Trips

5 Day Colorado Summer Vacation

We packed a lot of adventure into our 5 night Colorado summer vacation

View from inside tunnel on I70 in Colorado.

The flight arrived in Denver around 10:30. We rented a vehicle, grabbed a bite to eat, and headed west on I-70 toward our home base of Montrose.

The 5.5-hour drive to Montrose was just part of the fun. Interstate 70 in Colorado winds through the Rockies offering spectacular views.

Mountain view from Interstate 70 in Colorado

We stayed in Montrose at the Holiday Inn Express. We chose this area because it is close to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

2 beds in a hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose, Colorado

Colorado Summer Vacation Day 1 – Monday

Rafting on a Colorado summer vacation is a must. The good news is that there are many options, whether you like a little or a lot of adventure. 

The San Miguel River in Colorado surrounded by trees

We selected a class II/class III paddle on the San Miguel River with Mild to Wild Rafting near Sawpit. This stretch of river flows through stunning red rock walls.

Red rocks alongside the San Miguel River in Colorado

After a picnic lunch, we drove through Telluride. As we pulled into town, we spotted the Telluride elk herd basking in the sunshine.

Elk grazing and resting outside Telluride, Colorado

Next, we took a late afternoon trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to check out the South Rim Visitor Center at Gunnison Point.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Visitor Center atop a cliff.

We ended the day with a drive down East Portal Road to the Crystal Dam on the Gunnison River.

Cliff walls of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on a Colorado summer vacation

Day 2 – Tuesday

Black Canyon of the Gunnison was our top must-see for the trip. So Tuesday, we spent the morning exploring South Rim Road. This scenic drive is 7 miles and has 12 overlooks. We spent about 3 hours hiking to each overlook and enjoying our picnic.

View of the Gunnison River at the bottom of the Black Canyon on a Colorado Summer Vacation

It started to rain, so we decided to go on a drive and enjoy the mountain vistas. We drove through Telluride for a rainy-day picture of Bridal Veil Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls surrounded by clouds with trees in the foreground on a Colorado Summer Vacation

Trout Lake in the Uncompahgre National Forest is a short and scenic 15-mile drive from Telluride. We made a brief stop here to enjoy the mountain lake views.

Trout Lake nestled in the mountains with a picnic table in the foreground on a Colorado summer vacation.

After driving back to Montrose, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Camp Robber. I devoured the blue corn enchiladas.

Plate of enchiladas and rice at Camp Robbers in Montrose.

Day 3 – Wednesday

No Colorado summer vacation is complete without an off-road adventure. We rented a Polaris RZR from Altitude Adventures and spent the day exploring the trails around Ouray.

Polaris RZR on a dirt road in the woods on a Colorado summer vacation

I can think of no better way to spend a summer day than soaking in majestic mountain views!

Mountains with blue sky and clouds with yellow wildflowers in the foreground on a Colorado summer vacation

We ended the day with dinner at Jimmers Steak and BBQ in Montrose. I indulged in the green chili brisket burger with cheesy potatoes. YUM!

Open face burger and cheese potatoes.

Day 4 – Thursday

We headed back to Telluride for an up-close view of Bridal Veil Falls. This stunning cascade is the tallest freefalling waterfall in Colorado. Visitors can hike or drive on Black Bear Pass to the base of the falls.

Bridal Veil Falls off the cliff with rock and green moss in the foreground.

The Telluride Gondola is a fantastic (and free) way to explore the mountain.

View out the window of the gondola at Telluride on a Colorado summer vacation.

We went up to the San Sophia Station and explored some trails.

Hiking train through the grass on a ski slope in Telluride on a Colorado summer vacation

Then, we rode the gondola to downtown Telluride and had lunch at Steamies Burger Bar.

Sidewalk in Telluride outside Steamies Burger Bar.

On our final afternoon of the trip, we drove to Ouray to visit Box Canyon Falls. This impressive waterfall is easy to access and well worth the $5 entrance fee.

Waterfall through a rock canyon at Ouray, Colorado

Colorado Summer Vacation Day 5 – Friday

Unfortunately, departure day came far too quickly. We left Montrose around 5:45 am and drove to Idaho Springs, CO.

Mountains with river and blue sky in Colorado

Idaho Springs is home to the historic Argo Mill and Tunnel.

Large red wooden building for the Argo Gold Mine and Mill in Idaho Falls, Colorado.

We took the 11 am tour. Visitors are guided through the mill and tunnel to learn how gold was extracted, processed, and sold to the Denver Mint.

Outside of the Argo Tunnel with metal door shut in the rockface.

The last leg of our journey was the 60-mile drive back to Denver International Airport.

Our summer colorado vacation was a blast! It had been too many years since we’d been to Colorado in the summer, and I had forgotten how much I loved warm weather in the Centennial State.

Colorado Summer Vacation Trip Tip

Cell signal is spotty in the mountains, so I like to have a paper map! Here is the one we used:

Want more information on great Colorado summer vacation ideas? Check out 9 Awesome Experiences in Colorado Springs 

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