Whether you live in your vehicle or just want to get out and away, you will want to hop on these itineraries for maximizing your time on the road.
The Live Outside and Play Road Team Favorite:
Head from Denver to Telluride via U.S. 285. Skip I-70 and drink in the beautiful views.
Start with Illegal Petes for a quick, classic breakfast, and then head to Middle State Coffee, a newly opened coffee roaster that specializes in interesting brews. (middlestatecoffee.com)
A little over an hour (and a serious lack of cell service) later, get out and stretch your legs in the aspen grove on Kenosha Pass. Awesome views and crisp air. To make it a longer affair, jump on the Colorado Trail.
Lunch time! Stop in Buena Vista for a fuel up at House Rock Kitchen (get the House Rock Salad, trust us), then digest your food while taking a walk along Riverside Trail and wading in the Arkansas River.
If you have some extra time, we suggest staying a night in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and plan it on a moonless night for the ultimate star experience.
Stop right outside Placerville for some evening fishing and bear watching. You can set up camp here, or complete the journey with a thirty-minute drive into Telluride for a well-deserved dinner at Brown Dog Pizzia.
THE SOUTHWEST SAMPLER
The vast red rock desert is the ultimate spot for hiking, canyoneering and simply getting off the grid and chilling out.
Distance from Denver: 365 miles; six hours
Play Time: There are two classic options in this choose-your-own-adventure of a national park. The first is The Maze. As its name implies, it’s a warren of slot canyons that require canyoneering route finding skills (and the occasional leap of faith) to navigate. The second is the famed White Rim, one of the few backcountry trails in a national park that you can ride on your bike.
Beer: Utah is not Colorado, but you will find some fine suds—and, um, gelato—at the Moab Brewery (themoabbrewery.com).
Pull Up: There are only two campgrounds in the park, Squaw Flat Campground at The Needles and Willow Flat Campground at Island in the Sky. You can find spots along Highway 128 outside of Moab, too.
Distance from Denver: 437 miles; seven hours, 10 minutes
Play Time: Capitol Reef is Utah’s forgotten national park, but it’s ripe for exploration. The Burro Wash slot is an excellent canyon for pretty much anyone and the Navajo Knobs Trail is an ideal break from a long drive if you don’t plan on staying here.
Beer: Ha! No. But if you come at the right time of year you are allowed to glean fruit from the orchards at the Fruita Campground in the park.
Pull Up: That Fruita Campground is one of our all-time favorites, with the Fremont River running through and orchards planted here by the first settlers still maintained by the park.
Distance from Denver: 680 miles; 11 hours, 30 minutes (South Rim)
Play Time: The ultimate canyon is all too often ignored by those seeking adventure. We blow off the rim as a tourist boondoggle and simply wait for the chance to go on a river trip here. That’s a mistake. Adventure in the canyon is a big endeavor (see Timmy O’Neill’s story on page 46) but you can bite off smaller big adventures such as a rim-to-rim-to-rim bucket list run or hike from the crowded South Rim, or tick off a technical slot such as the classic Deer Creek Narrows with its stunning waterfall (just be experienced).
Beer: Flagstaff, Arizona, is the closest spot for the spoils of civilization. Head to the Mother Road Brewing Company (motherroadbeer.com) for refreshment.
Pull Up: Do you like that shot on the cover of this magazine? That’s the view from Toroweap, a short walk from the most amazing campground in the U.S.—Tuweep, where the services “are non-existent.” You’ll need four-wheel drive to get there.
Distance from Denver: 265 miles; five hours
Play Time: Colorado has some canyons of its own and the Black, with its vertiginous drop is just as stunning (if not as big) as the Grand, and the rock climbing is actually better. The five-pitch, 5.9- Maiden Voyage is the one climb here most can accomplish, and the level of difficulty just goes up from there.
Beer: Drive to Montrose for suds and food at the Colorado Boy Brewery (coloradoboy.com).
Pull Up: The North Rim Campground is ideal for views.
#3 WYOMING ROCKS
You have to play big in the Cowboy State. Bring your harness, your dog and prepare to climb like the locals.
Distance from Denver: 129 miles; two hours, 10 minutes
Play Time: It’s just a short trip from Colorado’s Front Range to Curt Gowdy State Park (wyoparks.state.wy.us), with its camping, fishing and an outstanding mountain bike trail system. That makes for a perfect weekend road trip, even.
Beer: Try the Saison du Ruby at Coal Creek Tap (coalcreektap.com).
Pull Up: Curt Gowdy has plenty of places to pitch a tent or park a van—or stay at the historic Hynds Lodge.
Distance from Denver: 423 miles; six hours, 40 minutes
Play Time: The big draw here is the nearby Cloud Creek Wilderness Area, where you can backpack a 23-mile round trip to 13,167-foot Cloud Peak.
Beer: Point it to the Blacktooth Brewing Company (blacktooth brewingcompany.com)
Pull Up: There’s plenty of dispersed camping on the Red Grade Road
Distance from Denver:452 miles; seven hours, 20 minutes
Play Time: Ten Sleep’s limestone has become a beacon for climbers who live out of their cars (wait, isn’t that all climbers?). Happiness in Slavery (5.12b) is one of the most popular routes here (and the first bolted) but be sure to take a spin on Bikini Girls with Machine Guns (5.11a/b) and everyone’s favorite, Beer Bong (5.10b).
Beer: Party with cowboys and dirtbags at Ten Sleep Brewing Company (tensleepbrewingco.com).
Pull Up: Pretty much anywhere on the dirt road along Ten Sleep Canyon.
Distance from Denver: 350 miles; five hours, 45 minutes
Play Time: The Wind Rivers offer endless climbing. Talk to the folks at Wild Iris Mountain Sports for inspiration (wildirisclimbing.com).
Beer: Hit up Cowfish (cowfishlander.com) for beer and classy food.
Pull Up: You’ll find your kind at the Hugh Otte Camping Area.