Colorado Road Trip for Families

Road trips are becoming more and more popular these days. One great thing about a road trip is you don’t have to buy a separate ticket for each person coming, and that can be a huge savings if you have a few kids! Family road trips are also great because you can see and experience so many things along the way. Here I share an itinerary for an amazing Colorado family road trip! This itinerary is full of fun stops for a Colorado road trip with kids. Find family-friendly things anywhere you go. If you’re looking for the best Colorado road trips for families, this is it!

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family Colorado road trip pin

You can use this post to plan an a family-friendly road trip, or just pick the stop you want to visit. Here are the places this post will take you to:

  1. Denver
  2. Colorado Springs
  3. Pagosa Springs
  4. Mesa Verde
  5. Million Dollar Highway
  6. Telluride
  7. Aspen
  8. Breckenridge
  9. Rocky Mountain National Park

I also highly recommend Steamboat Springs if it works in the schedule. It’s not on this road trip itinerary, but I do have a full guide to Steamboat Springs.

Road Trip Stop #1: Things to do in Denver

We’ll start in Denver, but really you can start anywhere as this road trip will make a loop! Spend a few days in Denver (about 2 full days). You’ll be able to walk around and really enjoy the city. Then, pick a thing or two from the list below to see all the reasons locals love Denver! Fill your days with fun, then spend the evening at one of the family-friendly performances at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

>>Taking a Colorado road trip with kids has many opportunities for attractions and activities, so make sure to take check out all the fun, free things to do in Denver with kids.<<

16th Street Mall

Right in the heart of downtown Denver you’ll find 16th Street mall. Located right where it’s named (16th street) are free busses that go up and down the street dropping you off and picking you up all along 16th street. 16th Street is great for shopping and dining.

Denver Pavillions, towards the south end, has plenty of shopping and dining as well as a movie theater. You’ll find the Republic Plaza building, the tallest building in Denver. 16th Street also features chess boards to stop and play and you may even find some musicians sharing their talents along the street.

16th Street is a great place to experience Christmastime in Colorado, as you’ll get to see the mile-high tree all lit up to music. A couple blocks away will be the Christkindl Market.

Union Station

Union Station is both historic and trendy. Union Station is the transportation hub for Denver. You can jump on the light rail, which will take you all through Denver or to cities in the metro area; hop on the Amtrak Train, access the 16th Street shuttle, or jump on the RTD Bus system, which can transport you to cities around the area. You can even catch a ride to the airport from here.

But you don’t have to catch a ride to enjoy Union Station. This renovated, eco-friendly building is grand in-and-of itself. Plus there are many fresh, delicious, chef-owned restaurants within and around Union Station. Stay at the beautiful Crawford Hotel, which is right at Union Station and can set you up with a tour of the historic site.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

This museum is really fun for the kids, and the adults will love it as well. From active places to run around and climb, to a whole wing on space, the whole family will enjoy a day at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. In some sections, there are even staff members who do live demonstrations and explanations of science topics. With exhibits that rotate through, a planetarium, and IMAX films, there is something for everyone at this Denver Museum!

kids exploring space and black holes

Elitch Gardens Theme Park (and Water Park)

Similar to a Six Flags, this huge theme park will be fun for everyone in the family! You can enjoy roller coasters, rides, concerts, events, and even a water park at this Elitch Gardens location.

Denver’s Downtown Aquarium

This Denver Downtown Aquarium is not to be missed! Here you can experience the desert, sea, rainforest, coral, and even a tiger! Once you’re done exploring the animals, you can hop on the carousel, or on the electric train outside that will take you along the South Platte River. After a day at the aquarium you can relax at the unique sit-down Aquarium Restaurant, where you can watch animals within the 50,000 aquarium in the restaurant.

Denver Zoo

The Denver Zoo is pretty impressive. It hosts over 3,000 animals within its 84-acre campus. Right when you walk in, you’ll be welcomed by the lions in the open-air, rock-themed exhibit. You can grab a map when you’re there, or download Denver Zoo’s App for easy navigation and great info.

Denver Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens have come a long way in past years. They have always been beautiful, but now they are quite interactive as well! Not only does the garden feature over 700 species of plants, but they also have art exhibits and great kids areas. At Denver Botanic Gardens, head to the 3rd floor of the parking garage where you can experience Mordecai Children’s Garden. This garden is 3 acres of fun, featuring interactive play and materials where kids can explore species from Colorado’s climate.

The Denver Mint

The Denver Mint produces coins that get circulated into the U.S. nation. You can book a free tour through the Denver Mint, and make sure to visit the gift shop where you’ll find unique items to take home as souvenirs!

State Capital Building

Topped with a gold cap, the Colorado State Capital Building can be toured for free on weekdays (please see link for tour info. As of writing this post, tours are suspended, but you can enjoy a virtual tour). The inside is adorned with Colorado Rose Onyx; in fact, it’s adorned with all the available supply of Colorado Rose Onyx that there is!

Hammond’s Candy

Hammond’s Candies offers a free factory tour! Book your reservation ahead of time, and then enjoy a tour of the factory, including some great samples! This may be the kids’ favorite thing to do on vacation!

Washington Park

Washington Park, or “Wash Park” as known by locals, is a popular, beautiful place to unwind, relax, and just enjoy. Surrounded by lakes, flowers, and a replica George Washington’s gardens at Mount Vernon, Wash Park is the perfect place to pack a picnic and enjoy the fresh air. Find it at S. Downing Street and E. Louisiana Ave.

City Park

City Park is the most popular park in Denver and sits on 320 acres. It’s conveniently located right at the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The open space makes both these landmarks feel fresh and vibrant. Pack a picnic, go for a walk, or relax!

Where to Stay in Denver

Denver is not short on hotels! Here are two of the best locations for easy access to all the great things in Denver:

The Crawford Hotel

The Crawford Hotel

With a stay at The Crawford Hotel in Denver (LoDo), you’ll be steps from Union Station and 6 minutes by foot from Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. Featured amenities include complimentary wired Internet access, a 24-hour business center, and express check-out. This hotel has 5 meeting rooms available for events.


Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center

Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center

With a stay at Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center, you’ll be centrally located in Denver, steps from Colorado Convention Center and 8 minutes by foot from 16th Street Mall. Featured amenities include complimentary wired Internet access, a 24-hour business center, and express check-in. Planning an event in Denver? This hotel has facilities measuring 60600 square feet (5630 square meters), including conference space. Self parking (subject to charges) is available onsite.


A Couple Fun Stops Just Outside of Denver-

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

Red Rocks is a must see when visiting Colorado. There are plenty of spots to hike around and enjoy views of the (surprise!) red rock formations all around. If it fits in the schedule, find a concert or movie night to go to at Red Rocks Amphitheater. You will not be disappointed! This outdoor amphitheater is in a natural setting, as the way the Red Rock is formed up the sides make the perfect acoustics.

Dinosaur Ridge

Located in Morrison, CO, Dinosaur Ridge is a hot spot is very popular with the kids! Back in 1937, dinosaur tracks were discovered in 100 million-year-old rocks! Kids can discover some of these great marks left by historic giants on Dinosaur Ridge Trail, Triceratops Trail, and at the Discovery Center.

Colorado Road Trip with Kids Stop #2: Colorado Springs

I love Colorado Springs. There is so much to do, whether you are looking for outdoor adventure or indoor discoveries.

Personally, if I had limited time and had to choose, I would choose Colorado Springs over Denver.

In and Around Colorado Springs

Denver to Colorado Springs- 1 hour 11 minutes

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods is the must see on a Colorado road trip with kids. A popular spot for both locals and tourists, Garden of the Gods is created from mounds of red rock all around, making gorgeous scenery. You can walk/hike around, go horseback riding on a tour, rent an eBike, or catch a sunrise. There is plenty of paved walkways to take a nice stroll on, making it perfect for kids to come along. You can bring the stroller, too. Even better, Garden of the Gods is FREE to visit!

Things to do in Colorado Springs with kids garden of the gods

Garden of the Gods

The Incline at Manitou Springs

Just a short drive from Colorado Springs is The Incline, a famous, challenging staircase to the sky. Obviously meant for traveling with older, athletic/in-shape kids (and adults!), this is a great bucket-list item. In just a mile, you will ascend 2,000 feet in elevation on a massive staircase. Make sure you adjust to Colorado’s altitude before attempting this, and bring water and take lots of breaks! Once you’re to the top, there’s a nice trail down.

Incline stairs in colorado

Olympic Training Center

The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs is home to many Olympians-in-training (or hoping to become an Olympian!). You can stop by to take a guided walking tour and see some athletes in action and the facilities they train in. You may even be lucky enough to stop and chat with some of the highly-disciplined athletes and hear their story.

Cave of the Winds

Cave of the Winds is technically in Manitou Springs, an easy drive from Colorado Springs. Here you can take a family-friendly Discovery tour of the caves which includes 15 different rooms. Front-carry baby carriers welcome; no backpack carriers because of low ceilings and walls.

Visit Pikes Peak

Colorado has 53 “fourteeners”, or mountains that are at 14,000+ feet in altitude. Pikes Peak is one of them. While for many 14ers you have to hike to see the viewpoint from the top, Pikes Peak is drivable, making it an accomplishment the whole family can enjoy! On the clearest day you can even see 5 different states from the top! See Pikes Peak website for more info.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is at 6,800 feet, making it the highest zoo in America. One thing all kids love is being able to feed the giraffes. There are some hills within the zoo to navigate, so make sure to bring a stroller and that you are up for a slight challenge. If that sounds good, don’t miss this amazing zoo that has been voted best zoo in the country! It’s quite beautiful!

Giraffe hanging his head over wooden rail at Cheyanne mountain zoo

Seven Falls

Less than a mile from the famous Broadmoor Hotel is Seven Falls, a beautiful and scenic stop for the family. Witness a 181-foot drop waterfall as it cascades down a 1,250-foot box canyon. There are a few viewpoints, depending on how many stairs you’d like to do 🙂 This is a beautiful, fresh place to stop on your family Colorado road trip!

If you’ve got time for a day trip on your Colorado Road Trip with kids:

Definitely check out The Paint Mines. It is under an hour from Colorado Springs to get to, and still a bit of a hidden gem in Colorado (though it’s starting to become more popular).

Where to Stay in Colorado Springs

The Broadmoor is an obvious, beautiful, and huge choice in Colorado Springs and puts you near many attractions.

The Broadmoor

But if you want some place farther north and closer to the Air Force Academy and dining/shopping at Briargate, consider Drury Inn & Suites, with both an indoor and outdoor pool!

Drury Inn & Suites Colorado Springs near the Air Force Academy

After Colorado Springs and On the Way to the Next Stop:

Great Sand Dunes National Park

It can get pretty toasty in the summer, but Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America and is worth a stop! While there, you can take in the scene or really enjoy the trip by renting a sled and go sand sledding! Or, within the park is Medano Creek where you can cool down after a hot day.

Great Sand Dunes national park in Colorado

Colorado Road Trip with kids Stop #3: What to do in Pagosa Springs

Colorado Springs to Pagosa Springs- about 4-1/2 hours drive

Pagosa Springs is a beautiful stop on your Colorado road trip with kids!

See Treasure Falls

Treasure falls is located a little outside of Pagosa Springs, but worth the short drive. You can view Treasure Falls from the highway, but you can also stop and get out and take the easy, wide trail to a better viewpoint. The trail is about a quarter mile; well worth it to see this 105-foot cascade.

Here’s more info on Treasure Falls and other awesome waterfalls in Pagosa Springs.

Visit the Bath House and Hot Springs

Featuring 24 mineral water soaking pools, there is a just-right temperature for everyone. The pools vary between 83-114 degrees and even include a mineral-water swimming pool. *Children must be accompanied by an adult. Make time for relaxation on your Colorado road trip at The Springs Resort and Spa.

Rocky Mountain Wildlife Park

Take the family to see wildlife that is native to the area, and within their natural habitat. Just 15 minutes from Pagosa Springs, Rocky Mountain Wildlife Park allows you to view animals similar to a zoo experience, or you can sign up for a daily feeding tour to have a guide teach about each animal.

Where to Stay in Pagosa Springs

As mentioned before, the Springs Resort and Spa is the perfect, beautiful place to stay where you’ll have easy access to the hot springs.

The Springs Resort & Spa

As an alternative and more affordable option, try the beautiful Club Wyndham (this is where we stayed!). With a very nice indoor pool and great sports facilities, you’ll enjoy everything about this hotel situated on beautiful grounds.

Club Wyndham Pagosa

Colorado Road Trip Stop #4: Mesa Verde National Park

Pagosa Springs to Mesa Verde- just under 2 hours drive

Mesa Verde is a popular, highly reviewed site that the whole family will enjoy. These archeological sites were made by ancestral Puebloans who lived in Mesa Verde for about 700 years. While inhabiting the area, they built 600 cliff dwellings. Stop at the Cliff Palace, which has over 150 different rooms; the Balcony House which is filled with tunnels and passageways; or the Spruce Tree House, the 3rd largest dwelling with 130 rooms.

Mesa Verde National Park Square Tower House

Colorado Road Trip Stop #5: Million Dollar Highway

Mesa Verde to Durango- 38 minutes

Million Dollar Highway

It requires a little back-tracking from Mesa Verde to get here (about 40 minutes to Durango), but it’s worth it! Driving the Million Dollar Highway is all about the journey. Take your time and enjoy the scenic drive as you go through. Plus, there are plenty of beautiful spots and no guardrails, so you’ll really want to take caution.

To get to The Million Dollar Highway, you’ll hop on US-550 in Durango. Then head north and you’ll drive the scenic highway through Silverton and up through Ouray. The whole drive will take around 2 hours, but more time is okay and again, drive safely!

The road is open year-round, though snow conditions can force it to close, so check ahead.

Once you’re in Ridgway, you can drive over to Telluride to stay the night.

Colorado Road Trip Stop #6: What to do in Telluride

End of Million Dollar Highway/Ridgway to Telluride- 50 minutes drive

Ride the Gondola from Telluride to the Mountain Village

This gondola ride is free and lasts about 13 minutes. This cleaner form of transportation will take you to the nearby Town of Mountain Village, giving you spectacular views along the way. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Utah! The views are the best part of this ride, but while in Mountain Village you can grab some lunch and walk around.

Enjoy a Stroll down Main Street

Telluride is a gorgeous outdoor town with a beautiful Main Street. The family can stroll down Main Street and window shop (or really shop 🙂 ), grab a bite to eat, and tour all the great historic places of this old mining town.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors as a Family

If you visit in Winter, be sure to visit The Mountain if you are a family who skis. Telluride has been named the #1 best ski resort by Conde Nast (2016) and the #1 ski town many times.

If you are there in summer, outdoor opportunities abound. Telluride is great for fishing, hiking, biking, or even a great rafting adventure.

Take a Hike!

Bear Creek Trail– This trail is about 5 miles round trip and rated “moderate.” It is the most popular trail with lots of traffic, and leads you to a great viewpoint for Bear Creek Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls (OHV Route)- At only 2 miles round trip, this is a great trail for the younger ones to come along as it is along a fire road. Or take the regular Bridal Veil Falls Trail which is a little bit longer and rated “moderate”. The reward at the end is a 365-foot waterfall!

Alta Ghost Town – You can drive this route and get out and hike around once you are near the ghost town. You can also drive up to Alta Lake for a scenic stop!

Where to Stay in Telluride

Inn at Lost Creek

Inn at Lost Creek

When you stay at Inn at Lost Creek in Telluride, you’ll be near ski lifts, just steps from Telluride Ski Resort and Misty Maiden. Featured amenities include a computer station, complimentary newspapers in the lobby, and dry cleaning/laundry services.


Colorado Road Trip Stop #7: What to do in Aspen

Telluride to Aspen- 4 hours 14 minutes

Aspen is another great mountain town, and it is a bit on the luxurious side. Many celebrities have homes here or have even been married here. It’s definitely worth a stop!

Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells is the most photographed mountains in the world, and among the most popular things to do in Aspen. And seeing them is a really easy, family-friendly outing. There is a parking lot right on site, though it fills fast and isn’t huge (reservation required). I recommend taking the shuttle from town (reservation required). Once at Maroon Bells, there is an easy scenic loop and beautiful opportunities for photos.

maroon-bells-aspen
Photo captured on a bit of a smokey day in 2020

Ski in Aspen

Skiing in Aspen is a popular experience as well. If your family is big on skiing, don’t miss the opportunity to ski at Aspen or at nearby Buttermilk Mountain in Snowmass.

Hiking with Kids in Aspen

The Grottos Trail– This trail is a MUST if you’ve got little ones. The trail is relatively easy and full of fun surprises. Along the trail you will come to a cave-like area below. You can use caution and climb down into the area and explore the ice caves that look incredible! Keep hiking along to the cascades and sit and relax as you watch the water drop from each level.

Hunter Creek Trails- This is a large trail system that can take you up the mountain or down to the town. If you head up, you’ll come across some abandoned cabins that you can peek into. You’ll also go through many different areas that feel like totally different trails! Some are covered in Aspen trees, some parts in pine trees, and at the top is a golden meadow.

>>>See this post on Hiking with Kids in Aspen for more details / pictures about the trails.<<

Where to Stay in Aspen

The Gant

The Gant

When you stay at The Gant in Aspen, you’ll be near ski lifts, within a 15-minute drive of Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands. Featured amenities include a business center, complimentary newspapers in the lobby, and dry cleaning/laundry services. A roundtrip airport shuttle is complimentary (available on request).


Aspen Mountain Lodge

Aspen Mountain Lodge

In the heart of Aspen, Aspen Mountain Lodge is within a 5-minute drive of Aspen Mountain and Silver Queen Gondola. Featured amenities include a business center, complimentary newspapers in the lobby, and luggage storage. Free self parking is available onsite.


Colorado Road Trip Stop #8: What to do in Breckenridge

Aspen to Breckenridge- 2 hours 40 minutes drive

If you’d like to see another popular mountain town in Colorado, Breckenridge is the place! On this last stop in the family Colorado Road Trip with kids, you’ll find lots of fun activities that kids can enjoy, too!

>> Here’s an in-depth list of the top things to do in Breckenridge with kids <<

Paddle on Lake Dillon

Take the family to try Stand Up Paddle-boarding on Lake Dillon. Lake Dillon is a few miles outside of Breckenridge, and a beautiful, scenic spot. SUP is the perfect way to take in the scenery from the lake! If you are not up for SUP, you can also walk the trail by the lake.

Find the Breckenridge Troll

Head to the Trollstigen Trail to find Isak Heartstone, the 15 foot giant troll in Breckenridge made of wood! He was originally built for the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts by an artist who focuses on reusing and upcycling materials.

Hike Around the Area

Burro Trail– located at the ski resort, this summer trail is beautiful and easy enough for the kids. Access it near the Quicksilver Chairlift.

McCullough Gulch Trail– this trail is better with older kids. It is a little more difficult and long, but it pays off big-time at the top. You’ll go through a few different terrains (rock areas, smooth areas, fire road at the very beginning) until you hit the boulder area at the top where you can stop with a snack as you take in the large, cascading falls in front of you and the majestic mountain scene around you. Located a bit out of town into the Blue River area.

Sawmill Creek Trail– This trail is easier and very family-friendly. It’s an easy, short (maybe 1 to 1-1/2 miles) hike and ends at a lake up at the top! The scene is quite stunning, and we were glad to find something easy with a big reward!

>> See Hiking with Kids in Breckenridge for more details and pictures on each trail! <<

Take a Day to Ski

And of course, you can take the family to ski Breckenridge. If you’ve tried Breckenridge and want somewhere else, Keystone Mountain is close by as well and was a childhood favorite of mine!

Where to Stay in Breckenridge

Welk Resorts Breckenridge The Ranahan

Welk Resorts Breckenridge The Ranahan

With a stay at Welk Resorts Breckenridge The Ranahan in Breckenridge (The Highlands), you’ll be a 3-minute drive from Breckenridge Golf Club and 6 minutes from Main Street. Featured amenities include express check-out, a 24-hour front desk, and luggage storage.


See the full rundown of great hotels to stay at in Breckenridge

or

Find the Perfect Cabin to Rent in Breckenridge

Colorado Road Trip with kids Stop #9: Rocky Mountain National Park

Breckenridge to Estes Park- 2 hours 43 minutes

Estes Park is the gate to Rocky Mountain National Park on the East Entrance. There are plenty of family-friendly hikes where you can experience this beautiful park on your Colorado road trip with kids.

Bear Lake

One of the most popular areas of the park is Bear Lake. You can take a shuttle here (or drive and find a parking spot if you’re lucky). The whole family can stroll around the lake easily and a good stroller can handle it as well. The lake is beautiful and has a perfect reflection!

Bear Lake Rocky Mountain National Park, perfect reflection

Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake is another easy hike that the whole family can do. It’ just 1 mile round trip, and is a nice beautiful stroll around another great lake!

Lily Lake

Lily Lake is similar to Sprague in that it is easy! A stroller can easily be taken on it and it’s less than a mile around this beautiful lake.

Bierstadt Lake

The trail to Bierstadt Lake is more of a moderate trail and is longer as well, so while young kids can do it (or preferably, you can throw them into a carry pack and carry them up!), it is more suitable for older kids. The trail itself ascends up the mountain where you can see the road below and at the top you hike in a bit until you get to Lake Bierstadt, which is a gorgeous site. Then you can hike back down to the trailhead you started at, or hike through following the signs to Bear Lake, which is another couple miles away.

>> Check out the Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park with Kids for photos and more details. <<

Where to Stay in Estes Park

The Estes Park Resort is our top choice of where to stay. The rooms are great, the hotel is nice, but the best part is it is the only hotel right on Lake Estes. You have beautiful views, plus there’s a trail right outside to take a leisure stroll around the lake if you wish.

The Estes Park Resort

Staying on the Grand Lake side of Rocky Mountain National Park? There are great hikes for kids on the west side too!

Colorado Road Trip with kids: Back to Denver

This guide is the perfect way to see the best of Colorado on a family road trip through Colorado! If you’ve got extra time, I highly recommend fitting mountain-town Steamboat Springs into the schedule. It’s a couple hours northwest of Denver and would fit perfectly after Breckenridge before you head back to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Which are you most excited to visit on your Colorado road trip with kids?

You may also enjoy

What to do in Colorado month-by-month

Hiking with Kids in Breckenridge

Family fun in Aspen, Colorado

How to Travel with a Big Family, on a Budget!

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74 thoughts on “Colorado Road Trip for Families”

  1. Wow, what a jam-packed road trip! Denver sounds like a fascinating place! I’d love to visit the Denver Mint, the botanic gardens and Hammond’s Candy (yum!) Garden of the Gods is on my bucket list too, it looks incredible! Thanks for the great guide!

    Reply
  2. So much fun and adventure! Lisa has been to Colorado Springs, visited the Incline at Manitou Springs (during her visit you could take the Cog to the top of the mountain), visited the Air Force Academy (the Chapel is gorgeous), and would love to venture back to see more of the state!

    Reply
  3. So many great things to do on a Colorado road trip!! My kids would love most of this (minus The Incline – that’s hard core!). I can’t wait to explore Colorado with my family.

    Reply
  4. I need to explore more of Colorado! I love Colorado Springs. I’d like to go to Breckenridge and Rocky Mountain National Park!

    Reply

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