The adventure hub town of Moab, Utah, is home to some of the world’s most awe-inspiring sedimentary rock formations thanks to its location near the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. For travelers based in Colorado who are looking to branch out from the Front Range and explore the Southwest, the Denver to Moab road trip along the I-70 west corridor can be done in one to two days with plenty of room for stops at historic mining and railroad towns, national and state parks, and natural hot springs.
Whether you’re planning on breaking this drive up into multiple days or are just looking for a couple of quick detours along the way, the Denver to Moab drive will take you past some of the best attractions in the southwestern US.
Planning a Denver to Moab Road Trip
When planning for the drive from Denver to Moab, keep in mind that there are two main routes to consider. While this guide will focus on stops along the quicker I-70 west route, it’s also an option to head south on 285 for a Denver to Moab scenic route past towns like Gunnison and Montrose.
Those who choose to take I-70 for this trip will find ample chances to stop for food, gas, and other services, so not a whole lot is needed in terms of provisions for the road.
I-70 west is a steeply graded mountain road, however, so it’s a good idea to be sure your vehicle is in good working order — especially if making this drive in the months of October through April when snow and ice are always a possibility in the high Colorado altitudes. Good tires and brakes are worth their weight in gold when navigating roads in the Rocky Mountains.
A note on traffic: this corridor through the mountains can be very busy on weekends, so it’s never a bad idea to make this drive on a weekday if you can help it!
If you need to rent a car for this trip, you can browse deals on Rentalcars.com which aggregates prices across major providers.
Alternatively, if you’re doing this drive as part of a longer road trip such as from Denver to Las Vegas or continuing on from Moab to Phoenix, you can rent an RV or campervan on Outdoorsy if you want to save money on accommodation.
How Far is Denver to Moab?
The Denver to Moab drive is about 350 miles long and can easily be done in a day, with total drive time coming out to about 6 hours, though this would obviously be with no stops.
This route is easily broken into two or three days, as there are many opportunities to make short detours driving up county roads to national forest hiking trails and campgrounds.
And if you don’t have the freedom of taking more than one day on this drive, other stops right along I-70, such as a visit to the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool at Glenwood Springs, CO, will allow you to take a short break and enjoy the serenity of the Colorado wilderness.
Read on for more about some of the Denver to Moab stops that are best suited to road trip travelers.
Best Denver to Moab Road Trip Stops
With arguably one of the most vibrant main street areas of any small to mid-sized Colorado town, Golden is a great first stop on a Denver to Moab road trip.
The town is built around the banks of Clear Creek, with a network of paths running along the waterway and offering views of kayakers and whitewater rafters in the spring and summer. This former gold rush town also houses the Colorado Railroad Museum, which features classic train exhibits and a 19th century-style railroad depot, and the Coors Brewery.
Since it’s so close to Denver, you might consider getting breakfast or brunch somewhere in Golden to kick off the day of driving. The Golden Diner is a great option for a quick, classic eatery serving everything from Belgian waffles to the Colorado favorite smothered breakfast burrito.
Morrison is the gateway to Red Rocks Amphitheatre and is located a mere ten minutes off I-70 down CO-470. The short detour is well worth it, as Morrison is a small mountain town with a flavor of its own and a self-billing as “The Nearest Faraway Place” to Denver.
When driving west from the highway into town, you’ll notice the towering cliffs on either side that lead up to Red Rocks and its signature crimson walls. Depending on the timeframe of your road trip from Denver to Moab, consider catching a show at this incredible venue.
Another gem located near Denver that’s accessible via Morrison and Highway 8 and runs through town is Bear Creek Canyon and its many trails. Lair o’ The Bair Park is a local favorite that lies within a 15-minute drive up the canyon from Morrison.
As you’re making the ascent up I-70 west on the eastern slope towards the Eisenhower Tunnel, the mountain community of Georgetown is easy to find thanks to the scenic Lake Georgetown that’s visible right alongside the highway. The lake is a popular destination for people looking to fish, sightsee, and walk their dogs, and it’s also a nice spot to enjoy a view and take a break from the road.
Historic Georgetown offers evidence of the town’s origins as a silver mining outpost that once stood proudly as the “third-largest town in Colorado.”
The Hotel de Paris and the Hamill House Museum are two of the best bets locally for seeing some of the historic artifacts that have been preserved from this era. And for the less historically inclined, take the Georgetown Loop Railroad on a steam train ride from Georgetown to Silver Plume and back with an optional stop at the Lebanon Silver Mine.
Georgetown is also known for having several excellent restaurants to choose from, including Guanella Pass Brewery, a favorite of Coloradans looking for a meal and a beer after getting off the trail or the ski slopes.
While Breckenridge is probably best known as a ski resort town, it’s ideally poised as a road trip stop for any time of year that’s just 10 minutes from I-70. As you head north from the interstate on State Highway 9, the sprawling waters of Dillon Reservoir are to the left and the peaks of the Tenmile Range stand tall to the right.
Between Dillon Reservoir, the nearby Blue River that runs through town, and the many surrounding hiking and biking trails, the town has a lot to offer when it comes to recreation which makes Breckenridge an ideal stop when driving from Denver.
This could be an ideal chance to try a mountain activity like fly fishing in the Blue River or renting a paddleboard and heading out on the lake before your drive down to lower elevations and on to Moab.
Local outfitters like Mountain Angler and Cutthroat Anglers are a great option for guided fishing, and paddleboards and other watercraft can be rented from the Dillon Marina.
Long considered a gem of Eagle County, CO, Minturn was developed as a railroad town in the late 1800s and to this day is a chance to feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine.
The contrast between Minturn and neighboring Vail’s towering condos and ski resort feel is immediately apparent after a stroll down main street. The town’s architecture alone — a combination of Victorian-inspired mountain elegance and a more eclectic western aesthetic — will have you reaching for the smartphone to take a few photos.
Minturn is also a gateway to the White River National Forest and the Holy Cross Wilderness, so after a stop through town, consider making the five or ten-minute excursion to a nearby trailhead in one of these areas. Some of these trailheads, such as the Cross Creek area, are only accessible via bumpy, rutted Forest Service dirt roads, so having a high-clearance SUV may be necessary depending on conditions.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Glenwood Springs is one of the larger towns you’ll run into on the western, downward slope of I-70 after descending from the 10,666-foot-high Vail Pass. The hot spring pool is the main attraction here, as it features waters naturally warmed by geothermal processes that are housed in a luxury-style facility complete with a lodge and spa.
Another natural attraction, the Glenwood Caverns, is connected to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, a theme park with cave tours, thrill rides, and other seasonal attractions.
This town is also home to a registered National Natural Landmark, Hanging Lake, which can be an ideal way to break up the drive from Denver to Moab with a relatively short hike. Hanging Lake is tucked back in the heart of Glenwood Canyon in White River National Forest.
Waterfalls trickle over mossy cliff faces into the turquoise waters of this lake, making for scenery that is at once striking and peaceful, and there are abundant chances to catch a glimpse of wildlife on this 1.2-mile trail.
Having gained a reputation as one of Colorado’s mountain biking epicenters, Fruita is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream on the same level as Moab.
Bike trails with a variety of mixed terrain types geared towards all skill levels are easy to find here, with opportunities to purchase and rent bikes readily available. Guided mountain bike tours are even available through several local outfitters and may take participants through wilderness routes like the Kokopelli Trail.
If biking isn’t exactly your thing, not to fear: Fruita boasts a downtown area with a funky, youthful vibe and plenty of options for dining and shopping. Local trails and park areas also often celebrate Fruita’s geologic history as a home to dinosaurs, which is evident in the many fossils found around the area.
The Dinosaur Journey Museum has interactive exhibits that incorporate lifelike models, animatronic technology, and real fossils.
Westwater Canyon, Utah
Westwater Canyon has been dubbed “The West’s Best Short Whitewater Trip” by National Geographic. This canyon is 17 miles long, includes Class IV rapids, and is the first whitewater stretch of the Colorado River in Utah. Don’t let this intimidate you, however, as a trip down the river in this picturesque canyon has a reputation for being family and group-friendly.
And the best part: while Westwater Canyon is fairly well-known as a rafting destination, it’s still relatively “under the radar” in comparison to some of the river’s other stretches back east on I-70 in Colorado. Local guides such as Moab Adventure Center are well-equipped to outfit and row you safely through this canyon.
Just be advised that booking a trip down the Colorado River here is a bit of a time commitment, as this float can mean 7.5 hours on the water.
Arches National Park, Utah
Likely to be one of the last stops on the Denver to Moab drive, Arches National Park is located just a half-hour down US 191 from the I-70 exit. This national park stands out as one where you can choose to do your sightseeing from the paved park roads, or you can branch out and hike into some of the more remote areas.
With more than 2,000 naturally formed sandstone arches, there is no shortage of sightseeing to be done here, but some favorites include the colossal Delicate Arch, the Devils Garden area, and the towering Balanced Rock.
As the Denver to Arches National Park drive leaves you just shy of Moab by some 30 minutes or so, this is a great final stop to have yourself feeling fully immersed in Utah’s unique geology and geography before you arrive at your final destination.
Castle Valley, Utah
If you’re wanting to check all the boxes on the east side of Moab or just want one final stop after Arches, Castle Valley is a small town named for the impressive nearby rock formations.
These sandstone towers look like something out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and offer classic views of the rugged Utah landscape. A stop here will give you a good preview of what’s to come if you plan on visiting other Utah national parks like Canyonlands and Zion after your stay in Moab.
The town of Castle Valley itself doesn’t have many services, however, so it’s best to plan for a brief stop here to enjoy the valley scenery.
Where to Stay on a Denver to Moab Road Trip
If you plan to make all (or even just some) of the stops on this route from Denver to Moab, you’re going to need to find accommodation for a few days in Moab as well as the perfect place to stay along the way. The city of Fruita, Colorado is a great choice for this. If you’re wondering where to stay on this road trip, have a look at these recommendations:
Balanced Rock Inn — This hotel is an excellent option for those travelling on a mid-range or tight budget when on their Denver to Moab road trip. they have a number of clean and comfortable rooms available and a great location for exploring downtown Fruita. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental — If a private rental is more your speed than a hotel, there are quite a few options to choose from in Fruita. this pet-friendly home within walking distance of downtown is a wonderful option, especially for families. Click here to browse more Fruita private rentals
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Fruita hotels!
Adventure Inn Moab — This boutique motel is a great place to stay in Moab if you’re travelling on a bit of a tight budget. They have a range of great rooms to choose from, include free parking and they even have laundry facilities should you need to do a wash on your road trip! Click here to see their availability
Comfort Suites Moab — If you have a bit of a higher budget on your Denver to Moab road trip, then this hotel could be a good option. They have a number of clean and comfortable rooms available, a heated pool and free parking available for hotel guests. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental – If you’d rather have your own private home when visiting Moab than stay in a hotel there are a number of fantastic options available to you. For instance, this beautiful home with panoramic desert views is located within easy reach of both Moab and Arches National Park. Click here to browse more Moab private rentals
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Moab hotels!
The Denver to Moab road trip will take you through vast tracts of alpine and subalpine forests as I-70 winds through the highest parts of the Rockies. These ten stops should give you some good ideas on how best to break up the drive and make the most out of your time traveling through the mountains on your way to the Utah desert.
Are you planning a Denver to Moab road trip? Have any questions about this route? Let us know in the comments!