The Denver to Las Vegas drive is one of the most exciting road trips you can take in the USA, giving you the chance to explore the best that the Southwestern states have to offer.
From Colorado across to Nevada, there’s so much to be seen. We aren’t just talking about a brief pit stop at the Grand Canyon, either – this road trip has so much more potential.
We recognize that this route can be done in two ways, one taking what we call the North Route that goes through northwest Colorado and the northern section of Utah. This route largely avoids the southwest.
The second being the South Route, which heads to the southwest of Colorado and then straddles the Arizona/Utah border, hitting the best of both in that area. This route offers a classic Southwest USA experience.
This article outlines the South Route. Which in our opinion, offers way more bang for your buck when it comes to exploring between Las Vegas and Denver.
On the south route, you’ll visit the epic Canyon of the Ancients before seeing the equally ancient cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Take in the rocky, otherworldly sights of Arizona, stopping for a selfie above Horseshoe Bend before exploring two of Utah’s national parks and then ending in Nevada.
There’s a lot to take in, so here’s our guide to planning a successful Denver to Las Vegas drive!
Don’t leave home without: 100 Parks, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do!
Ultimate Trip Planner: Denver to Las Vegas Drive
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The drive from Denver, Colorado, to Las Vegas, Nevada, is a drive of epic proportions. While the quickest route between these two cities would take a fast driver 12 hours to complete without stopping, we suggest taking it slow and enjoying everything there is to see on the way.
And there’s a lot to see, so factor in plenty of time to experience the national parks, as well as any unexpected hidden gems you might stumble across.
Our Denver to Las Vegas drive itinerary will take at least a week to enjoy properly, but you could easily add in more days, especially if you want to spend more time hiking in the parks!
Denver to Las Vegas Road Trip Map
Our route is 870 miles long. While it’s fairly comprehensive, there’s so much to see in such a vast area that you can easily add in detours and customize it to create your own itinerary.
Looking for more road trip information? How to Plan A Road Trip in 10 Easy Steps.
What about accommodation, food, and fuel?
Once you’re out of Denver, this is a fairly remote and, at times, seemingly empty and barren part of the country (there’s a lot of desert in this region!). It’s also very well-trafficked; if you stick to the main highways, you won’t need any special vehicles or equipment to enjoy the road trip.
We’d recommend stocking up on water and fuel (and possibly some food) at the start of the trip and as you pass through larger towns. Keep your gas tank full, and you shouldn’t have a problem, even on the longest stretches of road.
There’s plenty of accommodation en route, too, from roadside motels to glorious camping spots in the national parks. You should try to book the best places in advance, or you could turn up late and have no place to stay.
This is a popular road trip for RV lovers, so you could rent a camper and be totally self-contained on the drive too.
Let us help you get a great deal on accommodation: 11 Easy Tips on How to Find Cheap Accommodation
The best time to road trip from Denver to Las Vegas
This is a vast and varied part of the USA, and the climate can vary quite significantly on the Denver to Las Vegas drive. Colorado is cooler and more temperate (it’s popular for snow sports in winter, of course!), while Las Vegas is notoriously dry, dusty, and hot.
The summer months are peak season, but it gets super hot and busy on the road. We’d suggest that you aim to make the drive in either spring or fall. Drive between either March to May or between September and November; you’ll miss the crowds and it won’t be too hot.
Did you know your basic insurance does not cover most mishaps that can happen while on a road trip? Check out: How to Choose the Best Travel Insurance Policy.
13 Best Stops For your Denver to Las Vegas Drive itinerary
1. Denver, Colorado
Start your journey in Denver, Colorado. The state capital is a fascinating mixture of modern and 19th-century architecture, and a metropolis surrounded by mountains and nature.
Explore Downtown Denver, taking in the magnificent State Capitol Building, the Botanic Gardens, and famous landmarks like the Mint and the Union train station.
There are excellent museums, and best of all, you can try and catch a concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheater on the outskirts of the city. The outdoor arena is literally carved from the Colorado rock it sits on.
Don’t just drive from point A to B, here are a few amazing things to do in Denver on your road trip:
- Discover Rocky Mountain National Park from Denver or Boulder
- Foothills Explorer Tour From Denver
- Denver History and Highlights Small-Group Tour
- Small-Group Food Tour in Denver
- Craft Beer Tour in Lower Downtown Denver
2. Durango, Colorado
The first stretch of road is a long but beautiful one. You’ll leave Denver and head south to the border with New Mexico, where you can overnight in the small city of Durango.
You could even break up the journey (it’s over 300 miles) by camping out or stopping off in the Rio Grande National Forest, or any of Colorado’s many other national forests that are en route.
Durango itself is a fantastic destination, offering easy access to the hiking and biking trails of the San Juan National Forest.
If you only have time for one activity when you’re in the city, make it a ride on the Silverton and Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad. This old mountain train winds its way through canyons and alongside steep cliffs, offering dramatic views over the Colorado scenery.
Turn your Denver to Las Vegas road trip into an epic adventure on one or two tours that we love in Durango:
- Half-Day Family Rafting in Durango
- 12-Zipline Adventure in the San Juan Mountains near Durango
- Bike Rental – Single Speed Cruiser
3. Mesa Verde National Park
From Durango, it’s a short hop down the road to Mesa Verde National Park, where you can find one of the most fascinating archeological sites in the country.
Mesa Verde was home to the Pueblo Civilization, who left their mark on the region until they disappeared in the 1300s. The most impressive ruins you can see are those of the Cliff Palace.
The Pueblo Indians constructed elaborate houses directly below the cliffs, often carving them straight from the rock.
We love exploring places by ourselves but we also love exploring them with a local guide who can show us more and tell us about this area beyond the posted information in the National park.
That is why we love these two tours offered in Mesa Verde National Park:
4. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Next up are the Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, just across the highway from Mesa Verde National Park.
The national monument also protects important archeological sites left behind by the Pueblo Indians. You can learn more about the civilization’s history by visiting the Anasazi Visitors Center before heading to explore the archeological sites and ruins themselves.
This is a half day stop to truly appreciate all that is on offer. We’d recommend that you save it for your departure day, spend the morning here and then move on.
5. Four Corners
Head southwest, and you’ll soon reach one of the region’s most popular stops, the Four Corners. There’s not really much here to see except for a monument, but it’s popular because this is the intersection of four states.
This is where Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona all meet. You can set foot in all four states before hitting the road again.
Besides posing for the photo of your feet in multiple states, be sure to spend some time shopping the local Navajo artisan shops around the perimeter of the monument.
6. Monument Valley
The highway passes very briefly through New Mexico before turning into Arizona. You’re heading to the Arizona-Utah border, where you can find Monument Valley.
This is one of the best stops on the road trip from Denver to Las Vegas; you’ll recognize many of the views from western movies and, these days, from Instagram.
The road winds through this monumental valley, where huge rocks or buttes rise abruptly and dramatically from the ground below. Discover the Good, the Bad, the Ugly about visiting Monument Valley where we give the run down on our visit to this iconic American landmark.
There’s a ton of cool things to do in Monument Valley, too:
- Cultural Tour of Lower Monument Valley Tribal Park
- Monument Valley Extended Backcountry Tour
- Sunrise Tour of Monument Valley (Our photos were amazing from this tour!)
- Sunset Tour of Monument Valley (This is magical!)
- Private Monument Valley Horseback Riding Tour
7. Page, Arizona
From Monument Valley, continue across Arizona to the small city of Page, from where you can explore some of the best sights on the road trip.
This is Grand Canyon territory; your first stop will be Horseshoe Bend, where you’ll see the dramatic sight of the Colorado River far below as it winds around a huge bend in the rock.
Next, head to Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon on Navajo territory where you’ll find otherworldly features and beautifully shaped rocks. Then, call into the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument before heading towards Kanab, Utah.
Have we convinced you to get out of the car yet on your Denver to Las Vegas road trip? There’s plenty of amazing things to do in the Page area, a few of the top things to do are:
- Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend Tour
- Private White Pocket Vermilion’s Vortex Tour from Page
- Helicopter Flight Over Horseshoe Bend
8. Kanab, Utah
Kanab, Utah is the gateway to some of the most outstanding places you can uncover in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. This 1.8 million acres of protected land offers some of the most famous landscapes in the USA.
You could spend a month in Kanab and still have only scratched the surface of exploring the wonders on offer. You’ll need to plan ahead and use your time wisely.
Some of our top recommendations include booking tours, as you’ll need a real 4×4 with high clearance to access most places, to visit any combination of Peek A Boo Canyon, Wire Pass, Buckskin Gulch, the White Wave and White Pocket.
Kanab is also home to the infamous Wave Lottery. Where people from all over the world gather daily for their chance at being drawn for one of 10 permits to see the famous wave formation within the National Monument.
When you’re not out adventuring, be sure to take a walk around the town too. Kanab is known as the ‘Hollywood of the West’ being the main center of wild west film production in the southwest.
Walking around town you’ll find their version of the Hollywood walk of fame that features many of the famed cowboys from the famous western movies.
If you have extra time on your side, you can also take a full day trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon from Kanab, too. We did this and it took the full day to drive there, enjoy the highlights of the North Rim and drive back.
9. Bryce Canyon National Park
Leaving Kanab, we’d recommend driving slightly out of your way to call into Bryce Canyon National Park, where you’ll find another of the state’s most impressive geological formations.
The national park is at high elevation, so it’s a good place to escape the heat, too! There are some beautiful hiking trails that offer the chance to get up close and personal with the unique formations that make the park, the hoodoos.
If you have time for only one hike, we’d recommend the Navajo Loop Trail and the very least take the scenic drive stopping off at as many pullouts as you can. The Bryce Amphitheater is a sight to behold.
There’s plenty of great things to do in Bryce Canyon National park from just taking the scenic drive to hiking one of the many great hiking trails but like we’ve stated before why not take a tour and see more.
Here are a few of our favorite tours offered in Bryce Canyon National park:
- Scenic Tour of Bryce Canyon
- Horseback Riding Experience through Red Canyon with a Guide
- Ruby’s Hour Guided ATV Ride
10. Zion National Park
Once you’ve had your fill with Bryce National Park, head south again to the beautiful climes of Zion National Park.
The most impressive feature of the national park is the Zion Canyon, a 15-mile long canyon that reaches depths of hundreds of meters. Hiking within this canyon offers some of the best hikes in the USA, so leave at least two days to complete Angels Landing and The Narrows.
If you are visiting the park from April to November, you won’t be able to enter the park without using the mandatory shuttle system. So plan accordingly and reserve seats on the shuttle for the days you will visit. If you’re hiking, try for 7 am tickets on both days.
Zion is filled with many great adventures, we spent a week there exploring this top National Park. With it being an extremely popular park, access is limited, so if you are short on time it may be best to book a tour instead of not getting bus tickets and not doing what you wanted to do in Zion National park.
11. St George, Utah
If you have a day to kill on your Denver to Las Vegas drive, than St George, Utah is the perfect stopover town between Zion National Park and Las Vegas.
This town was one of the first mormon settlements in the west, so it packs a lot of history and its own charm. We found it to be a fantastic base for exploring the state parks in the area.
From St George you can access 4 beautiful Utah State Parks including Snow Canyon, Sand Hollow, Quail Run and Gunlock. If you only have time for one, Snow Canyon is fantastic. It offers sand dunes, slot canyons and beautiful vistas.
Be sure to leave some time to explore the historical center of St George, too, before you depart and make the drive up to Pioneer Park to view the Dixie painting from above.
12. Valley of Fire State Park
The Valley of Fire State Park is your last stop before heading into Las Vegas. The state park is located in Nevada, just outside the city, and is known for its dramatic, red sandstone rock formations.
The park has featured in countless movies over the years and today is somewhat of an adventure playground, with plenty of excellent hiking opportunities. There are also many historic sites, including ancient petroglyphs carved into the rocks centuries ago.
Looking for more adventures like this around Las Vegas? Check out our Adventure guide to some of the best adventures around the Vegas area
13. Las Vegas, Nevada
After 870 miles of cross country driving, you’ll have made it to Las Vegas, a city that really needs no introduction at all.
After your long road trip, it’s time to relax and unwind in a fancy hotel on the strip, or one of the city’s most famous resorts. Catch a show, take a helicopter fly into the Grand Canyon or risk the rest of your road trip money in the casinos. You’ve earned it, after all!
There are truly endless things to do in and around the Las Vegas area.
Las Vegas to Denver Drive – Reverse Route
Of course, it is also possible to take this trip and do the complete reverse on the route. This would have you doing a Las Vegas to Denver drive itinerary, but the stops would be the same.
No matter how you choose to do this drive, you won’t be disappointed. There’s enough things to do along this route to fill a multi-week itinerary many times over. So choose the things that excite you the most and have a fantastic trip!
More on Southwest USA Travel:
- Ultimate USA Travel Guide
- Best Hikes in the USA: 15 Stunning Trails You Cannot Miss
- Ultimate US National Parks Bucket List (All 62 Parks By State)
- The Route 66 Ghost Town of Oatman, Arizona
- 15 Things To Do in Laughlin, Nevada Besides Gambling