A breathtaking road trip that you can take in the United States is the drive from Denver to Grand Junction in Colorado. Along this journey, you’ll see some incredible views.
The diversity of scenery that you’ll see during your trip will leave an impression on you. There are steep and snowy cliffs, charming alpine towns, and martian landscapes all within this 240-mile trek. You can complete the entire journey in a little over six hours, but I would recommend taking your time and making a long weekend trip out of it. You’ll want to spend a little bit of time in Denver and some of the cute mountain towns along the way.
The perfect time to drive this route is between late spring and early fall when the weather is optimal. However, if you go during the winter, you can go skiing!
Arrive in Denver in the morning and rent a car. Make sure you hydrate appropriately because of the altitude. Denver is one of the places with the lowest elevations on this road trip, and it’s a mile above sea level!
Spend the morning exploring downtown Denver and seeing some of its sights.
For a quick overview of downtown, I would recommend visiting Sixteenth Street. It is a very walkable area with restaurants, shops, and a free tram. At one end is the Colorado State Capitol Building, and at the other is a series of parks along the river. Stop off at Union Station for some coffee or a meal and admire the architecture. You can also see Coors Field, where the Rockies baseball team plays.
Union Station, Denver, CO, USA
Coors Field, Blake Street, Denver, CO, USA
After lunch, set out on your road trip and head to Frisco. It is a stunning two-hour drive through the snowcapped mountains to this small lakeside town. Nestled between the Dillon Reservoir and the mountains, this town sits over 9,000 feet above sea level.
Frisco, CO, USA
You can spend the afternoon exploring its small Main Street area and the Marina. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go kayaking, fishing, or boating. The lake also has over 50 miles of paved recreational paths. Frisco’s Adventure Park has chuck wagon rides, and disc-golf.
Frisco Adventure Park
Frisco Adventure Park, Recreation Way, Frisco...
Day two is another day of beautiful driving through the Rocky Mountains. You’ll pass through some of Colorado’s most famous ski resorts, including Copper Mountain and Vail. Most of your drive will have the Eagle or Colorado River right next to the highway. You can stop at many viewpoints along the way, and I would recommend getting out and taking some pictures at a few of them.
Copper Mountain, CO, USA
A good stopping point for lunch would be Glenwood Springs, home of the world’s largest hot spring pool. It’s a great place to unwind after your meal if you have time. You can also explore its quaint downtown area.
Glenwood Springs, CO, USA
The scenery begins to shift right around the town of Rifle. If you want to explore a little, you can visit Rifle Falls and see its limestone caves and triple waterfall.
Rifle Falls State Park
Rifle Falls State Park, Rifle, CO, USA
Then, you’ll descend into the mesa, and the land starts to flatten out.
Continue to Grand Junction, where you will spend the night.
The entire journey non-stop from Frisco to Grand Junction takes about three hours. However, with stops, you’ll likely get to Grand Junction in the afternoon.
Grand Junction, CO, USA
In Grand Junction, you’ll find a completely different landscape that looks slightly Martian. There are red and brown rocks mixed in with some greenery along the river. If you’re not too tired, you can explore the city’s charming downtown, see a show at the Avalon Theatre, or visit the Museum of the West. Grand Junction is also the epicenter of Colorado’s wine country, so enjoy some sips if you can.
If you want to squeeze in one more place on your trip, I recommend seeing the Colorado National Monument. It is less than 20 minutes from Grand Junction.
Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument, Rimrock Drive, Fr...
And you can do a short 1.5-mile hike at Devil’s Kitchen early in the morning. You can also drive a little further (30 min) to the visitor’s center and see some of the lookout points there. At this park, you’ll see some spectacular sheer-walled canyons that jut out from the landscape. It’s a great place to visit and watch the sunrise because the colors are vivid and dramatic.
Devil's Kitchen, Kennedy Avenue, Grand Juncti...
At around late morning, start heading back to Denver International Airport. It will be the same route as you came. The trip takes a little over six hours non-stop, but you’ll want to take breaks occasionally.
Along the way, stop for lunch at one of the towns you didn’t explore the first time you passed through.
You can have dinner in Denver before returning your rental car to the airport. Another option if you have a little extra time would be to stay overnight in Denver and leave the following day.