Update: Read Part II of the Ultimate Colorado Road Trip here.

It might surprise you to know that many Coloradans, native or otherwise, have never visited some of the states most iconic and beautiful spots. The Colorado National Monument, the Four Corners MonumentSan Juan National Forest, and dozens of cute little mountain towns should definitely be a part of your summer plans this year. And if you are up for an adventure, why not make it a road trip and hit them all at once?

We have put together the ultimate Colorado road trip just for you to help make sure you hit some of the best spots that Colorado has to offer. Be sure to tag us on Instagram and let us know what you get up to on your summer road trip.

Click on the map for directions!
Approximate travel time: 15 hours *

*Travel times don’t account for traffic or stops.

Start:Denver to Palisade (via Glenwood Springs)

While driving on I-70 is usually avoided at all costs, it is home to some of Colorado’s most famous and beautiful towns and bumper-to-bumper traffic can easily be avoided if you are heading west on a weekday morning. Georgetown, Frisco, Dillon, Breckenridge, Vail, and Glenwood Springs are all great places to stop for coffee or lunch. Palisade is the heart of Colorado’s wine country, and famous for its namesake peaches and the natural beauty of the landscape. Whether you consider a strenuous mountain biking trek a good workout, or a leisurely cycle along the Fruit and Wine Byway is more your speed, you will have all your needs met here in this charming mountain town.

Time in the Car:

3 hours 30 minutes

Fuel Along the Way:

Dusty Rose Tea Room, Georgetown
Daily Bread, Glenwood Springs
Smokin’ Yards BBQ, Idaho Springs
Pug Ryan’s Craft Brewery & Restaurant, Dillion
The Pullman, Glenwood Springs

Stretch Your Legs:

Palisade Rim Trail
Mount Garfield Trail
Fruit & Wine Byway

Lay Your Head:

Palisade Wine Valley Inn
Wine Country Inn

History:

Historic Guided Walking Tours
Colorado National Monument

Summer Happenings:

Lavender Festival – July 8-10
Bluegrass and Roots Festival– June 10-12
Palisade Peach Festival– August 19-20
Colorado Mountain Winefest– September 15-18

2nd Stretch: Palisade to Telluride (via Ouray)

This stretch is home to some of the most beautiful scenery, but some of these spots are hidden from the roads so be sure to take a few short detours off the beaten path. You and your camera will not be disappointed. With Montrose, Ouray and Ridgway you will have plenty of options to stop along the way but Telluride is the real gem of this stretch. If you haven’t had the opportunity to spend some time in this special place, it will take your breath away. Nestled in at the base of soaring peaks, the downtown charm is sure to meet all your needs, and make for some great photo opportunities.

Time in the Car:

2 hours 30 minutes

Fuel Along the Way:

Camp Robber, Montrose (The best brunch! Come hungry!)
True Grit Cafe, Ridgway
Kate’s Place, Ridgway (Great Breakfast spot!)

Stretch Your Legs:

Forest Discovery Nature Trail, Ridgway
Enchanted Mesa Trail, Ridgway
Sneffels High Line, Telluride

Lay Your Head:

Ridgway State Park
New Sheridan Hotel

History:

Telluride Historical Museum
Telluride Hiking Guide (Keep your eyes open for some historical remnants along the trails.)

Summer Happenings:

Telluride Balloon Festival – June 3-5
Telluride Bluegrass Festival – June 16 -19
Telluride Wine Festival – June 23-26
4th Of July Celebration– July 4
Mushroom Festival – August 18-21

Third Stretch: Telluride to Durango (via Silverton)

This part of the road trip is really special. While there is a slightly shorter route heading south out of Telluride, we highly recommend the route back through Ouray. The San Juan Skyway from Telluride to Durango is a national scenic byway for good reason, and we promise you won’t even notice the extra time spent in the car. Stop off at Ironton, a ghost town, for a hike through the aspen trees. Carrying on, Silverton is a postcard-worthy town if you are looking for a place to stop for lunch. Downtown Durango is the best spot for your stay, with historic charm and plenty of dining and shopping options, you can ditch your car and stretch your legs exploring  all of the hot spots.

Time in the Car:

2 hours 50 minutes

Fuel Along the Way:

Mouse’s Chocolates & Coffee, Ouray
Brown Bear Cafe, Silverton
Steamworks Brewing Co., Durango

Stretch Your Legs:

Colorado Trail

Lay Your Head:

Rochester Hotel
General Palmer Hotel

History:

Mesa Verde National Park
Four Corners Monument
Historic Downtown Walking Tour

Summer Happenings:

Rocky Mountain Ukefest – July 8
Music in the Mountains – July 10
San Juan Brewfest – August 27

Fourth Stretch: Durango to Pagosa Springs

The shortest leg of the trip allows for plenty of stopping for photos and even a good hike at Chimney Rock National Monument or Wolf Creek Pass on the other side of Pagosa Springs. While the town of Pagosa Springs is a bit spread out, there is plenty to keep you busy including the hot springs. With pools overlooking the San Juan River, the scenery will not disappoint as you soak away any tired muscles or enjoy one of their signature spa services. And since this stretch of the road trip was just over an hour, you have plenty of time for relaxing and exploring the surrounding area.

Time in the Car:

1 hour, 10 minutes

Fuel Along the Way:

Higher Grounds Coffee Co., Pagosa Springs
Alley House Grill, Pagosa Springs

Stretch Your Legs:

Chimney Rock National Monument

Lay Your Head:

The Springs Resort & Spa
Wyndham Pagosa

History:

Historic Walking Tour

Summer Happenings:

Folk & Bluegrass Festival – June 3-5
4th of July Celebration – July 4
Music and Microbrew Festival – September 17

Fifth Stretch: Pagosa Springs to Salida (via Great Sand Dunes National Park)

This stretch will take you through some of the quieter parts of our state, but it certainly isn’t without the beauty you have grown accustomed to. After climbing over the stunning Wolf Creek Pass, you will be flanked on both sides by soaring peaks and will enjoy an easy drive up to Salida. If you are up for an adventure and have not yet been to Great Sand Dunes National Park it is worth a quick detour. Nestled up against the rugged mountains we know and love here in Colorado is a “mountain” of sand, which is unique and unlike anything else you will find in Colorado. You can even climb on the dunes, so make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear.

Time in the Car:

2 hours 30 minutes

Fuel Along the Way:

Cozy Cafe, Alamosa
Saguache 4th Street Diner & Bakery, Saguache

Stretch Your Legs:

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Lay Your Head:

The Tudor Rose Bed & Breakfast and Chalets
Palace Hotel

History:

Lost Mine Tours

Summer Happenings:

America’s Oldest Whitewater Festival – June 16-19
Salida Riverside Fine Arts Festival – July 16-17

Home Stretch: Salida to Denver (via Bailey)

The final leg of your ultimate Colorado road trip offers plenty of its own beauty. With the highest concentration of 14ers in all of Colorado, the surrounding landscape is impressive and offers great hiking options if you are feeling up for a challenge after spending nearly a week in the car. There are some really cute little mountain towns on this stretch so you can’t really go wrong stopping off at Buena Vista, Fairplay, Bailey, or Conifer.

Time in the Car:

2 hours 30 minutes

Fuel Along the Way:

Cutthroat Cafe, Bailey
Moonlight Pizza, Salida
Brooks Place Tavern, Conifer

Views:

Collegiate Peaks

Stretch Your Legs:

Staunton State Park
Kenosha Pass

Lay Your Head:

Back home!

 

18 Responses

  1. Acquiescent72

    What a great read and I think this article does justice to these areas mentioned. As a life-long resident of Colorado, I have always loved these areas. Great article for sure!

    Reply
  2. Tom

    Great article! But I like touring on my motorcycle and try to avoid Interstates, might you do another such article?

    Reply
    • Brittany Werges

      Thanks for the suggestion! We don’t have anything planned at the moment but we will take your idea into consideration.

      Reply
  3. Amber

    To bad you left out Mesa Verde….only 45 more minutes down the road from Durango.

    Reply
  4. Tim

    Sad that you didn’t start by going through Rocky Mountain Natl. Park, then over Berthoud Pass to meet up with I-70 just east of Georgetown. That would add a lot of depth to the trip.

    Reply
    • Sarah Stapley

      We love Rocky Mountain National Park, too! Be sure to check out our Romantic Colorado Road Trips article for a mini road trip through the Rocky Mountain National Park area.

      Reply
      • Nancygibson

        Would 7 nights be long enough to do al this?

  5. Kelly Rhoderick

    Don’t forget the charming town of Montrose, gateway to the Black Canyon National Park as featured last week on GMA! 🙂

    Reply
  6. Lance Sumpter

    What about the two highest peaks in the state? …which are also the 2nd and 3rd highest in the lower 48… Leadville and Twin Lakes in Lake County are a must see. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Erin Sievers

    I would have done the mapping of this differently. Your mapping doesn’t even go close to the Four Corners Monument and Mesa Verde. Also, when you go to Telluride, you don’t go through Ouray, but rather, Montrose and Ridgway. From there, you should have continued from Telluride to Cortez, via Rico, THEN to Durango with a side trip to Pagosa Springs, then Durango to Silverton and Ouray, and return through this route:
    Montrose > Black Canyon of the Gunnison > Hotchkiss & Paonia (more wine country) > Marble (which has the marble quarry that supplied the Lincoln Monument and The Tomb of the Unknowns; and this is also where you go to see the famously photographed Crystal Mull that’s on every Colorado postcard rack) > side trip to Glenwood Springs > Aspen with a side trip to Maroon Bells > Independence Pass > side trip to Leadville > Buena Vista > Fairplay (home of “South Park”) > then from there, you can go to either Denver or Colorado Springs.

    Reply
    • Brittany Werges

      There’s always room for a part II! Thanks for the feedback!

      Reply
    • Traci

      Would I be able to get some help on a similar trip? I would like to review my itinerary and route directions but am not sure if it is appropriate to ask. Thank you

      Reply
  8. mark

    We have been struggling for a place to take our 3 college age kids. Were thinking of going to London and Ireland but the cost was getting crazy for the 5 of us. You’re article may have saved us. This definitely will fit the bill for us Minnesotans

    Thanks

    Reply
  9. Ahdio0

    how many days/nights is suggested for this trip? Wife and I are spending our 20th anniversary for 10 days this August. Denver is our base but plan to venture out. there is too much light pollution where we live and you cannot see the stars. Where might be the best place to lay our head for a good view of the night sky?

    Reply

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