At Overland Discovery, we love the fact that we can enjoy all the modern conveniences of city living in Denver, while also having the opportunity to get away for a long weekend to the beautiful Rocky Mountains in under thirty minutes.
With so many outdoor adventures available, it can be hard to narrow down your options when you head west. But you don’t have to waste time or mileage driving all across Colorado to find some incredible gems.
We’ve put together a 3-day camping itinerary of beautiful camping locations and fun outdoor activities that will only take you a few hours outside of Denver, adding up to a total of only 266 miles round-trip. Just like all our itineraries, we can vouch for this one personally — so whether you’re a Colorado local or an out-of-towner looking for some fun, these spots will satisfy every type of adventurer.
Day ONE: Step Into the Wild at Rocky Mountain National Park
The Drive: Overland Discovery Rental Depot (Denver) to Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance: 75.7 miles
Time from Denver: 1 hour and 51 minutes
Via: Peak-to-Peak Highway
No tour of Colorado would be near complete without a trip to our most famous national park, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). With 415 square miles of jaw-dropping landscapes and over 300 miles of hiking trails, the opportunities are endless.
RMNP is a relatively short drive from our rental depot here in Denver, and you can get there via a beautiful scenic byway: The famous Peak-to-Peak Highway to Estes.
This 2 hour drive offers a sneak peak of all the natural beauty Colorado has to offer. We recommend setting aside a little more time for photo opps and local snack stops along the route!
The visitors centers at Rocky Mountain National Park are a great source for free information to help narrow down where to go inside the park. Be sure to download some of our favorite outdoor adventure apps to help plan your activities before you head off, too.
*PLEASE NOTE, due to the current COVID-19 virus, reservations are required at Rocky Mountain National Park to enter. You can reserve your time here.
Things To Do in Rocky Mountain National Park
Below are just a few of our and our customers’ favorite places at the park. Have something you would like to add? Let us know when you return your rental! We’d love to hear what you discovered!
With 355 miles of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, outdoor adventurers have endless trails to explore. Be sure to download the best free hiking apps ahead of time to help you narrow down your search.
Here are two of our favorite hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park:
Emerald Lake – The hike to Emerald Lake is an easy hike and a jewel of the Rockies. It’s one of the more popular attractions, so be prepared for lots of other hikers on the trail.
Cascade Falls – A slightly more moderate trail in terms of difficulty, the 7-mile round trip hike to Cascade Falls provides a gift in the form of a waterfall at the peak. Views from the bottom are incredible but views from the top take the prize.
Sport fishing is permitted in Rocky Mountain National Park, and there are over 50 lakes and many streams where you can fish.
Fishing is balanced with the park’s efforts to restore and perpetuate natural aquatic environments and life. As such, a Colorado fishing license is required, with some special regulations for fishers.
WILDLIFE WATCHING & PHOTOGRAPHY
Rocky Mountain National Park’s animal population includes the majestic bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, moose, and many other types of wild species. It’s no surprise that wildlife watching is rated as the number one activity by the millions of guests that visit the park each year.
Although it’s tempting to get close to the animals for a photo opp, it’s important to keep your distance and follow all safety precautions.
CAMPSITE IN OR NEAR ROCKY MOUNTA NATIONAL PARK
Below are our favorite campsites in Colorado in or near RMNP where you can pull up in your Jeep Camper, pop open your roof top tent, and breathe in the fresh air.
Glacier Basin Campground – A mix of pine and firs provide this campground with plenty of shade. It’s easy-to-access, but requires reservation in advance. Reservations are $30 USD per night. Make your reservation here >
Moraine Park Campground – Located on the north side of Moraine Park, the views at this campground are nothing short of fantastic. Reservations required in advance, at $30 USD per night. Make your reservations here >
Longs Peak Campground – This campsite is about 20 minutes south of Estes Park on a first-come, first-served basis. With only 26 campsites this is a smaller site, but offers perfect access to hiking trails, including the epic Longs Peak 14er trail. *Note this site is closed for the 2020 season* Campsites are $30 USD per night.
Day TWO: Dip Into the Hot Springs in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado
The Drive: Rocky Mountain National Park via Trail Ridge Road to Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado. Trail Ridge Road is ONLY open for vehicle traffic between Memorial Day weekend in May through Columbus Day in October.
Distance: 73 Miles
Time: Around 2 hours
Via: Trail Ridge Road
No trip to RMNP is complete without a drive along Trail Ridge Road, the longest and highest paved road in North America. Covering 48 miles between Estes Park on the park’s east side and Grand Lake on the west, Trail Ridge Road (U.S. 34) more than lives up to the hype.
Get ready to skirt along the skyline at elevations near 11,500 feet, where the park’s evergreen forests bleed into towering mountain tops. As the road winds across the vast high-elevation tundra to its high point at 12,183 feet, Trail Ridge Road offers visitors thrilling views, wildlife sightings, and spectacular alpine wildflower exhibitions.
Be sure to bring a jacket or sweater, as it’s chilly at the top even on the hottest days of summer. The drive itself provides a plethora of twists, turns, and breathtaking views, so if you tend to get queasy, it’s best to avoid this route!
Otherwise, Trail Ridge Road is a quintessential Colorado experience, and perfect for our Jeep campers.
After a day of hiking and sightseeing in RMNP, there’s nothing better than relaxing at one of the best hot springs in Colorado, the Hot Sulphur Springs in Grand County, Colorado.
There are 21 mineral pools and baths at Hot Sulphur Springs. They are all fed from hot springs deep beneath the Earth’s surface.The pools are beautifully developed on a hillside, with easy access between pools.
The temperature of the pools themselves are controlled between 95º to 112ºF. The pools range from large to small, with a cooler indoor swimming pool for laps.
CAMPSITES NEAR HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS RESORT
After a day of swimming, soaking, and exploring, you can pull up to any of the campsites nearby and pop open your tent for a restful night’s sleep.
Robbers Roost Campground – Located next to US Highway 40, this campground offers 11 sites. This campground includes restrooms and picnic tables in addition to trash service and a campfire grate.
Make sure to stock up on drinking water before pulling up for the night, as the nearest fill spot is about 5.5 miles away at Idlewood campground. And don’t forget to pack layers, as this campsite is at 9700 ft of elevation and will be chilly at night during the summer.
Jones Pass Dispersed Campsites – This spot is one of the best campgrounds in Colorado and one of our favorites, as these sites allow you to choose where you want to make camp and not worry about any noisy neighbors as you sleep among the aspens.
Once past the Jones Pass trailhead, these camping spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis along the side of the trail.
One thing to be aware of about Jones Pass is there are no facilities. Make sure to bring drinking water and appropriate restroom accommodations with you.
Day THREE: Explore Colorado’s Loop Railroad & Mining Park or Tour an Old Mine in Georgetown, Colorado!
The Drive: Hot Sulphur Springs to Georgetown Loop Railroad
Distance: 60.2 miles
Time: About 1 hour and 20 minutes
Via: US-40 E
On the final day of this camp trip, we recommend exploring the Colorado rail loop and mining park in Georgetown. Take a step back in time as you adventure through mines and steam-powered railways.
The loop railroad is the main attraction here and is what we would consider a must-do. Tickets sell out quickly especially during the summer months, so we recommend purchasing in advance of your trip. Be sure to check out the railroad museum located onsite for additional information about the history of the railroad. Purchase tickets for the train here >
If the railroad doesn’t interest you, the Georgetown area offers plenty of other options. We have listed some of our favorites below for you to explore.
PAN FOR GOLD & TOUR AN OLD GOLD MINE
Take a step back in time and experience what used to be called the “Silver Queen of the Rockies” via a mine tour and panning for gold. A few different options for mine tour companies are available, and we recommend calling before to make sure that the tours are open due to COVID-19. Phoenix Mine and Argo Mill and Tunnel offer both panning for gold and mine tours.
WHITEWATER RAFTING IN IDAHO SPRINGS, COLORADO
If you are feeling adventurous, less than 6 miles away is Downstream Adventure Rafting offering expert led rafting trips on beginner, intermediate, and advanced routes.
CAMPSITES NEAR GEORGETOWN, COLORADO
Guanella Pass Campground – Just south of Georgetown is Guanella Pass Campground. With both water and restroom facilities, this site is popular for good reason — it offers some of the best camping near Denver.
Nearby hiking and fishing offer great opportunities to extend your stay as well. Camp spots are both first-come, first served, or reserved for $21 a night >
Echo Lake Campgrounds – Located at the base of Mount Evans and on a lake, Echo Lake campgrounds offer both first-come, first-served sites as well as sites by reservation. Restrooms and water are provided, as well as a bear locker for food.
Many hiking trails start directly from the campsites and offer the opportunity to hike, fish, and view wildlife right from camp. Reserve your spot for $21 a night here >
West Chicago Creek Campsites – Located along the West Chicago Creek, these campsites offer a beautiful forest setting. 15 sites are available, both on a first-come, first-served basis and by reservation.
The sites offer both restrooms and water services, as well as a bear locker. Firewood is available for purchase if needed, too. Reserve your site for $15 a night here >
Book A Jeep Camper or Campervan For Your Trip
With this perfect 3-day itinerary, you can start your adventure just minutes after leaving Denver. That means the only question that remains is which size Jeep camper or campervan you want to rent for your next adventure!
The specialists here at Overland Discovery are happy to help you rent a Jeep for camping or campervan rental that best suits your travel style, with all the gear you need to have a thrilling yet comfortable adventure of a lifetime.