The Outdoors,  Travel Guides

The Ultimate 7-Day Colorado Road Trip Guide

These days, summer is just around the corner which means it’s time to start planning those epic summer road trips. Maybe you’re an experienced road tripper, but figuring out where to go, what to do, and how to budget feels like a daunting task right now. Perhaps you’re nervous to be a beginner road tripper or maybe you have misconceived ideas about what a road trip needs to look like. Here’s a secret, you don’t have to be an avid hiker or camper to take a Colorado road trip.

If any of these scenarios sound like you, then keep reading. I have a free 7-day Colorado road trip itinerary created from personal experiences and lots of research that will provide the perfect route through Northern Colorado with 5 incredible stops. The best part is that my guide can be used however you choose. You can follow it perfectly down to every detail, or you can use it as a starting point and forge your own path. My only hope is that this free Colorado road trip guide inspires you to finally plan the trip you’ve been waiting for. 

Where You Will Go:

Western Colorado into the mountains is expansive and impossible to see in 7 days. Honestly, you’d probably need a few months to really experience it all. With that said, this Colorado road trip loops you through 5 bucket-list destinations in NorthWestern Colorado on the perfect path. It was important to me that none of the destinations were rushed. Trust me, there is nothing less relaxing than a road trip with a new stop each day. Sometimes it is not about how MUCH you experience, but HOW you experience each destination. Taking your time, especially in places like Rocky Mountain National Park, makes for a more enjoyable road trip experience. Alright, so where exactly will you go? 

First Stop

Your journey starts in Boulder, Colorado for 1 day and 1 night depending on when you get in. This guide was written with both Coloradoans and out-of-towners in mind, so choosing Boulder as a first stop is no accident. It’s close enough to the airport and is gorgeous enough to feel like a vacation for our natives. You will stay at the A-lodge in Boulder which is tucked away from all of the hustle and bustle in a canyon. A-lodge is a hostel that provides a wide range of stays from shared bunk rooms and tent camping to 2-bedroom suites. There’s something for every budget. 

Second Stop

Just an hour’s drive from Boulder through the scenic views of a beautiful canyon you’ll land in Estes Park, Colorado. Estes Park is the cute and sweet next-door neighbor to Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll stay in Estes and explore RMNP for 2 days and 2 nights. In Estes, you can choose between several different stay options. From camping to Airbnb’s and hotels. There are over 10 suggested spots to stay listed in my guide. This national park is massive and takes your breath away at every turn. In the summer months, RMNP has a “timed-entry” system that is separate from the regular entrance fee to the park which helps to control crowds at this time of year. Their system can be a bit tricky, but all of the details are laid out in my Colorado road trip itinerary so you don’t have to sweat it. 

There are 3 more epic stops on this Colorado road trip that will loop you through the scenic beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Be sure to check out the itinerary for full details on the amazing destinations you’re headed to next. 

What You Will Do:

Let’s just say that there is no shortage of activities on this Colorado road trip. There are suggestions for easy-to-difficult hiking, scenic drives, unique outdoor activities, and the best places to eat. It’s important to note that not every activity listed can be done. You’ll have to make decisions here and there about what you can fit in. Besides time, you may also have to consider whether or not some of these activities suit your budget. There are many free suggested activities and others that cost a bit. Anyway, more on the budgeting later…What exactly will you do? 

Hiking

The Loch is a moderate 5.5-mile out-and-back hike in Rocky Mountain National Park and remains one of my favorite hikes that I have done in Colorado. On your route, you’ll get a two-for-one as you also pass by Alberta Falls. Lots of photo-worthy stops on this one! 

Trying Something New

There are several less popular outdoor experiences suggested in this Colorado road trip guide. From paddle boarding on a mountain lake to ATV tours, and horseback riding I encourage you to try at least one activity that forces you outside of your comfort zone. Not to mention, there are two opportunities to see an authentic Colorado Rodeo. 

Going to Hot Springs

Eventually, you’ll start feeling a bit tired on your Colorado road trip so I threw in a day to sit back and relax at Hot Sulphur Springs. These hot springs are lesser known and traveled in Colorado, so you’re getting an authentic experience off the beaten path. You can spend time soaking in the natural hot springs and/or double down on the relaxation with a massage. 

When You Will Go:

My Colorado Road Trip Itinerary is best suited for the months of May through October. It is crucial that Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is open in order for the loop to work. You can check the road conditions here.  It is additionally important to keep in mind that RMNP’s peak season is June through September. While my guide will give you all of the details to navigate the park with ease during this time, following the itinerary a bit earlier or later may help you beat the crowds and higher lodging prices. If you’re only interested in seeing the national park, I recommend checking it out in the winter months and early spring. Your trip will look different of course and I have a winter itinerary in RMNP for you as well! 

How You Will Prepare:

Budgeting

Really, you choose your budget. Of course, nothing I create will ever be considered in the luxury category. However, with this itinerary, there are several budgeting options. The cheapest way to do a Colorado road trip is to camp every night and cook meals over the fire. I included some suggestions for easy camping breakfast ideas in the guide. In addition, there are free suggested activities as well as some that will cost you. Either way, I leave it up to the traveler to decide what is important to them on this trip. 

Booking

I highly recommend booking stays and activities as far in advance as possible. RMNP can be super tricky as there is a timed entry system that gives you access to the park. These tickets often sell out and/or you don’t get the time that you want. Be prepared and book your timed entry early. Reservable campsites near the park fill up months in advance for the summer which may leave you spending your days desperately searching for a first-come, first-served spot. One summer, my friend and I ended up backcountry camping with zero appropriate gear. Not to mention, we spent our entire day looking for this spot. Please don’t be like us and “wing it”, it just doesn’t work these days. 

Packing

Packing for a Colorado road trip can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re a newer camper. Check out my camping guide and packing list for beginners to help you get started.

 My first journey through Colorado, though imperfect, inspired my move to Colorado and sparked my love of adventure. It genuinely changed my life, so I wanted to share how you too can make it happen. Now, are you feeling inspired to knock that Colorado road trip off of your bucket list? Plan your epic trip with ease using my FREE guide through Northwestern Colorado. In it, you’ll find the perfect loop through 5 can’t-miss destinations, essential tips on navigating Rocky Mountain National Park, lodging suggestions, and once-in-a-lifetime activities. Happy road-tripping!

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