Visiting Colorado soon? Here’s a guide to 4 days in Colorado, with time spent in Denver, Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Colorado Springs! Looking for some of the best things to do in Colorado? Keep on reading!
We visited Colorado for the first time together during the summer of 2017 and had a super fun long weekend exploring three major cities, Rocky Mountain National Park, and eating delicious food. We always say that if we were to live anywhere else besides the West Coast, it would definitely be Colorado!
From the awesome food and coffee scene to the endless outdoor adventures, it’s our kind of state! You could easily spend more than 4 days in Colorado and we have so much of the state left to explore, but if you’re considering heading to The Centennial State for the first time and want to visit some of the main cities (Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs) and Rocky Mountain National Park without breaking the bank, here’s an itinerary for 4 days in Colorado to help you out!
Note: This itinerary is based out of Denver and involves a decent amount of driving, but the drives are typically very scenic and worth it! If you are only going to spend time in a couple of these areas, check out our “if you have extra time” section at the end for more ideas of things to do in Colorado and places to eat!
To read a more detailed recap of our trip to Colorado, check out our blog!
Looking For More Things To Do In Colorado? Check out our other guides:
- The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park
- A Complete Guide to visiting Mesa Verde National Park
- Things to do at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- 12 Day Southwest Colorado Road Trip Itinerary
- How to hike Mount Elbert: The highest point in Colorado!
- All of our Colorado Vlogs
- All of our Colorado Guides
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!
These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
Note: this blog contains affiliate links. Full disclosure– if you click on these links and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!
Where to stay in Colorado
We recommend staying in Denver because it’s the most central spot to all of the destinations on this guide and has a great food scene. On the days we traveled outside of Denver, we loved coming back to Denver at night for a delicious dinner and some ice cream. :)
Some good VRBO options in Denver are: Option #1, Option #2, Option #3. If you prefer a hotel, The Crawford, inside of Denver’s Union Station looks super cool!
And if you’d rather stay in one of the other cities, here are a few good options:
Boulder: Hotel Boulderado, St. Julien Hotel & Spa
Colorado Springs: Option #1, Option #2
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Getting Around Colorado
While within Denver and Boulder you could easily walk or take an Uber/Lyft around, we highly recommend renting a car for your trip so you can easily get from city to city and to the mountains.
Day 1: Denver
- Grab coffee at Huckleberry Roasters! We loved the murals both inside and outside of this coffee shops, as well as their seasonal drinks!
- Get breakfast at Snooze, an A.M. Eatery. This place is SO good! They are originally from Colorado, but have locations in Texas, Arizona, and California, but it’s worth checking them out in their hometown. Make sure to get their pancake flight! If you’ve had Snooze before, check out Sassafras American Eatery instead!
- Wander around Union Station, which is a beautiful renovated train station from 1914. It’s still a working train station, but is also home to restaurants (like Snooze, mentioned above!) and shops!
- Walk around downtown Denver. Some spots to visit:
- Explore and have lunch at the Denver Central Market. This indoor market has multiple restaurants to choose from, a bar, coffee, and more! After finishing lunch, grab an ice cream flight from High Point Creamery, which is also in the market and sooo good!
- Head to Red Rocks Park and hike the Red Rocks Trail and then stay for an outdoor concert among the red rocks! You can check out their concert schedule here. Not a fan of anyone playing during your trip? Check out a game at Coors Field instead or go brewery hopping!
- Note: If you go to Red Rocks you’ll want to pack a dinner or snack to eat before the concert. Trader Joe’s in Denver has lots of great pre-made options!
Day 2: Boulder
- Kick off the morning with breakfast at Denver Biscuit Co. before heading to Boulder (a 35 minute drive). This biscuit spot has been featured on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives and is a super popular spot in town, so try to get there early!
- Grab coffee at Boxcar Coffee Roasters in Boulder. This is right on Pearl Street, which is the coolest little street with a view of the mountains.
- Walk around Pearl Street Mall. This tree-lined street is super cute and a bit touristy at times, but we love walking around it! Boulder Book Store was one of our favorite finds on Pearl Street.
- Have a quick lunch on Pearl Street. A handful of cheap options:
- Hike the trails at Chautauqua Park! We recommend the Royal Arch Trail—3.4 miles, 1,358 ft elevation gain. Make sure you’re adjusted to the altitude change (unlike we were) otherwise this will feel a LOT harder!
- Dinner at Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery. This is a cash only spot is a Boulder institution and has a lot of variety for all different taste buds.
- For dessert, head over to Gelato Boy!
- Head back to Denver for the night. Try to get some sleep because tomorrow will be a big adventure!
Looking for more information about Rocky Mountain National Park including things to do and places to stay? Check out our Things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park guide for tons of information about where to stay, places to stay, things to do, and where to eat nearby!
Day 3: Rocky Mountain National Park
- Leave Denver bright and early to drive to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is a 1.5 hour drive. It gets crazy busy there in the summer and parking can be hard (and there are long shuttle lines), so try to leave as early as possible.
- You have a handful of amazing hiking options for your one day in the park! We’d suggest one of the options listed below.
- If you have enough time or just want something easy to do, drive Trail Ridge road, which is 48 miles one way and offers amazing views, chances to see wildlife, and overlooks to stop at! We’d recommend at least driving to the Alpine Visitor Center from Estes Park, which has the majority of the views.
- Walk around Estes Park—Inkwell & Brew is a cool coffee shop if you need a caffeine boost!
- Head back to Denver for dinner. We highly recommend Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery. It was one of our favorite meals our whole trip! The food feels very high quality and fancy, but it’s an order at the counter joint
- Walk across the street to grab dessert at Nuggs Ice Cream!
Hike Options in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Emerald Lake Trail (3.2 miles, 620 ft elevation gain)- This hike starts at Bear Lake and passes Nymph and Dream Lakes before ending at Emerald Lake. The trail is gorgeous and all of the lakes are so pretty! You can even add on Hiayaha Lake for a total of 4.9 miles.
- Alberta Falls and Mills Lake (5.4 miles, 938 ft of elevation gain)- We loved this hike! We did this in combination with Emerald Lake and Mills Lake was a lot less busy and the views were gorgeous (the main photo for this guide was taken from the Mills Lake hike!)
- Sky Pond (8.5 miles, 1,761 ft of elevation gain)- It’s said this is one of the BEST hikes in the park, although it’s a bit more strenuous than the previous hikes. We plan to hike this in the summer of 2021.
- Chasm Lake (8.2 miles, 2,542 ft of elevation gain)- Another amazing lake hike that requires a good uphill climb to get to.
- Mount Ida (9.3 miles, 2,362 ft of elevation gain)- This trail is located off of Trail Ridge Road and has an incredible view from the top!
Tip: Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the trail!
Want to get 30% off an AllTrails+ membership? Click this link or use our code aplusk30 (you must redeem this code on the website, not the app)!
We use AllTrails+ on every single hike and it is the most helpful hiking tool out there! Some of the features we love are offline maps (so we can navigate even without cell service), wrong-turn alerts, and its 3D maps feature, so we can get a feel for trails before we hike.
Rocky Mountain National Park now has timed entry in the park between June 4-October 12 to help control crowds. Reserve your time to enter here. You can also enter the park without a permit before or after the permit hours.
The park also offers a free shuttle, which you may need to take if you arrive late and parking is full.
Day 4: Colorado Springs
- Leave Denver relatively early to drive to Colorado Springs, which is about 1 hour 15 minutes away from Denver. You’ll want to make sure to have enough time to explore there!
- Enjoy breakfast + coffee at Switchback Coffee Roasters or Loyal Coffee.
- Drive to the top of Pike’s Peak—the round trip journey to the 14,114′ summit is between 2-3 hours. It does cost money to do this ($10/adult or $35/car with up to 5 people), but the views are amazing!
- Grab lunch at Skirted Heifer or Piglatin Cocina.
- Explore the trails at Garden of the Gods. This park is SO cool and really fun (and easy) to walk around. It’s perfect for all ages and athletic abilities!
- Head back to Denver for dinner. Some options:
- Enjoy one last ice cream at Little Man Ice Cream or Sweet Action Ice Cream (Can you tell we love ice cream?!)
If you have extra time…
Have more than 4 days in Colorado? Here is a list of more things to do in Colorado, including food, hikes, and more!
- Torchy’s Tacos–Our favorite taco shop from Austin is also in Denver! Not local, but so dang good. Get the queso!
- Tocabe (Denver)
- Chook Charcoal Chicken (Denver)
- Jelly Cafe (Denver)
- Sam’s No. 3 Downtown (Denver)
- Birdcall (Denver)
- Onefold (Denver)
- Pony Up (Denver)
- Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs (Denver)
- Las Tortas (Denver)
- Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse (Boulder)
- Snarf’s sandwiches (Boulder)
- Pizzeria Locale (Boulder)
- The Buff Restaurant (Boulder)
- Blackbelly Market (Boulder–a little pricier)
- Avery Brewing (Boulder)
- Urban Steam (Colorado Springs)
- Shuga’s (Colorado Springs)
- Garden of the Gods Market and Cafe (Colorado Springs)
- Monse Pupuseria (Colorado Springs)
- Paravicini’s Italian Bistro (Colorado Springs)
Colorado has a solid coffee scene!
- Blue Sparrow Coffee (Denver)
- Little Owl Coffee (Denver)
- Corvus Coffee Roasters (Denver)
- Thump Coffee (Denver)
- Crema Coffee House (Denver)
- Prodigy Coffee (Denver)
- Lula Rose General Store (Denver)
- Ozo Coffee (Boulder)
- Beleza Coffee Bar (Boulder)
- Story Coffee Company (Colorado Springs)
- Hike more trails at Rocky Mountain National Park
- Climb one of the 14ers
- Walk up 2,744 steps at the Manitou Springs Incline–3.6 miles, 1,860 ft elevation gain
- Hike to Seven Falls in Colorado Springs
- Visit more towns! High up on our list is Aspen to hike the Maroon Bells.
- Explore more National Parks! Colorado is home to 4 total and more information on them can be found here.
Heading to Colorado?
Pin this 4 days in Colorado itinerary + guide to help plan your trip!