Colorado Road Trip – Tips, Plans & Ideas

maroon bells on the colorado road trip

We had the best road trip of our life setting of from Denver recently and wanted to share our tips, plans and give you some hints on putting together your itinerary.

We rented a car from Denver airport with the intention to drive straight into the mountains and camp. Car rental from Denver is really easy, most providers have shuttle busses from the arrivals. We rented from Avis and it was very easy, good value and we had a brand spanking new Chrysler Pacifica. A car we both grew to love.

The only flight we could get to Denver landed at 5pm, by the time we left the airport with the hire car it was 6 and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast so first stop, food Walmart. Being the ambitious i’d planned to be in Walmart an hour, but I was very wrong. Just under two hours later, famished we headed to Hops & Pie. We had an amazing pizza coupled with a $2 beer!

First tip stop off and get fed in Denver before heading on the I-70, eateries are dispersed and if you’re like us and have challenging dietary requirements. Second try and leave Denver by 2pm to give yourself enough options on stop offs, more applicable if you’re camping. We’ve got camping in aspen to checkout too!

We left at 9:30pm, when twilight was culminating. We stuck a campground in the GPS and set off on the I-70, Colorado’s famous road that dissects the mountains. We soon turned off the I-70 and started our ascent. Within minutes we were hair pinning back and forth up a narrow mountain road. We had no idea on the surroundings, until we reached the peak of hills. The moon was in its crescent phase and shone down through the trees to reveal a horizon of pine covered hill tops. It was very dramatic however on first immersion quite spooky.

We reached camp within an hour, as we were really tired we opted to camp in the back of the minivan. The Chrysler Pacifica was a great choice because the seats fold completely flat, giving at least 7.5ft of flat space, plenty of room for sleeping and bags. We’d originally been given the Kia Sedona but asked to change because it’s room in the rear is terrible in comparison.

We got up at 5:30 had a quick breakfast and headed on our way. We were on route to Aspen, Colorado’s famous ski resort. We continued north out of the XX National Park and the first thing we came to was a casino town. Quite literally every building being a casino, after taking a few pictures we continued on into the mountains.

Before long we re-joined the I-70 and were heading towards Breckenridge. One regret we had was not stopping to check out Brekenridge for very long. We wanted to get to Aspen by lunch to secure a campground and time wasn’t on our side. If you leave Denver in the morning then Breckenridge is a great place to stop for lunch, with a good selection of restaurants.

The road to Aspen is magnificent, from thunderous rivers in the valley floor to snow capped mountain passes. My favourite sights where the lakes in, when we were there they were still frozen. Passing through settlements time forgot, while somewhere of en eyesore. The speckling of mines on the sides of the mountain reminding you’re the history of the area during the gold rush when settlers headed out west. Something excited the soul when thinking of rags to riches that occurred in these parts.

Road past the twin lakesSignificant stops on the way to Aspen include the twin lakes a series of two lakes set beneath a mountain.

Secondly Independence pass which you need to conquer in order to reach Aspen. It’s not open all year round so if you’re travelling before Memorial Day or after Labour Day you’ll need to check ahead to see whether it’s open.

We passed on the 2nd June and there was still 6ft of snow on the side of the road. There is a great viewing area a short walk from the car park. Great for a picnic or a new profile photo, with a 14er and 5 13er’s in the background.

snow on independence passThe descent from Indy pass leads you directly into Aspen. We headed straight towards the Maroon Bells, arguable the most picturesque spot in the entire world. There are 5 campsites in the Maroon Bells area, we stayed at Silver Bell, in our bias opinion, probably the best. The camps are all surrounded by aspen tree’s which are majestic.

Get up before sunrise and head up to maroon lake, the sunrises across the face of the mountain turning it different shades of pink. Just look how pretty this is!

sunrise overlooking maroon bellsNow you’re here you have to head up to Crater lake for the best hike of your life. Crater lake itself is a 3.2mile round trip, if doing in the spring be warned it will be snowy, wear hiking boots & poles would be useful. Head out in the early morning and I thoroughly suggest you continue on above the lake into the mountain pass, the total trip extends up to a 12mile loop with some wonderful scenery.

Aspen to Glenwood Springs – Colorado Road Trip

After exploring & enjoying Aspen’s delights we headed for Glenwood Springs, a town built around, you guessed it the I-70. If you’re into hiking then you have to go to the hanging lake. It’s a 2.8 mile round trip on a challenging gradient & moderate terrain. Again hiking boots are recommended but you’ll see plenty of people doing it in flip-flops. Admittedly it didn’t look like their feet enjoyed to too much.

After the hike we headed up another valley to Redstone camp ground, to spend the last night in Colorado. This place is great because there is a shower! Albeit the most expensive campground of the trip, nothing could beat that clean feeling.

The next day we headed back out along the I-70 towards X.

If you’re looking for an adventure, Colorado is so far the best road trip I’ve ever experienced.

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