Are you looking for a road trip with amazing mountain scenery, alpine meadows and forests, and mountain towns with hot springs and ski resorts? Then the road trip from Moab to Denver is for you.
The 530-mile road trip from Moab to Denver takes 10 hours to drive non-stop. You can drive via Pagosa Springs, Rio Grande National Forest and Colorado Springs, or via White River National Forest, Rocky Mountain National Park, Vail and Boulder.
This road trip is full of breathtaking views over mountains, valleys and canyons of the southern Rocky Mountains. Read on to discover our recommendations as to the best routes to take, what to see and do along these routes, and best places to stay overnight.
How far is Denver from Moab, and how long will the road trip take?
|Rocky Mountain Route||450 miles||8 hours|
|Colorado Springs Route||530 miles||9 hours 30 minutes|
The road trip from Moab to Denver is 530 miles long and takes 9 hours and 30 minutes to drive non-stop, when taking the Colorado Springs Route.
Alternatively, the Rocky Mountain Route is 446 miles long and takes 8 hours to drive non-stop.
You could drive this distance in a day or two but seeing that there are lots of fabulous national parks and forests, as well as lovely cities with interesting historic or cultural attractions, to explore along the way, we recommend you take at least 3-4 days for this road trip.
Best road trip route from Moab to Denver
Both of our suggested routes are incredibly scenic and which route you choose depends on which sites in particular you wish to visit and see.
The Colorado Springs Route takes you across the mountains via southern Colorado. You'll pass by mesmerizing nature areas such as Rio Grande National Forest and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
You will also get to visit Pagosa Springs, Chimney Rock National Monument, Cañon City with the scenic Skyline Drive, and Colorado Springs with well-known museums, and art galleries.
Alternatively, the Rocky Mountain Route takes you along a more northerly route across the mountains. On this route as well, you'll find several fascinating national parks and forests, including White River National Forest, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
You can also enjoy hot springs at Glenwood Springs, go skiing or sightseeing at Vail, and enjoy culture and outdoor activities at Boulder.
Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park are located close to Moab and are both fantastic places to make a stop at on both routes. Keep in mind that you might need to make a timed-entry reservation to enter Arches National Park.
If you are visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, keep in mind that the national park uses a timed entry permit system. Please check the national park's website to see if you need to make a reservation before your visit.
Colorado Springs Route
First, drive south from Moab along US-191. Then, at Monticello, turn east onto US-491. This road turns into US-160 that will take you further east and eventually to Pagosa Springs, with hot springs and the Chimney Rock National Monument.
From Pagosa Springs, continue northeast along US-60, past Rio Grande National Forest and with a chance to do a little detour to explore the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Drive to the town of Salida, then turn east again towards Cañon City.
Finally, after Cañon City, follow US-50 and CO-115 to Colorado Springs. From this city, carry on driving north along Interstate 25 (I-25) until you reach Denver.
Rocky Mountain Route
Drive north from Moab along US-191, until at Crescent Junction, turn east along I-70.
This highway takes you further eastward past Glenwood Springs, White River National Forest, and Vail. Just after passing Idaho Springs, take CO-119 north. This road will eventually connect with CO-7. Following this road northwest takes you to Rocky Mountain National Park.
After exploring this stunning park over a hike, a scenic drive, or mountain climbing, follow CO-7 back and then further eastward towards Lyons, where you'll take a south turn. US-36 will then take you south to Boulder and Denver.
Best places to stop between Moab and Denver
This road trip from Moab to Denver is packed with breathtaking landscapes of canyons and rock arches, tall mountain peaks, alpine meadows and lakes and picturesque mountain towns or vibrant cities for you to explore.
Continue reading to discover our recommendations as to the best places to stay during this road trip, what to see and do in those places, and what amazing hotels to stay at overnight.
Enjoy a dip in the hot springs in Pagosa Springs
Pagosa Springs is found about one third of the way along the Colorado Springs Route. It is a lovely resort town and a wonderful base for visiting San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests. It is also known for its hot springs and fantastic hiking opportunities.
While staying here, visit The Springs Resort and Spa, or other resorts found in the area, to enjoy the healing, relaxing hot springs. Or, take a drive to the scenic Wolf Creek Pass, one of the stunning drives found in this area, offering views of the surrounding mountains.
At Chimney Rock National Monument, you can view ancient Puebloan building sites, which is a perfect plan for a lovely day out. Afterwards, you can head over to San Juan River to see if you might catch some trout or take part in other water activities.
As a place to stay while visiting Pagosa Springs, we can recommend Elktrace Bed and Breakfast. This lovely B&B is decorated beautifully and offers luxurious rooms in wooden cabins.
The inn is known for its superb hospitality, wonderful breakfast, and spacious, comfy rooms. You'll also find a hot tub, a sauna, and a fitness center here.
The bed and breakfast is just a few miles away from the city center, so you can easily take a drive to enjoy the restaurants and cafés in town, or to stroll along the San Juan River flowing through the city.
Chimney Rock National Monument is a short drive away. It is well worth visiting to view the amazing, ancient Puebloan dwellings found there.
Furthermore, Coyote Hill Trailhead is just two miles away and offers stunning hiking possibilities. And of course, you can explore two national forests from here on a day trip: San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests.
Stay over at Vail and enjoy all the great outdoors has to offer
Vail is located close to beautiful mountains, just over halfway along the Rocky Mountain Route. It offers wonderful opportunities for skiing, sightseeing and outdoor recreation, making it a fantastic option for an overnight stay.
It is home to the popular Vail Ski Resort which is located right next to central Vail. Base camps Lionshead and Vail Village are picturesque, pedestrian-friendly areas of the city, full of superb hotels, restaurants and shopping centers.
You might also enjoy visiting Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the world's highest botanical garden that was founded to deepen understanding of and protect the special alpine plants and environments.
Vail has numerous amazing hotels, and our absolute top choice is Sitzmark Lodge as a stunning place to stay overnight. This hotel features beautiful rooms with views over the river and the mountains. There is an outdoor swimming pool available for guests, as well as a sundeck overlooking the Vail Village.
The hotel is located in central Vail, and close to the highway taking you through the city on your road trip. It is also just minutes away from Vail Ski Resort, making it overall a wonderful base for exploring the city.
You can easily walk to Betty Ford Alpine Gardens from the hotel, and you can reach the start of many gorgeous hiking trails from here, either on foot or by car. In the summertime, Vail is also known for wonderful golfing and horse-riding opportunities.
Where to stay when you reach Denver
Denver is known for some amazing museums and numerous world-class breweries. There are also lots of outdoor adventure locations nearby, for Denver is located on top of a mountain range and even known for this as the “Mile High City”.
Seeing that there is so much to see and do in Denver, you'll wish to stay someplace comfortable yet close to the action of the city and its surroundings. The Ramble Hotel will tick all those boxes, offering luxury accommodation in central Denver.
The hotel features modern, stylish decorations, large rooms, private parking and a terrace for guests to enjoy. It also has a fabulous bar, Death & Co., where you can enjoy delicious cocktails and other drinks.
You'll be within walking distance of for example the Union Station and Denver Art Museum. You'll also find wonderful restaurants and breweries close by.
Things to see on a road trip from Moab to Denver
Along this road trip, there are plenty of absolutely fabulous nature areas to view and explore, often with tall mountain peaks, beautiful alpine lakes, superb hiking trails, and forests teeming with diverse wildlife.
The towns and cities along the way, set in stunning mountain landscapes, also offer something different to every visitor. Continue reading to discover some of our recommendations as to the best things to see and do during this road trip.
Colorado Springs Route
- San Juan National Forest, Colorado - This national forest contains scenic byways, historic sites, and amazing hiking and picnicking opportunities. The area offers fabulous views over mountains, alpine meadows, and conifer forests.
- Pagosa Springs, Colorado - Pagosa Springs is known for the hot springs in the area, the trout-full San Juan River running through the town, and ancestral Puebloan dwellings located at the Chimney Rock National Monument.
- Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado - Rio Grande National Forest consists of alpine valleys, high deserts, mountains and forests. You'll also find ancient calderas and rugged canyons in this vast landscape. Explore the area by for example walking or bicycling!
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado - This national park was founded to protect the tallest sand dunes found in North America. The 30-mile stretch of dunes is something to explore, but the area also harbors other lovely hikes, forests, and alpine lakes.
- Pike-San Isabel National Forest - This national forest contains 19 of Colorado's 53 mountain peaks that are over 14,000 feet in height, including the state's tallest mountain. The area has wonderful short trails, interpretive trails, and longer hikes, and a rich wildlife calls this forest home, including deer, elk, mountain lion and black bear.
- Cañon City, Colorado - Cañon City, along the Arkansas River, is known for its many parks, the scenic Skyline Drive and Royal Gorge railway, and the gorge itself. There is also an interesting historic district in the city.
- Beaver Creek State Wildlife Area - In this wildlife area, you'll find conifer forests, deserts, meadows and rivers. There is rich wildlife here, including, as the name implies, the beaver.
- Colorado Springs, Colorado - Colorado Springs is especially known for Pikes Peak, a mountain and landmark found in Pikes National Forest, and the Garden of the Gods Park with its red-stone rock formations. The city also harbors wonderful museums and art centers.
Rocky Mountain Route
- Glenwood Springs, Colorado - Glenwood Springs is known for its resorts and hot springs. It is a wonderful base for exploring the White River National Forest. Nearby, you'll also find amazing caves, canyons, and Hanging Lake with its gorgeous, turquoise waters.
- White River National Forest, Colorado -The eight wilderness areas of this stunning national forest are home to beautiful mountain lakes, forests, and diverse wildlife, including bear, moose, mountain lion and lynx.
- Vail, Colorado - Vail is a picturesque city, particularly known for the highly popular Vail Ski Resort where in winter you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding. Vail also has wonderful hotels and opportunities for fine dining, and in the summer, it is a superb place for hiking, golfing, and horseback riding.
- Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests - Enjoy fantastic hiking and viewing numerous species of birds, mammals and other wildlife at Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests.
- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado - You can take in the forests, mountains and alpine tundra of this breathtakingly beautiful national park by for example hiking, rock climbing (the famous Keyhole Route includes vertical rock faces leading up the tallest peak of the park) or driving along the scenic Trail Ridge Road or Old Fall River Road.
- Boulder, Colorado - In Boulder, you can enjoy culture in the city center as well as amazing outdoor recreational opportunities, the city being located on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. In downtown Boulder you'll find lovely cafés, restaurants, art galleries, and music venues.
- Canyonlands National Park, Utah - Canyonlands National Park would be the first stop along your road trip route, if you haven't yet had a chance to explore it. The Colorado River flows through the park, having over time created a dramatic landscape of red-rock canyons, mesas and towering rock spires. You'll also find Native American rock paintings here.
- Arches National Park - A stunning national park located in the close vicinity of Moab, you will get to admire at stunning red arches and some of the most unforgettable sunrises and sunsets in Arches National Park. You might need to make a reservation for a timed-entry permit while visiting Arches National Park. Please check the national park's website for up-to-date information.
Best time to go on a road trip from Moab to Denver
Denver has four distinct seasons, and each season offers something different and interesting to the visitor. Overall, Denver has a high desert climate, making it fairly dry and sunny most of the time. It is definitely a destination you can very well visit at any time of the year.
Temperatures in summer can get hot; they average around 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit but can reach over 100 degrees during the hottest time of the year. Summer is also the season when Denver is most populated with tourists.
Although snow is common in Denver in winter and temperatures can at times drop fairly low, on average winter weather in Denver is not harsh. Even in December-January, average temperatures are around 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can well enjoy visiting the area during this season, to experience the best of fantastic skiing, snowboarding and other wintertime activities.
Springtime and fall might be the best times to visit Denver, in that the temperatures are moderate during these seasons, and you'll also experience less crowds, lower prices, and less heat than in the summertime, and of course less cold than in wintertime.
Besides, the fall colors on the mountains are beautiful, and spring is wonderful for observing the blooming flowers and migrating birds in the area.
Taste of Colorado Festival, in early September, is a free three-day outdoor festival. It takes place in downtown Denver, and features food, music, arts and crafts. It attracts over 500,000 visitors yearly.
The Great American Beer Festival also takes place in September. It is a cultural event and probably America's most loved beer festival. The festival features public tastings and competitions, and generally every year presents the largest variety of beers of anywhere in the US.
If you visit in November, you might catch the Denver Annual Film Festival in action. It is a glamor-filled event, and probably one of Denver's most popular and publicized events.