An Epic Denver to San Francisco Road Trip

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  • Denver, CO
  • Sugarloaf Mountain, WY
  • Rock Springs, WY
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Elko, NV
  • Reno, NV
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Cheap car insurance
A Denver to San Francisco road trip checks every box on the list for a great road trip. Stopping in Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada along the way, this route from Denver to San Francisco will be unforgettable.
This adventure begins in the bustling metropolis of Denver and ends in the even bigger city of San Francisco. But if you’re a fan of road trips, it’s not just about “getting there”—you want to soak up as much natural beauty as possible along the way. And this route, presented by the free car insurance shopping and broker app Jerry, will help with that!
To pull off a 1,284-mile drive like this, you’ll want to make sure your car is in tip-top shape. And that means making sure you have great roadside assistance! Jerry offers cheap and dependable roadside assistance that will give your family peace of mind during this epic Denver to San Francisco road trip. Fuel deliveries, jumpstarts, tire services, lockout assistance, and other roadside emergencies are all covered!
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Starting in Denver, Colorado

Our memorable Denver to San Francisco road trip begins in the Mile High City: Denver, Colorado. Nestled in the mighty Rocky Mountains, Denver is a beautiful modern city with a rich tapestry of culture, food, and attractions. You could write whole books on all the things to see and do here!
The Denver skyline against a vibrant blue sky.
Denver, Colorado

What to do

Denver is home to three great theme parks—Water World, Elitch Gardens, and Lakeside Amusement Park. Denver also boasts world-class zoos, wildlife reserves, and aquariums, as well as a nature and science museum and an interactive children’s museum. Don’t forget to take the kids on Denver’s narrated trolley tours, too!
Denver is one of the best outdoor adventure cities in the world. From skateparks and bike trails to hiking across the Continental Divide, Denver makes full use of the stunning Rocky Mountains that drape its skyline.

Where to eat

Ready to sit down for dinner? Denver has some truly spectacular restaurants. Enjoy legendary sandwiches at the Leven Deli or hit up the famous Israeli dining experience SAFTA. Denver’s restaurants will make any foodie consider packing up and moving there!

Leg 1: Denver to Sugarloaf Mountain, Wyoming

171 miles, 3 hours
Let’s skip the boring interstates and highways and take the scenic route. That’s going to involve driving up through the Rockies into the Medicine Bow mountains region.
The quaint mountain town of Laramie, Wyoming is a great place to find a comfortable hotel and a nice meal and sets you up for a gorgeous drive along route 130 through the Sugarloaf Mountain region.

What to do

Laramie is home to Medicine Bow National Forest, a 2.2-million-acre park where you’ll find mountains, lakes, forests, and grasslands to explore.
For a bit of history, check out Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic site, where Butch Cassidy was once imprisoned. A self-guided tour will take you through the exhibits—including a popular demonstration on broom making!
Trees on a hill rise above a body of water at the Medicine Bow National Forest.
Medicine Bow National Forest

Leg 2: Sugarloaf Mountain to Rock Springs, Wyoming

187 miles, 3 hours
Once upon a time, Rock Springs was a popular destination for roving gangs of gunslingers who terrorized the Wild West. It’s the town where the infamous outlaw Robert LeRoy Parker picked up the monicker “Butch Cassidy” after having worked in Rock Springs as a butcher.

What to do

Rock Springs may not be a famous tourist destination, but it’s a great place to take a break from the long drive to Salt Lake City. Rock Springs is steeped in fascinating history and breathtaking landscapes and well worthy of an overnight stay. Be sure to visit the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop.

Leg 3: Rock Springs to Salt Lake City, Utah

186 miles, 3 hours
After taking in the amazing scenery along interstate 80-W, you’ll finally arrive in another big midwestern city: Salt Lake City Utah. Situated along the shores of the Great Salt Lake, SLC is a town you’ll need a full day or two to explore—and even then, you won’t be able to see it all.
A tall building towers over a commercial center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The mountains can be seen.
Salt Lake City, Utah

What to do

The Hogle Zoo, Yellowstone Bear World, Loveland Aquarium, and Tracy Aviary are must-see destinations for animal lovers. Thanksgiving Point features museums, gardens, and a beautiful butterfly biosphere.
And while visiting Salt Lake City, you need to take the family to see the city’s namesake. The Great Salt Lake is mesmerizing to look at—especially from the air. There are helicopter and balloon tours available around town. The Great Salt Lake is also great for a swim!
The sun turns snow-capped peaks yellow at Great Salt Lake, Utah.
Great Salt Lake, Utah

Leg 4: Salt Lake City to Elko, Nevada

230 miles, 3.5 hours
Salt Lake City is a lot of fun, but alas, you still have a lot of ground to cover. Hop back on Interstate 80-W and continue your westward voyage.
Next stop: the small town of Elko, Nevada. And like Rock Springs, Elko is another great town for an overnight stay.
An expanse of hills covered with dry grass rolls through Elko.
Elko, Nevada

What to do

While visiting Elko, the Western Folklife Center is an absolute must for anyone who enjoys western themes. The Sherman Station Visitor’s Center serves up a cool little introduction to Elko, too.

Where to eat

Speaking of serving things up, be sure to eat at McAdoo’s, a family-friendly restaurant right in the middle of town with a quaint atmosphere and great bistro food.
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Leg 5: Elko to Reno, Nevada

290 miles, 4 hours and 20 minutes
Your final stop before reaching San Francisco is the self-proclaimed “Biggest Little City in the World,” Reno. But don’t let its small stature fool you! Reno might be small on a map but it’s huge on fun.
A sign over a street in Reno, declares the city as the "The Biggest Little City in the World".
Reno, Nevada

What to do

Located just up the road from Lake Tahoe, Reno features attractions for kids and adults alike. The Fleishmann Planetarium, National Automobile Museum, Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum, and Wild Island Family Adventure Park are all great options and will tire out the kids during the day.
If you’re not traveling with kids, be sure to visit some of Reno’s famous casinos, for an evening of fun.

Leg 6: Reno to San Francisco, California

220 miles, 3 hours and 40 minutes
Following Interstate 80 will eventually lead you through the Tahoe National Forest, down through Sacramento, and finally to the Golden City at the end of the voyage: San Francisco, California.
From the wineries of Napa to the redwood forests near Monterey Bay, San Francisco is easily one of America’s prettiest cities. It’s a mecca for music, arts, and culture, and home to some amazing architecture. The Golden City is the perfect dessert following the scenic meal of the drive from Denver to San Francisco.
Rocks and trees along the hills of Tahoe National Forest.
Tahoe National Forest

What to do

San Francisco offers zoos, museums, music venues, theme parks … it really is one of the best cities in America to vacation in!
While you surely already know about the big-ticket tourist attractions—the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Coit Tower—here are some other must-sees while you’re in the city:
  • The colorful “Painted Ladies” and “Four Seasons” Victorian houses
  • The Presidio
  • Point Lobos
  • The coolest Chinatown anywhere in the United States
People crowd the streets of San Francisco Chinatown with red lanterns overhead.
Chinatown, San Francisco

Get car insurance and roadside assistance you can rely on

From the heights of the Rocky Mountains to the cool seaside breeze of the San Francisco Bay, this Denver to San Francisco road trip will be quite the adventure—an adventure you definitely don’t want to see interrupted by a stressful roadside emergency.
The Jerry app will save you loads of money on car insurance, comparing up to 50 tailored quotes for you and eliminating all of the lame paperwork and lengthy phone calls along the way.
And Jerry’s roadside assistance is so good you’ll wonder how it could possibly be as cheap as it is! Fuel delivery, tire assistance, jumps, towing… Jerry will be there for any roadside emergency that you and your family need help with.
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