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The Ultimate One-Day Colorado Road Trip

By: Spencer McKee

I’ve hosted several out-of-state visitors recently. Each time another friend comes to stay, they always want to see as much of Colorado as possible over a very short period of time. As a result, I’ve perfected a day-long road trip loop that delivers some of the best of what Colorado has to offer while only taking roughly 6 to 7 hours (pending traffic on I-70 and weather).

Handicap and wheelchair accessible Colorado Garden of the Gods - OutThere Colorado


Begin by heading west on Highway 24. This takes us past Manitou Springs, Garden of the Gods, and Pikes Peak through Ute Pass and headed toward Woodland Park.
Woodland Park, Colorado - OutThere Colorado


Not only does Woodland Park deliver great mountain views, it has one of the best doughnut shops on the Front Range. Grab a cinnamon roll as big as your face from the Donut Mill plus a few extra doughnut holes to stay fueled for the rest of the trip!
Wilkerson Pass OutThere Colorado


From Woodland Park, we jump back on 24 past Divide and towards Hartsel. This part of the drive will take you to one of the most beautiful views in the state. When you reach the top of Wilkerson Pass, you’ll look out onto a basin dotted with cattle and ringed by 14ers in the distance. You’ve reached the edge of the Front Range and are well on your way into the mountains. This route is rarely busy, so pull over at the summit and take a couple of pictures.
Hoar Frost on a Mountain Pine Forest OutThere Colorado
Wilkerson Pass is also a great spot to pass through during the fall if you’re hoping to spot changing colors.
Bison - Katie Rae Bode - OutThere Colorado


Once you’ve gotten your perfect selfie, jump back in and continue down the pass towards Hartsel.You’ll see a herd of pronghorns before eventually turning right towards Breckenridge, and don’t forget to pause at the bison overlook right as you turn onto State Highway 9.

Photo Credit: Katie Rae Bode
South Park sign by Spencer McKee


At this point, you’re on a direct path towards Hoosier Pass above Breckenridge, which happens to be on the Continental Divide. On the way, notice that you’re traveling through South Park County, the namesake behind the popular cartoon. You’ll notice this area looks quite a bit like it does in the show. You can even pull over and snap a picture with some of the characters.
Hoosier Pass Mount Lincoln View OutThere Colorado


Hoosier Pass is up next. A true mountain pass with hairpin turns, this road can worry those not used to traveling on roads with drop offs. Just make sure to follow the traffic laws and pay close attention to hazards that might be caused by weather conditions.
Breckenridge, Colorado - OutThere Colorado


After you’ve soaked up some sweet views, you’ll come down Hoosier Pass soon to hit Breckenridge. Take your time in this picturesque ski town. This is the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs with a charming main street and a diverse collection of restaurants and shops. Rita’s Speciality Margs and Taco Bar is one of my favorite places for a quick snack.
Paddleboarding on Lake Dillion, Colorado - Katie Rae Bode - OutThere Colorado


Once you’ve gotten your fill, hop back in the car and head towards Swan Mountain Road. This leg of the trip, resting high above the Dillon Reservoir with panoramic views of the 10 Mile Range, will be one of the most scenic sections, eventually connecting with U.S. Route 6, which will take you past both Keystone Resort and Arapahoe Basin.

Photo Credit: Katie Rae Bode
Dillon Reservoir off of I-70 -OutThere Colorado
Dillon is another great spot to pass through during the fall if you’re looking to spot some changing leaves.
Loveland Pass Summit OutThere Colorado


If the road that takes you over Hoosier Pass had you worried, you’re not going to like this next part. After passing Arapahoe Basin, you’ll soon be on Loveland Pass, which has steeper dropoffs but probably the best view you’ll see the entire road trip. Make sure you stop at the top for a picture. The summit is at 11,990 feet!
Red Rocks - daveynin - OutThere Colorado


After this, head on towards Denver, where I’d recommend you stop to enjoy a night on the town. Two great places to explore on the way there are Golden and Morrison, the home of the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Photo Credit: daveynin.
Roxborough Rocks Colorado Parks and Wildlife OutThere Colorado


After Denver, head on back to Colorado Springs or pop up to Boulder for a couple hours. You’ll be exhausted, but you will have seen a ton of what Colorado has to offer over a fairly short and extremely scenic drive. Need a little more to do? One place to stop on the way includes Roxborough State Park.
Photo Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Here’s a map of what this road trip looks like, including an estimated drive time of around 6 hours.
Photo Credit: @2018 Google Maps

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