12 Awesome Day Trips from Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs, CO has so much to offer that it’s easy to spend a few days there with endless things to do. But if you have more time and want to explore outside a little more, here are a few fabulous day trips from Colorado Springs that you’ll love.

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We have visited Colorado Springs countless times, and love having been able to visit lots of places around it as well. So from all the places we’ve visited and all the places we still plan to visit, here are the best of the best to make your visit extra special.

Read on for the best day trips from Colorado Springs. These day trips are not places to visit IN Colorado Springs, but rather ways to get out of the city and out to explore other places.

So, while Garden of the Gods is awesome, it’s IN Colorado Springs. So that is not included here. I’m showing you where else to visit on a day trip!

I’ve included how far each day trip is from Colorado Springs as well as the elevation. That way you can gauge if you need something lower or can handle 9,000+ feet for the day.

pinnable image with text 12 Great Day Trips from Colorado Springs; 4 images in a collage: flowers, looking through colorful rock formations, a tall brick building with a flat front, a giant wooden troll sitting in the woods

In order from closest to farthest (in regards to time, not distance):

small town built out of rock at manitou cliff dwellings

1. Manitou Springs- Easy Day Trip from Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs to Manitou Springs: 15 minutes

Elevation of Manitou Springs: 6,412 Feet

Manitou Springs is very close to Colorado Springs, and often when someone mentions visiting the Springs, they often end up in Manitou Springs for something.

Manitou is a smaller town, but has so many great things to do. Here’s how to spend your time on your day trip from Colorado Springs.

Start with a train ride up Pikes Peak. You’ll climb aboard the Cog Railway in Manitou and ride 9 miles up the mountain, reaching the top of a 14er (as locals call the mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation.) Grab a donut at the top, famous for actually being made above 14,000 feet.

You can also drive up Pike’s Peak if you’d rather. Leave the driving to a professional on this Jeep Tour.

Then head to the Keg Lounge for lunch, featuring burgers and delicious salads.

Spend the afternoon at the popular Penny Arcade (technically called Arcade Amusements). While a few games are still a penny, many are more. But some of the games have been around since the 1930’s, giving this place a cool, vintage feel.

Then head to the Cliff Dwellings where you can actually walk right up to and inside dwellings to have a little hands on education in Ancestral Puebloan Culture. Make sure to stop by the museum as well.

Alternate ways to spend the day:

  • Cave of the Winds- cave tours, zip lines, challenge course, and more
  • Manitou Incline- a mile of stairs up the side of a mountain. Bucket List worthy!
  • Miramont Castle- former residence and sanitarium, with a firefighters museum on the lower level.

👉🏼 Book Your Jeep Tour Up Pikes Peak

a fossilized fish in a rock

Image Credit: National Parks Service

2. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Colorado Springs to Florissant Fossil Beds: 45 minutes

Elevation of Florissant Fossil Beds: 8,500 feet

Colorado has a few national monuments, some more popular than others. This one is less known, but pretty cool and unique in its offerings.

Make the short drive over to begin your day of exploring the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world.

You can spend the day hiking around 14 miles of trails, but the highlight of this place is to witness The Big Stump. This is a 12-foot stump of a redwood tree that has been petrified.

Beyond that, make sure to check out the large fossil beds where you can even see butterflies, some of the rarest, most delicate fossils known.

3. Mueller State Park

Colorado Springs to Mueller State Park: 45 minutes

Elevation of Mueller State Park: 9,600 feet

Mueller State Park is home to 36 miles of mountain biking trails and 50 miles of hiking trails. There is plenty to choose from!

Those into geocaching can continue their search in Mueller.

While most parks are great in summer, Mueller is a great winter playground.

Check out the great hills for sledding or tubing, take your snowshoes or Cross Country skis on any of the trails (though 2 are groomed).

color streaked white rock formations

4. Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Colorado Springs to Paint Mines: 50 minutes

Elevation of the Paint Mines: 6,600 Feet

Paint Mines Interpretive Park is a destination of itself that you should plan an hour or two to visit. The best part is that it’s FREE to stop by for the day!

Located in Calhan, the Paint Mines appear to exist in the middle of nowhere and a bit randomly. But they are gorgeous to walk through and admire the colorful geological formations in the area.

The park is a bit sandy, but easy to navigate through.

a two story flat brick building in an old mining town now revived.

5. Cripple Creek

Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek: 1 hour

Elevation of Cripple Creek: 9,494 feet

This little trip from Colorado Springs takes you to a small, unique town that is the new home to the Ice Castles. (So if you visit in winter, this is a must-do!)

Cripple Creek is full of Colorado history, from Wild West vibes of the jail to mining. It’s full of small museums that still feel like you’re in the 1800’s.

Colorado has a rich mining history, so begin the day by taking a tour of the Mollie Kathleen gold mine. (open seasonally)

Stop somewhere around main street (Bennett Ave) for lunch. There are plenty of options for classic grills.

Next, get into Colorado’s old west by stopping at the Outlaw and Lawmen Jail museum. This is a budget friendly stop that shows you original cells and even police logs from the late 1800’s.

If you’d like some hiking instead, check out Horsethief Falls. This takes you through the evergreens on a less-than-3-mile hike. Enjoy the stream and water running down the rocks along the way with a nice waterfall at the end.

6. Eleven Mile State Park

Colorado Springs to Eleven Mile State Park: 1 hour 10 minutes

Elevation of Eleven Mile State Park: 8,600 feet

Eleven Mile is another lesser-visited day trip from Colorado Springs that is sure to bring some fresh air and peace on your trip.

At just over an hour away, it’s convenient, too.

At Eleven Mile State Park, there are plenty of outdoor recreation options. Take a self-guided walk on the nature trail or test out your skills with directions on a 3+ mile orienteering trail (don’t forget your compass).

Eleven Mile is a great place in winter, too, as it is popular for its ice fishing and ice skating.

Free things to do in Denver with kids union station

7. Denver

Colorado Springs to Denver: 1 hour 10 minutes

Elevation of Denver: 5,280 feet

Heading to Denver is one of the more obvious day trips from Colorado Springs since it is the hub of entertainment in Colorado.

Denver is the capitol of Colorado and a city made for fun. You’ll get all the typical city attractions like a zoo, aquarium, Children’s Museum, science museum, and city parks.

To spend a day there, start with a unique attraction like Meow Wolf. This will give you an immersive experience walking through sights and sounds of unique displays.

Grab lunch at Central Market, a food hall where everyone can find what they want.

Then head to 16th Street Mall for some shopping or just to enjoy street entertainers and soaking in the city.

Finish the day with one of these activities:

  • Denver Zoo – home to over 3,000 animals
  • Denver Aquarium- a great display of sea life, mermaids, and even a tiger
  • Stop in Wash Park– a local favorite for walking, kayaking, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, or pedal boats.
  • Denver Museum of Nature and Science– an incredible museum of mummies, a huge theater with unique features, and more
  • Sporting Event- If the season is right, check out a Rockies, Nuggets, Avalanche, or Broncos game.

There are plenty of fun things to do in Denver if nothing on that list appeals to you. There are even plenty of free things to do if you are running on a budget.

Tip: Get the City Pass to save money on multiple attractions in Denver

8. Royal Gorge in Cañon City

Time from Colorado Springs to Royal Gorge: 1 hour 15 minutes

Elevation of Royal Gorge: 6,700 Feet

Royal Gorge makes a perfect and popular day trip from Colorado Springs since it’s not too far away. Once the world’s tallest suspension bridge, today it still remains America’s tallest at 956 feet above the canyon floor.

Visitors can drive across over 1,200 feet of the bridge into the Royal Gorge Park.

Once inside the park, you can spend the day dining, enjoying the rides, and watching entertainment in the park.

Another fun activity near Royal Gorge is to ride the Royal Gorge Train. Whether you go during breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you can enjoy your meal among intensely beautiful scenery within Royal Gorge.

And if you need something a little more adventurous and refreshing, try a rafting trip through the Canyon. If you head to Bighorn Sheep Canyon, you’ll be able to bring kids as young as 6 on the adventure.

👉🏼 Book Your Rafting Trip in Cañon City

9. Buena Vista

Time from Colorado Springs to Buena Vista: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

Elevation of Buena Vista: 7,965 feet

Buena Vista is a beautiful, laid back town nestled along the Arkansas River. The town is known for outdoor adventures in a a stunning setting.

Depart Colorado Springs early to get a full day of fun in Buena Vista.

Spend the first half of the day on a white water rafting trip on the river through Brown’s Canyon (ages 7 and up).

Then grab lunch at Simple Eatery on Main Street, where you can enjoy delicious, local ingredients in myriad ways. There’s definitely something for everyone here.

Complete the day with a stop at Mount Princeton Hot Springs. Soak in the creek pool, infinity pool, or have some fun on the waterslide. The great thing is: while this is still an investment, it’s more affordable than places like Glenwood Hot Springs. And a little less crowded.

Alternate ways to spend the day:

bright light green grass in foreground, flatirons in back and bright blue sky with clouds

10. Boulder

Colorado Springs to Boulder: 2 hours

Elevation of Boulder: 5,430

Boulder is a great day trip from Colorado Springs as it has various things to do that are great for any interest.

Enjoy a morning hike at the Flatirons at Chatauqua Park. There are easier or longer trails available for a variety of hiking levels.

Then head to the famous Pearl Street for street entertainment, beautiful pedestrian only stretch of shopping, and great restaurants to catch lunch at. This is the heart of Boulder, and a street like this is what gives you a great contrast to Colorado Springs.

After lunch, head up Boulder Canyon to Boulder Falls. It requires a really short walk and a few stairs to access, but it’s a beautiful place to relax and soak in Boulder’s beauty.

Other activities to choose from in the area include:

  • Checking out the CU campus or catch a show at the Fiske Planetarium
  • Floating down the Boulder Creek
  • Visit the National Center for Atmospheric Research to learn about weather and the atmosphere
  • Take an e-bike tour around ( family friendly)
a giant troll made of wood materieals sitting int he middle of a forest

11. Breckenridge – Mountain Day Trips from Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs to Breckenridge: 2 hours 15 minutes

Elevation of Breckenridge: 9,600 feet

Breckenridge is a popular ski area in the winter time, but I really enjoy it in summer as well.

You can easily drive from Colorado Springs to Breckenridge. Here are a few ideas for your summer day trip.

If you get an early start driving, you can arrive in Breckenridge and get in an easy hike before stopping for lunch. Try a nice hike at the ski resort up to Sawmill Reservoir which follows a stream up. Or for something really short and easy, go check out the famous troll in Breckenridge.

Then grab some lunch at The Canteen for burgers and tacos.

Afterward, ride the gondola (FREE) and walk around to find a fun mountain park activity at the top.

Finally, enjoy a walk around the downtown Breckenridge area to enjoy a snack, shopping, and the feel of this fun mountain town.

tall sand dunes with snow on some parts, with snowy mountains behind and dry grasses in front

12. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes: 2 Hours 35 Minutes

Elevation of Great Sand Dunes: 7,520 foot starting elevation

Great Sand Dunes is an incredibly fun National Park and unlike any you’ve probably visited.

If you visit in summer, you’ll definitely want an early-morning departure from Colorado Springs in order to enjoy the sand dunes before they become burning hot.

But if you need a day trip from Colorado Springs during spring or fall, then you can enjoy the dunes comfortably all day long.

Rent a sled nearby (not a snow sled) and amp up your fun by racing down the sides of the dunes. Or just walk around and explore.

If you have time on your outing, stop at Zapata Falls on the way out for a short, easy hike.

👉🏼 Here’s how to spend 1 day at Great Sand Dunes

Where to Stay in Colorado Springs

A nice, central location is great and will get you to the closest travel times noted above. Colorado Springs is huge, so if you stay on one end or the other, that could really affect travel times listed.

For a great, central location at a low/mid-level price, stay at the Hyatt Downtown. For a less hotel-feel and more of a resort feel that still doesn’t break the bank, check out the Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

Best Day Trips from Colorado Springs

If you need a day or two out of the Springs, then head out on one of these great day trips from Colorado Springs. From discovering another city with different things to do to exploring natural areas of fossils or formations, there are plenty of places to see to keep your trip exciting.

pinnable image with text 12 Great Day Trips from Colorado Springs; 4 images in a collage: flowers, looking through colorful rock formations, a tall brick building with a flat front, a giant wooden troll sitting in the woods

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