Colorado Ultimate Adventure

Trip Length 8 Days
Group Size 4-11
Activity level
Starting from
$4,499 for REI Members
$4,949 for non-members
Departures Jun 2023-Aug 2023

Discover the unparalleled, unique, and diverse beauty of Colorful Colorado on this ultimate 8-day adventure.

Famous for its natural beauty, there are few outdoor meccas quite as impressive to adventure lovers as Colorado. We begin our journey in the Southwestern corner of the state sleeping beneath the stars and exploring the enchanted & haunting ruins of Mesa Verde on the Colorado Plateau. Embarking east, we discover the magic & mystery of the San Luis Valley, home to Great Sand Dunes National Park and the tallest sand dunes in North America. We spend an afternoon soaking in a relaxing hot spring (a Colorado must!) then leave the deserts of the south behind as we head north towards Buena Vista for a thrilling whitewater rafting adventure through the stunning Brown’s Canyon National Monument. Taking a break from our tents, we spend a night in the charming mountain town of Copper Mountain before adventuring north toward Rocky Mountain National Park to experience the classic imagery that Colorado is best known for. If you close your eyes, you can almost smell the fragrant pines of the lush green forests, feel the crisp clean breezes of pristine subalpine lakes, and snowcapped mountains, and hear the mesmerizing song of its winding, rushing, snow fed rivers.

Our expert guides lead the way as we spend 8 days adventuring at over one mile above sea level! They share their deep knowledge & love of the area and take care of all the details so we can truly enjoy every moment of our ultimate adventure. Colorado’s got a special kind of magic that will make us feel like kids again as we see, experience, and learn more about this incredible landscape.

Dip your toes in a refreshing lake, hold on tight as you sled down towering sand dunes, have your paddle at the ready as you navigate the exciting rapids of the Arkansas River, and dance in an afternoon monsoon rainstorm. A different and exciting adventure awaits us each day!

At over 12,000 ft, on the Rock Cut Trail, both the altitude and incredible views will take your breath away.

Trip Highlights

  • Hike in 3 of Colorado’s unique national parks
  • Marvel at the tallest sand dunes in North America
  • Raft the Arkansas River through Brown’s Canyon National Monument
  • Camp in comfort while taking a break mid-trip for a relaxing night at a hotel in Copper Mountain
  • Drive the famous and incredibly scenic Trail Ridge Road


This trip is rated (3) Moderate.

Trip members should be capable of hiking up to 8 miles daily (up to 6 hours) carrying a 5-10 pound day pack, over varied terrain with elevation gain and loss. There are some steep sections and exposed overlooks on the various trails we hike. Elevation gain/losses are between 500' and 2,700' daily. Hikes take place at elevations between approx. 8,500' to 12,000'.

  • Hiking
  • Rafting

What's Included

Six nights camping accommodations and 1 night hotel accommodations; meals as noted on the daily itinerary; professional guide leadership; Van transportation from Durango, CO to Denver, CO; park entry fees and related permits; rafting excursion and associated gear; all group camping equipment.


Camping, 6 nights; Hotel, 1 night.

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Colorado Ultimate Adventure
Day 1

Soak up incredible views of the Animas River Valley and make our way to Mesa Verde

We meet our guides and fellow travelers this morning at our host hotel in Durango. After a brief orientation, we load up the van for a quick transfer to Animas Mountain Trailhead for our first hike together! We get our hearts pumping as we steadily zigzag our way up a series of switchbacks to a high point at 8,200 ft. Here we make our way along the rim of the mountain as we are rewarded with breathtaking 360-degree views of Durango, The Animas River Valley, and the San Juan Mountains. After our hike we enjoy lunch together before heading west to Mesa Verde National Park. Just after the park entrance we make a stop at the Visitor and Research Center which serves as a repository for the park’s archives with a museum collection of over three million artifacts! We continue onto to our campground nestled in the embrace of the Montezuma Valley where we set up our home for the night two nights. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 6 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 1,600’; Transfer: 1 hour.

Day 2

Walk in the footsteps of the Ancestral Puebloans

For over 700 years, the ancient Puebloans lived and prospered on the mesa tops and beneath overhanging cliffs in this remote area of the four corners region. The tribe mysteriously abandoned the area in the late 13th century, leaving behind some of the most impressive and best-preserved archeological sites in North America. Today we take a trip to the past and explore some of the incredible remnants of a life that once flourished here. We will join a ranger led hike to one of the park’s famous cliff dwellings, hike to Petroglyph Point, and stop at numerous overlooks and archeological sites along the way. Dinner back at camp lets us culminate our day with a short and rewarding sunset hike on Knife Edge Trail. The perfect ending to a perfect day. All meals included.

Hiking: 5-7 miles; Elevation gain/loss +/-400’; Transfer: 2 hours.

Day 3

Mesa Verde to Great Sand Dunes

This morning we eat a delicious guide prepared breakfast before breaking camp and making our way to the Point Lookout Trailhead. This quick hike gets our hearts pumping as we climb a short but steep series of switchbacks to the top where we are rewarded with incredible panoramic views of the San Juan and La Plata Mountain ranges as well as the Mancos and Montezuma Valleys! We return to our trailhead and begin our scenic four-hour drive to Great Sand Dunes National Park. We make a stop about halfway in the beautiful town of Pagosa Springs for lunch at a local favorite restaurant before continuing our journey to check yet another national park off our list. We don’t want to hit the dunes yet as the day’s heat has yet to dissipate, so we set up our camp and enjoy another wonderful dinner in our new home before setting out to explore this epic dune field. Embracing the sand between our toes, we adventure out to encounter a moving world, like frozen waves slowly and inexorably traversing the landscape. We learn of the unique nature of dunes and simply embrace the stark beauty of this ever-changing remarkable landscape. All meals included.

Hiking: 3-6 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +/- 800’; Transfer: 4 hours.

Day 4

Morning hike in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and afternoon soak in a natural hot spring

We begin our day with a hike to Mosca Pass. While Great Sand Dunes is famous for its towering mounts of sand, just above those dunes are lush green forests which provide a welcome reprieve from the summer heat. We start at the park visitor center which we take time to explore before making our way into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The trail winds through a heavily wooded valley of aspen, pine, and spruce as we follow a creek drainage that leads to an expansive meadow where we enjoy our lunch amidst nature. Retracing our steps to the trailhead, we grab our swimsuits and head over to Sand Dunes Recreation for a relaxing afternoon soaking in the hot springs. We end our day around a friendly campfire reflecting on the amazing diversity we have already experienced and looking forward to even more adventures in the days to come. All meals included.

Hiking: 7 miles; Transfer: 1 hr 15 min.

Day 5

Rafting Brown’s Canyon National Monument/Arkansas River

We break both our fast and our camp this morning before making our way north to Buena Vista. A quaint mountain town nestled between the Collegiate peaks and the Arkansas River, Buena Vista is considered by many to be the whitewater rafting capital of the United States, and this afternoon we get to find out why! We meet our river guides and explore Brown’s Canyon National Monument from the seat of a raft as we make our way through some rapids that are bound to put a smile on your face (there will even be a professional photographer there to catch those smiles in a picture that you’ll be able to purchase once we’re off the river!) Tonight, we take a break from camping and enjoy a night in a hotel in Copper Mountain. All meals included.

Rafting: 3 hours; Van Transfer: 3 hours.

*While late season departures are still exciting for rafting, water levels on the river drop after August 15. Departures that raft after that date can expect lower water flows with milder rapids.*

Day 6

Welcome to Rocky Mountain National Park

This wouldn’t be the true Colorado Ultimate Adventure without a trip to the stunning Rocky Mountains. We meet in the lobby of our hotel this morning and drive north with a stop for breakfast along the way. We arrive at our campsite inside Rocky Mountain National Park early in the afternoon where we set-up camp and eat lunch before making our way to Moraine Park for our first hike in the stunning Rocky Mountains. Always on the lookout for wildlife, we hike through lush green meadows, beside a lily pad covered lake, and next to a winding scenic river on our hike to the idyllic Cub Lake. We return to camp after our hike and take time to relax while our guides prepare another culinary delight. Those looking for additional mileage can take an optional hike to the nearby Sprague Lake after dinner, coming back to once again enjoy the camaraderie of camping and the blanket of stars that envelop us in this high alpine camp. All meals included.

Hiking: 6 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +/- 138’; Transfer: 3.5 hours.

Day 7

Hike to a series of subalpine lakes

Today we hike to a series of sparkling subalpine lakes on a beautiful loop hike. We begin at the Bear Lake Trailhead and almost immediately check the first lake of the day off our list. We continue climbing toward Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lake, each more beautiful than the previous. The crowds begin to thin out and the trail steepens as we switchback through a dense pine forest, emerging from our solitude to the pristine visage of Lake Haiyaha. We scramble over impressive boulders to experience the beauty of this alpine jewel tucked in the center of chaos canyon. We absorb the relaxing ambience before heading to our final subalpine treasure, The Loch, which serves as the perfect setting for our picnic lunch and a refreshing dip. After lunch, we make our way down the Glacier Gorge trail experiencing thundering Alberta Falls. This evening our guides prepare a delicious farewell dinner for us while we sit back in a comfy camp chair and reflect on everything we’ve seen and done on this epic adventure. All meals included.

Hiking: 8 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +1,787’ / -2,109’.

Day 8

Experience the Alpine Tundra on a scenic drive of Trail Ridge Road

It’s hard to believe our time together is coming to an end, but the adventure isn’t over just yet. Today we drive over Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the United States, and widely considered one of the most beautiful drives in the country. We gain over 4,000 feet of elevation in a matter of minutes and watch the trees thin out as we enter the rarified air of the alpine tundra. Our first stop is a short hike above tree line! At over 12,000 ft, on the Rock Cut Trail, both the altitude and incredible views take our breath away. Back in our comfy van we make a stop at the Alpine Visitor Center, famous for being the highest-elevation visitor center in the entire National Park System. Continuing our epic drive on this surreal road through the clouds, we wrap around Medicine Bow Curve on our mission to cross over the Continental Divide at Milner Pass, then continue our downhill schuss. Still at over 8,000 ft, Trail Ridge Road officially ends as we exit the park through the town of Grand Lake, a classic mountain town (population 410!) where we enjoy a celebratory lunch together before making our way to Denver. Breakfast and lunch included.

Hiking: 1 mile above 11,000’; Elevation gain/loss: +/-200’; scenic drive on Trail Ridge Road: 2 hours with several breaks including hike; Total van transfer time: 4 hours.

Itinerary map for Colorado Ultimate Adventure

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.