Taking an iconic road trip across the United States is a classic bucket list item for so many people. The biggest challenge is determining where to go! This Denver to Moab road trip offers some of the most stunning scenery in the United States as you venture from the mountains of Colorado to the canyons and rock arches of Utah.
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Where to Stop between Denver and Moab
You will pass some amazing natural sights driving from Denver to Moab, as well as some great resort towns. Give yourself time to take it all in and really explore this beautiful part of the United States. This road trip from Denver to Moab itinerary can take as little as 1 day if you drive straight through or it can be the basis of a one week itinerary or more.
Starting Point: Denver, Colorado
Denver is known as the Mile High City due to its elevation being, you guessed it, a mile above sea level. If you’re just visiting, spend a day in Denver to explore this beautiful capital of Colorado before heading out. After all, there are plenty of stunning sightseeing opportunities in and around the city.
Here are some of the top things to do in Denver:
- Take a free tour of the Colorado State Capitol (available on weekdays) which sits 5,280 feet above sea level. If you climb up to the rotunda you can see a panoramic view of the mountains in the distance.
- Explore downtown Denver including the 16th Street mall, Union Station, the historic LoDo (Lower Downtown) District, and the colorful RiNo (River North) Art District.
- Visit the famous Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre and take a short hike around the giant red rocks in the area.
If you’re local to Denver, don’t delay, hit the road!
See all of the Best Things to Do in Denver, Colorado.
Optional Addition: Rocky Mountain National Park
If you haven’t made it from Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park, now is your chance! It will add a couple of hours to your drive but you will be rewarded with stunning views and hiking throughout Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as time to explore the fabulous Estes Park.
Here are three of the can’t miss opportunities at Rocky Mountain National Park and in Estes Park:
- Hike one of the 200+ hiking trails through the park. Two of the best are the 3.3 mile Emerald Lake Trail or the 8.5 mile Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail.
- Drive Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park for stunning mountain views. Note that it is only open in the summer months as they have to wait to clear all of the snow at the higher elevations.
- Check out the famous, haunted Stanley Hotel used as the inspiration for Stephen King’s bestselling novel and subsequent film, The Shining.
Distance from Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park: 65 miles / 1 hour 20 minutes
Cost: $25 Day Pass or included in the America the Beautiful Annual Pass ($80). If you’re headed to Moab, the Annual Pass is a great bargain as it will get you into all of the National Parks for a year!
Website: Rocky Mountain National Park
Learn about the 12 Best Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park!
Breckenridge is best known as a world-class ski town. Situated in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, you’ll find amazing skiing in the winter and great hiking in summer time. In downtown, you’ll find the Historic Main Street offers a quaint mountain vibe with no skyscrapers, chain hotels, or chain restaurants.
Outside of skiing and hiking through Breckenridge, there are a few other key things to do while you’re in town:
- Stroll through the picturesque downtown, visiting the boutiques and admiring the crafts and souvenirs.
- Seek out the Breckenridge Troll.
- Ride the free Breckenridge Gondola from town up to Peak 8 Base Area for great mountain views and hiking opportunities in the area.
Distance from Denver to Breckenridge: 80 miles / 1 hour 40 minutes
Distance from Rocky Mountain National Park to Breckenridge: 107 miles / 2 hours 30 minutes
Another great stop when driving from Denver to Moab is Vail, one of the best known mountain towns. If you’re visiting outside of ski season, there are still plenty of other great reasons to stop by.
Here are the top things to do in Vail, outside of skiing:
- Stroll through the picturesque Vail Village to check out all of the shopping and restaurants in the area. Or, explore it on a 2 hour Segway tour.
- Visit the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the highest botanical garden in the United States at 8,250 feet above sea level.
- Fly down the mountains on the Forest Flyer, an alpine coaster, at Vail Ski Resort. It’s an impressive 3,400 feet long and offers a unique way to view the area.
Distance from Breckenridge to Vail: 36 miles / 45 minutes
Home to some of the best hot springs in the area, Glenwood Springs is a perfect stop for your Denver to Moab road trip itinerary. You’ll be able to visit some of the most popular hot springs in the Rocky Mountains and have stunning scenery at the fabulous Hanging Lake.
Some of the don’t miss opportunities in Glenwood Springs include:
- Soak in one of the three hot springs attractions in the area, including Glenwood Hot Springs Resort which is home to the largest hot springs pool in the world!
- Visit a natural geothermal steam bath at Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves.
- Hike up to the beautiful Hanging Lake. This 3 miles out and back hike packs a serious punch with over 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Fortunately, you’ll be rewarded at the top with stunning views of Hanging Lake and a number of waterfalls.
Distance from Vail to Glenwood Springs: 60 miles / 1 hour
Know what to pack for a day hike with the Essential Day Hike Packing List.
Optional Addition: Aspen
From Glenwood Springs, you can take a side trip down to Aspen to see one of the most photographed parts of the mountains, Maroon Bells. Unfortunately, due to the limited mountain roads, you’ll need to pass through Glenwood Springs on your way back as well.
Here are some of the best things to do in Aspen:
- Drive the scenic 20-miles through Independence Pass, one of the highest roads in North America. It takes you through hair pin turns, along the Continental Divide at 12,095 feet above sea level. There are plenty of pull offs where you can stop for jaw dropping pictures of the vistas.
- Enjoy the serenity of the John Denver Sanctuary which offers beautiful gardens and a family friendly atmosphere.
- Visit one of the largest and most popular ski areas in the United States at Snowmass. It also has one of the best snowboarding schools in the US.
The Famous Maroon Bells
Located just 10 miles outside of Aspen, the twin peaks of Maroon Bells rise over 14,000 feet high and are some of the most photographed mountains in North America. Due to their popularity, you’ll need to reserve your visit online before you go.
At Maroon Bells, you’ll have a number of hiking opportunities, like:
- Walk the easy 1.9 mile trail around Maroon Lake on the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop. It will only take about an hour and is an easy stroll.
- Head to Crater Lake on a 3.8 mile roundtrip hike. Plan about 2 hours for this hike. It only has about 700 feet of elevation gain.
- Hike the 10.9 mile Maroon Peak Trail. You’ll want to plan at least 8 hours for this difficult hike as you’ll climb almost 5,000 feet in elevation.
Or, if you’re feeling adventurous and have the time, consider an overnight backpacking trip to tackle the Four Pass Loop, a gorgeous 27 mile hike with 7,870 feet of elevation gain. Plan it in two days or split it over 3 or 4 days to really take in the scenery.
Distance from Glenwood Springs to Aspen: 40 miles / 55 minutes
Colorado Wine Country in Palisade, CO
Believe it or not, there are quite a few wineries and vineyards just east of Grand Junction in Palisade, 27 to be exact. Stop by one or more to learn about the winemaking process and to taste the wine Colorado has on offer.
Here’s the top 5 wineries to check out while you’re in Palisade:
- Colterris Winery
- Varaison Vineyards & Winery
- Carlson Vineyards Winery
- BookCliff Vineyards
- Restoration Vineyards
Distance from Glenwood Springs to Colorado Wine Country: 75 miles / 1 hour 10 minutes
Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument has two main entrances located in Grand Junction and Fruita and features over 40 trails ranging from 0.25 miles to over 14 miles. Drive and hike through its 23,000 acres of canyons, plateaus, and massive towers of naturally sculpted monoliths and sheer-walled canyon.
The top three things to do at Colorado National Monument are:
- Drive the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive as you wind up switchbacks to mesa tops and along the canyon walls before descending into the valley.
- Catch sunrise at Grand View or sunset at Book Cliffs View for the best pictures of Colorado National Monument.
- Admire the stunning Balance Rock, a 600 ton boulder carefully perched on its rock tower.
Distance from Colorado Wine Country to Colorado National Monument: 33 miles / 45 minutes
Cost: $25 Weekly Pass or included in the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. It is also covered under the Colorado National Monument Annual Pass ($45).
Website: Colorado National Monument
End Destination: Moab, Utah
As a city, Moab is pretty underwhelming. As an adventure hub, Moab is amazing. You will be surrounded by stunning nature and within reach of two of the best National Parks in the United States: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Not to mention its just a short drive to the stunning Dead Horse Point State Park.
Distance from Colorado National Monument to Moab: 100 miles / 1 hour 30 minutes
Arches National Park
Located just a few miles from downtown Moab, Arches National Park is the main draw to the city. In fact, you may only be interested in a road trip from Denver to Arches National Park and nothing further, but there’s a lot more to see in the Moab area!
If you want to hit the highlights of Arches, you can do it in just a few hours, but if you want to see all of the main sights and hike all of the hikes, you need between one to three days. The scenery will really leave you breathless!
Some of the can’t miss opportunities in Arches National Park include:
- Catch sunset at Delicate Arch! It’s a 3.4 mile out and back hike with about 600 feet of elevation gain.
- Head to the Double Arch which is only about a half mile from the road.
- Admire the Double O Arch with a 4.1 mile hike with almost 700 feet of elevation gain.
Distance from Moab to Arches National Park: 5 miles / 10 minutes
Cost: $30 Day Pass or included in the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. There is also a Southeast Utah Parks Pass for $55 that will get you into Arches, Canyonlands, and Natural Bridges National Monument for a year.
Website: Arches National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is unique in that it is divided into 4 different districts: Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the Green and Colorado Rivers. This means there are endless opportunities to explore!
Most visitors visit Island in the Sky and if you’re really outdoorsy, you will want to hike the Needles and raft the rivers. The Maze is all backcountry hiking and typically visited for three or more days at a time.
Top experiences for Canyonlands National Park include:
- Be awed by sunrise at Mesa Arch in Island in the Sky. It’s just a 0.7 mile hike to get there.
- Admire the views from Grand View Point Trail in Island in the Sky. It’s 1.8 miles and well worth the effort.
- Hike the Chesler Park Loop Trail in the Needles District. It’s a 10.4 mile hike and will take about 5 hours to complete.
Distance from Moab to Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky District: 30 miles / 40 minutes
District from Moab to Canyonlands National Park, The Needles District: 75 miles / 1 hour 20 minutes
Cost: Also $30 Day Pass, included in the America the Beautiful Annual Pass, and the Southeast Utah Parks Pass.
Website: Canyonlands National Park
1 Week Itinerary from Denver to Moab
In an ideal world, you would spend about one week doing this road trip. If you are short on time, you can certainly condense it and skip or abbreviate some of the stops as necessary. Here is how it shakes out.
Day 1: Denver
Fly into Denver and explore the capital of Colorado for the day.
Where to Stay in Denver: Stay downtown at the Kimpton Hotel Born, which is located right near Union Station, the perfect location for exploring Denver. As an added bonus, you’ll have great mountain views from the terrace at the Kimpton.
Day 2: Rocky Mountain National Park
Head up to Estes Park and Mountain Rocky Mountain National Park. Spend the day hiking through Rocky Mountain National Park.
Where to Stay in Estes Park: Overnight at the famous Stanley Hotel from the movie The Shining for a night you won’t forget.
Day 3: Breckenridge, Vail, and Glenwood Springs
Meander your way through the resort towns of Breckenridge and Vail to Glenwood Springs where you can hike to Hanging Lake and then lounge in the hot springs.
Where to Stay in Glenwood Springs: Spend the night at the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort to have the largest hot springs pools in the world, right at your hotel!
Day 4: Aspen, Maroon Bells, Colorado Wine Country, and Colorado National Monument
Head to Aspen to explore and visit Maroon Bells. When you’re done there, head to Colorado Wine Country to grab some lunch and a glass or two of wine before setting off to Colorado National Monument. Finish the day off by driving into Moab at sunset to catch all of the red rocks illuminating from the sun.
Where to Stay in Moab: As you’ll be in Moab for multiple nights, select the accommodation best for you and your budget:
- Backpacker Budget Option: Lazy Lizard Hostel
- Budget Hotels: Adventure Inn Moab | Rustic Inn
- Mid-Range Hotels: MainStay Suites Moab | The Gonzo Inn
- Luxury Hotels: Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection by Hilton | Red Cliffs Lodge
Day 5: Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park
Head to the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. If you’re feeling ambitious, try to get there for sunrise at Mesa Arch. Then spend the day exploring and hiking through the park before heading to Dead Horse Point State Park to explore a bit and catch sunset before heading back to Moab.
Day 6: Arches National Park
Arches National Park is just outside of Moab, but it offers plenty to do to keep you busy. Work your way through the park checking out all of the fabulous stops and scenery. Try to catch sunset at Delicate Arch before returning into town.
Day 7: The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park
Make the drive to The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and hike the stunning Chesler Park Loop Trail. This 5 hour hike will let you see some of the best scenery in the Needles District.
Pack smartly with the Ultimate Road Trip Packing List!
Traveling from Denver to Moab: Your Questions Answered
Taking a road trip from Denver to Moab offers a lot of opportunities to explore, but you likely have other questions top of mind. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions.
How far is it from Denver to Moab?
The distance from Denver to Moab is 355 miles. This makes for an easy day drive or an even better road trip.
How do I get from Denver to Moab?
Of course the fastest option to get from Denver to Moab would be to fly, but you would miss out on so many wonderful things between the two! Flights tend to be pretty reasonable, costing just a couple hundred dollars, and the flight time is just over 1 hour.
However, the best option to get from Denver to Moab is to drive. You pass through some stunning scenery, and of course once in Moab you will need to have a car at your disposal to see all of the fantastic scenery!
If you want more options, you can take the bus or train from Denver to Green River, and then rent a car for the last 50 minutes to get to Moab.
How long is the drive from Denver to Moab?
A direct drive from Denver to Moab will take right around 5.5 hours to cover the 355 miles. You will spend most of your drive on i70. Then once you enter Utah you will be veering South on Route 128 or 191 to head directly into Moab.
If you want to take the more scenic route to Moab, take Route 128 from i70. You’ll pass by Fishers Towers, a series of towers made of sandstone and caked with a stucco of red mud, and Castle Valley, a small town known for its castle-like rock formations.
How many days do you need in Moab?
Give yourself at least 3 days in the Moab area. If you are an avid outdoor explorer, you could easily spend a full week in the area. You’ll want at least one day in Arches National Park, one day in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, and another for the Needles District of Canyonlands.
While you could certain do a road trip from Denver to Moab over a long weekend, you’d have to miss a number of stops along the way, and it would leave you longing to return to Moab to take advantage of the rich activities found in the area.
What is the best time of year to road trip from Denver to Moab?
If you’re an avid skier, you may be interested in making this trip in the shoulder ski season to try and fit in some skiing in the famous ski towns of Breckenridge, Vail, or Aspen.
Otherwise, the best time to road trip from Denver to Moab is typically Spring or Fall. The roads should be clear of snow and the weather is ideal for hiking – particularly in Moab where summer temperatures can soar past 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plan More of Your Trip
This epic Denver to Moab road trip itinerary is perfect for the outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers out there. You’ll love all of the amazing places you’ll find and memories you’ll build on this road trip.
Need more ideas for your Denver to Moab road trip?
Learn more about your road trip destinations between Denver and Moab:
- Best Things to Do in Denver
- Top Things to Experience in Rocky Mountain National Park
- 6 Best Things to Do in Moab, Utah + a Bonus Moab Itinerary!
- Where to Stay in Moab, Utah: Complete Guide to the Best Hotels in Moab
- Everything You Need to Know about Canyonlands National Park
Or, consider a road trip from Denver to Glacier National Park. It’s another amazing road trip option!
Perfect Your Road Trip with These Resources
Now that you have the best route from Denver to Moab, you can focus on the finer details, like what to pack and the best snacks to take. After all, they’re vital parts of any successful road trip!
- How to Plan a Road Trip: A Step-by-Step Guide
- 80+ Good Road Trip Snacks: The Key to Any Successful Road Trip!
- Road Trip Packing List for Expert Travelers: 60 Road Trip Essentials + More Tips!
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