Hot air balloons in the sky with no cloud in sight
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Road trip from Denver to Albuquerque

Updated by Dianne Titos on February 22 2024

Colorado is home to many amazing places to visit, but if you are looking for a bigger adventure, this road trip from Denver to Albuquerque is the ultimate American Southwest adventure. On this unforgettable drive, you will travel from the rugged Rockies to the vast desert plains and cruise down the historic Route 66.

The 520-mile road trip from Denver to Albuquerque will take 9 hours and 10 minutes to drive. Highlights are Colorado Springs, Cañon City, Pueblo, Taos, Santa Fe, Ouray, Durango, Route 66, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park.

This drive from Denver to Albuquerque has plenty of adventures, beautiful scenery, and non-stop highlights on every mile. Read on below to learn more about our recommended routes, best places to stay, top highlights, and the best seasons to travel.

How to drive from Denver to Albuquerque

The map below shows two great route options for your road trip from Denver to Albuquerque. Click on the star icons for headline details, and scroll down for much more information below.

* Always remember that drive times can be impacted by traffic, closures, weather and other conditions. It's best to double-check while planning and before starting out on your trip.

Comparison of road trip routes between Denver and Albuquerque
RouteDistanceDriving Time
Taos Route520 miles9 hours 10 minutes
Durango Route710 miles13 hours 10 minutes

How far is Albuquerque from Denver, and how long will the road trip take?

The Taos Route on a road trip from Denver to Albuquerque stretches around 520 miles and takes about 9 hours and 10 minutes to complete without detours.

Alternatively, the Durango Route brings you through Buena Vista, Monarch Mountain, Ouray, Durango, and finally, Mesa Verde National Park. It covers a longer distance of 710 miles with a travel time of about 13 hours and 10 minutes.

With all the incredible sights and experiences along the way, you'll need 4 days to a week to truly take in this amazing drive.

Downtown cityscape of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Beautiful Albuquerque is a melting pot of different cultures, and is a great destination to visit from Denver any time of the year.
Sean Pavone/

Best road trip route from Denver to Albuquerque

While both the Taos and Durango Routes on this Denver to Albuquerque road trip offer a journey through postcard-perfect natural beauty, they are unique. Which one you choose depends on what you want to see and experience the most.

The Taos Route is a more straightforward drive, taking you from Denver through the scenic, red rock formations of Colorado Springs, the stunning landscapes of Garden of the Gods and into the wide-open vistas of New Mexico.

This route will then take you to Taos and Santa Fe, two cities famous for their art scene and Native American culture.

The drive offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural richness, with the lesser-known highways past Pueblo opening up to enchanting desert landscapes that lead to Taos and Santa Fe.

On the other hand, the Durango Route takes you through the heart of the Rocky Mountains. It's an alpine adventure through some of Colorado's most stunning mountain scenery.

You'll drive past the historic Crested Butte, through the "Switzerland of America" in Ouray, and along the Million Dollar Highway with its breathtaking mountain peaks and views.

Durango itself is like stepping into the Old West, with well-preserved historical sites and a rich Wild West culture. The route ends with the ancient wonders of Mesa Verde National Park, where ancient cliff dwellings and canyon views await.

Taos Route

Starting from Denver, head south on Interstate 25 (I-25) towards Colorado Springs. Don't miss the awe-inspiring Garden of the Gods. Nearby, explore the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, offering a glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans.

Continuing south on I-25, take a short detour west to Cañon City, home to the Museum of Colorado Prisons and the breathtaking Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. Here, you'll see one of the world's highest suspension bridges.

After soaking in the views, head further south to Pueblo to see the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk and El Pueblo History Museum await. From here, venture west off the main interstate to explore the natural wonder of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

The route then winds through scenic byways towards Taos, New Mexico. You can take a short detour to The Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, showcasing a quirky collection of vintage gas station memorabilia.

After experiencing the culture and history of Taos, continue to Santa Fe to visit Meow Wolf's immersive art installation, Loretto Chapel's miraculous staircase, and soak in the Ojo Santa Fe Hot Spring Spa.

The final leg of your journey takes you to Bernalillo to explore the Coronado Historic Site and its ancient Puebloan ruins before arriving in Albuquerque.

Taos Pueblo is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in USA.
Taos is a great place to take an overnight break if you are following this route and have some extra time to spare to explore.
Nick Fox/

Durango Route

Starting your journey from Denver, head southwest on US-285 South, passing through the picturesque landscapes of Staunton State Park, a haven for hikers and nature enthusiasts. As you enter Kenosha Pass, you'll see panoramic views of Colorado's stunning mountain ranges.

Continue on to Buena Vista, a town known for its outdoor sports and museums. Further along, the route introduces you to Browns Canyon National Monument, offering unparalleled outdoor adventure opportunities, from hiking to whitewater rafting.

As you venture into the heart of the Rockies on US-50 West, the Gunnison Valley Observatory near Gunnison is not to be missed. From here, head north to make a short detour to the beautiful Crested Butte before returning en route.

Your route then leads to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, followed by the Ouray Hot Springs. From here, head south on Million Dollar Highway onwards to Durango, where you can visit the Durango Arts Center.

Next up, you will get to visit one of the highlights of this route; Mesa Verde National Park, where ancient cliff dwellings and archaeological sites offer a profound connection to the Ancestral Puebloan people. Heading south into New Mexico, you will soon arrive at your destination in Albuquerque.

Beautiful dark colored canyon with a river running through during a sunrise
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of our favorites. Just look at those views!

Best places to stop between Denver and Albuquerque

On this drive from Denver to Albuquerque, you'll want to stop in one of the amazing destinations below. This way, you'll get to enjoy all the fantastic highlights along the way.

A melting pot of different cultures in Pueblo

Pueblo is the perfect stop on the Taos Route from Denver to Albuquerque, located approximately 160 miles into the journey. Nicknamed 'Steel City' for its rich history in steel production, Pueblo's industrial legacy has drawn a diverse mix of cultures from Europe and Latin America.

The city is also known for its green spaces and sights like the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum. During your stay, we highly recommend enjoying scenic walks along the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk.

Aerial view of the downtown area on a sunny day
Pueblo is a lively and historic city that is a lovely place to visit on a road trip from Denver to Albuquerque.
Jacob Boomsma/

In Pueblo, don't miss its signature dish, the Pueblo Slopper – a mouthwatering creation featuring two cheeseburgers drenched in green chili.

For your stay in Pueblo, we recommend staying at the luxurious Orman Mansion. This historic mansion, dating back to 1889, showcases the finest Victorian architecture and decor, mixing elegance and modern amenities.

The mansion is decorated with authentic antique furnishings, inviting you to explore its sitting and dining areas. You'll feel like you've traveled back in time.

Nearby attractions include the Pueblo Railway Museum, a leisurely 20-minute walk. Similarly, the Pueblo Heritage Museum, also a mile from the mansion, takes you on a tour through the area's cultural and historical significance, accessible by a brief drive or walk.

Stunning mountain views in "Switzerland of America", Ouray

Nestled halfway along the Durango Route, Ouray is an idyllic stopover situated 360 miles from Denver. This picturesque town in the Rockies offers unparalleled natural beauty.

Famous for its rejuvenating hot springs, Ouray is the perfect retreat to relax and soak in mineral-rich waters under crisp mountain vistas. The town's attractions such as Box Canyon Falls Park and Cascade Falls Park are also great reasons to visit.

View of the city and hot spring pools with the backdrop of Rocky Mountains during sunset
It is easy to see why Ouray is lovingly called the "Switzerland of America" with its stunning views.
Jacob Boomsma/

Ouray is known as the ‘Switzerland of America,' because of its alpine scenery. It's also called the title ‘Jeeping Capital of the World' thanks to the thrilling off-road adventures that explore the surrounding rugged terrain.

If you're looking for the perfect luxurious stay, the cozy Black Bear Manor is one of our favorite places. This bed and breakfast is tucked in the mountains, giving you immediate access to skiing and hiking trails.

At Black Bear Manor, you can unwind in the outdoor hot tub, enjoy the scenic backdrop, or let your hair down during the daily happy hour, featuring complimentary beer and wine—a perfect way to mingle and relax after a day of exploration.

Close to Black Bear Manor, the Ouray Alchemist Museum & Penthouse offers a fascinating glimpse into the past with its collection of historical pharmacy artifacts, just a brief 6-minute walk away.

Also close by is the Ouray Historical District, a mere 5-minute stroll. It's the perfect place to wander through streets lined with well-preserved architecture and fun shops.

Where to stay when you reach Albuquerque

Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city, is famous for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world's largest hot air balloon launch, and as the birthplace of the breakfast burrito.

The city blends cultural heritage with exciting attractions, such as the historic Old Town Albuquerque, with its centuries-old architecture and charming plazas. There's also the Sandia Peak Tramway, which takes you up a mountain for stunning views of the city from the Sandia Mountains.

Albuquerque, NM, USA taken at the Sandia Peak Tramway and the landscapes of ABQ on a sunny day with mountain views at the town in the distance.
Hop on the famous Sandia Peak Tramway to take in the beautiful landscapes that surround Albuquerque.

Did you know that Albuquerque was one of the filming locations for the TV show "Breaking Bad"? You can now take tours to visit famous locations from the series.

When it comes to lodging, we recommend staying at the Hotel Chaco, ideally situated in the heart of Historic Old Town. The hotel has beautiful and contemporary rooms designed for a luxurious stay.

Dining at the hotel's restaurants offers an unforgettable culinary experience, where you can indulge in upscale cuisine on the rooftop while enjoying panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains.

For relaxation and wellness, the hotel features a fabulous outdoor swimming pool, a modern fitness studio, and a range of wellness treatments. We cannot imagine anything else you might need to pamper yourself after your long drive.

Things to see on a road trip from Denver to Albuquerque

There's so much to see and do on a road trip from Denver to Albuquerque that planning can be difficult. To help make your trip planning easier, we've included our top destinations and experiences below.

Taos Route

  1. Colorado Springs Fine Art Center - This cultural institution combines a museum, theater, and art school, showcasing a diverse collection of American, Native American, and Latin American art.
  2. Garden of the Gods - A registered National Natural Landmark, this park features stunning geological formations, hiking trails, and breathtaking views of Pikes Peak.
  3. Manitou Cliff Dwellings - Preserved under a red sandstone overhang, these Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings offer a glimpse into the lives of Native Americans over 700 years ago.
  4. Museum of Colorado Prisons - Located in a former state penitentiary, this museum displays artifacts and exhibits about the history of incarceration in Colorado.
  5. Royal Gorge Bridge & Park - Home to one of the world's highest suspension bridges, this park offers spectacular canyon views, aerial gondolas, and zip lines.
  6. El Pueblo History Museum - This museum highlights the region's diverse cultures and history, from Native American life to Pueblo's development as a steel-making center.
  7. Historic Arkansas Riverwalk - A scenic urban waterway in Pueblo, offering walking paths, boat rides, and a tranquil setting for dining and entertainment.
  8. Walsenburg Mining Museum - Set in a former jail, this museum recounts the area's coal mining history and the lives of the miners who shaped the region.
  9. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve - Features the tallest dunes in North America set against a backdrop of mountain peaks and diverse ecosystems.
  10. The Classical Gas Museum - A quirky museum filled with vintage gas station memorabilia, showcasing America's automotive and roadside culture.
  11. Loretto Chapel - Famous for its "Miraculous Staircase," which spirals up without any visible means of support, this chapel is a masterpiece of mystery and architecture.
  12. Meow Wolf Santa Fe - An immersive and interactive art installation, offering a uniquely engaging experience created by a collective of artists.
  13. Ojo Santa Fe Hot Spring Spa - A serene oasis offering rejuvenating hot spring pools, spa treatments, and peaceful gardens.
  14. El Rancho de las Golondrinas - A living history museum dedicated to the heritage and culture of 18th-century New Mexico, with historic buildings and demonstrations.
  15. Coronado Historic Site, Bernalillo - An archaeological site that was once a significant Pueblo village, offering insights into ancient Native American life.
Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado at Sunset
For an otherworld experience on golden sand dunes, you can visit Great Sand Dunes National Park on the Taos Route.
Kris Wiktor/

Durango Route

  1. Tiny Town & Railroad - A miniature village and railroad for children and adults alike, offering a whimsical journey through a scaled-down, historic town.
  2. Staunton State Park - Offers a variety of hiking trails, rock climbing, and mountain biking opportunities amidst stunning mountain scenery.
  3. Kenosha Pass - Provides breathtaking views of South Park and the surrounding mountains, particularly spectacular in the fall with its vibrant aspen colors.
  4. Fairplay Beach - A popular spot for picnicking and gold panning along the Middle Fork of the South Platte River, with beautiful mountain views.
  5. Buena Vista Heritage Museum - Housed in an 1882 courthouse, this museum preserves the history of Buena Vista and the Upper Arkansas Valley.
  6. Browns Canyon National Monument - Renowned for its rugged canyons, whitewater rapids, and outdoor recreation, offering a wilderness adventure.
  7. Gunnison Valley Observatory - A community observatory providing public stargazing nights and educational programs to explore the universe.
  8. Blue Mesa Reservoir - The largest body of water in Colorado, popular for fishing, boating, and enjoying spectacular lake views.
  9. Ridgway State Park - A perfect destination for camping, fishing, and hiking, with stunning reservoir views and diverse wildlife.
  10. Ouray Hot Springs - A naturally heated, mineral-rich hot springs pool located in the picturesque mountain town of Ouray.
  11. Box Canyon Waterfall and Park - This natural wonder features a powerful waterfall plunging into a narrow quartzite canyon, accessible via walking trails.
  12. Durango Arts Center - A cultural hub for contemporary art exhibitions, performances, and educational programs in the heart of Durango.
  13. Durango and Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad - Offers a historic steam train ride through the breathtaking canyons of the San Juan National Forest.
  14. Mesa Verde National Park - Known for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, offering a profound glimpse into ancient cultures.
  15. Montezuma Valley Overlook - Provides panoramic views of Mesa Verde National Park's canyons and the Montezuma Valley, a perfect spot for photography.
Sandy cliff dwellings nestled within the rockfaces at Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is the perfect place to visit for any history buff on the Durango Route.

Best time to go on a road trip from Denver to Albuquerque

Albuquerque is a wonderful destination any time of year, especially on a road trip from Denver. However, each season has its own highlights and challenges, as you might expect from mountainous areas.

Winter is a beautiful season to travel, though keep in mind that you will need to prepare for snow and ice on the road. The snow season extends from October to April in Colorado Springs and from November to March in Northern New Mexico.

If you're considering the Taos Route, winter presents a challenge with potential road closures due to heavy snowfall, particularly in areas like Monument, Colorado Springs, and near the Sangre De Cristo Mountains in Santa Fe and Taos.

The Durango Route also has its seasonal considerations. Winter snow can close high-elevation passes like the Million Dollar Highway. While Mesa Verde National Park remains open, cliff-dwelling tours are paused during the colder months.

In winter, don't miss the Taos Winter Wine Festival on the Taos Route in February. On the Durango Route, the Ouray Ice Festival in January is something special.

Spring and fall offer more pleasant driving conditions, despite rapid weather changes. During this season, you can enjoy events like the Fiestas de Santa Fe in September and the renowned International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque in October.

Summer is a wonderful time to drive, with temperatures soaring into the high 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit and sunny skies. This season is perfect for outdoor sports like hiking and rafting.

There are also plenty of summer festivals to enjoy. Don't miss the Durango Fiesta Days in July or the Fourth of July festivities in the towns and cities along both routes.