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How To Plan A Colorado Trip


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Adrianne Engelhardt



Colorado, known as the Centennial State, is a captivating destination that offers a diverse range of natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and cultural experiences. From the majestic Rocky Mountains to vibrant cities like Denver and Boulder, Colorado attracts visitors from around the world who seek a memorable travel experience.


Whether you’re planning a solo adventure, a family vacation, or a romantic getaway, Colorado has something for everyone. With its breathtaking landscapes, picturesque trails, and an abundance of outdoor activities, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to planning your Colorado trip.


In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the essential aspects of planning a Colorado trip, from deciding on dates to making the most of your time in the state. We’ll provide tips and suggestions to help you create an unforgettable itinerary and make informed decisions along the way.


So, get ready to embark on a memorable journey through the enchanting state of Colorado. Let’s dive in and discover how to plan the perfect Colorado trip!


Deciding on Dates

When planning your trip to Colorado, the first step is to determine your travel dates. Colorado experiences distinct seasons, each offering unique opportunities and activities. Consider the following factors to help you decide on the best time to visit:

  • Weather: Colorado’s weather can be quite variable throughout the year. Summers are generally warm, with average temperatures ranging from the 70s to 90s Fahrenheit (20s to 30s Celsius). Fall brings cooler temperatures and stunning foliage, while winters can be cold with ample snowfall in the mountains. Spring offers mild temperatures and blossoming wildflowers.
  • Activities: Think about the activities you want to engage in during your trip. If you’re interested in skiing or snowboarding, visiting during the winter months is ideal. For hiking and exploring the national parks, summer and fall are great choices.
  • Crowds: Consider the level of tourism and crowds you’re comfortable with. The peak tourist season in Colorado is during the summer, especially around July and August. If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring or fall.
  • Special Events: Check the Colorado events calendar to see if there are any festivals, concerts, or special events happening during your desired travel dates. Attending a local event can add an extra touch of excitement to your trip.

Keep in mind that weather conditions can change rapidly, especially in the mountains. It’s advisable to check the weather forecast closer to your travel dates and pack accordingly.


Remember, every season in Colorado has its own charm and attractions. Whether you visit during the stunning fall foliage, the snow-covered winter wonderland, or the vibrant summer festivals, you’re sure to be captivated by the beauty of the state.


Researching Destinations

Colorado offers a plethora of destinations to explore, each with its own unique charm and attractions. Before deciding where to go, it’s important to conduct thorough research to ensure you make the most of your trip. Here are some tips to help you in your destination research:

  • Consider your interests: Are you drawn to outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or historical sites? Decide what type of attractions and activities you would like to prioritize during your trip.
  • Explore the cities: Start by exploring the major cities in Colorado, such as Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins. Each city offers its own distinct vibe, with a range of attractions, restaurants, and shops to discover.
  • Discover the national parks: Colorado is home to several stunning national parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and Great Sand Dunes National Park. Research these parks to determine which ones align with your interests and time constraints.
  • Read travel blogs and guides: Seek inspiration from travel blogs, websites, and guidebooks to get an in-depth understanding of the various destinations in Colorado. These resources often provide insider tips, recommended itineraries, and hidden gems.
  • Check online reviews: Reading online reviews can give you insights into other travelers’ experiences and help you gauge the popularity and quality of attractions, accommodations, and tour operators.
  • Engage with the Colorado community: Join online forums or social media groups dedicated to Colorado travel. Engaging with locals and fellow travelers can provide valuable insights, recommendations, and firsthand experiences.

As you conduct your research, take into consideration the distance between destinations and the time it takes to travel. Colorado is a vast state with diverse landscapes, so planning your itinerary based on proximity can help you maximize your time and minimize travel fatigue.


Remember, the more you research and plan ahead, the better prepared you’ll be to make informed decisions and create a Colorado itinerary that suits your preferences and interests.


Creating an Itinerary

Creating a well-organized itinerary is key to making the most of your Colorado trip. Here are some steps to help you create a memorable and balanced itinerary:

  • Identify your must-see attractions: Make a list of the top attractions and activities you don’t want to miss. This could include visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, exploring the Garden of the Gods, or experiencing the Denver arts scene.
  • Consider travel time: Take into account the time it takes to travel between destinations. Be realistic about how much ground you can cover in a day and allow for flexibility in case unexpected detours or delays occur.
  • Allocate enough time: Give each destination enough time to fully experience it. Avoid cramming too many activities into a single day, as this can leave you feeling rushed and exhausted.
  • Diversify your itinerary: Try to include a mix of outdoor activities, cultural experiences, and relaxation time. This way, you’ll have a well-rounded experience and get a taste of everything Colorado has to offer.
  • Leave room for spontaneity: While having a detailed itinerary is helpful, also leave some free time to explore and stumble upon unexpected gems. Colorado is full of hidden trails, local events, and interesting spots that may not be on your original plan.
  • Consider the season: Take into account the seasonal activities and events happening during your visit. For example, if you’re visiting in winter, include skiing or snowboarding in your itinerary, while summer months can be perfect for hiking and outdoor festivals.

Once you have a rough itinerary, be sure to double-check the opening hours, availability of tours or activities, and any necessary reservations. This will help you avoid any last-minute disappointments or surprises.


Remember, a well-planned itinerary provides structure and guidance, but it’s also important to be open to unexpected adventures and spontaneous detours. Flexibility is key to truly immersing yourself in the beauty and experiences that Colorado has to offer.


Booking Accommodations

When planning your Colorado trip, it’s crucial to secure comfortable and convenient accommodations. Here are some tips to help you book the perfect lodging:

  • Research different accommodation options: Colorado offers a wide range of lodging options, including hotels, resorts, vacation rentals, campgrounds, and bed and breakfasts. Research the pros and cons of each option to find the one that suits your preferences and budget.
  • Consider location: Determine which areas or neighborhoods you want to base yourself in during your stay. If you’re interested in outdoor activities, staying near national parks or ski resorts might be ideal. If you prefer a vibrant city vibe, consider accommodations in downtown areas.
  • Compare prices and read reviews: Look for competitive prices and read reviews from previous guests to get an idea of the quality and service offered by different accommodations. Websites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com can provide valuable insights from real travelers.
  • Check for amenities and facilities: Identify the amenities that are important to you, such as free Wi-Fi, parking, breakfast, or a fitness center. Make sure the accommodation you choose meets your desired criteria.
  • Consider your travel style: Think about the type of travel experience you prefer. If you enjoy a more personalized and intimate setting, a bed and breakfast or vacation rental might be a better fit. If you prefer the convenience and services of a hotel, then that would be the way to go.
  • Book in advance: Popular destinations in Colorado can get busy, especially during peak tourist seasons. To ensure you have a wide selection of accommodations and secure the best rates, it’s advisable to book well in advance.

Keep in mind that the prices of accommodations can vary depending on the season and demand. If you’re flexible with your dates, consider traveling during shoulder seasons or weekdays when prices may be lower and availability greater.


By doing thorough research, reading reviews, and considering your preferences and budget, you’ll be able to find the perfect accommodation that enhances your overall Colorado travel experience.


Transportation Options

Getting around Colorado efficiently and comfortably is essential for a successful trip. Here are the transportation options to consider when planning your journey:

  • Rent a car: Renting a car provides flexibility and freedom to explore Colorado at your own pace. It’s a convenient option if you plan to visit multiple destinations or venture off the beaten path. Most major airports and cities have car rental services available.
  • Public transportation: Colorado offers a variety of public transportation options, especially in urban areas like Denver and Boulder. You can rely on buses, light rail systems, and even free shuttles in some towns. Public transportation is an eco-friendly and cost-effective way to navigate city centers.
  • Mountain shuttles: If you’re planning to explore the mountain regions for skiing or hiking, mountain shuttles are a convenient option. These shuttles provide transportation to popular outdoor destinations like ski resorts and trailheads, eliminating the need for driving in challenging mountain conditions.
  • Shared transportation services: Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft operate in many Colorado cities, offering a convenient and on-demand way to get around. These services are particularly useful if you don’t want to drive or navigate unfamiliar roads.
  • Bicycles: Colorado is known for its bike-friendly culture, and many cities offer bike-sharing programs or rental services. Exploring the scenic trails and cycling infrastructure can be a fun and environmentally friendly way to get around.
  • Tours and guided transportation: Another option is to join organized tours or book guided transportation services. This can be a great choice if you prefer a hassle-free experience and want to leave the driving and logistics to professionals.

When choosing your transportation method, consider factors such as distances between destinations, parking availability, weather conditions (especially in the mountains), and your own comfort level with different modes of transportation.


It’s important to note that some remote areas or national parks may have limited transportation options, so plan accordingly and research any specific transportation requirements for the attractions you intend to visit.


By selecting the most suitable transportation options for your needs, you’ll ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey through the beautiful landscapes of Colorado.


Packing Essentials

When preparing for your Colorado trip, packing the right essentials will ensure you have a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Here are some items to consider including in your packing list:

  • Layered Clothing: Colorado’s weather can be unpredictable, especially in mountainous areas. Pack a variety of clothing options that can be layered to accommodate changing temperatures. Include items like lightweight t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, a warm sweater or fleece, a waterproof jacket, and a hat.
  • Hiking Gear: If you plan to venture into the mountains and explore the many hiking trails, make sure to pack sturdy and comfortable hiking boots, moisture-wicking socks, a backpack, a map or GPS device, and plenty of water. Don’t forget insect repellent and sunscreen.
  • Outdoor Accessories: Other essential outdoor accessories include sunglasses, a sun hat or cap, gloves, and a buff or scarf to protect against sun, wind, and cold temperatures.
  • Travel Essentials: Don’t forget to pack your travel documents, including ID, passport (if applicable), and any necessary reservation confirmations. Also, bring a reusable water bottle, a travel-sized first aid kit, hand sanitizer, and any personal medications you may need.
  • Electronics: If you plan to document your trip or stay connected, pack your camera or smartphone, along with the necessary charging cables and a portable power bank. Additionally, consider bringing a lightweight tripod for capturing stunning landscapes.
  • Comfortable Shoes: While hiking boots are essential for outdoor activities, don’t forget to pack a pair of comfortable walking or casual shoes for exploring the cities or strolling through town.
  • Swimwear: If your itinerary includes visits to hot springs, lakes, or swimming pools, pack swimwear so you can take a refreshing dip and enjoy water activities.
  • Reusable Bags: Colorado is environmentally conscious, so carrying reusable bags for shopping or outdoor activities is not only practical but also eco-friendly.

Remember to check the weather forecast closer to your travel dates and make any necessary adjustments to your packing list. It’s better to be prepared for various conditions to ensure your comfort and enjoyment throughout your trip.


Ultimately, packing light and versatile items will save you from overpacking and allow more room to bring back cherished memories and souvenirs from your Colorado adventure.


Outdoor Activities

Colorado is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities that allow you to fully immerse yourself in the stunning natural landscapes. Here are some must-try outdoor activities in Colorado:

  • Hiking and Backpacking: With countless trails and varying difficulty levels, Colorado is a paradise for hikers and backpackers. Explore iconic routes like the Colorado Trail, Maroon Bells, and Hanging Lake, or venture deep into the wilderness for a multi-day backpacking adventure.
  • Skiing and Snowboarding: Colorado’s world-class ski resorts attract winter sports enthusiasts from across the globe. With ample snowfall and diverse terrain, resorts like Aspen, Vail, and Breckenridge offer a thrilling experience for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
  • Mountain Biking: Hit the trails on two wheels and experience the adrenaline rush of mountain biking in Colorado. From rugged mountain paths to scenic singletrack, Colorado offers an array of biking opportunities for all skill levels.
  • River Rafting and Kayaking: Colorado’s pristine rivers provide the perfect setting for thrilling water adventures. Join a guided rafting trip on the Arkansas River or try your hand at kayaking in the roaring rapids.
  • Rock Climbing: Scale towering cliffs and granite formations in Colorado’s renowned rock climbing areas, such as Eldorado Canyon and Garden of the Gods. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced climber, there are routes to suit every level.
  • Wildlife Watching: Colorado is home to an abundant array of wildlife, including elk, mountain goats, black bears, and bald eagles. Explore protected areas like Rocky Mountain National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park for the chance to spot these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
  • Camping: Experience the serenity of Colorado’s wilderness by camping under the starry skies. Whether you prefer tent camping, RV camping, or backcountry camping, there are numerous campsites and designated areas for you to choose from.

Before participating in any outdoor activity, make sure to research and prepare adequately. Check weather conditions, trail conditions, and ensure you have the necessary equipment and safety gear. Respect nature and follow Leave No Trace principles to preserve the beauty and integrity of Colorado’s outdoor spaces.


With its incredible natural beauty and endless outdoor opportunities, Colorado is a playground for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.


Exploring National Parks

Colorado is home to several breathtaking national parks that showcase the state’s natural beauty and diverse ecosystems. Here are a few of the must-visit national parks in Colorado:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park: As one of the most iconic national parks in the country, Rocky Mountain National Park offers awe-inspiring mountain vistas, alpine lakes, and a vast network of hiking trails. Don’t miss Trail Ridge Road, which reaches elevations of over 12,000 feet and provides stunning panoramic views.
  • Mesa Verde National Park: Explore the ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings and learn about the rich Native American history at Mesa Verde National Park. Take guided tours to see the well-preserved archaeological sites and admire the elaborate cliffside structures.
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park: Marvel at the tallest sand dunes in North America at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Climb the towering dunes, go sandboarding, or relax by the peaceful Medano Creek. The park also offers stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: Discover the dramatic landscapes carved by the Gunnison River at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Enjoy scenic drives along the rim, hike challenging trails, or try your hand at rock climbing in this rugged and awe-inspiring wilderness.

When exploring national parks in Colorado, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Plan ahead: Research the park’s website in advance to learn about the available trails, visitor centers, and any specific regulations or closures. Some popular trails may require permits or have limited access during certain times.
  • Come prepared: Wear appropriate footwear and clothing for hiking, bring plenty of water, snacks, a map or guidebook, and sunscreen. Additionally, consider having insect repellent and binoculars for wildlife spotting.
  • Respect wildlife and nature: Keep a safe distance from wildlife, never approach or feed them, and remember to leave natural objects and historical artifacts untouched. Follow park rules and practice Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the fragile ecosystems.
  • Take advantage of ranger programs: Attend ranger-led programs and guided hikes to learn more about the park’s history, geology, and wildlife. Rangers provide valuable insights and can enhance your experience.

Exploring Colorado’s national parks is an incredible opportunity to connect with nature and witness the stunning landscapes that make the state so remarkable.


Visiting Historical Sites

Colorado is rich in history, with a wealth of fascinating historical sites that provide insight into the state’s past. From ancient Native American dwellings to frontier towns and mining communities, here are a few notable historical sites to explore in Colorado:

  • Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park: Step back in time to explore the well-preserved cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. Marvel at the impressive architecture and intricate stone carvings, gaining a glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans who lived here centuries ago.
  • Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave: Visit the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in Golden, Colorado, to learn about the life and legacy of the legendary showman, Buffalo Bill Cody. The museum showcases artifacts, exhibits, and memorabilia related to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and the American West.
  • Leadville Historic District: Explore the charming town of Leadville, known for its rich mining history. Stroll through the historic district to admire well-preserved Victorian-era architecture and visit museums like the National Mining Hall of Fame to learn about the town’s mining heritage.
  • Molly Brown House Museum: Immerse yourself in the history of Margaret “Molly” Brown, a socialite and Titanic survivor, at the Molly Brown House Museum in Denver. Tour the meticulously restored house and learn about the life and philanthropic efforts of this influential woman.
  • Ghost Towns: Colorado is dotted with ghost towns that offer a glimpse into the state’s mining boom era. Explore places like St. Elmo, Animas Forks, and Ashcroft to wander through abandoned buildings, mine ruins, and experience the nostalgia of these once-thriving communities.

When visiting historical sites in Colorado, consider the following tips:

  • Guided tours: Take advantage of guided tours and interpretive programs offered at historical sites. Knowledgeable guides can provide fascinating insights and stories that bring the past to life.
  • Check hours and fees: Before visiting a historical site, check the operating hours, admission fees, and any restrictions or closures. Some sites may have limited access or require reservations.
  • Photography and etiquette: Respect the historical sites and follow any photography restrictions or guidelines. Be mindful of signage and artifacts, and avoid touching or damaging any exhibits.
  • Support local preservation efforts: Many historical sites rely on visitor contributions and memberships to maintain and preserve their cultural heritage. Consider making a donation or purchasing local products to support these important efforts.

Exploring the historical sites of Colorado offers a captivating journey through time, allowing you to connect with the people and events that shaped the state’s vibrant history.


Enjoying Local Cuisine

When visiting Colorado, indulging in the local cuisine is a delightful way to immerse yourself in the flavors and culinary traditions of the region. With a diverse culinary scene influenced by its Western heritage and vibrant farm-to-table movement, Colorado offers an array of dishes and ingredients to tantalize your taste buds. Here are some local culinary experiences to savor:

  • Rocky Mountain Oysters: For the adventurous eaters, trying Rocky Mountain Oysters is a must. Contrary to their name, these “oysters” are actually bull calf testicles, typically breaded and fried. They are considered a delicacy in western states and often served as an appetizer.
  • Green Chile: Green chile is a culinary staple in Colorado. Savor this flavorful sauce made from roasted green chiles, often used as a topping for burritos, burgers, and breakfast dishes like huevos rancheros.
  • Colorado Craft Beer: The state’s craft beer scene is world-renowned. With an abundance of breweries across the state, you can sample a variety of styles and flavors, from pale ales and IPAs to stouts and sours.
  • Bison and Elk: Colorado is home to expansive grasslands where bison and elk graze. Enjoy these lean and flavorful meats in dishes like bison burgers, elk steak, or hearty stews.
  • Palisade Peaches: Palisade, Colorado, is famous for its delectable peaches. These juicy, sweet fruits are harvested in the late summer and can be enjoyed fresh or used in various desserts like pies, cobblers, and ice cream.
  • Southwestern Cuisine: Colorado’s proximity to the Southwest heavily influences its culinary offerings. Indulge in flavorful Southwestern dishes like enchiladas, tamales, posole, and chile rellenos.
  • Farm-to-Table Delights: With a focus on sustainability and locally sourced ingredients, many restaurants in Colorado embrace the farm-to-table movement. You’ll find menus featuring fresh, seasonal produce, hormone-free meats, and artisanal cheeses.

To fully enjoy the local cuisine in Colorado, consider the following tips:

  • Visit farmers markets: Explore the local farmers markets to indulge in the freshest produce and artisanal food products. These markets often feature local vendors offering everything from organic fruits and vegetables to homemade jams and baked goods.
  • Seek out local restaurants: Opt for locally-owned and operated restaurants that showcase the flavors of Colorado. Ask locals for recommendations or explore popular dining districts in cities like Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs.
  • Try new flavors: Be adventurous and step out of your culinary comfort zone. Colorado’s cuisine offers a variety of unique flavors and combinations that are worth exploring.
  • Pair with local beverages: Enhance your dining experience by pairing your meal with local Colorado beverages. Consider trying a local wine from the Western Slope or sipping on a refreshing cocktail featuring spirits from a local distillery.

Indulging in the local cuisine in Colorado is a delightful way to experience the state’s culinary heritage and savor the flavors of the region.


Safety Tips

While exploring the beautiful state of Colorado, it’s important to prioritize your safety to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. Whether you’re venturing into the mountains, exploring national parks, or wandering through urban areas, here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Check weather conditions: Colorado’s weather can change rapidly, especially in the mountains. Before heading out for any outdoor activities, check the weather forecast and be prepared for potential changes in temperature, precipitation, or severe weather.
  • Stay hydrated: The high altitudes and dry climate of Colorado can lead to dehydration. Make it a priority to drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty, especially during outdoor activities. Carry a reusable water bottle and replenish it regularly.
  • Be aware of altitude sickness: If you’re not acclimated to high altitudes, you may experience symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Take it easy during the first few days of your trip, stay hydrated, and avoid exerting yourself excessively.
  • Stay on designated trails: When hiking or exploring outdoor areas, stick to designated trails and follow signage and park regulations. Venturing off-trail can result in danger, harm to sensitive ecosystems, and even getting lost.
  • Prepare for sudden weather changes: Mountaintops and higher elevations are prone to quick weather changes, including thunderstorms and temperature drops. Always carry appropriate layers and rain gear, and be prepared to adjust your plans if necessary.
  • Inform others of your plans: If you’re embarking on a hike or extended outdoor adventure, let someone know your plans, including your planned route and estimated return time. This way, they can alert authorities if you encounter any issues or don’t return as planned.
  • Travel with a buddy: Whenever possible, hike or explore in groups or with a buddy. It provides an extra level of safety in the event of an accident or emergency.
  • Practice wildlife safety: Colorado is home to various wildlife, including bears and mountain lions. Learn about wildlife safety measures and guidelines, such as storing food properly, making noise on trails to alert animals of your presence, and keeping a safe distance.
  • Secure your belongings: Just like any travel destination, be mindful of your belongings and secure your valuables. Avoid leaving items unattended or visible in vehicles and be cautious of pickpockets in crowded areas.
  • Follow COVID-19 guidelines: Stay updated on the current COVID-19 guidelines and regulations in Colorado, including mask requirements, social distancing measures, and any travel restrictions that may be in place.

Remember, your safety is paramount while exploring Colorado. By following these safety tips, you can have a worry-free and enjoyable experience in the stunning landscapes and vibrant cities of the Centennial State.



Congratulations! You’re now equipped with a comprehensive guide to planning a memorable trip to Colorado. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create an itinerary that combines breathtaking natural beauty, outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and delicious local cuisine.


Start by deciding on the best time to visit based on your interests and the activities you want to pursue. Research the destinations and attractions in Colorado, including the renowned national parks and historical sites, to ensure you make the most of your trip. Consider booking accommodations and transportation options in advance to secure the best deals and availability.


When packing for your Colorado adventure, include essentials like layered clothing, outdoor gear, and comfortable shoes. Embrace the abundance of outdoor activities available, such as hiking, skiing, mountain biking, and wildlife watching, immersing yourself in the natural wonders of this stunning state.


Don’t forget to indulge in the local cuisine, sampling unique dishes like Rocky Mountain Oysters, green chile, and craft beers. And, of course, prioritize your safety by staying informed about weather conditions, following park regulations, and practicing wildlife safety.


As you explore Colorado’s diverse landscapes and vibrant cities, treasure the experiences and memories you create along the way. Whether you’re hiking amidst towering peaks, delving into ancient cliff dwellings, or savoring the flavors of local cuisine, Colorado offers something for everyone.


Now, go forth and embark on your Colorado adventure. Enjoy the stunning views, embrace the outdoor activities, immerse yourself in the history and culture, and create lasting memories in the remarkable Centennial State.