Hiking to past dream lake in rocky mountain national park

Making the Most Out of a One Week Colorado Trip

The fate of this year has got many of us itching to get away, take a trip, and escape reality for a bit. Perhaps a spontaneous trip is well overdue and now your schedule permits it. Colorado is no doubt a go-to destination for adventure seekers and those looking to take in some of the best nature and culture the U.S. has to offer. Luckily, making the trip is totally possible during the pandemic and you can still have an amazing time! Ben & I maximized one week back in July & I came up with the perfect list of activities to populate a one week Colorado trip. Of course, you might as well stay longer if you can!

We decided summer was the best time to explore more of what the state had to offer, especially all the great things you can do outdoors, so thats when we planned our Colorado trip. Honestly, a couple of visits to Joshua Tree back in May really got us craving more nature so the timing kind of worked out perfectly! I highly suggest making the trip during the late spring, summer or early fall to be able to take advantage of all the day trips in Colorado we mention in this post.

Chicago to Colorado Drive (1006 mi) in One Day. Yikes!

How you get there depends on your location and budget. Of course you can fly and rent a car but that’ll be a little more expensive. Since we were sticking to a budget for our adventure we made the drive from Chicago to Colorado. On the way there, we did all 1006 miles from Chicago to Colorado in one long 14-15 hour day! Cause well, why not?! I have to admit that was a little long for me (and most people) to be in the car so for the journey back, we divided our trip to Chicago into 2 days.

All in all, it was super worth it to have our car there BUT, I highly encourage you to break that distance up into two days. If you’re like us and have a 15 hour trek to get to Colorado, that’s what you’ll want to do, OR pick some cool destinations to hit on the way and turn it into a road trip!

Colorado Road Trip during the Pandemic

Although we did this in the middle of a pandemic, we took lots of precautions and made sure we were following distancing measures, had sanitizer, masks, and disinfecting wipes. Pretty much everywhere we went people were taking the necessary precautions and being very responsible. All in all, as long as you’re safe and responsible, you can have an incredible time! So plan ahead, view this guide, and get ready to have one wild week long adventure in Colorado!

Smiling in front of Emerald Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park surrounded by trees
Where to Stay during a One Week Colorado Trip:

Colorado is a large state that has lots to offer. If you’re limited on time (1-week trip), pick one general region you want to explore and then go from there. We stayed in Broomfield, which has easy access to both Boulder and Denver, two of the largest cities in Colorado for this particular region. Specifically, we stayed at the Townplace Suites by Marriott. Even though we went during the pandemic, we felt safe at this hotel. All staff members wear a mask and the common areas such as the pool and workout facility are by appointment only. (Trust me though, when you’re in CO, you’re not going to be hanging out at the hotel!)

Broomfield is a good area if you want to stay at a cheaper hotel rather than paying for those bigger city prices. You can easily head to Estes Park, or go a little further and drive up to Ft. Collins like we did. Again, the central location of this region makes it a great home base when taking a ton of day trips in Colorado.

Things to do in BOULDER & DENVER:

Walk around downtown Denver/LODO

There are some great outdoor shopping malls including the Denver Pavilions and so much street art! Denver was a day stop for us but one of the first on our week-long trip to Colorado. Fun fact: Did you know that Denver is known as the mile-high city? The city is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level.1 So if you check out any bars, you might feel the alcohol more!

Walking around Denver and LODO on day one of a week long Colorado trip
Wall mural and street art in Denver Colorado

Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater

When we went, concerts were postponed until 2021 but believe it or not, Red Rocks is now doing some socially distanced concerts & events! You can check out those along with their full calendar here and maybe catch one if you’re inclined. During most days, Red Rocks Park is still a great place to check out the stunning views and cool rock structures. You’re free to move and explore the space when events aren’t taking place.

Gazing over Red Rocks Amphitheater, a must see when spending one week Colorado trip

Visit Eldorado Canyon State Park

Close to Boulder and Denver, Eldorado Canyon is an awesome spot for day hiking with lots of trails and rock formations. If you’re looking for a challenging hike, check out the Eldorado Canyon trail which gains over 1,000 feet in elevation. I found it amazing to be surrounded by so many rock climbers on these steep rock formations.

Rock climbers scaling the wall at Eldorado Canyon, a state park in Colorado

Enjoy an evening along Pearl Street in Boulder

Pearl Street is lined with loads of restaurants and shops so there is something for everyone to enjoy. This happened to be one of the places Ben and I went to the most during our trip, whether we wanted to grab a bite to eat or kill some time. Whether you are people watching or gazing at the beautiful CO mountains in the distance, this is definitely a place you want to visit.

Pearl street shopping strip in downtown Boulder, CO

Check out Chautaqua Park

Chautauqua Park is a fun place for a picnic and to enjoy the view of the mountains. From here you can easily access trails that will lead you up into the Flatirons. The Flatirons are the mountains overlooking Boulder and are yet another great place for some day hiking, so consider adding them to your list!

The Flatirons in the distance of Boulder, CO covered in trees

Explore Rocky Mountain National Park & Estes Park:

If there’s one thing I absolutely recommend you during your one week in Colorado, it’s to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. And if you want one stunningly beautiful adventure, it’s the hike to Emerald Lake. It begins at the Bear Lake trailhead and takes you to three different lakes before ending at the last one, Emerald Lake. The hike lasted us 3 hours (with stops), so make sure to bring water and snacks.

Useful Tip: Download the AllTrails App to easily explore and get directions to trails at nearly every park.

If you want to see some amazing views of the mountains, check out the Ute Trail or the Forest Canyon Overlook, which is over 11,000 feet above sea level! The drive up the trail itself is pretty insane, just don’t get distracted and keep your eyes on the road. After you’re done hiking, check out downtown Estes Park for some coffee or tea, a bite at a restaurant to refuel from that hike, or to browse all the cool local shops.

Nymph lake surrounded by trees and lily pads outside of Estes Park CO
Mountains towering over the crystal clear Emerald Lake in rmnp
Expansive views of the Colorado rockies from Forest Canyon Overlook

Things to Do in Fort Collins:

Walk around Old Town

In the heart of Ft. Collins, Old Town has tons of patio restaurants and shops for you to enjoy. If you love coffee, stop by the Bean Cycle. If you’re in the mood to dine out, check out Penrose where we happened to eat one night (spoiler- It’s really good!) It’s safe to say there’s something for everyone in Old Town so whatever your plan, you’re guaranteed a good time!

Check out the CSU Annual Flower Trial Garden

If you love plants and flowers like me, you’ll love going here. The outdoor display is open to the public and is free of charge. Bring a picnic and sit on the surrounding grassy areas to enjoy the colorful blooms.

Colorful floral displays populate the CSU annual flower trial garden.

Want to do some more hiking?

Check out Poudre Canyon. We did the Hewlett Gulch trail which wasn’t super busy. I think you can see that during our one week Colorado trip we did a lot of hiking. Being from Chicago, we don’t get to hike much at all. In order to avoid feeling too fatigued, we split our hiking days throughout the week. For example, one day we would go hiking, then the next visit a city and do other excursions. I found that this was the best way to approach the physically demanding opportunities you’ll have in this state. Don’t underestimate the altitude and other challenging aspects of the hikes!

Hiking shoes next to a clear water lake in the Rocky mountains

ALLLL the breweries!

Colorado is known for having tons of breweries. You’ll have no problem doing some research and finding unique ones to visit. We checked out two specifically:

DC Oakes is a smaller brewhouse/restaurant that specializes in their own small-batch brews. We actually tried some of their beer at another restaurant and ended up seeking them out! They have this insanely delicious coconut almond porter among other great craft specialties. Growlers & crowlers, beer to go is not an issue here.

New Belgium is definitely well known and distributed across the country. Their brewery is a really good choice if you’re in the Fort Collins area. It’s a big brewery with tons of amazing beer, food trucks, and patio seating.

Where to Eat During Your Colorado Trip:

We did this trip on a budget, buying food to prepare our own breakfast and lunch along with copping what we could of the hotel breakfast selection. Clutch! Since our hotel was limited on breakfast, we ended up buying the basics, eggs, fruit, bread among other things. We made lots of PB&J sandwiches for our hiking days and brought apples and energy bars to snack on. Our dinners were where we did the most of our eating out. If you are looking to dine out or grab a pick me up, check out these restaurants:

  • Salt – Good drinks (Boulder)
  • Bartaco – Modern Mexican food, has other locations throughout the U.S (Boulder)
  • Coffee at The Laughing Goat (Boulder)
  • 5280 Burger Bar – Amazing truffle fries (Denver)
  • Voodoo Doughnut – Another place that has other locations across the U.S, but still a cool place to go if you are in the area (Denver)
Voodoo Doughnuts Captain Crunch doughnut to cap the Colorado Trip
Ready for your Colorado road trip?

Think you can do that all in one week? I bet you can. Hopefully, there’s a time you can make it out in the future if not soon. I have so much more I want to explore in Colorado, such as Vail, Colorado Springs, and a ton more hiking trails. If you’ve visited before or are a native, what would you recommend to see during one week Colorado trip?

Pin the image below to save this post for the next time you visit Colorado!


  1. “Fast Facts About Denver: VISIT DENVER.” Denver Colorado Vacations & Conventions, www.denver.org/denver-meetings-conventions/decide-on-denver/denver-facts/.