Colorado Highlights: A Road Trip
Embark on a journey that will immerse you in the natural wonders and exhilarating activities that make Colorado a true haven for outdoor enthusiasts and explorers. This trip itinerary will take you on an unforgettable odyssey through all four of Colorado's stunning national parks, where majestic mountains, pristine forests and awe-inspiring canyons await. But that's just the beginning – from biking to sandboarding, to soothing hot springs, and indulgent wine tasting experiences. This itinerary is a symphony of diverse experiences that showcases the very best of what Colorado has to offer. Traverse through the vibrant tapestry of landscapes, engage in heart-pounding adventures and savor the finer things in life, all in the enchanting embrace of the Centennial State's beauty. Get ready to paint your memories with the vivid hues of Colorado!
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Where to stay
The Rustic Rook
A cozy and charming boutique hotel, offering a rustic yet elegant ambiance for a relaxing getaway.
The Cliff House at Pikes Peak
Revel in historic elegance and breathtaking scenery at The Cliff House, a charming retreat nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak, where luxurious accommodations, impeccable service, and an enchanting atmosphere combine for an unforgettable stay in Manitou Springs.
The Springs Resort & Spa
A luxurious resort boasting natural hot springs, stunning views, and top-notch spa facilities for ultimate relaxation.
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Day 1: Arrive in Colorado
You arrive in the Denver airport and pick up your rental car. Welcome to the Centennial State! The road trip excitement kicks off as you set out on a scenic drive from Denver to the charming town of Manitou Springs.
Nestled at the base of Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs welcomes you with its quaint streets, unique shops and stunning views.
Start your explorations with a leisurely stroll through the town's historic district. Immerse yourself in the artistic vibes and perhaps indulge in some local crafts and souvenirs. Or jump straight into adventure with an afternoon at Garden of the Gods.
Grab a Burger at the Border Burger Bar and head to check in to your accommodations for the night, The Cliff House at Pikes Peak.
Day 2: Pikes Peak
Today, you have the exciting opportunity to conquer Pikes Peak, one of Colorado's iconic Fourteeners, offering breathtaking vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see. Get ready to choose your preferred mode of ascent: hike, bike or the historic cog rail.
After taking in the stunning panoramic views of Pike’s Peak, your Colorado journey continues south. A 2.5-hour drive lands you at your home for the night— The Rustic Rook. Order a grill pack or pick up some goodies along your drive to throw on one of the resort’s grills for dinner. While you grill, share travel stories with new friends. Then, enjoy s’mores by the campfire before tucking into your cozy tent.
Day 3: Great Sand Dunes National Park
After yummy breakfast burritos from the Rustic Rook, get ready to trade mountain peaks for rolling dunes as you embark on an unforgettable journey to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by a surreal sight – towering sand dunes against a backdrop of majestic mountains.
For thrill-seekers, sandboarding and sledding down the dunes is an absolute must. Rent a sandboard or sled and experience the exhilarating rush of gliding down the sandy slopes. Kick off your shoes and wade into the shallow waters, basking in the sun and the refreshing flow of the Medena Creek.
Continue your scenic Colorado driving along Rt. 160 to Pagosa Springs. Check in to The Springs and soothe your muscles with a dip in the natural hot springs.
Day 4-5: Mesa Verde
Up and at 'em' early for a 2-hour drive to Mesa Verde National Park, with a pit stop in Durango to stock up on snacks and even a picnic lunch.
Get ready to step back in time and uncover the mysteries of an ancient civilization as you venture into the captivating Mesa Verde National Park. Today's adventure promises a fascinating exploration of the remarkable cliff dwellings that have stood for centuries.
There is the option to join a guided tour to explore the magnificent Cliff Palace, the largest and most iconic cliff dwelling in the park. Or, for the more adventurous, the Balcony House Tour, in which you climb ladders, crawl through tunnels and step onto narrow ledges as you venture into this well-preserved cliff-dwelling.
Head Back into the town of Durango for a stroll down Main Street and dinner.
Finally, call it a night at The Rochester.
Day 6: Dollar Highway to Black Canyon
Travel along Million Dollar Highway to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Stop in Silverton for coffee and a blacksmith lesson. Continue to Ouray for lunch and explore. Visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison, hike or enjoy rim views. Stay in Palisade.
Day 7: Bike on Palisade's fruit and wine byway
Bike on Palisade's Fruit and Wine Byway, visit wineries and farmstands. Return to Spoke and Vine.
Day 8: Drive to Vail
Drive to Vail, have lunch, explore then head to Breckenridge. Take the gondola, Alpine slide, visit Isak Heartstone Troll. Explore Breckenridge's downtown. Check in to Hotel Indigo Silverthorne.
Day 9: Hike day
Hike a 14er or St. Mary's Glacier. Drive to Estes Park, explore downtown. Stay at The Stanley.
Day 10: Rock climbing
Rock climbing lesson with Colorado Mountain School. Head to Boulder, enjoy lunch on Pearl Street, explore. Drive to Golden, check in to The Eddy.
Day 11: Multiple activities
Choose from various activities: Red Rocks Concert, tubing, Coors Factory Tour, explore Denver, Meow Wolf and/or Rockies Game.
Day 12: Depart from Denver Airport
Depart from Denver Airport, reflecting on your Colorado journey.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Awilda Rivera’s guide, 3-Day Itinerary for Exploring Colorado in September.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Colorado.