Exploring Colorado: 5 Places To See In Denver & The Neighboring Areas

Colorado is one of those states that leaves you speechless. As an avid snowboarder, I have visited Colorado at least once a year for the last decade, with a trip every few Summers in between. I can definitely see why most of my friends have migrated this way over the years!

Outside of downtown Denver, everything is kind of spread out. There are so many mountains, hiking trails and other major cities to drive to in any direction in 2 hours or less. Below are some of my favorite places to see in Denver, Colorado that I’ve gotten to explore over the years.

EMERALD LAKE, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

Emerald lake is just over a 2-hour drive from downtown Denver but is definitely worth giving a day to if you’re looking to hike the Rockies. I did a lot of research before choosing which hike in the national park I wanted to do and was totally won over by the beautiful green and blue hues of the water inside this hike (coupled with the fact that it’s considered an “easy” hike since we were first timers in the area.)

The hike is around 3.5 miles round trip and only took us 2 hours total but it was pouring rain and very cold so we were moving pretty quickly. We wanted to make it to the end of the trail to see the beautiful lake and were determined to finish the hike instead of turning around when the rain was picking up. We went in August and just got unlucky with the weather, it’s typically a great time for hiking.

UNION STATION, DOWNTOWN DENVER

This famous transit center is a must see if you’re downtown. Not only is it gorgeous from the outside and makes for a great photo-op but it’s filled with bars, restaurants and small shops on the inside. In the Summer, you can always find the surrounding area filled with people sitting outside just taking in the views.

BOULDER, COLORADO

The first time I visited Boulder, it was just a quick drive-through to visit my little cousin who had just started college there at the time. The UC Boulder campus is really nice and the area is surrounded by a ton of great hikes too. I’ve done Chautauqua Park in the Summer and most recently Flagstaff Mountain in the winter and would recommend either. Boulder is under an hour drive from Denver so it can easily be done in the morning or afternoon alone.

RED ROCKS PARK & AMPHITHEATER, MORRISON

If you’re going to leave the downtown area to do anything, I recommend making a stop at Red Rocks. I first visited Red Rocks in 2012 for a concert and have since been to 7 of them over the years. Red Rocks also hosts other events and workout classes when the weather is nice. This was my first time visiting in the winter and I was just as amazed at how pretty it looks covered in snow. The amphitheater is in Morrison which is 30-45 minutes away depending on traffic. One of the coolest parts about the park is that you can actually see downtown Denver glowing in the distance at night if you stand at the top of the amphitheater.

BRECKENRIDGE MOUNTAIN, SUMMIT COUNTY

Summit County is home to some of the most famous ski hills in the world like Vail, Keystone and of course Breckenridge. I fully realize making the drive into the mountains isn’t a practical day trip for travelers who intend on staying in Denver during their stay, but I still wanted to include it on my list. If you’re a skier or a snowboarder – or even if you’re not – I cannot recommend Breckenridge enough. I’m lucky to have friends that have lived in Breckenridge since we graduated college, so I always have a place to stay. The mountain is huge and I’ve grown familiar with most of the runs over the years. The downtown area is also so cute and is filled with everything from fine dining to dive bars and of course plenty of shopping.

There are SO many other places in this beautiful state to explore. Have a favorite place to see in Denver that you didn’t see here? Leave it in the comments so I can check it out next time I travel west!

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