Denver to Utah Road Trip

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  • Denver, CO
  • Breckinridge, CO
  • Glenwood Springs, CO
  • Grand Junction, CO
  • Dinosaur, CO
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Quick route
  • Scenic route
  • Roadside assistance
Travelling from Colorado to Utah means swapping out snowy peaks and lush green forests for pristine desert landscape, making a road trip between the two super-diverse.
That being said, Colorado and Utah share some common ground in that they both experience extremely cold nights in the winter and even some snowfall. The deserts of the southwest also carry a well-earned reputation for high temperatures. For these reasons, we advise drivers to avoid this eight-hour trip in the winter and summer and instead aim for milder months.
Weather aside, make sure you’re prepared for any car-related issues with the roadside assistance program from Jerry. If you get a flat or accidentally lock your keys in your car, Jerry is there to help.
So pack up your skis and your sunscreen, because we’ve picked out the best route between Denver and Utah that’ll let you hit the slopes before you hit the sands!
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Start in— Denver, CO

Your Denver to Utah road trip is going to start off in lovely Denver, Colorado. The Mile-High City has no shortage of things to do and stuff to see, so make sure that you spend at least a few days here. Keep in mind that the high altitude can affect your ability to imbibe alcohol and could impact your stamina if you want to do any hiking in the nearby Rockies, so give yourself time to adjust (if you’re not a local, that is).
A view of Denver's skyline in the distance during the daytime.
Denver, Colorado

Eat here

  • Corrine: You can’t go wrong with contemporary American, and Corrine plates it up daily with Midwestern flair.
  • Izakaya Den: For something a little different from contemporary American, Izakaya offers up Japanese food and sushi, a rare find so far from the ocean.
  • Rioja: Or for a little bit of everything, hit up Rioja for some international cuisine in the heart of Denver.

Do this

  • Twilight Ghost Tour: Explore historic Denver’s haunted history with a creepy nighttime ghost tour through the city’s most paranormal hotspots.
  • Denver Botanic Gardens: Equal parts historic homestead, working farm, and native plant refuge, the Gardens also feature live entertainment, workshops, and art exhibitions.
  • Denver Art Museum: One of the largest art museums in the country, Denver’s artistic crown jewel features over 70,000 diverse exhibits, including a massive selection of Native American art.
  • Food Tour: Denver has an eclectic and diverse food scene that’s impossible to fully experience in a day. So get a sample of Denver’s greatest culinary hits on one of the city’s many food tours.
  • Whiskey Tour: Or, if you prefer a liquid diet, Denver certainly has no shortage of distilleries. Get a taste of Colorado’s local whiskeys and find yourself a new favorite.
A close-up of fuzzy-looking yellow plants at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Denver Botanic Gardens

Stop in— Breckinridge, CO

If you’re looking for a cheaper and more down-to-earth alternative to nearby Vail, you can’t go wrong with Breckinridge. Apart from skiing, this little town has plenty to offer year-round, including festivals and seasonal fairs.
A snow-covered slope on a cloudy day at Breckinridge, Colorado.
Breckinridge, Colorado

Eat here

  • Twist: As the name suggests, this restaurant serves up contemporary American cuisine with a twist.
  • Columbine Cafe: A great little breakfast spot, equal parts modern and alpine, that serves up all the classic American breakfast dishes.
  • Aurum Food and Wine: Treat yourself with seasonal American dishes elevated to an art form, with a glass of wine from some of Colorado’s best wineries.

Do this

  • Skiing: At its core, Breckinridge is a skiing town, so you can’t miss hitting the nearby slopes. There are several great resorts to choose from, for skiers at every skill level.
  • Blue River: In the summertime, this scenic river offers great low-key outdoor recreation, including fly-fishing, wildflower trails, and hiking.
  • Lake Dillon: During the winter, this freshwater reservoir plays host to a number of winter recreations, but during the summer, it’s great for white-water rafting, boating, and its alpine slides.
  • Main street: Breckinridge’s modern amenities can still be found on its main street, which plays host to all of its best shopping and dining.
The vibrant green of trees near Lake Dillon stand out against a blue sky.
Lake Dillon, Colorado
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Stop in—Glenwood Springs, CO

A town famed for its diverse natural features, including the largest natural hot springs in the world. Glenwood is also the final resting place of American legend, “Doc” Holliday.
People relaxing and playing pool games in a steaming spring at Glenwood Springs.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Eat here

  • Riviera Scratch Kitchen: Riviera brings international flavor to modern American dishes with eclectic dishes that are immaculately plated and locally sourced.
  • Slope and Hatch: For a more southwestern flair, Slope and Hatch is a tiny eatery that serves up food with big flavors.
  • Nepal Restaurant: Just because you’re not in the mountains of Nepal doesn’t mean you can’t still find Tibetan cuisine, and Nepal Restaurant offers up the spices of Indian and Tibetan cuisine in Colorado.

Do this

  • Hot springs: There’s no shortage of good hot springs in Glenwood Springs, so you’ll be spoiled for choice finding a hot natural bath to soak your worries away in.
  • Frontier Museum: Explore the history and culture of the American frontier and learn more about how it has influenced modern music and folklore.
  • Linwood Cemetery: Fans of the Old West can visit the final resting place of John Henry “Doc” Holliday, legendary gunslinger famed for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
  • Hanging Lake Trail: If visiting gunslingers of the Old West isn’t your thing, hit up Hanging Lake Trail, which takes you on a scenic climb to beautiful waterfalls and lakes.
A series of short and sparse waterfalls lead into deep green water at Hanging Lake Trail.
Hanging Lake Trail, Colorado

Stop in—Grand Junction, CO

Grand Junction is the last major city in Colorado before you hit the border and it is definitely worth a stop. Not only is it a great place to rest and restock, but it’s also known for its abundance of fruit (and wine).
A Grand Junction highway cuts through a Colorado valley.
Grand Junction, Colorado

Eat here

  • 626 On Road: For a taste of local cuisine and local wine, give 626 a visit.
  • il Bistro Italiano: Add some Italian flavor to your trip by hitting up this amazing little Italian eatery.
  • Main Street Bagels: Far and away the best bagels in Colorado, this is a great breakfast and lunch deli featuring bagels (duh), soups, and more.

Do this

  • McInnis Canyons Conservation Area: We’ve left Colorado’s lofty peaks and are now in desert country, and McInnis’s canyons feature natural rock arches, fossils, and petroglyphs that transport visitors to the past.
  • Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area: If the western prairie conjures up images of wild horses galloping through the plains, then Little Book Cliffs is where you want to go to make that image a reality. Apart from hundreds of wild horses of many different breeds, the area’s wildlife also includes elk, turkeys, bears, bobcats, bighorn sheep, and more.
  • Wine tasting: Fruit, particularly grapes, grow well in this region, so check out some locally produced wines. Two Rivers, Desert Sun, and Greystone rank as some of the best wineries in the region.
  • Museum of the West: Get an in-depth look at the history and evolution of the American West over the past thousand years. This museum takes you beyond the lens of cowboys and frontiers and explores the culture of peoples who lived here before European settlers arrived.
  • Grand Mesa: As the name suggests, this geological giant is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world.
A fish-eye view of a highway going through the McInnis Canyons Conservation Area.
McInnis Canyons Conservation Area
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Stop in—Dinosaur, CO

Dinosaur, CO changed its name to capitalize on the nearby Dinosaur National Monument, which alone is worth the drive up to this tiny Colorado town. Get an up close and personal view of the prehistoric creatures that roamed the earth.

Eat here

  • Bedrock Depot: The perfect rest stop for the weary traveler, perk yourself up with a sandwich, ice cream, or coffee.
  • Massadona Tavern and Steakhouse: For the carnivores, you can’t beat a juicy steak or a huge burger, and Massadona receives top marks for food and service.

Do this

  • Dinosaur National Monument: You can’t drive all the way to a town called Dinosaur without stopping off to see the dinosaurs. The national monument boasts over 800 paleontological sites, including fossils of hundreds of species of dinosaurs. It also showcases the petroglyphs that were left by the Fremont people who once inhabited the area.
  • Harpers Corner Trail and Scenic Drive: There’s more to this area than just dinosaur fossils. Hike or drive through Harpers Corner to get an incredible view of Green River canyon and the surrounding landscape.
The green Dinosaur National Monument near Colorado's paleontological collection.
Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado

Arrive in—Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City is the Crossroads of the West and its culture is steeped not only in its Mormon heritage, but in outdoor recreation and local skiing. As the largest city in Utah, there’s plenty to do, so plan to spend more than a day there to experience as much as you can.
An aerial view of Salt Lake City in the daytime with mountains in the background.
Salt Lake City, Utah

Eat here

  • Five Alls Fine Dining: The name gives it away一this restaurant is definitely for those who want to splurge! But Five Alls is worth every penny for its excellent steak and seafood.
  • Current Fish and Oyster: Salt Lake City may be in a landlocked state, but that doesn’t mean you’re barred from finding excellent seafood, which Current serves up daily.
  • The Park Cafe: If you’re looking for simple but delicious food, you can’t go wrong with the Park Cafe, known for its no-fuss American fare.

Do this

  • Temple Square: Where Salt Lake City (and Utah) as we know it today really began, Temple Square is where Brigham Young and his Mormon pioneers laid the foundation for Mormonism in the state.
  • Clark Planetarium: Stargazers of all ages flock to the Clark Planetarium every year to enjoy its numerous exhibits and shows, including a Led Zeppelin program.
  • Tracy Aviary: Meet the birds of Utah up close and personal and learn more about how Tracy Aviary is working to conserve the more vulnerable avian species.
  • Natural History Museum of Utah: Learn more about the natural world and humanity’s place within it. This museum has over a million items in several exhibits dedicated to anthropology and natural history.
  • Great Salt Lake: You can’t visit the city without checking out its eponymous lake, one of the largest saltwater lakes in the world. Its salination is so high that floating is almost entirely effortless.
A couple appears to be standing on the water of Great Salt Lake at sunset.
Great Salt Lake, Utah

The fast way back

Hit up I-80 East, which will take you up northeast through the bottom part of Wyoming. This route will also skirt around the mountains, which means a straighter trip with fewer turns.

The scenic way back

Take I-70 E and US-40 E for a more scenic route, which includes a drive around some national forests and the Uintah and Ouray reservation.

Why you need roadside assistance

Desert and mountain drives can be tough on your car, and even with the best pre-trip maintenance, sometimes it can be a little too tough. So don’t be caught without a backup plan, and the best backup plan is roadside assistance with Jerry.
The roadside assistance program from Jerry provides everything a driver needs to be certain their trip will go off without a hitch, including vehicle towing, jumpstarts, tire changes, and more!
No matter what you decide, Jerry makes it easy!
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