Each season brings something different to Denver, whether it’s glittering snow in winter or vibrant foliage in autumn. Perched at 5,280 feet above sea level, the Mile High City’s weather is one of the primary considerations for deciding when to visit — though Denver also offers plenty to do indoors if Mother Nature is not cooperating. 

Colorado’s capital city, nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, strikes an ideal balance between outdoor adventures and urban amenities. Here, you can pedal along a tree-lined bike path in the morning, get a dose of culture at a world-class museum in the afternoon and indulge in a multicourse tasting menu in the evening.

As you start plotting your vacation to Denver, consider these seasonal differences — and decide on the best time to visit Denver for you.

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JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION
Juneteenth has been a favorite summer festival in Denver since the 50s © Joe Ammon / Getty Images

June to August is the best time for hiking and patio beers

Denverites are an outdoorsy bunch — but there’s also nothing they love more than sipping a refreshing craft beer on a sunny patio. Live like a local and combine these two beloved pastimes while visiting during the summer, when temperatures are high (usually in the 80s and low 90s) but the heat doesn’t feel quite as oppressive because of the lack of humidity. 

You can explore the city on two feet by heading to scenic spots like City Park or the South Platte River Greenway. Or, for a longer, more challenging jaunt, head into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just west of town.

Afterward, quench your thirst at one of Denver’s many award-winning craft breweries, like Our Mutual Friend Brewing or Comrade Brewing (ask for a flight so you can try a small amount of multiple kinds of beer).

In June, July and August, you can also catch a concert or take a yoga class at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. Situated roughly 15 miles west of downtown, this city-run park is a natural, open-air concert venue made of red sandstone rock formations. On Saturdays and certain weeknights, you’ll also be able to shop colorful, just-picked veggies, fruits, herbs and flowers at several neighborhood farmers markets, including the Union Station Farmers Market and the Cherry Creek Fresh Market.

Summer is Denver’s high season, however, so be sure to book flights and make hotel reservations as early as possible for the best deals. And be forewarned that you’ll likely encounter lots of other people in the trailhead parking lot, so wake up early to beat the crowds.

The Denver Botanic Garden's holiday light display called the Blossoms of Light were on display Thursday night, December 9, 2010. More than one million colorful lights adorn the botanic garden's winter beauty. The gardens, located at 1007 York Street, are
Denver is all alight for the holiday season, but Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens is a magical seasonal event © Karl Gehring / Getty Images

November to December is the best time for holiday lights and festive cocktails

The Mile High City goes big for the holidays, with dazzling displays of lights and festive traditions on nearly every corner. That same enthusiasm also extends to creative cocktails — both hot and cold. More than a dozen over-the-top, spirited pop-up bars open up throughout the city for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and permanent watering holes get into the spirit by livening up their menus and their decor.

Denver has several beloved holiday lights traditions, including Zoo Lights, an annual affair at the Denver Zoo that incorporates more than 1 million lights (some formed into the shapes of recognizable animals). Another is Blossoms of Light, which illuminates the wintry landscape of Denver Botanic Gardens. Downtown, you’ll find the Denver City & County Building aglow with bold red, green, and blue hues, while the twinkling Mile High Tree stands an impressive 110 feet tall.

But you don’t have to wait until it gets dark to get into the spirit in Denver. Go ice skating at Skyline Park, warm your hands around a warm mug of glühwein at Denver Christkindlmarket or treat yourself to afternoon tea at the Brown Palace — complete with scones and clotted cream.

National Western Stock Show 2020 Wild West Show
The National Western Stock Show is the oldest and largest of its kind © Helen H. Richardson / Getty Images

January to March is the best time for snowy activities

With Colorado’s international reputation as a hub for skiers and snowboarders, you might be a little surprised to learn that winter is actually part of Denver’s low season. That’s because travelers often pass right through the city on their way up to the ski slopes of the Rockies. Their loss is your gain, however, because accommodations tend to be more affordable in the Mile High City once the snow really starts to fly.

And speaking of snow... while Denver gets its fair share of powder days, the weather here tends to be mild — most days, the sun shines brightly. Temperatures range from the low 20s to the upper 40s in January and February, then climb into the 50s by March. But don’t let March fool you: it tends to be the snowiest month in Denver.

Winter is a great time to cozy up inside one of the Mile High City’s museums like the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and History Colorado Center. Afterward, duck into one of Denver’s many innovative eateries, which are starting to attract international recognition. Dozens of Denver-area chefs and restaurants have earned nods from the James Beard Foundation in the last few years, and the Michelin Guide recently announced it’s coming to Denver and a handful of other Colorado cities.  

If you visit in January, you’ll also be able to catch the National Western Stock Show, a beloved annual tradition that showcases Denver’s deep farming and ranching roots. This 16-day festival, which includes livestock shows, rodeos and Western art, has been going strong since 1906.

Autumn Trees And Buildings In City Against Sky
Avoid the crowds and see fall colors in Denver's city parks from September to October © Erkan Gunes / EyeEm / Getty Images

September to October is the best time for flashy fall colors

Fiery red maples, golden-yellow cottonwoods, bright orange oaks, and vivid purple ash trees line Denver’s parks and trails throughout the fall. The leaves start to turn in September but really put on a show in October, when warm days give way to cool nights. And despite the kaleidoscope of color, fall is shoulder season in Denver, which means fewer crowds, affordable hotels and a more laidback vibe overall.

Though you’ll find fall foliage all over the city, some of the best places to go leaf-peeping are Washington Park and Sloan’s Lake. For the best photos, go leaf-peeping during the evening “golden hour,” or the period just before sunset, when the sky turns vibrant orange and purple as the sun dips behind the mountains.

The greater Denver area is also home to numerous apple orchards, many of which will let you pick your own fruit. In September and October, expect to find tart honeycrisps, classic jonathans and tangy winesaps ready for harvest at spots like Berry Patch Farms and Ya Ya Farm and Orchard. Pumpkin patches and corn mazes, like those at Chatfield Farms and Anderson Farms, are also great options for families.  

This article was first published Feb 16, 2021 and updated Jul 28, 2023.

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