Road-tripping from Denver to the Grand Canyon takes you through some of the most picturesque scenery in the United States. From the soaring peaks of the Rockies to the rugged beauty of the U.S. southwest, the route offers a glimpse into the best of the American West. In our opinion, it’s one of the most underrated national park itineraries in the country.

The drive itself is an adventure as you traverse scenic byways and historic routes, stopping along the way to explore towns and national parks. In this post, you’ll find Denver to Grand Canyon road trip highlights, as well as tips and insights to help you make the most of your journey.

Road Trip Denver to The Grand Canyon

Panoramic view of red rock canyon and river near Moab, Utah
Moab, Utah

Table of Contents

Denver to Grand Canyon Road Trip Map

Interactive Denver to Grand Canyon Road Trip map created using Google My Maps
Access our free interactive Denver to Grand Canyon Road Trip Map HERE

Wondering how far the Grand Canyon is from Denver? Following the most direct route, Denver is about 680 miles (1094 km) from the Grand Canyon and takes about 12 hours of drive time. For the quickest journey, take the I-70 West to Grand Junction and then merge onto the US-191 South at Thompson Springs. Follow the 191 South until it meets up with the US-160 West in Red Mesa, then turn left onto the US-89 South just past Tuba City towards the Grand Canyon.

Still, there’s so much to see between Denver and the Grand Canyon it would be a pity to pass by all the other destinations within reach. We suggest dividing your trip into a multi-week adventure.

Other national park road trips you might like:

Denver to Grand Canyon Itineraries

1-Week, 2-Week, and 3-Week Denver to Grand Canyon Road Trip Itineraries

Snow capped Rocky Mountains in Colorado with fall colors in the foreground
Colorado Rockies

Denver to Grand Canyon 3-Week Itinerary

  • Denver, CO 1-2 nights, road trip starting point
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, CO2 nights, 3-hour drive from Denver to Grand Lake
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO 2 nights, 4.5 hours from Grand Lake to Black Canyon
  • Moab, UT 3 nights, 3-hour drive from Black Canyon of the Gunnison to Moab
  • Monument Valley, AZ 1 night; 2.5-hour drive from Moab to Monument Valley
  • Grand Canyon South Rim 3 nights, 3-hour drive from Monument Valley to South Rim
  • Page, AZ2-3 nights, 2.5-hour drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Page
  • Grand Canyon North Rim 2 nights, 2.5-hour drive from Page to North Rim
  • Durango, CO2 nights, 6.5-hour drive from North Rim to Durango
  • Pagosa Springs, CO 2 nights, 1-hour drive from Durango to Pagosa Springs
  • Great Sand Dunes, CO 1 night, 2-hour drive from Pagosa Springs to Great Sand Dunes
  • Denver, CO 3.5-hour drive from Great Sand Dunes to Denver

Denver to Grand Canyon 2-Week Itinerary

  • Denver, CO 1 night, road trip starting point
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, CO2 nights, 3-hour drive from Denver to Grand Lake
  • Moab, UT 2-3 nights, 5.5-hour drive from Grand Lake to Moab
  • Monument Valley, AZ Day trip; 2.5-hour drive from Moab to Monument Valley
  • Grand Canyon South Rim 3 nights, 3-hour drive from Monument Valley to South Rim
  • Page, AZ2 nights, 2.5-hour drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Page
  • Grand Canyon North Rim 2 nights, 2.5-hour drive from Page to North Rim
  • Durango, CO2 nights, 6.5-hour drive from North Rim to Durango
  • Denver, CO 6-hour drive from Durango to Denver

Denver to Grand Canyon 1-Week Itineraries

1-Week Desert Itinerary Option

  • Denver, CO 1 night, road trip starting point
  • Moab, UT 3-nights, 5.5-hour drive from Denver to Moab
  • Monument Valley, AZ Day trip, 2.5-hour drive from Moab to Monument Valley
  • Grand Canyon South Rim 3-nights, 3-hour drive from Monument Valley to South Rim
  • Denver, COFly back to Denver from Flagstaff or Phoenix

1-Week Mountain Itinerary Option

  • Denver, CO 1 night, road trip starting point
  • Pagosa Springs, CO 1 night, 5-hour drive from Denver to Pagosa Springs
  • Durango, CO2 nights, 1-hour drive from Pagosa Springs to Durango
  • Grand Canyon South Rim 3 nights, 5-hour drive from Durango to South Rim
  • Denver, COFly back to Denver from Flagstaff or Phoenix

How To Use This Road Trip Guide

View of the Grand Canyon from above with the Colorado River cutting through it. Final destination on a Denver to Grand Canyon road trip.
Grand Canyon

This Denver to Grand Canyon itinerary is intended to serve as a guide that can be customized to suit your schedule, budget, and priority destinations. We recommend a minimum of three weeks to complete the route in full. However, we know not everyone has three weeks to spare and have also included less elaborate one and two-week options.

If you have less than a week available for your Denver to Grand Canyon road trip, it’s best to fly into Flagstaff and rent a car. On the flip side, if you have more than three weeks available, add a night wherever you please or combine this itinerary with an epic Utah National Park Road Trip.

Best Time For Denver to Grand Canyon

Steam train from Durango to Silverton Colorado running through the mountains along a river.
Steam Train from Durango to Silverton

The best time for a Denver to Grand Canyon road trip tends to be during the shoulder seasons of late Spring and early Fall. In Spring, the weather is mild, and the wildflowers are in bloom, making for picturesque landscapes along the way. In the Fall, the crowds thin out, and the temperatures are cooler, making for comfortable hiking and sightseeing.

Summer is a popular time to visit, but can be hot and crowded, with temperatures in the Grand Canyon often exceeding 100°F. Alternatively, winter can bring snow and road closures, so it’s not the best time for a road trip unless you’re prepared for icy conditions (if you are, keep reading!)

Denver To Grand Canyon In Winter

Snow in the Grand Canyon in winter
Grand Canyon in Winter

If you’re prepared, a winter Denver to Grand Canyon is magical. Snow in the high desert is something everyone should witness at least once in their life, and you’ll feel as though you have some of the country’s most popular national parks to yourself.

However, certain roads, trails, and attractions close during winter, and you’ll need to adapt your itinerary accordingly. Notably, Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park closes for the winter season (it may be better to swap RMNP for Breckenridge), as does the entire North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Certain lodging options also shut down during the colder months, so it’s important to do your research and book in advance.

It goes without saying that a winter road trip from Denver to the Grand Canyon should not be attempted without proper snow tires and/or chains, particularly if passing through the Rockies. Below is our preferred Denver to Grand Canyon winter road trip itinerary.

2-Week Denver to Grand Canyon Winter Itinerary

  • Denver, CO 1 night, road trip starting point
  • Breckenridge, CO2 nights, 1.5-hour drive from Denver to Breckenridge
  • Moab, UT 3 nights, 4.5-hour drive from Breckenridge to Moab
  • Monument Valley, AZ 1 night; 2.5-hour drive from Moab to Monument Valley
  • Page, AZ2 nights, 2-hour drive from Monument Valley to Page
  • Grand Canyon South Rim 3 nights, 2.5-hour drive from Page to South Rim
  • Pagosa Springs, CO2 nights, 6-hour drive from South Rim to Pagosa Springs
  • Denver, CO 5-hour drive from Pagosa Springs to Denver

Denver to Grand Canyon Road Trip Stops

Denver, CO

1-2 nights; Road Trip Starting Point

Denver CO skyline at sunset

Experienced by Lisa Shehan of Wanderlust With Lisa

Denver is a vibrant city surrounded by natural beauty with plenty of outdoor activities and cultural attractions to explore. The “Mile High City” also boasts a thriving food and beer scene, with numerous top-rated restaurants and craft breweries.

Things to Do in Denver

The city has so many unique sights and attractions catering to all ages and interests. Here are four all-time favorite things to do in Denver:

  • Visit Union Station: This historic train station has been beautifully restored and features shops, restaurants, bars, and a hotel. It’s a great place to relax and soak up the atmosphere.
  • Explore Larimer Square: This charming street is filled with historic buildings, restaurants, and boutiques, making it the perfect spot to stroll around and people-watch.
  • Check out the Denver Art Museum: This world-class museum features a wide variety of art from around the world, including Native American and contemporary art.
  • Visit the 16th Street Mall: This pedestrian-only street is lined with shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon or evening.

Denver Insider Tip

Don’t forget that Denver is the “Mile High City” – the altitude can really take a toll on your body if you don’t stay hydrated and take it easy!

Swanky restaurant with bar at Le Meridien Denver Downtown
Corinne Restaurant at Le Meridien Denver

Where to Stay in Denver

If you’re looking for a hotel in Downtown Denver, our personal favorite is Le Meridien, which has an awesome rooftop bar and is steps from the Denver Art Museum. However, Magnolia Hotel and The Curtis Denver are two fabulous boutique options.

If you’re rather after a hotel in LoDo (Denver’s entertainment district), you can’t go wrong with The Crawford Hotel (located at Union Station), and for those on a budget, Hostel Fish offers a fun vibe with both shared and private rooms.

Wanting to self-cater? Try this colorful 1-bedroom apartment condo right on 16th Street Mall or this gorgeous 2-bedroom condo steps from Union Station.

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

2 nights; 3-hour drive from Denver to Grand Lake

Mountain landscapes with wildflowers in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO - starting point for a Denver to Grand Canyon Road Trip

Experienced by Jolayne of Just Wander More

Rocky Mountain National Park is a Colorado national treasure. People come from around the world to take in the gorgeous scenery, explore miles of trails, and enjoy the majestic Rockies. The park is home to stunning mountain landscapes, with peaks reaching over 14,000 feet high and pristine alpine lakes, dense forests, and diverse wildlife.

Things to Do in the Colorado Rockies

Be sure to pack your hiking boots if you’re planning a visit to RMNP. The hikes through these mountains are breathtaking and rewarding for all skill levels. Near the park’s East Entrance, Bear Lake (0.6 miles) is one of the most popular trails and is suitable for all ages. The renowned Emerald Lakes Trail (3.6 miles) leaves from the same trailhead. Hike to Sky Pond (9.5 miles) for more of a challenge. Rocky Mountain’s West Entrance also offers great hikes for families.

Many families enjoy picnics, spotting wildlife, and driving along Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the US. Trail Ridge Road connects the mountain town of Estes Park in the east up and over the Continental Divide to Grand Lake in the west. Trail Ridge Road is only open during summer and is a must-do when passable.

RMNP Insider Tip

Like many parks in the United States, Rocky Mountain National Park now requires a reservation to visit between late May and October. The popular Bear Lake Corridor is a separate reservation but one of the most visited areas of the park. You’ll want to see it.

True log cabin rental surrounded by forest in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Secluded 3-Bedroom Log Cabin Rental

Colorado Rockies Lodging

Unless you plan to camp, you’ll need to find lodging in the surrounding mountain towns of Estes Park to the east or Grand Lake to the west. If traveling from Denver to the Grand Canyon in the summer, we recommend stopping in Estes Park for lunch and then pushing on to Grand Lake in the afternoon via Trail Ridge Road.

In Grand Lake, Western Riviera Lakeside and Gateway Inn are the two most popular accommodation options. If you’d prefer a cabin, check out this top-rated 2-bedroom mountain view home or this secluded 3-bedroom log cabin set on seven private acres.

Alternatively, camping is available by reservation in Aspenglen, Glacier Basin, Longs Peak, and Timber Creek (west side). The popular Moraine Park campground will be closed for renovation through early June 2024. A specific re-open date is yet to be announced.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO

2 nights; 4.5-hour drive from Grand Lake to Black Canyon of the Gunnison

River running through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO - a stop on a Denver to Grand Canyon Road Trip

Experienced by Meg of Fox in the Forest

If you’re planning a Denver to Grand Canyon road trip, you can’t miss Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It’s easily one of the most underrated national parks in the country and features gorgeous panoramas of 1,000-foot canyon walls with the Gunnison River running through the center.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Highlights

Try to spend at least two days in the park. This way, you can check out the best things to do in the area, like taking a scenic drive along the South Rim before stopping at Devil’s Lookout, Chasm View, and Painted Wall View viewpoints. You can even stop by Gunnison Point next to the Visitor Center and get to one of the best viewpoints in the area via a quick downhill walk.

On day two, check out the much less crowded North Rim, where you can take the East Portal Road to the bottom of the canyon.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Insider Tip

Try to visit in either late Spring or early Fall. This way, you can avoid the intense heat of the summer while using all of the park’s top amenities since everything in the park will be open for the year.

Aerial view of log cabin rental overlooking a large field with forest in the distance near Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO
Log Cabin Rental Near Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Where to Stay Near Black Canyon

Unwind for the evening in nearby Montrose at The Old School Lodge. It’s a hotel with historic charm built in 1914 and looks out over one of the most picturesque byways in the state. Alternatively, this beautiful log cabin sleeps up to five and is just seven miles from the park entrance.

However, for a more rustic experience, you can head to South Rim Campground. It’s about a mile from the Visitor’s Center and has 88 campsites to choose from.

Moab, UT

3 nights; 3-hour drive from Black Canyon of the Gunnison to Moab

Arch in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah with more rock features in the background

Experienced by Daria of The Discovery Nut

Moab is a small town in Utah known for its dramatic red rock landscapes and two national parks – Arches and Canyonlands. It also boasts great camping, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Whether you want to kayak or paddle board on the Colorado River or go backcountry camping in the nearby La Sal Mountains, this desert town has something for everyone.

Things to Do in Moab

The best thing to do in Arches and Canyonlands is hiking. Arches is one of Utah’s most famous national parks, with many famous hikes like Delicate Arch, Double-O-Arch Trail, and Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop Trail.

Canyonlands is a more remote national park divided into several sections and offers a great alternative to Arches if you want to get away from the crowds. You can hike Shafer Canyon Overlook, Grand View Point Trail, or Green River Overlook – which are some of the most popular trails. 

If you have navigation skills and experience backcountry camping, consider visiting the Maze, a remote part of Canyonlands that can be accessed by 4X4 vehicle. It’s a great place to see some of the best landscapes in Utah. 

Moab Insider Tip

For the best experience, avoid Moab in Summer when it’s very busy, and prices are high on hotels, rentals, and tours. It’s also the hottest time in Moab, and temperatures often climb to triple digits.

Instead, visit this town in the shoulder season, which is September through October or mid-April through May.

Where to Stay in Moab

Red Cliffs Lodge is one of the best hotels in Moab that boasts incredible views of the Colorado River and the surrounding red rock country. Alternatively, check out our guide to the best Moab Airbnbs and Vrbos.

Monument Valley, AZ

1 night, 2.5-hour drive from Moab to Monument Valley

Monument Valley, Arizona

Recommended by Sara of Mindful Travel

If you’re looking to explore Monument Valley for the first time, this amazing tribal park has plenty to offer. Monument Valley offers stunning views of its red earth, vast sandy valleys, and towers of sandstone rocks that will take your breath away.

Far from just a picturesque view, Monument Valley is part of the Navajo Nation and is owned and operated by the tribe.

Things to Do in Monument Valley

When visiting Monument Valley, the best way to get to know the land is by taking a Navajo-led tour with a local guide (we highly recommend Navajo Spirit Tours). These tours provide access to parts of Monument Valley that are off-limits to those who visit independently. Visitors will be able to get the most out of Monument Valley by gaining insight into Navajo life and culture directly from the descendants of its original inhabitants.

Other activities not to be missed in Monument Valley are:

  • The Wildcat Trail is a 1.5-mile hike to the top of a mesa with amazing views of Monument Valley and its rock formations. The trail can be challenging, but is worth the effort.
  • Valley Drive is a 17-mile driveable loop and a great way to explore the entire park and take in all its stunning views from the comfort of your car.
  • Enjoy a Monument Valley sunrise! There are plenty of spots around Monument Valley where you can watch the sun rising over the red rocks and sandstone pillars – a sight you won’t forget.
  • Explore the Navajo Trading Post and Monument Valley Museum.

Monument Valley Insider Tip

It’s possible to see all the highlights of Monument Valley in one day, so if you’re short on time, don’t worry! But for a truly immersive experience and to see Monument Valley from different angles throughout the day, we recommend staying overnight in one of the nearby hotels.

Goulding's Lodge in Monument Valley on the Utah Arizona border
Goulding’s Lodge

Monument Valley Lodging

Goulding’s Lodge is close to Monument Valley and offers a range of options when it comes to accommodation, from camping to classic cabins and modern rooms with breathtaking views.

Grand Canyon South Rim

3 nights, 3-hour drive from Monument Valley to South Rim

View over the Grand Canyon from the South Rim

Experienced by Francesca of Homeroom Travel

The crown jewel of a Denver to Grand Canyon road trip, the Grand Canyon South Rim is one of the world’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders. Visitors can experience the canyon’s majesty through various activities, including hiking, scenic drives, and guided tours.

Things to Do on the South Rim

One of the best things to do at the Grand Canyon South Rim is to hike a portion of the Bright Angel Trail. The trail descends directly into the canyon and is the start of the iconic rim-to-rim hike. Depending on how far you go, it ranges from 1.5 miles to 12 miles each way. Start early, apply sunscreen, and take plenty of water; hiking out of the canyon during the day can be brutal.

If the Bright Angel hike is too intense for you, opt for the Rim Trail, which meanders along the top of the South Rim and is 12.8 miles in full. Most choose to hike just a portion of it, and large sections of the trail are wheelchair accessible.

If you want to rest your legs, hop on the Hermit’s Rest shuttle. There are various Grand Canyon viewpoints along this route. Maricopa Point, Hopi Point, and Pima Point are three of the best stops.

Of course, you can’t visit the Grand Canyon without taking in a sunrise or sunset. Mohave Point is a popular spot to do this. Round off your visit by heading to Desert View Watchtower to learn about the area’s history and see more canyon views.

South Rim Insider Tip

When visiting the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, make sure to get to the park early to avoid the crowds, especially if you want a good spot for sunrise or sunset.

Entrance to El Tovar on the Grand Canyon South Rim
El Tovar

Where to Stay on the South Rim

The best place to stay at the Grand Canyon is on the South Rim itself. El Tovar is the park’s signature luxury property, while Bright Angel Lodge provides a more affordable alternative. Mather Campground is the most popular place to camp and is located a mile from the rim.

Alternatively, the small town of Tusayan is right outside the park entrance with many affordable hotel options. The Holiday Inn Express is a solid choice in the area.

For more options, our Grand Canyon Lodging Guide includes every accommodation option above the rim, as well as top-rated lodging on the park border.

Page, AZ

2 to 3 nights, 2.5-hour drive from Grand Canyon South Rim to Page

Horseshoe Bend in Page Arizona, a must stop on a Denver to Grand Canyon Road Trip

Experienced by Catherine of Nomadicated.com

Famous for slot canyons and the iconic American landmark, Horseshoe Bend, Page is a desert oasis for road trippers driving from Denver to the Grand Canyon. Located in northern Arizona at the base of Lake Powell, Page is a great place to make a pit stop and explore the area.

Things to Do Near Page

There are plenty of things to do if you spend time in Page. Reachable by a 1.5-mile roundtrip hike, Horseshoe Bend is the famous canyon curve along the Colorado River that you’ve seen in countless photos on Instagram. It’s worth spending some time here enjoying the view before continuing on to the second can’t-miss destination – Antelope Canyon.

Pencil-thin canyons, shaped by millions of years of wind and rain erosion, gleam in breathtaking hues of orange. Antelope Canyon is divided into six distinct sections, yet most visitors prefer the two most beautiful: Upper and Lower Canyon. Being on Navajo Nation land, you must be on an Antelope Canyon day trip tour to enter the canyon.

After an exciting day of hiking, spend your afternoon splashing around on Lake Powell. Enjoy fishing, kayaking, or boating to hidden slot canyons like Labyrinth Canyon. You can even camp alongside the banks. Don’t forget to drive to Glen Canyon Dam or Waheap Overlook for magnificent lake views!

Page Insider Tip

An important consideration when visiting Page is that Daylight Savings Time does not apply on Navajo Land, so make sure your watch (or time zone) reflects local time; otherwise, you may arrive late without even realizing it!

Bedroom in dinosaur themed Vrbo in Page, Arizona with mountain headboard and dinosaur mobile.
Dino-themed Vrbo in Page

Where to Stay in Page

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Page, Best Western Plus offers stunning views of Lake Powell. La Quinta Inn and Suites is also well-rated, and Lake Powell Motel is a stellar budget option.

As far as Vrbos are concerned, we love this 2-bedroom house near Antelope Canyon and this 3-bedroom dino-themed home with boat parking.

Grand Canyon North Rim

2 nights, 2.5-hour drive from Page to North Rim

View of the Grand Canyon from the lesser visited North Rim

Experienced by Stephanie of History Fangirl

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers a quieter and less crowded alternative to the popular South Rim, with plenty of hiking, camping, and wildlife spotting opportunities. Located at higher elevation, it’s also cooler and more forested. 90% of visitors never step foot on the North Rim, missing out on an experience unique to what the South Rim offers.

Things to Do on the North Rim

While most people try to see the Grand Canyon in one day, this national park rewards slowing down and staying a few days on each side of the canyon. Spending time on the North Rim offers scenic drives and hikes without the overwhelming kitsch of the tourism industry on the south side. Instead, you can have a much calmer rustic experience.

If you want a day hike with canyon views, take Cape Final Trail (4.2 miles out and back) or Uncle Jim Trail (2.1-mile loop). Those who prefer to spend less time on their feet can enjoy short walks to viewpoints via Bright Angel Point Trail (0.5 miles) and Roosevelt Point Trail (0.5).

Alternatively, drive the Cape Royal Scenic Road, a 23-mile route that starts at the North Rim Visitor Center and leads to several viewpoints, including Cape Royal, Angels Window, and Point Imperial. Cape Royal is the most popular stop and offers panoramic views of the Colorado River winding its way through the canyon.

North Rim Insider Tip

The North Rim closes for the season between mid-October and mid-May due to snowfall and winter conditions. Visitors can still access some park areas by ski or snowshoe, including North Rim Campground, which is open for winter camping (though all services are closed). Check the NPS website for the most up-to-date information.

View from the lobby of Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge
View from Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge

North Rim Lodging Options

Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge is the only formal lodging on the North Rim and offers cabins and motel rooms with stunning canyon views. There are also a few additional lodging options outside of the park, such as Jacob Lake Inn and Kaibab Lodge, offering a more rustic experience. As far as camping goes, North Rim Campground is the only option inside the national park.

Durango, CO

2 nights, 6.5-hour drive from Grand Canyon North Rim to Durango

Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Experienced by James of Parks Collecting

Durango is located in the southwestern region of Colorado and is best known for its charming downtown district and the famous steam train that runs to Silverton. However, the town’s proximity to Mesa Verde National Park, just a short drive away, is what truly sets it apart.

The park is home to some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the United States, offering visitors a rare glimpse into the daily lives of the Ancestral Puebloan people who lived in these communities hundreds of years ago. The ancient cliff dwellings were built in large alcoves, where the Puebloans farmed on top of the mesa and climbed down precarious foot and handholds carved into the sheer cliff face to reach their homes.

Things to Do in Durango

In Durango, don’t miss taking the round-trip train to Silverton. A classic narrow gauge steam train heads up into the San Juan Mountains for a scenic ride along the Animas River. Explore Silverton, a historic mining town, before heading back to Durango.

Visiting the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde is a highlight of any trip to Durango. Although some dwellings require climbing up and down ladders, the experience is well worth the effort. The park offers guided tours to several fascinating dwellings open to visitors during the summer season (including the incredible Cliff Palace).

There are also plenty of activities available for those with a sense of adventure, including river tubing, white water rafting, and zip lining.

Durango Insider Tip

When visiting Mesa Verde, remember that some smaller houses have limited access. Book as far in advance as possible to ensure you get a space.

It’s also important to note that it takes approximately an hour to drive from Mesa Verde’s Visitor Center at the mesa base to the top, where the cliff dwellings can be found. To avoid missing your tour, make sure you allocate enough time for the drive and plan accordingly.

King bedroom with headboard in downtown Durango condo rental, CO

Where to Stay in Durango

If you’d like to stay in the heart of Durango, The Rochester Hotel was a 2022 Tripadvisor Award Winner, and the Victorian-era General Palmer Hotel is also an excellent choice.

Regarding self-catering, our vote goes to this charming downtown condo for two or this family-friendly home sleeping up to six.

Pagosa Springs, CO

2 nights, 1-hour drive from Durango to Pagosa Springs

Aerial view of Pagosa Springs Colorado with river running through it

Experienced by Nicoll of Living Tiny With A Wolf

When it comes to road-tripping from Denver to the Grand Canyon and back, there’s one destination that should definitely be on your radar—Pagosa Springs. Nestled in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, this charming town is famous for having the world’s deepest geothermal hot springs.

And trust us, soaking in those hot springs is an experience you won’t want to miss. We recommend spending at least two or three days in Pagosa Springs to appreciate everything it has to offer. Here are the best things to do in Pagosa Springs during your road trip!

Things to Do in Pagosa Springs

First and foremost, you’ll want to check out The Springs Resort and Spa. This luxurious resort boasts 23 hot springs pools, ranging in temperature from 83 to 114 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long day of exploring. Plus, the views of the surrounding mountains are simply breathtaking.

But the hot springs aren’t the only thing worth checking out in Pagosa Springs. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a hike in the nearby Weminuche Wilderness. Some favorite trails include Piedra River Trail and Coyote Hill. And if you’re feeling really daring, you can even book a hot air balloon ride to see the town and its surroundings from a completely different perspective.

Pagosa Springs Insider Tip

Now, for some insider tips. If you want a unique dining experience, head to The Alley House Grille. The restaurant is situated in an old, renovated house and offers a mouth-watering selection of locally sourced dishes.

Modern cabin rental with floor to ceiling windows overlooking a forest outside Pagosa Springs, CO
Eagle Cabin just outside town

Where to Stay in Pagosa Springs

If you can afford to splurge, we recommend booking a room at The Springs Resort and Spa. The rooms are cozy and comfortable, and you’ll have access to the hot springs 24/7. Alternatively, Riverwalk Inn is well-rated and located nearby (and easier on the pocket!).

Or, looking at vacation rentals, we love this chic 2-bedroom downtown condo and this stunning 2-bedroom cabin just outside town with panoramic views.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO

1-night optional add-on, 2-hour drive from Pagosa Springs to Great Sand Dunes

View of sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado with mountains in a background. A great add-on to a Denver to Grand Canyon road trip.

Experienced by Jordan of The Homebody Tourist

Great Sand Dunes National Park may be one of the most incredible and unique National Parks in the United States. The park covers over 230 square miles and is home to the tallest dunes in all of America. If you have time to spare, it’s a must-stop on your way back to Denver.

Things to Do at Great Sand Dunes

Before arriving at Great Sand Dunes National Park, stop at one of the nearby rental shops to pick up a sandboard. It is important that you plan beforehand as there is nowhere to rent one in the park.

With your sandboard in tow, you are now ready to spend a day exploring (and sliding down) these massive dunes. Take the first few hours to explore the dunes and perfect your sand-duning skills.

Once you need a break, cool off in the nearby (seasonal) Medona Creek. If you still have energy left, head to Zapata Falls for a quick mile hike to a secluded 25-foot waterfall.

Great Sand Dunes Insider Tip

One of the best parts about Great Sand Dunes National Park is that it is dog-friendly! You and your pup can spend hours exploring and running around the dunes. But it’s important to note that the sand can get extremely hot in Summer. Be sure to plan and pack booties to protect your pup’s feet and plenty of water!

Geodome lit up at sunset on wooden deck with hot tub near Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
3-Bedroom Cabin Rental with a Geodome and Hot Tub

Great Sands Dunes Lodging

Although there’s no lodging inside Great Sand Dunes National Park, you can camp at Piñon Flats Campground (just one mile away) or backpack inside the park (but a permit is needed). If camping is not your thing, check out the nearby Great Sand Dunes Oasis, the historic Zapata Ranch, or Great Sand Dunes Lodge.

If you’d prefer to rent an Airbnb, you can’t go wrong with this beautiful 2-bedroom adobe home or this unique 3-bedroom cabin with a geodome and hot tub.

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