The Ultimate Colorado Road Trip Itinerary

August 4 2021, 7:20pm

Are you looking for an exciting road trip to take in the United States? Colorado is one of the top destinations for adventurous road trips in the US. It’s a place known for its diverse natural landscapes that immerses you into the great outdoors.

We’ve put together the perfect Colorado road trip itinerary that lets you experience the best that Colorado has to offer. You’ll drive through magnificent mountain ranges, pass through scenic canyon valleys, breathtaking natural formations, and more.

Get ready for an outdoor adventure as you embark on a trip through Colorado with you, your vehicle, and the great open road. Check out the itinerary to discover the best things to do on your road trip through Colorado.

denver colorado

Denver to Boulder – Around 30 miles

Your exciting Colorado road trip begins in Denver, the largest city in the state. If it’s your first time visiting, there are plenty of incredible things to do in Denver, Colorado, from the urban parks to the fantastic art museums. There’s also some pretty cool architecture. 

The first leg of the journey goes from Denver to Boulder. It’s approximately 30 miles between the two cities. Although you can easily drive the distance in less than an hour, there are several attractions you won’t want to miss and can easily spend a day exploring them.

Westminster Castle

You’ll arrive at Westminster Castle shortly after leading Denver. It’s a distinct red Romanesque castle built in the 19th century that vastly contrasts the modern architecture around Denver. It’s recognized as a National Historic Landmark and a must-visit spot.

The castle is perched on a hilltop where you’ll get unbelievable views. The castle tower is open to visitors to climb 175 foot high for panoramic views overlooking Denver and the Front Range.

Standley Lake

The next stop between Denver and Boulder is Standley Lake. It’s a large lake that serves as the county’s primary water source, but it’s a popular recreation site for road trippers. It’s a picturesque area against the mountain backdrop.

Standley Lake provides lots of outdoor activities, including fishing, boating, and hiking. Boating is seasonal to enjoy paddle boating and canoeing. In addition, there is a designated five-mile loop hiking trail that runs around the lake rim.

eldorado canyon

Eldorado Canyon

Your road trip will take you to Eldorado Canyon State Park right before you arrive at Boulder. It’s one of the largest state parks in Colorado, covering nearly 900 acres. It’s one of the coolest places to visit in Colorado, famous for its towering golden cliffs.

Visitors can explore the park’s canyon region and meadows. It’s the perfect place for outdoor adventures. Some of the popular activities include hiking and rock climbing. You can see notable landmarks like Bear Peak and the Flatirons.

Eldorado Canyon has a visitor center and campgrounds available for overnight stays.

Boulder to Grand Junction – Around 250 miles

The Colorado road trip between Boulder to Grand Junction is the second-longest leg and one of Colorado’s most popular routes. It extends over 250-miles on I-70, where you’ll experience one of the most scenic parts of the state. As you drive through the picturesque mountains and valleys, stop by a few of these popular destinations along the way.

White River National Forest

White River National Forest is one of the most famous places to visit in Colorado. It’s the most visited national forest in the US, with over two million acres. While you probably don’t have time to explore it all, you can still enjoy the scenic drives and hiking trails.

One of the favorite times to visit the White River National Forest is during the fall, when you’ll witness the colorful fall foliage as you make your way through the forest.

maroon bells

Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells is the most famous landmark located within White River National Forest. It’s one of the most photographed destinations in the country with an unbelievable setting in any season. The views of Crater Lake tucked between Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak are worth spending some time with to take pictures and marvel at nature’s beauty.

Grand Mesa

As you make your way towards Grand Junction, you’ll encounter Grand Mesa. It’s the world’s largest flattop mountain stretching over 500 miles. Hike along the mesa to get incredible views of Grand Valley more than 11,000 feet below the summit.

colorado river

Colorado River State Park

The mighty Colorado River is the 6th longest river in the country and runs right through Colorado River State Park. It’s a popular park just outside of Grand Junction where you can treat yourself to fun water recreation. It has several interconnected lakes extending from the river for boating, fishing, and more. 

Grand Junction to Durango – Around 167 miles

Now that you’ve arrived in Grand Junction, this part of your Colorado road trip will explore the remote southwestern region of the state. Much of the area is designated as wilderness. So there are plenty of chances to step out of the car and delight in the untouched landscape.

The drive from Grand Junction to Durango is approximately 167-miles long. It will be an exciting leg of the journey filled with incredible natural scenery on either side of the highway.

Colorado National Monument

Your southwest Colorado road trip begins at the Colorado National Monument is an iconic landmark in Colorado. It’s considered “Colorado’s Grand Canyon” with views that often compare to the natural wonder. The breathtaking natural landscapes are perfect for views and recreation.

Located just outside of Grand Junction, Colorado National Monument seems otherworldly. The massive canyon is full of unique rock formations that you’ll have to see to believe. Take a drive along the rim for an overlooking view of the entire canyon; or venture on a hike inside the canyon to appreciate the scale of the cliffs.

Monument Canyon is a must-see area with landmarks, including Independence Monument and the Kissing Couple.

san juan skyway uncompahgre gorge

National Forests

The route between Grand Junction and Durango leads directly through two major national forests—Uncompahgre National Forest and San Juan National Forest. Each of the forest landscapes is unique, with many forest-covered mountain peaks and high desert.

The national forests are an excellent time to enjoy some of the favorite recreational activities. They have hikes winding throughout the wilderness areas and numerous ski resorts established on the mountain summits. There is even a scenic railroad tour that’s totally worth it while you’re in the area!

mesa verde national park

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park is more than just protecting the natural landscapes in this corner of the state but also preserving the rich cultural heritage. The park is famous for its archeological sites of cliff dwellings dating back more than 700 years ago.

Numerous Native American tribes once inhabited the area now designated as the Mesa Verde National Park. The tribes established rock dwellings in the red rock cliffs that are still visible today. The park offers guided tours to see the large cliff-dwelling communities, see ancient rock art, and learn about their history.

durango colorado

Durango to Pueblo – Around 270 miles

Prepare yourself for the longest leg of your Colorado road trip as you begin the journey from Durango to Pueblo. It’s over 270 miles long, which you can follow along US-160 E. And just a heads up, there’s a lot of ground to cover in between towns, so make sure to stock up on what you need.

As you prepare to leave the southwest Colorado road trip section, there’s no need to rush out of Durango so fast. It’s a popular tourist destination that has lots of fun things to do around town. Scenic natural landscapes surround it—take a break from your vehicle and take a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to see the sights from a vintage locomotive.

Durango is a charming town with lots of preserved influence of the Old West. When you’re all set, start making your way towards Pueblo and check out these exciting destinations along the way.

Pagosa Springs

Just an hour into your trip from Durango, you’ll reach Pagosa Springs. It’s a famous health and wellness destination in Colorado, thanks to the natural hot springs. The springs are open to the public and an excellent way to add in a bit of relaxation on the road trip after long days of traveling.

Pagosa Springs has several public springs that welcome visitors to experience the thermal pleasures. It has spa experiences and natural waters with temperatures between 80-115°F all year round. There are even myths about healing powers.

great sand dunes national park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

As you make your way north towards Pueblo, you’ll arrive at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It’s one of the most famous national parks in Colorado known for its dunes—the largest in the US.

Great Sand Dunes National Park covers hundreds of square miles, but the dunes are the most popular areas for tourists. It has dunes as far as the eye can see. The highest dunes reach heights of 750 foot high. There are several hiking trails through the dunes, forested regions, waterfalls, and scenic mountain passes.

Pueblo to Denver – Around 115 miles

The sad news is that you’re about to embark on the last leg of your road trip as you travel from Pueblo back to Denver. The good news is that it’s perhaps one of the most exciting regions with two famous landmarks that you’ll indeed be looking forward to.

Driving from Pueblo to Denver is a straight shot north along I-25 N. It’s approximately 115 miles. Still, you’ll have several stops along the way at some of the most impressive natural landmarks in Colorado.

garden of the gods

Garden of the Gods

Colorado Springs is around the halfway mark between the two cities. It’s home to the Garden of the Gods, a National Natural Landmark, and considered one of the top things to do in Colorado Springs. Views overlooking the valley will make you realize why it earned the name. It’s a landscape of pure beauty as you see the towering sandstone formations emerging from the ground.

Before you explore, stop by the visitor center to get an overview of the park. It has exhibitions about the park’s flora and geology. You’ll find out about the best hiking trails that take you to various viewpoints up close to the massive structures.

pikes peak colorado

Pike’s Peak

In the distance from the Garden of the Gods is a view of Pike’s Peak, another one of the best things to do in Colorado Springs. Pike’s Peak is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountain’s Front Range. No need to imagine the views from the top because you’re about to see them for yourself.

There are multiple methods to reach the Pike’s Peak summit. You can stay in your car and drive up or take the shuttle frequently running to the top. If you’re up for it, there are hiking trails that will also get you there.

Regardless of how you reach the summit, the reward is the same—a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. It has a high prominence, so you’ll literally tower over everything around you.

rocky mountains vail

Bonus: Visit Vail en route to Grand Junction

Did we mention that Colorado is a year-round destination? Be sure to dress warmly during the winter because the outdoors are just as fun to explore during the cold months as they are in the summer!

Vail is one of the top winter destinations in Colorado. You can add a stop by the famous Vail Ski Resort while traveling between Boulder and Grand Junction on your Colorado Road Trip. It ranks as a top ski resort in the country and the perfect stop for all ages.

Vail is located within the White River National Forest. During the winter, the towering mountain peaks get covered with snow, creating perfect skiing, snowboarding, snowshoe hiking, and other activities.

vail colorado

The mountain has an elevation of over 11,000 feet. It features designated runs for all skill levels—beginner, intermediate, and expert. And if you’ve never been skiing or snowboarding, teachers are available for lessons.

Vail Ski Resort is a world-class facility full of amenities for visitors. You can spend a day or two at the resort to access the ski runs and other resort amenities before continuing your journey to Grand Junction.

Are you excited yet about traveling to Colorado? There are tons of things to see and do around the state, and a Colorado road trip is the perfect time to enjoy them. Whether you’re traveling during the summer or winter, you can find exciting activities that will make your road trip the best vacation you’ve ever been on.

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