The mile-high city of Denver offers much to visitors venturing to the mountainous state. However, some may prefer to venture outside of the busy metropolis to explore other activity options. There are many day trips available in the scenic area.
1) Garden of the Gods – Colorado Springs
The unique location features a series of red sandstone formations contrasted by lush green vegetation and clear, bright blue skies. The monoliths stand up to 500 feet in height with many boasting familiar shapes. Start at the visitor's center and watch a short multimedia presentation concerning how the formations began.
Acquire a map from the center and venture through the park via vehicle, bike, electric bike, Segway or on foot. Self-guided and guided tours are available. Many have been fortunate enough to encounter deer or one of the many wildlife species along the way. Follow the colorful map to visit some of the most popular monoliths. Perhaps embark on the park's hosted scavenger hunt. Or, locate the various geo cache sites.
2) Seven Falls – Colorado Springs
Experience one of the most stunning locations in the area when visiting Seven Falls. Venture into the picturesque boxed canyon and hear the roar of the water created by seven individual cascading flows. There are fly fishing opportunities through the Broadmoor Resort.
Guests have the chance to see the beginning of the falls from the top of Inspiration Point. Access the peak by accepting the challenge of scaling the 224 steps to the top. Conversely, visitors might opt to take the easy route in the mountain-based elevator. Stay till after sunset and view the waters illuminated with colorful lights.
Hike one of the trails that extend from 0.04 to 3 miles in length. A variety of on-site gift shops and eateries provide the chance to get souvenirs and refreshments.
3) Manitou Cliff Dwellings – Manitou Springs
Learn about ancient cultures who made the region home long before Denver was established. Tour the fascinating dwellings, which represents how ancient native peoples created homes by carving into the sandstone. Get a sense of how they lived and thrived in the area. The current three-story structure contains 40 individual rooms. Original cave dwellings were created sometime between 800 and 1,000 years ago. The natural setting provided homes and protection for generations of Taos Pueblo, who arrived from New Mexico. Families continued living in dwellings until the 1980s.
Explore each level of the structure to see how the people cooked, slept, and performed daily activities. The original site eventually expanded to include an informative museum filled with artifacts and pottery. A local souvenir shop provides the chance to acquire Native American handcrafted jewelry, pottery and other items.
4) Cave of the Winds – Manitou Springs
Two young brothers carrying candles accidentally discovered the cave system in 1881. Soon after, a stone cutter from Ohio named George Snider began offering tours of the caverns. Electric lighting was added in 1907. Today, families are invited to take guided tours lasting up to one hour and extending half a mile beneath the surface to witness stunning natural formations. Thrill seekers might prefer the haunted lantern tour that ventures one mile along a path that additionally provides chilling folklore and tales of unusual phenomena. Or, take the expedition crawling and spelunking tour.
Combine a cave tour with the chance to explore the site above ground by attempting Geronimo’s Leap challenge course or embarking on the bat-a-pult adventure. There is also a climbing wall that beckons adventurists. Public facilities and eateries are also available.
5) Georgetown Loop Railroad and Mining Park – Georgetown
Day trips might involve the chance to step back in time to experience travel during the 1800s. Enjoy the journey when taking a ride on one of the park's historic steam-powered locomotives. The open air cars provide the chance to enjoy and photograph the stunning views while breathing fresh mountain air. The trains run year-round, and the location hosts a number of seasonal events.
Reserve a ride during Old West Days when scoundrels hold up the train. Maybe enjoy the journey during the annual murder mystery event. Embark on a breath-taking adventure during September to see the beautiful fall colors. Come in the winter to enjoy various holiday excursions.
Venture down more than 1,000 feet into the Lebanon silver mine. See the equipment miners used back in the day. Imagine the hard work involved in procuring the rocks during the latter part of the 19th century. Haunted lantern tours during October appeal to brave adventure seekers.
6) Rocky Mountain National Park – Estes Park
The majestic scenery often entices visitors to take day trips from Denver into the mountains. The national park provides guests with the chance to see the spectacular scenery for which the Rocky Mountain region is known. The park encompasses 415 square miles of terrain that ranges from flowered meadows, lakes and streams to snow-covered alpine peaks. More than 300 miles of trails are available for cycling, hiking and horseback riding.
Hundreds of elk and bighorn sheep accompany mule deer, coyotes, mountain lions, foxes, and marmots that represent more of the 60 mammal species found in the park. The mountains are a bird-watcher's paradise with more than 250 species recorded, which include the falcons, golden eagles, jays and nutcrackers frequently seen while trekking on the Trail Ridge Road.
The Colorado River regularly attracts anglers who hope to catch various kinds of trout. While catch and release programs ensure the health of local fish populations, numerous lakes and streams offer catch and keep options.
7) Tour the Stanley Hotel – Estes Park
The expansive resort served as the inspiration for Stephen King's “Pet Cemetery” and “The Shining”. Day and night tours of the facility are offered, which provide guests with the chance to learn about the facility's colorful history and spectral occurrences. Children giggling in the hallways during the wee hours of the night along with a housekeeper who insists on keeping rooms tidy are but some of the experiences commonly reported by guests.
While in the area, venture to the downtown area and browse through the collection of boutique shops. The picturesque location also provides the chance to enjoy a leisurely stroll while taking in a bit of nature. Enjoy the Riverwalk that combines the Big Thompson and Fall Rivers at the George Hix Riverside Plaza that is considered the heart of the Riverwalk. Local attractions also include various bridges, fountains and statues. Or, take a day trip and visit Rocky Mountain National Park.
8) Bishop Castle – Rye
The quirky but interesting fortress was built solely by Jim Bishop over a span of 60 years. Today, the castle serves as a testament to one man's dream and determination. The structure stands three stories tall and is complete with bridges, tall towers and a fire breathing dragon. Visitors are welcome year-round, free of charge to tour the amazing masterpiece.
Bishop created the whimsical dragon in the 80s after a friend dropped off a large load of steel at the Bishop Ornamental Iron Shop. He spent an entire winter hammering the steel into a frame and scales. Upon completion, the 80-foot tall beast was positioned in front of the Grand Ballroom. The donation of a hot air balloon burner serves as the dragon's fiery breath.
Guests are welcome to tour all of the rooms within the medieval-like castle. On the weekends, visitors might stop by the iron shop to catch Mr. Bishop working on a new project.
9) Anheuser-Busch Brewery – Fort Collins
Although widely known for creating Budweiser, the brewery today actually creates ales under 33 different labels. Facility tours are available in order for guests to catch a glimpse of how their favorite brews are created. The expansive property also contains the stables where the beloved Clydesdale horses reside.
If the animals are not on tour, they may be found in their paddocks in all of their majesty. The gentle giants are truly a sight to behold up close. The grounds also include a small house where the resident Budweiser dalmatian takes refuge.
The gift shop provides the chance to purchase a number of iconic Budweiser treasures featuring the past and present mascots. The Clydesdales, the frogs, the lizards, and Spuds McKenzie are all on display. The wide range of available items include beer steins, wooden crates, and outerwear bearing the Anheuser-Busch or Budweiser symbol.
10) The Royal Gorge and Bridge Park – Canon City
Get a bird's eye view of the Arkansas River below when walking across the bridge suspended 956 feet over the spectacular gorge. Adventure seekers without a fear of heights might consider taking the Skycoaster ride from the top of the 100-foot tower over the edge of the gorge while looking down 1,200 feet to the bottom.
The Cloudscraper Zip Line ride is another option. Get strapped into the seat of the ride having lines running parallel between the bridge and the aerial gondolas. Zip lining provides an adrenaline-rushing means of seeing the canyon below.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Anze Furlan/Shutterstock.com.