View  down into the Grand Canyon at sunset.
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Road Trip From Denver To Grand Canyon

By Pat Dorri | Published on 21 October 2020

If you live in the Denver area and would like to travel along one of America's most scenic routes, you may want to do a road trip from Denver to Grand Canyon. Passing through lush forests and scenic deserts alike, this itinerary is bound to leave you breathless.

The road trip from Denver to Grand Canyon takes about 12 hours. Take at least 3 days to explore the beautiful White River National Forest and Monument Valley, the gorgeous sediments of Vermillion Cliffs and Grand Staircase - Escalante, and much more.

With so many amazing landscapes you won't want to miss out on, be sure to read until the end for the best experience possible.

How far is Grand Canyon from Denver and how long will the road trip take?

While there aren't any big towns on the way, you'll only be on the interstate for about half the trip before transitioning onto state routes, so there's a chance you'll run into moderate traffic past Thompson Springs.

On top of the drive being long, there are too many places worth checking out on the way for you to rush this trip. Even if you were to leave very early in the morning, traversing the Grand Canyon and the surrounding monuments at night is generally ill-advised.

For the best possible version of this trip, consider splitting it into at least a few days – this particular route connecting Denver and Grand Canyon is quite popular with tourists, so there'll be plenty of decent accommodation along the way.

Best road trip route from Denver to Grand Canyon

The best route for your road trip from Denver to Grand Canyon involves driving through Colorado along the scenic I-70, then following several state routes through Utah. Depending on which Rim you're going to, you can take one of two different routes once you've reached Arizona.

Leave Denver by heading west along I-70, driving past Mt Evans and cutting through the gorgeous Arapaho and Roosevelt & White River National Forests. Drive through Grand Junction and along, and past Colorado National Monument, Dominguez- Escalante and McInnis Canyons National Conservation Areas.

Past Thompson Springs, take the US-191 south alongside Arches National Park and through Moab. After passing by Canyonlands National Park and through White Mesa, switch over to US 163. Follow it through the beautiful Monument Valley into US 160(also known as the Navajo Trail) in Arizona.

Picking the right part of Grand Canyon for your road trip from Denver

North Rim

At the Shonto Marketplace, take State Route 98 and follow it to Page. Drive along the incredible Antelope Canyon, pass through Page and by the iconic Horseshoe Bend, and take Glen Canyon Dam Bridge over the Colorado River. Follow Highway 89 along the incredible Grand Staircase – Escalante all the way to Kanab.

From there, take Route 89A and cut through Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Past Jacob Lake, the route segues into State Route 67 for one final scenic stretch before reaching the North Rim.

South Rim

Instead of taking State Route 98, stay on the Navajo Trail and pass through Tuba City. Soon after that, you'll reach Highway 89 – follow it south to Cameron, then take Route 64 along the Little Colorado River, past Grandview Point and into the South Rim.

Rafting along Colorado River is one of the best things to do on a road trip from Denver to Grand Canyon.
Rafting along the Colorado River is a great experience on the way from Denver to the Grand Canyon South Rim.
Jim Mallouk/Shutterstock.com

Best places to stop between Denver and Grand Canyon

Despite the lack of large cities, this route from Denver to Grand Canyon is home to several important thoroughfares and tourist towns, perfect for brief or overnight stops. If you need a place to rest after a long day of driving and adventuring, consider booking a hotel.

Explore the incredible city of Moab

Besides just being the middle point of the route, Moab is an incredible city you could spend days exploring. There are plenty of great hotels in this red-rock oasis, but the best one would definitely be Hoodoo Moab.

Hoodoo Moab is part of the Curio chain, and it has all the qualities you'd expect from a subsidiary of Hilton. Centrally located in Moab and only a couple of miles from Arches National Park, this is the perfect place to lay your head after a day of adventuring.

The hotel itself is large and beautiful, and you can do virtually anything here, from relaxing in the hot tub or huge outdoor pool, to exercising in the fitness area and enjoying a variety of on-site performances. Dine in style at the great restaurant, or enjoy an evening with drinks at the hotel bar.

The best part of the stunning, tastefully decorated rooms is the balcony – pull up a chair and marvel at the stylish communal poolside area, the lush trees and grassy section of the property, and Moab's breathtaking red mountain tops off in the distance.

As you might expect from the Hilton tag, the hotel is rather expensive, but that's justified considering all the amenities it offers and the long list of things to do in Moab.

An image of a sandstone arch at Arches National Park during sunset.
Maximize your stay at Moab by visiting Arches National Park.
Josemaria Toscano/Shutterstock.com

Fuse luxury and relaxation at Grand Canyon

Once you finally reach Grand Canyon, you'll want to cap off the experience with a great hotel stay. Although there are several amazing options in the area, the best place to stay is probably The Grand Hotel at Grand Canyon.

The luxury of the accommodation is made clear as soon as you step inside – the lobby of the hotel is beautifully decorated (just look at that gilded piano!) and makes for a genuinely great hangout hub. Featuring fashionable rooms with great balcony views, this hotel is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring the Grand Canyon.

You can cool off in the gorgeous indoor swimming pool, and rest your tired legs in the hot tub. After working up an appetite hiking, enjoy an extravagant meal at the Canyon Star Steakhouse, or have a cocktail or two at the bar and make a night of it. Don't forget to visit the gift shop for a keepsake from this incredible trip!

Most importantly, the hotel has great connectivity – located in Tusayan, it's only about 20 miles from the South Rim, and less than 10 miles from Grand Canyon Village, Mather Playground, and Bright Angel Trail.

Things to see on a road trip from Denver to Grand Canyon

The best way to enjoy this road trip is to take a couple of weeks to cover all there is to see – this route is just that great! Although there are sure to be more, these are some of the absolute best places to check out on your way from Denver to Grand Canyon.

  1. Arapho and Roosevelt National Forests – nestled in the Rockies, these beautiful forests are perfect for hiking, fishing, swimming, and more
  2. White River National Forest – the States' most visited National Forest boasts beautiful greenery, an abundance of wildlife, and the gorgeous Maroon Bells
  3. Dominguez – Escalante National Conservation Area – a beautiful chain of canyons running along the Gunnison River
  4. Colorado National Monument – features unique granite formations, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and the scenic Rim Rock Drive
  5. McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area – this park is home to the Black Ridge Canyon Wilderness, known for its red rock systems and abundance of natural arches
  6. Arches National Park – featuring more sandstone arches than any other place in the world, this park is perfect for hiking and sightseeing
  7. Dead Horse Point State Park – the view of Canyonlands NP and the Colorado River from atop Dead Horse Point is a highlight of this route
  8. Canyonlands National Park – distinguished by its iconic mesas and buttes, this park is known for its challenging biking terrain (White Rim Road)
  9. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument – besides the gorgeous canyons, this monument features more archaeological sites than any other place in the country
  10. Monument Valley – featuring unique sandstone buttes and blood-red sand, this valley has been the site of countless classic desert scenes in American cinema
  11. Navajo National Monument – contains the Sandal Trail and the dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloans
  12. Antelope Canyon – comprised of two distinct sections (Upper and Lower) and best known for the beams of sunlight peeking into the canyon
  13. Horseshoe Bend – this horseshoe-shaped bend of the Colorado River is more commonly known as the East Rim of the Grand Canyon
  14. Glen Canyon Dam – this gigantic dam ‘houses' Lake Powell, one of the largest artificial reservoirs in America
  15. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – an unbelievable sequence of sedimentary rocks, this is arguably one of the country's most scenic monuments
  16. Vermillion Cliffs National Monument – features slickrocks and tall sedimentary rocks, thought to be the product of millions of years of erosion
View of the Horseshoe Bend near Paige, Arizona - a famous 180 degree turn of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
The Horseshoe Bend is technically part of the Grand Canyon, but a great place to stop on the way to the National Park.
iacomino FRiMAGES/Shutterstock.com

Best time to go on a road trip from Denver to Grand Canyon

The best time to go on a road trip from Denver to Grand Canyon almost invariably falls between March and November – you begin to get the full scope of the National Park's beauty around springtime, and you can travel between Rims via shuttle between May and October.

If you're trying to avoid crowds or you plan on hiking down the Canyon, you may not want to visit in the summer. Although temperatures fluctuate, you won't be too hot at higher altitudes, but the bottom of the Canyon is a different story – temperatures will steadily rise the lower you go, and may well peak at over 100 degrees.

Picking between spring and fall mostly comes down to your preferred coat of paint - both seasons offer amazing views, unforgettable hiking trails with plenty of flora, and pleasant, moderate weather across all altitudes.

If you had to choose, fall would probably be the slightly better pick. It's not uncommon for higher-altitude sections of the Park (especially near the North Rim) to be covered in snow well into spring, rendering them inaccessible.

There's plenty to appreciate about Grand Canyon no matter the season, so don't overthink it – just be sure to stay hydrated if you go in the summer and pack blankets and warm clothes in case of dramatic temperature shifts.