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Denver Road Trip

Denver Road Trip

Colorado has long been synonymous with the mountains. The state is home to 70 of the 100 named Rocky Mountains, including the 30 highest peaks. From the urban sprawl of Denver, getting to the mountains is as easy as heading West on I-70. Colorado is the ultimate state for adventure, whether you’re a ski bum, hiking enthusiast, avid climber, or just want to surround yourself with the serene beauty that can only be found at high altitudes. We’ve designed the perfect road trip for mountain lovers leaving from our Denver Escape Camper Vans location. 

Colorado Mountain Road Trip 

Dive into our latest road trip itinerary takes you from the concrete jungle of Denver to the high peaks of Estes National Park, the beloved ski town of Breckenridge, and the cultural oddity that is Aspen. This Denver Road Trip itinerary has something for everyone, from the enthused skier to the craft beer connoisseur and every mountain-related personality in between. 

Travel Time from Denver to Aspen & Back 

This itinerary covers approximately 510 miles of rugged Colorado wilderness from our Denver location, with 9 hours and 47 minutes of driving. 

We recommend taking 4-6 days to make the most of your time in the mountains. 

Best Time of Year for a Denver Road Trip 

This Denver Road Trip is a perfect year-round itinerary. 

Fall: There’s nothing like the fall in Colorado when the Aspen trees glow with red and orange leaves and the temperatures are just right, not too hot and not too cold. The summer crowds are gone, and the snow hasn’t quite arrived yet so there’s still plenty of opportunity to hit the trail. Fall temperatures can be as high as the 60s and as low as the 20s depending on your elevation on the month. When traveling in the fall, always prepare for the occasional winter weather event. 

Winter: Colorado’s Rocky Mountains transform into a winter wonderland. With some of the best snow and terrain in the world, the Rockies are a mecca for skiers and snowboarders. Beyond alpine skiing, there’s also cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and even ice climbing. Winter temperatures in Colorado can range from sub zero to the low 40s. Higher elevations will experience lower temperatures and more extreme weather. If you’re traveling in Colorado during the winter, consider using tire chains. 

Spring: Spring in Colorado offers the best of both worlds, plenty of sunshine with snow still on the ground in the mountains. Nothing beats a bluebird day of spring skiing. Spring temperatures in the mountains range from the 20s to the 60s. While there’s plenty of sunshine in the spring, snowstorms are not uncommon. 

Summer: Summer in Colorado is pure bliss. With constant sunshine and long summer days, you’ll be overwhelmed by the adventure possibilities. In the summer, wildflowers bloom and alpine lakes beg to be swum in. If you’re visiting to hike, visit during the summer. 

If you’re considering a winter road trip in Colorado, consider renting our winter-specific extras. We offer electric kits with a heater and an extension cord that you can turn on during particularly cold nights if you stay at a campground with a hookup. We also offer snow chains and ice scrapers. Check out our tips for Winter Camping to ensure you have a fun and safe winter camping experience. 

Looking for something else out of your Denver Road Trip? Check out our Denver to White Sands Route for an enchanting road trip through the deserts of Colorado and New Mexico. 

Preparation for a Denver Road Trip 

Preparation is key. Anytime you head out into the mountains. No matter what time of year you’re traveling, weather in the mountains can be unpredictable, so it’s best to come prepared and plan ahead. 

Gear

Sun Protection: Regardless of the time of year, the sun is always a factor in Colorado. With 300 days of sunshine, even the winter sun packs a punch. If you’re traveling in the summer, bring UPF clothing, a sun hat, and plenty of sunscreen. If you’re traveling in the winter, don’t skip the sunscreen before you hit the slopes. 

Layers: In the mountains, the weather is in constant flux. The days can be scorching, but the night temperatures can drop quickly as soon as the sun goes down. Bring layers for chilly nights and time spent high in the mountains. If you’re traveling in the winter, make sure you bring waterproof/snow-specific outerwear. 

Water and Food: A camper van allows you to take everything you need on the road. When exploring the desert, bring more water than you think you need. Add a kitchen kit to your camper van to plan out each of your meals during your journey.

Campsites

Dispersed camping vs. campsites: A van makes dispersed camping easy. You can disperse camp for free on federal and BLM land. There are plenty of apps to help you find a dispersed camping site on your route. If you’re considering booking a campsite, either in a national/state park or a private campsite, make sure you book at least two months before your trip.

Navigation

Phones & Chargers: Navigation is integral to your trip’s success. Make sure you bring a smartphone or GPS device and a charger.

Downloaded Maps: You never know when you’re going to lose service. Download maps of the region offline in case you lose service.

Denver Road Trip Stops

Denver is the gateway to the Rockies. There’s a seemingly endless list of adventure destinations within driving distance of Denver. This is just one of the many routes to consider when adventuring in Colorado. This Denver road trip has a little bit of everything: a stopover at one of the highest National Parks in the nation and a visit to two of Colorado’s most beloved mountain towns. 

Rocky Mountain National Park

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Rocky Mountain National Park is home to 415 square miles of surreal alpine terrain with towering mountain peaks, sparkling alpine lakes, and 350 miles of hiking trails to help you explore the rugged beauty of one of the nation’s most spectacular national parks. Beyond hiking, Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect retreat for nature lovers, offering solitude and adventure in Colorado’s high-altitude wilderness. When it comes to camping, there are dozens of options in Rocky Mountain National Park. If you’re looking for dispersed camping options, you won’t have to travel far, but dispersed camping is not allowed within park boundaries. Find out more about dispersed camping near Rocky Mountain National Park here

Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park 

Aspenglen Campground: Located near the Fall River Entrance, Aspenglen Campground offers 53 sites, flush toilets, and drinking water. The campsite is open during the summer only. This Colorado campground can accommodate RVs but does not have hookups. Reserve your spot months ahead of time if possible. 

Glacier Basin Campground: Located down Bear Lake Road just over 5 miles south of the Beaver Meadows Entrance, this Colorado campground offers 150 sites with access to flush toilets and potable water. This campground is open in the summer only.

Longs Peak Campground: Long Peak is a tent-only campground (camper vans are fine) that gives campers direct access to one of the park’s most coveted peaks, the 14,259-foot summer of Longs Peak. This campground offers 26 sites with water access and fault toilets. This is a first-come, first-serve campground open during the summer months only. 

Moraine Park Campground: This Rocky Mountain National Park campground is open year-round and offers some of the best trail access in the park. Located along Bear Lake Road, near the Beaver Meadow’s Entrance, this campground features 244 reservable sites with RV hookups, vault toilets, and some water access. 

Timber Creek Campground: Timber Creek is the only campground on the park’s west side and offers a mix of reservable and first-come, first-serve sites with access to flush toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, and more. 

Hiking & Activities in Rocky Mountain National Park 

Take the Highway 7 Scenic Drive: Highway 7 takes you to the eastern edge of Mountain National Park and circumnavigates the park border, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape and the iconic Saint Catherine of Sienna Church while rising and falling as the road winds through the mountains. 

Hike Emerald Lake: The Nymph, Dream, & Emerald Lakes Hike is one of the most popular trails in the entire park, and for good reason. This hike takes you to a shimmering alpine lake high in the mountains. The trail is a 3.3-mile out-and-back hike with an elevation gain of 700 feet. 

Hike Odessa & Fern Lakes: The Odessa and Fern Lakes hike is a moderately challenging hike that stretches over 9 miles and gains 1400 feet of elevation. This scenic trail takes you to ideal lakes for fishing and swimming and is perfect for a hot day. 

Backcountry & Cross-Country Ski: Heading to Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter, pack your cross-country skis, back-country gear, or snow shoes. The park is open year-round and has epic Nordic trails. Avoid the heavy crowds of resorts and experience some of the best backcountry terrain in the country. Whenever you go into the backcountry, make sure you’re prepared for a worst-case scenario. Do not backcountry ski without avalanche gear and a base level of avalanche awareness. 

Where to Eat in Rocky Mountain National Park 

Penelope’s Old Time Burgers: Nothing beats a burger after a long day in the mountains. Located near the park’s east entrance, Penelope’s offers diner-style burgers and shakes for an affordable price. You can’t go wrong with the elk burger. Bird & Jim: Bird & Jim is an upscale restaurant in the heart of the Rockies that focuses on locally sourced meat and produce just minutes from the east entrance. Bird & Jim is an ideal date spot with an extensive wine and cocktail menu.

Estes Park Brewery: You can’t go to Colorado without stopping at a craft brewery. Sip locally made beer and gaze out over the Thompson River while enjoying your favorite bar snacks. 

Pancho & Lefty’s: Located near the west entrance of the park, Panco and Lefty’s offers delicious Mexican food just steps away from Grand Lake.

Aspen, Colorado

Aspen is the mountain town to which all other mountain towns are measured. This once-sleepy ski town is now one of the most upscale communities in the United States. While the local real estate market may have a high barrier to entry, the surrounding wilderness does not care about your net worth. Situated deep in the Rockies amongst some of the most majestic peaks in Colorado, Aspen is the ideal home base for an epic mountain adventure, no matter what time of year you’re traveling. The nearby Elk Range, home to Aspen Snowmass and the Maroon Bells wilderness, offers some of the most pristine wilderness and camping in the state.

view of ute lock lake trail in rocky mountain national park

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Camping Near Aspen, Colorado

Silver Queen Campground: If you’re planning on hiking the iconic Maroon Bells, this campground will put you in the perfect place to do just that. This highly coveted campground offers picnic tables, vault toilets, food storage lockers (bear boxes), and campfire rings on the banks of Maroon Creek. Reserve this campground early, as it fills up quickly. 

Difficult Campground: Located in the White River National Forest, Difficult Campground is a great option for those looking to hike in the Maroon Bells without a reservation at Silver Queen or other closer campgrounds. Nestled on the banks of the Roaring Forks River, this campground is ideal for anglers. With 47 campsites with picnic tables, campfire rings, and potable water access, there’s plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the Rockies. 

Weller Campground: Just a few miles up the road from Difficult Campground but still a stone’s throw from town, Weller Campground offers 11 first-come, first-serve sites with vault toilets and drinking water access. Weller Campground is a great option for camping near town with direct access to the Weller Lake Trailhead, the Roaring Fork River, and the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. 

What to do in Aspen, Colorado

Hike in the Maroon Bells: The Maroon Bells are the main attractions when it comes to hiking in Aspen. The two peaks in the Elk Mountains, Maroon Peak, and North Maroon Peak, are surrounded by some of the most wild terrain in the country. Sparkling alpine lakes and fields of colorful wildflowers await in the Maroon Bells. While it’s a popular 3-day backpacking route, there are a few day hikes that will give you a glimpse of the magic the Maroon Bells possess. If you’re planning on taking on an overnight trek, you’ll need to apply for a permit. Permits go quickly so apply up to a year in advance.  Check out day hike options here

Hit the Slopes: Aspen is home to Aspen Snowmass, a mammoth-sized ski resort with four separate peaks: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk. Altogether, Aspen Snowmass offers over 5,600 skiable acres with some of the best terrain on the planet. 

Catch a show at Belly Up Aspen: Belly Up is Aspen’s premier live music venue. Belly Up opened in 2015 and quickly rose to fame. Belly Up has been named one of the “Best Clubs in America” by Rolling Stone Magazine and hosts over 300 shows a year. 

Enjoy the Roaring Fork River: The Roaring Fork River is a tributary of the Colorado River and meanders through the Rockies for 70 miles. The river is known for its power and its deep water. There’s a spot for nearly every water activity you can think of, from fly fishing to white water rafting and everything in between. 

Breckenridge, Colorado

As you head back to Denver from Aspen on I-70, you’ll pass by another one of Colorado’s famed mountain towns, Breckenridge. Located in the highly coveted Summit County, Breckenridge has it all, from world-class skiing, hiking, and biking to craft breweries, award-winning restaurants, and everything in between. No matter what time of year you find yourself in Breck, there’s an adventure waiting for you. Most of the reservable campsites are found north of town near the Dillon Reservoir.  There are plenty of dispersed camping opportunities outside of town in the White River National Forest. 

Where to Camp in Breckenridge, Colorado 

Peak One Campground: Located 9 miles north of town on the banks of the Dillon Reservoir, Peak One Campground offers campers dramatic views of the surrounding  Swan Mountain and the Gore and Tenmile Ranges. Peak One has 80 sites with picnic tables, vampire rings, flush toilets, and drinking water access.

Prospector Campground: Also located on the Dillon Reservoir, Prospector Campground gives you convenient access to the White River National Forest and the nearby towns of Dillon, Frisco, and Breckenridge. This Colorado Campsite offers 100 sites with picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilet access. 

Lowry Campground: Tucked away between Summit Cove and Breckinridge in the White River National Forest, Lowry offers access to several trails and the Dillon Reservoir and is conveniently close to town. This Colorado campground has 27 sites with picnic tables, campfire rings, drinking water, and vault toilets. 

Hikes & More in Breckenridge, Colorado

Hit the Slopes: Lake Aspen, Breckenridge is more than just a conglomerate of craft breweries, coffee shops, and restaurants. It’s also home to some of the best skiing in the world. With 2,908 skiable acres, 3,398 feet of vertical terrain, and approximately 155 trails, Breckinridge is a skier’s paradise. 

Hike the Spruce Creek Trail to Mohawk Lakes: This challenging trek takes hikers to one of the most sought-after areas in Summit County, Mohawk Lakes. This hike takes you up over 2100 vertical feet for 8.5 miles through alpine forests and mountain meadows, past rushing waterfalls, and finally, to glimmering alpine lakes. This trail can get busy during the summer, so arrive early. 

Stroll the historic Mainstreet: Breckenridge Mainstreet is a charming hodgepodge of shops and restaurants in the town’s historic district. Many of the buildings are preserved from the mining era and have an old-colorado feel to them. From boutique clothing stores to fine dining, craft breweries, and aprés ski bars, you’ll find a reason to fall in love with Breck along Historic Maine Street. 

Why Rent a Camper Van for a Denver Road Trip?

The perfect blend of mobility and comfort: A camper van gives you next-level mobility and comfort and allows you to explore the far reaches of the Rocky Mountains. While an RV may have a similar level of comfort, you’re limited on where you can park and stay. A camper van offers the best of both worlds–camping made comfortable and easy meals on the go. Navigate winding mountain roads with ease, get to remote, dispersed campsites, and enjoy all the freedoms of camper van travel. 

Easy to drive: Unlike giant RVs, camper vans drive just like normal cars, fit into regular parking spots, and are easy to use both in nature and in the city. Camper vans are unrivaled when it comes to dispersed camping. Access remote campsites and trails in the far corners of the desert and blend in seamlessly while exploring Colorado.  

Flexible Camping: Since camper vans don’t require electrical or sewer hookups, you have the flexibility to camp in tent-designated campsites and remote, dispersed sites deep in the Colorado wilderness. 

Convenient and fun: With dozens of add-ons and several spacious models to choose from, our camper vans make spending the night in nature easy and enjoyable. You can pack everything you need for a multi-day and multi-activity adventure with you in your van, and not waste time setting up a tent or looking for RV-designated camping or parking. 

Reserve with Escape Camper Vans for your Denver Road Trip

A camper van is the ultimate adventure vehicle for a trip through the Rocky Mountains. An Escape Campervan makes camping comfortable while giving you the mobility to explore deep in the Rockies with ease. Renting a van makes parking easy on the streets of Denver and ensures a comfortable camping experience in the mountains. Pick your camper van up at Escape Camper Vans in Denver and start your epic Colorado adventure. 

Book My Denver Road Trip!

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