Taking a week-long vacation this summer and need some ideas? Here’s how to make the most of your seven days off in the lovely state of Colorado.
Day 1 – Arrive in Denver, CO
Upon arrival into Denver International Airport, head to the baggage claim and pick up your rental car. From the airport, make the short hour-long drive to Loveland, CO, and check into your hotel. Loveland is a great home base for exploring Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). There are numerous options for hotels, dining, and retail, and it is a much cheaper alternative than staying right outside the park’s gates in Estes Park. Although Loveland sits around 50 minutes outside of RMNP’s Fall River Entrance, the impressive views to and from the park are well worth the extra driving.
Day 2 – Rocky Mountain National Park
During the summer months, park trailheads and parking lots fill up quickly. Due to crowds, having back-up plans is imperative to make the most of your trip. If you’re traveling with children or are looking for easy hiking, choose the Alberta Falls Trail (1.6 miles round-trip) and/or the Bear Lake Trail (0.6 miles round-trip). These are quick, beautiful hikes that lead to great spots for a family photo with very little elevation gain.
Those looking for a difficult, full-day hike should try the Chasm Lake trail. At 8.2 miles round-trip and a 2,542 feet elevation gain, be sure to arrive at the trailhead early and pack plenty of snacks, water, and sunscreen.
Day 3 – Estes Park to Colorado Springs
Check out of your hotel, pack your car, and head to Estes Park for local shopping, wineries, breweries, and bistros. Catch a peek of the Stanley Hotel while you’re gallivanting around, famous for its role in The Shining. When you’re ready to hit the road, the drive south from Estes Park to Colorado Springs is only around 2.5 hours. Once you arrive in Colorado Springs, check into your hotel for the night and rest up.
Day 4 – Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods
Ride the Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak, reaching 14,115 feet in altitude with a 360-degree view at the top. The Pikes Peak by Rail station is only around 15 minutes from Colorado Springs. Book your railway tickets in advance online to secure your reservation. Even if you’re riding the cog in the middle of July or August, the summit of Pikes Peak will be very chilly. Pack a sweatshirt (or buy one at the gift shop at the top of the mountain).
After leaving the railway station, make a stop at the nearby Garden of the Gods on your way back into Colorado Springs to see 1,300 acres of stunning sandstone formations. Take a look around the Visitor Center or enjoy the sights from your vehicle.
Day 5 – Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Day Trip
Don’t be discouraged by the lengthy 2.5-hour drive (one-way) to see Great Sand Dunes National Park. These dunes should not be missed by any means, and will allow for vastly different scenery than the Rockies. Great for all families, children will love playing in the park’s sand, or those up for the workout can hike to the top of the dunes. Don’t attempt to hike the dunes unless you’re wearing the proper footwear to avoid blisters, and make sure you pack plenty of water and SPF.
Day 6 – Downtown Denver
Check out of your Colorado Springs hotel and head back to Denver to spend the day exploring before catching your flight home the next day. In Downtown Denver, walk around 16th Street Mall, browse the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, or head to LoDo (Lower Downtown) to see the iconic Union Station and Coors Field.
Day 7 – Heading Home
Say goodbye to Colorado and arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare before your flight home. Although this itinerary only scratches the surface of everything Colorado has to offer, you will have seen some of the state’s greatest sights in just seven days.
Photo Artistry by Melinda