Ultimate Dog-Friendly Road Trip Itinerary

Best Things To Do In Colorado


Ahhhh…. Colorful Colorado- a favorite among our campervan guests! We can’t blame them. While the first thing that comes to mind is probably mountains and skiing, this state has everything- hot springs, glacier lakes, red rocks, sand dunes, canyons, and of course, great beer.

This Colorado road trip itinerary makes a zig-zag through the state, connecting 5 cluster areas that highlight our favorite places in Colorado that AREN’T ski resorts. As always, everything on this itinerary is dog-friendly unless otherwise noted.




Connect this guide to one of our other ‘Best of State’ itineraries, such as Kansas if you’re coming from Kansas City. Follow this Colorado guide as written, or choose which clusters already fall along your route to the next state.

For example:

  1. If you’re coming from Kansas and are headed to Arches National Park in Utah next, follow this guide from the Estes Park/Rocky Mountain area (Day 1 & 2) to the Colorado Springs area (Day 3), and Black Canyon of the Gunnison area (Day 4). You will skip Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes areas completely, or visit them when you loop back home instead.
  2. If you’re headed to Sedona, Arizona after Colorado, follow this guide from the Estes Park/Rocky Mountain area (Day 1 & 2) to Colorado Springs (Day 3), skip Black Canyon of the Gunnison and head straight to Great Sand Dunes (Day 5), and Mesa Verde (Day 6). (Coming soon- Connect to our Arizona itinerary!)




Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park

St Mary’s Glacier

Garden of the Gods

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park



Lily Mountain, Estes Park

DAY 1: Estes Park

Starting in Denver? Grab brunch on the patio of any Snooze An AM Eatery restaurant. For something different, try their Funky Monkey French Toast or Habenero Pork Belly Benny.

Make your way northwest from Denver to Estes Park- the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park- for some epic hiking and breweries. Grab lunch and a beer at Rock Cut Brewing Company. They have a dog-friendly patio and typically have food trucks on-site. They also share their patio with China Garden. For more beer variety, try the outdoor beer garden at The Barrel. Check their food truck schedule here. After lunch, explore Estes Park trails.





Lake Estes Trail (3.8 mi; 206 ft elevation)


Kruger Rock (4 mi, 977 ft elevation)

Sullivan Gulch (2 mi; 984 ft elevation)


Lily Mountain (4 mi; 1246 ft elevation) Save this one for sunset!


After your hike, check into a campsite or cabin for the night at Estes Park KOA Holiday. If you aren’t traveling in our pimped-out Camper Van, this KOA also has dog-friendly Deluxe Cabins for rent with full bathrooms. Cook dinner at the campground or grab a bite at Rock Inn Mountain Tavern.  Enjoy sunset on the lake or drive a few minutes to Lily Mountain Summit and take a sunset hike.

Rather stay at a hotel? Try Murphy’s Resort (~$200/night). They have great reviews, a pool & hot tub, offer free bicycle rentals, and are dog-friendly ($20/dog, up to 2 per room).



0900-1000: Breakfast

1000-1200: Drive to Estes Park

1200-1300: Brewery/Lunch

1300-1730: Hiking

1730-1800: Check in to Estes Park KOA

1800-1930: Dinner Rock Inn Mountain Tavern

1930- sunset: Lily Mountain

Night: S’mores at camp



Time-Entry System, Rocky Mountain National Park (as of July 2022)

DAY 2: Rocky Mountain National Park

Today, you’ll explore Rocky Mountain National Park. Be sure to book your Timed-Entry reservation for travel May through October. Before you head out, grab breakfast to-go from The Egg of Estes, or sit on the dog-friendly patio at Mountain Home Cafe.

Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on any trails within this National Park. Dogs can be on established roads, parking lots, campgrounds, and picnic areas. If you brought your dog, check out these trails outside the park to take your dog before heading on a scenic drive through the Rocky Mountains. If you are in our campervan, we do provide a Waggle temperature monitor so you can leave them briefly, parked in the shade with the camper’s air conditioning on for human-only outings. Get 50% off your own Waggle monitor.

Whether you brought a dog or not, we recommend taking the scenic drive along Trail Ridge Road, starting from Fall River Visitor Center and ending at Kawuneeche Visitor Center on the southwest corner of the park, just north of Grand Lake. The drive takes about 4 hours to complete. If you’re able to enjoy hiking at the park, bring a sack lunch and enjoy a few of these trail recommendations:





Toll Memorial via Tundra Communities Trail (1.1 mi; 154 ft elevation)

Alpine Ridge Trail (0.7 mi; 147 ft elevation)


Gem Lake Trail (3.1 mi, 994 ft elevation)


Four Lakes Loop (6.1 mi; 1456 ft elevation)*

*not on Trail Ridge Road- south of Estes on Bear Lake Rd


For dinner, grab pizza to-go from Grand Pizza ($$) or sit down on the patio at The Historic Rapids Lodge and Restaurant ($$$$).

Stay just north of Grand Lake at Winding River Resort. In addition to campsites, they rent cabins and lodging rooms. Dogs are allowed in select cabins. The resort offers horse trail rides, hay or sleigh rides, and snowmobile or ATV rentals to explore 130 miles of trails on their resort.

You can also camp inside Rocky Mountain National Park but there are no sites with electrical hook ups, and campsites are usually booked up far in advance. If you do camp within the park, you will not need a Time-Entry reservation.



0800-0900: breakfast

0930-1800: Hike inside RMNP and scenic drive through the park to Grand Lake; sack lunch



0930-1200: Hike outside RMNP (see these dog-friendly trails)

1200-1300: lunch at Trailhead Restaurant

1300-1800: Scenic drive through RMNP


1830-1930- Dinner

Night: To campsite



Garden of the Gods (source: Canva)

DAY 3: St Mary’s Glacier, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, & Garden of the Gods

Grab brunch in town to-go from Jump Start and head to St Mary’s Glacier in Idaho Springs, Colorado. You’ll need $5 cash for parking and good hiking boots. If the weather is warm, you might also wear a bathing suit to get in the lake. This is a moderately strenuous, uphill hike with an elevation gain of about 1000 ft. Dogs are welcome on leash. Bring water and a sack lunch- but please haul out all of your trash and food scraps!

On your way to Colorado Springs, take a brief pitstop at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and get your blood pumping as you explore one of the most breath-taking venues in the world. Red Rocks is open to the public for free on non-event days and until lunch (usually) on event days.

Continue on to Colorado Springs, grabbing dinner on the patio at Pizzeria Rustica. If you’re ready to try another Colorado brewery, head to Cerberus Brewing Company instead. Pair a brew with one of their unique dishes, such as the Poached Pear Salad or Saffron Gnocchi Etoufee. Spend the rest of the evening at Garden of the Gods. This beautiful park is studded with red rock spire formations, popular with rock climbers. Don’t miss getting a sunset photo with Balanced Rock. Dogs are allowed on all trails within the park on a 6-foot leash.

For the evening, set up camp at the Cheyenne Mountain State Park Campground. Full RV hook-ups are $41/night, and they have coin-operated showers and laundry facilities. This is a popular campground that fills up quickly. If you weren’t able to secure a campsite here, or you prefer a dog-friendly cabin with a full bathroom, book a site at Colorado Springs KOA Holiday.

Prefer a hotel? The Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Fountain North just south of Colorado Springs is dog-friendly (only $25/pet), reasonably priced (about $115/night), and has exceptional reviews.



0900-1000: Breakfast

1000-1200: Drive to Saint Mary’s Glacier (grab snacks/lunch for your hike on the way!)

1200-1400: Saint Mary’s Glacier

1415-1500: Drive to Red Rocks

1600-1730: Drive to Colorado Springs

1730-1830: Dinner

1830-sunset: Garden of the Gods

Night: Campground or Hotel



Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

DAY 4: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Kick the morning off right with a hike up Seven Bridges Trail (3.5 miles, 912 ft elevation) in Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Recharge with gourmet pancakes and Bloody Mary’s from Urban Egg A Daytime Eatery before leaving Colorado Springs.

Crossroads Point: If you don’t have enough vacation days and need to head back East towards Kansas City, this is good place to do so. If you’re headed towards Sedona and don’t have an extra day to see Black Canyon on the Gunnison, skip Day 4 and head straight to Day 6, then Day 5. If you’re a true vagabond, continue traveling along the zig-zag route as written!

Get a podcast or audio book ready for the next leg of this trip. The drive to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park takes about 5 1/2  hours with bathroom breaks. Once you arrive at the visitor center, continue onto the scenic South Rim Drive. The 7 mile stretch from Tomichi Point to High Point has 12 overlooks to enjoy the canyon views. Dogs are allowed on leash along the road, in campgrounds, to the overlooks, and on the Cedar Point Nature Trail, North Rim Chasm View Nature Trail, and Rim Rock Trail. Note: there may be additional regulations in June and August related to deer fawns. Check the NPS website before arrival during these months. If you need to board your dog for human-only adventures, the NPS website has several recommendations.

Head into town in Montrose for a handcrafted beer and dinner at Horsefly Brewing Company. Before sunset, drive back to your favorite overlook with a beer and enjoy sunset. (Depending on the time of year, you may need to adjust the timeline so you don’t miss sunset at the canyon- eat dinner earlier if you need to!) Notable favorites are Gunnison Point, Chasm View, Painted Wall and Sunset View.

For the night, you can set up camp at South Rim Campground within the park. There are 23 sites with electric hookups, however this campground does not have showers- only vaulted toilets. If that is too rustic for your taste, the Montrose/Black Canyon Nat’l Park KOA Journey has all the modern day amenities, plus a pool and hot tub. They do have cabins, however they are not dog-friendly.

Hotels in this area are limited, but the Hitching Post Hotel and Farm Stay has exceptional reviews and only charges $20/pet. For a more private stay, check out these Dog-Friendly AirBnBs.



0700-0900: Hike

0900-1030: Brunch

1030-1600: Drive to Black Canyon of the Gunnison

1600-1730: South Rim Drive & hiking

1800-1900: Dinner

1900-sunset: South Rim Drive overlook

Night: Camp/Hotel/AirBnB



Great Sand Dunes National Park

DAY 5: Great Sand Dunes National Park

(under construction- check back soon for the rest of this itinerary!)









Mesa Verde National Park

DAY 6: Mesa Verde National Park














**Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a purchase. These are items, services, or experiences personally vetted and loved by our team. The income generated goes towards keeping this site free.