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  • Writer's pictureJames and Meg Mitchell

COLORADO/UTAH ROAD TRIP GUIDE

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Our 7-Day Adventure through Colorado & Utah Itinerary

 

On this trip our plan was to see a much as we could in 7 days in Colorado & Utah, without being on the road too long. We mapped out the perfect trip to see all the beautiful things & iconic destinations while only spending around 4hrs on the road between each stop. We were able to see some of the most iconic places in the country & create memories that will last us a life time!

This itinerary includes all the best photography destinations, places for the best sunsets/sunrises, and the best way to map out your days to squeeze the most out of it you can. We’ll break down the price, trip times, & stays. We want you to have the opportunity to copy the trip we took, or create a variation of your own trip. Get out and explore!

Itinerary At A Glance:

Day 1: Denver > Garden of the Gods > Alamosa, CO

Day 2: Alamosa, CO > Great Sand Dunes National Park > Cortez, CO

Day 3: Cortez, CO > Monument Valley, UT > Moab, UT

Day 4: Moab, UT > Canyonlands National Park > Arches National Park > Moab, UT

Day 5: Moab, UT > Canyonlands NP > Arches NP > Breckenridge, CO

Day 6: Breckenridge, CO > Rocky Mountain National Park (Trail Ridge Rd.) > Estes Park, CO

Day 7: Estes Park, CO > Rocky Mountain National Park > Estes Park, CO

Cost Breakdown:


· Flight (for 2 roundtrip): $180/Total (Southwest)

· Car (unlimited miles): $366/Total (Fox Rent A Car)

· Stays: $892.04/Total (7 nights)

o Alamosa: $105.16 (1 night)

o Cortez: $89.49 (1 night)

o Moab: $277.19 (2 nights)

o Breckenridge: $139.04 (1 night)

o Estes Park: $281.16 (2 nights)

· Gas: $83.73/Total

· Food: $245.00/Total

This brings the Entire Trip Cost to $1,766.77.


*Tip: We buy an Annual National Parks Pass for $80/year. It is good for every National Park & Federal Recreational Lands. This pass pays for itself in just 2 National Park visits (single pass is $35/park). This way you do not have to pay the entry fees every time!

Drive Breakdown:


Day 1

· Denver > Garden of the Gods

1hr 20 mins (82.3 miles)

· Garden of the Gods > Alamosa, CO

2hr 46 mins (168 miles)

Total: 4hr 9 mins (252 miles)

Day 2

· Alamosa, CO > Great Sand Dunes NP

32 mins (30.8 miles)

· Great Sand Dunes NP > Cortez, CO

3 hrs 52 mins (209 miles)

Total: 4hr 27 mins (240 miles)

Day 3

· Cortez, CO > Monument Valley, UT

2hrs (108 miles)

· Monument Valley, UT > Moab, UT

2hr 20 mins (133 miles)

Total: 4hrs 20mins (241 miles)

Day 4

· Moab, UT > Canyonlands National Park

35 mins (30.2 miles)

· Canyonlands National Park > Arches National Park

29 mins (26.2 miles)

· Arches National Park > Moab, UT

9 mins (5.2 miles)

Total: 1 hr 15 mins (61.6 miles)

Day 5

· Moab, UT > Canyonlands National Park

35 mins (30.2 miles)

· Canyonlands National Park > Arches National Park

29 mins (26.2 miles)

· Arches National Park > Breckenridge, CO

4h 32 (283 miles)

Total: 5hrs 36 mins (339.4 miles)

Day 6

· Breckenridge, CO > Rocky Mountain NP (Grand Lake Entrance)

1hr 11 mins (54.9 miles)

· Rocky Mountain NP (Grand Lake Entrance) > Estes Park, CO

1hr 22mins (44.1 miles)

Total: 2hrs 26 mins (99 miles)

Day 7

· Estes Park, CO > Bear Lake Trailhead

28 mins (13.4 miles)

· Bear Lake Trailhead > Estes Park, CO

28 mins (13.4 miles)

Total: 56 mins (16.8 miles)

Day 8

· Estes Park, CO > Denver International Airport

1hr 22mins (75.2 miles)

Trip Details:

Day 1 : Denver > Garden of the Gods > Alamosa, CO

We arrived at Denver International Airport around 9:45am* and picked up our rental car. We took the 1 hour 20 minute drive down to Garden of the Gods. We took some cool shots at High Point within the state park, one of the best photo spots, and then went along some of the trails to get a closer look. We spent around 4 hours at Garden of the Gods, having lunch, getting some content, and exploring the park. From there we drove South and then West for 2 hours and 46 mins to our 1st Airbnb in Alamosa, CO. We were able to see a gorgeous sunset driving West as we arrived into Alamosa.


*Tip: When we book our trips, we make sure to get the earliest flight we can on the day we arrive. We may be a little tired, but it allows us to have a full day to explore more of the places we want to see.


Instagram Spots:

Garden of the Gods

  • High Point Overlook

  • Entrance to the Park

  • Central Garden Trail

  • Balanced Rock

Airbnb Link: Alamosa Cottage


Other Sites You Could Map:

o Painted Mines Interpretive Park (50 mins E of Garden of the Gods)

o Royal Gorge Bridge & Park (1hr 20min SW of Garden of the Gods)



Day 2 : Alamosa, CO > Great Sand Dunes National Park > Cortez, CO

We woke up early & checked out of our Alamosa Airbnb, hit up the Starbucks 2 mins from our place and headed 32 minutes to Great Sand Dunes National Park. When we first arrived we went out on the dunes & other locations within the park to get some styled photos. After that we drove just outside the entrance to the park to Great Sand Dunes Oasis. It is a shop that has snacks, gas, lunch/dinner options, sunscreen, & most importantly the Sand Boards/Sleds! The sand board/sled rentals are $20 for the day & so easy to rent and return anytime during your trip to the park. We went back into the park, had our lunch, and went out on the dunes for some sled boarding/sledding. It is a workout getting out and up to the top of the dunes. The sand is really soft & HOT! Wear some good shoes and get ready to get a workout in. Pack a lot of water & do not take your shoes off! If you plan on hiking up to the larger dunes, plan on a long trip, but supposedly the views are unreal! We loved every second of our experience at Great Sand Dunes NP. The parking was easy & accessible to the places you want to see. Overall, we were blown away by this park. Highly recommend! After our sand boarding we returned our boards to Oasis & headed east to our next Airbnb in Cortez, Colorado. The drive along Route 160 is breathtaking. The Rio Grande National Forest was so beautiful! We stopped at the Wolf Creek Pass Overlook for sunset as we made our way to Cortez. You will also pass the Pagosa Springs where they have a public hot springs as well as Durango, Colorado - one of the coolest western Colorado towns.


Instagram Spots:

Great Sand Dunes National Park

  • Dunes

  • Medano Creek

  • Park Sign

  • Medano Pass

Rio Grande National Forest

  • Wolf Creek Pass Overlook

Durango, CO

  • Downtown

  • Train Station

Airbnb Link: Cortez Tiny Home


Other Sites You Could Map:

o Pagosa Hot Springs (along route)

o Durango, CO (along route)

o Telluride, CO (2hr N of route)



Day 3 : Cortez, CO > Monument Valley, UT > Moab, UT

We woke up early to watch the sunrise at our cool tiny home Airbnb. After, we headed east into Utah towards Monument Valley & the iconic Forest Gump Point. We had to stop at the famous Utah sign as we entered into Utah along highway 41/162. Once we entered Bluff, Utah we stopped at the famous Cow Canyon Trading Post for some cool shots. We then turned left to head toward Monument Valley. The actual park itself was closed due to COVID-19, but the iconic Forest Gump Point is on the main highway and available to view. Along the route you will pass the famous Mexican Hat as you approach your destination. Forest Gump Point is very busy! Cars will pass you going 80mph and other cars are stopping on the side of the road to catch a Instagram pic! Be patient and safe, you will find your opportunities to get a memorable photo. Once we left Monument Valley we drove north to Moab to our third Airbnb at St. Danes Cabins & Campground. Once we arrived, we got cleaned up and headed into town to grab dinner at one of the many great restaurants in Moab. The little downtown is super cute and we recommend allowing some time to explore, eat, and shop!


Instagram Spots:

  • Utah Sign

  • Cow Canyon Trading Post

  • Mexican Hat

  • Forest Gump Point

  • St. Danes Cabins

  • Downtown Moab

Airbnb Link: St. Danes Cabins


Other Sites You Could Map:

o Mesa Verde National Park (13 mins E of Cortez, CO)

o Four Corners Monument (11 mins W off of route to Utah)

o John Ford Point (1hr 15min S of Forest Gump Point)

o Camel Butte (1hr 15min S of Forest Gump Point)


Day 4 : Moab, UT > Canyonlands National Park > Arches National Park > Moab, UT

We woke up early and headed north to knock out two national parks in one day. Our first stop was Canyonlands National Park. Our first hike was the 0.7 mile round trip hike to Mesa Arch. Such an easy little trek to one of the most iconic spots in the park. Our next stop was to the Green River Great Overlook. Not much of a hike here, only 0.2 mile round trip from the parking lot. Lastly, we drove further into the park to Grand View Point Trail. Though it is listed as a 1.8 mile round trip, it was much shorter from where we parked. The view is worth it and breathtaking! After this stop, we headed out of the park 20 minutes to Arches National Park (only 5 minutes from the main road entrance of each park). Arches gets a little more crowded, so finding the right time to explore is important. We stopped first at La Sal Mountain Viewpoint. It’s one of the most beautiful views of the park! You can see a vast array of landscapes from this viewpoint. From there, we drove 15 minutes to Double Arch Trail. This 0.6 mile roundtrip trail is easy and fun! As you get closer to the Double Arches it is hard to believe how it was all formed so perfectly! Next, we took a little break in the Balanced Rock parking lot (easy to view from the car) before ending our day hiking to Delicate Arch for sunset. The Delicate Arch hike is 3 miles roundtrip & a little more difficult of a hike. You are walking up and down steep inclines on your way to the Arch, but the end result is well worth it. It was one of the best sunset views we’ve ever seen! The sun sets perfectly on the Delicate Arch & we highly recommend! After sunset it was time to get back to our Airbnb in Moab and rest for another day on the road.


Instagram Spots:

  • Mesa Arch

  • Green River Overlook

  • Grand Overlook

  • Canyonlands Sign

  • Arches Sign

  • La Sal Mountain Viewpoint

  • Double Arches

  • Delicate Arch

Airbnb Link: St. Danes Cabins


Other Sites You Could Map:

o Canyonlands NP

White Rim Overlook Trail

Needles Overlook Trail

Shafer Off Road Trail

o Arches NP

Windows Loop Trail

Landscape Arch Trail

Ribbon Arch Trail


Day 5 : Moab, UT > Canyonlands NP > Arches NP > Breckenridge, CO

We slept in a little on Day 5 and then drove into Canyonlands and Arches for some styled photos before hitting the road towards Breckenridge, Colorado. Both of Moab’s National Parks are perfect for getting those southwest vibes for an iconic Instagram moment. The landscapes are all different allowing for unique backdrops and unforgettable photo ops . As we left Moab, we took the 4 hour 30 minute drive East. We had intended to see a few things along this route, but a lot of places were shut down/permit only due to COVID. You could see the grave site of Doc Holliday in Grand Junction as you enter Colorado. We had intended on exploring Glenwood Springs, going to a hot springs, and seeing Hanging Lake, but you have to get a permit in advance for these because they were limiting capacity (COVID). We did stop off along one of the exits in Glenwood Springs to see the beautiful views along the Colorado River running along the canyon walls. We arrived in Breckenridge pretty late, grabbed some food, and arrived at our Airbnb.


Instagram Spots:

  • Canyonlands

  • Arches NP

  • Glenwood Springs

  • Hanging Lake

Airbnb Link: Breckenridge Stay


Other Sites You Could Map:

o Grand Junction

o Glenwood Springs

o Hanging Lake

o Vail


Day 6 : Breckenridge, CO > Rocky Mountain National Park (Trail Ridge Rd.) > Estes Park, CO

We woke up and drove into downtown Breckenridge for breakfast. Breckenridge was established in 1859 and they have maintained a lot of the cool historical details of the town. Some old west architecture with snow capped mountains in the background. It is beautiful, but also has a lot of great shops and restaurants to explore. After exploring downtown we drove just outside of downtown to find the Breckenridge Troll. The 15-foot tall wooden sculpture is hidden within the woods and just one of a few in the whole world. We then set out for our 2 hour and 26 minute drive to our final destination. On our route we took the Interstate 34 towards the Grand Lake Entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. This route was incredible! We saw Elk, Moose, and other wild life along the way as we made our drive up the Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitors Center for Sunset. Being at the top of Rocky Mountain National Park was one of the best experiences. Seeing the sun set behind the snow capped mountains was just unreal! Highly recommend this drive! Once we made our way down the mountain to the other side of the park we arrived at our last stay in Estes Park at the Alpine Trail Ridge Inn. This place was newly renovated and sits right down the road from Starbucks and the beautiful downtown Estes shops and restaurants!


Instagram Spots:

  • Downtown Breckenridge

  • Breckenridge Troll

  • Grand Lake

  • West Entrance Rocky Mountain NP

  • Trail Ridge Road

  • Alpine Visitors Center



Other Sites You Could Map:

o Hot Sulphur Springs

o Swan Mountain



Day 7 : Estes Park, CO > Rocky Mountain National Park > Estes Park, CO

We woke up really early on our final day to get to Rocky Mountain National Park. We were setting out on some of the most popular hikes and wanted to beat the crowds. Once we entered the park we drove to the end of Bear Lake Road where the most popular trails are located. The parking is sparce so make sure you get there early (we arrived around 7am) or you will have to ride the bus to these trails. Our first hike was the 4.1 mile round trip hike to Emerald Lake. It is a beautiful, fairly easy hike and also passes by Dream Lake and Nymph Lake. Lake Haiyaha is also accessible on this hike if you detour once you get to Dream Lake. We learned later that it is also a beautiful spot! Emerald Lake is a must-do though and so rewarding once you get there! Once we got back to the parking lot from our Emerald Trail hike we went off on the Alberta Falls hike. Alberta Falls Trail is an easy 1.6 mile round trip hike. Another must-do & see! The cascading falls is breathtaking! Once we made it back to the parking lot we made our last stop at the Bear Lake Nature Trail. This .7 mile trail can hardly be considered a hike. You can enjoy the views just steps from the parking lot. We completed all these hikes before lunch, drove 30 mins back into town at Estes Park, grabbed lunch and took a little break, then set out for some beautiful evening views at Moraine Park within Rocky Mountain NP. We got some photos, enjoyed the views, then ended our evening getting some food and souvenir shopping in downtown Estes Park.


Instagram Spots:

  • Emerald Lake

  • Dream Lake

  • Nymph Lake

  • Lake Haiyaha

  • Alberta Falls

  • Bear Lake

  • Moraine Park

  • Downtown Estes Park


Other Sites You Could Map:

o Stanley Hotel

o Lake Haiyaha

o Glacier Gorge Trail



&& that concludes our 7 Day Road Trip through some of the most beautiful places we've had the pleasure of seeing! Truly such an unforgettable trip and one we will always cherish! Hope you find this itinerary helpful and if you take the trip be sure to tag us @james_and_meg on IG so we can live vicariously through your trip too ;) Can't wait to see your adventures!


Xo,

James and Meg


A special thanks to @ToyotaUSA and @localtoyotadealers for the perfect road trip car - the 2020 RAV 4 Hybrid - that helped us get to each destination safely and saved us so much money on gas! #ToyotaPartner

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nwolfe5916
10 may 2021

Y'all are just the cutest! I love your blog and YouTube!! 😘

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