Colorado is one of the most scenic states you can visit, especially in the fall! Towering rock formations, colorful leaves, historic districts, vibrant street art, craft beer galore, and more make it totally worth the trip. If you only have 4 days to visit the “Centennial State,” you’ll want to make the best of time by visiting multiple cities and indulging in can’t miss experiences. For a few days on the road that will showcase much of what makes Colorado an unforgettable place, here’s the ultimate 4-Day Colorado Road Trip Itinerary.
Table of Contents
Day 1: Boulder
Where to Stay in Boulder
Having opened as the first luxury hotel in Boulder in 1909, the Hotel Boulderado has been offering guests elegant views and Victorian-style class for more than a century! And from the moment you enter the hotel, you can certainly tell – the stained glass ceilings, the grand staircase, the original Otis elevator (it still requires a live operator!), and the vintage artifacts peppered throughout the hotel allow you to step back into the past. Who said time travel wasn’t real?
It’s perfect for a modern traveler with an appreciation for history, sweeping views, convenient dining, and a luxury experience. It’s no mystery that its been open for decades – it’s a unique experience! Click here for my guide to Hotel Boulderado, including the room types, dining options, on-site experiences and more.
Hike The Boulder Flatirons
A trip to Boulder wouldn’t be complete without hiking the stunning Flatirons at Chautauqua Park. It’s everywhere – keychains, travel guides, magnets, business names. It’s a MUST see! These slanted sandstone formations are one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, making up the foothills of the west side. The hike has a few different trails of varying difficulty for all skill levels. We opted for the Second Flatiron Loop Trail (2.6 miles). Although the trail is deemed moderate, it’s quite strenuous! Be prepared for steep inclines and rock scrambles. The views are most definitely worth the trek.
Visit Pearl Street
Pearl Street is the heart and soul of Boulder. The pedestrian-only thoroughfare is filled to the brim with restaurants, boutiques, gift shops, and more just waiting to be discovered. Stroll through the wonderland of storefronts, eat your heart out at culinary hotspots, or simply enjoy people watching. This bustling town center is a great place to experience all things essential to Boulder. For music lovers, be sure to stop by Paradise Found Records to indulge in nostalgia while you browse through the vast collection of vinyl hits.
Day 2: Denver
Where to Stay in Denver
For the remainder of our trip, we decided to keep Denver as our home base and make day trips out to the rest of our attractions. It can be a bit of a hassle packing up and moving hotels every day, so we stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Denver Downtown-Convention Center. It was perfect for us, and the hot tub was definitely a perk! For Day 2 in Denver, everything was within a 30 minute drive of the hotel. For Days 3 and 4, we woke up early and drove out 1.5 hours to Colorado Springs and about the same distance to Estes Park. This was the best way to do it in my opinion, so that you can stay within 30 minutes of the airport for an easy departure.
Take in the Splendor of Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Rock formations, but make it a music venue. How is that even possible!? Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is a geological wonder – an open-air performance venue etched by hand into the side of towering rock formations in the 1930s. Today, the park has hosted some of the largest names in entertainment, from The Beatles to John Legend. Of course, catching a show here is the best way to truly experience the theatre. However, there are also hiking trails to lead you around the park’s trademark rock formations. Don’t skip out on the quick 1.4-mile loop if you have time!
Indulge in Craft Beer
Denver is a craft beer lover’s paradise – there are literally more than 100+ locally-owned breweries that call the city home. It’s no wonder the Great American Beer Festival is held here every year, drawing beer aficionados from around the world. We stopped by Epic Brewing‘s taproom, which has a comfortable neighborhood feel and good vibes all around. Since my boyfriend and I don’t really drink beer much, we dipped our toes into the water by ordering the Pakka Hard Seltzer. There’s also usually a food truck parked out front to grab some lunch! Epic Brewing is located in one of the most beer-forward neighborhoods in Denver: the River North Art District (RiNo) which is just north of downtown. Which brings me to our next itinerary item.
RiNo District Street Murals
There’s a reason that RiNo is called the River North ART District. The street art and murals there are absolutely beautiful! The neighborhood Best of all, you’ll always see new murals popping up around the district as they’re committed to bringing in new installations each month. While we were there, we were lucky enough to see some of the muralists at work. Be sure to set aside some time to stop and look around, because there’s so much beauty to be discovered. You just might find a piece that speaks to you! Click here to get the map of murals in the RiNo District.
Denver Zipline Adventures Sunset Zip
Who’s up for an adrenaline-fueled adventure? A zipline experience with Denver Adventures Zipline Tours is exactly that! You can zoom down Colorado’s longest and fastest ziplines ranging from 850ft to over 1,900ft long almost 250 feet off the ground. I definitely recommend trying to book the later time if you can. There’s nothing like soaring through the Rocky Mountains as the sunset paints the sky orange. It’s an unforgettable moment! During the summer months, they offer sunset tours starting at $99.99. During the fall months when we visited, we booked the two hour 4-Line Zip Tour at 4:30PM for $79.99 (the sunsets a bit after 6PM).
Experience Larimer Square
Larimer Square is home to an mix of independent shops, culinary hotspots, lively bars, and more. It’s the perfect place to end your day in Denver and experience a bit of the downtown life. As the oldest commercial block in the city, you can see the historic charm as you stroll the fairy light-laden plaza. Sit down and have a delicious meal, grab drinks, or enjoy a ride on one of the rickshaws around the block.
Day 3: Colorado Springs
Visit the Garden of the Gods
One of my absolute favorite days spent in Colorado was at Garden of the Gods. The beauty of the rock formations tells a story of the local landscape unlike any other. Think 300 million years of history carved into this natural creation! It’s no wonder the park is one of the most photographed locations in the state, drawing an estimated 4 MILLION visitors each year. For my budget-friendly travelers, make this a stop on your list as it’s one of the few parks that are totally free to visit. We spent the entire day here from sun-up to sun down hiking, flying the drone, eating, driving around, and just enjoying the beauty.
If you aren’t nature nerds like us and don’t want to spend the entire day in the park, here are a few nearby attractions in Colorado Springs:
- National Museum of World War II Aviation
- Ghost Town Wild West Museum
- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
- Old Colorado City Historic District
To me though, it’s really worth spending the whole day in Garden of the Gods!
Day 4: Estes Park
Trekking in Rocky Mountain National Park
Speechless. Just speechless. Hiking through Rocky Mountain National Park is one of those stories I’ll be telling our grandkids. First of all, the drive through Estes Park was incredibly scenic – we even saw moose walking through the streets. Also, I was super thankful I packed a hat and heavy jacket because it’s crazy how cold it gets there in comparison to how hot is is down in Denver (just look at how my attire evolved through the trip).
There are a few things that you must know before you go:
- At the time I’m writing this, reservations are required to enter the park. From May 28 through October 11, 2021, visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park will need a timed entry permit and an entrance pass to get inside. BE SURE to check the details for the timed entry permit system. We were so lucky to get a pass. When they are released, they go extremely fast. Set an alarm and be on the website as soon as they drop.
- There is AWFUL phone reception in Estes Park. Our GPS dropped several times while we were on the way up to RMNP. Download your maps and routes to use offline with the Google Maps App. Here’s how.
- Choose your trail before you go to the Park. We took a random trail, and although we ended up having a great time, I think we could have planned better instead of choosing at random. AllTrails is a great resource to read trail reviews and honest opinions about level of intensity.
- Cell reception is nearly non-existent. Download the trail maps to be used offline and keep a park map handy. Be sure to know your limits as far as how far and how long you want to go. The sun goes down quite early in the fall, and you want to make sure to finish the hike before the sun sets if you’re not an expert. Have a good plan and pack food, water, flashlights, and handwarmers in the cold months.
As you can see, there are so many diverse experiences to be had in Colorado – even in a short amount of time. Have an amazing trip!