With 5 days and 525 miles, you can experience the breathtaking beauty and adventure of Colorado. The mountains and rivers are calling for an amazing road trip with your family and friends.
On this road trip, you will explore the majestic glory of Rocky Mountain National Park and the Colorado River valley. Each day is packed with options for a great road trip vacation. Keep reading for choices to build the best road trip ever. Here are 5 full days of fun:
- Day 1: Rocky Mountain National Park
- Day 2: YMCA of the Rockies—Snow Mountain Ranch
- Day 3: Glenwood Springs
- Day 4: Buena Vista and the Broadmoor Resort
- Day 5: Garden of the Gods
Come to Colorado to see the sights, challenge yourself, and enjoy the wonder of this most beautiful state. This 5-day Colorado road trip will do a loop through the state to see a bit of everything. Some days will have both "with children options" and "more adventurous options" for people wanting more exciting opportunities.
Beginning In Denver
Whether you are driving or flying, this road trip begins near Denver. You will drive in either from the Great Lakes states on I-76 or up from the southeast on I-70.
Your flights will bring you to Denver International Airport. Just 100 more miles farther you will arrive at Grand Lake and the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Flying Into Denver International Airport
If your road trip begins with a flight, try to either arrive by 10 a.m. or come in after work the night before and stay at an airport hotel. Most hotels have shuttles, or you can get your rental to begin early on day 1 for the 2-hour drive to the Rocky Mountains.
What Rental Car Should I Get?
You should rent an SUV for comfort and horsepower for mountain roads. A four-wheel drive vehicle option will give you the horsepower for any nonpaved roads you may need to traverse to reach a hike's trailhead. Confirm the SUV with the rental company when you book the reservation.
Driving To Colorado From The North, South, Or West
You don't have to begin this 5-day Colorado road trip through Denver. You can start it anywhere on the 525-mile loop. Here are the stops for planning your trip so you can begin at whichever point makes the most sense for you:
- Western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park
- Glenwood Springs
- Buena Vista
- Colorado Springs
Day 1: Rocky Mountain National Park
The first day of your Colorado road trip takes you to the spectacular glory of Adams Falls. Make sure you pick up sandwiches and drinks for a picnic in the park.
This is an easy hike on the East Inlet Trail onto Adams Falls Trail with parking either in the village of Grand Lake (1 mile) or at the western entrance to the park.
You will see the falls from a midpoint where the waterfall descends down a series of steps as it falls down the gorge. Soon the unpaved trail brings you to the observation deck above the waterfall. After enjoying the waterfall, continue your hike up the trail into the western part of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park Entry Pass
For 2022, Rocky Mountain National Park requires a timed entry pass. You buy these passes ahead of time online on their website. Get the pass without Bear Lake Corridor, as that is on the eastern side of the park. Here are the 2022 entry options:
- Per automobile per day: $30
- Per motorcycle per day: $25
- Per person per day: $15
- Annual Rocky Mountain National Pass: $70
- Annual America the Beautiful National Park Pass: $80 (entry to over 2,000 parks nationwide)
Day 1: With Children Options
Grand Lake has some great options for families with younger children when the hiking is complete. You can rent kayaks or a motorboat at Grand Lake Marina for some time exploring the largest inland lake in Colorado. Or take the kids go-karting at Rocky Hi Speedway.
Day 1: More Adventurous Options
Rocky Mountain National Park offers lots of great hikes. Consider the Colorado River Trail to the ghost town of Lulu City (7.8 miles roundtrip) or the Green Mountain Trail to the Big Meadows with its abundant wildlife (4 miles roundtrip).
Another way to enjoy the park is by a motorized tour. You can rent a two-person side-by-side (like a small Jeep) or an ATV for self-guided tours to see the trails in a new way.
Day 1: Dinner And Sleep
You can grab a delicious dinner in Grand Lake at a dozen restaurants including the Sagebrush BBQ, or drive the 25 miles to YMCA of the Rockies—Snow Mountain Ranch to enjoy a great buffet in the Schlessman Commons dining hall.
Day 2: YMCA Of The Rockies—Snow Mountain Ranch
Don't let the name fool you; this is the place you want to stay. The YMCA of the Rockies offers lots of sleeping options from western lodge hotel rooms to cabins to yurts to RV and tent camping. Snow Mountain Ranch has over 5,000 acres with 30+ activities including:
- Alpine skiing and snowboarding
- Mountain biking
- Indoor pool
- Horseback riding
- Dog sledding
- Summer and winter tubing
Day 2: With Children Options
The whole family will love all the activities at Snow Mountain Ranch. Begin the day with horseback riding and some joyful summer tubing on the Snowflex tubing slope. In the afternoon, try archery or fishing, and close out the day swimming in the indoor pool.
Day 2: More Adventurous Options
Rent a cross-country mountain bike so you can ride the trails through the birch and pine forests. You can push your fear of heights on the challenge course and the zip lines. Or head to the sand volleyball pit to play with the other guests.
Day 3: Glenwood Springs
Enjoy an early breakfast at the commons before hitting the road for a 2.5-hour drive to the town of Glenwood Springs. Enjoy a Mexican food lunch at Las Margaritas or Jilberitito's Mexican Food. For the afternoon you have options:
Day 3: With Children Options
Take a coat with you when you take the family to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. The kids will be begging to experience the rides, but do the cave tour first.
For the young ones, try the 40-minute Fairy Cave tour where you will see the amazing rock formations with many colored stalagmites and stalactites. Return to the rides and choose the best ones for your enjoyment.
Day 3: More Adventurous Options
Two great options for the afternoon include the 3-hour Hanging Lake hike (required permit) or your own trip to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
Outside, hold your breadth with the Giant Canyon Swing, the Defiance or Cliffhanger roller coasters, and the rider-controlled Alpine Coaster. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has lots more to offer and laser tag!
Day 3: Relaxation Options:
If you want a relaxing afternoon, Glenwood Springs has choices. Choose the Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves for a sauna experience as the hot water flows below the floor, heating the cave rooms to 110-112 degrees. At Iron Mountain Hot Springs, soak up the hot water in one of the many relaxing pools.
Day 3/4: Travel To Buana Vista
You can stay in Glenwood Springs at one of its many lodges or cabins, or you may want to make day 3 a big day and drive the 2+ hours to Buena Vista, Colorado so you are ready for river rafting on day 4.
Day 4: Buena Vista
Your family of all ages will enjoy the Colorado River rafting trips available in Buena Vista. You can do the family float for 2 hours of wet laughter. Children 7+ years old may enjoy American Adventure's Brown Canyon Classic Tour.
Those 15+ years old may want to try the Numbers Classic tour with its white water rafting fun.
Day 4: Travel To Colorado Springs
After rafting fun, get back in your SUV for the under 2-hour drive to the wonder and beauty of Colorado Springs. Stay on the edge of the Pike National Forest at the historic Broadmoor Resort. You can stay in the national historic hotel itself or plan on staying at one of three wilderness lodgings.
For your late afternoon, take the family on the 2-mile roundtrip walk through the 1,250-foot high walls of the box canyon of Pillars of Hercules. You will marvel at the 181-foot-high Seven Falls.
Day 5: Garden Of The Gods
For your last day in Colorado, spend the morning enjoying the many activities of the Broadmoor resort from the Pikes Peak Cog Railway or mountain biking or learning to fly fish. In the afternoon, drive the 10 miles to the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center for a visit to this spectacular park.
Day 5: With Children Options
Your young ones might love the opportunity to relax in the giant outdoor infinity pool. Or, sign them up for a day at the Bee Bunch Camp—a day-camp experience that can include lunch.
Day 5: More Adventurous Options
You will love all the options at the Broadmoor resort from hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. You can try out the Wild West Experience where you will journey to the South Cheyenne Creek area for learning archery, pellet gun shooting, and how to throw a tomahawk.
Day 5: Garden Of The Gods
Close out your 5-day Colorado Road trip at the awe-inspiring Garden of the Gods National Natural Landmark with its distinctive rock formations. Explore the park on foot, ride a segway or e-bike, or with a classic Jeep tour.
Remember to give yourself 90 minutes to drive back to Denver International Airport with time to return your rental car, wait at security, and make it to your gate for your flight home.
Colorado has so much to offer. This 5-day road trip itinerary will give you chances to hike, ride, raft, and even crawl through a cave as you explore Colorado. Talk to your loved ones as you plan the best possible road trip to magnificent Colorado.
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