Planning Your Colorado Cannabis Road Trip

Denver is still the center of the state's cannabis scene, but there's more to Colorado.EXPAND
Denver is still the center of the state's cannabis scene, but there's more to Colorado.
Jacqueline Collins
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Got a full tank of gas and mountains on your mind? As the snow starts melting, driving through Colorado isn't as daunting as it can be in winter, and there's heaps of fun to be had, even when most ski slopes are closed.

No matter where you go in this state, chances are good that you'll drive by a dispensary or twenty during the trip. If you're not from Colorado, there's no reason not to stop at one (or more): You're on vacation, and recreational marijuana is totally legal here (as long as you follow these rules and have a designated driver).

Still, you should know that some popular spots are more hospitable to cannabis users than others. Here's a breakdown of how to have the most cannabis-friendly fun possible during your Colorado road trip, with a mix of roadside attractions, dispensary bargains, cannabis tourism, munchies and outdoor adventures.

Border Towns
If you want to stock up immediately upon entering the state, that's fine — and pretty easy, now that many border towns have wised up to all the money they can make off eager tourists. Towns on the Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico and Utah borders have way too many dispensaries to serve their residents, because they want to serve you! Although they might be a little pricey, towns like Antonito (near New Mexico), Dinosaur (near Utah), Sedgwick (near Nebraska) and Trinidad (near New Mexico, and on the path into Colorado from Texas and Oklahoma) all have dispensaries. Our favorite destination of the bunch is Dinosaur, where you can visit Dinosaur National Monument and see amazing fossils just up the road.

If you truly want to experience Colorado's cannabis scene, you have to stop in Denver, which is the state's capital in more ways than one. Home to over 200 dispensaries and the vast majority of a limited pool of social consumption businesses in this state, Denver remains an epicenter of American cannabis despite recent legalization efforts in larger cities. Hit up popular cannabis shopping areas on South Broadway, East Colfax Avenue and Federal Boulevard before trying one of several social consumption venues or tours — or just move on to some of the state's best craft beer and food.

Dean Ween's Honey Pot Lounge allows legal social pot use in Denver.
Dean Ween's Honey Pot Lounge allows legal social pot use in Denver.
Jacqueline Collins

You can't pass through Colorado's Front Range without stopping in Boulder, where the mix of weird, wealthy and wilderness creates a bubble made for stoners. After hitting up a dispensary — we recommend Karing Kind, Helping Hands Herbals and Options Medical Center — take a walk around the beautiful campus at the University of Colorado Boulder and visit the infamous area of past 4/20 celebrations, or check out popular food and shopping spots on the Pearl Street Mall or the Hill. Hiking, camping and mountain biking are minutes away in Boulder, with easy trails in Chautauqua Park conducive to stoned hiking.

Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs
Only medical marijuana sales are allowed in Colorado Springs, but recreational possession and consumption are still allowed. If you don't have any friends in the area, make the fifteen-minute drive west to Manitou Springs, where recreational sales abound — and before heading back home, fill up your gas tank at one of two Native Roots Gas n' Grass locations in Colorado Springs, medical dispensary/gas station hybrids. Only patients can purchase pot at these spots, but they're still fun to see.

For other amazing sites, explore the Garden of the Gods, then stop by one of the several cannabis consumption clubs in Colorado Springs, the only town besides Denver that's attempted to regulate social pot use. Smoking is usually prohibited, but vaporizing and dabbing are allowed.

Lighting up at Red Rocks isn't very hard.
Lighting up at Red Rocks isn't very hard.
Miles Chrisinger

The dispensary scene in Morrison is minimal, but the fun is not. Right outside of Denver and home to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado's most popular music venue (and one of the most easygoing about cannabis use), the small town boasts scenic hiking and an easy escape from the city. The Arrowhead Manor, located in Morrison, is one of a few bed-and-breakfasts in the Denver area that allows pot use on the property.

Central City and Black Hawk
You won't go to Black Hawk and Central City for the cannabis shopping, though there are a handful of pot shops in both towns — but bluntly put, this area is a great place to get high. Both towns are rich in Old Western history and have legal gambling and many casinos, along with the buffets that come with them. If you like getting spooked, burn one and head up to the old Central City cemeteries, where 150-year-old gravestones and possible ghost sightings await.

Idaho Springs
Want to experience some high-altitude fun without driving the entire way up I-70? Idaho Springs is less than an hour outside of Denver, and can fix you up with such outdoor activities as fly fishing and whitewater rafting. You'll find around a half-dozen dispensaries in Idaho Springs or just outside of it in Clear Creek County that sell products that pair extremely well with a visit to Beau Jo's for a massive, Colorado-style pizza.

Hit up an outlet dispensary on your way to the mountains.
Hit up an outlet dispensary on your way to the mountains.
Courtesy of The Green Solution

Georgetown and Silver Plume
While Breckenridge, Dillon and other ski towns in Summit County have dispensaries, you'll find better deals and small-town vibes on your way up I-70, in Georgetown or Silver Plume. Georgetown is home to only one dispensary, but the entire town, located in a basin visible from the interstate, looks like an antique from the 1800s. Silver Plume, another small community miles uphill from Georgetown, isn't as pretty, but it does have the Green Solution's outlet dispensary, where you can find discounted pot before heading up to Summit.

Durango is only thirty minutes from New Mexico and could easily be considered a border town — but the place is a draw all on its own. A mix of small college town, recreational tourism mecca and historic site, Durango has also been friendly to the pot industry and has around a dozen pot shops. Puff something skunky and then grab a cold one at Ska Brewing, one of Colorado's most respected brewing operations.

Don't be intimidated by the opulent wealth, expensive homes or celebrity sightings — just smoke a joint and enjoy the view. Telluride is home to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and boasts some of the best scenery, eating and hotels in Colorado, as well as a vibrant outdoor-sports community. It also has six dispensaries, so it can't be that uptight.

If Telluride sounds nice but you can't make it all the way to the Western Slope, don't worry: Aspen will fill your luxurious desires, and is just three-plus hours from Denver (traffic willing). Not only does the beer flow like wine here, but so does the cannabis smoke. Aspen has over ten dispensaries, which will help you forget about those hotel prices.

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