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Stand up paddleboarding on the Slate River near Crested Butte. —Photo courtesy of Irwin Guides

Road Trip! 5 Summer Destinations Worth the Drive

Pack your remaining warm-weather weekends with these excursions throughout Colorado.

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There are few things more American than a road trip, and lucky for us, Denver is a convenient starting point for many epic out-of-town adventures. Here, five quick escapes that are sure to take your remaining summer weekends up a notch—after all, it’s only a matter of time before powder hounds back up I-70 all the way to your driveway.

For the Amateur Wine Critic…

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Palisade

Life’s a real peach—especially in the Grand Valley town of Palisade. Known for its abundance of fresh produce and vineyards, a drive to Palisade (about 230 miles from Denver) is perfect for food and wine lovers. While fine-dining options are few and far between, more casual places like Slice O’ Life Bakery and Palisade Café and Grill satisfy. Compared to many other summer destinations, Palisade is a quiet town and idyllic for relaxing and recharging. Plan to visit around September 17–20 to catch the grape-stomping and live music of Colorado Mountain Winefest.

Drive time from Denver3 hours, 40 minutes

For the Festival Fanatic…

Telluride

This mining town nestled 328 miles from Denver in the San Juan Mountains is Coloradans’ unofficial favorite getaway. Outdoor enthusiasts can make use of the prime location by hopping on the Idarado Legacy Trail or the Bear Creek Trail to reach picturesque waterfalls. The gondola is a must for any Colorado resident or tourist. (The views will make you consider retiring early in Telluride.) Even with all the allure, the town rarely feels crowded and touristy—which is saying something for a place with an endless flow of summer festivals. To make the most of your trip, plan to enjoy the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival September 18–20.

Drive time from Denver: 6 hours, 15 minutes

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For the Adrenaline Junkie…

Crested Butte

For a small town 228 miles from Denver, Crested Butte has a lot to offer in two areas: bars and adventures. After making the drive, a properly crafted drink from Montanya Rum Distillers will be much appreciated. Also, if you didn’t stop for food on the way, The Secret Stash’s creative pies will fill you up and help you put down a few more drinks at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin before calling it a night. You’ll be well rested if you stay at The Ruby of Crested Butte, where a fresh gourmet breakfast cooked by co-owner Chris Greene will provide plenty of fuel for your summer adventures. When you’re ready to get your adrenaline flowing, rent a river SUP board from Colorado FreeSkier or arrange a guided trip with Irwin Guides to let someone else handle the logistics. If you prefer your adrenaline fast and dirty, take your two-wheeled stump jumper to Evolution Bike Park, where 16 chairlift-served downhill trails are ready for you. Are you ready for them?

Drive time from Denver4 hours, 15 minutes

For the Nature-Lover…

Grand Lake

In this quaint mountain town, you’ll get the best of two of our favorite things: hiking and water sports. Grand Lake is situated at the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, just about 100 miles from Denver. For a rewarding day hike, make your way to Cascade Falls or Big Pool, where the confluence of Fern Creek and the Big Thompson River make a popular fishing spot. Back in town, the lake is home to the Grand Lake Yacht Club, which has a history that dates back to 1902. If you would rather paddle than sail, SUP and kayak rentals are available. Don’t miss the quick hike up Adams Falls—it’s well worth it for the views alone. After your long day hiking or on the water (or both), unwind with a quality show at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre.

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Drive time from Denver2 hours, 10 minutes

For the Aspiring Olympian…

Aspen

Whether you want to try all the cocktails at Justice Snow’s or you want to run a mountain endurance race—we’ll meet you back at J Snow’s—you can push yourself to new heights in Aspen this summer. Aspen is no stranger to extreme endurance sports events, such as the inaugural Red Bull Rise, a 12-hour running event featuring a variety of races of ludicrous lengths and elevation gains. Relax and recover with the Maroon Bells (your body will thank you for the day off). If you appreciate the physical nature of extreme sports without doing it yourself, Aspen Snowmass will host The Meeting, a snow-sports film gathering October 1-3. Just let us know when you’re going, and we’ll meet you at the bar.

Drive time from Denver3 hours, 10 minutes

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