Whether you’re traveling alone or with family, friends or other loved ones, a trip to the picturesque landscapes from California to Colorado is a guaranteed departure for a fascinating journey.

The journey from San Diego to Denver takes about 19 hours on the I-70, a 1,201 mile drive through breathtaking scenery ranging from arid deserts to lush forests. The road is long, but the possibilities for adventure are endless.

Read and discover the best stops and places to visit on your journey from San Diego to Denver.

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

There is a minimal difference between the two routes from San Diego to Denver in terms of travel time and distance covered.

The fastest route of the I-8 crosses the peaks and deserts of Arizona and saves just a few minutes or hours compared to the I-15 and I-70, which cross Nevada and Utah. And crossing the I-8 in summer can be hellish, as you’ll be followed by ruthless desert weather until you reach the I-10 bypass and the suburbs of Colorado.

If it’s not winter and some places along the I-70 are closed, a ride on the I-15 and I-70 from San Diego to Denver is the best way to drive and give you a view that’s a treat for your senses.

Best route from San Diego to Denver

The best route from San Diego to Denver is ultimately the scenic I-70 drive through the varied topography of Utah and Colorado. It’s relatively longer than the trip on the I-8, but the spectacular views at every stage of the trip are well worth your time.

This route offers maximum opportunities for exploration and adventure – whether you like mountain climbing, hiking trails or water adventure. A long journey also gives you the opportunity to spend more time in peace and quiet with yourself or your loved ones.

Car journey from San Diego to Denver

The best route from San Diego to Denver is the I-15 and I-70, with deserts, mountains and forests of Nevada and Utah.

From San Diego take the CA-163 to the north and keep left and follow the signs to N Escondido. Connect to I-15 North and stay on the interstate line. After about two hundred miles you drive to Nevada, and after a few miles you arrive in Las Vegas, where you can stop for a snack and a drink.

From the north of Las Vegas Boulevard turn left onto the I-515 and take the Interstate. Proceed to I-15 exit 76B and continue through the scenic Virgin Gorge Passage in northern Arizona towards Utah.

Along the I-15 you can take exit 16 to the famous Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Gorge and make a short stop for a break in your journey. You can also pass this location until you return to San Diego and continue on the I-15.

Red Stone Arch on the highway in Bryce Canyon National Park on a sunny morning
Red Stone Arch on the highway in Bryce Canyon National Park

Felix Lipov/Shutterstock.com

Exit 132 on I-70 eastbound to Colorado. If the weather permits, take Exit 182 and head to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks for a walk through their distinctive rock patterns and rich wildlife. Otherwise, take the I-70 to Colorado.

I-70 in Colorado runs through the vineyards of Palisade and the hot springs of Glenwood Springs. On the way you will also pass through the beautiful tunnel of the hanging lake and see the rocks.

From I-70 East, take exit 261 on U.S. Highway 6, then take the right lane to I-25 North. Stay to the left and follow the signs to Fort Collins, then take exit 210A and continue towards Denver.

Best ports of call between San Diego and Denver

The journey from San Diego to Denver takes almost a whole day in non-stop mode. If the weather permits, you should shorten your trip by two or three days. The time available from the road can be used not only for recreation, but also for research.

Here are some unique places where you can stay during your trip to enjoy a well-deserved rest and fun.

Stop in Sin City

About a third of the way from San Diego to Denver you drive directly through the city of Las Vegas. If you’ve never been to Sin City or if you need to have some fun, make it your first stop.

Whether you want to try your hand at a poker table, try your luck at the casino, attend a show or enjoy an exciting dinner, there’s something for everyone in Vegas.

I like to stay in one of the hotels at the new end of the Strip, and Aria is the best option. The hotel seems much simpler, without the gloomy feel of some of the more famous old casinos and cheap rooms.

Cosmo is right next to some great restaurants, and I’m like a private car park that comes to your rescue when you pass by on your journey.

Glen wood feathers Hot feathers rewind

Glenwood Springs is three hours from Denver. It may be tempting to just skip this historic spa and continue the journey, but the famous hot springs are reason enough for someone to stay there.

A lovely sunny day in a public spa with a water slide and a few people enjoying the warm water with stunning mountain views in Glenwood Springs, CA
Spa Rocks in Glenwood Springs is the world’s largest natural spa.

Andrey Blokhin/Shutterstock.com

This Colorado city is a must-see at any time of year and offers a variety of outdoor activities that are perfect for all visitors. You can relax and rejuvenate in the world-famous hot springs or sweat on the breathtaking hiking trails. You feel like an adventurer? A raft along the Colorado River, which flows through the Glenwood Canyon.

To recover and relax after your trip, stay at the best hotel in town – the Denver Hotel. This historic site has retained the charm of the past and offers you the elegant service you deserve. This gives you a good view of the river and gives you direct access to the thermal bath.

Things to see on the road from San Diego to Denver

The road from San Diego to Denver is full of topographical diversity, from the fields of Nevada to the mountain ranges of Utah and Colorado, making this trip ideal for those looking for peace, entertainment and adventure.

There are many places worth visiting, so give yourself a few days to take full advantage of this scenic route. Here’s a list of some places you’ll probably want to include on your itinerary from San Diego to Denver.

  1. Joshua Tree National Park is a desert from another world with uniquely shaped forests and great hiking trails.
  2. Palm Springs – An oasis in the middle of the Mojave Desert – Palm Springs is home to luxury hotels, golf courses and manicured green lawns.
  3. Los Angeles – Hollywood, Malibu and Beverly Hills are just minutes from the fastest route between San Diego and Denver.
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada – Known for its fashion boutiques, casinos and fantastic shows, this is the first place to stay during your trip to Denver.
  5. Intact River and River Gorge – The Intact River, where various species of flora and fauna are endemic to water, ends in Intact River Gorge, which is popular with mountaineers, hikers, and campers in winter.
  6. Zion National Park, a 229 square mile park in southwest Utah, known for its red and brown rock formations and the Great Staircase, is home to a varied wildlife and outdoor activities.
  7. Arches National Park – Located in eastern Utah, this park overlooks the tumultuous waters of the Colorado River and a variety of unique geological formations, including Balanced Rock and Delicate Arch.
  8. Canyonlands National Park is a smaller park located near the Arches and the city of Moab, with three areas known for their hiking trails, canyons and historic shelters.
  9. Palissade, Colorado – Over 25 Colorado wineries and a great place to tour and learn about the complex winemaking process.
  10. Glenwood Springs Hot Springs – Recommended stop for relaxation and rejuvenation in the famous hot springs.
  11. Hanging Lake Trail – This trail is also located in Glenwood Springs and is easily accessible via the I-70, ideal for year-round nature lovers.
  12. Vale, Colorado – Known for its ski resorts that you can visit for winter fun, as well as the Colorado Snow Sports Museum and the Colorado Hall of Fame.

This list contains just a few of the incredible attractions that are worth visiting during your trip from San Diego to Denver. There are several other places to avoid, such as Rocky Mountain National Park and Mojave County, Arizona.

Picturesque views of the historic Red Cliffs Amphitheatre in the open air with a few people sitting on benches and enjoying the distant mountain views, early in the morning in Denver
Park Red Cliffs and the amphitheatre are worth a visit as you approach Denver from the Rockies.

EQRoy/Shutterstock.com

Best time to travel from San Diego to Denver

Since you have to drive over the Rocky Mountains to get to Denver, you should consider travelling in late spring – autumn. Or to prepare a trip, if you start your trip in winter.

If you start your trip in winter, you should request this in advance, as parts of the I-70 may be closed due to extreme weather conditions. In order to minimise the risk of problems on the road, it is also necessary to ensure that the vehicle is ready to work with snow – tyres and snow chains.

Also take into account the traffic before your trip. In winter, the roads of Colorado can be blocked by skiers on their way to the Rocky Mountains.

Spring and autumn are ideal seasons to plan your trip, as the weather is ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling and fishing. It will not be too hot to walk on the path and not too cold for other outdoor activities.

A trip in summer can also be a good idea, because the places on your route will not be too hot, even at this time of year. However, always check the weather and keep it in mind when planning a hike, as mountain peaks can be warm and uncomfortable.

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