Denver to the Grand Canyon North and South Rims
Rocky Mountain Magic
Combine alpine scenery and high-altitude hot springs with the desert landscapes and cultural sites of canyon country on this 1,831-mile, 12-day loop.
Denver to Glenwood Springs, CO: 157 miles
Begin your tour by heading straight into the high Rockies on I-70, passing the ski meccas of Keystone, Breckenridge, and Vail. Continue west to Glenwood Springs, a lovely town known for its hot springs, water sports, great hiking to Hanging Lake, and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
Glenwood Springs to Montrose, CO: 153 miles
Drive I-70 to Grand Junction, then take US 50 south to the natural wonders of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Here, you can hike along the rim (or down into) the world’s deepest narrow canyonâ€”at its deepest, the canyon walls plunge 2,722 feet to the river below. Bunk in Montrose for the night.
Montrose to Mesa Verde National Park: 141 miles
Today’s drive on US 550 south and CO 145 south takes you to historical rather than geological treasures at Mesa Verde National Park. The park protects Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings built between 600 and 1300 AD. Head back to hotels and dining in Cortez, Dolores, or Mancos.
Mesa Verde NP to Page, AZ: 257 miles
Follow UT 162 west to Bluff in Utah, then US 163 south through Monument Valley, a spectacular collection of buttes made famous by many an old Western. Continue on US 160 west and AZ 98 west to Page, a fun town on the shores of Lake Powell. Go swimming, rent a houseboat and cruise the lake, or explore natural formations like Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon (Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours leads trips there and in other slot canyons nearby).
Page to Grand Canyon National Park North Rim: 125 miles
Drive south on US 89 to US 89A north to AZ 67 south through Jacob Lake to see the grandest canyon of them all. Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim is higher, quieter, and accessible from mid-May to mid-October. Hike, look for soaring condors, or kick back on the porch at Grand Canyon Lodge to enjoy the view. Campers can pitch a tent near the rim at the North Rim Campground.
Grand Canyon North Rim to South Rim: 211 miles
Though the canyon is only 10 miles across, it takes 5 hours to drive to the busier, more built-up South Rim by backtracking to US 89 south and taking AZ 64 west from Cameron. This website is packed with ideas for what to do when you get there – if you have more time, spend it here.
Grand Canyon South Rim to Flagstaff, AZ: 88 miles
Spend the day exploring the park, then go south on US 180 to AZ 64 south to Williams, home to myriad attractions like the Grand Canyon Brewery, Bearizona Wildlife Park, Grand Canyon Deer Farm, and the Grand Canyon Railway. Swing east on I-40 to Flagstaff, where you can visit the Lowell Observatory, check out the Museum of Northern Arizona, hike in Walnut Canyon, or get an adrenaline rush at the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. Another option: Take US 180 straight to Flagstaff and stop at Lava River Cave en route.
Flagstaff to Farmington, NM: 275 miles
Tour Arizona’s northeast corner today on US 89 north to US 160 east across the Navajo Nation. Major stopping points include Tuba City (see dino tracks nearby), Navajo National Monument (Ancestral Puebloan dwellings), and the Four Corners Monument (be in four states at once!). Finish in Farmington, a hub for outdoor adventures, Native American cultural events, and the arts.
Farmington to Durango, CO: 51 miles
Head back into Colorado on US 160 east and drive to Durango, a Western-flavored town beloved by outdoor recreationists. Surrounded by the San Juan Mountains and full of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and fly-fishing, Durango is well worth a day of exploration.
Option: Hop on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for a super-scenic ride on a historic steam train.
Durango to Alamosa, CO: 149 miles
Get ready for relaxation: Just ahead on US 160 east lies Pagosa Springs, home of a series of naturally heated hot pools, plus a spa, at the Springs Resort. Continue on to Alamosa, where you’ll find several scenic historic railroads, offbeat attractions (such as an alligator farm and UFO watchtower), and the popular San Luis Valley Brewing Company.
Alamosa to Buena Vista, CO: 101 miles
See a piece of the Sahara in Colorado at today’s destination, Great Sand Dunes National Park. These towering dunes make for unique hiking, sand sledding, and, in early summer, splashing around in a beach-lined Medano Creek. After your stop, take US 285 north past Salida to Buena Vista, both charming small towns on the Arkansas River and centers for kayaking and hiking.
Buena Vista to Denver, CO: 123 miles
Conclude your tour with a scenic cruise along US 285 back to Denver. Extra time? Enjoy the capital city’s many attractions, including museums, art galleries, a downtown whitewater kayaking park, Elitch Gardens amusement park, and the Denver Zoo.