Summer's Ending: 8 Great Weekend Roadtrips You Need to Take Now
It's the first week of August, so it's likely that many of you are experiencing Endofsummeritis. You may think there's nothing you can do but watch the slow creep to winter, and before you know it, you will be shoveling your car out of six feet of snow while icicle tears form on your cheeks. But there are several good weekends left in the summer, and Denver is luckily situated between dozens of unique cultural and geographic landscapes. Here are eight great road trips that, in about six hours, will take you somewhere that feels a world away from the Mile High City.
Canyon Wind Cellars
Colorado Wine Country Are We There Yet: Approx. 4 hours to Palisade, CO Pit Stops: Silverthorne Factory Outlets; Glenwood Springs, CO; Hanging Lake What to Do: The major draw here is the wineries. Make a B&B your home base. Then rent a bike and hit a few tasting rooms in one afternoon. If you prefer doing things in a more orderly fashion, take one of many guided tours. Besides vineyards, the area boasts hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. This road trip is good for anniversaries and other romantic weekends.
Moab, UT Are We There Yet: Approx. 5.5 hours Pit Stops: Fruita, CO (Home of the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival) What to Do: Moab is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, so go if you love mountain biking, climbing, or river rafting. But the gorgeous red-rock backdrop is enough of a draw, even if you're no mountain man or woman. Visit nearby Canyonlands National Park to see the crevice where Aron Ralston famously amputated his arm. This road trip is for you if you want to escape civilization against a strangely beautiful and stark backdrop.
Santa Fe, NM Are We There Yet: Approx. 6 hours Pit Stops: Pueblo, CO (Home of the Pueblo Levee Mural Project, the world's longest mural); Taos, NM What to Do: Santa Fe holds its own as a major art center in the U.S. Besides hundreds of galleries, you can find several major museums and a few mean craft fairs. Camp nearby, crash at a motel or sleep in style at a world-class resort. Bandelier National Monument was damaged in recent wildfires, but parts are still open to the public. Road trip to Santa Fe if you want to get your art on in a laid-back, outdoorsy atmosphere.
National Park Service
Mount Rushmore Are We There Yet: Approx. 6 hours Pit Stops: Wall Drug What to Do: Camp in Custer State Park or the Badlands, or sleep in a bed in Rapid City. Wherever your base is, hike on one of the world's richest fossil beds in the Badlands; swim, hike, or fish in Custer; and visit four of our most iconic presidents. Don't forget to check out the Chief Crazy Horse Memorial, a rival in size and audacity to Mount Rushmore itself. Make sure to stop by the Corn Exchange for some fine-dining in the heart of in Rapid City. Explore South Dakota by car if you want an education in U.S. history and some old-school summer fun.
Ouray, CO Are We There Yet: Approx. 6 hours Pit Stops: Salida, CO (a quirky little river town) What to Do: Stay in Ouray to enjoy some hot springs and Victorian architecture. The original True Grit was filmed here, so stop by the old courthouse and other landmarks from the film. Cut over to Telluride to enjoy one of its many summer festivals. In either locale, hike, bike and climb to your heart's content. Take this Colorado loop if you love the mountains but want to feel like you really got away.
National Park Service
Mesa Verde Are We There Yet: Approx. 7 hours to Cortez Pit Stops: Bishop Castle; Pagosa Springs, CO What to Do: You can tent it in Morefield Campground, just 4 miles inside Mesa Verde, or stay in nearby Cortez. Within Mesa Verde are thousands of archeological sites of the ancestral Pueblo people, including hundreds of cliff dwellings. Also close are the Hovenweep National Monument and the Yucca House National Monument, and of course the Four Corners. This is a great road trip for the family, or anyone who wasn't forced to go as a kid.
Omaha Convention and Visitor Center
Omaha, NE Are We There Yet: Approx. 7 hours and 45 minutes Pit Stops: Beatrice, NE (Where the Homestead Act took place); Lincoln, NE What to Do: A true Midwestern city, Omaha also has the cultural and athletic draws of Denver. It sits pretty along three lakes and a river. Besides offering Denverites a nice change of pace, Omaha also has a solid indie music scene, the most famous face of which is probably Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. Go if you love watching live music -- peruse the local event calendars and pick out a weekend where a couple promising bands are playing.
Jackson Hole, WY Are We There Yet: Approx. 8.5 hours Pit Stops: Laremie, WY What to Do: Use the sleek mountain town as your base to explore Yellowstone National Park, where you can check out geysers like Old Faithful and hot springs. It also has a wide variety of wildlife, like grizzlies, wolves, and bison. Grand Teton National Park is also nearby. Lovers of the outdoors and mountain scenery will want to take this road trip to an area that epitomizes the Rocky Mountains. It's the farthest away from Denver of any of the destinations listed, so take a Friday or a Monday off to really enjoy it.