10 Fun Things to Do When Riding Near Denver, CO

10 Fun Things to Do When Riding Near Denver, CO

Colorado serves up some of the best riding in the country, and Denver sits almost in the middle of the state. That makes the city a great home base for a motorcycle trip to the Colorado mountains.

But what exactly is there to do around Denver? I put together this list of 10 fun locations, sights, and activities near Denver to help kick-start your moto vacation.

Garden of the Gods

The ancient seabed of the Garden of the Gods features breathtaking sandstone formations rising up to the skies. It’s easy to see why this incredible place was holy ground for many Native American tribes. The area is filled with hiking trails that take you out of the saddle to marvel at the Garden’s unique natural beauty.

To get to the Garden of the Gods, roll south from Denver and hit Hwy 67 in Sedalia for a ride through the Pike-San Isabel National Forest. You can take your motorcycle into the Garden along the market routes, or you could take one of the e-bike or jeep tours if hiking isn’t your thing.

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Red Rocks Amphitheater, some 10 miles from Denver, is an open-air amphitheater built into a natural rock face of the Foundation Formation. It makes for a unique setting to see your favorite musical artists live—or to experience a performer you’ve never seen before.

On top of the amphitheater, the Red Rocks area features a few nice hiking trails for stretching your legs. If you have some time to kill before the night’s show, consider popping over to Dinosaur Ridge nearby to view fossils and tracks of long-gone monsters.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park lies some 250 miles away from Denver, but it’s well worth the trip. This UNESCO World Heritage Site’s Ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings, dating back 1,500 years, offer a glimpse into what life was like in the area before the arrival of European colonizers. You can also hike the Petroglyph Point Trail to see stone art left behind by the region’s original residents.

The ride to Mesa Verde is an adventure in itself, crossing the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests. You can reach the area through paved roads, or you can tackle some off-road trails on the way if you hear the call of the wild.

Ashcroft Ghost Town

The ghost town of Ashcroft, near Aspen, sits in the middle of stunning alpine meadows in the Colorado mountains. Several of this former silver mining town’s buildings have been restored for viewing, including the post office, saloon, and hotel. Come and see what life on the frontier was like.

When heading to Ashcroft, make sure to ride through the 32-mile Independence Pass, one of the highest paved mountain passes in the U.S. This route is only open from May to September (weather allowing), so plan your trip well in advance.

Downtown Fort Collins

Around 60 miles north of Denver is the city of Fort Collins and its bustling downtown area, which served as inspiration for Disneyland’s Main Street USA attractions. You’ll find plenty to do here, from dining and shopping to touring the more than 20 restored historical buildings.

If you’d like to just zip and zoom over from Denver to Fort Collins, you can take the I-25 (although be prepared for traffic). For a more entertaining route, might I suggest detouring slightly west and rolling through the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Rocky Mountain National Park on your way?

Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak is a legendary Colorado motorcycling destination, not least due to the Race to the Clouds event. Although bikes are sadly banned from that competition now, you can still ride a motorcycle to the top at 14,115 feet. The ride is exhilarating, with the switchbacks and views and…

Come on, you know Pikes Peak!

Remember that a reservation and tickets are necessary to ride or drive a vehicle up to the summit. You can also hike there if you feel like using leg power instead of horsepower. Once there, grab a donut at the summit complex!

Rocky Mountain Oysters

When in Rome, you eat as the Romans do—and when in Colorado, you eat Rocky Mountain oysters. These famous deep-fried oysters aren’t seafood, though. In case you’re unaware of their origin, well…

Let’s just say it might take some balls to eat them.

They’re a wonderful local delicacy, though. For the best oysters (they’re bull testicles, just so we’re clear), head on over to Buckhorn Exchange, which regularly ranks as the #1 place to enjoy this treat.

San Juan Skyway

The San Juan Skyway Scenic and Historic Byway (say that 10 times fast) is a 236-mile smorgasbord of incredible motorcycling moments in southwestern Colorado. It’s made up of many individually famous stretches, such as the Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton.

There’s so much to see along the Skyway, like the historic town of Rico, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway, and the aforementioned Mesa Verde. To get to San Juan Skyway, head south from Denver and take US 50 west to Montrose. It takes around seven hours to ride the Skyway (if you don’t make any stops) so be sure to have plenty of time—I would make this an overnight trip.

Craft Breweries

If you find yourself in Denver, you must take an evening off the bike to sample the innumerable craft beers. Although IPAs are the fashionable drink these days, you’ll find a treat for every taste — even for those who don’t usually go for beer.

I couldn’t possibly list each and every brewery in Denver, but some recommended places to visit include Crooked Stave (famed for their sours), Cerebral Brewing (who take a scientific approach to beer), and Great Divide (one of Denver’s oldest craft breweries). You’ll come across plenty of others by simply wandering around the city, though, so don’t let these recommendations limit your brewery crawl!

Forney Museum of Transportation

Anyone who loves motorcycles has an intrinsic interest in transportation, making the Forney Museum of Transportation a worthy pilgrimage site for any gearhead. The museum’s 800 artifacts include motorcycles, but also cars, locomotives, tractors, and much more.

Of particular interest to visitors on two wheels is the Indian Motorcycle Collection, featuring machines built between 1913 and 1953. The museum’s other highlights include the Union Pacific’s Big Boy locomotive, Amelia Earhart’s car, and a collection of 500 Matchbox toy cars.

Facts & Information

Nearby Roads

The Mile High City is close to many great motorcycling roads, loops, and byways. In addition to the San Juan Skyway, Pikes Peak, and Garden of the Gods tours I already mentioned, you can find ride-worthy roads just miles from Denver.

Lookout Mountain Rd begins just outside the city and takes you up to visit Buffalo Bill’s grave. The Grand Army of the Republic Hwy (US 6) also begins in Denver and snakes along Clear Creek for some canyon-riding fun.

For a longer ride, you can take SR 103 up to the peak of Mount Evans. And we can’t forget Independence Pass on SR 82, which is within riding distance from Denver.

For an upscale stay in central Denver, consider booking a room at Kimpton Hotel Monaco. This four-star establishment offers private parking for your motorcycle and baggage storage. The rooms are large and well-maintained, and the on-site Panzano restaurant serves Italian treats so you don’t have to venture out after a tiring day on the road.

Another motorcycle-friendly option in downtown Denver is Hampton Inn & Suites. In addition to comfortable rooms, you can soak in the year-round hot tub or pool to refresh yourself after a ride. The staff is very friendly and if asked, they will help you find a safe, locked place to park your bike.

Best Time to Travel

The best times to head to Denver, CO, on a motorcycle are around May-June and September-October. At these times, the heat is less oppressive and you’ll avoid the worst of the tourist crowds (which can also help you get more affordable hotel rates).

Be aware of the weather differences between the Colorado mountains and Denver, though. Snow and ice may linger year-round around mountain roads, and some roads will close relatively early in the fall. If you want to do a fall leaves tour, aim for late August or early September.