The Ultimate Denver Packing List
Iconic Rockies, scenic foothills, impressive altitude....the same geography that make Denver a stunning destination for getaways also make it a tough spot to pin down when it comes to packing. When cold or warm fronts converge with the mountains, weather in Denver can change quickly. Like, really quickly. In the same weekend, you might get a tank top-appropriate 80-degree afternoon and a snowy evening. On clear days, direct sun exposure can feel much more intense a mile up than it would in, say, sea-level Manhattan. Also, that high elevation can dry out your skin, so moisturizer and sunscreen are must-haves. Ahead, we have packing lists, product recs, and more to help you prepare for your Denver adventure.
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Your suitcase packing checklist
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THE PERFECT LUGGAGE
The ideal bag for a trip to Denver is one that’s up for anything. Because there’s so much to do outside the city proper, there’s a good chance your luggage will be put to use not just for your vacation at large, but for shorter excursions into the mountains. For a durable weekender option, we love The North Face’s Base Camp 31L Duffel for its water-resistant material, four compression straps, and separate mesh toiletry pocket. For a full week of Colorado adventures, upgrade to the brand’s Berkeley Large Duffel—a classic design with an easy-access main compartment, separate shoe storage, and removable padded straps. And for even longer stays in the city and Rockies, The North Face’s Stratoliner Large Rolling Suitcase offers extra room, heavyweight fabric, and a durable construction that make it a much sturdier option than the average bag.
THE 3 PAIRS OF SHOES YOU’LL NEED FOR EXPLORING DENVER
If space in your luggage is limited, there are really only two pairs of shoes you need to remember to pack for your trip to Denver: a waterproof pair of hiking shoes, and a solid pair of walking shoes versatile enough to wear sightseeing by day or out on the town at night. For hiking shoes, we love the breathable, lightweight pairs for men and women featured below from Keen, made with odor-controlling insoles and a waterproof membrane. The walking shoes you pack will depend on the season; the two pairs from Ecco that we’ve selected here should work well from spring through fall. If you have room in your pack for a third pair of shoes, we recommend water-friendly sandals, such as Tevas or Chacos. They make practical options for an afternoon swimming in the Cherry Creek Reservoir, or as a “gorpcore” fashion pairing with your favorite plaid sundress or T-shirt and shorts.
STREET STYLE FOR DENVER
Denver street style is functional, fun, and often very affordable. Since a day in Colorado’s largest city can start at brunch (let us recommend the almond pancakes and blood orange mimosas at Root Down) and end in the Rocky Mountains, the perfect outfit for Denver is one that can transition from town to trail. Plaids and flannels are always aplenty, though you’ll see fewer designer takes on the trend here than you would in Brooklyn or Silver Lake. If you’re looking for a fashion splurge for the trip, invest in a hooded jacket or hiking pants over a new pair of heels. View this packing experience as the perfect opportunity to bring your Sorel boots or Birkenstocks back into your wardrobe rotation, or bust out that pair of printed yoga pants you’ve been storing in the back of your closet. Don’t be afraid to go a little (or a lot) hippie, normcore, or mountaineer-y.
WOMEN’S STREET STYLE
Women’s Street Style for Denver
MEN’S STREET STYLE
Men’s Street Style for Denver
FIVE FOOLPROOF OUTFITS FOR YOUR TRIP TO DENVER
1. WHAT TO WEAR TO GO HIKING IN DENVER
With Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder, and Colorado Springs all just a drive away from downtown Denver, there’s no shortage of beautiful hikes to choose from on your trip. Castle Rock and Red Rocks Trail are great options if you don’t want to stray too far from the city. For a more out-of-the-way spot, there’s nothing quite like the magical blue-green waters of Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon.
Women’s Outfit for Hiking in Denver
Men’s Outfit for Hiking in Denver
2. WHAT TO WEAR TO TOUR THE DENVER ART MUSEUM AND OTHER INSTITUTIONS
The Black American West Museum and Heritage Center, the Colorado State Capitol, and the Molly Brown House Museum are great cultural stops to consider for your Denver itinerary, in addition to the expansive Denver Art Museum. While none have a strict dress code, the art museum does ask guest to store any bags in free lockers on the first floor.
Women’s Outfit for the Denver Art Museum
Men’s Outfit for the Denver Art Museum
3. WHAT TO WEAR TO A NIGHT OUT AT A COMEDY CLUB OR SEEING LIVE MUSIC
A sandstone stadium carved into the Rockies foothills, renowned Red Rocks Amphitheater is beloved by world-class musicians and fans alike for its killer acoustics and unreal setting. In fact, some folks plan their entire Denver itinerary around seeing a show at the iconic outdoor venue. If you’ve got Red Rocks tickets, remember to drink lots of water (the park is 6,450 feet above sea level, so dehydration is a risk) and to pack a hat and a lightweight rain jacket in case of quickly changing weather. Other entertainment spots worth checking out include the Bluebird Theater, Fillmore Auditorium, and Larimer Lounge.
Women’s Outfit for a Night Out in Denver
Men’s Outfit for a Night Out in Denver
4. WHAT TO WEAR TO WANDER DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS OR OTHER PARKS
Washington Park (or Wash Park, to locals), City Park Denver (home to the Denver Zoo), and the Denver Botanic Gardens are all beautiful options for a stroll with your morning latte or an outdoor afternoon pick-me-up. Your favorite weekend activewear and bottle of sunscreen is all you really need to pack for this outing.
Women’s Outfit for the Denver Botanic Gardens
Men’s Outfit for the Denver Botanic Gardens
5. WHAT TO WEAR TO A DENVER SPORTS GAME TO CHEER ON THE DENVER BRONCOS OR COLORADO ROCKIES
The surefire way to blend in at a Broncos or Rockies game is to rock the team’s colors. That’s purple, silver, black, and white for the Rockies, and orange, navy, and white for the Broncos. Remember, as always, to dress for the weather and BYO sun protection.
Women’s Outfit for a Denver Sports Game
Men’s Outfit for a Denver Sports Game
WHAT NOT TO PACK FOR DENVER
Unless you’re traveling to Denver for a wedding or black-tie occasion, you can likely leave your fancier dress clothes and heels at home. (Remember, Denver is very much the world of “gorpcore” and mountain chic, not high-fashion or avant-garde street style.) Same goes for extra bags and purses, multiple pieces of jewelry, and the type of designer riding boots you’d likely see on the streets of NYC. The items you pack should ultimately serve function before fashion—though, of course, this guide aims to serve both. You’ll be moving around outdoors more than you’ll be inside, so save your restrictive, cumbersome clothing items for another trip.
THE *ONE THING* WTP EDITORS ALWAYS PACK FOR DENVER
Altitude sickness is no joke in Denver. The city is exactly one mile above sea level (thus the nickname, the Mile High City) and the elevation is tough to adjust to. Be sure to drink lots of water, as dehydration is common at high altitudes. For good measure, stash a vacuum-insulated water bottle and a TSA-friendly tube of electrolyte tabs into your day bag. Each tablet is packed with vitamin C and sodium to keep you better hydrated. The strawberry lemonade flavor is sweetened with stevia, and, unlike some of the hydration powders and tabs out there, it doesn’t taste like you’re drinking liquid chalk.
DENVER’S WEATHER AND SEASONS
As mentioned, Denver’s weather is unpredictable. While the recommendations below provide a solid foundation for packing each month, it’s best to bring a few items that you wouldn’t normally pack when traveling during your given time of year to be prepared for a shifting forecast. If you’re planning a trip for February, pack a short-sleeve shirt—or three. If you’ll be visiting Denver in August, bring your coat anyway. And the more you can plan your outfits in layers, the more comfortable you’ll be while hiking, sightseeing, or just lounging around.
Note: This data comes from our friends at Weather.com. We recommend using this together with a traditional forecast as you get closer to your departure date.
- Plan for day temps between 19° F and 32° F
- Temps will drop near -5° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0.03 inches of precipitation in January
What to Wear in Denver in January: January in Denver is C-O-L-D. Pack your toastiest, bundle-up-iest winter items, like a water-resistant parka with a hood, plus goose-down gloves and a cozy wool scarf.
Recommendations: Women’s down parka, down gloves, merino scarf
- Plan for day temps between 15° F and 28° F
- Temps will drop near -11° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0.03 inches of precipitation in February
What to Wear in Denver in February: February: still cold. Even if you’re traveling in from a warmer spot, bring all your winter gear to Denver with you.
Recommendations: Men’s weatherproof parka, wind- and water-resistant gloves, plaid scarf
- Plan for day temps between 27° F and 43° F
- Temps will drop near 13° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0.04 inches of precipitation in March
What to Wear in Denver in March: March is still on the cold side, though unexpected bouts of warm weather can be…expected! Pack a T-shirt and swimsuit, just in case (and especially if you’ll be near a hot tub).
Recommendations: Women’s rain coat, slim travel umbrella, classic bandana
- Plan for day temps between 32° F and 48° F
- Temps will drop near 21° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0.03 inches of precipitation in April
What to Wear in Denver in April: April showers are actually a thing in Denver, so pack for a chance of rain.
Recommendations: Men’s rain coat, slim travel umbrella, Chuck Taylor All-Stars
- Plan for day temps between 47° F and 62° F
- Temps will drop near 40° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0.07 inches of precipitation in May
What to Wear in Denver in May: It’s getting warmer! And some days might even be downright hot. Pack a little bit of everything in your suitcase for May, if you’ve got the room.
Recommendations: Women’s one-piece swimsuit, open hoodie cardigan, women’s hiking shoes
- Plan for day temps between 56° F and 73° F
- Temps will drop near 44° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0.02 inches of precipitation in June
What to Wear in Denver in June: Shorts, T-shirts, sandals, and a jacket or two will get you through most days in June in Denver.
Recommendations: Men’s quick-dry water shorts, men’s denim trucker jacket, men’s hiking shoes
- Plan for day temps between 60° F and 76° F
- Temps will drop near 47° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0.04 inches of precipitation in July
What to Wear in Denver in July: Plan for sunny skies and pack your favorite summer clothes, but keep a jacket in your bag in case of chilly evenings.
Recommendations: Women’s halter one-piece swimsuit, swimsuit cover-up, water sandals
- Plan for day temps between 58° F and 73° F
- Temps will drop near 46° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0.04 inches of precipitation in August
What to Wear in Denver in August: July’s outfit staples should get you through August, too. Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit!
Recommendations: Men’s swim shorts, water sandals, T-shirt
- Plan for day temps between 53° F and 68° F
- Temps will drop near 36° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0.01 inches of precipitation in September
What to Wear in Denver in September: Weather in September can run the full range from blazing to frigid. This is a month to plan your outfits in layers as much as possible and pack something for all seasons in your bag.
Recommendations: Women’s waterproof jacket, buffalo-check scarf, Dr. Martens boots
- Plan for day temps between 37° F and 49° F
- Temps will drop near 18° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0.04 inches of precipitation in October
What to Wear in Denver in October: As the leaves change, so should your wardrobe. Pack for chillier temperatures if you’re visiting in October.
Recommendations: Men’s parka, men’s hoodie, men’s waterproof boots
- Plan for day temps between 25° F and 38° F
- Temps will drop near 10° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0.01 inches of precipitation in November
What to Wear in Denver in November: Now’s the time to break out your winter boots and jacket. Even if you don’t end up needing a down coat during your trip, it’s much better to have it with you than go cold.
Recommendations: Women’s down parka, women’s waterproof boots, quilted down gloves
- Plan for day temps between 19° F and 33° F
- Temps will drop near 0° F at night and into the early mornings
- Expect 0 inches of precipitation in December
What to Wear in Denver in December: It’s officially winter: bring your hat, gloves, scarf, and wool socks for the city, and add your ski goggles and mask for the mountains.
Recommendations: Men’s waterproof parka, men’s waterproof boots, quilted down gloves
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DENVER
Denver, the Mile-High city, is a mile above sea level. How can I prepare so I don’t get altitude sickness?
Unless you’re flying in from Flagstaff (which has an additional 2,000 feet on Denver’s already impressive elevation), it’s important to take precautions to prevent altitude sickness. To avoid the headaches, fatigue, nausea, and insomnia that can set in a few hours after landing, stay hydrated (drink more water than you would at home) and skip on salt, caffeine, and alcohol—which can all magnify the symptoms of altitude sickness. Give your body a full 24 hours to acclimate before starting any strenuous activity, especially if your Colorado adventures will be taking place in the Rockies. Being at a higher elevation also means more direct sun exposure, so don’t forget to pack sunscreen with SPF 50 and both UVA and UVB protection, like Supergoop’s Super Power Sunscreen Mousse, and a brimmed hat to stay protected.
Colorado has great beer and I want to explore a majority of the breweries—what’s the best brewery tour in Colorado?
Yes, a brewery tour is basically mandatory in Denver. Denver Microbrew Tour’s LoDo route is a solid choice for out-of-towners looking to taste a handful of craft beers in one outing. The 1.5-mile walking tour stops at four distinct breweries in lower downtown Denver, offering a sampling of 10-plus beers, and the opportunity to buy a $1 pint of your choice at the end of the tour. The company’s RiNo route is also a great walking tour option, highlighting up-and-coming breweries, a cidery, and the River North Art District’s impressive street art.
If you’re looking to tour a single brewery, we recommend Great Divide Brewing Company‘s (free!) 30-minute option, which is first-come, first-served for up to 20 guests per tour. Great Divide also offers a 12 beers for $12 sampler at both its Ballpark and RiNo locations. And if you’re planning to travel to Fort Collins during your Colorado vacation, check out New Belgium’s popular tour, which ends with a slide! (Note: Reservations are required.)
I know the weather in Denver can be unpredictable; what should I not forget to pack?
It’s true that in fall, spring, and winter, Denver weather can flip from warm, sunny skies to snowfall overnight, and temperatures can easily fluctuate from 65 to 30 degrees from day to day. Packing your outfits in layers is the best way to prepare for unpredictable weather. Make sure your hiking boots are at least water-resistant (but preferably waterproof) with fresh treads, and pack a warm, lightweight jacket, like this hooded down option from Columbia, even if you’re not sure you’ll need it.
Are there any Denver neighborhoods that are better to stay in for a first-time traveler?
The closer you are to downtown Denver, the more activities you’ll have to choose from during your stay. While downtown is not technically a neighborhood itself, it encompasses the LoDo (Lower Downtown), RiNo (River North Arts District), and Capitol Hill neighborhoods, which are all great options for booking your hotel or Airbnb. LoDo includes Coors Field and Denver’s newly renovated Union Station, which offers great dining and drinking options. RiNo has a warehouse-y hipster feel because it houses many of Denver’s latests spots and shops, including the city’s freshest breweries. Capitol Hill features—you guessed it—the Colorado State Capitol Building, which hosts tours of its art as well as the building itself, and is surrounded by pretty parks and cute stores. If you’re looking to stay outside of the downtown area, we recommend the Baker Historic District near the South Broadway strip, where you’ll find fun bars offering great happy hours, the Mayan Theatre, and Historian’s Ale House, with views of the Rockies from its rooftop patio.
What’s the deal with… cannabis. Anything an out-of-towner should know regarding the legalization of marijuana in Colorado?
As of 2016, all adults aged 21 and over can be in possession of up to a full ounce of cannabis at any time in the state of Colorado, regardless of whether they’re full-time residents or visiting tourists. There are many dispensaries to choose from in Denver proper—you really can’t drive far without seeing the green “plus” signs used to label storefronts selling recreational marijuana. If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend High Times‘ 2018 list of their top 15 Denver dispensaries.
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