Are you heading to Denver for an upcoming vacation?

With so much to offer, you’re guaranteed to love The Mile High City.

But there is also plenty to explore outside the city centre.

And for that you’ll need a car.

To take advantage of all the amazing day trips from Denver that are only a short drive away, we highly recommend having a car on hand. 

For some day trip inspiration, check out these 19 places to see within 3 hours drive from Denver.

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1. Dinosaur Ridge

Who isn’t fascinated by dinosaurs?

Dinosaur Ridge is one of the nearest Denver excursions, being only 23 minutes from the Colorado capital by car.

It is essentially an outdoor museum built on the site of major dinosaur discoveries from the nineteenth century.

Dinosaur Ridge is home to more than 300 Cretaceous dinosaur footprints, several Jurassic dinosaur bones, and many other trace fossils, ranging from ripple marks to plant impressions.

It is the number one ranked dinosaur track site in all of the United States and has been deemed a National Natural Landmark.

While at Dinosaur Ridge, visitors have the option of taking a walk along the track site, otherwise known as Dinosaur Ridge Trail.

But there is also a indoor museum exhibit at the Visitor Centre complex and a simulated dinosaur dig area for kids.

  • Location: West of Denver
  • Distance from Denver: 4.2 mi (6.8 km) via US-6 W
  • Duration: 23 min drive from Denver

Official Site

2. Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre

Near Morrison, Colorado and roughly half an hour away from Denver is where you’ll find Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre.

This open-air amphitheatre is a sight to behold, as it was built into an existing rock structure.

The theatre dates back to 1906 and has a capacity of nearly 10,000 people.

It is easily one of the most unique music venues in all of the United States.

Throughout the years, notable performers at Red Rocks Amphitheatre have included Jimi Hendrix, The Blues Brothers, U2, and Sonny and Cher.

More recently, bands such as The Lumineers and The Fray played shows here.

This is the best spot in all of Colorado to check out live shows, which are performed year round.

We recommend taking a look at their schedule before your trip to see if they have any upcoming shows of interest.

But even if you don’t get tickets to a show, seeing the theatre and surrounding park is an experience in itself.

Red Rocks Park boasts an array of mesmerizing red sandstone rock formations.

Popular activities in the park include hiking, yoga, and exercising (with some locals using the amphitheatre’s steps).

  • Location: 18300 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO
  • Distance from Denver: 6.8 mi (11 km) via US-6 W
  • Duration: 31 min drive from Denver

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3. Colorado Railroad Museum

Calling all train enthusiasts!

You won’t want to miss the Colorado Railroad Museum.

This non-profit museum spans an impressive 15 acres and is located in Golden, Colorado (half an hour by car from Denver).

The museum opened in 1959 and was created in order to preserve the history of the state’s bustling railroad era.

This was especially important in Colorado as they were one of the first to develop an extensive network of narrow gauge mountain railroads.

The museum houses a wide range of passenger cars, narrow gauge rolling stock that the state is famous for, and diesel locomotives.

Notable pieces include the Atchison Topeka & Sante Fe Observation Car and the Chicago Burlington & Quincy no 5629 or Burlington Route 5629 steam locomotive.

Beyond the trains, the collection also features original photographs and paintings.

For example, the indoor exhibit has photos taken by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Otto Kuhler, among others.

In addition to the collection, visitors will love the museum building, which is a replica of a railroad depot from the 1880s.

  • Location: 17155 W 44th Ave, Golden, CO
  • Distance from Denver: 16.5 mi (26.6 km) via I-70 W
  • Duration: 30 min drive from Denver

Official Site

4. Coors Brewery

Visit the largest brewery in the world just 26 minutes by car from Denver.

If you’re a fan of Coors – or beer in general – this is a can’t miss day trip from Denver.

You’ll find the Coors Brewery in the city Golden.

This brewery is a Colorado institution, having opened its doors way back in 1873.

Ever since, it has been brewing delicious American beer for all to enjoy.

Learn about the brewing process for yourself on a factory tour.

Tours offer a 30 minute long glimpse into Coors’ malting, brewing, and packaging processes.

You’ll also be able to look at historic beer cans, photos, neon signs, and bottles from the company’s archives.

And of course, no tour would be complete without a tasting.

Tastings are available in the Hospitality Lounge.

There is also a great gift shop on-site in case you want to bring souvenirs home for your friends or loved ones.

  • Location: 13th St & Ford Street, Golden, CO
  • Distance from Denver: 15.1 mi (24.3 km) via US-6 W/6th Ave
  • Duration: 26 min drive from Denver

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5. American Mountaineering Museum

For all those with a deep fondness for the mountains, you have to visit the American Mountaineering Museum while in Denver.

Roughly half an hour away from the Colorado capital lies this Golden museum.

If you don’t already love the mountains, you’re sure to have a newfound appreciation for them after going through this institution.

The goal of the non profit museum is to preserve both the history and spirit of mountaineering.

It also seeks to educate visitors on mountain culture and the sport of mountaineering.

The American Mountaineering Museum is the only museum in the country dedicated to mountains and their history.

The museum was founded in 2008 and has quickly become one of Golden’s best attractions.

Exhibits showcase artifacts, photographs, and videos centred on some of the greatest mountains, mountaineers, and expeditions in history.

For example, current exhibits include Jake Norton: All Sides of Everest, Jessie Crock: Views of Golden, and Gregory William Frux: Mount Washington Observatory. 

  • Location: 710 10th St, Golden, CO
  • Distance from Denver: 15.4 mi (24.8 km) via US-6 W/6th Ave
  • Duration: 28 min drive from Denver

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6. Lariat Loop Scenic & Historic Byway

If you’re renting a car, why not take full advantage by embarking on one of the most scenic drives that the region has to offer.

The Lariat Loop Scenic & Historic Byway is a 40 mile route that takes roughly 2 hours to complete.

It is located west of Denver and the start of the loop is under 40 minutes by car from the city.

This picturesque drive will take you into the foothills of Denver’s famous mountains.

Along the way, you’ll pass through the towns of Golden, Morrison, and Evergreen.

There are also many attractions just off the loop.

These include the Coors Brewery, Foothills Art Center, Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, and Boettcher Mansion.

Whether you choose to stay in your car and enjoy the views or hop out and explore some of the sites, you’re sure to love the Lariat Loop Scenic & Historic Byway.

  • Location: West of Denver
  • Distance from Denver: 17.5 mi (28.2 km) via US-6 W/6th Ave
  • Duration: 37 min drive from Denver

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7. Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave

Head to the stunning Lookout Mountain Park – just 33 minutes from Denver – to experience a little slice of American history.

You’ve likely heard stories about cowboys and Indians, but this museum offers a chance to learn about the truth behind the myth.

The Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave showcase the life and legend of William F. Cody (also known as Buffalo Bill).

Exhibits centre on Buffalo Bill’s life from a young age, as well as his life in the “Wild West.”

Native American objects and firearms are also on display.

The museum even houses Buffalo Bill’s show outfits, Sitting Bull’s bow and arrows, and Frederick Remington’s “Portrait of a Ranch Hand.”

And do not forget to visit Buffalo Bill’s grave.

The picturesque site overlooks the Great Plains and the Rockies.

  • Location: 987 1/2 Lookout Mountain Rd, Golden, CO
  • Distance from Denver: 19.2 mi (30.9 km) via US-6 W
  • Duration: 33 min drive from Denver

Official Site

8. Evergreen

Experience the Colorado wilderness in Evergreen.

It’s hard to believe that a mere 37 minutes drive from Denver lies this sleepy, rural town.

If it’s a relaxing getaway in nature you’re after, then Evergreen is the place to be.

The town is fittingly named after the small pine trees that surround it, making you feel totally isolated from the bustling capital city. 

With a population of less than 10,000 people, you’ll get to live a completely different lifestyle out in Evergreen.

The area is rife with alpine meadows, colourful wildflowers, and pristine forests.

This makes it a great spot for an outdoor adventure.

Evergreen Lake, Mt. Evans, and Maxwell Falls are all suited to hiking and jogging.

Meanwhile downtown Evergreen has many attractions that appeal to visitors, including a golf course, art galleries, shops, restaurants, museums, and bars.

  • Location: Southwest of Denver
  • Distance from Denver: 29 mi (46.7 km) via CO 74
  • Duration: 37 min drive from Denver

9. Cherokee Ranch & Castle

When you’re in Colorado, it’s time to hit the ranch!

This day trip lets you do just that.

Cherokee Ranch & Castle is a cattle ranch with a beautiful Scottish-style castle.

You’ll be able to see the castle well before you come to its entrance, and it will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to Europe.

The ranch itself comprises 3,400 acres, while the castle is an example of 15th century architecture.

Once you arrive, you’ll have the option of enjoying a meal (or even high tea) at the castle restaurant, taking a Signature Castle Tour, going on a guided hike, and more.

Whatever you do, don’t miss out on exploring the castle as it houses historic artworks from around the globe.

Cherokee Ranch & Castle also hosts events throughout the year, such as plays, so be sure to check their schedule in advance.

  • Location: 6113 Daniels Park Rd, Sedalia, CO
  • Distance from Denver: 30.7 mi (49.4 km) via US-85 S/S Santa Fe Dr
  • Duration: 54 min drive from Denver

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10. Central City & Black Hawk

The Colorado cities of Central City & Black Hawk are mainly famous for one thing: gambling.

If you’re looking to have some fun and try your hand at gambling while in Colorado, then come here!

Some people think of it as the Las Vegas of Colorado since there are over 30 casinos in Central City & Black Hawk.

This means you don’t have to drive far to find a place to gamble.

Some of the most popular casinos include Monarch Casino Black Hawk, Lady Luck Casino Black Hawk, and Isle Casino Hotel Black Hawk.

Beyond the casinos, this region is also home to an impressive display of what houses in the region looked like back when Colorado was first settled.

Golden Gate State Canyon Park is another attraction.

It is only 10 miles northeast of Black Hawk and is a great spot for hiking, horse back riding, and mountain biking.

These cities are just under a one hour drive from Denver, making it easily accessible for either a full day or half day trip. 

  • Location: West of Denver
  • Distance from Denver: 38.2 mi (61.5 km) via I-70 W
  • Duration: 59 min drive from Denver

11. Wild Animal Sanctuary

Are you an animal lover?

Then check out The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.

Just over 45 minutes from Denver lies this animal refuge.

It is 789 acres in size and was founded in 1980.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary specializes in rescuing large predatory animals in need of help.

Sometimes the animals have been ill-treated, other times their owners can no longer care for them.

Whatever the reason, the sanctuary takes them in and cares for them.

To date, this non profit organization has helped over 1,000 animals.

Currently, it is home to over 450 animals.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary is open to visitors year round and offers a completely different experience than a zoo.

Animals are in large, open habitats and are best viewed from the elevated walkway that spans more than 1.5 miles long.

You can expect to see everything from lions and tigers to bears and timberwolves.

  • Location: 2999 Co Rd 53, Keenesburg, CO
  • Distance from Denver: 40.1 (64.5 km) mi via I-76 E
  • Duration: 47 min drive from Denver

Official Site

12. Georgetown

Georgetown is a historic town in the heart of Colorado.

It is known for its old gold mines, scenic lake (which you can spot from the highway) and the Georgetown Loop Railroad.

It is somewhat of a resort town and is much busier during the summer months.

This is due to the summer activities including hiking, swimming, and boating on the lake.

But also because of the Georgetown Loop Railroad which only operates in the summertime.

The historic train ride is an attraction in itself, as the Georgetown Loop Railroad has been used since the mid 19th century to transport both people and goods in and out of the town.

Other attractions include the area’s many museums including the Firefighter Museum, the Hotel de Paris Museum, and the Hamill House Museum.

  • Location: West of Denver
  • Distance from Denver: 45 mi (72.4 km) via I-70 W
  • Duration: 48 min drive from Denver

Official Site

13. Mount Evans Scenic Byway

Drive on the highest paved road in North America!

You won’t be able to drive higher up than the Mount Evans Scenic Byway.

This incredible road trip is a must if you have a car and are in the Denver area.

The Byway is roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes from Denver and will have you driving over 14,000 feet above sea level. 

It was completed in 1931 and is 28 miles in length.

There are plenty of picturesque spots to stop at along the way.

These include the Mount Goliath Natural Area, Summit Lake Park, and a tarn in a cirque carved by glaciers.

In essence, if it is a spectacular journey through the mountains of Colorado you’re after, then the Mount Evans Scenic Byway is for you.

A word of warning: this drive isn’t for the faint hearted, as the road contains many switchbacks and drop offs without guard rails. 

Exercise caution when driving in any inclement weather, such as rain, snow, or fog.

  • Location: West of Denver
  • Distance from Denver: 60.3 mi (97 km) via I-70 W
  • Duration: 1 h 47 min drive from Denver

14. Winter Park Resort

Winter Park Resort is hands down one of the most popular resorts in the entire state of Colorado.

It’s been in operation since 1939 and is busiest during ski season, when skiers from all over the world flock to the region. 

There are over 3,000 acres of skiable land at the park, meaning you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to choosing trails.

It should also be noted that Winter Park Resort has a good mix of beginner and intermediate trails. 

Moguls and alpine bowls can also be found on the nearby Mary Jane Mountain.

Beyond the ski facilities, Winter Park Resort offers visitors top-notch restaurants, boutique shopping, and lots of fun outdoor activities.

Activities vary depending on the time of year but include snow tubing, snowshoeing, ice skating, stargazing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, fat biking, alpine sliding, yoga, river rafting, and rock climbing.

Winter Park Resort is less than an hour and a half from Denver, located in the town of Winter Park, Colorado.

  • Location: 85 Parsenn Rd, Winter Park, CO
  • Distance from Denver: 66.1 mi (106.4 km) via I-70 W and US-40 W
  • Duration: 1 h 25 min drive from Denver

Official Site

15. Garden of the Gods

1,300 acres of mesmerizing sandstone formations await at Garden of the Gods.

This public park located an hour and a half’s drive south of Denver was designated a National Natural Landmark for a reason.

Its natural beauty astounds visitors year after year.

The terra cotta sandstone is likely nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Pair that with lush native Colorado flora, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful park.

In addition to marvelling at the park’s natural landscape, there are plenty of fun activities for visitors.

Hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, and horseback riding are all popular activities in the Garden of the Gods.

Jeep and segway tours are also available, and electric bikes can be rented.

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, as many animals including mule deer, bighorn sheep, and fox, live in the Garden of the Gods.

  • Location: South of Denver
  • Distance from Denver: 67.6 mi (108.8) via I-25 S
  • Duration: 1 h 31 min drive from Denver

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16. Rocky Mountain National Park

It is no secret that Colorado is a beautiful state.

But to understand this to the fullest extent you have to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.

This pristine park is almost too beautiful to believe.

Expect to stumble upon crystal clear lakes, wildflower dotted meadows, and of course, the gorgeous, snow-capped Rocky Mountains.

Specifically, the park features the Front Range of the Rockies.

It is the third most visited national park in all of the United States.

There are five visitor centers for each of the five regions of the park.

The regions include Moose and Big Meadows, Alpine Region, Wilderness, Heart of the Park, and Waterfalls and Backcountry.

Hiking is a must here and is easy to do thanks to the extensive network of trails.

Camping, fishing, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing are also popular activities.

Be on the lookout for wildlife ranging from moose to grizzly bears.

It is just under two hours from Denver but well worth the drive.

  • Location: Estes Park, Colorado, United States
  • Distance from Denver: 72.7 mi (117 km) via I-25 N and US-36 W
  • Duration: 1 h 44 min drive from Denver

Official Site

17. Manitou Springs

Experience another side of Colorado in Manitou Springs.

This small resort city is located just outside of Colorado Springs and under two hours drive south of Denver. 

It is famous for its mineral springs and scenic mountain landscapes (most notably, the dramatic Pikes Peak).

The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are also a major attraction, and they are a group of reassembled ancient cliff structures.

The Dwellings opened to the public in 1907 and there is an accompanying museum, The Anasazi Museum, on-site.

When in Manitou Springs, don’t forget to go on a hike!

One of the most popular trails is the Manitou Incline Trail, which features hundreds of steps leading up a steep slope.

In addition to the area’s natural beauty, the city of Manitou Springs is home to Manitou Avenue. 

This commercial strip has many art galleries and specialty boutiques that visitors will love perusing.

  • Location: South of Denver
  • Distance from Denver: 74.2 mi (119.4 km) via I-25 S
  • Duration: 1 h 38 min drive from Denver

18. Vail

Vail has been one of Colorado’s most popular destinations for decades.

Once you arrive in the upscale alpine village, you’ll see why.

Vail is home to the world renowned Vail Ski Resort, which boasts some of the best ski trails in the entire country (maybe even the world). 

Celebrities and professional skiers alike flock to the town each winter to enjoy the top tier ski facilities and quaint pedestrian streets. 

The main pedestrian strip in Vail is lined with shops, restaurants, and houses, all of which were built in the 60s style.

In the winter, skiing or snowboarding is a must.

But in the summer, the town changes and revolves around outdoor activities like golfing, fly fishing, and hiking.

It is also home to many festivals, such as Taste of Vail and the Vail Arts Festival.

  • Location: West of Denver
  • Distance from Denver: 97.1 mi (156.3 km) via I-70 W
  • Duration: 1 h 49 min drive from Denver

Official Site

19. Royal Gorge & Cañon City

Visit the world’s highest suspension bridge at Royal Gorge & Canyon City.

Royal Gorge Bridge is located along the Royal Gorge, above the Arkansas River.

There are plenty of adrenaline-packed ways to cross the bridge, including walking or ziplining.

Aerial gondolas are available as well.

You can also sign up for a guided rock climbing tour on the gorge.

In addition, the area is home to the Royal Gorge Railway, which offers visitors a spectacular train ride through the surrounding mountains and valleys.

This is a scenic way of taking in the area’s natural beauty that is suitable for all ages.

Other attractions in the Canyon City area include the Museum of Colorado Prisons, Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center, and The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey.

There are also numerous picturesque drives, such as Skyline Drive and Tunnel Drive.

  • Location: 4218 Co Rd 3A, Cañon City, CO
  • Distance from Denver: 126.8 mi (204.1 km) via I-25 S and CO-115 S
  • Duration: 2 h 36 min drive from Denver

Official Site

We hope this list has given you more insights on all the incredible places you can drive to from Denver.

From Rocky Mountain National Park to the scenic alpine town of Vail, there is so much to explore within just 3 hours drive of the capital.

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