In addition to world-renowned skiing, whitewater rafting and hiking, Colorado has four national parks and eight national monuments that encompass a tremendous variety of activities, wildlife, landmarks and natural beauty. Starting in the gateway city of Denver, you’ll experience the great outdoors like only Colorado can deliver, from lush forests and roaring rivers to windy plains and massive sand dunes.
Start in Denver!
Fly into Denver International Airport (DEN), which offers nonstop and connecting flights from around the world. Denver is known for its laid-back atmosphere, craft beer and culinary scenes, beautiful scenery and attractions for all ages. With hundreds of craft breweries, Colorado is a top contender for the ultimate beer state in the USA.
Estes Park: the step Number Two
Visited by millions of people each year, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is one of the USA’s natural treasures and the fourth most visited national park in the country. Estes Park, known as the base camp for RMNP, is a year-round tourist destination with a walkable downtown that’s home to diverse restaurants, unique shops and festive events.
Grand Lake: A Rocky Mountain Town with Soul
The drive to your next stop is along Trail Ridge Road, RMNP’s “highway to the sky” and likely one of the most dramatic drives you’ll ever make. The road crosses the Continental Divide and transitions from thick forest to windy tundra above the tree line at 3,700 meters elevation. The road closes in the winter, but the community of Grand Lake is easily accessible by alternate routes. Grand Lake is considered the western gateway to RMNP, and you can expect an equal abundance of activities in nature.
Grand Junction: Naturally Dramatic
After a scenic trek across the western half of Colorado, your destination of Grand Junction is, not surprisingly, incredibly photogenic, but also a different side of Colorado than you’ve seen so far. The can’t-miss park here is Colorado National Monument, whose deep canyons, scenic outlooks and red rock spires are unlike anything else you will find in Colorado. In addition to exploring a variety of hiking trails, many visitors drive or bike the scenic 37-kilometer Rim Rock Drive. It’s a challenging route, but the views are truly stunning.
Montrose: Journey to the Steep Black Canyon
Vast, largely undeveloped plains follow you to Montrose, a welcoming mountain destination with a friendly atmosphere, outdoor recreation and a quaint downtown lined with colorful storefronts. Grab your camera and head to Black Canyon National Park, named for the dramatic, deep gorge carved by the Gunnison River over the course of 1.7 billion years.
Mesa Verde: Discover Ancient Pueblo Indian Culture
The drive from Montrose passes through the San Juan National Forest, passing the legendary ski resort at Telluride. Stop in the town of Dolores to stretch your legs and visit the Anasazi Heritage Center, dedicated to the history of the Pueblo, Ute and Navajo Native Americans – it’s the perfect preview to Mesa Verde National Park, home to some of the best-preserved, ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings.