Discover the lofty Rocky Mountain peaks, the 'Mile High' city of Denver and the ancient Pueblo ruins on an adventure through Colorado.
Suggested route & duration
Suggested duration: 11 night round-trip from Denver
• Colorado Springs: 1 night
• Montrose: 1 night
• Durango: 2 nights
• Cortez: 1 night
• Grand Junction: 1 night
• Steamboat Springs: 1 night
• Estes Park: 2 nights
• Denver: 2 nights
About this independent tour
SELF-DRIVE Colorado High & Mighty self-drive is a recommended itinerary including car hire, accommodation in 3 and 4 star hotels and a personalised documentation pack.
COLORADO SPRINGS In just over an hour from Denver, is the state’s second largest city of Colorado Springs, a resort that’s surrounded by breathtaking natural landscapes. One of the region’s real highlights is the Garden of the Gods National Natural Landmark where you can see incredible sandstone formations, which are particularly picturesque in the early morning and evening light.
MONTROSE From Colorado Springs head up and over the mountains to Montrose, the gateway to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the first national park you’ll visit on your Colorado road trip. The park is named for the canyon that was forged by the powerful flow of the Gunnison River, parts of which receive very little sunshine throughout the day.
DURANGO The next leg of your journey takes you south along US-route 550 which winds its way through the dramatic landscapes. Stop for a while in the city of Ouray which has a striking setting in the shadow of steep slopes of the San Juan Mountains, a range of the Rocky Mountains. Thanks to its Alpine climate and setting, it has been called the ‘Switzerland of America’. The next stop is the former mining city of Durango which is surrounded by jagged peaks and is known for its historic mountain railroad.
CORTEZ/MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK The landscapes change as you drive onwards to Cortez. In place of the gray hued rocks of the mountains, the backdrops of the Four Corners region take on a much softer sandy colour. The main attraction in the area is the UNESCO-listed Mesa Verde National Park which protects ancient Pueblo archaeological sites, many of which are unique cliff dwellings. You can see the ruins of some of these incredible cliffs as well as 4500 year old petroglyphs, and learn about the hunter gather lifestyle of some of the region’s earliest settlers. Other attractions in the area include the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and the Ute Mountain Tribal Park.
GRAND JUNCTION You’ll leave Colorado today, just for the day though. Head north west and cross the state line into Utah. Stop in the town of Moab to stretch your legs and perhaps make a quick stop in the iconic Arches National Park. You’ll then be heading back towards Colorado – perhaps taking State Route 128 which, for the most part, hugs the meandering Colorado River – the same waterway that created the country’s most famous natural wonder, the Grand Canyon. This is one of the United States’ most scenic drives with red rock landscapes all around. Your destination is the city of Grand Junction, a major fruit-growing region. The name refers to the meeting of the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers and the city’s location at the midpoint of the Grand Valley.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS You’ll start noticing the backdrops start changing from red rock to Rocky Mountains again as you head north east to Steamboat Springs. En route stop at Glenwood Springs, an area know for its hot springs. The resort town of Steamboat Springs is a popular winter resort, however, there’s plenty to see and do during the warmer months. You can soak up the tangible cowboy culture, go shopping for stetsons or cowboy boots at one of the many outfitters in town, canoe on the nearby Pearl Lake or Steamboat Lake State Parks or just relax in the Old Town or Strawberry Park hot spring heated pools.
ESTES PARK/ROCKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK From one mountain settlement to another, today you’ll continue on into the hills as you travel to the resort city of Estes Park, the setting of the headquarters of Rocky Mountains National Park. The park itself is just to the west of town and it really is a sight to behold. It showcases the sheer scale and beauty of the mountains and you can hike through aspen groves, wander along the shores of an Alpine lake or follow the Trail Ridge Road which starts in Estes Park and ascends up to 3713 metres above sea level before descending back down to Grand Lake on the east side of the park (the road is open in summer and may be closed at any time due to adverse weather conditions).
DENVER Nick-named the ‘Mile High City’ due to its setting 1609 above sea level, Denver is the final stop on this suggested self-drive itinerary. Sitting where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains the Colorado state capital offers much in terms of culture, entertainment dining and drinking – there plenty of craft breweries and tap rooms in the city. You can experience the history of the Gold Rush in Lower Downtown, taking in the Victorian architecture and Confluence Park where gold prospectors first saw flecks of gold in the waters of Cherry Creek. Alternatively, you can enjoy the more modern side of the city with unique public art and performing arts centres of Downtown and the premium shops and restaurants in Cherry Creek.
Tailor your tour
This itinerary is completely flexible, so you can choose your own itinerary, duration and accommodation, add excursions, and extend your holiday.