For my 27th birthday, we decided to go camping in Colorado. We watched so many videos about Colorado and its natural beauty that we decided to go check it out during the July 4th holiday weekend which happens to line up with my birthday-Go July babies!! Since we both work full-time jobs, we only had about 12 Days to make this Epic Colorado Camping Trip happen. Let’s get started!
Day 1: Chicago, IL -> Omaha, NE
We had to drive about 14 hours from Chicago to Denver so we decided to split the drive into two parts with an overnight stay in Omaha, Nebraska. We stayed at the Aloft hotel in Omaha West. It was a nice hotel with updated decor and an interesting open-concept bathroom. We didn’t explore Omaha much, but we knew we could enjoy the city more on the way back, which we did!
Day 2: Omaha, NE -> Denver, CO
We arrived in Denver in the afternoon and unfortunately did not get a good view of the mountains because it was pretty cloudy that day. We checked into the Grand Hyatt Denver in LoDo. Hyatt is our preferred hotel line at the moment. Accumulating travel rewards/miles has allowed us to visit some beautiful Hyatt hotels like the Hyatt Zilara in Montego Bay Jamaica.
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After a much-needed shower, we headed out to explore the city and some bars. For dinner, I’d recommend you check out Ace, Eat, Serve. This restaurant paired delicious food with fun cocktails and a vibrant atmosphere. We enjoyed the Soup Dumplings as a light appetizer. Mr. DMD appreciated the Year Of The OX if you happen to be into whiskey.
After dinner, we headed to 1 UP Arcade because who doesn’t enjoy a good trip down memory lane through games. It was a small tucked-away arcade with a lot of games, but we did not spend much time there due to an unforeseen case of Altitude Sickness. So we headed back to the hotel for the night to rest and get ready for our first full day in Denver.
Day 3: Downtown Denver & Mt. Evans
I woke up the next morning with no signs of altitude sickness and was ready to explore the city in the daylight. Before starting our 30-minute walk downtown we grabbed a bagel at the hotel Courier Market. We strolled down the famous 16th Street Mall and checked out the shops there.
At that point, it was late morning and we were overdue for some coffee so we walked to Blue Sparrow Coffee for a vanilla iced latte and a mocha. The coffee shop was a cute, hip little place and we would’ve sat at the patio if it had not been super hot outside. We checked out the huge REI store which is located in the restored 1901 Denver Tramway building right in front of some pretty cool rapids.
After our caffeine-driven shopping spree at REI’S, we needed some lunch. GB Fish and Chips was the perfect spot for a quick lunch that hit the spot. We order the Fish and Chips with a Clam Chowder Bowl. We found the bowl to be a lot of Clam Chowder, definitely plenty for two.
One of our destinations during this trip was to drive the highest paved road in America to the tip of Mt. Evans! After finishing lunch we headed out to Mt. Evans but took a quick detour to see the Red Rock Amphitheater and do a quick hike through the Trading Post Trail on our way to the fourteener. The term fourteener is used to refer to mountains with peaks of over 14,000ft of elevation such as Mt. Evans.
The drive to the peak was about 1.5hrs from the city and it was an intense drive. To reach the peak get ready for driving besides some jaw-dropping cliffs. We recommend you take at least a day to acclimate to the elevation before heading up to any fourteeners in the area.
On our way to the peak, we stopped at Summit Lake Park to admire the alpine lake scenery before driving the last couple of miles. The wind at the top of Mt. Evans was insane! So after a couple of quick pictures, we headed back down-and yes the scary cliffs are still there on the way down! While heading down we encountered an incredibly friendly mountain goat who seemed very interested in humans and cars.
There is nothing like a 14.000ft of elevation drive to get your appetite going. For dinner, we stopped at Linger in downtown Denver. The Bang Bao Trio and Wagyu sliders were spot on and we even caught the fireworks show from the baseball game.
Day 4: Garden of the Gods & Boondocking at Buena Vista
After a quick breakfast, we headed down to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The red rocks were nothing short of amazing and it gave the feeling of being in a forested version of mars. The park is incredibly accessible but it will be crowded. We recommend you get there before 10 AM if you’d like to avoid the crowds.
Our next stop was Buena Vista Colorado (which translates to Good View), where we were going to boondock for the first time. After a stunning 2 hour drive, we arrived at Buena Vista, and the views were indeed some good views! Driving around Colorado is a tourist attraction on its own!
We had been planning for and fantasizing about boondocking for months, so it was exciting and a bit nerve-racking. Thankfully Mr. DMD had done plenty of research around where to boondock in the area so we had a couple of areas to check out. In the extreme case where we could not find a spot to boondock, we could just stay in a motel in Buena Vista.
This wasn’t necessary since thankfully we ended up with an awesome spot right behind Elephant Rock’s dispersed campground site. At night our campfire illuminated the huge rock creating an awesome sight. It felt like we were settlers from hundreds of years ago with a night full of stars as the backdrop. Boondocking was more awesome than we had anticipated!
Day 5: Exploring Buena Vista & the Arkansas River
The next morning, we cooked breakfast at the campsite and explored the Arkansas River which was about a 4-minute hike away from our campsite. The entire area surrounding the river was stunning and the fact that it was sunny, made it the perfect day at the river. We were super lucky with the weather during our visit. Other than an occasional light rain we had sunny or partially cloudy weather every day.
Around lunchtime, we got on our bicycles and headed towards downtown Buena Vista. We had lunch at House Rock Kitchen (lunch was alright) and then headed back for a chill night at the campsite. Once again the campfire illuminating the Elephant Rock with a pitch-black sky filled with stars did not disappoint.
Day 6: Buena Vista -> Twin Lakes
Before we knew it, our first official boondocking experience was done! We broke camp, said goodbye to the rock that had been our home for the past two days, and headed 35minutes northwest towards Twin Lakes. Our destination was White Start Campground, located within the San Isabel National Forest. We arrived at the campsite early so we decided to go check out the city of Aspen.
Our little unplanned Aspen trip was pretty cool, but this blog post is getting long, so I’ll end it here.
Please check out Part 2 of this blog post to follow us on our Colorado adventure. I hope this was helpful and that you have a couple of ideas of restaurants to try and places to visit. Until next time :)!