The Best Austin to Denver Road Trip

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From the Live Music Capital of the World to the Mile High City, this road trip will take you from Austin to Denver.
You’ll journey through the Texas Panhandle, get your kicks on (a small part of) Route 66, explore a volcano in northern New Mexico, and drive through the many natural wonders of southern Colorado
Along the way, you’ll visit stunning national parks, historic hotels, and weird roadside attractions while you get a sense of this colorful slice of the American West.
But before you hit the road, be sure to download the car insurance comparison app Jerry and check out the roadside assistance program. With jump starts, lockout service, key replacement, and towing all taken care of, you’ll be able to enjoy your Austin to Denver road trip without a care in the world.
Let’s hit the road! 

Key trip details

Route Map
Austin to Denver trip map.
Austin to Denver
Distance: 956 miles
Driving time: 14 hours 48 minutes
Suggested trip duration: 7 to 12 days

Itinerary

  • Austin, TX (1 day)
  • Pit stop: San Angelo, TX (a few hours to 1 day)
  • Amarillo, TX (1 to 2 days)
  • Trinidad, CO (1 day)
  • Colorado Springs, CO (2 to 4 days)
  • Denver, CO (1 to 2 days)

Start in Austin

Start your road trip in the live music capital of the world! With great food, great music, and even great bats, there’s plenty to do in the Texas state capital. 

Where to stay in Austin

  • The Driskill: If you’re not a local, spend the night at this iconic Austin hotel, conveniently located downtown. It’s been around since the 1880s and its beautiful architecture is something to behold. Wander down to The Driskill Bar after dinner for live music. Cost from $220 per night.
  • The LINE Austin: This boutique hotel is another great downtown option. Take in the view of Lady Bird Lake from the saltwater infinity pool. Cost from $185 per night.

Where to eat in Austin

  • Franklin Barbecue ($$ - $$$): A trip to Austin wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this famed barbecue restaurant. You can expect long lines, but locals and visitors agree that the brisket is worth the wait.
  • Better Half Coffee & Cocktails ($$): Head to Better Half for breakfast before hitting the road (although they serve great meals all day long). The cauliflower tots are a must. 

What to do in Austin

People waiting by the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin, Texas hoping to catch sight of bats
Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin, Texas
  • The Continental Club: Catch a show at this historic live music venue in South Congress. Over the years, The Continental Club has served as a supper club, burlesque club, and blue-collar bar. Nowadays, it’s a go-to choice for live music and a good time.
  • Ghost Tour: For an unusual way to journey through Austin, take a walking ghost tour. You’ll learn all about the paranormal occurrences and spooky specters rumored to haunt some of the city’s most notable landmarks—including your hotel.
  • Congress Avenue Bridge: One of Austin’s weirdest but most popular activities is watching the flight of the Mexican free-tailed bats that live under the Congress Bridge during their migration season. Between March and October, you can see columns of bats rising above the bridge at dusk to forage for food. On hot August nights, their numbers exceed one million.
Pro Tip: Arrive by sunset and stand towards the middle of the bridge for ideal viewing. If you really want to go the extra mile with your photos, head down to the bat viewing platform beneath the bridge or rent a kayak. 

Pit stop: Austin to San Angelo

Once you’ve got your fill of bats and barbecue, it’s time to hit the road. San Angelo, known as the Oasis of West Texas, makes for a great rest stop on the way to Amarillo. 
Driving route: 205 miles, 3 hours 30 mins
Head east on State Highway 71, then take US-87 north to San Angelo.

What to do in San Angelo

  • Miss Hattie's ($$): Stop for lunch at this themed restaurant that will take you back in time to the saloons of the Old West. 
  • International Waterlily Collection: If you want to stretch your legs a bit more before getting back in the car, take a stroll through this impressive waterlily collection in a free public park. The display is at its best between July and October, although you can still see water lilies during much of the off-season.

Where to stay in San Angelo

The red Miss Kitty Suite at Hotel Garza in San Angelo, Texas
Hotel Garza, San Angelo, Texas
If you don’t want to make the 4.5-hour drive from San Angelo to Amarillo today, we’d recommend staying at one of these hotels along the way:
  • Hotel Garza This historic B&B will be a welcome respite from your long day of driving. It’s in Post (2.5 hours from San Angelo), and your stay includes a home-cooked breakfast. Cost from $114 per night.
  • Hotel Settles: For a little taste of cinematic history, spend the night at this Art Deco hotel that made a cameo in Midnight Cowboy. It’s located in Big Spring (1.5 hours from San Angelo). Cost from $126 per night.

San Angelo to Amarillo

Your next stop will take you to a major stop on Historic Route 66. In Amarillo, you’ll find a mix of cowboy culture and kitschy memorabilia, as well as some incredible geological formations at nearby Palo Duro Canyon. It’s time to explore the Texas Panhandle.
Driving route: 317 miles, 4 hours 40 mins
Take US-87 and I-27 north from San Angelo to Amarillo.

Where to stay in Amarillo

  • The Big Texan Motel Give your time in Amarillo a bit of flair by staying at this colorful, themed motel. Be sure to take a dip in the Texas-shaped swimming pool. Cost from $79 per night.
  • Palo Duro Canyon Cabins: To get away from the noise, consider a night in one of these cabins, located right on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon. This is a great option if you are more interested in exploring the canyon than the attractions in Amarillo. The accommodations are definitely rustic, but you can’t beat the view. Cost from $60 per night.

Where to eat in Amarillo

  • The Big Texan Steak Ranch ($$): A classic Route 66 stop, The Big Texan is world-famous for its steak challenge: if you can eat a 72-oz. steak in under an hour, your whole meal will be free. If competitive eating isn’t your thing, don’t worry—there are plenty of menu options that don’t come with a time limit.
 

What to do in Amarillo

Unique rock structure on a clear day in Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Amarillo, Texas
  • Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum: This is a great opportunity to learn about Texas history at the biggest history museum in the state. Inside, you’ll find a dinosaur display, antique cars, a life-sized pioneer town, and much more. Leave plenty of time because it’s bigger than you’d think!
  • Cadillac Ranch: Best visited on your way out of town, this outdoor art installation features ten spray-painted Cadillacs half-buried on the side of the road. It’ll be one of the stranger sights on your road trip, but it’s become a Route 66 classic since its installation in 1974. 
The best part? If you bring your own spray paint, you’re welcome to add to the psychedelic graffiti covering each car.
  • Palo Duro Canyon State Park: About 30 minutes outside of Amarillo you’ll find the Grand Canyon of Texas. Take the scenic drive down to the basin or soak up the breathtaking vistas while hiking to rock formations like the Lighthouse. During the summer, you can watch outdoor musicals at the Pioneer Amphitheater, set within the park.
Pro Tip: To fully embrace cowboy country, take a horseback riding tour along the canyon’s rim with the Cowgirls and Cowboys in the West.

Amarillo to Trinidad

This section of the drive will take you through several Historic Route 66 towns in West Texas and New Mexico. You’ll also stop at a volcano before crossing the state border to Trinidad, Colorado.
Trinidad is a scenic town with lots of Victorian architecture and a growing art scene. Located on the Santa Fe Trail, this city is a great gateway to Colorado. 
Driving route: 297 miles, 4 hours 45 mins
From Amarillo, head west on I-40 through Adrian and Glenrio. Once you cross into New Mexico, take NM-392 west to US-54 east and NM-402 north. At Clayton, take US-87 north to the Capulin Volcano National Monument.
From there, continue on US-87 until you reach I-25. Take that north to Trinidad. 

Where to stop along the way

  • Adrian, TX: Adrian is located right at the midpoint of Historic Route 66, exactly halfway between Los Angeles and Chicago. Stop by the Midpoint Cafe for lunch and a slice of “Ugly Pie.” Fun fact: the Midpoint Cafe was the inspiration for Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars
  • Glenrio: Take a slight detour on Route 66 to this ghost town, which is right on the border of Texas and New Mexico. When the nearby interstate was built, the already small population slowly trickled out. Now, you can walk through the eerie abandoned remnants of this former Route 66 hotspot. 
  • Capulin Volcano National Monument: This extinct cinder cone volcano is well worth the detour. If weather conditions allow, drive the Volcano Road all the way up to the summit for fantastic views of four states. From there, you have the option of walking the Crater Rim Trail and the Crater Vent Trail to get closer to the center.

Where to stay in Trinidad

  • Days Inn: This is a centrally located option with free breakfast and an indoor pool. Cost from $101 per night.

Where to eat in Trinidad

  • Rino's ($$): Load up on great Italian food at this Main Street restaurant. Don’t be surprised if your waiter breaks out in song. 

What to do in Trinidad

A piece of car art painted with a variety of colors at the Art Cartopia Museum
Art Cartopia Museum, Trinidad, Colorado
  • Corazon de Trinidad: Spend some time exploring this National Historic District in downtown Trinidad. You’ll find brick-paved streets, Victorian mansions, and original adobe buildings, giving you a sense of this former coal-mining capital’s history. During the summer, free trolley ride tours are available, starting from the Visitor’s Center.
  • A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art: This free museum has a wonderful collection of western art, including cowboy paintings, Native American crafts and artifacts, and western landscapes.
  • Art Cartopia Museum: Visit this unusual free museum to see a series of bizarre cars decorated with everything from giant googly eyes to colorful crocheted doilies. In September, the art cars hit the road for the annual ArtoCade Festival through downtown Trinidad.

Trinidad to Colorado Springs

Once you’ve had your fill of museums, it’s time to head to Colorado Springs, a haven for lovers of the outdoors. You’ll have your pick of natural wonders and beautiful resorts, both in Colorado Springs and nearby Manitou Springs.
Fastest driving route: 128 miles, 1 hour 50 minutes
Take I-25 north all the way to Colorado Springs.
Scenic driving route: 174 miles, 3 hours 10 minutes
Skip the interstate and drive the Highway of Legends scenic byway from Trinidad to Walsenburg for plenty of charming towns and colorful foliage during the fall. Head west from Trinidad and take CO-12 all the way around until you merge with US-160 heading east. At Walsenburg, you’ll rejoin I-25 north.

Where to stay in Colorado Springs & Manitou Springs

  • The Broadmoor: You’ll have everything you need for a great vacation at this iconic 1918 Colorado Springs resort with views of Cheyenne Lake and the mountains. You can spend your days golfing, playing tennis, ziplining, swimming in one of the indoor or outdoor pools, relaxing at the spa, and dining at one of the Broadmoor’s many restaurants and bars. Cost from $280 per night.
  • Cheyenne Mountain Resort: Near The Broadmoor but with a slightly lower price tag, the Cheyenne Mountain Resort offers golf, a spa, and three restaurants. Be sure to ask for a room with a view of the Rockies. Cost from $170 per night.
  • The Cliff House at Pikes Peak: For lodging in nearby Manitou Springs, consider this historic Victorian hotel. The Cliff House has seen its fair share of celebrity guests over the years, and several suites now bear those famous names. Cost from $160 per night.

Where to eat in Colorado Springs

  • Poor Richard’s ($$): Stop by this local favorite for delicious pizza followed by a trip to the independent bookstore and toy store in the same building. 

What to do in Colorado Springs

Scenic view of the snow covered mountains and rocks at the Garden of the Gods on a cloudy day
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Garden of the Gods: Nature lovers rejoice! This National Natural Landmark is home to incredible sandstone rock formations like Balanced Rock and Kissing Camels. You can explore the park by hiking, biking, driving, or horseback riding, and rock climbing is allowed with a permit.
Pro Tip: Start off at the Visitors Center for a brief history of the park and a beautiful view. Arrive early to avoid heavy crowds.
  • U.S. Air Force Academy: Tour one of the most prestigious universities in the country, and be sure to check out the authentic B-52 bomber and catch a show at the planetarium while you’re there. The gorgeous Cadet Chapel is one of the most iconic locations on the campus, although it is expected to be closed for renovation until late 2022.
  • Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: Perfect for families, this zoo houses 750 animals. Here, you’ll get the chance to hand-feed the giraffes, ride a historic carousel, and take a chairlift ride up to the Mountaineer Summit for beautiful views of Colorado Springs and Cheyenne Mountain. Reserved tickets are required for the zoo, and we’d suggest getting them well in advance of your visit.

What to do in Manitou Springs

A man looking down from Pike's Peak with a coin operated binocular nearby
Pike's Peak, Manitou Springs, Colorado
  • Pikes Peak: Known as “America’s Mountain,” Pikes Peak inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write “America the Beautiful” and it now draws half a million visitors every year. To get to the summit, you can drive Pikes Peak Highway, take a guided tour, ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, or hike Barr Trail—be advised that Barr Trail takes six to eight hours and is only recommended for experienced hikers. 
Reward yourself for your hike (or drive) with a donut at the Summit House.
  • Manitou Springs Penny Arcade: Go back in time with a trip to this old-fashioned arcade, with skeeball, pinball machines, and other arcade games dating back to the 1930s, as well as coin-operated rides.
  • Cave of the Winds: Explore the incredible caverns in this limestone cave that is millions of years old. You can learn more about the history of the cave on the Discovery Tour or get spooked on the Haunted Lantern Tour. Outside the cave, you can get your adrenaline pumping with zip-lining or a trip on the Terror-dactyl drop ride into Williams Canyon. 

Colorado Springs to Denver

Finally, it’s time to end your road trip with a visit to the Mile High City. With plenty of beautiful outdoor spaces, a thriving craft beer scene, and great food, Denver will be sure to keep you entertained on this last leg of your trip. 
Driving route: 60 miles, 1 hour 15 mins
Take I-25 north from Colorado Springs to Denver.

Where to stay in Denver

  • The Crawford Hotel: After all that driving, consider splurging on a room at this iconic hotel above Union Station. Guests can take advantage of amenities, like free craft beer at the Terminal Bar and a free scoop at Milkbox Ice Creamery. If you’re sick of your car at this point, The Crawford also offers complimentary transportation in the hotel’s official Tesla. Cost from $230 per night.
  • The Oxford Hotel: Every room is unique at this historic downtown hotel. Amenities include a bourbon tasting hour in the beautiful lobby, discounts at a number of nearby restaurants, and again, free Tesla transportation. Cost from $191 per night.
  • Magnolia Hotel: Conveniently located in downtown Denver, this boutique hotel is housed in the former First National Bank building. Be sure to stop at Harry’s for a drink. Cost from $125 per night.

Where to eat in Denver

  • Illegal Pete's ($): Grab some tacos or a burrito at this fast-casual spot. With seven Denver locations to choose from, you’ll be able to find one wherever you are.
  • Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs ($): Located near Coors Field, this famed Denver establishment serves up hot dogs with unusual meat choices ranging from ostrich to rattlesnake. Traditional beef versions are also available, as well as a Vegan Dog. 
  • Uchi Denver ($$$): Head to this award-winning Japanese restaurant for dinner. With amazing sushi, sashimi, and an extensive vegetarian menu, this spot keeps locals and visitors consistently coming back for more.

What to do in Denver

People walking on the stairs to the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, Colorado
Red Rocks Amphitheater, Denver, Colorado
  • Denver Art Museum: Explore the impressive collection inside this popular museum that specializes in western, American Indian, and Asian art. Outside the galleries, you’ll marvel at the unusual modernist building. Be sure to check out the gift shop before you leave.
  • Denver Botanic Gardens: With 50 gardens to explore, you can easily spend several hours admiring the flowers, exotic plants, and sculptures at the Botanic Gardens. You can visit the garden all year round, and highlights include the Japanese garden, the tropical conservatory, and the rock garden.
  • Craft brewery tour: Denver is a top destination for beer lovers, and you can find world-class breweries all over the city, from Wynkoop to The Great Divide. To plan your own walking tour, you’ll want to head to either LoDo, the Ballpark District, or RiNo. You can also take a guided microbrew tour
In October, you can sample beers from all over the country at the Great American Beer Festival.
  • Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre: Located about 30 minutes outside downtown Denver, a visit to Red Rocks is worth the detour. The Amphitheatre is most famous for hosting incredible outdoor concerts with views of the Rockies, but you can also attend yoga classes and movie screenings here during the summer. 
In addition, the park offers hiking trails, a trading post, the Red Rocks Performers Hall of Fame, and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

Driving home

The drive back to Austin will take you about 14 hours total. You’ll most likely want to split it up into at least two days by stopping in Amarillo for the night. If seven to eight hours is still too much driving for one day, you can add stops in Trinidad, San Angelo, or Lubbock, as well. See above for hotel recommendations.
From Denver, take I-25 south through New Mexico, then switch to US-87 going south. Continue on I-27 and US-87 south through Amarillo. In Plainview, take FM 400 south to US-84 east. Take TX-153 south to US-84 east, then US-183 south to Austin.

Jerry roadside assistance

Before you set off for your road trip, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for all kinds of unexpected interruptions. 
Jerry offers industry-leading roadside assistance at a great price, including benefits like towing, lockout service, and a mechanics hotline. To find out if you’re eligible, you can check the app or call one of our friendly agents. You may qualify for a special rate of $50 for your first year

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