A Guide to Your Mile-High Long Weekend in Denver, Colorado
If someone were to ask me to describe Denver in one sentence, it would sound something like this: diverse, urban, beer lovin’ city that has been accidentally placed inside of a giant, outdoor playground. The open sky, vast lands stretching for miles, 300 days of sunshine and picturesque mountains are the kind of views you don’t exactly expect to see from the 42nd floor of a city building. And that’s just one thing to love about this Mid-western city. Denver’s foodie scene is thriving, the outdoor activities are countless and what’s not to love about local beer on every corner? There’s one thing that’s for sure, this city has a vibe and once you’re there, you’ll want to be a part of it. From vegan croissants to selfie museums, here’s how to get the most out of your mile high, long-weekend stay in Denver, Colorado.
Take a hike: If you love to hike, there’s honestly not a better city for exploring the outdoors than Denver. From rock climbing to flat paths, the opportunities are endless; just make sure you’re mindful of the altitude in this mile-high city. Higher elevation means less oxygen, which can be challenging for those who are accustomed to oxygen-rich air. This is particularly important when doing strenuous activities such as hiking, running, etc. To avoid complications, test out your lungs on an easier trail such as Waterton Canyon. I also recommend purchasing an oxygen supplement like this one.
With more than 80 trails offered within city limits alone, it would be impossible to complete all of the trails Denver has to offer in a weekend trip alone. So here are three note-worthy hikes you can’t miss out on:
Waterton Canyon- along the Platte River you’ll find this local favorite trail. Mostly known for the big horn sheep and stunning views, Waterton Canyon is sought out by runners, cyclists, hikers, fly fisherman and even families of four. If you’re looking to go for a run during your weekend trip, this is the place to be. Just don’t forget to bring your camera along in case you run into one of Colorado’s majestic wildlife creatures.
Distance: 12.4 miles
Elevation: 688 ft.
North Table Mountain- Located just outside of Denver in the city of Golden is where you’ll find this gem. Although steep, this hike is fairly short and rated moderate on AllTrails. If you’re looking for a beautiful sunrise and panoramic views of this Rocky Mountain lined city, definitely don’t miss out on North Table Mountain.
*North Table Mountain Park includes 11 trails. The easiest access is located directly off of I-25 Northbound (going towards Boulder) just after you enter the city of Golden. You can’t miss it!
Distance: 6 miles
Chautauqua Mountain Trail- The Chautauqua Mountain trailhead is located in Boulder, about an hour out of Denver. Bloggers, photographers, hikers, college students and climbers alike frequent this popular trail and for a very good reason: to catch a glimpse of the infamous Flatirons. This amazing trek through the pines is steep and therefore it’s rated moderate. If you’re hiking in the winter, I advise wearing snow cleats to avoid slipping on the ice. Just within an hour of my hike, I witnessed three people falling and almost slipped myself. Need cleat suggestions? Check out this guide here.
Eat like a vegan: Going vegan or plant-based has become a popular trend meaning plant-based restaurants, cafes and bakeries are popping up all over the U.S., changing the way Americans eat. Whether you’ve decided to go meat free or not, exploring Denver’s vegan/plant-based scene is an absolute must! Grab the best vegan croissant you’ll ever have in your life at Beet Box, refuel at Watercourse after a long day hiking and don’t miss out on a scoop of vegan soft serve at Make, Believe Bakery where you’ll be sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. Visiting during winter? Warm up with a vegetable korma from Spice Room where they will make it vegan, as long as you ask. The plant-based/vegan scene in Denver is definitely doing it right: from country fried cauliflower to breakfast burritos with green chili, make sure you arrive hungry.
Grab a coffee, or two: There’s nothing I love more than a local, hipster coffee shop frequented by non-binary baristas, freelancing females and espresso + foam addicts such as myself. Dare I share Colorado’s secret? The coffee shops are brewing a whole new scene minus the whole milk. For most cities, non-dairy is a common option, but I’m being completely honest when I say that my vanilla, oatmilk latte from Boxcar in Boulder was an out of world experience (and this is coming from someone who recently gave up their life-long love of dairy). Can’t make it to Boulder for this eco-conscious drink? Visit Thump Coffee in the Capitol Hill neighborhood after a morning stroll in City Park where you’ll find some of the best views Denver city limits has to offer.
*Double plus plus: both of these coffee shops are servin’ up the goods in compostable containers. Take that, single-use plastic!
Take a Selfie: I would easily classify Denver as one of the top destinations for bloggers, Instagram fanatics and selfie-obsessed millennials because where else are you going to find breathtaking wall-art three blocks from a snowcapped mountain backdrop? But not only does Denver offer the perfect scene for photos, there’s actually a museum designed just for those selfie-snapping influencers looking to go viral. Located in LODO, just a few blocks from Coors Field is this modern art, Instagram popup: the Denver Selfie Museum. Find yourself posing inside of a coloring book, eating giant sushi or defying gravity; all you have to do is dress your best, bring your camera and say Daiya. Besides, where else can you rent a backdrop for under $30?
Visit a Ski Town: Besides the thrill of recreational marijuana and the abundance of nature trails, Colorado is known for some of the best skiing in North America. Just under two hours away from Denver are both Breckenridge and Vail where powder meets quaint alpine town and it doesn’t get much better than that. Despite its prestigious reputation, you can actually get away with enjoying the snow on a budget. After 3 P.M. the Gondola (ski lift) in Vail is actually free, saving you at least a couple hundred bucks. Not a skier? Enjoy the same perk but make your way back down the mountain via inner tube for just $54 a person. If the slopes just aren’t you’re style, another option is the Walking Mountains Science Center. They offer snowshoe tours between 2 P.M. and 3 P.M. where you can experience the quiet backcountry of the Rocky Mountains and learn about Colorado’s winter ecology and wildlife for free.
*Warning: make sure to check the weather before making the trek to the Rockies. I mistakenly did not and had to leave almost as soon as I arrived to avoid driving at night in dangerous weather conditions (i.e. icy roads, snow squalls and blizzards).
Shop Secondhand: Hello thrifting and goodbye single-purpose souvenirs. We should all be thrifting our little hearts out on the reg and for obvious reasons #climatechange so why not shop secondhand on vacation? Looking for someone’s cherished, vintage Rockies jersey? Check out Buffalo Exchange where the locals are dropping items off by the basket and if you get the chance, I recommend checking out B.E. in Boulder. From vintage tees to gently worn The North Face jackets, you’re bound to find something to stuff into your carry-on. Not only does shopping secondhand make a huge impact on the environment, it offers other benefits such as:
- Finding something totally unique
- The opportunity to shop for something no one else has
- Saving money
- And no matter what, your secondhand find will always be linked to that one time in that one place
Explore Red Rocks Amphitheater: Last but not least, make your way over to Red Rocks Amphitheater where hundreds of famous musicians have performed and some have even recorded their albums. The drive time is approximately 45 minutes from Denver making it an easy mini trip to accomplish in a morning or afternoon. You can hike your way to the top of this infamous landmark where nature meets sound via trail, or park at the top to save time without risking the opportunity to take in the stunning views. Interested in seeing a concert while your there? Check out the lineup for 2020 featuring a variety of artists such as The 1975 and David Gray.