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).
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Because OutThere Colorado is headquartered in Colorado Springs, I always start the trek there. If you’re not leaving from the Springs, feel free to start anywhere on the loop for a similar experience. Let’s start the Colorado road trip!
1. Garden of the Gods:
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. 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!
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2. Pikes Peak from Woodland Park:
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.
3. Wilkerson Pass:
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.
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4. Bison Pulloff:
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.
5. South Park:
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.
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6. Hoosier Pass:
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.
7. The Town of Breckenridge:
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.
8. Lake Dillon:
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!
9. Loveland Pass:
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.
10. Red Rocks Amphitheater:
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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.
Check out the full map of my ultimate one-day road trip below!
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