3-Day Itinerary for Exploring Colorado in September
Food & Wine
If you want nature, wildlife, food and vistas for days then Colorado in autumn is where you need to be. Most people are familiar with all that Denver has to offer but miss out on all the incredible things you can do within an hour or two drive from the city. Not to mention the fall foliage in Colorado is absolutely breathtaking. Colorado is bursting with adventure around every corner, from Rocky Mountain National Park down to Garden of the Gods and everywhere in between. As long as you have a healthy spirit for adventure and are willing to leave Denver you will have no shortage of awe-inspiring activities.
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Where to stay
Set in downtown Denver, this upscale hotel is within walking distance of Coors Field and Union Station.
Grand Hyatt Denver
High-end hotel boasting a rooftop terrace and onsite restaurant near Denver's 16th Street Mall.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
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Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver
Trendy boutique hotel with colorful rooms and an onsite spa in downtown Denver.
Extended check-in/out whenever possible.
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Day 1: Visit Rocky Mountain National Park
All of my wildlife fans should plan to travel in early September as this is the time of year when most migrations are traveling through Colorado's mountain regions.
If you want to hit the ground running, make sure your flight lands in Denver before noon. This will give you enough time to grab your rental car and head up to Rocky Mountain National Park. It's about a 2-hour drive, but it's totally worth it. Insider tip: Set your GPS for 'Forest Valley Overlook' on Trail Ridge road - if you are lucky you will catch a heard of Elk mid-migration. Truly a sight to behold.
Stop in Estes Park on your way to grab a quick bite to eat. This quaint alpine town gives The Sound of Music vibes. After this adventure, head to the hotel to check-In and for some well-deserved R&R.
If you are still feeling spry grab a bite at Kikis Red Tacos. The famous taste of Mexico is known for its Birra Tacos and tends to sell out. Their hours say open until 6 but they close once they have sold out.
Day 2: Drive up Pikes Peak
Grab a hearty early breakfast at Denver Biscuit Company on Colfax. You want something good in your belly before you embark on your next adventure exploring Pikes Peak.
Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in North America, and the place you are likely to spot the Big Horn Sheep Migration. It's about 90 mins to 2 hours from Denver so best to leave early. Visitors are allowed to drive 2/3 of the way up the mountain on their own, however, due to safety concerns they are required to park on the ridgeline and be transported up the peak by park staff. Trust me you want them to handle this last part of the drive as it is not for the faint of heart.
Once at the summit, the view you get is truly incredible, made better by the fresh apple cider donuts they crank out in the little visitor's center. For the truly adventurous you have the option of hiking back down to the parking lot but be advised it is a moderate to difficult hike not for beginners, small children or people with mobility issues.
Can't decide what to eat for dinner? No biggie just got to Avanti Food & Beverage - a collective eatery with various food concepts under one roof. They offer two bars and an incredible outdoor patio with a view of Coors Field and the Denver skyline.
Day 3: Visit Steamboat Springs
If you are traveling in mid or late September you should consider spending your last day chasing the foliage. Head up to Steamboat Springs for some of the most incredible foliage you have ever seen. It's about 2-2.5 hours from Denver so leave early.
Change your life with a dip in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs - reservations are required so make sure you plan ahead of time. If adventure is more of what you are looking for then rent mountain bikes and test your skills on Buffalo Pass. Tip: check out Christy Sports for bike rentals.
Enjoy a beautiful sunset ride back to Denver for your last evening. If you're feeling fancy, make a dinner reservation at Spuntino for dinner. They are known for their elk tartar and insanely inventive pasta dishes. Get a good night's rest for your trip home the next day.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out The Best Hotels, Restaurants & Things to Do in Curaçao.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Colorado.