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Day Trips from Boulder 

Wondering what adventures await just outside Boulder? Fortunately, the city is located right where the mountains meet the plains, making it perfectly positioned for side trips to both mountain and city destinations within a short drive. Cute mountain towns with shopping streets, dramatic alpine landscapes and some of Colorado's top experiences are nearby. Below you'll find some ideas, along with drive times and public transportation options, where feasible.


Within One Hour of Boulder


Attractions & Parks 

Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park 

Drive time: 1 hour
This is truly Colorado wilderness at its very best. Crystalline lakes, jagged peaks rising up all around you, wildlife sightings, trickling alpine streams — it’s all here. That’s why it’s no surprise that Rocky Mountain National Park is America’s third most visited national park. Bring a picnic, go for a hike or drive Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved through-road in North America. Learn more on our wilderness escapes page

Rocky Mountain National Park

Photo credit Sonja Wilkinson

Guided Trips to Rocky Mountain National Park
  • 6000 W 38th Avenue
  • (720) 583-0654

Operated By: Aspire Tours Disconnect for a few hours in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Breathe in fresh mountain air and explore low trafficked areas with stunning views. Take your time, sit on a rock and look out into the vast mountain range in solitude. Enjoy driving along…

  • 2344 Pearl Street
  • (303) 494-1375

Operated By: Front Range Anglers Front Range Anglers is committed to providing you with the best Colorado fly fishing guides and guided fly fishing experience possible. We have assembled one of the most professional and top notch guide teams in Boulder and on the front range…

Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, Morrison 

Drive time: 40 minutes
This iconic music venue is set inside stunning sandstone outcroppings that formed 280 million years ago. Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is located inside a park owned by the city of Denver, which means you can come here anytime during open hours to climb the amphitheater steps, hike a network of trails or visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. Of course, the ultimate way to experience Red Rocks is at a live concert. 

People sitting apart in the Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre

Photo: Sarbjit Bahga - Wikimedia Commons, Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Roxborough State Park, Littleton  

Drive time: 1 hour 
Explore the otherworldly landscape of this state park south of Denver that’s something of a hidden gem. At Roxborough State Park, you can hike among the slanting ochre sandstone formations, watch for wildlife and spot wildflowers alongside the tails. 

Roxborough State Park

Photo: Hogs555 - Wikimedia Commons, Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Eldorado Canyon State Park, Eldorado Springs 

Drive time: 20 minutes 
Eldorado Canyon State Park was known as a getaway resort for well-to-dos in the first half of the 20th century. In fact, the Eisenhowers visited as newlyweds. Dazzled by the geology and natural beauty, guests continue to make the pilgrimage today, but as day hikers, climbers, picnickers and bikers. Read more about "Eldo" in our guide.

Rattlesnake Gulch Eldorado Canyon at Sunset/Sunrise In Boulder, CO

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Max and Dee Bernt

Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Golden 

Drive time: 40 minutes 
Golden Gate Canyon State Park is easily accessible from Boulder yet it feels like a remote, high-mountain escape. Its 12,000 acres are filled with aspen trees, granite boulders, tall grasses and fields of wildflowers, and the landscape is as inspiring as it is unique to the area. Read more in our guide.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Wild Animal Sanctuary, Keenesburg 

Drive time: 55 minutes
This extraordinary rescue organization has saved over 1,000 mistreated animals from all over the world (including 39 tigers rescued from the facility associated with the show “Tiger King”) and given them new life in sprawling habitats on Colorado eastern plains. At the Wild Animal Sanctuary, an elevated walkway cleverly lets you observe lions, tigers, bears, leopards, wolves and other majestic creatures without invading their space. It’s a truly transformative experience.  

Wild Animal Sanctuary

Photo: Wild Animal Sanctuary

Denver Art Museum, Denver 

Drive time: 35 minutes 
The superb programming at the Denver Art Museum makes it worth a special trip. You’re bound to encounter a worthwhile touring or exclusive exhibition, and the permanent collection is excellent, as well. The DAM’s Hamilton Building is itself is striking for its unconventional angles and shapes, designed by Daniel Libeskind. Kids love this museum, with interactive activities on every floor, in nearly every corner, and an incredible workshop space loaded with creative activities relating to the current exhibitions. 

Denver Art Museum

Photo: Ray Tsang from Irvine, USA - Denver Art Museum, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

Union Station, Denver 

Drive time: 35 minutes
Alternative transportation: Take the FF1 bus from the RTD station at Walnut and 14th St. This will take you directly to Union Station
This 1914 Beaux Arts train station in downtown Denver is still in operation as a transit center and has been lovingly transformed into a culinary and shopping hot spot, as well. It's a bustling hub of activity where you’ll find a handful of top-tier restaurants, coffee shops, bars and boutiques, plus a weekend farmers’ market. Be sure to enjoy a French 75 or another classic cocktail beneath the glowing sign of the Terminal Bar. 

Union Station

Butterfly Pavilion, Westminster

Drive time: 20 minutes
Watch as hundreds of butterflies flit from plant to plant in the balmy Wings of the Tropics exhibit at the Butterfly Pavilion. You'll also find lots of interactive exhibits for kids, a chance to hold a live tarantula, a busy beehive and a sea creature touch station.

Butterfly Pavilion

Photo: Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion - Wikimedia Commons, Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Towns & Cities 

Denver

Drive time: 30 minutes
As Colorado's capital city, Denver is chock full of urban adventure, from hot dining and music scenes to big-name attractions.  

3 Things to Do: 

  1. Stand at exactly one mile above sea level when you visit the 15th step of the Colorado State Capitol.
  2. Visit acres of amazing flowers and plants at Denver Botanic Gardens, one of the top five in the country.
  3. See a Rockies baseball game at Coors Field or a Broncos football game at Mile High Stadium.

Bite to eat: Linger has phenomenal food and drinks — and the most incredible rooftop with views of downtown.

Estes Park 

Drive time: 50 minutes 
This charming tourist destination is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and has a bustling downtown lined with fudge and ice cream parlors, souvenir shops and spectacular views. Learn more about Estes Park

Downtown Estes Park

3 Things to Do: 

  1. Shop Elkhorn Avenue and stop for some ice cream or saltwater taffy.
  2. Visit the grand and historic Stanley Hotel, which has a bar with Colorado's largest selection of whiskeys, and ghost tours by reservation.
  3. Have a picnic on the shores of Lake Estes.

Bite to eat: Discover true farm-to-table cuisine at Bird & Jim.

Nederland  

Drive time: 30 minutes 
Alternative transportation: RTD’s bus NB1 leaves from 14th and Walnut in Downtown Boulder  
This tiny mountain town set on the banks of Barker Meadow Reservoir hosts the annual Frozen Dead Guy Days and is close to hiking and scenic drives on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. Learn more about Nederland.

3 Things to Do:

  • Ride the wonderfully whimsical, hand-carved Carousel of Happiness for two bucks 
  • Stop for hot chocolate and mini donuts in an old train car at The Train Cars Coffee and Yogurt Company
  • In winter, ski at Eldora ski resort or in warmer months, hike at Caribou Ranch Open Space 

Bite to eat: Get a piping-hot pizza pie at Crosscut Pizzeria and Taphouse.

Carousel of Happiness

Lafayette and Louisville 

Drive time: 20 minutes 
Alternative transportation: The DASH bus travels back and forth along South Boulder Road to Louisville and Lafayette all day. 
Boulder is surrounded by “L Towns,” and Lafayette and Louisville are the two directly east of the city on South Boulder Road. Their adorable little downtowns are worth a visit for a slice of small-town Americana. 

3 Things to Do: 

  • Louisville’s Main Street has lots of patio dining, while Lafayette’s South Public Road is lined with cute boutiques, antique shops and eateries.  
  • Take a spin on the path around scenic Waneka Lake, which reflects gorgeous mountain views, Keep an eye out for lots of bird species; Lafayette is Colorado’s first designated Bird City USA. 
  • Kiddos adore the interactive WOW! Museum while grownups can sample beer at nearby Odd13 Brewing. 

Bite to eat: Take in a spectacular, hilltop view with a cider slushie in hand at Acreage cidery and restaurant in Lafayette. 

Acreage

Longmont 

Drive time: 25 minutes
Alternative transportation: RTD’s BOLT bus will take you right into Longmont from the downtown Boulder station at 14th and Walnut 
Surrounded by farmland and with distant views of Longs Peak, Longmont is an up-and-coming community of some 96,000 residents, with lots of breweries and eateries to try. 

3 Things to Do: 

  • Shop some 350 kinds of cheese at Cheese Importers, and peruse two stories imported soaps, linens, books, stationery, gifts and more. 
  • Sample beers at about a dozen breweries throughout Longmont, including longtime favorites Oskar Blues and Left Hand Brewing. 
  • The Boulder County Farm Trail comes out this way, with lots of homegrown farms welcoming visitors, such as picturesque Ya Ya Farm and Orchard and kid-favorite Sunflower Farm. 

Bite to eat: Try the dish du jour at Babette’s Pizza and Pane, followed by some gems from their bakery. 

Ya Ya Farm and Orchard

Loveland

Drive time: 45 minutes 
This little town with a big arts reputation is where to go for some fresh perspectives. Learn more about Loveland.  

3 Things to Do: 

  • See over 475 pieces of public art on display around the city, including at Benson Sculpture Garden and Chapungu Sculpture Park. 
  • Shop in historic downtown Loveland.
  • Go hiking on the Devil’s Backbone Nature Trail. 

Bite to eat: Be comforted with a brothy bowl of steaming ramen at Bowl Izakaya

Benson Sculpture Garden

Photo: By Montanabw - Wikimedia Commons, Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Lyons

Drive time: 25 minutes 
A small community at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Lyons is a quiet escape to small-town living surrounded by piney foothills. 

3 Things to Do:

  • Go tubing on the North St. Vrain River from Lavern M. Johnson Park. 
  • Discover a mountain biking mecca at Hall Ranch's beautiful trails. 
  • Taste small-batch spirits at Spirit Hound Distillers. 

Bite to eat: Order up a plate of fried avocado tacos at locally loved Mojo Taqueria

Downtown Lyons

Evergreen 

Drive time: 55 minutes 
A relatively short drive puts you into a high-alpine environment, with thick forests and high-altitude views. Learn more about Evergreen.

3 Things to Do:

  • Downtown Evergreen is lined with cute little boutiques, galleries and shops with some great bargains to be found. 
  • Try stand-up paddleboarding at Evergreen Lake, located right in town. In winter, the lake offers some of the best ice skating in the state. 
  • Go for a hike through peaceful meadows, aspen groves and pine forests at Alderfer/Three Sisters Park. 

Bite to eat: Tuck into a burger at the rustic, timber-beamed Murphy's Mountain Grill

Evergreen Lake

Photo: By Chris Light - Wikimedia Commons, Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Golden 

Drive time: 30 minutes  
A gold-rush town all grown up, Golden has a unique Western-flavored culture and a prized location surrounded by rugged mesas and outdoor recreation. 

3 Things to Do:

  • Grab a coffee to go and stroll historic downtown Golden and snap a pic under the “Howdy Folks! Welcome to Golden” sign. 
  • Delve into Colorado history at the Buffalo Bill Museum or Colorado Railroad Museum. 
  • See behind the scenes at a mega-brewery on the Coors Brewery Tour. 

Bite to eat: For food that is (almost) too beautiful to eat, try Abejas

Golden

Photo: David Wilson/Flickr Creative Commons

A Little Bit Farther Afield 

If you’re willing to spend just a little more time in the car, consider these additional day-trip getaways from Boulder: 

  • Mount Evans (2 hours) Drive all the way to the top of a “fourteener” (a mountain higher than 14,000 feet above sea level). This incredible roadway meanders through five climate zones on its nearly 9,000-foot climb. The views are breathtaking, and you may spot mountain goats along the way. 
  • St. Mary’s Glacier (1 hour 15 minutes) See this permanent snowfield reflected in St Mary’s Lake and watch skiers come down the glacier, even in summer. The hike to the lake is about a mile round trip. 
  • Breckenridge (2 hours) A day trip from Boulder to Breckenridge is definitely doable, but we recommend you choose a weekday if possible to avoid traffic on I-70. Once there, you’ll be delighted by one of Colorado’s most scenic mountain Main Streets, surrounded by outdoor recreation galore and scenic mountain splendor. In the winter, this is one of Colorado's top ski areas.
  • Castle Rock (1 hour 5 minutes) The promise of great deals at the Outlets at Castle Rock is reason enough to spend a day venturing to this Front Range city. A hike at Castlewood Canyon State Park will complete your venture. 
  • Fort Collins (1 hour 5 minutes) Bikes and beer are this college town’s two passions, but you'll also find fantastic dining and shopping in Fort Collins’ well-developed downtown. 
  • Colorado Springs (1 hour 35 minutes) A hit with families, Colorado Springs has a stellar lineup of attractions: the geologic wonders at Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center, the 14,115-foot Pikes Peak, the US Olympic & Paralympic Museum and more. 
  • Hot Sulphur Springs (2 hours 15 minutes) We’ve added this to the list because we often are asked, “Where are the nearest hot springs to Boulder?” Yes, they’re a bit of a drive, but worth the trip to soak in the therapeutic waters of the springs along the Colorado River.