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Got some time to spare on your Denver trip? Take a day trip to one of these beautiful mountain towns near Denver – you won’t regret it!
A lot of people that haven’t been to Denver assume it is a mountain city. It is known as the Mile High City after all so I can’t say that I blame them. But it actually isn’t in the mountains, it is beside them.
Denver is more of a prairie city, flat and really hot in summer. Don’t get me wrong, I do love Denver and it is our main base in the US, but if you are looking for a mountain vacation then you definitely need to include some other places in Colorado to your itinerary, not just Denver.
Luckily Denver is really close to some great little mountain towns and cities, with dozens that are within an hour’s drive of downtown Denver. I put together a list of the absolute best mountain towns near Denver that I think you should visit – whether on a day trip or longer.
So if it is the mountains you are craving and you are heading to Denver, don’t miss these gorgeous and easily accessible mountain towns near Denver.
If you have more time, do a Colorado Road Trip or venture to some of the beautiful Colorado mountain towns and hidden gems further from Denver. Colorado is an incredible state and there is so much to see here!
The Best Mountain Towns Near Denver
Check out my interactive map to the best mountain towns near Denver.
Distance from Denver: 27 miles/40 minutes
Boulder is a gorgeous college town (well, a city really) in the foothills of the Rockies that somehow manages to be both hippie and well-heeled. It ain’t cheap but I love visiting, especially in the summer when it is super green and bursting with colorful flowers everywhere.
Visiting Boulder is a popular day trip from Denver, but if you have the time, I highly recommend staying longer because there is so much to see and do here.
Don’t miss perusing the shops on pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street, eating at the excellent restaurants in town, grabbing a beer at one of the many local breweries, checking out buzzing University Hill, and taking a walk along the shaded path that follows Boulder Creek.
If you are a hiker (or you want to give hiking a try), Boulder is an excellent place to do so because there are so many open-space parks and hiking trails that are literally within walking distance from town.
Don’t miss hiking to Royal Arch in Chautauqua Park, Gregory Canyon, and Mount Sanitas to name just a few.
Boulder is one of the must-visit mountain towns near Denver in my opinion, and you may never want to leave.
Where to Stay in Boulder: Boulder Adventure Lodge, Basecamp Boulder, or Hotel Boulderado. For vacation homes, this Cabin on Boulder Creek, or this South Boulder Studio.
Where to Eat in Boulder: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse offers delicious tea drinks and food from around the world, Pizzeria Locale has awesome Neopolitan-style pizza, Avanti is a food hall with a roof terrace and lots of delicious options including Korean fare, pupusas, pizza, and more.
Don’t miss the Rayback Collective, a multi-purpose indoor space with a cafe and bar, and a beer garden with food trucks. It’s a great spot to park up for the day if you work online.
Where to Drink in Boulder: Boulder is home to so many great breweries. A few to check out are Twisted Pine, UpSlope, and VisionQuest.
Distance from Denver: 43 miles/50 minutes
Lyons is known as a stopover town on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park from Denver, but it is a cool little town in its own right and definitely worth a visit.
This cute mountain town is nestled in the foothills at the confluence of two creeks and is home to a very walkable Main Street where the colorful buildings house boutiques, antique stores, and independent businesses – in fact, 97% of the businesses in Lyons are independently owned!
There are a number of hiking and biking trails near town and you are only a 30-minute drive from Rocky Mountain National Park so if you are staying a couple of nights, Lyons is a great base to explore the park from.
Lyons is all about local pride, and the relaxed pace of life and friendly small-town charm is sure to win you over. This is definitely one of the mountain towns close to Denver that you should take the time to visit.
Where to Stay in Lyons: La Vern M. Johnson Park for camping, or rent a tiny house at WeeCasa Tiny Home Resort. For an affordable self-contained option, stay at this cozy one-bedroom carriage house.
Where to Eat in Lyons: Try the damn-good BBQ at Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Brew, Tacos and other delicious Mexican dishes at Mojo Taqueria, or grab a sandwich or sweet treat to take hiking from St Vrain Market, Deli and Bakery.
Where to Drink in Lyons: Enjoy local brews at Iconic Oskar Blues Brewery and MainStage Brewing Company.
3. Idaho Springs
Distance from Denver: 33 miles/40 minutes
Idaho Springs is one of my absolute favorite mountain towns near Denver because there is so much to do here and it is so accessible.
Idaho Springs was founded during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush in 1859, and the main street, Miner Street, is full of beautifully restored historic buildings that are now home to boutiques, breweries, restaurants, and some of the best souvenir shopping in Colorado. You could easily spend a couple of hours just exploring downtown.
There are some great hikes close to Idaho Springs including the short but beautiful trail to St Mary’s Glacier. If you are into white water rafting, then Idaho Springs is a great place to do that too, with Class III-V rapids and trips suitable for beginners through to experts.
If you want to learn more about the town’s mining history, there are two mine tours you can take – Argo Gold Mine and Phoenix Gold Mine. There is also a small mining museum in town, the Underhill Museum.
You can drive to the summit of 14,270ft Mount Evans from Idaho Springs on the Mount Evans Scenic Byway which is open during the summer months.
Idaho Springs is also home to the closest hot springs to Denver, Indian Hot Springs, which has a large pool in a greenhouse as well as geothermal caves and private pools.
Idaho Springs has pretty much all the best of Colorado in one small town and I love it. It is definitely one of the must-visit mountain towns close to Denver.
Where to Stay in Idaho Springs: JC Suites or if you aren’t traveling with kids – The Silver Lake Lodge which is adults-only. For vacation rentals, stay at this mountain retreat cottage or the Arapaho Cliffs Log Cabin.
Where to Eat in Idaho Springs: If you only have time to eat at one place in Idaho Springs – it has to be at the original BeauJo’s for Colorado-style pizza. The best breakfast spot in town is Main Street Restaurant, and Smokin Yard’s BBQ is an excellent choice for Southern BBQ classics.
Where to Drink in Idaho Springs: There are a couple of great breweries in Idaho Springs – Westbound & Down Brewing Company and Tommy Knocker Brewery. The Vintage Moose is a great choice if dive bars are more your style.
Distance from Denver: 45 miles/50 minutes
Georgetown is another picture-perfect historic mining town right off the I-70, and is definitely worth a visit if you are into mining history or want to hike the closest 14’er to Denver – Mount Bierstadt.
Colorful, restored historic buildings line the short but very pretty main street, Sixth Street. In the summer months, there are planters of colorful flowers everywhere and if you’re like me, you will want to take a million photos of this gorgeous town.
If you are interested in mining history you can take a tour of the historic Capital Prize Gold Mine, and take a trip on the Georgetown Loop Railroad on a steam locomotive that passes several old gold and silver mines.
Drive the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway for stunning fall colors in September and gorgeous views all year round – near the top is where you can begin the hike up one of Colorado’s most accessible 14’ers, Mount Bierstadt.
Georgetown Lake is a great spot for water sports like SUP and kayaking, and it is stocked with brown trout you can fish here too (make sure to get a permit).
You won’t regret visiting lovely Georgetown, one of the prettiest mountain towns close to Denver.
Where to Stay in Georgetown: For hotels, stay at Hotel Chateau Chamonix or Georgetown Mountain Inn. For vacation rentals, stay at The Cricket tiny house on Clear Creek, or in this super affordable and cozy one-bedroom condo.
Where to Eat in Georgetown: A & K’s Place does delicious breakfasts and burgers, and the Alpine Restaurant and Bar serves up Italian food and has a train theme. There are a couple of cozy cafes in town that serve up awesome coffees and teas as well as baked goods – Mountain Mamas’ Needful Things and Georgetown Coffee and Tea.
Where to Drink in Georgetown: Guanella Pass Brewing Company for awesome local brews.
Distance from Denver: 15 miles/25 minutes
Golden is the closest mountain town near Denver and it’s a very special place to me – I got married here! It’s somewhere I have spent a lot of time over the last few years and I absolutely love Golden.
This former gold mining town has a strong Western flair with historic brick buildings in town and lots of cowboy paraphernalia around the place. It is also home to the Colorado School of Mines – and who doesn’t love a lively college town.
It is nestled in Clear Creek Valley, at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and it is a gorgeous sight. In late spring and early summer, it is super lush and there are wildflowers everywhere, and in fall the trees live up to the town’s name – shimmering gold and lining Clear Creek.
There are so many hiking and biking trails around Golden with many of them accessible from the middle of town – I wrote a post about the best hiking trails in Golden. In the hotter months, you can’t beat tubing the rapids of Clear Creek. It’s exhilarating and a great way to cool off.
If you are interested in mountaineering, make sure to visit the American Mountaineering Museum, or if you are into Coors Beer, you can tour the brewery – I’ve heard you get free beer at the end.
No matter what you are into, don’t miss Golden.
Where to Stay in Golden: Table Mountain Inn or the newly-built The Eddy Taproom and Hotel. For vacation rentals, stay at this historic carriage house or this charming studio in a historic home – both close to downtown Golden.
Where to Eat in Golden: Start your day with a southern-style breakfast at Sassafras on their riverside patio. Golden Mill is a new food hall with five food vendors that include sushi, chicken, and tacos as well as New Zealand ice cream and pour your own beer taps. Sherpa House is a cozy spot for excellent Himalayan food and it is also a cultural center.
Where to Drink in Golden: There are so many excellent breweries in Golden – my faves are New Terrain, Mountain Toad, and Golden City Brewing. They usually have food trucks at the breweries most days. Miners Saloon is also a great place to grab a drink and Golden Moon Speak next door is a speakeasy and distillery that serves up handcrafted cocktails.
Distance from Denver: 29 miles/35 minutes
Unlike a lot of the other mountain towns near Denver on this list, Evergreen isn’t a historic mining town, although it is still historic.
Evergreen started as a ranching community in the 1860s and has been a popular summer escape for Denverites since the late 19th century.
The historic downtown has a more rustic feel compared to the more polished look of Georgetown and Idaho Springs, and I really like it for that. Make sure to explore the compact main street with its antiques, consignment stores, and galleries.
One thing you can’t miss in Evergreen is beautiful Evergreen Lake, just beyond the town center. The lake is the perfect place to walk – it is 1.4 miles to walk the circumference – as well as paddleboarding and kayaking, and you can even fish here.
There are a number of other hiking and biking trails nearby too, so Evergreen is a great base for adventure.
Where to Stay in Evergreen: Alpen Way Chalet Mountain Lodge or Colorado Bear Creek Cabins. For vacation rentals, stay at this cozy studio with mountain views, or this beautiful mountaintop one-bedroom apartment.
Where to Eat in Evergreen: Willow Creek Restaurant for American fare made with locally sourced ingredients, Wildflower Cafe for hearty breakfasts and lunches, Murphy’s Mountain Grill for creative mains and burgers.
Where to Drink in Evergreen: Revival brews for local beer and elevated bar food, Lariat Lodge Brewing Company for inventive craft beer brewed onsite.
Distance from Denver: 18 miles/25 minutes
Lovely Morrison is just up the road from Golden and is the closest town to the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheater. Morrison started life as a railroad town in 1872 and has a gorgeous setting in Bear Creek Canyon.
This cute town has a tiny but interesting main street, lined with gift shops, antique stores, galleries, and restaurants. It is definitely worth stopping here to look around the shops and to grab something to eat from one of the excellent restaurants.
There is also a lot to do around Morrison – go hiking, catch a show, or check out the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame at Red Rocks, marvel at dinosaur fossils at Dinosaur Ridge, and hike to the ruins of a castle on Mount Falcon.
Morrison is also on the Lariat Loop, a scenic byway that links Golden, Evergreen, and Morrison with lots of places of interest to see along the way.
Morrison is only a short drive from the city making it one of the most accessible mountain towns close to Denver so you have no excuse not to visit!
Where to Stay in Morrison: Origin Red Rocks is the only hotel in the Morrison area but is an excellent choice. For vacation rentals, this cozy two-bedroom apartment is a good option close to Morrison.
Where to Eat in Morrison: The Cow Eatery for casual diner fare, The Fort Steakhouse is an adobe fort just outside of town that serves up steak and game.
Where to Drink in Morrison: Red Rocks Beer Garden for Colorado beers and pizza in a spacious garden, Roof Top Tavern for drinks on a sunny rooftop overlooking the town and surrounding mountains.
Distance from Denver: 45 miles/1 hour
Nederland, known affectionately as Ned for short, started life as a trading post during the 1850s, before becoming a mining town. It is now popular for outdoor pursuits and has a rustic charm that couldn’t be more different than immaculate Boulder, which is only 16 miles away.
The motto of the town is “Life is Better Up Here” and I can definitely believe that. Ned’s slightly ramshackle looking downtown is home to a surprisingly large amount of decent restaurants, boutiques, and gift stores for its small size, and the great outdoors is right on your doorstep here.
There are a number of hiking trails nearby – I highly recommend the Indian Peaks Wilderness, the Crater Lakes trail from Moffat Tunnel, and any of the hikes in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, especially in fall when the aspens are in their full golden glory. Barker Meadow Reservoir is right by town and you can hike there, and fish from the shoreline.
Nederland is also on the scenic Peak to Peak Scenic Byway that links Estes Park to the I-70 near Black Hawk. This byway is always a beautiful drive but it is spectacular in fall.
If you are visiting in winter, don’t miss one of the most unique festivals in Colorado if not the whole country: Frozen Dead Guy Days. This festival pays homage to a frozen dead guy who is being stored in a shed above Nederland, his family hoping to one day resurrect him.
The festival includes coffin racing, human foosball, and a costumed polar plunge among other crazy events. Don’t miss it if you are in the area in February. I think this event speaks volumes about the kind of quirky individuals that call this townhome, and why you should make sure to visit Ned.
Where to Stay in Nederland: There aren’t any hotels in Ned but there are some great vacation homes. Stay at this peaceful two-bedroom retreat with panoramic views, this cozy dual-level apartment, or this studio suite with a hot tub and mountain views.
Where to Eat in Nederland: Crosscut Pizzeria and Taphouse for the best pizza in town if not the whole of Colorado, Salto Coffee Works for coffee and tea drinks and cafe fare, Kathmandu Restaurant for very decent Nepalese and Indian dishes.
Where to Drink in Nederland: Knotted Root Brewing Company and Very Nice Brewing Company for very nice local craft beer.
9. Silver Plume
Distance from Denver: 47 miles/50 minutes
One of the smallest communities on this list of mountain towns near Denver, Silver Plume is right off I-70 but it is pretty much a forgotten hamlet that you could almost call a ghost town – but not quite, because there are still people living here – around 170 according to the last census.
Silver Plume feels like a ghost town either way. It is super quiet, the short main street has a few historic buildings in different states of repair, with many of them now being private homes. And that is about it.
Like its neighbor Georgetown, Silver Plume is also a historic silver mining town, and it is a stop on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Clear Creek runs right through town and there is one hike of note, the 7:30 Mine Trail which offers awesome views over town and the Silver Plume Valley.
It’s a curious place and definitely worth a stop if you are driving by.
Where to Stay in Silver Plume: There aren’t any hotels in Silver Plume itself (you could stay in Georgetown next door) but there are a couple of great vacation rentals. Stay at this cozy cottage or this beautiful mountain house with a view – both right in Silver Plume.
Where to Eat in Silver Plume: The Bread Bar has a limited but delicious menu and handmade cocktails (it is temporarily closed), Plume Coffee serves up excellent coffees and baked goods although they are mostly just open on weekends.
Georgetown is only a few minutes drive away so you could grab food and drinks there if nothing is open in Silver Plume.
Where to Drink in Silver Plume: Also The Bread Bar, when they reopen.
10. Central City and Black Hawk
Distance from Denver: 38 miles/45 minutes
Central City may look like just another pretty historic mountain town, but there is something that sets it apart – behind those historic facades are casinos!
It’s a bit more obvious in neighboring Black Hawk with its modern multi-story buildings, but even Black Hawk has a couple of casinos housed in historic buildings too.
Gambling was legalized in Central City and Black Hawk in the 1990s in a last-ditch attempt to save these dying former mining towns, and between them, they now have 24 casinos. The plan worked!
Even if you aren’t into gambling – it’s not something I do often – it’s still worth a visit for the novelty factor, and to hit up one of the buffets.
These twin towns are easily accessible from Denver – there are even shuttles that run from Lakewood, on the light rail from central Denver. The latest one comes back just after 2 am so if you want to party, Central City and Black Hawk are the best mountain towns near Denver for you!
Where to Stay in Central City: Denver West/Central City KOA for camping. For hotels, Century Casino and Hotel in Central City or Ameristar Casino in Black Hawk. For vacation homes, this cozy home with deck and mountain views is a great pick.
Where to Eat in Central City: Farmer’s Pick Cafe at Isle Casino in Black Hawk, The Timberline Grill Steakhouse for steaks, and locally-inspired mains.
Where to Drink in Central City: Dostal Alley Saloon for craft beer and slots, or the Gold Coin Saloon.
11. Fort Collins
Distance from Denver: 63 miles/1 hour
OK, so Fort Collins is not a mountain town (like Denver, it is a city right beside the mountains), but I love it and it is only an hour north of Denver so I wanted to add it to the list.
This lively college town has a pedestrian-friendly downtown and is worth at least a couple of hours to explore, checking out the eclectic shops and boutiques.
If you love beer then you should definitely visit Fort Collins, because the best thing to do in Fort Collins is to visit at least a couple of the incredible breweries that make this city one of the best beer destinations in the world.
Spend the afternoon doing some brewery hopping to best experience this exciting beer destination.
Make sure to stop in at the Benson Sculpture Garden in Loveland on the way up which is free to enjoy, with interesting sculptures scattered through a green park with lakes.
Where to Stay in Fort Collins: Fernweh Inn & Hostel, Remington Flats Condo Hotel, or The Armstrong Hotel. For vacation rentals, this beautiful cottage and this cute one-bedroom unit are both in the Old Town are great choices.
Where to Eat in Fort Collins: Colorful Rainbow Restaurant for breakfast and dinner with lots of plant-based options, Ginger and Baker for pie in a historic mill, Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar for your seafood fix.
Where to Eat & Drink in Fort Collins: For drinking, there are so many great options! Odell Brewing Company, New Belgium Brewing Company, Crooked Stave Taproom, Funkwerks, Equinox Brewing, and Prost Brewing Co. for outstanding craft beer. Here’s a list of the top breweries in Fort Collins for further beerspiration.
So there you have it, the best mountain towns near Denver to add to your Colorado Itinerary. I hope this gives you some inspiration to venture into the mountains from Denver – I think you will love what you find there.
If you liked this – check out some of my other Colorado posts:
- Ultimate Colorado Road Trip Itinerary To See the Best of the State
- 14 Best Denver Suburbs To Visit and What to Do, Eat, and See There
- 15 Fun Things To Do in Golden CO That Won’t Break the Bank
- Absolute Best Hikes in Golden To Work Up a Sweat
- 15 Best Colorado Mountain Towns to Visit Any Time
- 15 Best Colorado Hot Springs For True Hot Springs Enthusiasts
- 10 Best Hidden Gems in Colorado
- The Perfect 3 Days in Denver Itinerary
- Visit Telluride: The Best Mountain Town in Colorado
- Tackling the Hike from Aspen to Crested Butte: The Best Hike in Colorado
- Experiencing Cannabis Culture in Denver on a Tour