Denver, Colorado is one fun city. It is home to professional sports teams, a vibrant restaurant/bar scene, museums, parks and gardens. If all of that was not enough, there is an annual event that brews up even more fun in the city – The Great American Beer Festival. We’ve made the pilgrimage to the beer mecca two times in the past four years. I think it is safe to say that we like the event and the location.
The GABF consumes one full day of our trip, but we use the other mid-October days to soak in the crisp Denver air and explore the surrounding areas. You can see something new and different no matter which direction you head when you drive out of Denver. Day trips from Denver allow you to have a “home base” at one hotel while increasing how much of Colorado you can see while visiting.
Here are our favorite one tank trips (plus or minus a bit) from Denver, Colorado:
West of Denver:
Red Rocks Amphitheater – (20 miles) Red Rocks Amphitheater is likely the premier outdoor concert venue in the country. We have never actually watched a concert or show at Red Rocks Amphitheater, but we toured the the venue without the crowd. I can see how a natural amphitheater setting like the Red Rocks Amphitheater would add to any concert experience or show. Maybe we will catch an act the next time we are out that way.
Mount Evans Road – (50 miles) Mt. Evans Road is the highest paved road in North America. Be aware that weather can cause road closures. Check road reports before you head out of Denver on your day trip because there is a possibility the road is closed due to snow, ice or even closed for the season. But, if the road is open get out there and explore! There are great trails to hike along the road, so get out of your car and enjoy the views from away from the asphalt too.
Breckenridge – (80 miles) Breckenridge is a great day trip from Denver. This mountain town bustles with life during ski season, but you do not have to ski to have fun in Breckenridge. The town is still active and vibrant when there is not snow on the ground. Breckenridge is home to shopping, spas, outdoor activities, yet more breweries and plenty of restaurants.
Vail – (95 miles) The hotels in this little mountain town have big price tags, hence the day trips from Denver for us. However, if you are up for an over night stay in the mountains, Vail is a world-class choice. The hotels, skiing, shopping, restaurants and charm are second to none. Lauren from Peaks and Passports is an expert on the area and can tell you more about the area for sure.
North of Denver:
Boulder – (30 miles) Boulder is a funky little town peppered with craft breweries – most of which are in attendance at The GABF as well. The vibe of the small breweries varies, but we have never visited one we did not like. Some breweries also offer tours if you ask nicely and/or pay a small fee. This might be a good time to mention that I do not even like beer – and I still have fun at these breweries. Boulder is a fantastic one tank trip from Denver.
Rocky Mountain State Park/Estes Park – (70 miles) Rocky Mountain State Park is definitely worth the drive out of Denver. You can drive or hike through the park and take in the views of the American Rocky Mountains. The snow-capped peaks, mountain lakes and valley views are worth the gas money to get here.
South of Denver:
The United States Air Force Academy – (60 miles) The campus is both beautiful and emotional. To see where some of the top students, athletes and soldiers live, learn and train is special. The stained glass windows in the chapel are stunning and watching the cadets line up in formation is moving and impressive to watch. Don’t miss this place!
Garden of the Gods – (65 miles) The colors in the Garden of the Gods are just spectacular. There are rocks as red as rust and as white as snow. This free park is easily one of my favorites and has the option of being a quick drive through (literally) or an all day stop. Whichever you choose, you will be happy you made it a stop on your one tank trip from Denver.
Pike’s Peak – (90 miles) We have tried to drive to the summit of Pike’s Peak twice – both attempts were unsuccessful. The first due to a helicopter crash and the second due to severe weather. We’ll to try again the next time we are near Denver and so should you! There are tons of hiking trails around the peak and the drive up is full of lookout points, alpine trees and wildlife, if you are lucky enough to spot it.
While Denver can definitely keep you busy, consider filling up your vehicle with one tank of gas and venturing our of Denver some. Mike and I love to drive and explore too much to sit still one city, but you guys know that about us. Right? Even with all that we’ve seen, we feel like we still have more to see, do, discover and experience in Colorado, one tank and day trip at a time.