There’s boundless beauty to behold in Colorado—you can embark on scenic hiking trails, admire glorious mountains, wander through picturesque parks, and so much more. Simply put, there are endless options for those visiting the Denver area and it may feel overwhelming when deciding what to do. It can also be difficult to plan out if you’re short on time or want to avoid any tough hikes or strenuous activity. While it may seem like you need to be some type of expert explorer to make the most out of Colorado, you actually don’t need to be!
I moved to Denver two months ago and even though I’m an extremely active person, I wanted to find hikes and attractions around the area that were easy to drive to and explore while I settled into my new home. I’ve come to find that there are plenty of scenic places to discover at a fun and leisurely pace. So consider my eight suggestions below your ultimate guide to finding the easiest, yet most scenic places in and around Denver!
1. Barnum Park – Once you’ve done your city sightseeing, I recommend taking a short drive to Barnum Park to round out the experience. This sprawling green park features a spectacular view of Denver’s skyline, which is not an easy viewpoint to find. The drive should be around 15-20 minutes depending on where you’re staying, and if you happen to have a dog with you, the park offers a great dog run too!
2. Silver Dollar Lake Trail Hike – Head west for a truly gorgeous hike that takes you through a tranquil forest and out to idyllic mountain and lake views. To get here is quite simple and the drive allows you to pass through quintessential Colorado towns like Idaho Springs and Georgetown. From your doorstep to the parking lot of the trailhead, it should take you no more than an hour and 20 minutes. You’ll hit Georgetown and then have a very scenic drive up Guanella Pass before arriving. The hike itself to the first viewpoint of Naylor Lake is 1.2-1.9 miles depending on where you park. It’s another half mile to the see the other lakes, but with some steepness and elevation, those who want a lighter hike might want to turn back—but don’t worry because Naylor Lake itself is breathtaking enough! And watch out for wildlife along the way! Mountain goats and foxes might very well make an appearance.
3. Breckenridge – No matter the season, Breckenridge is a wonderful place to visit. Less than two hours away, it’s another easy drive west. Along the way you can stop to see Lake Dillon, a picturesque stop that offers exceptional views without breaking a sweat. Breckenridge is a quaint town filled with shops, excellent dining, and great lodges. The icing on the cake is the towering mountains that surround it. In the summer you’ll still find them covered in patches of snow and of course the winter brings along plenty of white powder for skiers and snowboarders. Plus, there’s a famous troll you might want to say hi to!
4. Boreas Pass – After a visit to Breckenridge, don’t just turn back around. Instead, drive through Boreas Pass where you’ll be completely blown away by the plethora of spectacular vistas and viewpoints. It’s the grandest way to see all the mountains and hilly landscapes that stretch across the area. This drive takes about an hour and half depending on how many stops you make, and then brings you out to Highway 285, another road with amazing views that takes you back to Denver.
5. Garden of the Gods – This time, you’re heading down south to Colorado Springs! Garden of the Gods is one of the coolest parks in the state because of its striking sandstone rock formations. Walking around here is not only extremely unique, but easy as well. There’s no hiking involved, just some lengthier walking. And if you want to be even more leisurely about it, you can drive through the park as well and find really nice viewpoints. I recommend doing both! To get to Garden of the Gods from Denver, it’s just an hour and 15 minute drive, and you’ll certainly love the scenery along the way.
6. Paint Mines – This unearthly and intricate park is a great addition to your Garden of the Gods trip. Another southern attraction, but a bit more east, is the Paint Mines Interpretive Park. This place is a little piece of Mars on Earth! The landscape is comprised of prehistoric sandstone formations and hoodoos that vary in color from white to bright red. It’s a small park, which makes it easy to walk around and see everything in about an hour’s time. So escape earth for a bit by tacking this park onto any Southern Colorado adventure.
7. Rocky Mountain National Park – Now here’s the main event, with no strenuous hiking needed! Located an hour and a half north of Denver, you enter Rocky Mountain National Park just after passing through the town of Estes Park. You can easily drive Trail Ridge Road to see all the overlooks and scenic spots. You may even see some elk and moose along the way! If you do want to take a short and simple hike, I recommend the Bear Lake Loop, which has very pretty scenery and views. Right next to that trailhead is a slightly longer easy to moderate hike to Alberta Falls. All in all, this mini road trip through the park will take a few hours, just depending on how many stops you make. You do have to pay to get into the park, but it’s free if you enter before 6 a.m.
8. Davidson Mesa Park – Squeeze in a last little slice of heaven by taking a stroll in this fantastic Louisville park. It’s the perfect spot to admire the outstanding mountain views of Boulder. I definitely suggest exploring Boulder and maybe taking a hike or two, but this is where you need to head for a magnificent sunset featuring Boulder’s mountain ranges. The park also offers a spacious off-leash dog park for those with a pooch. This scenic spot is located about 30 minutes outside of Denver and is a quick stop off en route to Boulder, making it easy to visit either on your way in or out of that area.
This list certainly just scratches the surface of all there is to see and do, but when it comes to efficiency and taking things at a leisurely place, you won’t be disappointed with these recommendations!
So which adventure will you start with?
Should I add something to list? Drop your comments and thoughts below!