Denver, Colorado is popular for a seemingly endless list of reasons. It has something for every different kind of traveler. Whether you’re keen to explore the great outdoors, want to get stuck into history, or are on a foodie adventure, you won’t be disappointed with Denver.
However, when thinking about the most awe-inspiring sites in America, there’s no doubt that the Grand Canyon takes the cake. So a classic American road trip towards the Grand Canyon will truly be an unforgettable adventure.
Sometimes it’s hard to decide what places are worth stopping at, and what can be left in your rearview mirror. So we’ve put together a list of the best stops to make while taking a Grand Canyon Colorado road trip.
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DISTANCE FROM DENVER TO GRAND CANYON
Found in different states, these two locations are more than a hop, skip, and a jump apart. But what lies between them includes some of the most memorable landscapes in the country.
765 miles (1230 km) lie between these two sites. If you were driving straight through, with no stops for sightseeing and fun, this trip would take you about 12 hours. But if you’re making an event out of it, you should budget two to four days. It’s worth the time spent.
The shortest and possibly most beautiful route goes via the I-70 W. So this is the route you can put into your GPS for this road trip.
ROAD TRIP FROM DENVER TO GRAND CANYON
There is no better way to see the countryside than by road tripping. It is a time-honored and well-loved form of exploring, and it’s clear to see why. Particularly when you’re driving through states as beautiful as Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.
Driving by car, you can choose to stop at the places that interest you. There’s a reason they say that the journey is more important than the destination, and the saying is sure to hit home after you take this trip.
So make a playlist of your favorite songs, fill up your tank, and call up your friends. While a road trip is special when driving solo, it’s even more fun when the memories are made with others. Plus, a Denver, Colorado to Grand Canyon road trip makes for an epic end to a Denver bachelor party.
If you don’t have enough time to stop and experience all the places on this list, pick and choose the ones that appeal to you most. The more you can fit into your itinerary, the better.
If you’re from Denver, you’ve likely popped your head into Idaho Springs once or twice before. But even so, it makes a great first stop for this trip.
It’s close enough to Denver that you can stop for your second cup of coffee at The Frothy Cup. You can also stretch your legs, walking through the quaint historic downtown area.
Making this trip during the winter months? If so, why not stop for a bit of skiing? Keystone Resort has terrain to suit all abilities, so if some of your party are new to skiing, while others are real pros, this is a great spot to all have fun together.
After a morning or afternoon of skiing, push on to Glenwood Springs. It’s nearby, and there is plenty to do, see, and eat, as well as a host of accommodation options for spending the night.
Spend your afternoon having fun at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, a unique mountaintop theme park. If you want to enjoy the incredible landscape of the Rocky Mountains, take a hike along one of the many scenic trails. Doc Holliday’s Grave Trailhead is the most popular historical hike in the area. And if you have time, be sure to book a soak at Iron Mountain Hot Springs!
At this point, you’ll be fully ready to hit the hay. Hotel Glenwood Springs and Silver Spruce Inn are both great options for a restful night’s sleep. Alternatively, you can check out our favorite Colorado cabins to make the stay extra special.
Once you’re feeling refreshed and ready for the day, it’s time to hit the road again. You will have traveled about 20% of the distance, as Glenwood Springs is 157 miles (250 km) from Denver. So you still have some distance to go, and lots of sights to see.
Only 11 miles (21 km) from Glenwood, you should be able to make it to Newcastle before needing breakfast and a good cup of coffee. Café Crème is a great little spot to stop for morning pastries or a full farmhouse breakfast, depending on your hunger and preferences. They even have a number of vegan and vegetarian options.
Pushing the 100 miles (160 km) to Grand Junction is absolutely worth it. It’ll give you a chance to just sit back in your seat while taking in the incredible mountain views. And then at the end of this leg of the race, you get to arrive at a place as special as Grand Junction and all that it encompasses.
As the hub of Colorado’s wine country, this is a spot that is worth spending some time in. You may even want to book in at a hotel (or an incredible Grand Junction Airbnb) so that you can fully enjoy the day and the wines without worrying about driving to another destination.
Since this is the place for it, enjoy a relaxed afternoon of wine tasting. The most popular vineyards in the area are Mesa Park Vineyards and Carlson Vineyards Winery. But since there are so many in the area, you could easily head to one of these excellent spots and ask for local advice on other nearby wine tastings that are within walking distance.
COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
While the above activity can easily take up a whole day, it doesn’t suit everyone. If wine isn’t your drink, or you’re traveling with kids, head to the Colorado National Monument instead. It’s an impressively beautiful national park featuring otherworldly rock formations and canyons.
There are plenty of trails for you to explore for the afternoon. You can also camp here if you want to add a little outdoor camping to your Colorado to Grand Canyon road trip.
By day three, you’ll start realizing that there are just too many beautiful sites in this area to stop at them all. Your route through the states will take you past breathtaking scenery.
While it’s up to you whether or not you want to stop and experience them further, you may want to stay in the car and view a few through the windows as you keep going. Otherwise, this trip might take a month!
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
110 miles (177 km) from Grand Junction is this scenic spot in Utah, and it’s just too gorgeous to pass by. There are over 2,500 stone arches for you to marvel at. But we recommend just a short morning hike so that you can cover more ground, as you’ll be keen to get to your ultimate destination at this point.
MOAB FOOD TRUCK PARK
Just after the national park is the small town of Moab. This little gem is well known for its excellent food trucks, which offer all sorts of cuisines, from Mexican and vegan to Asian fusion. Your group is sure to find something to suit everyone at one of these trucks, and you can fuel up nicely before hitting the road again for the next long stretch.
After having covered the 323 miles (520 km) to Flagstaff, you’ll likely be ready for a long shower, a good meal, and a comfy bed. The Sleep Inn is a great option, and breakfast is included, so you can easily be ready to complete your Denver to Grand Canyon road trip by morning.
There is so much to do in Flagstaff that you might be tempted to spend a day or two here. And it’s totally worth it! But consider keeping that adventure for the road trip back to Denver.
This will be the day that you arrive at the glorious Grand Canyon. At only 79 short miles (127 km) from Flagstaff, this little journey will take you only 90 minutes. So you can set off early and spend the whole day exploring the incredible Grand Canyon National Park.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THIS DENVER TO GRAND CANYON DRIVE
Passing through some of the most alien and awe-inspiring landscapes in the world, this road trip is sure to fascinate any and every traveler. Whether you’re driving with a partner, friends, family, or children, the views along the way will captivate everyone in the car.
The road to the Grand Canyon is dotted with fun, interesting and beautiful stops. Wine tasting, theme parks, winding hikes, delicious food – this route has it all. And if you find that you can’t fit it all in on the way down, simply make a few stops on your way home.
If you’re not from Denver, check out our ultimate Denver travel guide to see what you can get up to while there.
Featured image credit: © Kamchatka via Canva.com