Sensational stops to make driving from Colorado to Arizona
The Grand Canyon is the gem of the southwestern United States and a popular spot for hikers, family vacations, and photographers. While it is possible to fly (st least part of the way!), driving to the Grand Canyon can be a better option since it allows you the opportunity to visit other parks and natural wonders along the way!
If you’re planning on driving from Denver to the Grand Canyon, there are some spots you definitely won’t want to pass up.
To help you plan your trip and give you tips for success, we’ve put together this Denver to Grand Canyon road trip guide that covers all the bases for an incredible adventure.
- Distance From Denver To The Grand Canyon
- How Long Do I Need Driving From Denver To The Grand Canyon?
- Best Time Of Year To Drive From Denver To The Grand Canyon
- Best Stops On A Denver To Grand Canyon Road Trip
- Glenwood Springs and the Rocky Mountains, Colorado
- Grand Junction and Wine Tasting, Colorado
- Arches National Park, Utah
- Canyonlands National Park, Utah
- Capitol Reef National Park. Utah
- Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- Zion National Park, Utah
- Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
- Antelope Canyon, Arizona
- Grand Canyon North Rim, Arizona
- Itinerary Variations Denver to Grand Canyon & Return
- Where To Next?
- More Tips for Road Tripping from Denver to the Grand Canyon
Distance From Denver To The Grand Canyon
It’s between 700 and 800 miles from Denver to the Grand Canyon depending on if you are going to the North or South Rim.
How Long Do I Need Driving From Denver To The Grand Canyon?
Driving directly from Denver to the Grand Canyon would take about 12 hours with good traffic and few stops.
We’d definitely recommend breaking up the trip into at least three days of driving, but it would be easy to spend a week or more traveling depending on how much time you want to spend at the other National Parks along the way.
The drive from Denver to the Grand Canyon will take you past all of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks, each of which could practically be an entire trip in themselves if you wanted!
Estimated Drive Times – Denver to Grand Canyon
Following our suggested stops below, here’s how long you will need for each leg or this Denver to Grand Canyon road trip:
|Denver to Glenwood Springs||157 miles||3 hours|
|Glenwood Springs to Grand Junction||87 miles||1 hour 22 minutes|
|Grand Junction to Moab (Arches NP)||113 miles||1 hour 47 minutes|
|Moab to Canyonlands National Park||30 miles||35 minutes|
|Canyonlands to Capitol Reef National Park||145 miles||2 hours 15 minutes|
|Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon National Park||147 miles||4 hours|
|Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park||106 miles||2 hours 43 minutes|
|Zion to Horseshoe Bend||117 miles||2 hours 20 minutes|
|Horseshoe Bend to Grand Canyon North Rim||119 miles||2 hours 20 minutes|
|North Rim to Grand Canyon South Rim||207 miles||4 hours|
Best Time Of Year To Drive From Denver To The Grand Canyon
Spring and fall are usually the best times to drive from Denver to the Grand Canyon. Summers in Arizona can be very hot, not to mention all the tourist crowds which come to visit the Grand Canyon during this time.
It’s also entirely possible to take a Denver to Grand Canyon road trip in winter. You’ll need to deal with snowy weather on the northern portion of your trip, but winters in the Grand Canyon (South Rim) tend to be mild and much more peaceful, thanks to the lack of visitors during this season.
Best Stops On A Denver To Grand Canyon Road Trip
To make the most of your experience driving from Denver to the Grand Canyon, here are some of the National Parks and other natural wonders you won’t want to pass up along the way!
Glenwood Springs and the Rocky Mountains, Colorado
Heading southwest from Denver will bring you through some of the rugged and beautiful landscapes of the Rocky Mountains. One of the best places to stop is Glenwood Springs, known for its incredible natural thermal springs.
It’s between a two to three-hour drive to reach the springs from Denver, and even though it might not be a long ride, you won’t want to pass up the chance to soak in the Iron Mountain Hot Springs.
To appreciate the scenery and some of the trails through the Rocky Mountains, it’s not a bad idea to stay at least a night either at one of the hotels or lodges, or there are also campgrounds for a more rough and wild adventure.
Grand Junction and Wine Tasting, Colorado
Leaving behind the incredible mountain views behind you on your Denver to Grand Canyon road trip, you’ll pass through some of Colorado’s prime wine country.
Even if you’re pressed for time, it’s still totally manageable to fit in an afternoon visit to a winery and grab lunch at one of the excellent local restaurants.
If you have time to stop for longer, Grand Junction is a great place to explore the red rock country and canyons of the area. Outdoor activities range from horse-back riding and river rafting in summer to skiing and snowshoeing in winter so there’s always something fun to explore.
Arches National Park, Utah
The first of Utah’s Mighty 5 to visit on your road trip from Denver to the Grand Canyon is Arches National Park.
Where the red rock spires and towers meet the clear blue sky, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world.
It’s home to some of the most iconic natural formations in the United States, so be sure to pack your camera! With over 2,000 naturally occurring stone arches, you won’t need to worry about finding picturesque spots for photographs.
Keep in mind that Arches National Park operates on a timed entry ticket format, and booking for tickets begins three months in advance. To make sure you have the opportunity to visit the arches, be sure to plan ahead to have your ticket ready.
We’d also recommend trying to visit the park either earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. Not only will you miss the majority of the tourist crowds, but you’ll also get to experience the spectacular dawn or evening lights illuminating the surreal landscape.
Accommodation in Moab
Moab places you within easy reach of both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and is a good rest stop on this Denver to Grand Canyon itinerary. Whether it’s luxury glamping or an easy motor inn you’re after, you can search for availability here:
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands is Utah’s largest National Park and is full of diversity. You’ll definitely want to plan for a full day of adventure at a bare minimum during your drive from Denver to the Grand Canyon.
The Island in the Sky is the park’s biggest attraction, and this 1,500-foot mesa truly lives up to its name. The panoramic vistas of canyons stretch out for miles in all directions, and it isn’t a sight you’ll soon forget!
There’s a paved scenic drive through Canyonlands, which every road-tripper should take, but to really appreciate the landscape, it’s best to get on some of the hiking and mountain biking trails as well.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or traveling with young children, there are plenty of trails in Canyonlands to fit your needs. Hikes can be as short as half an hour or as long as several days, depending on your interests.
Pro Tip: Families with youngsters will want to make a stop at the nearby dinosaur museum located close to where Highway 191 meets Highway 313. Here you can learn about some of the fossil discoveries made in this area of Utah.
- If you are looking to fast-track your journey to the Grand Canyon from Denver, then continue on after Canyonlands along the US I-90 S / US-160W, and you’ll make it to Grand Canyon Village in around 6 hours.
Capitol Reef National Park. Utah
Still want to see all of the Mighty 5? Then let’s keep heading west through Utah!
Not quite as well known as the other parks which make up Utah’s Mighty 5, Capitol Reef still shouldn’t be missed during a road trip from Denver to the Grand Canyon.
Plus, since it’s not quite as popular, you won’t have to contest with as many tourist crowds at this park!
There are scenic drives through the park on Highway 24 and Capitol Gorge, both of which have lookout points along the way to stop and get photographs.
Other must-visit places include the Petroglyphs Panel, where you can see some of the figures painted on the rocks by historic civilizations, Hickman Bridge which is known for its spectacular views, and the iconic Cassidy Arch Trail.
For families, the Ripple Rock Nature Center, close to the Visitor Center, is also a great place to visit with fun, kid-friendly activities, and displays.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon is best known for the hoodoo rock formations found here. These strange, spire-shaped red-rock structures give the landscape an other-worldly feel and set this park apart from the other parks in Utah’s Mighty 5. Some of the hoodoos can reach up to 150 feet high!
The hiking trails of the park are the best way to see the hoodoos and canyons. Some of the top hikes are the Navajo Loop trail which takes about two hours to complete and the Rim Trail where you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the largest concentration of hoodoos in the park.
We’d recommend spending at least one night in Bryce Canyon on your road trip from Denver to the Grand Canyon, even if it’s just for the incredible view of the night sky! Bryce Canyon is certified as a Dark Sky Park and the incredible air quality will give you some of the clearest night sky views in the entire United States.
Zion National Park, Utah
Rounding off Utah’s Mighty 5 is Zion National Park, known for its 2,000-foot-deep canyon and rainbow-layered sandstone cliffs.
Any road trip from Denver to the Grand Canyon wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Although it’s only six miles long, this route takes you through the heart of Zion and the incredible vistas the canyon offers.
However, the drive is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Zion, and we’d recommend setting aside at least a day or two to explore the park. There are plenty of hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous. These hikes will bring you to spectacular canyon waterfalls, amazing swimming holes surrounded by towering sandstone walls, and jaw-dropping vistas.
Zion is also a world-famous rock-climbing destination. Even if scaling canyon walls isn’t your idea of fun, it’s still incredible to see the climbers making their way up these sheer cliff faces.
If you have a bit more time, we’d also recommend checking out the Kolob Canyons, which are located on the northwest side of the park. Known as the “wild side” of Zion, there are fewer visitors in this area and some amazing natural wonders including the 287-foot-long Kolob Arch.
- Hikers be aware, if you want to take on the famous Angel’s Landing Trail, you’ll need to enter a seasonal ballot to secure your spot.
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
One of the most iconic sites along the Colorado River, Horseshoe Bend is a must-visit stop along the drive from Denver to the Grand Canyon.
At minimum you should at least walk to the overlook (less than a mile of hiking) to get some photographs of this stunning circular bend in the river. If you have more time, you can make a full day out of the experience by going on a river rafting trip or taking a helicopter tour over the canyon for some truly stunning views.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Before you round off your trip and begin exploring the Grand Canyon National Park, one more stop you’ll want to make is at Arizona’s famous Antelope Canyon.
This spectacular canyon is one of America’s most photographed sites. Once you see it for yourself, you’ll have no problem understanding why!
Since Antelope Canyon is part of protected Navajo land, the only way to visit it is by guided tour. Keep in mind that tours fill up very quickly, especially during the summer, so you’ll want to reserve your spot well in beforehand so you’ll have a chance to see the incredible curves and bends of the sandstone canyon.
Grand Canyon North Rim, Arizona
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is close to the border with Utah, and it’s less visited than the South Rim entrance. This means you can enjoy all the beauty of the Grand Canyon without needing to deal with quite so many tourists!
Top attractions of the North Rim side of the Grand Canyon include the Cape Royal hike Point Imperial.
Mule rides are another popular way to see the North Rim, especially for families. On the back of a sturdy mule, you’ll feel like you’re on of one of the first explorations through the sandstone walls of the Grand Canyon.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that the North Rim is only open between May and October, while the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open year-round.
- If you’d like to explore this northern Arizona section in more detail, pop over to our Zion to Grand Canyon itinerary guide that will take you all the way to the Grand Canyon South Rim
Itinerary Variations Denver to Grand Canyon & Return
As we mentioned above, a shortcut you could take is to head south from Moab and Canyonlands down the US I-90. If you’re taking this route, we’d also recommend making a stop at Monument Valley.
This 17-mile loop road on Navajo Land between Utah and Arizona is one of the most truly fascinating desert-scapes in the country, only a small detour off your route.
Alternatively, skip Moab on your way out. Head to the more westerly of the Utah Mighty 5 first, drop down into Arizona from Zion. After your visit to the Grand Canyon, take the scenic Monument Valley/Moab route on your return.
Where To Next?
If you’d like to continue your driving adventure beyond the Grand Canyon, you may find these further inspirational read handy:
- 10 Incredible Scenic Drives in Arizona
- You can follow this driving itinerary in reverse from Grand Canyon to Sedona
- Seek out these Unique Places in Arizona for a truly unique family vacation in the Grand Canyon State
- Looking for even more desert magic? National parks, monuments, and valleys you’ll want to get on your Arizona road trip itinerary!
More Tips for Road Tripping from Denver to the Grand Canyon
- Accommodation options around the Grand Canyon will fill up quickly, especially in summer so it’s best to make sure you make reservations well in advance; there’s only one lodge at the North Rim.
- Keep track of time zone changes when traveling to Arizona since the state stays on MST year-round and nearby states have daylight saving hours.
- Make sure you pack for a variety of weather on a Denver to Grand Canyon road trip. Temperatures and climate can vary from one end of the drive to the other, especially depending on the season.
- Never forget an important road tripping item again! Download our complete family road trip checklist with all the essentials you will want to consider packing for a family road trip
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