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The “best driving route from san francisco to denver” is a road trip that will take you through the best places in California and Colorado. It is one of the most scenic routes from San Francisco to Denver.

Consider the epic road journey from San Francisco to Denver if an epic road trip via California, Nevada, and Utah seems thrilling. Before arriving at the unique Mile High City, this trip will take you past some stunning mountain and desert landscapes.

A car journey from San Francisco to Denver, spanning 1,200 miles, will take at least two days. Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Reno, and Salt Lake City are all important destinations, as are the Fishlake, Manti-la Sal, and White River National Forests.

Read on for information on when to travel, where to stay, and the finest sites to see along the journey if you need some assistance arranging your spectacular road trip.

What is the distance between Denver and San Francisco, and how long will the journey take?

The trek from San Francisco to Denver is 1,200 miles long and will take at least two days. However, if you have the opportunity, you could spend a week or two taking in the sights along this path.

Before crossing the high Rocky Mountains near Denver, the route will take you through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and past the barren landscapes of Nevada and Utah. The route offers a diverse range of landscapes and vistas, offering something for everyone.

Sierra Nevada Mountains with tall trees in the foreground, a lake to the left and snow capped mountains in the background. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are seen on the journey from Denver to San Francisco.

Shutterstock.com/Galyna Andrushko

Every national park you intend to visit should be given at least a full day. The route includes a combination of interstates and highways, as well as a few small diversions on rural roads, ensuring that you don’t add unneeded distance.

Reno, which isn’t that big, is one of the few cities along the journey. If you’re concerned about traffic, try to avoid coming here during peak hour. Apart from that, there should be very little traffic, particularly in the first half of the journey.

The best route from San Francisco to Denver for a car trip

The greatest route from San Francisco to Denver passes via the world-famous Napa Valley, beautiful Lake Tahoe, parched canyons and arches of Utah, and the breathtaking Rocky Mountains.

This route offers a lot to see and do, and it will be a once-in-a-lifetime excursion, so plan on spending a couple of weeks exploring everything.

Route from San Francisco to Denver on the road

Take Interstate 80 out of San Francisco, across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and passing through Berkeley and Richmond. Exit the freeway at Vallejo for Route 29 and then Route 12, which will take you to Napa in a short detour.

After tasting some excellent wine, return to Interstate 80 via Route 12, which will take you via Sacramento on your way to Tahoe National Forest and Lake Tahoe. After you’ve finished here, continue on Interstate 80 to Fernley through Reno.

Merge onto Highway 50 in Fernley; it will take you across central Nevada to the Utah border. Follow Highway 50 to Fishlake National Forest, and if you have time, take a detour to Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City at sunset with smog covering the lake and snow capped mountains in the foreground and background. The alternative trip to Salt Lake City is well worth the additional kilometers.

Shutterstock.com/Mike Ver Sprill

Continue on Highway 50 until you reach Interstate 70, which will take you through the Manti-la Sal National Forest. Detour to Arches National Park and then Canyonlands National Park just before Thompson Springs, then return to Interstate 70.

After that, you’ll journey through McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area before arriving at Grand Junction. Follow I-70 through the Rocky Mountains, passing through well-known alpine communities like Vail and Breckenridge on your way to Denver.

On a road trip from San Francisco to Denver, these are the best spots to stay.

Your road journey from San Francisco to Denver is an incredible experience, but it might be challenging to organize your stops. We’ve put up a list of fantastic locations to stay to assist you in making your decision.

Near Lake Tahoe, reconnect with nature.

Because Lake Tahoe is such a beautiful area, it’s only fitting that you stay somewhere similarly beautiful. The Resort at Squaw Creek is precisely that, with breathtaking accommodations and an unforgettable vacation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The Resort at Squaw Creek is a fantastic location to stay all year. In the summer, the mountains are just outside your door, providing unlimited hiking and golfing opportunities, while in the winter, enjoy the world-class skiing slopes and high-altitude vistas.

Lake Tahoe with a beach made of sand and large rocks to the left and a calm turquoise sea on a sunny day. Visit the magnificent Lake Tahoe to get closer to nature.


The resort has a mountain home feel to it, with facilities that make the suites and rooms as comfortable as at home. The hotel and rooms are contemporary, with bright, airy decor.

The hotel has heated pools, a full-service spa, a championship golf course, and a variety of other attractions. When you add in its position in the mountains near Lake Tahoe, you have an almost limitless list of things to do.

There are also several food options, including the Six Peaks Grille and Sandy’s Pub – whatever you’re in the mood for, you’ll most likely find it at this resort.

Take advantage of all Vail has to offer.

Vail is a famous tourist destination recognized for its stunning alpine landscape. If you want to stay here, you’ll have to reserve a night at The Sebastian, which, with its unequaled facilities and stunning outdoor area, beats out every other hotel in the neighborhood.

The Sebastian has a lot going for it, including a location in the heart of Vail, an outdoor pool, four hot tubs, an on-site spa, and a fitness facility.

The Sebastian’s rooms are a delightful blend of contemporary elegance and rustic mountain charm. All of the rooms are exceptionally big and have every luxury you could possibly want.

The hotel itself is really nice and comfortable, with the same elegant but rustic theme running through all of the rooms – the suites’ window views are the highlight, so book early to get the finest ones!

The Leonora, an on-site restaurant, serves traditional gourmet cuisine cooked with fresh local ingredients. There’s also a bar called Frost, which has a laid-back vibe and is ideal for a drink at the end of a long day.

If you want to see all Vail has to offer, the Sebastian is the right spot to stay. Keep in mind, however, that the excellent location and service come at a high cost.

On a road journey from San Francisco to Denver, there are many sights to view.

An enormous road journey like this will take you by a variety of breathtaking sights. We’ve produced a fast list for you so you don’t miss any of the greatest ones.

  1. Napa Valley – This California region is famed for its great wine and is just a short drive from San Francisco. Consider staying the night at one of the area’s vineyards.
  2. Sacramento – Known for its food and drink culture, Sacramento is a must-see on your road trip.
  3. Tahoe National Forest – You’ll travel through Tahoe National Forest on your way to Lake Tahoe, so a trek here is almost a must.
  4. Lake Tahoe is a beautiful freshwater lake surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Allow at least a full day to explore Emerald Bay and go hiking.
  5. Reno – Famed as the “World’s Biggest Little City,” Reno is known for its incredible nightlife and casinos.
  6. Salt Lake City is a vibrant college city with much to do, particularly at night, despite the fact that it’s a bit of a detour along this route.
  7. Fishlake National Forest – Another beautiful wonderland, ideal for a challenging climb and some photography.
  8. Manti-la Sal National Forest – This lovely forest offers a variety of outdoor activities year-round, from hiking to skiing.
  9. Arches National Park – After passing through central Utah, you’ll arrive to Arches National Park, one of America’s most renowned.
  10. Plan a day in each, if not more, in Canyonlands National Park, which is just down the road from Arches but no less stunning.
  11. The beautiful stone arches in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area are the ideal predecessors to Colorado’s vast mountains.
  12. Vail is a stylish and upscale town in the Rock Mountains noted for its year-round outdoor sports.
  13. Breckenridge is a picturesque town with a rich gold rush past and abundance of outdoor activities, similar to Vail.
  14. White River & Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests – Once you’ve unpacked your bags in Denver, these amazing forests are where you’ll be doing most of your nature-based recreational activities.

Denver cityscape, aerial view from the city park in the foreground with the city in the background at sunset. Denver and San Francisco are both fantastic destinations to visit.

Shutterstock.com/Creative Family

When is the best time to travel from San Francisco to Denver?

A road journey from San Francisco to Denver may be taken at any time of year, while each season offers its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

Summer is the most popular season for seeing the sights along this route since it delivers more sunlight and less dangerous weather. In locations like Arches National Park, however, summer heat may be unbearable, and people can be seen at every major stop.

If summer does not appeal to you, try the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring instead. Although there will be less sunlight than in the summer, the weather might still be extremely nice.

The true benefit is that there will be less visitors, which means parks and sites will be more quieter for you to explore. Although hotel rates will not be at their lowest during these months, you may be able to get a reasonable bargain.

The least popular time to embark on a road trip like this is during the winter. Traveling in the cold, on the other hand, may have certain advantages. Hotel costs will most likely be at their lowest, and you may be able to get a fantastic bargain on a place to stay.

Sun shining through a natural arch in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, in winter, with snow all around If you visit the National Parks in the winter, be prepared for freezing temperatures and breathtaking views.


There will still be much to do since many of the national parks along the route are open in the winter. All you have to do now is make sure you’re ready for the chilly weather.

In the winter, places like Vail and Breckenridge in the Rocky Mountains will be quite popular since they have excellent skiing. Due to their popularity, you are difficult to get a good hotel bargain in these areas at any time of year.

The “southern route san francisco to denver” is the best way to go from San Francisco to Denver. It avoids mountain passes and will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States.

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