Tanks that Get Around is based on Denver, CO and a LOT of the pictures you see featuring our tanks (on the website or on social media) feature a beautiful Colorado backdrop.
Dan and I have a lot of fun while creating this content. As of this writing, it’s only our first year in Colorado. Coming from Chicago, we’ve been anxiously seeking out opportunities to explore the great outdoors during the weekends—getting a little exercise while detoxing from technology and the stresses of the work week.
Coming from our own Colorado experiences (and photo archives) here are the best day trips from Denver, how far you’ll need to drive to get there, and what to expect once you get there.
Estimated Driving Time: ~2 hours
Cost: Absolutely free!
After a fairly long drive from Denver, you’ll be anxious to get out and stretch your legs. Luckily, Paint Mines Interpretive Park offers 3.6 miles of trail and tons of landscape to explore.
Grab the Women’s Drunk Blucifer Tank
Going to the Paint Mines is all about taking in the intriguing hoodoos (basically, rock spires). The hoodoos are tall and colorful and perhaps even a little eerie as the sun starts to set. I’ve never seen anything quite like them.
Grab the Men’s Drunk Blucifer Tank
Estimated Driving Time: 3 hours (but traffic coming from Denver can easily add on time)
Cost: Varies but not free (see below)
The Royal Gorge Bridge has been the highest bridge in the world but thanks to other recent engineering feats, it now claims the more humble title of the highest bridge in the United States. If you’re not too scared of heights, you can walk (or golf cart) over the Royal Gorge bridge at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park in Cañon City, CO—a roughly 3-hour drive from Denver, CO.
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What’s kind of annoying is the fact that you have to pay to walk over the bridge, as part of admission to the park. It’s $23 general admission for adults, but you can save $2 by booking tickets online. Besides access to the bridge, there are a number of additional activities to partake in at the park (though many require additional costs).
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Since Cañon City and Royal Gorge are at the upper limits of what could reasonably be considered a day trip, make the most of your time here. After you’ve seen Royal Gorge with an aerial view from the bridge, there are a bunch of other exciting ways to take in the beautiful views of Royal Gorge: zip lining, rafting, helicopter tours, and more.
One additional consideration is something I can speak about from experience: a murder mystery dinner on the Royal Gorge Route railroad. Dan calls it a three-in-one: train ride, dinner, and murder mystery. Check the Royal Gorge Route’s website for scheduling and ticket information.
Estimated Driving Time: 1.5 hours
Cost: $20 per day, $60 per year
Unlike many hikes you could choose from within close proximity to Denver, those at Rocky Mountain National Park will cost you. But here’s the silver lining—your money doesn’t go to support corporate greed. No, your hard earned dollars are practically (but not quite) a charitable contribution, going towards the continued maintenance of these beautiful lands.
People are bitching about the fact that the yearly price is set to increase by $10 next year, but I’m calling BS on that. It’s more money for the park, not to mention it will probably deter some people from coming, improving everyone’s hiking experience.
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You might also consider the more all-inclusive National Park Pass. For $80 annually, you get access to not just Rocky Mountain National Park, but other amazing national parks like Yosemite and Zion National Park. This option is perfect for a person/family who is planning a lot of national park trips throughout the year.
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You could come to Rocky Mountain National Park every day for a year and there would still be so much to explore. But if you want a break from hiking, consider the following experiences within nearby Estes Park:
- The Stanley Hotel: The Stanley Hotel is famous for inspiring Stephen King to write The Shining. So stay for a night or just stop by for a drink (they have a few The Shining-inspired beers you won’t find elsewhere), but don’t miss it.
- Horseback Riding: Trek through Estes Park on horseback—there’s nothing quite like it. Elkhorn Stables offers a nice Groupon discount for 1, 2, or 4 people.
- ATVs: Yet another way to explore Estes Park your way. ATVs allow you to explore trails you might not otherwise be able to. Estes Park ATV Rentals is a company Dan and I made use of recently, offering options for full and half day rentals.
Estimated Driving Time: 1 hour
Cost: Check websites for tour information, or just stop by for a pint
There’s a lot to do in Fort Collins but I’d recommend stopping by for a beer or two. Denver has an amazing beer scene but Fort Collins is a totally reasonable day trip from Denver that is home to a lot of brewery favorites. Of course, if you’re just making it a day trip, come with a designated driver—or leave the possibility of crashing somewhere overnight.
Here are some of the best breweries you’ll want to check out in Fort Collins:
Estimated Driving Time: 20 minutes
Cost: Free (unless you’re there for a show)
Red Rocks is one of the best day trips from Denver because it’s super close. Most people know Red Rocks as a music amphitheater but what you may be slightly less familiar with is the fact that you can actually go on hikes here.
There are multiple trail options available, depending on your skill level. My recommendation? Plan to come for a show but get here early for a hike. You’ll grab a nice spot in the parking lot to come back to later for tailgating.
Alternatively, come for a hike then head over to nearby Golden, CO for the free Coors brewery tour. It’s self-guided, so you could totally skip it and head to the taproom for 3 free beers (and a lot shorter line).
Estimated Driving Time: 30 minutes
Cost: Depends on what you’re there for
I don’t have a whole lot to say on the topic except for the facts that:
- Boulder is one of the shortest drive options on this list of the best day trips from Denver.
- There are tons of fun hikes in Boulder.
- The downtown makes for nice shopping and brunching.
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Grab the Men’s Budapest, Hungary Tank Top
Estimated Driving Time: 1 hour
Cost: Free (depending on what you’re doing there)
As far as this list of the best day trips from Denver is concerned, Colorado Springs is one of the shorter driving time options. It’s the home to the Olympic Training Center for Team USA (yes, you can take a tour there), but one of the biggest attractions is Garden of the Gods.
Garden of the Gods was one of my first Colorado hike destinations and remains one of the most beautiful and memorable even after exploring so much more of the area around Denver. It’s easy enough for a beginner (or someone still adjusting to the altitude!) but has with enough trail options to keep more experienced hikers interested.
There’s so much to do within Denver that you could spend an entire trip within the city limits. But some of the most beautiful sights are an hour or so outside of the city limits and are worth checking out: whether you’re here for a short visit or live here as a resident.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the best day trips from Denver. Would you be interested in a guide to the best nearby Denver hikes or the best overnight trips from Denver? Let me know in the comments below!
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