The stunning and diverse landscape of Colorado makes it an ideal place for road trips. From its iconic mountains to its delightful hidden gems, our state has a lot of exciting places to discover. If you are planning on exploring Colorado this summer, here are seven routes to consider journeying:
Royal Gorge Bridge – Bishop Castle – Great Sand Dunes
Just three hours south of us are a few rare and picturesque sites unique to Colorado; a one of a kind forest castle and sprawling sand dunes from the last glacial period, as well as the country’s highest suspension bridge. Start by crossing the famous Royal Gorge Bridge in Cañon City, and continue southeast until you reach Bishop Castle. Originally conceived as a family vacation home by hobbyist builder Jim Bishop, the large stone castle is now a tourist attraction that is free and open to the public daily.
Continue your trip by heading southwest to Great Sand Dunes National Park, which includes sand dunes, wetlands, lakes, and a tundra region. Hike through the park’s various terrain and gaze at the stars and Milky Way galaxy upon nightfall.
Independence Pass – Aspen – Maroon Bells
Looking for something further west? Try heading over to one of Colorado’s most popular vacation destinations. Drive west along Highway 82 and across Independence Pass, with an elevation of over 12,000 feet, until you reach the beautiful resort town of Aspen. Enjoy a variety of outdoor recreation and cultural events, and stay in one of several luxury hotels and spas. Finally, make your way to Maroon Bells, the scenic climbing area featuring two of the state’s fourteeners.
Salida – Crested Butte – Telluride
Traverse in and out of mountainous terrain, with this five-hour adventure through the central-southwest part of Colorado. Start at the historic railroad town of Salida, with its well-preserved late 19th and early 20th century architecture, and make your way west to Crested Butte. The former coal-mining town is now one of the state’s finest ski and mountain resorts. During the summer you can enjoy numerous outdoor activities amongst the colorful wildflowers that grow around town.
From Crested Butte head south, passing Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, until you reach Telluride. This former silver mining town is situated in a scenic valley and known for both its incredible beauty and fun cultural events. It hosts several summer festivals, including the Bluegrass, Jazz, Wine, and Film fests.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad – Mesa Verde
South of Telluride, ride a vintage steam locomotive train on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. From May to October, the D&SNGRR travels over 40 miles each way between the towns of Silverton and Durango. Refreshments are served in the luxury carriages, and all passengers have access to canyon views alongside the Animas River trail, which is not open to other vehicles.
Once you’re off the train, head west for Mesa Verde National Park to see the ancient cliff dwellings. Built and occupied by the Ancestral Pueblo peoples, the archeological wonders were homes carved into mountainsides. Explore the historic site with tour guides or by hiking around on your own.
Garden of the Gods – Colorado Springs
Another stunning national park worth visiting is Garden of the Gods, located in Colorado Springs. The registered National Natural Landmark features large sandstone rock formations against a green landscape and backdrop views of Pikes Peak. While you’re in the area, stay in or visit the elegant hotel resort The Broadmoor, which features a golf course and horse ranch. In addition to its pristine surroundings and luxury accommodations, Colorado Springs is also home to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which has one of the largest giraffe herds in the world.
Estes Park – Steamboat Springs – Dinosaur National Monument
After you have seen some of the wonders of southern and central Colorado, venture north with a road trip starting in the mountain village of Estes Park. Known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, this town is a great place to go camping in the summertime. Head west from there to Steamboat Springs, another charming town with scenic countryside ideal for outdoor and water recreational activities.
Finally, make your way to the majestic Dinosaur National Monument, near the Utah border. Named after the prehistoric creatures that once roamed the region, the park features dinosaur fossils and an amazing desert terrain with rushing rivers and deep canyons full of wildlife.
Denver – Glenwood Springs
If you want to see more of what Colorado has to offer, but prefer not to drive, take the Amtrak from Denver to Glenwood Springs. Relax during the scenic train ride, until you reach the vibrant town that is home to the world’s largest hot springs pool. Once you’ve soaked up the calming mineral waters, make sure to explore the other well-known natural gem of this area: Hanging Lake. The two-hour canyon hike, which leads to the lake, is worth trekking for views of the amazing geological site. Visitors can use the pathway surrounding the lake to see its lush hanging plants and walk behind its waterfalls.
If visiting scenic and exciting new places is your forte, then you must take a road trip in Colorado this summer. Our state offers a myriad of wonderful routes and destinations to explore, so get in a car or train and see where the road takes you.