A road trip from Denver to Santa Fe is an unforgettable experience, as the Other City offers some of the most unique architectural, artistic and culinary attractions in America.

There is an airline that operates direct flights from Denver to Santa Fe, so you may want to consider boarding a plane. Instead, you can take one of the most beautiful routes in the American Southwest and see beautiful things along the way.

A car ride from Denver to Santa Fe on our proposed route can be done in one day, but it is better to divide it into at least two days. The journey itself takes about 6 hours and 30 minutes without the rounds you make on the way.

It can be difficult to plan a trip when there are so many places to see. So read on to get an idea of what to expect.

What is the distance between Santa Fe and Denver and how long does it take to get there?

Our journey from Denver to Santa Fe is about 360 miles and takes about 6 hours and 30 minutes of uninterrupted driving.

Route Distance Driving time
Fastest route
(via I-25 S)
392 miles 5 hours 59 minutes
Step
(via Hwy 285 USA)
360 miles 6 hours 30 minutes

On the shortest route from Denver to Santa Fe (mileage) a lot of traffic is expected when passing Colorado Springs. I therefore propose an alternative route, which is not only more picturesque, but should also allow you to avoid traffic jams and leave the city relatively quickly (provided you don’t travel at the weekend).

If you leave early and take a few lunch breaks and refreshments along the way, you can drive from Denver to Santa Fe at the end of the day – you can stop for about 2 hours and still have time for dinner.

However, that would be a bad decision because Colorado and New Mexico both have something to see and do. When you travel, the game is often to stop and take your time, and this is certainly no exception.

To make sure you’ve really seen and done everything you need to see and do, give yourself a few days on your way to Santa Fe and back.

There are many incentives to make detours along this beautiful route, and spending at least a day at each place or attraction is the best policy for nature trips. In addition, there are plenty of accommodation options, so no energy is needed for this one-day trip.

Best drive from Denver to Santa Fe

Although the I-25 south through Colorado Springs is theoretically the fastest route, it may take a while before you leave Denver and you won’t see as much of the beautiful scenery as you could.

Instead I suggest taking a route through the mountains between countless forests and ridges. That way you have something to do wherever you go.

Directions from Denver to Santa Fe

Take Highway 6 West through Lakewood and turn left onto Highway 470 past William F. Hayden Green Mountain Park. Follow this highway south of Forsberg Park and Red Rocks Park and turn right on 285 towards Mount Glennon Park. From there you spend most of the road on this highway.

Beyond Mount Falcon, the mountains will begin on all sides. You’ll go through Tiny Town, the train station and Ranch Park, and then pass James Q Newton Park. Then you’ll see the huge Staunton State Park on your right and a series of picturesque backs on either side.

After passing the Pike and San Isabelle National Forest, you can either temporarily pass SH 17 and pass the Great Sand Dunes National Park, or continue on Route 285 and pass the Monte Vista National Wildlife Area. In any case, the roads are connected further south and you will soon cross New Mexico.

Soon you will be between Carson National Forest in the west and Taos in the east. Cross the hot springs of Ojo Caliente and the Rio Chama to Santa Fe.

Best ports of call between Denver and Santa Fe

You will want to share your trip from Denver to Santa Fe for a few days, and there are good places to stay. They are among the best in terms of location and comfort:

Charge your batteries on Alamosa

Driving through mountainous terrain can be quite tiring, especially if you stop for a walk along the way. Luckily Alamosa is situated in the middle of the road, past the mountains, making it an ideal place to stay.

There are some great hotels in town, but the best should be the Fairfield Inn and Suites. Located near Alamosa National Park and several other attractions, it is a great place to relax and a center for exploration.

The spacious rooms are equipped with extremely comfortable bedding, huge bathrooms with shower cubicles and even a desk for maximum productivity.

You can also end your long and tiring day of discovery with a dip in the pool or the Jacuzzi with a beautiful view. Or, if you’re the type that traffic can’t stop, walk a few extra miles on the gym’s treadmills. Relaxed and refreshed you can enjoy a hot breakfast and prepare for your next adventure.

This hotel is specially designed for people who travel on this road from Denver to Santa Fe. In addition, the prices of the services you get are very reasonable, so you can stay a few nights if you want to do some off-road research in the area.

 

On the picture you can also see a river and some herbs.
Marvel at the brilliance and beauty of these local clay pueblo’s in Taos, New Mexico.

Gimas/Shutterstock.com

What to see on a trip from Denver to Santa Fe

A quick look at the map is enough to see everything you can see on a trip from Denver to Santa Fe. It is almost impossible to list only the beautiful mountains on the road, given their number. Here are some of the places that will take you to the next step:

  1. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is a very popular entertainment venue, it is beautiful and definitely worth a visit, whether the event takes place there or not.
  2. Matthews/Winter Park is a first class walking destination with a beautiful view of the heights.
  3. William F. Hayden Green Park – Lots of open space and greenery, with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and Denver.
  4. Stanton State Park – With its granite boulders, vast grasslands and abundant wildlife, this park is hard to miss.
  5. Mount Falcon Parkis home to many beautiful hiking trails and the John Brisbane Walker Castle, famous for his love at first sight.
  6. Small town and railway – Amusement park with a small town theme park (literally!) and a model railway to walk around.
  7. Pike and St. Isabelle National Forests / Simarron and Comanche National Grasslands – This vast area is a sea of green and has some of the highest peaks in the state, including Mount Elbert, the highest in Colorado.
  8. Great Sand Dunes National Park – In this park there were many lakes which are now retreating and form a huge dune area, especially for the raised star dune.
  9. Monte Vista National Wildlife Area – Numerous moose and cranes (including some endangered cranes) give this unique landscape house a name.
  10. Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest permanent settlements in the country and a cornerstone of American history.
  11. Ojo Caliente is home to the incredible hot springs of Ojo Caliente with its mineral-rich water.
  12. National Bandelier monument – A breathtaking monument with numerous dwellings and caves once inhabited by related Poebloans.
  13. Santa Fe National Forest is a must for visitors of Santa Fe. This vast forest, high up in the mountains, offers beautiful views as far as the eye can see.
  14. Pecos National Historic Park – This park is not only a great place for walking but also home to the historic community of Pecos Pueblo.

All these beautiful places will save you as much time as possible. Calm down and ask the people of New Mexico for directions and historical information about some of these places.

In front of you you can see the Sangre de Cristo mountains and some green asparagus on the parking lot.
You’ll have a lot of stretch marks when you explore the Santa Fe National Forest.

Christy Blokhin/Shutterstock.com

Best time to travel from Denver to Santa Fe

Due to the terrain of the route and the climate of another town, some seasons are much more favourable for a drive from Denver to Santa Fe.

Most of the year it is sunny in Santa Fe, but there is a clear distinction between the seasons – summers are warm and winters are cold and snowy.

Moreover, the nights are often quite cold due to the high desert climate, which often leads to large fluctuations in summer temperatures. At the same time, extreme heat and cold are very rarely observed out of season.

The city itself attracts visitors all year round, as many events and festivals take place in the area.

To find the perfect balance between good weather and fun, I recommend a visit in autumn – temperatures are quite pleasant during the day, and notable events include Burning Zozobra, an independent film festival in Santa Fe, and a little further south, the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque.

On the other hand, winter might not be the best time to visit Santa Fe, at least not on this route. Not only is it cold in the city (with rare snow in March!), but you should also be careful when taking the mainly mountainous route in the first half of the route.

This is especially true when there is a lot of snow – Route 285 is more difficult to keep clean in winter due to the terrain. If you decide to do this, follow the prognosis carefully and bring extra blankets and warm clothing!

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