Whether you want to see the sights of the Mormon capital or simply drive through the breathtaking landscapes of Colorado and Utah, a trip from Denver to Salt Lake City is a great adventure.

The 525 mile drive from Denver to Salt Lake City takes about 8 hours on the scenic I-70, which winds through snow-capped mountains, lush forests and arid deserts. The possibilities to stop on the way to the interruption of the journey are endless.

Read on to find the best places to stop, discover exceptional sites along the way and get tips on the best hotels to stay in.

How far is Salt Lake City from Denver and how long does it take to get there?

The difference in time or distance to travel is relatively small, no matter which route you take between Denver and Salt Lake City.

The fastest route on the I-80 via Wyoming saves you just 15 minutes on a scenic drive through the Rocky Mountains on the I-70. So if you don’t really care about the view and your only goal is to get there as soon as possible, then you want to follow the I-70.

If you want to return on a different route, the US-40 is a good alternative and takes you through interesting places, so you can enjoy both the return journey and the trip to Salt Lake City.

Route Distance Driving time
Fastest route
(via I-80)
520 miles 7 hours and 45 minutes
Shortest distance
(above US-40)
490 miles 8 hours 30 minutes
(via I-70)
525 miles 8 hours

Best Road Trip from Denver to Salt Lake City

The best route from Denver to Salt Lake City is a scenic walk across the I-70 through the Rocky Mountains to the US-191 and the US-6 in the north.

This route offers breathtaking scenery along the way, with great places to explore, which is perfect if you want to take your time and spend time both outdoors and on the road.

Panoramic road from Denver to Salt Lake City

The best route from Denver to Salt Lake City is the I-70 west of Denver. Follow the highway up to the rocks and enjoy the view. Aparajo and Roosevelt National Forest are on your right as you approach the famous Vale Resort, and White River National Forest opens just beyond the resort.

Just before reaching Glenwood Springs, famous for its natural hot springs, pass the beautiful Hanging Lake on your right (a relatively easy walk).

From there the I-70 descends to the Palisade Vineyards, crosses the Grand Junction and leads to Utah. Continue until you cross the green river. At this point, the US-191 will take you north on your right.

Shortly after passing Helper, take US-6 at an intersection, which eventually leads to I-15, which takes you to Salt Lake City.

Waterfalls and a pine forest around Hanging Lake, near Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
The road from Denver to Salt Lake runs through the beautiful Hanging Lake at Glenwood Springs.


Best ports of call between Denver and Salt Lake City

In order not to be on the road all day, you should divide the trip into two or three parts. With nature as amazing as the show, you really want to spend as much time traveling as you do in Salt Lake City, so plan ahead.

Here you will find some of the best accommodations, depending on what you are looking for.

Study of Utah National Parks in Moab

Just over halfway between Denver and Salt Lake City, and just after moving from Colorado to Utah, there is a small town called Moab. It is the ideal place to stop and interrupt a long journey with two short trips.

Moab is the gateway to not one, but two breathtaking national parks – the Arch and the Canyonlands. If you’re just staying overnight, you can spend the morning in Arches National Park before heading to Salt Lake City, but you can and should stay longer and see the best of both places.

The best place to stay in Moab, if you like beautiful views and relaxed charm, is the Red Cliffs Lodge. It is located on the banks of the Colorado River, 25 minutes north of Moab, and although the rooms are slightly more expensive than the usual networking options in Moab, you get much more for your money.

A few kilometres upstream at the luxurious Sorrel River Ranch is an even more fantastic option, but prices are much higher there. Although the view is breathtaking and the room furnishing is first class, it might not be worth it because of the high price.

A look at Mesa Arch Canyon in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
If you have time, be sure to visit Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah.

prochasson frederic/Shutterstock.com

Overnight stay in Vale, Colorado.

Vale is not a good place to divide the trip equally – Denver is only about 2 hours away, so you will have to drive 6 hours or make another stop afterwards.

But if you’re looking for fresh mountain air and activities ranging from skiing in winter to cycling in summer, Vail is on its way through the Rocky Mountains.

Consider adding a safe to your itinerary if you want to make some progress after work to reduce the number of trips the next day, or if you want to do most of the tour from Salt Lake City at once but don’t want to go that far to do it all in one day.

While hotels in Vejla can be quite expensive, you can choose Hotel Sonnenalp, run by a rustic family in the heart of Vejla, as the ideal place to relax on the road. All resort facilities are within walking distance and after a day’s walk you can relax in the pool and spa.

A pine lake with mountains that reflect in the water near Vale, Colorado.
Summer in Vail is ideal for hiking in places like Piney Lake.

Angelo Ferraris/Shutterstock.com

Places of interest on the Denver to Salt Lake City Highway

The amazing thing about this CD is that you have an endless number of places where you can stop to explore nature, relax in hot spring baths or take a walk in the desert.

Here is a list of some of the best stops on the way from Denver to Salt Lake City:

  1. Vale, Colorado: One of the most famous ski resorts in the United States is as amazing as its location in summer.
  2. Aspen, Colorado: Another first class ski resort and a place to explore the Rocky Mountains from the main road.
  3. White River National Park: Discover the hiking trails in summer and the ski slopes in winter. Discover wildlife at its best in wooded and unspoilt mountains.
  4. Hanging more: An unspoilt lake with a beautiful waterfall and a forest that can be reached on foot. Ask if you should park in Glenwood Springs and take the shuttle.
  5. Glenwood Sources: Known for its natural hot springs with the largest spring water basin in the world, the water must first be cooled to 40°C before you can swim in it!
  6. Grand Mesa: breathtaking views of the world’s largest flat mountain and many other beautiful places along the highway.
  7. Winery Palissade: Perhaps the best wine region in the United States you’ve ever heard of, try the Colorado specialties in Palisade.
  8. Arch and Canyon National Parks: Unique red rock formations, canyons and breathtaking hiking trails near Moab, Utah.
  9. Test Canyon: Provo to Salt Lake City is a beautiful ride through mountains and waterfalls.
  10. Peak: The beautiful mountains surrounding Salt Lake City offer breathtaking views of the lake and beyond.
  11. Steam wells and Fischbach waterfalls: When you return to the United States, this is a great place to relax and unwind.

Rows of vines in Palisade, Colorado, with Mount Grand Mesa in the background.
If you like wine, you should visit the (pretty good) vineyards of Palisade, Colorado.

Philippe Rubino/Shutterstock.com

Best time to travel from Denver to Salt Lake City

You can take a year-round trip from Denver to Salt Lake City. Denver and Salt Lake City both have hot and cold seasons. So make sure you are well prepared, but even in the middle of winter the I-70 over the rocks is usually clean and easy to drive.

If you plan to drive in winter, check this information before driving, as heavy snowfall can sometimes cause some roads to be closed and others to be permanently closed during the winter (e.g. the quickest route to Aspen). You will need snow tires in any case, and although they are not mandatory, snow chains are a very good idea.

For most of the route, summer and autumn are ideal times to travel – the weather is ideal, the hiking trails are great and the various streams and rivers are not as busy as in spring.

If you plan to stay in Moab and explore the Arch and Canyonland National Parks, try to avoid the summer peak with daily average maximum temperatures of 36°C (97° F). It’s not as hot as in places like Death Valley or other parts of Mojave, but you can still feel uncomfortable on hot walks.

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