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Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Tips or ideas for 7 day road trip in/around the Rocky Mountains?

Hi, there!

I'm looking for ideas (places of interest) for a 7-day (Sat - Sat) road trip leaving from Boulder, CO (return destination is Denver). 

Would it be better to find a cabin that is central to the park and explore from there? 

Google Maps estimates Yellowstone to be a 9-10 hour drive from Boulder. It's a long stretch, but I wonder if it's not completely out of the question to make a mad dash there.

We will have a tight budget but don't want to limit ourselves too much.


5 Answers

top answer by
Heidi from Colorado

I see that folks have already recommended Estes Park. If you'd like to be a little closer to the Front Range you might try Lyons. It's a charming little town and it's about 25 min from Boulder and 30 minutes to Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park. There are some great restaurants there including the Lyons Fork and you must go to Oskar Blues Brewery for beer and a burger.  

I spent my summers in Yellowstone as a child. It's a LONG haul from Colorado and you should plan a real vacation there - not just a "mad dash." 

You could also easily swing up to Loveland (Colorado) and check out the brewery and art scene or if you really love beer be sure to get to Fort Collins too. They call Northern Colorado the Napa Valley of Beer. It's fun to grab a bike at the Fort Collins Bike Library and tool around. 

You may find some other useful suggestions on my site, I write about Colorado festivals and travel. Depending on when you're in state, you may want to catch one of our awesome festivals!  

Hope this helps! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Estes Park (city)
  2. Lyons (city)
  3. Rocky Mountain National Park (park)
  4. Lyons Fork (restaurant)
  5. Oskar Blues Brewery (restaurant)
  6. Loveland (Colorado) (city)
  7. Fort Collins (city)
  8. Fort Collins Bike Library (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
Kelly from Sayreville, New Jersey


My favorite area in CO is Ouray.  I like to stay at Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs  The Bon Ton Restaurant, a short walk from the motel, is incredible. The rooms are basic, reasonable and there are soaking tubs on the property. It is quite a long ride from Boulder but if you like hiking and soaking in hot springs it is worth the drive.  It's also only an hour from Telluride which is another gem.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ouray (city)
  2. Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs (hotel)
  3. Bon Ton Restaurant (restaurant)
  4. Telluride (city)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Jacey & Scott from Fort Collins

Yellowstone is a long drive from Denver, it's certainly worth the visit-but you have so many beautiful things right in Boulder/Denver's back door that are much closer.

Would also suggest moving your hotels, not staying/basing in Boulder as most of the roads (except I-70) are going to be 2-lane, so a 30 minute drive may take you 45-60 minutes depending on the cars in front of you.

Estes Park Visitor Center is an excellent place to head first.  Spend some time in the town and nature watching in Rocky Mountain National Park (go for a day hike).  From there, head through Grand Lake to Steamboat Springs-visit the Fish Creek Falls and Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs and spend some time soaking in the fun city!  You can start making your way back to Denver from there through Vail.

Or you can take a more southern route and head down to Colorado Springs, visit Manitou Springs for an afternoon, Garden of the Gods and even Pikes Peak.  From here, head into the mountains to Salida (Colorado) and white water raft or just visit the artist shops and galleries.  Make your loop through Buena Vista, Leadville and into Breckenridge before heading back.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Estes Park Visitor Center (attraction)
  2. Rocky Mountain National Park (park)
  3. Grand Lake (city)
  4. Steamboat Springs (city)
  5. Fish Creek Falls (attraction)
  6. Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs (attraction)
  7. Vail (city)
  8. Colorado Springs (city)
  9. Manitou Springs (city)
  10. Garden of the Gods (attraction)
  11. Pikes Peak (attraction)
  12. Salida (Colorado) (city)
  13. Buena Vista (city)
  14. Leadville (city)
  15. Breckenridge (city)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered first by
Todd from Boulder

Kar, what time of year are you planning your trip? While Yellowstone is amazing it is still two days of travel to get there and back.  

 A better bet may be to stay in a cabin in Estes Park. It's a national park and just celebrated its 100 year anniversary. Its truley spectacular with hikes and sights from meadows to peaks racing over 14k feet.  

You can take the Peak To Peal highway from there to Grand Lake, and to many ski resort towns, old mining and ghost towns. All of the drives over mountain passes are spectacular and worth seeing.  

 Head down to Colorado Springs and visit the Garden of the Gods and drive to the top of Pikes Peak also over 14k feet!  

 Then you loop right back to Denver.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Estes Park (city)
  2. Grand Lake (city)
  3. Colorado Springs (city)
  4. Garden of the Gods (attraction)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Michelle from Oregon

I would agree with that it's probably better for Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone National Park to be two separate trips so you can really enjoy and explore each.

Also agree that Estes Park is a great town to stay in. It has a lot of activities from biking, touring, rock climbing, boating, fishing, and amusement parks. This is a great place to start not only because there’s a lot to do, but also because the free shuttle system can take you just about anywhere. Another recommendation would be the The Baldpate Inn, a one-of-a-kind historic hotel in the area - if you can't stay there, make a reservation for their awesome buffet.

There are plenty of hotels in Estes but we used VRBO to find a vacation rental and it was an excellent experience.

You could honestly spend days in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s great for hiking, scenic drives, and interpretive programs. Bear Lake Trail, Trail Ridge Road Summit, and the Tundra Communities Trailheadwere some of our favorites.

If you’re traveling on a budget, hiking is an excellent way to spend your time and there is no shortage of hikes to choose from! Our full list of favorite hikes and our pictures of our adventure are on our blog. Check it out here:

On our road trip, we also stayed a couple nights in Fort Collins, which is an awesome college town with tons of restaurants, biking trails, breweries, etc. More on that here:

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Rocky Mountain National Park (park)
  2. Yellowstone National Park (park)
  3. Estes Park (city)
  4. The Baldpate Inn (restaurant)
  5. Bear Lake Trail (attraction)
  6. Trail Ridge Road Summit (attraction)
  7. Tundra Communities Trailhead (attraction)
  8. Fort Collins (city)

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