Archives for the month of: June, 2011

I'm originally from the UK and have lived in Denver, Colorado, for 18 years now. One of the great things about Denver is the range of spectacular scenery you can drive to from here. I very strongly recommend visitors to Denver to try to add a few days at the beginning or end of a trip here if they can fit in the time, to take in some of these sights. I've done a series of blog posts suggesting things to do if you have anywhere from one day to seven days.

Follow the links below for more information on each of these options.

With one day you can take in Rocky Mountain National Park, Mount Evans, or various other places in the mountains west of Denver.

With two to three days you can do several of the one day trips, and/or stay up in the mountains.

With four days you can take in the amazing Yellowstone National Park.

With a week you can do one of the ultimate road trips and drive down to the Grand Canyon, taking in several other spectacular National Parks in Utah along the way.

I have been fortunate to travel the world pretty extensively, and I can honestly say that these trips rank right up there among the best ones that I've done. So especially if you haven't been to this part of the world before, I highly recommend that you try to fit one of these in if you're visiting here!

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This post is part of my series on great road trips from Denver.

With a week you can do one of the ultimate road trips and head out to the Grand Canyon, taking in several other spectacular National Parks in Utah along the way. The Grand Canyon is somewhere you have to visit in person to have any idea of how big it really is. It’s definitely on my list of places that everyone should try to visit at some point in their life. I very strongly recommend staying on the north rim, it is much less crowded than the south rim. There’s only one place to stay on the north rim, Grand Canyon Lodge, and it gets booked up a long way ahead of time, though often you can get cancellations. However, on our last trip we stayed at Jacob’s Lake Inn, the next closest place which is about 40 miles away, close by local standards! We liked it there – not fancy but good value and very friendly staff. You should definitely watch the sun set at Cape Royal.

Along the way you have the opportunity to take in several spectacular National Parks in Utah, including Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon and Zion. And also Monument Valley with its iconic red rock pillars, featured in many western movies. All are amazing, but in my opinion the two most unique are Arches and Bryce Canyon. You can get to Arches in about 5 hours from Denver, so that is doable in a long weekend. One of our favorite places that we stayed on our trip was Castle Valley Inn, just outside Moab – a beautiful green oasis among the red rocks, where we saw deer and wild turkeys wandering through the garden, and they have a hot tub which is great for gazing at the amazing night sky there. See the photos above for an idea of the incredible scenery you can take in on this trip.

For other options if you have less time, see the rest of my series on great road trips from Denver.

This post is part of my series on great road trips from Denver.

With four days you have the option of heading a little further afield, either into Utah (see what to do with one week) or up to Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is a really spectacular and unique place, combining great scenery, lots of wildlife including more buffalo than you will see anywhere else, and many interesting geothermal features from geysers (including the famous Old Faithful) to bubbling mud pools.

A couple of nice places to stay inside the Park, if you book early enough, are Old Faithful Inn and Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Or there’s a good range of places to stay, including plenty of cheaper options, in West Yellowstone. For a 4 day itinerary I would recommend:

  • Day 1: drive from Denver to Jackson, Wyoming (about 10 hours?) and spend the night there. Jackson is an interesting little western style town, also home to the well known ski resort of Jackson Hole.
  • Day 2: drive north from Jackson through Grand Tetons National Park, which has spectacular mountain and lake views. This brings you into the south side of Yellowstone and you’ll be able to take in the famous Old Faithful Geyser, which erupts every 90 minutes. And you’ll have plenty of chances to see other sights in Yellowstone en route to wherever you’re staying.
  • Day 3: more Yellowstone exploring
  • Day 4: a full day’s drive back to Denver, I would suggest driving out of the east entrance of Yellowstone to see something different, or you could retrace your route through Jackson.

Yellowstone really is an extraordinary place, and very highly recommended.

For more options, see the rest of my great road trips from Denver series.

This post is part of my series on great road trips from Denver

With 2-3 days, you could either stay in Denver and do one day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park and one up I-70, or you could stay up in the mountains – see my post on what to do with one day. Ski resorts like Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, and nearby Dillon and Silverthorne, all have plenty of accommodation and are a little over an hour’s drive from Denver. Breckenridge probably has the most character of these towns. Vail and Aspen are the two best known ski resorts in Colorado and a little more expensive, but both very nice. The drive to Aspen via Leadville and Independence Pass is especially spectacular (but only open in the summer). All of these places offer great scenery and easy access to outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking.

For other options if you have more than three days, see my great road trips from Denver series.

This post is part of my series on great road trips from Denver.

My top recommendation if you have one day would either be to drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park, or to drive west up I-70 into the mountains, where you have a variety of places to visit, including Mount Evans and Red Rocks.

Rocky Mountain National Park is about an hour and a half’s scenic drive away from Denver. In addition to spectacular mountain scenery, you are likely to see some good wildlife, especially elk. You can drive and just stop for short strolls at various viewpoints along the way, or go for a longer hike. A favorite hike of mine there, which is reasonably gentle by Colorado standards, is from Bear Lake to Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes – you can see some pictures here. If you do choose to hike and are coming from sea level, it may be best to go after you have had a few days in Denver to acclimatize (Denver is a mile high, 5280 feet or 1600 meters, and up in the mountains you can be at anywhere up to 14,000 ft).

If you drive west up I-70 you have various options for places to visit. Although it’s an Interstate the road itself is very scenic. A top recommendation would be to drive up to the top of Mount Evans, which is at 14,000ft with breathtaking views, and you have a great chance of seeing mountain goats and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, which you see in very few other places. However, the road to the top closes on Labor Day, which is September 5 in 2011, so if you’re here for the FOSS4G conference that won’t be an option unless you come out a week beforehand.

A good alternative for spectacular views is to drive up to the Continental Divide (rain that falls west of the divide flows into the Pacific Ocean, while rain that flows east of the divide flows into the Atlantic). A really nice short hike is St Mary’s Glacier (which is not really a glacier but a small permanent ice field). This gives you some great mountain views with relatively little effort, and it’s not too far of a drive to get there.

On the way up I-70 you will pass the old mining towns of Idaho Springs and Georgetown, which grew up during the gold rush in the 1800s and both are worth a short stroll around. Idaho Springs is home to Beau Jo’s Pizza, a favorite stop for dinner on the way back from a day in the mountains. Close to Denver, you will also pass Red Rocks Amphitheater, a spectacular natural amphitheater that is now a concert venue that has played host to the Beatles and Stravinsky, and was where U2 recorded “Under a Blood Red Sky“. If there’s not a concert on (check here) you can wander round for free. This is a half hour drive from downtown, so a good option for a late afternoon excursion. Close to Red Rocks is The Fort, an interesting restaurant if you feel like splurging on western delicacies like buffalo, elk or rattlesnake.

For other options if you have more than one day, see the rest of my great road trips from Denver series.