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The perfect road trip melds time listening to that new playlist alongside stops that get your heart pumping. The key to doing a road trip right is taking the time to enjoy it. With this principle in mind we put together these itineraries to get outside and play in our favorite state (and dip into the Land of Enchantment). These five trips all begin in Denver (so modify your personal trip from that central loci) and soak in different regions of the state. We hope to see you out there.

1) The Circle Line: Summit to Steamboat

This classic trip heads into the heart of the beast—from Denver up I-70 to Summit County then on to Steamboat. It’s a classic cruise in mountain culture.

The Route: Follow I-70 west into the mountains. Stop at Exit 205 when you hit Dillon and Silveerthorne. From here, you have multiple options to play—SUP Lake Dillon, hike Ptarmigan Peak, or fly fish on the Blue River. Head up Colorado Route 9 to Kremmling and then over Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat. Spend a few days paddling or fishing on the Yampa. Go mountain biking on world-class trails. Eat, drink and maybe even got to the rodeo in town. When you have had your fill, head down Colorado 131 to State Bridge and the Colorado River. Take your time back along I-70 with stops in Avon, Vail, or Georgetown or just try to beat the traffic home.

2) Over the Top: Grand Lake to Fort Collins

You can’t get more Colorado than this adventure. Go sailing, drink beer, and visit Rocky Mountain National Park in between. It’s perfect for when the parents are in town.

The Route: Once again you head up I-70 west from Denver, but turn off to Empire and Winter Park on US 40. Stop to mountain bike and chow down at Winter Park or keep heading to the big destination—Lake Granby and Grand Lake. These high-mountain waters and their winds offer up SUP and sailing adventures as well as good eats and beer in town. You can then explore Rocky Mountain National Park via less crowded trails on the west side. Continue up US 34 and through the park via Trail Ridge Road, a thrill for all ages. Head down though Estes Park and Loveland and then take US 287 north to Fort Collins. Soak up one of the best towns in the West, full of beer, art, biking, paddling, and a solid punk rock scene. Brave 1-25 back to Denver.


3) Southern Comfort: Trinidad and Taos

See what makes Colorado a Southwestern state. This excursion hits gravel roads, hot springs, and reminds us that these lands have been a homeland long before the Centennial State put borders on them.

The Route: Follow I-25 south (key up some good podcasts) through Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Stop to explore the new gravel bike rides the town has been actively promoting (be sure to pick up the local Gravel Adventure Field Guide ( When your legs are filled with lactic acid, drive south on I-25. Exit at Walsenburg and head west along US 160 over La Veta Pass and turn south at Fort Garland along the stunning US 159 through San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, into New Mexico. Look for wild horses and stop to fish the Costilla River. In Taos, live the good life with green chili, a peek at D.H. Lawrence’s forbidden art, and hiking, mountain biking, and rafting. Head back on US 64 through the heights of Eagle’s Nest and on to I-25. Point it north and make game-time decisions that balance stops and traffic on the way back.

4) Colorado’s Ark: Salida and Buena Vista

The Arkansas Valley is the heart of the state. And the communities here have managed to both keep their identities and offer up tons of recreational opportunities for anyone seeking out a shot of mountain town life.

The Route: Take US 6 out of downtown and intercept C-470. Head south to US 285 and turn into the mountains. You can stop to bike at Buffalo Creek or keep heading up to Kenosha Pass and its excellent developed and dispersed camping. Continue through South Park until you hit US 24 in the Arkansas Valley with the Collegiate Peaks soaring above you. From here, you choose your own adventure. Head north on 24 to Buena Vista and its fun downtown with Deerhammer Distillery and the Surf Hotel. Or head south on 285 to Salida with its mountain bike trail system and riverfront dining. Mix and match. Be sure to visit both. Head back the same way or north to Leadville and I-70 on 24 or go east on US 50 to Pueblo and I-25.

5) The Eastern Plains Drifter

Colorado’s flatlands all too often get overlooked by those who are in love with the mountains. That’s a shame, because there is so much to enjoy out here—and no crowds.

The Route: Instead of giving you specific directions out here we suggest you find your own route in all this open space. In the north, hit Pawnee Buttes and the Pawnee National Grassland where dispersed camping is allowed everywhere. Close by to Pueblo, the canyon of the Purgatoire River is a pleasant surprise in the prairie. Head east and explore wildlife areas along the South Platte River via I-76. Or head south to the Comanche National Grassland where you can find hiking and camping at Picture and Carrizo canyons and pay tribute to the sad legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre and Native American Genocide. And don’t miss the ghost town of Dearfield, an all-Black community in Weld County with big dreams that was swallowed up by the Dust Bowl.

Can you feel the call? It’s high time to hit the highway in search of adventure and new perspectives. So hop along and we will guide you on a fistful of our favorite fun-time excursions in the Centennial State

Photo Credit: Liam Doran

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