Denver to Salt Lake City

Embarking on a road trip from Denver, Colorado to Salt Lake City, Utah can be a thrilling adventure. The journey, covering about 525 miles, takes you through stunning landscapes and fascinating pit stops.


7/19/20234 min read

Denver to Salt Lake City
Denver to Salt Lake City

Guide to Driving from Denver to Salt Lake City

Embarking on a road trip from Denver, Colorado, to Salt Lake City, Utah, can be a thrilling adventure. The journey, covering about 525 miles, takes you through stunning landscapes and fascinating pit stops. Let's dive into this comprehensive guide to help you plan your road trip.

Planning Your Route

There are two main routes you can take from Denver to Salt Lake City:

  1. I-70 W and I-15 N: This is the most direct route, taking you through the scenic landscapes of the Rocky Mountains and Utah's southern desert. The estimated travel time is approximately 8-10 hours, depending on traffic and stops.

    Google Maps Route

  2. I-80 W: This route takes a bit longer, about 10-12 hours, and goes through Wyoming before dropping down into Utah. It's a less mountainous route, which might be preferable in winter.

    Google Maps Route

Denver to Salt Lake City: Must-See Stops

Here are some of the must-see stops along the way for each route.

I-70 W and I-15 N route:

  1. Vail: A world-famous ski town with charming Alpine architecture and outdoor activities year-round.

    More about Vail

  2. Glenwood Springs: Home to one of the largest hot springs pools in the world and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

    More about Glenwood Springs

  3. Arches National Park: Stunning red rock formations and over 2,000 natural stone arches.

    More about Arches National Park

I-80 W route:

  1. Cheyenne: Wyoming's capital city, filled with western history and charm.

    More about Cheyenne

  2. Fort Bridger State Historic Site: A 19th-century trading post and military fort.

    More about Fort Bridger State Historic Site

  3. Park City: Known for its ski slopes and the Sundance Film Festival.

    More about Park City

Tips for the Drive

  • Check Road Conditions: Weather can affect road conditions, particularly on I-70 through the Rocky Mountains. Check Colorado's and Utah's road condition websites before you go.

  • Pack Plenty of Water and Snacks: Parts of the journey, especially on I-70, are quite remote.

  • Fill Up Your Gas Tank: Make sure to fill your tank before hitting particularly remote stretches.

  • National Park Pass: If you plan to visit Arches National Park or any other national park on the journey, consider getting an America the Beautiful Pass for unlimited entrance.

  • Plan Overnight Stops: If you're not in a rush, consider planning an overnight stop in Vail or Glenwood Springs on the I-70 route, or Cheyenne or Park City on the I-80 route.

As you prepare for your road trip from Denver to Salt Lake City, there's a lot more to consider than just the route and must-see stops. This journey is not just about getting from point A to B, but an opportunity to immerse yourself in the cultures, histories, and unique experiences each state offers. Let's delve deeper into some relevant topics to enhance your journey.

Appreciating the Geography and Nature

The Rocky Mountains

The drive from Denver to Salt Lake City, especially if you choose the I-70 W and I-15 N route, takes you right through the heart of the Rocky Mountains. This vast mountain range stretches over 3,000 miles from northern British Columbia in Canada all the way to New Mexico in the U.S.

The Rockies are known for their stunning, rugged peaks, alpine meadows, and diverse wildlife. Take time to appreciate the grandeur of the landscape and keep an eye out for animals like deer, elk, and if you're lucky, you might spot a moose or bear from a safe distance.

Learn more about the Rocky Mountains

The Utah Desert

As you cross into Utah on the I-70 W route, the landscape changes dramatically from towering mountains to striking desert vistas. Utah's desert is part of the larger Colorado Plateau, a high desert region that also spans parts of Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. This area is characterized by its deep canyons, stunning arches, and striking red rock formations.

One of the highlights of this region is the 'Mighty 5', Utah's five national parks. If your route and time allow, consider a detour to visit Arches National Park, or even extend your trip to see Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion.

Learn more about the Utah Desert and the Mighty 5

Understanding Local Cultures and History

Colorado's Ski Culture

As you begin your journey in Denver and drive through the Rockies, you're entering the heart of Colorado's renowned ski culture. Towns like Vail along your route are world-famous for their ski resorts, but they offer much more.

Even if you're traveling outside of ski season, these towns offer a vibrant alpine culture year-round. In the summer months, hiking, mountain biking, and fishing are popular activities. Meanwhile, the apres-ski culture — encompassing food, drink, and entertainment — thrives all year.

Learn more about Colorado's Ski Culture

Utah's Mormon History

When you reach Salt Lake City, you're arriving in a city that's deeply intertwined with the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often known as the Mormon Church. The city was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and other Mormon pioneers seeking a place to practice their religion free from persecution.

Visit the historic Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City to learn more about this religious history. The square is home to the impressive Salt Lake Temple, the Tabernacle, and other historic buildings. Even if you're not religious, the architecture and history are fascinating.

Learn more about Utah's Mormon History

Unique Culinary Experiences Along the Way

Colorado's Craft Beer Scene

Colorado, and Denver in particular, is well known for its vibrant craft beer scene. There are hundreds of breweries across the state, offering a wide variety of beer styles. If you're a beer lover, consider stopping by one of the local breweries on your journey to sample some Colorado brews.

Remember to drink responsibly and consider staying overnight if you plan on sampling more than one or two beers.

Learn more about Colorado's Craft Beer Scene

Utah's Unique Food Culture

When you reach Utah, you'll find a unique food culture waiting to be explored. One local favorite to try is fry sauce, a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise that originated in Utah and is a staple in many restaurants.

Salt Lake City also has a thriving foodie scene, with a range of dining options to suit every palate. From high-end restaurants to food trucks, there's something for everyone.

Learn more about Utah's Food Culture

Final Thoughts

Your road trip from Denver to Salt Lake City is more than a journey; it's an opportunity to explore and learn. Whether you're marveling at the majestic Rocky Mountains, discovering Utah's unique desert landscapes, delving into local history and culture, or sampling regional cuisine, this trip offers a wealth of experiences. Enjoy every moment, and remember that the journey is just as important as the destination.