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VeeDubb Jan 16th, 2014 05:11 AM

Travelling to Colorado for the First Time - What Should I See and Do?

My wife and I will be visiting Denver in October and we were thinking about planning a vacation around the trip. Neither of us has been to the region of the country so I was hoping to get some recommendations of some places to go and things to do while we are there. I am thinking about staying in the area for around a week. We will have a rental car so I thought it would be good to travel around the state, staying a night or two at hotels in each area. While we are there, it would be great to to to some of the national parks for some scenic beauty, as well as visit some smaller towns outside of the city. Could you also recommend some things to do in Denver? We will be staying downtown. Would you recommend staying in Colorado during the entire trip or also venturing out to some of the bordering states during a week long trip?

Thanks in advance and any recommendations would be much appreciated.

trgslg Jan 16th, 2014 05:42 AM

I will list some of our favorites. Could type several pages giving you the details on each. Probably best for you to just Google.
We don't spend a lot of time in Denver, enjoy the nature side moreso than cities
COLORADO SPRINGS - Tour the Air Force Academy, Garden of the Gods and take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK - Beautiful scenery and lots of wildlife. Trail Ridge Road crosses the Continental Divide (highest paved road in US) to the west side of the Rockies but will be closed in October. You will be able to go part of the way depending of the snowfall. Estes Park is a neat little town at the gate to RNP. Worth spending a couple of nights there to do the town and park.
WESTERN COLORADO - Aspen is pretty unique and Glenwood Springs is worth a stop.
SOUTHERN COLORADO - Durango/Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad tour.

WhereAreWe Jan 16th, 2014 06:55 AM

Early October? Late October? Makes a big difference in fall color and road conditions. Trail Ridge Road in RMNP is not necessarily closed, especially in early October. It closes when weather conditions dictate that it closes. There is no set closing date.

With only a week you should stick to Colorado. At most you could visit Moab/Arches National Park IF you happen to be driving to the western part of Colorado.

Tomsd Jan 16th, 2014 07:07 AM

So many great choices in Colorado. One possible route would be to head over to Vail - and stop maybe at the Summit - our favorite little place being Frisco - and we love the Frisco Lodge/B& B.

From there - you could drive down to see Vail (20 minutes) and then come back and go south - thru Breckinridge - for a view of "central" Colorado - down to Pikes Peak/Garden of the Gods - and maybe visit the hot springs in classic Maintou Springs and stay in one of their cute B & B's.

Also - maybe catch one of my many alma maters - the AF Academy, and have a cold beverage and some good food at one my classmate's Irish pub in Colorado Springs - Jack Quinn's.

Gretchen Jan 16th, 2014 07:52 AM

As said above, with only a week stick to Colorado. And don't forget mesa verde! The Great Sand Dunes.
I am not a particular fan of Garden of the Gods and CO Springs and especially Manitou Springs.
Glenwood Springs and the building of the highway through that canyon is a great stop and see on the way to Aspen.

bigtyke Jan 16th, 2014 08:19 AM

Rocky Mountain NP - elk will be in abundance.

In Denver - tour the mint - make reservations ahead of time

See the Rockies in the playoffs/World Series (I can always hope!)

Gretchen Jan 16th, 2014 09:27 AM

MUCH more to do in Denver than the mint!! The Denver Art Museum is wonderful. The botanic Gardens also. Great food possibilities all over town.
The Fort restaurant in Morrison (outskirts) for a memorable wild meat meal, and a view of Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Have tea at the Brown Palace (Molly Brown).

Ackislander Jan 16th, 2014 09:39 AM

It is a beautiful state.

You can spend the whole time in the car and view a good bit of it out the window or you can stay in a central place and day trip in that corner of the state as guested above. Both have satisfactions.

I am always amazed at how well early buildings, old mines, for example are preserved by the dry air. You feel like Hopalong is going to ride upany minute!

But be careful to stay hydrated. It's the only place I have ever walked around with a water bottle. Be aware that altitude may give you a headache. I got one in RMNP. But it is worth it. It will go away when you come down!

emalloy Jan 16th, 2014 12:36 PM

DH likes to drive so when we travel we tend to make a loop and often re-visit areas that we have been to before and check out areas we didn't see before as well as our favorites from the past. We've used Denver as a place to fly in to a couple of times and I did a TR of one if you care to look that made a loop from there. it is at

I would want to go to Rocky Mountain NP esp. if Trail Ridge Road is open and Mesa Verde at least if you have never been to the area, very different experiences.

jkw1956 Jan 18th, 2014 06:32 AM

As a Coloradan for 25 years, and a resident of Denver, here's my advice:

Colorado is a BIG state! Just driving to Mesa Verde and the Four Corners region will take 6+ hours. Rocky Mountain National Park is 2 hours from Denver, in the opposite direction from Mesa Verde.
I'd focus on either of those areas.

Denver is a world class city. Fabulous art and natural history museums, a Botanic Garden on the list of the best in the world, and some incredible restaurants. Be sure to check out the Lower Downtown area (LoDo) for beautifully restored factories-turned-lofts. Within a 20 minute drive is the world famous outdoor amphitheater, Red Rocks, with spectacular views.

Great wildlife viewing and hiking in Rocky Mountain. Book ASAP for a room in the park itself. Make a stop in Boulder on the way there for great people watching and food on the Pearl Street Mall.

The Four Corners/Mesa Verde area will take more time. I'd leave at least a full day for Mesa Verde, then some time for the Four Corners monument (the meeting point of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah), the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest.

wave725 Jan 18th, 2014 07:40 AM

We love Rocky Mountain National Park and as stated above, Estes Park is a cool little town with lots of hotels, cabins, etc., restaurants and shopping. We always prefer to stay along Fall River Road at the Woodlands so we're not in the heart of town and away from traffic.

In addition to Fall River Road, you can visit the Moraine Park section of the park where you'll have great opportunities to see moose. Take the drive up to Bear Lake in the early morning for great photography. Sprague Lake is also spectacular at sunrise.


Tabernash2 Jan 18th, 2014 08:08 AM

Tea at the Brown Palace is truly a delight. I am actually going today! yay

But the Brown Palace is not affiliated with Molly Brown, except by name.

Gretchen Jan 18th, 2014 09:50 AM

Of course, not affiliated except by name. But that is a fun piece of Denver history.

dfriedt Jan 18th, 2014 11:11 AM

My daughter and I just went out to Colorado Springs for Christmas and had a great time. We went to the Garden Of The Gods and what an amazing place it was. Hiking through the rock formations was full of wonder and awe. It was quite cold but it was so worth it. It is free and they have a wonderful gift shop and restaurant to enjoy when you are done! Have a great time on your trip

WhereAreWe Jan 18th, 2014 11:44 AM

<<Great wildlife viewing and hiking in Rocky Mountain. Book ASAP for a room in the park itself.>>

There is only one property within the park that is available for lodging and I don't believe they are open for business in October. What are you referring to when you recommend booking a room in the park?

wtm003 Jan 18th, 2014 02:09 PM

There is no lodging inside Rocky Mountain National Park.

Your closest options are Estes Park or Grand Lake.

WhereAreWe Jan 18th, 2014 02:15 PM

That's incorrect. There are some private cottages inside the park not far inside the Fall River entrance (right before Sheep Lakes).

I'm just wondering if jkw1956 is referencing those cottages, or something else. To my knowledge that is the only lodging within the park boundaries.

wentzel1 Jan 19th, 2014 05:51 AM

Rather than talk about all the touristy things to see and do, it's important to think about what you enjoy and want out of your time...relaxation? Then don't drive out of the's a big state and you will be exhausted. I have been to Colorado 18 times and always go to a different area (my daughter lives in Denver and I live in Indiana).

If you love culture, stick with Denver and Boulder. If you love the outdoors, Rocky Mountain National Park is fantastic and as loop out of Trail Ridge road to the west, spend a day or two in Grand Lake. It's a great little town with boat rentals to get you out of the car for a day. The mountains never look the same as they do from the water and there are so few lakes in Colorado...this is a jewel. If there is any way you could go in September to catch the Aspens in full color, you will love it! Try to hit up one of the natural hot springs which are scattered throughout Colorado...just don't go to one of the "manmade" ones...not the same treat. People who live in Denver love it there, but to see "Colorado" you must get outside the city to the little mountain towns. Again, it depends what you want out of the trip...natural beauty and relaxation, or high intensity and culture...sure you can mix it up, but know your desires and follow your heart. Garden of the Gods is nice if you have mobility issues but want to get out, if you are able bodied, there are much better places to check out.

wentzel1 Jan 19th, 2014 06:50 AM

p.s. I strongly recommend that you not stay downtown Denver the entire time...too much driving. It's an hour or more to go anywhere out of the city. I would only stay downtown when you are actually doing touristy/cultural things. I would stay a night or two north of Denver like Fort Collins/Boulder area or Estes Park/Grand Lake area and then a night or two in a mountain town west of the city off I70...think Breckenridge, Frisco, or Aspen will most likely save money on both the lodging and the gas driving back and forth. Watch out for rush hour Denver...that will make your one hour journey 2 hours or better. Being redundant...there is so much to see outside the city...

bailey123 Jan 19th, 2014 09:31 AM

The prettiest part of the State is SW Colorado. It is a scenic 6 hour drive from Denver but once you get there, you can explore the former mining towns of Silverton and Ouray as well as Telluride and Durango. All are charming old west towns. In early October, the aspen leaves are changing and this area provides one of the most beautiful color drives in the country. There is also Mesa Verde cliff dwellings and the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge railroad. If you are interested in outdoor activities, there are incredible hikes, fishing, ziplining and just about anything else you might want to experience. There are also abundant festivals year around especially in Telluride and Durango. Durango and Telluride have many great lodging and dining options.

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