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The Perfect Colorado Road Trip

Colorado is a unique state with lots to offer visitors. From diverse cities, snow-capped mountains, scenic train routes on Durango Train, and breathtaking views; there is plenty to see in Colorado. With so many national parks, monuments, and historic areas, you’ll be sure to have memorable experiences.

Colorado gives you the best experience of the United States’ open road. This beautiful state has some of the most astounding stretches of highway in the country, connecting mountain resorts to artists’ colonies to pioneer towns.

Colorado’s parks have a wide variety of experiences available for every type of traveler. Whether you are a mountain biker, fisher, backpacker, or anything else, there is something for everyone. 

We recommend going on your road trip during the Fall, Spring, or Summer. While you can travel in the Winter, it is much more difficult with closed roads and heavy snow. 

Seasons to Travel:

Fall, Spring, or Summer


997 Miles

States Covered:

Stop 1: Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde Landscape

Mesa Verde National Park is a beautiful and historic park located in southwestern Colorado, USA. The park is known for its well-preserved cliff dwellings, which were built by the Ancestral Pueblo people over 700 years ago. These cliff dwellings are some of the best-preserved examples of ancient architecture in North America, and they offer visitors a unique glimpse into the lives of the people who lived there long ago.

In addition to the cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde National Park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and wildlife watching. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, and elk.

One of the best ways to experience Mesa Verde National Park is through a ranger-led tour. These tours provide a more in-depth look at the park’s history and architecture, and they allow visitors to access areas of the park that are otherwise off-limits.

Overall, Mesa Verde National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in ancient history, archaeology, or outdoor recreation. With its stunning views, fascinating history, and endless opportunities for adventure, Mesa Verde National Park is truly a national treasure.

Stop 2: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a historic train that runs through the beautiful San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. The train travels from Durango to the historic mining town of Silverton, offering stunning views of the rugged mountain landscape along the way.

The train follows the same route that was used to transport gold and silver from the mines to the smelters over a century ago. Today, the train is a popular attraction for visitors to the area, offering a unique and nostalgic way to experience the beauty of the region.

The train offers a variety of train rides, ranging from half-day excursions to full day trips. Some of the most popular trips include the historic steam train ride from Durango to Silverton and the Cascade Canyon Express.

The Durango Train is a unique and memorable way to experience the beauty and history of the San Juan Mountains. Whether you’re a history buff, a train enthusiast, or just looking for a fun and scenic adventure, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a must-see attraction in southwestern Colorado.

Stop 3: Million Dollar Highway
Million Dollar Highway

The Million Dollar Highway is a scenic byway located in southwestern Colorado, USA. It is a 25-mile stretch of the US Route 550 that runs between the towns of Silverton and Ouray and is known for its breathtaking views and hair-raising twists and turns.

The Million Dollar Highway takes its name from the expensive construction costs associated with building the road through the rugged San Juan Mountains. The road is now a popular tourist attraction, with visitors flocking to experience the stunning scenery and challenging drive.

The highway features steep grades, sharp curves, and narrow lanes that wind through the mountains, offering panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. The road passes through several historic mining towns, including Silverton and Ouray, which offer a glimpse into Colorado’s mining history.

Visitors to the Million Dollar Highway should be prepared for the challenging driving conditions and take precautions to ensure their safety. The road is narrow and winding, and the weather can be unpredictable, especially in the winter months.

Stop 4: Montrose
Montrose, Colorado

After your scenic drive, we suggest spending the rest of the day in Montrose, Colorado and spending the night here. 

Montrose is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with many hiking, biking, and camping opportunities nearby, as well as fishing and hunting in the surrounding forests and mountains. The city is also located near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a popular tourist destination known for its stunning scenery and challenging hiking trails.

In addition to outdoor recreation, Montrose has a rich history, with several historic sites and buildings located throughout the city. The Montrose County Historical Museum, housed in an 1882 courthouse, showcases the area’s history, including the Ute Indian Tribe, early settlers, and mining history.

Montrose is also home to a vibrant arts and cultural scene, with several art galleries, theaters, and museums showcasing local talent and history. The city hosts several annual events and festivals, including the Montrose County Fair and Rodeo, the Black Canyon Quilt Show, and the Montrose Powwow.

Stop 5: Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument

The next stop, the Colorado National Monument, will show you how Colorado got its name from the red colors. Colorado National Monument is a breathtaking natural wonder located in western Colorado, USA. The park is known for its towering red rock formations, stunning canyons, and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. 

The monument is home to a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Visitors can explore the park’s trails, which wind through canyons and along ridges, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

One of the most popular attractions in Colorado National Monument is the Rim Rock Drive, a 23-mile scenic drive that winds through the park, offering spectacular views of the surrounding canyons and rock formations. The drive includes several overlooks, where visitors can stop and take in the stunning scenery.

The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mule deer, and a variety of bird species. Visitors can explore the park’s diverse ecosystem and learn about the region’s natural history through the park’s interpretive exhibits and ranger programs.

Stop 6: White River National Forest
White River National Park

White River National Forest is a vast and diverse national forest located in western Colorado, USA. The forest covers over 2.3 million acres and is home to 11 ski resorts, eight Wilderness Areas, and 10 peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation, including the famous Maroon Bells.

The forest’s scenic drives and trails provide visitors with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, rivers, and valleys. Additionally, the forest’s wildlife is also a major attraction. Visitors often spot deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and moose. Birdwatching is also a popular activity in the forest, with over 300 bird species recorded in the area.

The forest is also home to several historic sites, including abandoned mining towns and Native American cliff dwellings. Visitors can explore the region’s rich history and learn about the people who once called the area home.

Stop 7: Colorado River Headwaters
Colorado River Headwaters

The Colorado River headwaters is a beautiful and rugged region located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA. It is the starting point of the Colorado River, which is one of the most iconic rivers in North America, running through seven US states and Mexico.

The headwaters region includes several national forests, wilderness areas, and scenic byways, including the Rocky Mountain National Park, Arapaho National Forest, and the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway. The area is known for its stunning alpine scenery, crystal-clear streams and rivers, and abundant wildlife.

The Colorado River headwaters offer a range of recreational opportunities, including hiking, fishing, camping, rafting, kayaking, and scenic drives. The region’s rivers and streams are home to trout, salmon, and other fish species, making it a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts.

During the morning it is the best time to take scenic photos from the Colorado River Headwaters outside of Kremmling. When in Steamboat, enjoy a good mountain breakfast at one of the local restaurants along the Yampa River. If you like adventure, this is your chance to do some of the finest downhill mountain biking in Colorado, right at the Steamboat ski resort base. During the afternoon, continue following the Colorado River until you enter the Glenwood Canyon. Instead of mountain biking, you can do the 5km Hanging Lake trail inside the canyon, one of Colorado’s top 3 scenic waterfall trails.

Stop 8: Rocky Mountain National Park
Moki Dugway

Rocky Mountain National Park is a beautiful and diverse national park located in the state of Colorado, USA. It covers over 265,000 acres and is known for its stunning alpine scenery, abundant wildlife, and world-class recreational opportunities.

The park is home to over 350 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging multi-day backpacking trips. Visitors can explore the park’s diverse ecosystems, which include alpine tundra, forests, meadows, and high mountain peaks.

One of the most popular attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park is Trail Ridge Road, a 48-mile scenic drive that takes visitors through the heart of the park and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The road reaches an elevation of over 12,000 feet and is the highest continuous paved road in North America.

The Rocky Mountain National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Colorado. With its stunning scenery, diverse recreational opportunities, and rich history, the park offers something for everyone.

Stop 9: Downtown Denver
Denver Skyline

Your next stop is to Downtown Denver. Downtown Denver is the central business district of Denver, Colorado, USA. It is a vibrant and bustling urban area that offers a wide range of cultural, entertainment, and dining options for visitors.

One of the most iconic landmarks in Downtown Denver is the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long pedestrian mall that is home to over 300 stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The mall is also home to free shuttle buses that run every few minutes, making it easy to explore the area.

Downtown Denver is also home to several museums and cultural institutions, including the Denver Art Museum, the Clyfford Still Museum, and the Colorado State Capitol. Visitors can explore the city’s history and culture through exhibits and events, or take a guided tour to learn more about the area.

The area is also known for its dining and nightlife scene, with a wide range of restaurants, bars, and clubs offering something for every taste and budget. Visitors can enjoy a craft beer at one of the area’s many microbreweries, or sample the local cuisine at one of the city’s acclaimed restaurants.

With its vibrant cultural scene, world-class dining and entertainment options, and rich history, the area is a must-visit destination on your road trip across Colorado.

Stop 10: Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak

This next stop is Pikes Peak Mountain. This attraction is near Colorado Springs, Colorado, so you can spend a day or two here exploring the city and mountain. 

Pikes Peak is a mountain located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. It is one of the most famous mountains in the United States and is known for its stunning views and challenging hiking and climbing trails.

Pikes Peak is 14,115 feet (4,302 meters) tall and is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The mountain is named after Zebulon Pike, an American explorer who led an expedition to the area in 1806. Pikes Peak has been a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts for over a century, with a well-known road leading to the summit that allows visitors to drive or bike to the top.

Pikes Peak is also famous for its annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a race up the mountain that has been held since 1916. The race attracts top drivers and motorcyclists from around the world and is known for its challenging terrain and breathtaking views.

Stop 11: Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Last, but not least, end your trip at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Great Sand Dunes National Park is a United States National Park located in southern Colorado. The park features the tallest sand dunes in North America, which rise to heights of over 750 feet (230 meters) above the surrounding landscape.

The sand dunes are located at the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley and cover an area of over 30 square miles (78 square kilometers). They were formed by the accumulation of sand and sediment carried by the Rio Grande River and other streams that flow through the valley. The dunes are constantly changing shape due to wind and weather conditions.

In addition to the sand dunes, Great Sand Dunes National Park also features several other unique natural features, including alpine tundra, aspen forests, and wetlands. The park is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, including several rare and endangered species.

Visitors to the park can enjoy a variety of outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, camping, sandboarding, and horseback riding. The park also offers ranger-led programs and educational exhibits that highlight the natural and cultural history of the area.

Stop 12: Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park
Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park

Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park is a protected area located in southwestern Colorado, USA, and is owned and operated by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. The park is home to a variety of cultural and archaeological sites that are of great significance to the Ute Mountain Ute people and offer visitors a unique and authentic experience.

Visitors to the park can explore a number of ancient structures, including cliff dwellings, kivas, and petroglyphs, many of which date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. The full day tour (which we highly recommend) visits four magnificent cliff dwellings. It requires a three-mile walk on unpaved trails and scaling ladders.

The park offers visitors a chance to learn about the tribe’s ancient past and modern way of life, and to experience the natural beauty of the American Southwest. If you’re interested in history, culture, and outdoor recreation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park is definitely worth a visit.