11 Breathtaking Scenic Drives Near Denver (2023)

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Let’s be honest; Colorado has tons of beautiful drives, and doing them is one of the best ways to enjoy the scenery that this lovely state has to offer. But did you know that there are many great scenic drives near Denver?

As a Denver local, I’ve taken the time to go on many great Denver scenic drives. One of my favorite weekend activities is pulling a road trip out of a jar and just going on an adventure.

There are plenty of beautiful routes to choose from, and we’ve compiled a list of some of the ones that you won’t want to miss, ranging from short scenic drives from Denver to long drives. So pack up your car and get ready for some amazing views!

Here are some of the best scenic drives near Denver, Colorado.

πŸš— Click here to rent a car for your trip to Denver!

While public transportation is alright in Denver, it’s truly easiest to get around by car. (Trust us, we didn’t have a car our first year living there… not fun!)

Scenic Drives Near Denver

Mount Evans Scenic Byway

⏰ Average time to drive: 45 minutes

πŸš— Length of drive: 28 miles

car driving on winding road in the mountains

The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is a breathtaking scenic drive near Denver because of its stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. The drive winds its way up to an elevation of over 14,000 feet and offers amazing views of the Colorado landscape.

Visitors can see everything from snow-capped peaks to rolling meadows, and the drive is definitely worth the effort for those looking for a beautiful Colorado experience.

This drive is about 28 miles in total and starts in Idaho Springs, which is less than an hour away from downtown Denver. A reservation is needed in order to drive up to the top.

Trail Ridge Road

⏰ Average time to drive: 3 hours

πŸš— Length of drive: 48 miles

winding road going through fall covered trees

If you’re looking for a beautiful scenic drive near Denver, you need to check out Trail Ridge Road. Located in Rocky Mountain Naational Park, this road is open seasonally between May and October-ish, depending on when snow ends up on the road.

This road offers some of the best views in Rocky Mountain National Park and is the highest paved road out of any USA national park. It’s not for those who don’t like heights, but even I can admit that driving on this is a must.

While on the road, be sure to stop by the Alpine Visitor Center, which is the tallest visitor center in the USA. Make sure to also stop at one of the several scenic overlooks along the way, and keep an eye out for elk and other wildlife.

RMNP is one of the parks that requires you to have a reservation in order to visit between May and October. If you’re an early riser and want to avoid crowds, enter the park before it opens, and you won’t need a reservation.

South Platte River Trail Scenic Byway

⏰ Average time to drive: 19 miles

πŸš— Length of drive: 30 minutes

Even though this trail is rather short, it’s still beautiful and is worth driving if you want a short drive in the area. It takes around 30 minutes to drive because it’s just 19 miles long.

Most people will start and end this drive at the Welcome Center in Julesburg. Along the way, stop at historical spots like Upper California Crossing, Pony Express Station Site, and Fort Sedgwick.

Pony Express Station Site is one of the must-visits along the way; if you don’t stop anywhere else, at least stop to learn about it. Ponies used to carry letters from California to Missouri, and there’s now a flag pole that marks a spot on the highway.

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    Skyline Drive

    ⏰ Average time to drive: 15 minutes

    πŸš— Length of drive: 2.6 miles

    small road at the top of a cliff

    Head over to CaΓ±on City for an incredibly scenic drive that’s open year-round. It’s fairly short at just 2.6 miles long and only takes around 15 minutes to drive, just because the road is so narrow and you have to drive carefully.

    It’s completely free to drive the road, but keep in mind that there are no guard rails, so you do truly want to drive slow and safely. There are spots along the road that you can pull off to look at the views.

    If you’d rather not drive, you could hike the Old Skyline Drive Trail instead, which takes you up high but still offers great views.

    Lost Gulch Overlook

    ⏰ Average time to drive: 6 miles

    πŸš— Length of drive: 20 minutes

    mountains with a little bit of snow on them

    One of the best scenic drives near Denver is the drive up to Lost Gulch Overlook in Boulder. We were lucky enough to hear about this place from a photographer friend of ours, and we always bring friends and family up to it now.

    The drive is calming as you go past luxury homes, and the view gets better the higher up you get. Finally, you’ll reach a small parking lot for Lost Gulch Overlook, and you can walk out on top of boulders to enjoy the view.

    We’ve visited in winter, spring, and fall, and it’s been beautiful every time. There are benches up there too, where you can sit and just take in the view before heading back to Boulder.

    Top of the Rockies Byway

    ⏰ Average time to drive: 82 miles

    πŸš— Length of drive: 4 hours

    The Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway is one of the most scenic drives near Denver. It offers stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, and it’s a great way to experience all that nature has to offer.

    The drive is about 82 miles long, so you’ll have plenty of time to take in the sights. There are also plenty of opportunities for hiking and exploring history, so if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, this is the perfect spot.

    The most popular spot to start the drive is in Aspen, and then you continue along. Most people take between 3 and 4 hours total to do this drive, but you may stop at places along the way like Camp Hale Memorial, the Twin Lakes, or Leadville, one of the highest cities in the USA.

    If you’re looking for the best mountain drives near Denver, don’t miss out on this one.

    Guanella Pass Scenic Byway

    ⏰ Average time to drive: 1 hour

    πŸš— Length of drive: 22 miles

    road cutting through a mountain covered with green trees

    Located a short drive away from Denver is the terrific Guanella Pass Scenic Byway. Most people will start the drive in Grant and then go up to Georgetown; along the way, enjoy views of Mount Bierstadt and the famous Mount Evans.

    The best time to do this road trip is in the fall because you can enjoy the views with beautiful fall colors. You could even ride the train in Georgetown once you make it there since there are so many great train rides in Colorado.

    Some great spots to visit along the way include the Silverdale Interpretive Site, Duck Creek Picnic Area (for a quick bite), and Georgetown Lake. There are also many campsites along the drive if you want to elongate your trip.

    This is one of the best scenic drives from Denver!

    Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway

    ⏰ Average time to drive: 2 hours

    πŸš— Length of drive: 36 miles

    Interstate signs on poles

    The Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway is just shy of 40 miles long and takes about 2 hours to drive. Most people will start it in Golden, and it allows visitors to take in some beautiful mountain views!

    The loop also goes through Evergreen, Morrison, and a few other places. There are tons of spots to stop and enjoy along the way, including Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, and Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum.

    Again, this is one of those drives that are most beautiful in the fall, but we’ve also driven parts of it in the spring and summer. Golden is one of the best places we’ve ever visited, so definitely take some time to explore there.

    Peak to Peak Scenic Byway

    ⏰ Average time to drive: 3 hours

    πŸš— Length of drive: 55 miles

    motorcycle driving on a mountain road

    One of the most popular scenic drives near Denver is the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway! It takes around 3 hours to drive completely and is beautiful at all times of the year, starting in Estes Park.

    Along the drive, you’ll go through places like Clear Creek Canyon, Nederland, and Black Hawk. Black Hawk and Central City are some of the more unique places that we’ve ever been, as they are old mining towns that have since turned into casino spots!

    Golden Gate Canyon State Park is also along the drive, which is filled with hiking trails and spots to go camping.

    The drive itself is incredibly scenic, and you’ll have great views out the window the whole time. Be sure to find the perfect road trip playlist for your trip!

    Pikes Peak Highway

    ⏰ Average time to drive: 2 hours

    πŸš— Length of drive: 20 miles

    aerial view of a winding mountain road

    When it comes to picturesque drives, Pikes Peak Highway is one of the best. While you can hike to the top of this 14er or ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, you could also drive up to the top instead.

    The drive does have a fee of about $15 per person, and it takes around 2 hours to fully complete. Be sure to check the weather before starting this drive, too; there aren’t guard rails, so you won’t want to try to do this in the winter season if there’s snow. Reservations are needed.

    This winding road offers stunning views of the Rocky Mountains and is a popular destination for tourists and nature lovers alike. You’re sure to be amazed by the beauty of Pikes Peak.

    Rocky Mountain National Arsenal Wildlife

    ⏰ Average time to drive: 30 minutes

    πŸš— Length of drive: 11 miles

    Bison walking around outdoors in a field with snow-capped mountains in the background.

    The Rocky Mountain National Arsenal Wildlife scenic drive is one of the most breathtaking drives in the Denver area. So many people overlook this drive because it’s located closer to the airport, but it’s beautiful and allows you to see wildlife.

    It’s fairly short and only takes about 30 minutes to drive through, but it’s completely free. Be on the lookout for bison, coyotes, deer, and prairie dogs along the way. There are also hikes here, too, in case you want to stretch your legs.

    πŸš— Click here to rent a car for your trip to Denver!

    While public transportation is alright in Denver, it’s truly easiest to get around by car. (Trust us, we didn’t have a car our first year living there… not fun!)

    FAQ: Best Drives Near Denver

    Empty road leading to rocky mountains covered in snow.

    Can you see Pikes Peak from Denver?

    From some parts of Denver you can see Pikes Peak, but it’s seen a lot better from Colorado Springs.

    How far is Denver from the Rocky Mountains?

    It takes about 1.5 hours to drive to Rocky Mountain National Park, but you can head to some parts of the Rocky Mountains (like Boulder) with just a 30-minute drive from the Mile High City.

    What mountains are in Denver Colorado?

    The Rocky Mountains are the famous mountains near Denver, Colorado.

    How long does it take to drive up Mount Evans?

    It takes about 2-3 hours (each way) to drive up Mount Evans.

    Can you see mountains in Denver?

    You can see the Rocky Mountains from Denver.

    Final Thoughts: Denver Scenic Drives in Colorado

    Denver is a great place to explore scenic drives, and you don’t have to go far from the city to find beautiful roads with stunning views.

    Whether you’re looking for an easy weekend getaway or a full day of adventure, there are plenty of scenic drives around Denver that are worth checking out. Pack up the car, grab some snacks, and hit the road for an unforgettable ride!

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