Known as the second most populated city in the state of Colorado, people from near and far love to visit this vibrant place and many end up relocating here after falling in love with all the city has to offer.
There is no shortage of hiking trails with mountain views, attractions that walk you through history, and restaurants that will have you coming back for more in the city of Colorado Springs.
But with so much of the beautiful state to explore, you may be wondering about some worthwhile day trips to help you get a glimpse of Colorado in all of its glory.
Check out these 15 unique places you don’t want to miss, and get ready to plan return trips for years to come!
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No trip to Colorado would be complete without making a stop at the “Mile High City”. Denver is filled with art museums, outdoor activities, trendy restaurants, craft beer, and so much more (think recreational dispensaries).
Visit the Denver Art Museum to see western artwork that was designed to reflect Colorado life.
Right down the road is the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art where you can check out the famous Colorado artist’s best work along with some other unique pieces from artists like Andy Warhol.
Head over to Larimer Square and get ready to spend some cash at the fashion-forward boutiques, cozy cafes, and up-and-coming food joints that line the adorable red-brick streets adorned with string lights. At night, the square comes alive with a variety of bars and speakeasies to hop between.
Named the craft beer capital of the world, it’s no surprise that Denver has its fair share of brewery tours. The city also has an interactive beer map for those who wish to take the journey solo.
Even if you don’t have tickets to the latest concert, you should still plan a visit to Red Rocks Amphitheatre. As you approach the theatre you will enter a world of gorgeous red sandstone. Get some exercise by walking the stairs of the theatre, have a seat and appreciate its grand appearance, or head downstairs to learn a bit about its history.
The list of things to do in Denver could go on forever but the only way to really understand how awesome this city is to get out there and explore it yourself!
2. Rocky Mountain National Park
Nature enthusiasts will be in their glory venturing through this wildlife wonderland. There are many places to stay or camp nearby, so when you find yourself begging for more of this beautiful place you can make it into a weekend trip.
Established in 1915, the park is one of the most visited in all of the country with over 100 peaks waiting to be explored.
Start your journey on the scenic Trail Ridge Road that will take you over 12,000 ft. above sea level, providing breathtaking views at every turn.
The Emerald Lake Trail is a little over 3 miles long and packs a bit of a punch, but the views of the lake at the top (and the two smaller lakes along the way) are worth the trip, and the crowds.
Bring the kids and maybe a picnic to Alberta Falls. The trail is less than 2 miles long and is suitable for all ages. Plus, the 30 ft. waterfall is a sight to be seen.
Stop at the Alpine Visitor Center and tell your friends that you visited the highest visitor center in the United States!
With 120 trails in the park, you’ll surely be planning visits for years to come.
3. Garden of the Gods
Established as a natural landmark in 1971, the red rock formations that make up this park are out of this world. Walk amongst these red giants and see the impact of erosion and glaciation at its finest. The park is open year-round, and entry is completely free.
Spend the day exploring the 15 miles of different trails, ranging from short, family-friendly hikes to more moderate hikes averaging about 3 miles in length.
Check the schedule if you are interested in a free educational tour of the rocks to learn more about how they came to pass. Keep your eye out for some of the iconic rock formations including the Pig’s Eye, Cathedral Spires, Siamese Twins, Balanced Rock, and more.
Horseback riding and segway tours are also available for those interested in something different.
The up-and-coming small town of Boulder resides right along the Flatirons, ensuring that however you decide to spend your day here will be done with a view.
Learn about the historical significance of the town at the Boulder History Museum.
Walk the red brick path of Pearl Street Mall and get your shop on, or pick from the extensive selection of restaurants and enjoy lunch on the patio while you people-watch. If you happen to be visiting on a Wednesday during the summer, stay for dinner to enjoy live music and a beer garden during Bands on the Bricks.
Tea lovers should plan to take the free tour at Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory, where you can walk through the herb garden, learn about the process, and taste test some tea.
Score some free samples of some of the finest local products at the Boulder County Farmers Market.
With 40 miles worth of trails, you can’t go wrong spending the day at Chautauqua Park.
For great views of the Flatirons that don’t require much work head, to the 2-mile long Flatiron Loop Trail. If a challenge is what you’re after, opt for the Mount Sanitas Trailhead for breathtaking views of the Flatirons and the town of Boulder.
5. Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak is a whopping 14,115 ft. tall and, thanks to the Manitou Depot (Located in Manitou Springs), you can visit the top without a need for hiking boots. Buy your tickets ahead of time and head to the Depot to take a cog train ride of a lifetime.
With over $100 million put into renovations in 2019, the railway operates with the newest and safest machinery there is – so you enjoy the ride with some peace of mind. The ride is a steady 9 miles of incline and is slow-moving, so expect to spend at least 3 hours on a roundtrip journey.
Grab a window seat to admire the ever-changing terrain as you make your way up and look out for wildlife like the bighorn sheep!
Once you arrive at the top you will have sweeping 360 degree view of Colorado Springs and the mountain ranges that seem to go on forever. Grab a snack at the summit’s visitor center. A fan favorite is their “world-famous” donuts.
Be sure to drink lots of water, wear layers to combat the winds, and be aware of possible elevation sickness.
Once a thriving little farm town drawing in settlers far and wide, Genoa is now a ghost town with only remnants of what used to be.
Check out the Wonder Tower, built in 1926, that stands 60 ft. tall and had made it into Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum for being able to see six states from its rooftop.
The tower served its purpose as the town’s money maker by catching the eye of drivers on Highway 24, known today as Interstate 70, and becoming the location for travelers to stop for gas, food, and to check out the tower itself.
Although you can no longer enter the tower, as it officially closed down in 2018, it is still a pretty cool experience to see it up close along with a variety of other abandoned buildings like the gas station, restaurant, hotel, and grocery store.
7. North Cheyenne Cañon Park
North Cheyenne Cañon Park is made up of 1,600 acres, located in a 1,000-foot deep canyon.
The thick forests and vast valleys are awe-inspiring on their own, but what really attracts hikers is the abundance of wildlife to be seen. Mule deer, black bears, and mountain lions are most often spotted, so keep your eyes open and remember to also keep your distance.
One of the most popular trails is Helen Hunt Falls. Who wouldn’t want to hike for 10 minutes (there and back!) to see a 35-foot waterfall?
If you are looking for something a bit more demanding, take the Columbine Trail, which will also take you to the falls – but is a whopping 8 mile trip.
Starsmore Visitor Center is a great place to stop to learn more about the park’s wildlife and get information on some of the best trails in the area.
8. Cañon City
Absorb a bit of history, take in the views, and feast like a king in Cañon City.
The most well-known attraction, and with good reason, is the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. Imagine the Grand Canyon and the Golden Gate Bridge merged into one, and add a scenic park.
Read biographies of some of the most dangerous inmates Colorado prisons have ever seen at the Museum of Colorado Prisons.
Enjoy a fancy dinner in a train cart at The Royal Gorge Route Railroad where you can take a 2-hour picturesque journey.
Over the last 120 years, paleontologists have found fossils of dinosaur bones, dinosaur eggs, and dinosaur tracks at the Garden Park Fossil Area.
Although the name is misleading, you have to visit the Owl Cigar Store for lunch; we highly recommend getting one of their delicious milkshakes to go along with it.
Established in 1888, this small town is jam-packed with history and a whole lot of charm.
Hop on the Kit Carson County Carousel, a historical landmark, for the measly cost of $0.25. However, you may have a difficult time choosing from the 46 exquisitely detailed, wood-carved horses to sit on.
The Old Town Museum has a unique setup located on 6.5 acres of land. Instead of one building housing all of the artifacts, you get to walk in and out of 21 different buildings, each with its own theme.
Finish up the day with a tasty meal from The Dish Room. The restaurant boasts a unique farm-to-table menu and the adorable patio, lined with string lights, is the perfect place to sit and enjoy.
10. Castlewood Canyon State Park
This underrated park may not be made up of high peaks but it makes up for it with its waterfalls, ruins, caves, and lack of crowds.
The varying landscape is home to diverse species like rattlesnakes, coyotes, golden eagles, red foxes and so much more.
With 15 trails ranging from quick strolls to 4-mile treks, the park has something suitable for all ages and skill levels.
Take the Waterfall Trail for an easy, 20-minute, flat, leveled path to an adorable little set of falls. The Homestead Trail is a 1-mile loop that takes you to the concrete ruins of an old homestead and can easily be extended by branching off to trails like Creek Bottom or Rim Rock.
Look no further for cave adventures! The Cave Trail is quick, painless, and gets you up close and personal with two wide-mouth caves.
Rock climbing down the canyon is a popular activity, so grab your gear or watch in awe as climbers make their descent.
Give your feet a break and take to the park on horseback. There is currently 1 mile of trails dedicated to horseback riding, and renovations are underway to extend these trails and connect them to Cherry Creek State Park.
11. Idaho Springs
If you are looking for a town with endless opportunities, stunning views, and all-around great vibes, Idaho Springs is the place to be.
Get out on the water with the family or opt for an extreme adventure at Rocky Mountain White Water Rafting.
If you are planning a winter trip, Echo Mountain is a fan favorite for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing.
Bring your camera and get out to St. Mary’s Glacier for an easy hike with epic views. Double up on the beauty by coming here at sunrise.
The Frozen Fire Ice Rink at Digger Field is an outdoor ice skating rink that is open year-round, thanks to synthetic ice.
Cave tours are available at Phoenix Gold Mine. Walk through the caves and imagine what life was like during the Gold Rush as you learn about the town’s rich history.
Interestingly enough, the town is known for its pizza. See for yourself at Beau Jo’s and finish it off with a cookie pizza to go!
Prepare to shop ‘til you drop with a variety of gift shops, thrift stores, and adventure gear spots.
After a day of exploring, reward yourself with a dip in the rejuvenating waters of Indian Hot Springs.
At 6,535 ft., Calhan is the highest non-mountain town in the country, but the lack of mountains doesn’t take away from its wanderlust.
Paint Mines Interpretive Park is a perfect example of what Colorado is all about with colorful rock formations that look they have been painted over in a variety of different colors.
The 3.4 miles trail will also provide views of a diverse landscape and great opportunities to spot wildlife like coyotes and mule deer.
Cadillac Jack’s Antique Store is a great place to find unique collector’s items or just have fun rummaging through all the oddities, including the Ronald Mcdonald statue.
Since you are in the area, you might as well stop at the Cadillac Jack’s RV Park and Campground to see the world’s largest high-wheel bicycle!
Visit during the second week of July for the El Paso County Fair and enjoy a week’s worth of rides, fried foods, and live entertainment like bull riding and car shows.
13. Alderfer Park
Alderfer Park is combined with Three Sisters park to bring you 1,128 acres of adventure. There are 24 hikes to choose from, varying from easy to moderate, totaling 15.3 miles.
Prior to the creation of the park, the land was home to a privately owned ranch in the 1900s. The Alderfer Barn, now a historic landmark, is still on the property and is available to rent for weddings or special events.
Get up early and hit the Evergreen Mountain Trail and watch the sun rise over the iconic Mount Evans. The trail is 6 miles long and is most popular amongst bikers.
Hidden Fawn Trail branches off to other trails, allowing you to spend your entire day hopping from one trail to the next.
For a hidden gem within a park that is already a secret treasure, head over to the west trailhead for the Elephant Butte trail. This trail is not marked on the park map, so there’s a very good chance you’ll have it all to yourself.
The hike is a little over 3 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1,14q ft. Once you reach the top of the summit, you’ll have gorgeous views of the Mount Evans mountain range.
14. Windy Saddle Park
Located in Golden, CO, this park is a treasure trove with hikes suitable for all ages and an endless mountain range to admire. The park holds true to its name with strong winds rolling in from the Continental Divide.
Beaver Brook Trail is 9 miles one way, but don’t let this deter you from exploring; you don’t have to complete the whole trail. The trail is mostly flat, making it a fairly easy journey. The views, although great, are pretty persistent so you won’t miss much by calling it quits.
Get ready for a 1,000-foot elevation gain as you trek 5 miles on the Chimney Gulch Trail. This trail is very popular amongst mountain bikers, so be prepared
For a shorter hike reaping great rewards, check out the 2.6-mile Lookout Mountain Trail. Here you will have panoramic views atop Lookout Mountain and a nature center to learn about the park’s wildlife.
Take flight off the top of 7,059- foot Mount Zion on a paragliding adventure.
15. Flagstaff Mountain
Flagstaff Mountain stands tall at 7,283 feet and provides astonishing views of the Continental Divide, the Boulder area, and the never-ending plains.
The hike up this mountain is overlooked because there is a road that takes you just about all the way up to the summit. Although making the trip by car is a great option if you don’t have much time to spare, the real treasures can be found along the journey up.
Wildlife is in abundance here, so no matter the time of day you are bound to see some of Colorado’s favorite creatures like the mule deer, mountain lions, and wild turkey.
You may see a car or two pass by when the trail requires you to cross the road, but aside from that, the trail will be all yours.
Along the way, you’ll have the option to stop at different viewpoints, each with views more stunning than the last. The hike totals out at 3 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,120 ft. Aside from the short burst of energy you’ll need as you are reaching the top, the incline is moderate with breaks of flat areas.
For the best views this summit has to offer, add an extra mile to your trip and take the Ute-Rangeview Loop. The loop is all one level, and circles the summit for breathtaking, obstruction-free views in every direction.