There are few road trips that take you to the base of towering peaks, the heart of red-rock canyons, the front door of ancient ruins, the rim of the Grand Canyon and the rejuvenating waters of Colorado's hot springs like this one.
Start in Denver before heading west to Glenwood Springs to take a dip. Farther west and south explore ancient ruins and artifacts in the Mesa Verde National Park area. Established by President Theordore Roosevelt, Mesa Verde National Park was actually the first national park created to "preserve the works of man." It preserves the heritage of the Ancestral Puebloans who inhabited the area from 600 to 1300.
After exploring the park, cross into Arizona, stopping at Flagstaff, a university town (see page 79 for what to do while there), and then the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. You can read all about the park in our In the Park section on pages 6-19.
On your way back to Denver, visit Farmington, N.M., before heading to Durango to take a historic train to one of Colorado's most scenic towns, Silverton. Continue north to take a dip in Pagosa's legendary hot springs. Then press on to Alamosa where you can explore Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Some of our favorite roadside stops follow below.
Start: Denver, Colo.
Have lots of time? Before you head west, make a side trip to Rocky Mountain National Park just 1.5 hours from the Denver International Airport. Read more on our Colorado Parks website.
Soak in Glenwood Springs, Colo.
8 Hot Spring Soaks Between Denver and the Grand Canyon
Colorado is dotted with incredible hot springs and steamy pools. Dip into some of the state's best on your road trip from Denver to the Grand Canyon.
Four Corners Gems
6 Four Corners Gems in Mesa Verde Country
From a thriving restaurant scene to our nation’s ancient history, Cortez, Mancos and Dolores offer more than just uncrowded trails.
48-Hours in Mesa Verde National Park
There's more to do beyond the main attraction of touring ancient cliff ruins. Take a hike, gaze from a fire tower or have dinner with a view.
Canyon Country Discovery Center
Explore Canyon Country with hands-on educational experiences about the Colorado Plateau through interactive learning exhibits, and field trips.
Grand Canyon South Rim
48 Hours in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Get ready for adventure. Here are some of our favorite things to do while at the South Rim from biking in solitude to exploring some of the rim’s most historic treasures.
GyPSy Guide South Rim Driving Tour App
Feel like you're touring with a local in your car. The Gypsy Guide app uses your phone or tablet’s location to play commentary about attractions as you drive. Learn more at gypsyguide.com/tour/grand-canyon-south-rim/
Leave Your Car When You Stay at Yavapai Lodge
Sleep in a forest of ponderosa pine trees near Grand Canyon's South
Rim. The Yavapai Lodge's restaurant, tavern and nearby market and shuttle stop make navigating the rim easy.
Treasure Hunt in Farmington, N.M.
4 True Treasures near Farmington
Ancient history, a local brewery and an overnight in a cave make Farmington a great stop on your way to or back from the Grand Canyon.
Best of the West in Durango, Colo.
Hip Restaurants and Old West Charm
Durango offers an amazing downtown, great food and a ride on a steam train, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Read more.
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Bring your sled and your beach umbrella to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve 37 miles from Alamosa, Colo. From here, you can explore the tallest sand dune in North America. High Dune on First Ridge is a two-hour, 2.5-mile round trip walk up 699 feet of sand. Sled down for a faster descent. Be sure to bring a lot of water, start early and wear closed-toe shoes as sand temperatures can reach 150F mid-day.
Read more on our Colorado Parks website.