Denver to Utah Road Trip

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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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Key trip details

Denver to Salt Lake City road trip map.
Denver to Salt Lake City
​​Distance: 577 miles
Driving time: 10 hours and 32 minutes
Suggested length of trip: 2 to 4 days
There are so many things to do and see along the way, and with Colorado’s beautiful scenery as the backdrop, why not make a couple of stops along your way to Utah?

Itinerary

  • Denver, CO—Half a day
  • Breckinridge, CO—Half a day
  • Glenwood Springs, CO—1 to 2 days
  • Grand Junction, CO—Half a day
  • Dinosaur, CO—Half a day
  • Salt Lake City, UT—1 to 2 days

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).

Where to eat in Denver

  • 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 Mediterranean-inspired cuisine featuring local ingredients in the heart of Denver.

What to do in Denver

A close-up of fuzzy-looking yellow plants at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Denver Botanic Gardens
  • 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.
  • Go on a 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.
  • Go on a 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.

Stop in—Breckinridge, CO

80 miles, 1.5 hours
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.
To get to Breckenridge, take the I-70 W until you reach exit 203.

Where to eat in Breckenridge

  • Twist ($$$): As the name suggests, this restaurant serves up contemporary American cuisine with unique twists and interesting ingredient combos.
  • Columbine Cafe ($$): 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.

What to do in Breckenridge

The vibrant green of trees near Lake Dillon stand out against a blue sky.
Lake Dillon, Colorado
  • 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.
  • Explore 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.
  • Stroll through 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 experiences.
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Stop in—Glenwood Springs, CO

97 miles, 1.5 hours
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.
Continue on the I-70 W and take exit 116 to arrive in Glenwood Springs.

Where to stay in Glenwood Springs

  • Glenwood Hot Springs Resort: Surrounded by breathtaking mountain views and within walking distance of downtown, this is the ideal pitstop to stay and catch some zzz’s. It’s also home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool, so you really can’t find much more rest and relaxation than this! Cost per night: from $319.

Where to eat in Glenwood Springs

  • Riviera Scratch Kitchen ($$-$$$): Riviera brings international flavor to modern American dishes with eclectic dishes that are immaculately plated and locally sourced. Try their salmon or Colorado beef stroganoff!
  • Slope and Hatch ($$): For a more southwestern flair, Slope and Hatch is a tiny eatery that serves up global takes on tacos, frankfurters and cocktails.
  • Nepal Restaurant ($$): 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 chilly Colorado.

What to do in Glenwood Springs

People relaxing and playing pool games in a steaming spring at Glenwood Springs.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
  • 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.

Stop in—Grand Junction, CO

86 miles, 1.5 hours
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).
To get to Grand Junction, just follow the I-70 W and take exit 37.

Where to eat in Grand Junction

  • 626 On Rood For a taste of local cuisine and local wine, give 626 a visit. They use fresh ingredients, and their delicious menu is complimented by the exquisite atmosphere.
  • il Bistro Italiano ($$): Add some Italian flavor to your trip by hitting up this amazing little Italian eatery, and their especially delicious mushroom risotto in a parmesan cheese bowl is a crowd favorite.
  • Main Street Bagels ($$): Far and away the best bagels in Colorado, this is a great breakfast and lunch deli featuring bagels (duh), soups, and more.

What to do in Grand Junction

A fish-eye view of a highway going through the McInnis Canyons Conservation Area.
McInnis Canyons Conservation Area
  • 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 Graystone 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, and seeing it is a definite bucket-list item!
Pro Tip If you choose to drive in the winter, Colorado’s roads can get pretty icy. Be sure to invest in roadside assistance, and switch to winter tires if you live in an area where you see a lot of snow!
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Stop in—Dinosaur, CO

108 miles, 2 hours
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.
To get there, take the CO-139 N and CO-64 W to 4th St. in Dinosaur.

Where to eat in Dinosaur

  • Bedrock Depot ($): The perfect rest stop for the weary traveler, perk yourself up with a sandwich, ice cream, or coffee from this all-in-one depot.
  • Massadona Tavern and Steakhouse ($$): For the carnivores, you can’t beat a juicy steak or a huge burger, and Massadona receives top marks for great food and impeccable service.

What to do in Dinosaur

The green Dinosaur National Monument near Colorado's paleontological collection.
Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado
  • 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 31-mile auto tour to get an incredible view of Green River canyon and the surrounding landscape.

Arrive in—Salt Lake City, UT

204 miles, 3.5 hours
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.
To reach your final destination, follow the US-40 W and I-80 W until you reach exit 122 to arrive in Salt Lake City.

Where to stay in Salt Lake City

  • The Peery Hotel: Built in 1910, this charming historic building has a modernized interior that makes it a comfy and stress-free stay. If you’re a believer of the supernatural, there is supposedly a ghost-haunted elevator in the hotel—so be sure to take the stairs if you spook easily! Cost per night: from $157.

Where to eat in Salt Lake City

  • 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. It boasts an understated and simple design, and all of their dishes offer fisherman-direct freshness.
  • 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 and homestyle breakfasts.

What to do in Salt Lake City

A couple appears to be standing on the water of Great Salt Lake at sunset.
Great Salt Lake, Utah
  • Visit 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.

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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