An Epic Guide to the Best Road Trip Stops in Colorado
The best part about planning a Colorado road trip is choosing the stops along the way! You won't want to miss out on any of these must-stop spots along Colorado highways.
What are the best things to do in the Colorado mountains?
You’ll find something for everyone on a road trip through the Rockies, from enjoying classic Colorado recipes at top-rated restaurants in Denver to hitting the hot springs, exploring ghost towns and visiting Colorado’s many National Parks. These are our favorite picks for the ultimate Colorado road trip.
What are the best restaurants along I-70 Colorado?
Soaking in the views isn’t the only way to enjoy your I-70 road trip! Stop off along the way at some of our favorite restaurants. Grab a bite and craft beer from Westbound & Down Brewery in Idaho Springs, a coffee or cocktail from Bread Bar in Silver Plume, a few tasty treats at Butterhorn Bakery in Frisco, an upscale meal at Sweet Basil in Vail and some of the best Mexican food in the state from Taqueria El Nopal in Glenwood Springs.
But that’s not all! Here are the other stops that will make for an epic Colorado road trip, city by city.
Aspen: Ski, Hike or Fish
In the winter, Aspen Mountain is a great place to hit the slopes, but we love the area in the summertime, too. Hit up Colorado’s most photographed mountains with a hike into Maroon Bells, or bring the fishing poles and look for trout along the Roaring Fork River. (Here’s how to cook your catch.)
While you’re there, enjoy dinner at a local’s favorite Meat & Cheese and consider yourself lucky if you see the region’s famous Palisade peaches or Olathe sweet corn on the menu. Head downstairs before dinner to their craft cocktail bar, where you can also enjoy CBD-infused drinks.
Boulder: Walk the Pearl Street Mall
Downtown Boulder has some of the best shopping and restaurants in the state. Take a stroll through the historic heart of the city along the four-block Pearl Street Mall. When you get hungry, stop at Post Brewing Co. for Colorado craft beer and some seriously good fried chicken.
If you have time for a day trip, head out to Morrison and visit Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. While you’re there, you may as well stop in at Willy’s Wings to try Colorado’s strangest local delicacy: Rocky Mountain Oysters.
Jonathan Tung Photography/Shutterstock
Colorado Springs: Rock Formations & Trails
A visit to the Springs isn’t complete without soaking in the views of Pikes Peak, the mountain that inspired the song “America, the Beautiful.” If you’re not up for climbing the 14,000-plus-foot mountain, explore the spectacular rock formations at the nearby Garden of the Gods (shown above).
Either way, work up enough of an appetite to visit the recurring Top Chef contestant’s restaurant, Four by Brother Luck. The menu is filled with Colorado food inspired by the hunter, the gatherer, the fisherman and the farmer.
Durango: Ride a Historic Coal-Powered Train
Nestled in the Southwest corner of the state is a hidden gem: Durango, a historic 1800s mining town. Take an unforgettable ride on an old-school coal train with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train. While you’re in town, drive out to Mesa Verde National Park to see some spectacular Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings.
Durango has a vibrant culinary scene given its small population. Hit up a historic saloon like El Moro Spirits and Tavern, or ask the locals for the password to gain access to an authentic speakeasy experience at The Bookcase & Barber.
Estes Park: Stay In a Haunted Hotel
You’ve never seen views like you’ll experience in Rocky Mountain National Park! Explore more than 350 miles of hiking trails nestled in the park’s 77 mountains. Then, stay at the Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for Steven King’s The Shining.
Fort Collins: Schedule a Brewery Tour
North of Denver, you’ll find Fort Collins, home to almost 20 craft breweries. Schedule a brewery tour of the country’s fourth-largest brewer, New Belgium Brewing, or embark on a bicycle tour of a few more local favorites: Odell Brewing Company, Equinox Brewing and Funkwerks. (Find out our pick for the best craft beer in Colorado—and every other state.)
Grand Junction: Fruit, Vineyards and a Headless Chicken Statue
You won’t be sorry you took the trek out to Grand Junction. Nestled between the mountains and the Colorado River, it’s also home to a wide variety of orchards, lavender farms and vineyards (including Two Rivers Winery & Chateau). If you happen to be there in late May, you can also attend one of the state’s wackiest festivals: Mike the Headless Chicken Festival. (Don’t worry if you missed it; you can visit the statue by Circle Park anytime.)
Idaho Springs: Mount Evans Scenic Byway
Just 60 miles west of Denver is the highest paved road in North America: 14,130 feet above sea level to Mount Evans. You’ll have plenty of photo ops along the way, including mountain goat and bighorn sheep sightings. Just plan to do this drive between Memorial Day and Labor Day, because the road is closed due to snow for most of the year!
Steamboat Springs: Apres Ski and Hot Springs
You can find ski mountains all over Colorado, but few are as picturesque as Steamboat Springs. Plus, Steamboat has one of the best culinary scenes around! Apres ski at T-Bar, located at the base of the mountain, enjoy a twist on classic Mexican food at Salt & Lime or grab a craft beer at The Barley.
Before leaving, soak your weary bones in the 104-degree mineral water of Strawberry Park Hot Springs. You’ll find lodging and spa services at the springs, too.
Telluride: Ride the Gondola
There are countless things to do in the beautiful mountain town of Telluride, but you should definitely take a ride on the free public gondola. You’ll get a 365-degree view of the San Juan mountains on your way up to the 10,540 foot summit, where you can dine at Allred’s Restaurant or stay the night at the Mountain Lodge. Or, head back into town and stay nestled amongst the mountains at the historic New Sheridan.
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