This Summer, Choose a Road Trip for your Colorado Vacation!
Summer vacation makes a lot of people think road trip, and there’s no better place for a road trip than the Rocky Mountains. Driving means you’ll have access to parts of the Rockies that cannot be reached on public transportation (of which there are many), and it gives you the freedom to stop at that quirky roadside café or that little-know camping spot. Pack up the car and grab a map! While you could spend an entire summer exploring the Rockies from north to south, you won’t miss out on the great road trips through Colorado.
Here are just a few fantastic options:
Northern Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park)
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the top attractions in the Colorado Rockies, and a road trip is the perfect way to explore its 415 square miles. Camp in the park or lodge in nearby Estes Park as you take in the scenic beauty around you. Take advantage of your vehicle and explore Trail Ridge Road, which epitomizes the grandeur of the park – rising over 12,000 feet in elevation, a drive on Trail Ridge Road will give you access to sweeping vistas, abundant wildlife, an array of hiking trails, and more.
To turn your visit into a road trip, take Highway 25 through Fort Collins where you’ll have a chance to explore the vibrant downtown. Then head to Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. When you’ve finished exploring the mountains, meadows and waterfalls, continue west to Granby – home to Colorado’s largest natural lake. Beyond Granby, you’ll hit the town of Kremmling, the launch for float trips on the Colorado River. Past Kremmling, you can choose to head southwest to the famous resort towns of Vail and Beaver Creek or northwest to Steamboat Springs. Either way, you’ll have plenty of scenic driving and fun activities to occupy your time on the road!
East to West (Interstate 70)
Interstate 70 is the main east-west artery through Colorado, providing access to numerous Rocky Mountain resorts as well as the capitol city of Denver. It’s the perfect way to see Colorado without worrying about getting lost! Starting in eastern Colorado, you probably won’t realize that you are gaining elevation until you reach Denver. Stop in Denver to explore the urban attractions from professional sports teams to theatre to concerts at Red Rocks amphitheatre. Rest and refuel with world class lodging and dining options before continuing your trek west.
Midway through the state, you’ll encounter some of the top resorts in the country. Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, Vail, and Beaver Creek sit right along the i70 corridor and provide endless options for activities, lodging, dining, shopping, or just relaxing no matter what time of year you visit. While many people associate these names with skiing and snowboarding, the summer months offer mountain biking, hiking, whitewater rafting, ziplining and more.
Further west, you’ll encounter Glenwood Springs, home to some of the best hot springs in the state. In addition, Glenwood sits along a stunning red rock canyon that offers a myriad of summer activities. Don’t miss the hike to spectacular Hanging Lake, and consider stopping into the hot springs to soak those sore muscles afterwards.
North to South (Highway 285)
If you’re looking to experience the hidden side of the Colorado Rockies, consider going north to south, where the smaller state highways lead to tiny mountain towns, rural farms, and 14,000 foot peaks. Highway 285 starts out heading west from the Denver area, but you’ll quickly leave the suburbs behind as you wind your way through various state parks. Near Breckenridge, 285 cuts abruptly south, taking you to the town of Buena Vista where world class whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking set the tone. If you’ve got time, detour north on highway 24 to the Collegiate Peaks, a range of 14,000 foot mountains, and the Arkansas River valley.
As Highway 285 continues south, you’ll also want to take a quick trip east to Great Sand Dunes National Preserve, where the natural sand dunes provide a stunning landscape against the surrounding peaks. Consider taking advantage of the camping at the dunes, as well. South past Alamosa, 285 will bring you into northern New Mexico and the Taos area, but if you want to stay in Colorado, consider heading west on Highway 160, which will take you to Durango where you can explore the unparalleled wilderness of San Juan National Forest and the awe-inspiring cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park.
Of course, there are an infinite number of options for road trips in Colorado. Before plotting a route, decide what you want to see and check out the list of Colorado scenic byways. You may also want to think about the activities that are available in a given area. Call AVA Rafting for help finding the perfect activities on your next summer road trip through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado!