DU Field Notes: Five Day Trips for Your Next Getaway
Fleeing an active warrant? Just need to escape the grind of Denver?
Sometimes you simply must get away.
In this edition of DU Field Notes, you’ll encounter plenty of excellent escapes, visionary vistas and positivity chill spots to make the perfect day trip. In no particular order, here are five sweet locations you can reach in one day.
Located roughly 160 miles west of Denver on Interstate 70, Glenwood Springs is well worth the drive time. It offers a wide variety of activities, but the namesake hot springs are the star of the show.
Here’s a pro tip: Unless you’re bringing children, avoid the Glenwood Hot Springs pool. Instead, opt for Iron Mountain Hot Springs, just a little further down the road. There, you’ll find individual soaking tubs, two bars and a lush grass hill separating you from the big pool where kids play—and make lots of noise. Better yet, the individual hot tubs border on the Colorado River, providing cooler air temperatures in the summer and spectacular views in the winter.
If soaking isn’t your thing, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is a mountaintop Disneyland, with the Cliffhanger Rollercoaster holding the title of North America’s highest elevation rollercoaster at 7,100 feet. For those who like to remain grounded, the park has cave tours, a laser tag arena and a 4D movie theater.
Once you return from your adventure of choice, it’s worth wandering through downtown Glenwood, which delights with a bevy of dining options and a rustic mountain town vibe.
Manitou Springs, nestled only 69 miles south of the Mile High City on Interstate 25, offers the most epic exercise challenge in Colorado. Once a remarkably dangerous cable tram, the Manitou Incline was purchased by Dr. Newton M. Brumback and turned into a tourist railway. By 1990, increasing maintenance costs and absolutely insane grading (68% at its steepest) resulted in the railway’s shuttering. The tracks were removed, and the ties were repurposed into a summiting staircase.
Casual hikers and extreme athletes alike take the 2,750 steps to a mountaintop that overlooks Colorado Springs and Garden of the Gods.
Once you’ve returned from your adventure, Manitou Springs’ downtown is dotted with used bookstores and coffeeshops, perfect for relaxing away the remainder of your trip.
Here’s a secret: Wyoming is actually cool. Don’t tell anyone, though. Part of its appeal is that outside of the far northwest corner that houses Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, few know of its beauty.
Drive three hours north on Interstate 25 to Glendo Reservoir and the tiny town with which it shares a name. The 22,000-square-foot state park is a boater’s paradise, with more than half the acreage taken up by water. Six boat ramps offer options for boats of all sizes.
If you’d prefer to stay firmly planted on the terra firma, the park features 45 miles of trails to explore, numerous campsites, a healthy geocaching scene, an archery range, several playgrounds and miles of lakeside beaches.
There’s something for everyone in this hidden gem.
Leadville is Colorado’s biggest “what if?” What if the precious metal deposits hadn’t run out? Would Leadville still be Colorado’s second most populous city?
Today, what’s left is endlessly fascinating. Within a mere two hours, you can stroll Leadville’s striking main. Boulevard, lined with Victorian-era buildings, by far the most beautiful of which is the Tabor Opera House.
Named after the town’s first mayor, Horace Tabor, the venue has seen numerous sales and disasters. In 1936, a fire broke out from a cigarette dropped onto a seat’s upholstery. In 2020, stage settings from the 19th century were unearthed during ceiling renovations.
Tours of the building run Thursday through Sunday throughout the summer. If this description doesn’t sell you, perhaps Oscar Wilde can do a better job.
Of his 1882 trip to the opera house, Wilde had this smart bit of snark to share: “I saw the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across. Over the piano was printed a notice— 'Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.’”
We get it, Boulder isn’t everyone’s cup of cinnamon chai, even if there’s no denying the natural splendor of the area. Enter Nederland, Boulder’s more down-to-earth sibling.
All the outdoor activities Coloradans love—fishing, biking, rock climbing, hiking, rafting and more—are offered in Nederland, and at a lower cost than at its fancier neighbor.
From Nederland, you’re close to Rocky Mountain National Park, Roosevelt National Forest and the Indian Peaks Wilderness. All the perks of Boulder County without the granola-y crunch.