Whether you’re looking to take a scenic drive near Denver or have your sights set on doing a road trip from Denver, you’re in for a treat. Our Colorado road trip itinerary will take you through some of the best places to visit in Colorado.
The state is jam packed with amazing sights and we’re going to give you some of our favorite places to visit in Colorado. Before you know it, you’ll be visiting some of the most beautiful places in Colorado.
Let’s get to it!
Southern Colorado Road Trip
The best part of a road trip is it can be for anyone. A Colorado road trip is perfect for families, folks who are on a budget, or anyone with a dog. Really and truly, the only thing that is hard to come by in Colorado is a bad time.
Before we dive in, below is a map of the Colorado road trip itinerary so you can follow the exact route we took. We may be biased, but our Colorado road trip was epic.
Alright, listen up road warriors, if you are wanting to road trip through Colorado, you’ll need a car – duh, right? If you’re using your own vehicle, right on.
Best Time To Visit Colorado
Let’s be honest, Colorado is great all year round, it just depends on what you want to do when you visit.
If you’re wanting to Ski, November to March are your months. If you’re wanting to go White Water Rafting, May through July are great times to visit Colorado.
However, for the purposes of this post, a good ole’ Colorado road trip, the Spring, Summer, and fall months are perfect times to visit. If you’re looking for fewer crowds, try visiting before the summer officially kicks off – before Memorial Day weekend – or after the summer season ends – after Labor Day weekend.
Ok, now to our Colorado road trip itinerary….
Stop 1: Explore Colorado Springs
Located 70 miles south of Denver, a little over an hour’s drive, lies the city of Colorado Springs. Nestled on the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs has a handful of attractions that will keep your little exploring heart entertained making it the first stop on our Colorado road trip itinerary.
Things To Do in Colorado Springs:
- Pikes Peak: Drive the 19-mile scenic Pikes Peak Highway to reach the tippy top of Pikes Peak, also known as America’s Mountain. Once at the 14,115 ft summit, be sure to eat a donut at the Summit House. Trust us, they’re good and are formulated to only be eaten at altitude.
- Garden of The Gods: Catch a sunrise or sunset at the famous Garden of The Gods. Offerings amazing views and free to enter, what’s not to like?
- Manitou Incline: If you’re looking to get a workout in, head to the Manitou Incline to climb the 2,744 steps to the top. Oh and gain 2,000 ft in elevation while you’re at it. Are your calves burning yet?
- Hiking: If you’re wanting to get out and into nature and do a bit of hiking, check out Red Rock Canyon, Cheyenne State Park, and The Broadmoor Seven Falls.
- Old Colorado City: From art walks and farmers’ markets to quaint shops and restaurants, Old Colorado City is a great place to wander about. Grab a beer at one of the craft breweries in town (Our pick? Cerberus Brewery) and a bite to eat and one of the many eating establishments you’ll find scattered about. Basically, mosey along and stop wherever your heart decides.
- The Luxury Inclined | Garden of The Gods Club & Resort
- The Budget Conscious | The Academy Hotel
- Something in Between |SCP Hotel Colorado Springs
TIP: If you’re wanting to camp in Colorado Springs, don’t. It’s too dense of a city to find any decent campsite. Set your sights on the surrounding areas, around Pikes Peak, if you want a proper campsite.
Stop 2: Visit the Dillon Pinnacles in Gunnison
After a few days in Colorado Spring, set your sights a little further west, you’re headed to Gunnison, Colorado! Gunnison is located about 3 hours and 15 mins west of Colorado Springs making it an easy, and beautiful drive.
Now, the time you spend here is totally up to you. You can make Gunnison a pit stop on your way to your next destination or, stay a night or two. Or, once in Gunnison, head North and visit the AMAZING town of Crested Butte.
For us, we just stopped for a few hours in Gunnison but could have definitely spent more time.
While in Gunnison, be sure to grab a cup of coffee at Tributary Coffee Roasters before heading over to check out the Blue Mesa Reservoir and Dillon Pinnacles. The scenery is fantastic, to say the least.
- The Luxury Inclined | The Inn at Tomichi Village
- The Budget Conscious | The Wanderlust Hostel
- Something in Between | Alpine Inn & Suites
Stop 3: Fall in Love With Telluride
Keeping the southwest theme alive and well on this road trip, you’re headed to one of the most famous towns in Colorado, Telluride. Located two and a half hours southwest of Gunnison, Telluride is a former mining town located within a box canyon.
Surrounded by mountainous peaks, Telluride is the epitome of picturesque Colorado. From fine dining to fantastic craft beer and epic hiking, there is no shortage of amazing things to do in Telluride.
Regardless if you are skiing, hiking about or just enjoying the quaint, historic town, plan to spend 2-4 days here. It’s well worth it, especially for you outdoor enthusiasts.
Read our guide on the 12 incredible things to do in Telluride!
- The Luxury Inclined | Element 52
- The Budget Conscious | Mountainside Inn
- Something in Between | Camel’s Garden Hotel
TIP: Accommodations in the Telluride Ski Village and the town of Telluride are pricey. If you are looking for budget-friendly accommodations, consider booking in Ouray (1 hour from Telluride) or Ridgway (53 minutes from Telluride). Or, pack a tent and gear and do some camping around Telluride.
Stop 4: Drive The Million Dollar Highway to Durango
The name says it’s all. The Million Dollar Highway offers billion-dollar views to those who make the trip. The breathtaking mountain, valley, and gorge views, will have your jaw dropping after every turn. The views are really THAT good.
Read about everything you need to know to drive the Million Dollar Highway!
The section from Ouray to Silverton is what most consider to be the Million Dollar highway. However, on your Colorado road trip itinerary, you’ll be going a little further south than Silverton and let us tell you, the views never stop getting good.
From Telluride, make your way to Ouray, then onto Silverton, and finally, Durango, Colorado. The drive is around 3 hours if you don’t stop, but that’s nonsense, you’ll be stopping.
Reported to cost a million dollars a mile to build, the Million Dollar Highway is a must-do when in Southern Colorado.
- The Luxury Inclined | The Strater Hotel
- The Budget Conscious | MainStay Suites
- Something in Between | Best Western Plus Rio Grande Inn
Stop 5: Stand in Awe at Great Sand Dunes National Park
From Durango, Great Sand Dunes National Park is about a 3-hour drive away. Located near the towns of Alamosa and Fort Garland in Southern Colorado, Great Sand Dunes is known for its towering sand dunes, its seasonal Medano Creek and the beautiful backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
Rent a board and go “sand-boarding” down the dunes. Take a hike to Zapata Falls or take a seat on the “high dune” and watch the sunrise and set. Regardless of what your plan is for the day, you should 100% plan to spend a full day at the National Park.
Read our complete guide to Sand Dunes National Park!
- The Luxury Inclined | Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites
- The Budget Conscious | Dunes Inn
- Something in Between | Fairfield Inn & Suites
Stop 6: Hang Out in Taos, New Mexico
Okay, okay, you got us! Yes, we know that Taos is not in Colorado but WE had to add it to our Colorado road trip itinerary. It’s so close for us not to include it! It’s a perfect stop on any Colorado to New Mexico road trip.
Located about 2 hours south of Great Sand Dunes National Park, you’ll find the New Mexico high desert town of Taos. Perfect for art lovers, history buffs and of course, outdoor adventurers. Taos is a perfect place to spend a few days.
Spend time hiking or mountain biking in the Taos Ski Valley, book a white water rafting trip on the Rio Grande River, or spend the afternoon shopping at the art museums in town before heading out for dinner around the Taos Plaza.
Whether you’re out exploring or sitting back and enjoying the view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, we guarantee you’ll fall in love with Taos.
Get our guide to some of the BEST things to do in Taos, New Mexico!
- The Luxury Inclined | Hotel La Fonda
- The Budget Conscious | Sagebrush Inn & Suites
- Something in Between | Dreamcatcher B&B
- Something Unique | Hotel Luna Mystica
From Taos, if you are needing an airport, Santa Fe and Albuquerque are the two closest cities to Taos. Santa Fe is located 1.5 hours (70 miles / 112 km) from Taos whereas Albuquerque is a little further.
The trip from Taos to Albuquerque will take you around 2 hours and 15 mins (132 miles / 212kms).
If you’re wanting to road trip back to Denver, expect the drive to take you around 4.5 hours. No matter where you choose to go on from Taos, you can easily reach a handful of amazing Southwestern cities with ease.
It goes without saying that your license and registration, insurance, and spare tires are no-brainers to have. But what about the other stuff? No matter where you’re road-tripping to, check out some of our essential road trip items we never leave home without.
Just like other destinations, we want to make sure you’re being safe and have coverage. Accidents happen. They’re unpredictable and can be problematic. We highly recommend getting travel insurance.
We use World Nomads and it’s definitely come in handy a time or two for us!
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)