Colorado Summer Vacation Ideas

Whether you prefer mountain activities or scenic drives, a summer visit to Colorado has it all. Check out these Colorado summer vacation trip ideas and more!

Colorado is a mountain lover’s dream, with some of the tallest peaks in the continental United States and 58 “fourteeners” — mountains exceeding 14,000 feet in height. With towns world famous for their slopes, winter sports and fireplace-laden resorts, Colorado is often thought of as a winter paradise.

But summertime in Colorado provides a different kind of experience altogether. This beautiful, adventure-filled season presents travelers a myriad of opportunities to explore without bundling up. Whether you prefer mountain treks, music festivals, ancient dwellings, historic mining towns or scenic drives, a summer visit to Colorado has it all.

Front Range, Peak to Peak Highway and More

~ Approximately 30 minutes west of Denver International Airport

Drive just west of Denver into the wonders of the Front Range, a 415-square-mile section of the Colorado Rockies. Stop in Boulder, a small college town known for the distinctive Flatirons rock formations, its quaint Pearl Street Mall and amazing restaurants, where travelers can try local specialties like a bison burger at Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery.

Boulder is also a gateway via State Route 119 to the scenic byway known as the Peak to Peak Highway. Hop on 119 south for an easy and picturesque drive to the top of Boulder Canyon. If you keep driving west, you’ll also discover Nederland. Once a mill site for silver and tungsten ore, this charming mountaintop town offers travelers a vibrant music scene and a variety of eateries and shops.

Drive 20 miles south on the Peak to Peak Highway to Central City, an old mining town founded during the Pike’s Peak gold rush in 1859 and later considered the “richest square mile on earth.” Today, Central City is a festive casino town offering travelers the chance to soak in its wealth of history, or try their hands at a slot machine or two. Or, head north on the Peak-to-Peak via State Highway 72 to Ward where you can grab a bite at Millsite Inn, a family-friendly mountaintop bar and restaurant whose owner loves to share stories with young visitors of his encounters with a “ghostly gentleman” at the inn.

After satisfying your appetite, drive about 30 miles north via State Highway 72W and 7W to Estes Park, a small, kitschy town located at the doorstep of Rocky Mountain National Park that is home to the world-famous Stanley Hotel. Stephen King’s one-night stay at the hotel in 1973 inspired his depiction of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Finish your day with a majestic drive through Rocky Mountain National Park along Trail Ridge Road, which is only open in the summertime.

Front Range, Colorado


~ Approximately 110 minutes west of Denver International Airport

Nestled between sky-high peaks, Breckenridge is ranked one of the top 15 prettiest towns in the country and is a mecca for both winter and summer outdoor adventure. Open June through September, the Summer Fun Park is a favorite destination for families visiting the area, offering guided hikes, 4x4 tours, Segway tours, zip lining, and a day camp that teaches children outdoor skills while immersing them in science, nature and the arts. Take the alpine slide to the bottom of the mountain where you can pan for gemstones, ride the Gold Runner Coaster or enjoy a friendly game of mini golf at Super Putt.

If you’re seeking an aerial view of the Rockies, take a hot air balloon ride above the peaks mid-May through October with Colorado Hot Air Balloon Rides. Or, if traditional outdoor sports are more your speed, the Breckenridge area offers endless fishing, rafting and horseback riding. Bring the family to Breckenridge Stables for a trail ride, followed by fondue at Swiss Haven. After a full day, rest in cabin-style rooms in the heart of town at the Lodge at Breckenridge.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Colorado Springs Area

~ Approximately 80 minutes south of Denver International Airport
~ Approximately 20 minutes northwest of Colorado Springs Airport

About an hour south of Denver lies a completely different mountain landscape filled with wild rock formations showcasing reds and oranges more often found in deserts. The Colorado Springs area is also home to Pikes Peak, one of the most famous fourteeners in the country that is said to be the second most visited mountain in the world. Drive to the top via the Pikes Peak Highway, or, for old-fashioned fun, take the Cog Railway to the top.

Next, venture less than 6 miles from Cog Railway to the postcard-worthy Garden of the Gods. Explore this National Natural Landmark, with its dramatic red sandstone formations towering as tall as 300 feet that provide a wonderful backdrop for family photos.

Lastly, drive about 5 miles southwest to Manitou Springs, where you can visit the cliff dwellings of the ancient Anasazi or soak in the naturally carbonated mineral spring fountains long sought for their healing properties. In Manitou Springs, travelers can stay at The Cliff House at Pikes Peak, which has cozy, well-situated rooms with easy access to all the nearby areas of interest, including the Springs Orleans, a local go-to for authentic Cajun food.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Crested Butte

~210 minutes west of Colorado Springs Airport

Drive to southwest Colorado to discover Crested Butte, named for the 12,162-foot-tall Mount Crested Butte. Mountain bikers will enjoy riding Crested Butte’s 401 trail loop, which takes bikers past alpine lakes, mountain overlooks and aspen groves. If hiking is more your family’s style, there are more than 30 trails over Mount Crested Butte.

For music lovers, the Crested Butte Music Festival is a summer-long, family-friendly festival bringing music to the town, beginning in late June and ending in August. Ranging from symphonies to bluegrass jams, the festival is now in its 20th year and is a long-loved tradition of both locals and travelers.

After a day of biking, hiking or festival fun, grab a slice at the Secret Stash, the town’s favorite pizza joint. Then rest your head at one of the many well-maintained campgrounds in the area like Gothic Campground. If camping isn’t your thing, relax in historic downtown at Elk Mountain Lodge.

Colorado’s serene mountain views and the bounty of outdoor activities make the Centennial State a perfect summer destination for travelers seeking adventure, or simply a relaxing escape.

Crested Butte, Colorado
Vacation Stories

More Destination Guides


Discover Rocky Mountain National Park: What to See and Do

Discover Rocky Mountain National Park: What to See and Do
Towering mountains, crystal-clear lakes, rolling tundras and an abundance of wildlife – Rocky Mountain National Park has it all. Spark your desire to travel as you check out our insightful guide.

5 Lesser-Known Denver Attractions Full of Mile High Surprises

5 Lesser-Known Denver Attractions Full of Mile High Surprises
At the foot of the picturesque Colorado Rocky Mountains, the old west meets a thriving modern culture in Denver.

Tell the Kids to Take a Hike (With You)

Tell the Kids to Take a Hike (With You)
Getting everyone up and at ‘em can be hard. Especially when it means sacrificing cell phone signals and Wi-Fi for some good old-fashioned togetherness.

Heading to Colorado this Summer?

Find the closest Alamo rental car location

About the Author

Ashley M. Halligan is a copywriter, editor and journalist, with a background in travel and technology. She's been published by a number of outlets including Reuters and Irish Examiner. She recently founded Pilgrim Magazine, a narrative-focused travel publication launching this summer. She has a special relationship with Colorado, often visiting for Telluride Blues and Brews and for wintry weekends on the Front Range. You can follow her travels on Instagram: @contemporarypilgrim + @pilgrimmagazine.