With summer in full swing and pandemic restrictions easing in many areas, a lot of us have started making travel plans for the next few months. We might even be feeling like we need to make up for lost time and be a little extra adventurous after the past year!
One thing’s for sure, though: travel is starting to get easier (yay!). If you’re itching to get away, now could be a perfect time to pack your bags and get on the road to some exciting new destinations.
Why Take a Road Trip?
Road trips are a fantastic way to see some new places that you’d skip right over on an airplane. It’s sort of like when you’re in the city and you decide to walk one day instead of driving your car to the nearby convenience store -- you notice a lot more of your surroundings when you’re moving at a slower pace. As an added plus, road trips can also be less expensive than air travel.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that travel in general has numerous health benefits. Being in new places increases mindfulness by making you pay more attention to the present moment. Vacations have also been shown to lower stress and improve cardiovascular health, and getting a chance to relax can spark increased creativity as well as boosting your mood.
But road trips in particular give your mind a unique kind of stimulation. Driving to new places exercises your hippocampus, a brain region that’s responsible for spatial awareness and memory. Getting away from the city and into nature can give you access to some much-needed fresh air and sunshine. Being on the road also forces you to unplug from technology and focus on what you’re doing.
If you already love road travel, I may be preaching to the choir here -- but if you’ve never tried it or aren’t sure about it just yet, you might want to try it out to see just how beneficial and health-affirming of an experience it can be.
5 Road Trip Destinations To Add to Your Bucket List
Ready to hit the road? Awesome -- now you’ll just need to figure out where to go. Here are some great destinations you can easily get to from the Denver area.
1. Palisade, Colorado
Palisade is a charming Western-slope town with vineyards, a quaint little downtown area, and a famous peach festival that happens every August. My partner and I had a marvelous time in Palisade camping at our campground and doing a tasting at a local winery -- and the peaches are always to die for.
Heading out west through the mountains is a nice drive in and of itself, and it only takes about four hours to get there from Denver. It’s just far enough out to feel like you’re getting away, yet not too far away from home. If you love hot springs, you could also make a stop in Glenwood Springs on your way to or from Palisade.
2. Ouray, Colorado
There’s a reason why Ouray is known as the “Switzerland of Colorado”: it’s a lovely little mountain town surrounded by rugged peaks that’ll have you feeling like you’re right in the middle of the Alps. The downtown is fun to explore, and the town stays cool even in the dead of summer thanks to its high altitude.
The drive from Silverton (also known as the Million Dollar Highway) is stunning and not to be missed. I suggest heading down to Durango first, then driving up Silverton Pass to Ouray. The road is narrow in parts and not for the faint of heart, but the views are spectacular. Once you’ve reached Ouray, you can spend a few days hiking, enjoying the local hot springs, and sampling local restaurants.
3. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is easily one of my favorite towns to visit. The gorgeous adobe architecture and vibrant colors will capture your heart, and the majestic desert landscape will lift your spirits. It’s easy to get to, just six hours south of Denver, and with all its delicious cuisine, it’s also an excellent town for foodies.
Make sure to visit the art galleries on Canyon Road. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is worth seeing, as is her Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu -- it’s about an hour’s drive northwest from Santa Fe, but the scenery there and in the surrounding area is breathtaking. If you have time on your way to or from town, make a stop at Ojo Caliente to soak in their healing mineral pools.
4. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone is one of the most beautiful national parks. It’s about a 9-hour drive through Wyoming to get there, but with all the park has to offer, it’s well worth a visit. As you drive through, you’ll be treated to vistas of prismatic hot springs (not the kind you can soak in, unfortunately), geysers, and unique rock formations. Just don’t be surprised if you can encounter some crowds -- Yellowstone is extremely popular.
5. Bozeman, Montana
If you want a town for foodies and nature enthusiasts alike, Bozeman could be your place. There is plenty of hiking in and around town (including mountain climbs and scenic walks by waterfalls), but there are also oh-so-many restaurants with excellent food and drink. The main street is charming and walkable with cute cafes, boutiques, and the like.
Bozeman is a little further from Denver -- about a 10-hour drive -- but it’s very doable if you have at least a few days to spare for your trip. Be sure to check out the weekly Farmer’s Market in Lindley Park and grab some local produce. Or, if you happen to visit during apple season, you can go pick apples for an afternoon at the Gallatin Valley Organic Farm.
Getting away for a vacation now and then is one of the best things you can do for your health and happiness -- and if you’re up for the adventure, a road trip can be uniquely rejuvenating and inspiring. No matter where you go, you’re sure to create stories and memories that will last a lifetime.