Plan a Summer Vacation in Colorado’s Front Range and Its Peak to Peak Highway
Drive about 45 miles north and west of Denver International Airport to the Front Range’s eastern border.
What to See and Do
The high peaks along the eastern edge of the Colorado Rockies, also known as the Front Range, are a wonder to behold during any Colorado summer vacation. Make your first Front Range stop in Boulder. This small college town is known for the distinctive Flatirons rock formations, its quaint Pearl Street Mall and amazing restaurants, where travelers can try local specialties like a bison burger at Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery.
Boulder is also a gateway via state Route 119 to the scenic byway known as the Peak to Peak Highway. Hop on 119 south for an easy and picturesque drive to the top of Boulder Canyon. If you keep driving west, you’ll also discover Nederland. Once a mill site for silver and tungsten ore, this charming mountaintop town offers travelers a vibrant music scene and a variety of eateries and shops. Try The Train Cars Coffee and Yogurt Company for a boost of caffeine or a cool sweet treat, then head next door to ride the Carousel of Happiness, a restored 1910 Looff carousel that features 56 hand-carved animals and belts out tunes from a 1913 Wurlitzer band organ.
Drive 20 miles south on the Peak to Peak Highway to Central City, a mining town founded during the Pike’s Peak gold rush in 1859 and later considered the “richest square mile on earth.” Today, Central City is a festive casino town offering travelers the chance to soak in its wealth of history or try their hands at a slot machine or two. Or head north on the Peak-to-Peak via state Highway 72 to Ward, where you can grab a bite alongside locals, passing bikers and maybe the resident ghost named Carl at the Millsite Inn, a family-friendly mountaintop bar and restaurant.
After satisfying your appetite, drive about 30 miles north via state Highway 72W and 7W to Estes Park, a small, kitschy town at the doorstep of Rocky Mountain National Park that is home to the world-famous Stanley Hotel. Stephen King’s one-night stay at the hotel in 1973 inspired his depiction of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Finish your day with a majestic drive through Rocky Mountain National Park along Trail Ridge Road, which is only open during summer in Colorado. Alternatively, head to the Continental Divide, located inside the park and also accessible via Trail Ridge Road, it is the highest continuous paved road in North America, reaching 12,183 feet at its peak elevation.