19 Incredible Places To Visit Within a Few Hours of Denver

Photo of author

Denver, the Mile High City, is a popular destination for travelers, with the city and surrounding region becoming a top choice for people wanting to move there. Known for its live music and barbecue, Denver also serves as an excellent base for exploring nearby natural wonders and cultural sites.

There’s a lot to do in the region, and much of it is within 3-4 hours of the city. Whether you’re hiking in secluded mountains or exploring historical towns, these destinations provide memorable experiences just a drive away. Here are 19 of them—note they’re not all in Colorado!

Snowy Range, Wyoming

Snowy Range, Wyoming
Image Credit: Alexey Kamenskiy/Shutterstock

Southwest of Laramie is this alpine gem. The road here climbs to timberline at nearly 11,000’ here, yielding views of flower-filled meadows, glistening lakes, and snowy peaks, and there are some very scenic hiking trails here, too. These mountains get their name not from the snow that covers their tops much of the year but from the white quartzite that makes up most of the range.

Vedauwoo, Wyoming

Vedauwoo, Wyoming
Image Credit: Michael Gjellum/Shutterstock

This granite wonderland is east of Laramie and right off Interstate 80. There are only a few established hiking trails, but you can also get out and just wander through meadows studded with granite peaks and outcrops. Vedauwoo also has a reputation for being one of the country’s most challenging rock climbing destinations, and there’s a good chance you’ll see climbers while you’re there.

Scottsbluff, Nebraska

Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Image Credit: Steve Lagreca/Shutterstock

The real attraction here is not so much the town but the nearby scenery. You have Scotts Bluff National Monument close by, and driving a bit east allows you to see Chimney Rock, a major landmark for west-bound pioneers, and Courthouse and Jail Rocks.

Mount Sunflower, Kansas

Mount Sunflower, Kansas
Image Credit: Fredlyfish4/Shutterstock

Mount Sunflower isn’t much of a hill since it rises only about 50’. That said, it gets a lot of visitors each year for one reason: it’s the highest point in the state at 4,039’ above sea level, and so everyone aiming to summit all 50 U.S. state highpoints has to make a trip there.

Monument Rocks, Kansas

Monument Rocks, Kansas
Image Credit: MS7503/Shutterstock

Most of Kansas has a remote feel, and this site feels especially remote. These dramatically shaped rocks are on privately owned land, but they’re open to the public (let’s keep it that way for everyone by treating the sire respectfully). One of the coolest formations is one that has a “hole” in it that you can walk through or use to frame a picture of other formations or, at the right time of year, sunrise or sunset.

El Cuartelejo Pueblo Ruins, Kansas

El Cuartelejo Pueblo Ruins, Kansas
Image Credit: ribeiroantonio/Shutterstock

Lake Scott State Park, very close to the Monument Rocks, is home to these centuries-old ruins. They’re what’s left of a small seven-room pueblo, the only one known to have been built in Kansas, and an Apache village.

Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado

Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado
Image Credit: Robert Harding Video/Shutterstock

Colorado may be the Rocky Mountain State, but about a third of it is part of the Great Plains. At this location northeast of Denver, you can get a glimpse of what the Great Plains were like before westward expansion came to them.

Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Hiker in Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado, USA
Image Credit: Margaret.Wiktor/Shutterstock

Estes Park is the main gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is literally in its back yard. It’s usually busy and always pricey, but it’s a fun town in a setting that can’t be beat, and the park itself is a delight for sightseers, hikers, campers, climbers, and cross-country skiers.

Indian Peaks, Colorado

Indian Peaks Wilderness, Colorado
Image Credit: Mosaic Photography PGH/Shutterstock

Just south of “The Park” is the spectacular Indian Peaks Wilderness. No roads cross it, so this is a place for those who want to explore by foot. The most popular access point is the Brainerd Lake Recreation Area, which has high-elevation trailheads from which to begin your alpine journeys.

Boulder, Colorado

Flatirons in Boulder Colorado
Image Credit: Nelson Sirlin/Shutterstock

Boulder is one of the most expensive U.S. cities to live in, but visiting doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Some of the best ways to enjoy the area are to go hiking or rock climbing in the Flatirons, Boulder Canyon State Park, or Eldorado Canyon State Park.

Red Rocks Amphitheater, Colorado

Red Rocks Amphitheater, Colorado
Image Credit: Radomir Rezny/Shutterstock

This is one of the coolest concert venues you’ll ever experience. Located just west of Denver, it’s an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by huge red sandstone rock formations.

Mount Evans, Colorado

Mount Evans wilderness in Colorado
Image Credit: BlueBarronPhoto/Shutterstock

A toll road winds its way up to a parking lot just below the summit of this “Fourteener,” one of over 50 peaks in the state with an elevation over 14,000’. Along the way are several scenic stops, including a forest of gnarled limber pines and a gem of an alpine lake. If you’re not already acclimated to the altitude out here, give it a few days before you do this drive so you’ll be less likely to experience altitude sickness, which in extreme cases can be deadly.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
Image Credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Pikes Peak is another 14er, and it looms over the Colorado Springs area about an hour south of Denver. Like Mount Evans, it has a toll road to the top. Another spectacular location close by is the Garden of the Gods, an area of sandstone pinnacles popular with hikers and rock climbers. Colorado Springs is also home to the U.S. Air Force Academy, and it’s a very military-friendly city.

Royal Gorge, Colorado

Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, Colorado, USA
Image Credit: Mohammad Altahat/Shutterstock

Southwest of Colorado Springs is Canon City, and just west of it is the Royal Gorge Bridge. At 1,053’ above the Arkansas River below, this is the highest bridge in the United States. The attractions there make this park a bit of a tourist trap, but it’s worth at least one visit just to experience the height of the bridge and the huge drop from it.

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado
Image Credit: Kris Wiktor/Shutterstock

According to some sources, this erstwhile national monument that was expanded and changed to a national park has the tallest sand dunes in North America, with the tallest rising 750’. Hiking up the tallest ones can be exhausting, but the trip back down is fast and fun. The setting is also incredible with the rugged Sangre De Cristo Mountains, some of which are in the national park, towering in the background.

Leadville, Colorado

Leadville, Colorado
Image Credit: PhotoTrippingAmerica/Shutterstock

At 10,158’, Leadville is the highest incorporated city (its size makes it feel more like a town) in the country. It has a rich silver mining history that many people come to explore, and it’s also a popular stop for people headed to other destinations in the state. Leadville is also close to Mt. Elbert, which at 14,433’ is the highest peak in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. Unlike Evans and Pikes, Elbert requires all leg (and lung) power to get to its summit.

Independence Pass, Colorado

Independence Pass of Colorado
Image Credit: Cat Dang Photography/Shutterstock

South of Leadville and near the flanks of Elbert, CO 82 heads west, and this byway connecting to scenic Glenwood Springs is one of the most beautiful in the state. It crests at Independence Pass on the Continental Divide at 12,093’, well above timberline and where the views are sublime. Then it descends to Aspen, gateway to the next destination on this list.

Maroon Bells, Colorado

Maroon Bells, Colorado
Image Credit: kan_khampanya/Shutterstock

The Maroon Bells are among the most beautiful and most photographed mountains in the world. A road winds south from Aspen to Maroon Lake, which perfectly frames these two peaks known by mountain climbers as the “Deadly Bells” for their treacherous rock quality. You can hike into the wilderness to get closer up and appreciate different perspectives.

Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction, Colorado, United States
Image Credit: Virrage Images/Shutterstock

Grand Junction is a sunny, growing city near the western border of the state. It’s surrounded by colorful badlands and sandstone, and it’s the main gateway to Colorado National Monument. There are many other public lands out here that let you explore the desert scenery, and it’s also a favorite destination for wine enthusiasts because of all the vineyards in the area.

The World’s Most Beautiful Mountain Ranges

woman sitting on mountain top
Image Credit: marvent/Shutterstock

For as long as humans have existed, mountains have inspired and daunted us. They’re the basis for countless legends, and although they can be deadly, have an irresistible pull on us, drawing millions of sightseers, hikers, climbers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts every year. Making a definitive list of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world is subjective, but the ones here are certainly strong contenders.

The World’s Most Beautiful Mountain Ranges

20 Incredible Places To Visit Within a Few Hours of Austin

man and woman cowboy Texas
Image Credit: Maridav/Shutterstock

These destinations provide a perfect getaway for travelers looking to uncover the authentic adventures that lie just outside Austin’s city buzz. Let’s look at some you won’t want to miss.

20 Incredible Places To Visit Within a Few Hours of Austin

+ posts

Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.