Panoramic view of the red rocks of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah
Colin D. Young/

Road Trip from Santa Fe to Moab

Updated by Dianne Titos on February 28 2024

Get ready to travel through some of the most stunning desert landscapes in the USA. A road trip from Santa Fe to Moab will take you through gorgeous national parks, mountains, and plenty of history and culture.

The 430-mile road trip from Santa Fe to Moab will take 7-9 hours. Driving though the desert, you'll pass Bernalillo, Albuquerque, San Ysidro, Ship Rock, Pagosa Springs, San Juan National Forest, Taos, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Durango, Rio Grande National Park and Chimney Rock

Be prepared to experience the best of the west on this road trip of a lifetime. Read on below to learn more about our recommended routes, where to stay, and things to see and do along the way.

How far is Moab from Santa Fe, and how long will the road trip take?

Comparison of road trip routes between Santa Fe and Moab
RouteDistanceDriving Time
The Albuquerque Route430 miles7 hours 5 minutes
The Pagosa Springs Route465 miles8 hours 30 minutes

There are two excellent routes that will take you from Santa Fe to Moab. Each is full of incredible highlights, including national parks, charming towns, and natural monuments that look like they're out of a painting.

The Albuquerque Route is more direct than the alternative route. You'll be driving 430 miles with 7 hours and 5 minutes of driving time.

The Pagosa Springs Route will take you 465 miles and will take 8 hours and 30 minutes of driving time. You'll pass some of the nation's most celebrated natural landmarks and ancient ruins.

Whichever route you choose, we recommend taking 2-3 days to complete your journey. Continue on below to learn more about each route, where to stay, and what to do and see on your way.

Ancient houses sit atop a hill in Taos, New Mexico, with a vivid orange sunset sky behind
Marvel at the ancient structures in the historic city of Taos, New Mexico, on the Pagosa Springs Route.
Josemaria Toscano/

Best road trip route from Santa Fe to Moab

The two routes will both bring you through several desert states with plenty to see and do. Which one you choose will depend on what you want to see and experience.

The Albuquerque Route is the most direct from Santa Fe to Moab. This meandering route takes road trippers along stark cliff sides and past rugged mountain tops through three American states.

You'll also see various national parks and some of the quaintest towns and cities the Southwestern region offers. This includes the vibrant city of Albuquerque, the most populous in New Mexico.

On the Pagosa Springs Route, travelers can enjoy the beautiful, unique landscapes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the stunning Pagosa Springs, as well as revel in the bustling city life of Durango.

The Pagosa Springs Route offers you a trip full of variety and excitement. You'll explore the best sites New Mexico and Colorado offers, from snow capped mountaintops to exciting cultural adventures.

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.

Rio Grande flowing in the foreground with Sandia Mountains seen from the town of Bernalillo, New Mexico
You'll see the Sandia Mountains rising above the Rio Grande River from Bernalillo on the Albuquerque Route.
Patrick St.Cin/

The Albuquerque Route

From Santa Fe, head down to the city of Albuquerque. Here, you'll be able to take in the sights before venturing back on route.

From Albuquerque, head north to the town of Cortez. Here, you can explore the historic Puebloan ruins and the natural beauty of the area.

Next, continue north through some of the most striking landscapes in America. From here, you'll make it to your destination of Moab, Utah.

The Pagosa Springs Route

From beautiful Santa Fe, hit the road north. Soon, you'll come to the popular destination of Taos.

From here, continue north into Colorado and the enchanting Pagosa Springs. Continue on through the deserts and mountains of southern Colorado.

Continue on into the town of Durango. After exploring the historical area, make your way into Utah and to your destination of Moab.

Best places to stop between Santa Fe and Moab

With so much to see and do along the way, you'll want to split the trip up. Below, we've listed our favorite stopovers and top hotels to rest in for the night so you can continue your journey rested and energized.

Sun flare shining through the pine trees at Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Springs enjoys a beautiful position in the San Juan National Forest, Colorado.
Dina Kopaneva/

See the stunning culture of Albuquerque, New Mexico

An hour outside of Santa Fe is the beautiful city of Albuquerque. This classic destination is a hidden travel gem, with so much to offer visitors, from stunning views and natural landscapes to a unique and vibrant culture.

It's also a superb choice for food lovers, as they can sample the enticing local cuisine, a blend of flavors from Spanish and Native American cultures.

Also known as the Duke City, Albuquerque is known for its multicultural history and heritage, world-class performing arts scene, delicious cuisine and stunning views across the Sandia Mountains. There's also a lot to do around the area and in the city.

First, visit the fantastic Old Town. Wander through the mud-brick building-lined streets, and explore Albuquerque's independent restaurants, boutiques and cultural centers.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA taken on a sunny day with a view of the adobe style buildings in Poco Apoco Plaza in the historic Old Town section of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Albuquerque's mix of old and new makes it a great place to stop on your way to Moab.
Earth Trotter Photography/

Next, make your way to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre. Here you can learn all there is to know about the past and present of New Mexico's 19 Pueblo tribes.

Finally, visit the Sandia Peak Tramway. Take a cable car up the 10,000-foot-high summit of Sandia Peak to breathtaking views across the valley

Once your reach Albuquerque, we recommend staying at the luxurious Hotel Chaco. Located 650 yards away from Albuquerque's bustling Old Town, Hotel Chaco is a stylish and elegant hotel perfect for a relaxing stay for two.

The hotel's facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, private parking and a fitness center, as well as a delightful à la carte or American breakfast. You'll love the amenities and the friendly staff on hand to make sure you have the best stay.

Close to the city's Old Town, Hotel Chaco is a short walk to a number of attractions, including the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and the Arbol de Vida Park. There are a number of excellent restaurants in the vicinity too, including Little Anita's and Prismatic Coffee.

READ MORE - Click here for more great hotel options

Step into history in Durango, Colorado

Halfway between Santa Fe and Moab, Durango is a logical place for an overnight stop. It's also an exciting and vibrant city bursting with activities for all types of travelers, from nature enthusiasts to culture lovers.

Known as ‘Colorado's year-round playground', Durango offers endless outdoor activities, from the San Juan and Mesa Verde National Parks to the unique local character of Historic Downtown Durango, where travelers can visit an array of museums, galleries, shops and eateries.

When you reach Durango, check out the Durango & Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad. Here, you'll be able to take a trip through the remote wilderness and the breathtaking scenery of the San Juan National Forest.

Colorful fall foliage in the San Juan National Forest mountains, Colorado, with snow in the background
Make your way through the backroads of San Juan National Forest if you're feeling more adventurous.

Next, visit the breathtaking Mesa Verde National Park. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site protecting the world's most well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites.

After stepping back in time, make your way to historic downtown Durango. Explore Durango's quaint boutiques and art galleries, and enjoy the city's incredible restaurants and vibrant nightlife.

Finally, take a relaxing visit to the Pinkerton Hot Springs. Rest your aching muscles in man-made rock piles discharging water at 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit.

When you reach Durango, we recommend staying at The Strater Hotel. This beautiful and highly rated hotel features stylish rooms, plenty of amenities, and friendly hotel staff.

There is a fabulous restaurant on-site and a bar to enjoy your favorite drink at. There is also a hot-tub where you can relax after a day of driving. The area is known for its cycling and hiking opportunities.

Located in the heart of Durango, the hotel is a short walk from Durango and Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad and Museum and Durango Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad. Durango Hot Springs and Pinkerton Hot Springs are a short drive away.

Where to stay when you reach Moab

Once you reach your destination of Moab, Utah, we suggest a stay at the luxurious and unforgettable Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection by Hilton. A beautiful luxury hotel, Hoodoo Moab is located right in the heart of Moab, a short walk from Swanny City Park and Bullick Cross Creek Park.

It is also a stone's throw away from a selection of the city's most vibrant restaurants, cafes and bars. With a delightful on-site steakhouse restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool and a range of stylish suites, Hoodoo Moab is perfect for a longer stay.

Iconic red arching rock formation at dawn near Moab, Utah, with sun shining through
There are few places on earth that can rival Moab when it comes to natural beauty.
Dean Fikar/

Guests appreciate the friendly staff and amenities as well. By staying here, you'll feel refreshed and ready to take on the incredible sights Moab has to offer.

Things to see on a road trip from Santa Fe to Moab

This is truly a road trip of a lifetime, with plenty of natural wonders and historical landmarks to write a book about. Below, we've listed our top highlights to help you make the planning process easier.

On the Albuquerque Route

  1. Coronado Historic Site, Bernalillo - Ancient ruins of the Kuaua Pueblo, settled in around 1325 and abandoned towards the end of the 16th century.
  2. Albuquerque Old Town - A selection of Albuquerque's finest independent restaurants, boutiques and cultural centers.
  3. Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre - A cultural center, consisting of a museum and gallery space, a library, archives, an education department, a teaching kitchen/restaurant, and cultural programming and events celebrating the Pueblo culture of New Mexico.
  4. Sandia Peak Tramway - A 15-minute tram ride from the city of Albuquerque, up 10,000 feet to the peak of the Sandia Mountains.
  5. Ship Rock - See the dramatic 7,000-foot high rock mountain, designated a National Natural Landmark in 1975.
Ship Rock Navajo with buckled terrain casting shadows, New Mexico, with purple sunset sky above
Ship Rock in New Mexico is as eerie as it is beautiful.
John Lupu/

On the Pagosa Springs Route

  1. Taos Pueblo - Traditional community of Pueblo Indians and one of the US's best-preserved examples of adobe construction.
  2. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains - One of the largest fault-block mountain ranges in the world, Sangre de Cristo spans two states and stretches around 225 miles long.
  3. Rio Grande National Forest - A national forest spanning over 1.8 million acres, offering year-round sightseeing and outdoor activities.
  4. Pagosa Hot Springs - Visit the luxury ‘The Springs Resort & Spa' for a well-deserved soak in the area's natural hot springs.
  5. Durango & Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad - A rail journey through the remote wilderness and the breathtaking scenery of the San Juan National Forest.
  6. Historic Downtown Durango - An array of quaint boutiques and art galleries, incredible restaurants and vibrant evening establishments.
Durango & Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad yellow train carriages coming around a corner on a mountain in Colorado
Take a ride on the historic Durango & Silverton Railroad in Colorado.
Nick Fox/

On both routes

  1. Mesa Verde National Park - A UNESCO World Heritage Site protecting the world's most well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites.
  2. Canyonlands National Park - The largest national park in Utah, offering stunning views, a huge array of hiking routes and adventure activities.
  3. Newspaper Rock Recreation Site, Monticello - A Utah state monument featuring a rock panel carved with one of the world's largest collections of petroglyphs.
Tourists visit the cream colored ruins at Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park is an intriguing and majestic sight.
Daniel R Cruikshanks/

Best time to go on a road trip from Santa Fe to Moab

This region of America has a distinct seasonal change in weather. The summer months in Santa Fe, from June-August are warm and about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters are freezing with snow and temperatures are sometimes around 17 degrees Fahrenheit.

In Moab, summers can be incredibly warm upwards of 90 degrees. Winters are short but very cold and snowy, with temperatures running around 23 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because of Moab's extreme heat during the summer months of July-August, it can be difficult to safely enjoy the outdoor activities on offer. Many visitors prefer to come in the shoulder months of March-May and September-October when the heat is more manageable.

December and January see small crowds, but the weather can be extremely cold so it's important to be prepared for low temperatures. However, due to the snow, there is a potential for skiing and snow-based activities.

Dusting of snow on the red rocks of the North Window Arch and Turret Arch in Arches National Park, with a clear blue sky
While winter is less popular with tourists, a dusting of snow can make Arches National Park even more magical.

High season in Moab is from March until early May, and September to October, outside the scorching hot summer months of June, July and August. While there may be more visitors during this period, the weather will be the most pleasant to make the most out of the outdoor activities the destination has to offer.

There are plenty of incredible festivals and events that happen in Moab each year. In summer, the famous Utah Arts Festival happens in June and then the Moab Music Festival brings thousands of visitors every August. In winter, visitors love the famous Sundance Film Festival in January. Be aware of the crowds during these times as hotel prices and availabilities can be affected.