29 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Denver - Narcity

29 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Denver

A nature playground waiting to be explored!

Although the state of Colorado doesn't touch an ocean, there is no shortage of water-based activities to do in this mountainous state.

READ ALSO: 30 Secret Places In Denver To Bring Your Girlfriend This Summer

Colorado is famous for its incredibly diverse landscape. It has it all — snow-capped mountains, arid desert, and stunning river canyons.

One thing Colorado is also known for is its natural hot spring, that are often tucked away in the most picturesque places in the state. The best part, many of them are located just a quick drive from Denver!

On the whole, Colorado is a veritable natural playground with endless opportunities for adventure, relaxations, and fun.  Here are a couple of spots to help you get inspired!


Content disclaimer: We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit a potentially hazardous location, you check for the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. The locations listed below may or may not have changed their regulations in regards to what you can or cannot do on site since the article was last updated. Always consult with local authorities. If you do plan to visit a location, know the risks beforehand and respect the environment.


Visit the magical Great Sand Dunes National Park

Where: Mosca, CO
Time from Denver: 3 hours

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If you ever wanted to visit the desert without hopping on a plane, all you have to do is drive up to Great Sand Dunes National Park. This park is a natural marvel and a photographer's dream. Get up early — the light of the rising sun is magical here.

Spend a day relaxing at the popular Penny Hot Springs

Where: Crystal River, CO
Time from Denver: 3 hours

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Colorado is known for its wild hot springs. No one "owns" this place. It's just a naturally occurring hot spring in the middle of nature. Doesn't get more beautiful than that! This one is popular and does get busy on holidays and weekends.

Enjoy the beach at the Frisco Bay Marina 

Where: Frisco, CO
Time from Denver: 1 hour

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Enjoy this quaint marina in a charming town. You can enjoy the sights, or spend a day enjoying the water on a kayak or one of the many watersport boats available for rent in the area. 

Take a day hike at Manitou Springs

Where: Colorado Springs
Time from Denver: 1.5 hours

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This "resort" city in Colorado is the perfect spot to escape for a day or two. With tons of fun dining, drinking, and entertainment in the area, you'll never get bored. On top of that, the area is a natural playground filled easy hikes and activities for everyone to enjoy.

Visit the hidden natural springs at Strawberry Park

Where: Steamboat Springs, CO
Time from Denver: 3 hours

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This spot is known for its unusually hot springs. The mineral water is also known for having healing properties for the skin. Overall, the experience is going to be ultra relaxing. And this spot is family and kid-friendly as well!

Visit the unique and magical Sky Pond and Lake Of Glass

Where: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Time from Denver: 1.5 hours

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This is known to be one of the most breathtaking hikes in Rocky Mountain Park. Of course, it will take some effort, but the reward is worth it. At the end of this 4-mile hike is a pristine alpine lake with outstanding views.

Visit the jaw-dropping landscapes of San Isabel National Forest

Where: Leadville, CO
Time from Denver: 3 hours

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This is probably one of the most visited parks in Colorado because it's home to some of the highest peaks in the state.  In other words, serious hikers only. But in reality, there are all types of hiking trails for people of all level and experience to enjoy. The area also has campgrounds so that you can stay for the whole weekend, too.

Visit the Colorado Gator Farm

Where: Mosca, CO
Time from Denver: 3 hours

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Of course, you must love reptiles to visit this place.  Reptile and animal lovers will not be disappointed by the hands-on approach of this informative and friendly gator farm.

Check out the beautiful views at Booth Falls 

Where: Vail, CO
Time from Denver: 1.5 hours

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Booth Falls Trail is a popular hiking trail in Vail. It's a moderately easy hike with a great reward at the end — beautiful falls. The trail is well maintained so people of all ages and experience can enjoy the beauty of the area.

Visit the incredible Saint Mary’s Glacier

Where: Arapaho National Forest, CO
Time from Denver: 1 hour

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This trail is known for being "a short hike with high payoff."  In other words, an easy and short trail with majorly beautiful views at the end. Just look at those photos!

Check out the sunsets in the charming town of Frisco 

Where: Summit County, CO
Time from Denver: 1 hour

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With only a small population of 2,000 people, the town of Frisco will give you that friendly, rural experience you've been craving. The best part — the town is surrounded by beautiful views and mountains, you won't be able to put your camera down. 

Spend a day relaxing at Hot Sulphur Springs

Where: Grand County, CO
Time from Denver: 2 hours

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If you want to treat yourself, book a stay at the Hot Sulphur Spring Resort and Spa. The small town of 600 people is named "Hot Sulphur Spring" after it's most popular attraction. This quaint town is most definitely the best place for a quiet respite from the chaos of everyday life.

Take a day hike at Seven Falls 

Where:  Colorado Springs, CO
Time from Denver: 2 hours

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This popular attraction is privately owned so you'll have to pay the price of admission but it's totally worth it —the views are stunning! It's also a great spot to bring the whole family and young children. They even have an elevator that can bring you up the falls. All the beautiful nature views, little physical effort required.

Cross the massive Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge 

Where:  Cañon City, CO
Time from Denver: 2 hours

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Thrill seekers only! This spot is a popular tourist attraction in Colorado because this area is known for having the highest suspension bridge in the country! Just looking at the pictures gives me vertigo. 

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Visit the beautiful Mountains at Pike National Forest

Where: Douglas County, CO
Time from Denver: 45 minutes

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Lovers of the outdoors flock to Pike Natural Forest for its unique and otherworldly terrain. Parts of this part remain untouched and underdeveloped, making this spot a great place to escape for the true adventurer. 

Visit the quaint town of La Junta 

Where: Otero County, CO
Time from Denver: 3 hours

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In the Arkansas River Valley of Colorado lies the dynamic and historical town of La Junta. Some say it's one of the state's best-kept secrets. As one of the more populated cities in the area, this town has a lot to discover. Best known for Bent's Old Fort National Historic and, of course, there's tons of hiking, biking, and other recreational activities to do in the area.

Take a nature trip to Rifle Falls State Park 

Where: Garfield County, CO
Time from Denver: 3 hours

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This park is known for its 80-foot waterfall triple waterfall. Yes — three huge waterfalls! The best part is that it's only a quick 1-mile hike to the base of the falls.  Its one of those hard-to-find low effort/high payoff sites. 

Feed the animals at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Where: Colorado Springs, CO
Time from Denver: 1.5 hours

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Sitting at 6,800 feet above sea level, this zoological park is the highest zoo in America! As I always say, a day trip to the zoo is a no-fail. Although it can be quite expensive, the experience you'll get is worth the price of admission.

See the cliffs at The Devil's Punch Bowl

Where: Aspen, CO
Time from Denver: 2 hours

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Tucked away in the mountains of Aspen Colorado lies a breathtaking emerald pool that is very popular among locals for diving and weekend lounging.  Experienced divers will sometimes dive off the high cliffs. Caution is definitely advised here.

Take an easy hike at Red Rocks Park 

Where: Jefferson County, CO
Time from Denver: 20 minutes

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Need the quickest escape from the city? Look no further than Red Rocks park! This park is home to some very accessible and easy hiking trails that are perfect for that much-needed outdoor stress relief session. This spot is also popular for runners who are looking to take on some more challenging terrain.

Relax and unwind at the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool

Where: Glenwood Springs, CO
Time from Denver: 2.5 hours

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If you're in need of a seriously relaxing day and just the thought of going on a hike is tiring to you, why not unwind and slow down at the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. It's only $35 to get into the pool for the day, and if you want to splurge, you can book a room and stay overnight.

Take in the otherworldly landscapes at the Garden Of The Gods

Where: Colorado Springs, CO
Time from Denver: 1.5 hours

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This place is called "Garden of the Gods" for good reason — this place is a literal outdoor playground.  There's a whole list of activities to choose from and affordable rentals right in the park to assist you to have the best time possible. There's even a nature center in the visitor's area that the whole family will enjoy.

Visit the pristine emerald waters of Hanging Lake

Where: Glenwood Canyon, CO
Time from Denver: 2.5 hours

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The hike up to this natural and majestic mountain lake is only a quick mile. In other words, the payoff is very high for the effort, just how we like it. This spot is also a popular tourist attraction and receives visitors from around the state and country. 

Visit the beautiful Maroon Lake Scenic Trail

Where: Aspen, CO
Time from Denver: 2.5 hours

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The Maroon Lake Scenic Trail is a very busy and popular trail in Aspen, but for good reasons — it's simply breathtaking. The scenic trail loop is a relatively easy hike and will be one you will remember. Don't forget your camera!

Visit Chatfield State Park for a quick escape and swim

Where: Douglas County, CO
Time from Denver: 40 minutes

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Despite the fact that the State of Colorado is landlocked, there are plenty of water and swimming opportunities in the state — you just have to know where to look. This park is particularly famous for its lake and full-service marina that has all the amenities you will need for a day of swimming and boating.

Visit the beaches of Lake McConaughy

Where: Keith County, NE
Time from Denver: 3 hours

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This reservoir is actually located in Nebraska but is worth the drive from Denver, especially if you're looking to explore the surrounding areas. The lake itself has sandy beaches and tons of activities in the area to do during the summer season. 

Hang out on the beaches of Jackson Lake State Park

Where: Western Morgan County, CO
Time from Denver: 1 hour

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If you're looking to kick-back on some sandy beaches, this is the spot.  This large reservoir boasts sandy beaches and all the amenities you need for a day of waterside fun. You can also book a campsite and stay overnight in this popular local park.

Spend a day playing in the water at the Boulder Reservoir 

Where: Boulder, CO
Time from Denver: 45 minutes

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If you're visiting Boulder and looking for a quick escape and some relaxation, stop by the Boulder Reservoir for water activities and laid-back beach chilling. It's only a small fee to enter, and tons of rentals are available on site to help you enjoy your time on the water even more.

Take an easy hike up the Royal Arch Trail

Where: Boulder, CO
Time from Denver: 30 minutes

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This hiking trail is one of the popular in the area. Although only 3-miles, it can be challenging at times.  But it is worth it — there's a reason this trail is so popular, the landscape is absolutely stunning. 

Take a day trip and hike up to Ouzel Falls 

Where: Allenspark, CO
Time from Denver: 1.5 hours

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If you're looking for a quiet path that is less touristy and popular, look no further than this 5-mile hike to the beautiful Ouzel Falls. It's a bit of a longer walk, but that is offset by the fact that it's not too complicated. The falls at the end are beautiful and, of course, worth the effort.

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Michelle Cadieux Born and raised Montrealer. Psychology graduate. Meme-lover.