Denver may be one of the best cities in the nation to begin a number of fun one-day jaunts. Here is a look at five favorites.
Cripple Creek is an easy two-hour drive from Denver. Head south on I-25 to US 24, and drive west until you reach the town of Divide. Turn left to go south on Highway 67. This scenic drive culminates with a panoramic view of the historic gold mining town with the Sangre de Cristo mountains as the backdrop.
Those who enjoy gambling will find endless opportunities here, but there is a lot more to this town than slot machines. Experience the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine Tour and ride 1,000 feet underground viewing gold veins in their natural state. Kids of all ages will also enjoy a ride on the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad . One of the highlights here is the Homestead House Museum, located inside a former famous brothel. There are fascinating stories behind those walls, and several spirits are said to linger.
While you won’t find fine dining, Bronco Billy’s Cafe offers a filling and delicious breakfast any time of day, and the Imperial Hotel restaurant frequently has mouth-watering prime rib on the menu.
Leadville is another legendary frontier town just two hours west of Denver. Take I-70 west to exit 195 onto CO-91 and head south to Leadville.
The sun shines over 300 days a year here, with wintertime bringing an abundance of snow that covers the elegant Victorian-era homes. The entire town is part of a designated National Historic Landmark District, and visitors can hear the stories of Molly Brown who lived here with her husband, H.A.W. Tabor, at the city’s museum. Shop some of the eclectic vintage stores or take part in numerous outdoor activities.
Stop in at the Silver Dollar Inn, an Irish pub established back in 1879, for a Guinness, or dine at Quincy’s Steak and Spirits, the upscale joint in town offering high-quality cuts of beef, including filet mignon and prime rib.
Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park sits on the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, just an hour and a half from Denver, with some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in the nation. Take I-25 north to Highway 66 West in Longmont, and head into the mountains directly to Estes Park.
Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park have an abundance of attractions. In town you’ll find art galleries, shopping opportunities, and more. Kids and kids-at-heart can ride the big slide, drive go-karts, play miniature golf, or even bungee jump at the Family Amusement Park.
The national park has endless miles of hiking trails with lush valleys and peaceful rivers, as well as craggy mountain peaks reaching over 14,000 feet into the sky. It’s also home to elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, black bears, coyotes, cougars, eagles, and more.
For a special occasion, dine at the The Stanley Hotel’s Cascades Restaurant, located inside the famed hotel that inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining.” It has an elegant atmosphere and a menu that includes delicious Angus beef and fresh seafood.
Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs
The Garden of the Gods is 70 miles south of Denver on I-25 in Colorado Springs. The park includes dramatic 300-foot red sandstone rock formations with Pikes Peak in the background. There are miles of trails and places to explore, as well as a world-class visitors center.
For lunch and shopping, head six miles west to the town of Manitou Springs, set at the base of Pikes Peak. This magical mountain town has 11 naturally carbonated mineral spring fountains that are free for those who want to take a dip and enjoy the purported healing benefits. There are a wide variety of shops in this artistic community and a number of restaurants offering fine fare, from organic and vegetarian to award-winning meals for foodies at the Cliff House at Pikes Peak.
Hot Sulphur Springs and Granby
There is almost nothing better than a dip in the hot springs surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountain peaks. Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa is one of the oldest, largest, and finest in the country, and you’ll find it just a two-hour drive from Denver via I-70 West to US-40 West.
Spend the day soaking in the springs or indulging in one of the many spa services offered. Have lunch in Granby, a small town with a real Western feel just west of Rocky Mountain National Park and six miles from the springs. Maverick’s Grille offers delicious down-home cooking, including steaks, chicken, and burgers.
K.C. Dermody is a freelance writer and a Featured Contributor for Travel. She has traveled to nearly all 50 states and many countries worldwide and has a passion for imparting what she has learned from her experiences to others.
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