dillon. The area offers factory outlet shopping in more than 100 stores. Frisco is yet another old Victorian mining town that has been restored, but still retains its Old West atmosphere. Keystone is a year-round resort that offers all kinds outdoor adventure, along with five-star dining. Vail is just a short drive from Summit County. This world famous resort offers a pedestrian village lined with shops and outdoor cafes, as well as the largest ski mountain in North America.
I-70 West to Exit 232, to Hwy. 40
Colorado's favorite ski resort is owned by the City of Denver and is one of the largest ski resorts in the state. Located in a lovely mountain setting, this year-round resort is as delightful in summer as in winter. During ski season, Winter Park Resort boasts 350 inches of annual snowfall. However, just because you can count on good snow doesn't mean you should expect to ski in blizzard conditions. On average, Winter Park has 106 days of sunshine during the ski season -- or approximately 70 percent of the season is sunny! The three interconnected mountains and high alpine bowl are spread out over 134 designated trails on 2,886 acres served by a network of 22 chairlifts. Summer attractions include Colorado's longest Alpine Slide, the GyroXtreme, scenic chairlift rides on the Zephyr Express chairlift and mountain biking galore.
South Park / Fairplay
100 4th St., Fairplay
Some of the best river and lake fishing in Colorado is found here, with the South Platte feeding into Antero, Spinney and Elevenmile reservoirs. Snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross country skiing are all popular winter activities in South Park. South Park City Museum is a remarkable restoration of a 19th century Colorado mining town. Wildlife viewing is a nonstop attraction, with antelope, mule deer, elk, and more often spotted. Ghost towns abound in the area surrounding South Park, offering a glimpse into forgotten Colorado history.
Royal Gorge & Cañon City
330 Royal Gorge Blvd., Cañon City
Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is the world's largest suspension bridge, spanning the Arkansas River at a height of 1,050 feet/320 meters. Admission includes an aerial tram trip and rides on the world's steepest incline railway to the bottom of the gorge. The Royal Gorge Railroad is a 24-mile round trip train ride through the base of Royal Gorge on a route that has been called the "most arresting scenic site in all of American railroading." Rafting on the Arkansas River is conducted by numerous companies offering rafting and kayaking on one of the best stretches of river in the state.