Taking 3 weeks to explore this great state provides the opportunity to see many of its top attractions and get a feel for its cities, towns, and spectacular scenery. It covers top celebrity-watching centers such as Aspen and Vail, some of Colorado's most picturesque Old West communities, and takes you to four major national parks.
Days 1 & 2: Denver
Arrive in Denver, preferably in the late morning or early afternoon. Browse Larimer Square and the 16th Street Mall. Explore the state capitol, the Denver Art Museum, numerous other museums, and City Park. If there's time, visit nearby Golden, home of Coors Brewery and the historic buildings from Colorado's territorial days.
Day 3: Boulder
Enjoy a leisurely day in Boulder. Stroll the Pearl Street Mall and University of Colorado campus, or visit the Celestial Seasonings Tea factory for a guided tour. (The mint room will knock your socks off!) Another option is to rent a bike and explore the city's many bike paths.
Day 4: Estes Park
Take Canyon Boulevard (Colo. 119) west to Nederland, then follow the foothills north on Colo. 72 and Colo. 7 to Estes Park, where you can visit the Enos Mills Homestead Cabin and Estes Park Museum, and take in some spectacular panoramic views on a ride on the Estes Park Aerial Tramway.
Day 5: Rocky Mountain National Park
Spend the day in Rocky Mountain National Park -- perhaps taking a hike in the high country -- and crossing the Continental Divide on Trail Ridge Road before enjoying the sunset on Grand Lake.
Day 6: Georgetown
Take U.S. 40 south through the Winter Park resort community, over Berthoud Pass, to Georgetown, an old Victorian mining town.
Day 7: Breckenridge and Vail
Follow I-70 to Frisco, seat of Summit County, and detour on a 10-mile spur to Breckenridge. After lunch and some window shopping, return to I-70 and proceed west to Vail, America's most popular ski resort (and a booming summer resort as well).
Day 8: Leadville
Take U.S. 24 south to Leadville, the state's highest city, at over 10,000 feet elevation. See the historic district and the National Mining Hall of Fame, then continue across Independence Pass to Aspen.
Day 9: Aspen
Shop, hike, bike, or just enjoy Aspen's clean mountain air, and if the timing works, attend a concert at the Aspen Music Festival.
Day 10: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Drive to Montrose via Carbondale, the historic villages of Redstone, Paonia, and Delta. Leave a few afternoon hours to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Days 11, 12 & 13: Durango and Mesa Verde National Park
The Million Dollar Highway, U.S. 550 to Durango, where you'll be based for the next few days, passes through the picturesque historic mining towns of Ouray and Silverton and across Red Mountain Pass, an alpine locale worthy of Switzerland. Durango's historic district is one of Colorado's largest and best preserved. Explore historic downtown Durango and take a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which traverses a magnificent route to Silverton and back. Day 13 will be one of archaeological discovery. Spend most of it at Mesa Verde National Park, some 40 miles west of Durango, or at Ute Mountain Tribal Mountain Park, south of Cortez.
Day 14: Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
It's 150 miles on U.S. 160 via Wolf Creek Pass to Alamosa, your base while exploring the seemingly misplaced Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
Day 15: La Junta
Continue east again on U.S. 160 over La Veta Pass to Walsenburg, then pick up Colo. 10 to La Junta. Visit the Koshare Indian Museum (a surprising find with wonderful early-20th-century art) and Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, the reconstructed hub of a trading empire in the 1830s and 1840s. Proceed to Pueblo for dinner.
Day 16: Pueblo & Cañon City
Browse Pueblo in the morning, including the impressive Victorian mansion that contains the Rosemount Museum, and then take a walk at the Greenway and Nature Center or along the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo. Then take U.S. 50 west to Cañon City to see the Royal Gorge and the Western theme village of Buckskin Joe.
Days 17, 18 & 19: Colorado Springs
Head north on I-25 to Colorado Springs, where there's plenty to do: the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the United States Olympic Complex, Garden of the Gods' rock formations, Cave of the Winds, and a variety of museums and historic sites.
Days 20 & 21: Back to Denver
Return to Denver and catch up on some of the sites you may have missed earlier, or stop at the Tattered Cover Bookstore for some reading matter for the trip home.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.