Denver serves as an excellent gateway to the wonders of the nearby Rocky Mountains. Here are just a handful of must-see attractions, gorgeous drives and mountain town adventures, all within two hours of The Mile High City. Make Denver your basecamp for exciting day trips.
Distance from Denver: 23 miles (37 km)
16831 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison
Dinosaur Ridge is a famous natural landmark, located along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, near Morrison, Colorado. It features famous Jurassic dinosaur bones, such as Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus, discovered in 1877, and Cretaceous dinosaur footprints. A guidebook is available for use on self-guided tours and guided tours can be arranged through the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge.
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
Distance from Denver: 25 miles (40 km)
18300 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison
A picture perfect setting with flawless all-natural acoustics 70 million years in the making, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is a true Colorado original. In addition to its blockbuster summer concert series (everyone from the Beatles to U2 have played here), Red Rocks is open year-round, featuring the Red Rocks Performers Hall of Fame and the Trading Post Loop Hiking Trail, a 1.4-mile adventure through spectacular rock formations, valleys and a natural meadow.
Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave
Distance from Denver: 25 miles (40 km)
987 1/2 Lookout Mountain, Golden
One of the most famous cowboys to ever ride the range, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody epitomized the Old West. Upon his request he was buried atop Lookout Mountain, a site boasting one of the best views in all of Colorado. The Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave, which opened in 1921, offers a look into life in the Old West, with exhibits on Buffalo Bill's life, the Wild West shows, Indian artifacts including Sitting Bull's bows and arrows, Western art, and firearms.
American Mountaineering Museum
Distance from Denver: 27 miles (43 km)
710 10th St., Golden
The American Mountaineering Museum is a "must-stop" new attraction on your way to the mountains! From 14ers to Everest, experience mountaineering through interactive exhibits and high tech displays. Cross a crevasse, pick your route up Everest, and follow the footsteps of famous climbers as you prepare to hike in Colorado!
Lariat Loop Scenic & Historic Byway
Distance from Denver: 27 miles (43 km)
PO Box 356, Golden
The Lariat Loop is a 40-mile scenic circle in the foothills west of Denver, Colorado connecting the communities of Golden, Morrison, Lookout Mountain, and Evergreen. On the Loop, motorists encounter more than a dozen enchanting historical attractions, including the Colorado Railroad Museum, Boettcher Mansion, Lookout Mountain Nature Center, Mother Cabrini Shrine and The Fort Restaurant.
Distance from Denver: 29 miles (47 km)
13th & Ford, Golden
The legendary Coors Brewery in Golden can brew up to 22 million barrels and package up to 16 million barrels annually, making it the biggest single-site brewer in the world. Take a free 30-minute, self-paced tour of the brewhouse, malthouse and packaging complex to view firsthand how more than 100 work teams make some of the most popular beer in the world.
Wild Animal Sanctuary
Distance from Denver: 30 miles (48 km)
1946 County Rd. 53, Keenesburg
Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My! Visit this 320-acre rescue and educational facility, located just 30 miles outside of Denver, where more than 300 large carnivores roam free. The Wild Animal Sanctuary is one of the only places in America where you can see lion prides and groups of other carnivores living in natural habitats.
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
Distance from Denver: 31 miles (50 km)
1850 Table Mesa Dr., Boulder
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is the world's foremost attraction for learning about the 21st century's hottest topic: climate change. The NCAR lab is open to the public free of charge seven days a week, and offers a wide array of hands-on educational exhibits that visitors are welcome to explore on their own, on a guided tour, or with an audio tour.
Central City and Black Hawk
Distance from Denver: 40 miles (64 km)
Take I-70 west and Exit 243 onto Central City Pkwy.
Central City and Black Hawk are home to more than 30 casinos with blackjack tables, craps, roulette, poker games and more than 10,000 slot machines. In 2009, gambling stakes were raised to $100, to the delight of high rollers, and casinos began opening their doors 24 hours a day. The two cities are also known for having some of the best-preserved Victorian architecture in the West.
Georgetown Loop Railroad
Distance from Denver: 54 miles (87 km)
507 Taos St., Georgetown
The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a reconstruction of one of Colorado's most famous railroads, which was originally built in 1877. Steam-powered locomotives make the climb up the valley and across Devil's Gate Bridge, giving riders panoramic views, and a glimpse into Colorado's railroad-centric past. From the open air viewing cars it is possible to see big horn sheep and other wildlife.
Mount Evans Scenic Byway
Distance from Denver: 60 miles (97 km)
West on US Interstate 70 to Idaho Springs to the "Mt. Evans" exit (#240)
Mount Evans Scenic Byway is 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 Memorial Day through Labor Day, and frequently has snow on it, even in August. 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.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance from Denver: 71 miles (114 km)
Take I-25 north to Exit 217 US Hwy. 36 west to Estes Park
One of the U.S. National Park System's crown jewels, Rocky Mountain National Park features 400 square miles of scenic beauty, including Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the world, crossing the Continental Divide at more than two miles above sea level. With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, tranquil lakes, waterfalls, wildlife and horseback riding, visiting the Park is a truly unforgettable experience. Estes Park is a resort town on the edge of the park with restaurants and shops.
Mountain Town Adventures Near Denver
Distance from Denver: 42 miles (68 km)
I-70 West, Exit 228
Located west of Denver, Georgetown is a delightful Victorian village set in a spectacular mountain valley with 200 restored buildings from the 1870s. 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-high (27 m) trestle.
Distance from Denver: 28 miles (45 km)
I-70 West, Exit 252
As its name hints, Evergreen is a pine tree-surrounded escape. A picturesque alpine lake is located right in town, with paddleboard, kayak and (in the winter) ice skate rentals available. You'll also want to hike the trails at Alderfer/Three Sisters Park — once a working ranch but now a hiker's paradise — and Flying J Ranch Park — formerly a runway for the area's onetime landowner but now a boon for hikers and bikers, with peaceful meadows, forests and wetlands. Historic downtown Evergreen is nestled right into the area's natural landscape and boasts a number of art galleries, shops and eateries. Spend the day golfing, hiking beautiful nature trails, touring small local musuems, relaxing at day spas or catching a local theater performance.
Pikes Peak Country
Distance from Denver: 60 miles (97 km)
I-25 South towards Colorado Springs
Pikes Peak Country is located south of Denver and features more than 40 attractions centered around 14,000-foot-high (4,267 m) 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, made of naturally formed, 500-foot-high (152 m) red sandstone rock monuments at the base of Pikes Peak.
Colorado Ski Country: Summit County, Vail and Beaver Creek
Distance from Denver: 75 miles (120 km)
I-70 West, Exits 205, 203, 176 and 167
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 is a 130-year-old gold mining town filled with colorful Victorian buildings that 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 pair of towns 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 European-style mountain village lined with shops and outdoor cafes, as well as the largest ski mountain in North America.
Distance from Denver: 65 miles (105 km)
I-70 West to Exit 232, to Hwy. 40
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 more than 29 feet of annual snowfall. It is Colorado’s longest continually operated ski resort featuring over 3,000 acres of award-winning terrain including groomers, terrain parks, bumps, steeps and trees. All of this terrain is strewn across the Seven Territories all accessible on one pass or ticket: Winter Park, Mary Jane, Parsenn Bowl, Vasquez Ridge, the Cirque, Eagle Wind, and the Terrain Parks. Summer attractions include Colorado's longest alpine slide, the GyroXtreme, scenic chairlift rides on the Zephyr Express chairlift and mountain biking galore.
South Park and Fairplay
Distance from Denver: 85 miles (137 km)
US Hwy. 285
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 Fairplay andSouth 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 and Cañon City
Distance from Denver: 130 miles (209 km)
I-25 South to Hwy. 115 and Hwy. 50
Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is the world's largest suspension bridge, spanning the Arkansas River at a height of 956 feet (320 m). Admission includes an aerial tram trip and several rides and attractions. The Royal Gorge Route 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.