This mile-high road trip comes with almost non-stop cover shot-worthy backdrops. Scrape the sky as you cross high mountain passes, drop into forest-shaded valleys where historic railroads hug gold-flecked creeks and follow in the footsteps of the Southwest’s Ancestral Pueblo people.
Suggested route & duration
Suggested duration: 11 night round-trip from Denver
• Colorado Springs: 1 night
• Montrose: 1 night
• Durango: 2 nights
• Cortez: 1 night
• Grand Junction: 1 night
• Steamboat Springs: 1 night
• Estes Park: 2 nights
• Denver: 2 nights
About this independent tour
Why you’ll love this self-drive
• See the beautiful backdrops of western Colorado from 4000-metre mountains to Navajo sandstone canyons
• Explore the ancient cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park
• Drive across high mountain passes and follow the Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park
• See where the Old West meets the 21st Century in the ‘Mile High City’ of Denver
• This itinerary can also be done in a motorhome.
Suggested self-drive details
Day 1: Colorado Springs Land in Denver and drive south to Colorado Springs. Stay at Hyatt Place Colorado Springs.
Day 2: Montrose Drive into the mountains and cross the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass. Spend a night in Montrose, gateway to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Stay at Red Arrow Inn & Suites.
Day 3: Durango Head south along the scenic US Route 550 to the old mining and railroad city of Durango, stopping in the pretty hot spring town of Ouray on the way. Stay 2 nights at Durango Downtown Inn.
Day 5: CortezAs you continue on to Cortez, the landscapes change from mountains to desert. Use the city as a base to see the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park. Stay at Best Western Turquoise Inn & Suites.
Day 6: Grand Junction Turn back north and cross into Utah. Stop in Moab and visit Arches National Park before driving back to Colorado along Route 128 which hugs the Colorado River. Stay at Grand Vista Hotel Grand Junction.
Day 7: Steamboat Springs Return to the mountains and visit Glenwood Springs. Soak in the area’s hot springs or follow the hiking trail to Hanging Lake. Later, continue on to Steamboat Springs. Stay at Holiday Inn Steamboat Springs.
Day 8: Estes Park Swap one mountain town for another as you travel to Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Stay 2 nights at The Ridgeline Hotel.
Day 10: Denver Return to the Denver and make the most of the many cultural offerings and first-rate restaurant and bar scene. Stay 2 nights at Holiday Inn Cherry Creek.
Ancient cliff dwellings
Mesa Verde National Park protects ancient dwellings that have been carved into the sandstone cliffs
Colorado’s hot springs
Soak in pools fed by the mineral-rich waters of a hot spring in Steamboat Springs
Enjoy the views as you drive along Rocky Mountains National Park’s lofty Trail Ridge Road
Denver’s Red Rocks amphitheatre
See international artists perform at one of the world’s most spectacular entertainment venues
Tailor your tour
Make it your own
We’ve crafted this self-drive based on our own experiences and customers’ feedback. It’s fully flexible, so talk to us and we can create your perfect trip.
Where to stay
The hotels featured have been picked for their setting. They’ll just be a base as you’ll be spending most of your time out exploring. In Denver, there’s a wider choice if you’re looking for luxury digs. We suggest picking The Crawford, which is set in Union Station, or the Four Seasons Hotel Denver.
Enhance your mountain adventures by soaking in pools fed by naturally-heated hot springs. On your way to Steamboat, stop in Glenwood Springs for a dip. If you’re a fan of live music, check the listings for Red Rock Amphitheatre, a spectacular entertainment venue just outside Denver.
We think 11 nights is the shortest time you’ll want to spend exploring the wonders of Colorado. We’ve included two nights in Durango, Estes Park and Denver but you could easily spend another night in each place. We also suggest adding a night in Steamboat Springs for more hot spring time.
You can easily add a night in Moab to this round-trip itinerary. This will give you more time to explore Arches National Park. Another option is to combine a Colorado road trip with another destination in the western United States as Denver is well connected to California, Canada and Hawaii.
Good to know
When to go
• As you’ll be driving up into the mountains, it’s only possible to do this self-drive from late-spring to mid-autumn
• Most seasonal Rocky Mountain roads open between mid-May to early-June; if roads are closed, there can be long diversions
• The Rockies’ mountain meadows are at their most beautiful in the summer with Alpine flowers blooming; autumn is a great time to visit with smaller crowds