Colorado is dubbed, “The Highest State” thanks to its stunning mountain landscapes and perhaps due to its early legalization of cannabis, but it’s more than just mountains.
It’s blessed with rivers, lakes, hiking trails, and adventure activities that rival any other state in the US.
In this post, I’m going to share the ideal 3-day Colorado itinerary for the outdoor lover. 3 Days definitely isn’t enough to see all of Colorado, but it will give you enough time to get a taste of what this breathtaking state has to offer.
If you’re a hiker, bring your hiking boots, if you’re an adventure junkie, bring your sports gear of choice and if you’re an angler, bring your fly fishing rod. Colorado has so much outdoor adventure that you’ll want to come prepared.
Let’s get started.
On day one you’ll likely arrive in Denver. Let’s assume you managed to get an early flight, or you arrived by land in the morning and you have the entire day to explore.
Morning: Walk Around Town
As you are starting in Denver, it would be a shame to miss the center of town. Check with Denver.org to see if there are any concerts or events going on on the day you arrive.
Some great outdoor activities in Denver include Kayaking in Confluence Park, rent a bike and cycle the 85+ miles of paths around the city or rent a paddleboat and cruise around Smith Lake in Washington Park.
Afternoon: Head To Rocky Mountain National Park
The best way to get around Colorado is to hire a car or a campervan and drive, especially if you only have 3 days (be aware of potential rental pitfalls before renting).
The drive to Rocky Mountain National Park is just under 2 hours, maybe a bit longer by the time you get out and take photos along the way.
Evening: Go Fishing!
Once you arrive, you may still have time to do a bit of fishing if the sun hasn’t set yet. You can rent a rod from a fishing store in Denver before you head out. The fly fishing in Colorado is world-class, so if you know how to cast a fly rod, consider bringing one with you to the national park.
Even if you’ve never gone fly fishing, you can hire guides to take you into the park as well and they will show you the way. I’ve been fly fishing my whole life and I absolutely love it. Once you catch a trout on a fly rod, you’ll never go back to a traditional fishing rod.
On day two you will wake up in the national park and have plenty of time to explore. Make sure you get up early so you can cram the day with outdoor adventures!
Morning - Go Hiking
The national park has over 355 miles of hiking trails through Alpine forests that reach 12,000 feet in elevation. Spend the morning enjoying a brisk walk on one of the many trails. Keep your eye out for bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, other wildlife while you’re walking around the park.
There are plenty of beautiful picnic spots throughout the park, so consider bringing a picnic for the journey.
Afternoon - Go Horseback Riding
One of the most popular activities inside the park is horseback riding. You can join a horseback riding tour for an hour or two, or for a half-day if you’d like.
It’s a great way to quickly see large areas of the park, particularly if you know how to ride.
Evening - Camp
There’s nothing better than camping in the wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park has plenty of wild camping spots. If you are on a road trip with an RV, there are great RV spots as well.
Day 3 is a big driving day. You should try to make it all the way to Grand Junction (5.5 hours) where you can enjoy an afternoon of unique experiences that can only be done here, like encountering wild horses at Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area, strolling around Grand Junction’s charming downtown and blasting down mountain bike paths at Powderhorn Bike Park.
Finishing It Off
On the final day of the itinerary, you’ll either have to return to Denver to catch your flight home, or continue your road trip through the states. If you’re doing the latter, consider heading into Utah as you’re so close to the border at Grand Junction.
I hope this itinerary gives you a taste of the outdoor activities you can experience in Colorado. If you can stretch your time to a week, it would give you a lot of time to see even more of the area.
For me, I’d probably add an extra few days just so I could do a bit more fishing, but as an angler, that’s my favorite thing to do in the states! However you choose to spend your time in Colorado, you’ll definitely enjoy the fresh air and outdoors.
Nick is an avid angler and traveler who has been on the road since 2008, seeking the outdoors and great fishing spots everywhere he goes. He started his own blog about fly fishing where he shares his knowledge of the sport and favorite destinations for anglers around the world.