Colorado is a huge state, coming in just a bit smaller than the country of Ecuador. Besides being huge, it is quite diverse. So if you only have 5 days in Colorado, here is the best 5 day Colorado road trip itinerary for a summer visit. And it’s all family-friendly!
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Since it is so big, you won’t be able to see everything in Colorado in 5 days. But I’ll show you the BEST things to see in a short time so you’ll go home with plenty of memories, and a longing to return.
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Where to head first:
The first day of your 5 day Colorado road trip itinerary will be heading to the mountains. I know, you probably thought I was going to say Denver.
Denver is great, but the main attractions for families include the zoo, aquarium, amusement park, and museums. The museums are really cool, but I’m guessing you have those main attractions in your nearest major town at home.
So we are jumping straight to Colorado’s crowning gem: the mountains.
(Though if you do head to Denver, try out some of the Top 10 FREE things to do in Denver with kids.)
Day 1 of 5 days in Colorado
Breckenridge is a very popular ski town in winter, but we especially love it in summer.
In Breckenridge you can enjoy hiking to waterfalls and lakes, to the woodland troll, playing at the outdoor adventure park at the top of the mountain (it’s just a free gondola ride away), and walk around town to get that mountain town feeling.
Tip: Take advantage of the free gondola here. Many mountain towns have gondolas and they are a bit expensive!
We absolutely love going to Breckenridge in the summer. It’s such a family-friendly town with fun things to do for all ages. Play in the water and rocks at the plaza, go ice skating at the ice arena, play and explore at High Line railroad and park.
For full details, check out the Best 10 Things to do in Breckenridge in Summer.
Where to Stay in Breckenridge
Breckenridge has tons of community events and festivals year round. Check out the Breckenridge schedule to see if you’ll be in town during one of them!
Day 2 of the 5 Day Colorado Road Trip Itinerary
Vail is only about 45 minutes from Breckenridge, giving you a nice easy drive to your next destination.
Vail is known for its world class skiing. (It’s my favorite resort).
But just like Breckenridge, it’s a great place to visit during the summer. As you drive through the mountains during your 5 days in Colorado, make sure to stop in this Europen-style town.
As you walk through Vail Valley, you’ll notice the influences of Swiss-styles on the architectures and design. Plus, you’ll have the gorgeous mountains all around you.
When in Vail, go for a stroll down the rec path. You can even bike down Vail Pass, a favorite past time of locals.
Ride the gondola, take a stunning hike (Missouri Lake Trail is gorgeous and will gift you some waterfalls and lakes, Booth Falls is shorter but still gorgeous), catch a performance at the amphitheater, take the kids to the park, or shop at the local farmers market which runs every Sunday during the summer.
Where to Stay in Vail
Vail is a ritzy town. If you can splurge, it’s a beautiful, friendly place to stay. If not, just drive over to Glenwood Springs (it’s only about an hour away) and stay the night there instead.
If you’d like to stay in Vail, check out these great places:
Sonnenalp is a great hotel for families to stay at. You’ll get a nice pool (and poolside bar), kids club (included!), game room, and rooms that can sleep up to 7. This hotel is beautiful inside and out.
Four Seasons Vail is obviously a very nice hotel. The brand brings luxury, and this one brings an incredible spa. Kids will love the great pool and free kids club. You can book a standard room that sleeps 4 (and is still luxurious), or you can book multiple room units with living space and gorgeous kitchens that sleep up to 11.
Tivoli Lodge comes with less sticker shock than the Four Seasons. It’s still great for families as the rooms come with a small kitchenette to heat up your own breakfast, or you can head to the breakfast buffet ($).
Day 3 of 5 Days in Colorado
Glenwood is a short drive from Vail at just about an hour.
Glenwood Springs is a gorgeous mountain town not far off from I-70. It’s in the midst of Glenwood Canyon, the most beautiful part of I-70 that there is.
Within Glenwood Springs, you’ll find some pretty adventurous and unique things to do.
For starters, you’ll definitely need to stop at the Glenwood Hot Springs. This is the largest mineral hot springs pool in the world.
Then make sure you make an advance reservation to hike Hanging Lake, often noted as one of the most beautiful hikes in Colorado (and kids can go, too!)
The adventurous ones can take a pendulum swing off the edge of a cliff…for fun, of course. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is filled with thrill rides. If major thrill isn’t your thing, you can also just ride the mountain coaster or tour through the caves at the park.
After a day in Glenwood, you’ll want to drive down to Alamosa, which is about a 4 hour drive. The next few days of your 5 day Colorado road trip itinerary will be way different than mountain adventures, but will give you a great taste of Colorado. So it’s worth the drive to see what comes next.
Day 4 of Your 5 Day Colorado Road Trip
From Glenwood Springs to Alamosa, it will take about 4 hours to arrive.
Alamosa may not be on your radar, but this is just where you’ll be staying the night. I recommend driving here the evening after visiting Glenwood Springs because you are going to want to get going earlier in the morning for your adventures near Alamosa.
The main attraction near Alamosa is Great Sand Dunes National Park.
This national park is really like no other. The main event doesn’t feature any specific hiking trails, waterfalls, or lakes.
It does feature the tallest sand dunes in North America. Star Dune stands at over 700 feet tall, and you are free to hike to the top if you’d like.
Otherwise, you can rent a sand sled nearby and just enjoy the day on the dunes with the kids. This will be the most unique, and probably most fun, thing you do during your 5 days in Colorado.
We thought it would be fun to visit the sand dunes. We were surprised at how fun it was and ended up staying way longer than we thought.
Make sure to bring snacks and lots of water.
And I recommended going earlier in the day. This is because the sand can reach burning temperatures midday during the summer, so you’ll want to go before it gets too hot.
If you visit in early summer or late spring, you’ll also notice that Medano Creek at the bottom of the dunes is full. This is a great place to cool down and play. You must at least pass over Medano Creek even if you don’t stop to play, so make sure to bring a small towel to dry your feet off with after crossing.
Where to Stay
Holiday Inn in Alamosa for a standard hotel.
Or stay at Great Sand Dunes Lodge with options of cabins and lodge rooms. It’s located just outside the national park.
>>Great Sand Dunes National Park made our list
Day 5 – the final day of your 5 Day Colorado Road Trip
Colorado Springs is about 2-1/2 hours away from Great Sand Dunes National Park or Alamosa.
Colorado Springs is another must on your 5 day Colorado road trip itinerary. It’s not in the mountains and there are no sand dunes. But there are so many other fun things to do.
I love Colorado Springs because it’s a mix of outdoor adventure and cool attractions.
No matter your preference in adventure, you have to visit Garden of the Gods. This free visit will walk you through a garden made of sandstone rock formations. The main garden trail is paved, stroller-accessible, and quite easy for even little kids.
For those wanting more outdoor adventures, check out Red Rock Canyon open space for some unique hiking. This terrain is a bit more arid, so bring a hat. You’ll even get a cool view of Garden of the Gods from a distance.
Hikers can also enjoy their free visit to North Cheyenne Cañon park. Here you can hike in the trees and along rivers, or even just pull over to see the cool Helen Hunt Falls on your drive up the canyon.
Besides hiking, families will also love visiting the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic museum, Seven Falls, riding the Cog Rail up to the top of Pikes Peak, checking out nearby Manitou Springs for the penny arcade or Manitou Incline (a largest staircase up a mountain you’ve ever seen).
Check out a full list of fun things to do in Colorado Springs with the whole family during your 5 days in Colorado.
Or if you have more time, try this 3 Day Colorado Springs itinerary.
Where to Stay
Colorado Springs has some really nice and really family-friendly accommodations. Here are a few options:
Great Wolf Lodge – a huge indoor waterpark you can play at any time of year.
Garden of the Gods Resort– beautiful grounds, pools, and great location.
Cheyenne Mountain Resort – a more affordable option to Garden of the Gods, and a bit more family-friendly (playground, pools, waterslide, kids stay free)
Quality Inn and Suites – a budget-friendly option for families. Breakfast and wifi included, and still a great location (and seasonal pool)
Sample Schedule for your 5 Day Colorado Road Trip Itinerary
If you are having a hard time figuring out which things to squeeze into each stop, try this schedule out:
Day 1- Breckenridge.
Take the shuttle to the ice arena, where the Trolingston Trailhead is. Walk the short trail to see the troll.
Stop at High Line Park, which is in the same parking lot.
Take the shuttle to the gondola and ride for free up to Epic Discovery adventures at the top. Grab some lunch at the top of the mountain and then spend the afternoon playing at Epic Discovery.
Ride the gondola down. Head over to Iowa Hill where the kids can find old mining equipment on this less-than-a-mile loop.
Check in and stay the night at Grand Lodge Peak 7
Day 2– Vail.
Rent some bikes and take the family to ride Vail Pass. If you have younger riders, then just bike on the rec path in Vail.
Stop for lunch and enjoy walking around Vail Valley, admiring the Swiss architectures and local shops.
When you feel fueled up, try the Booth Falls hike to see a spectacular waterfall. This will take a few hours, so make sure to start right after lunch. The hike is 4 miles. If you have younger hikers, another option is the easy Village Streamwalk along the creek and past the Botanic Gardens.
Check in and stay at Sonnenalp
Day 3- Glenwood Springs.
Take the morning to hike to Hanging Lake. Eat lunch when you return, and then head to Glenwood Hot Springs and just relax.
Grab an early dinner and then make the drive down to Alamosa.
Check in at Holiday Inn in Alamosa.
Day 4 Alamosa.
Get going as soon as you wake. Head Kristi Sports and rent a sand sled. Then drive to Great Sand Dunes National Park to play for the day on the dunes and in the creek (seasonal).
Make sure to bring a packable lunch in the car! You can eat at the picnic area just beyond the parking lot.
On your drive out, stop at Zapata Falls for a short and fairly easy hike to a cool waterfall!
Make the drive over to Colorado Springs about 2-1/2 hours) and check in to Cheyenne Mountain Resort.
Day 5 Colorado Springs.
Head to Garden of the Gods. (The earlier the better to beat a full parking lot).
Then go to Seven Falls to see the sequence of 7 waterfalls dropping in a canyon.
Grab some lunch, then head to the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum to see past Olympic memorabilia, test out some of your own athletic skills, and maybe even get a glimpse (or greeting) from future olympians.
That’s it! That’s a lot to pack in in just 5 days, but it gives you a great feel for all Colorado has to offer.
5 Day Colorado Road Trip Itinerary
There is truly so much to see in Colorado that this just gets your toes a little wet. But with just 5 days in Colorado, it really covers a lot of ground to be able to get a taste of Colorado without too much driving in between.
So when planning your 5 day Colorado road trip itinerary, make sure to include these fun, outdoor, adventurous, and unique places to your trip. And then visit again soon!
Have more time? Check out the many places you can go in Colorado for your next visit with this list of Road Trip stops all over Colorado.