Taking a road trip around Denver offers the opportunity to see some of the country’s most breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains, along with the state’s Old West history and remnants from the Colorado Silver Boom of the 19th century. A scenic drive is an ideal way to experience the area’s nature and historical past from the comfort of your rental car.
Top 15 scenic drives
1. Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway
Head a few hours west of Denver to explore the footsteps of ancient dinosaurs along 134 miles of the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway. Dramatic gorges serve as an incredible backdrop for dinosaur quarries and museums that are home to some of the world’s biggest prehistoric discoveries.
2. Lariat Loop Scenic and Historic Byway
This circular road connects the communities of Golden, Morrison and Evergreen, and can be accessed just 15 miles west of Denver. You’ll drive by Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, Buffalo Bill’s Grave and the state’s buffalo herd and ascend 1,300 feet up Lookout Mountain.
3. Loveland Pass Loop
Just over an hour outside of Denver, this scenic drive lasts about half a day and spans the continental divide that splits the nation’s watershed flow between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Snow-capped mountains make this a dramatic road trip any time of year.
4. Trail Ridge Road
Running through Rocky Mountain National Park, Trail Ridge Road earns a spot on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to being the highest continuous paved road in the country. In addition to mountains and valleys, you’ll also see glacier peaks. Plus, this family-friendly drive only takes a few hours round trip.
5. Guanella Pass Scenic Byway
While beautiful all year round, the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway really shines during its autumnal show of spectacular aspen tree leaves. At only 22 miles long, you can travel the length of the pass in about an hour while stopping to see an abundance of wildlife.
6. Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Drive
Just a short drive outside of Denver, this is an easy day trip you won’t soon forget. While you can get out to bike or walk, you can also drive through an 11-mile stretch to view incredible wildlife, such as bison, deer and coyotes.
7. Georgetown Loop Railroad
Take a scenic drive to the Georgetown Loop Railroad to explore a historic silver mining town. While you’re there, grab a train ticket and ride across the Devil’s Gate High Bridge, which is situated 95 feet in the air over Clear Creek Gorge. Train and nature enthusiasts alike will love this destination.
8. Littleton Crabapple Route
Just south of Denver, the small town of Littleton bursts into bloom each spring thanks to 7,000 flowering, vibrant pink crabapple trees. While the crabapple route is a brief seven miles, the town has an informal goal of achieving a world record of having the most crabapple trees per capita.
9. Mount Evans Scenic Byway
At 28 miles long, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway reaches an altitude of more than 14,000 feet. Start in Idaho Springs, about 30 miles outside of Denver, then continue the drive to check out views of the continental divide. You may also come across wildlife, such as bighorn sheep, and alpine wildflowers.
10. Rocky Mountain National Park
Aspen groves, lowland meadows and subalpine forests are just some of the biomes you’ll experience while driving through Rocky Mountain National Park. The park’s scenic route spans more than 160 miles, making this trip about four hours from Denver to Estes Park and back.
11. Idaho Springs to Central City
This 8.5-mile drive on Virginia Canyon Road is designed for those who aren’t afraid of narrow lanes and steep drop-offs with no guardrail. It’s certainly a thrill with gorgeous views. Plus, you can stop off to see pieces of the past, including ghost towns and old mines.
12. Deer Creek Canyon to South Turkey Creek Canyon
This loop winds through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and lasts about an hour and a half with continuous driving. In addition to passing beautiful red rock formations, this route also takes you through quaint towns where you can grab lunch or do some shopping.
13. South Elk Creek Road
Explore South Elk Creek Road, which is about 40 miles outside of Denver. After enjoying the winding roads, you’ll end up in the town of Pine, home to Pine National Forest. It’s the perfect stop for a picnic or a hike before heading back to the car.
14. Peak to Peak Byway
Ideal in fall but beautiful all year long, the Peak to Peak Byway takes you from Estes Park to Clear Creek Canyon in a three-hour drive. It’s the state’s first scenic byway and passes through aspen groves and ghost towns.
15. Pikes Peak Highway
Plan for at least three hours to drive up to the summit of Pikes Peak, which is more than 14,000 feet high. In addition to stunning mountain views, you’ll see lakes and tons of wildlife on your way up. If you’re traveling from May 27 through September 30, you’ll need to make a reservation to drive yourself to the top.
Denver road trip tips
If you plan to hit the road for one of these scenic drives near Denver, follow these tips for a smooth trip.
Keep your gas tank full
Taking the scenic route naturally means that towns, and therefore gas stations, will be few and far between. Review your route before starting your road trip and note gas station locations so you can top off when needed and ensure you won’t get stuck roadside with an empty tank.
Cell phone reception can drop when you’re traveling through remote areas. And if you’re relying on your GPS to get you to your destination, you may be unpleasantly surprised when the directions cut out. To avoid getting lost, download or print your directions so you’re always prepared. A related tip: bring a car charger to power up your devices.
Check the weather forecast
Stay on top of the weather when taking a scenic drive near Denver. Sudden changes, such as heavy rains and spreading wildfires, can force a detour or prolonged stop. It’s better to delay your road trip for a day than to encounter adverse weather conditions in a remote area.
Explore Denver with Avail
Start your scenic drive right from Denver when you use Avail car sharing. Our neighborhood pick-up locations are self-service, so you can just book online, grab the keys and go – no lines, no waiting. Every trip with Avail is protected by Allstate insurance and includes a second driver and 24/7 roadside assistance, so you can explore majestic, remote areas with peace of mind.