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  • Spectacular views on the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway near Colorado Springs, Colorado
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    Elevated Adventures in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado

  • The historic Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado
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    Picturesque Peaks on the Road to Durango, Colorado

  • Delicate Arch, one of the many famous features of Utah’s Arches National Park
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    Iconic National Parks in Colorado and Utah

  • Trekking through the red-rock landscapes of Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park
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    Exciting Excursions from Moab to Bryce Canyon City, Utah

  • Horseback riding in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park
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    Nature and Culture in Bryce Canyon City, Utah, and Page, Arizona

  • A breathtaking vista on the North Rim of Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park
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    Touring Grand Canyon National Park and Flagstaff, Arizona

  • Exploring Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff, Arizona
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    A Grand Finale in Flagstaff, Arizona

Aerial view of Horseshoe Bend in the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area near Page, Arizona
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Western Wonders Road Trip: Natural Beauty in Colorado, Utah and Arizona

By Aimee Kohler

  • Route distance:
    2,014 km
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

The Western USA is a region of dramatic landscapes, where red rock towers rise into blue skies and million-year-old rivers carve deep patterns into the earth.

Immerse yourself in desert beauty on a road trip through this wild and wonderful expanse, enjoying unique lodging and exciting detours along the way. Help preserve these picturesque landscapes by considering eco-friendly travel options and sustainable attractions. Along the way, glide over a scenic gorge in a gondola, hike remote trails to spectacular waterfalls and observe cosmic wonders in an International Dark Sky Place, or set off on your own adventures as you discover the many other treasures waiting for you in Colorado, Utah and Arizona.

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Spectacular views on the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway near Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Visit Colorado Springs

Elevated Adventures in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado

Fly into Denver International Airport (DEN) and pick up a rental car, then drive 37 kilometers to downtown Denver, an artsy metropolitan area known as the Mile High City. Begin your adventure with a meal at a Michelin Guide-recognized restaurant or one of the chic eateries in Union Station. The beaux-arts building is a historic rail station that doubles as a shopping, dining and cultural hub. Admire its lofty interior as you enjoy a locally sourced lunch at one of the many stylish restaurants. After your meal, take advantage of the city’s walkable footprint with a tour of the River North Arts District. Known locally as RiNo, this vibrant neighborhood beckons with colorful murals, craft taprooms, galleries and small businesses. Stock up on road trip essentials, then begin your journey to Colorado Springs.

Drive about an hour and a half to reach the dramatic landscapes of Garden of the Gods. Striking sandstone formations signal your arrival at this National Natural Landmark, where you can hop on a hiking trail for some fresh air and memorable scenes. Head back to the car for a quick drive to another scenic stop, the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Purchase tickets in advance to take the three-hour round-trip train ride to the top of Pikes Peak, nicknamed America's Mountain. Your excursion includes a break at the summit, where you’ll find an insightful visitors’ center and the majestic views that inspired the song "America the Beautiful." The facility was constructed with resilient, sustainable materials according to the Living Building Challenge, a regenerative design initiative. Explore its multimedia exhibits before heading back down the mountain to spend the night in Colorado Springs. Treat yourself to a stay at the Broadmoor, the world's longest-running Five-Star, Five-Diamond luxury resort, nestled in the Rocky Mountain foothills.

140 km
1.5 hour by car
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The historic Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado
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Scott DW Smith

Picturesque Peaks on the Road to Durango, Colorado

Start your day with breakfast and sightseeing in Colorado Springs, then drive about an hour and a half to Royal Gorge Bridge & Park in Cañon City, where adventure attractions showcase Southern Colorado’s magnificent landscapes. Drink in views of the Arkansas River from the USA’s highest suspension bridge, then see the sights from another amazing angle on the park’s Aerial Gondola. Up for a thrill? Ride the Cloudscraper zip line across the expanse or soar above the south rim on the Royal Rush Skycoaster, a high-speed harness ride that extends 360 meters over the edge of the Royal Gorge.

Wind down from your high-altitude adventures on a scenic drive to Durango. The trip is about five hours in total, but there are plenty of amazing places to stop and see along the way. Cruise through the Rio Grande National Forest and savor sweeping views of the San Luis Valley before passing through Pagosa Springs. If you have time, take a dip in the healing hot springs – the Mother Spring aquifer is the deepest in the world.

Arrive in Durango and uncover a wealth of history and adventure. Situated in the rugged region where Colorado meets adjacent states Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, Durango is surrounded by varied terrain for outdoor fun. Hike or bike the spectacular Animas Mountain Trail System or try the Colorado Trail at Junction Creek; it’s a four-season favorite among explorers of all skill levels. Head downtown to explore Durango’s historic district, a filming location for several classic Western films, and enjoy farm-to-table fare at a local bistro. Book a room in the historic Strater Hotel for a luxurious end to a fun-filled day.

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405 km
5 hours by car
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Delicate Arch, one of the many famous features of Utah’s Arches National Park
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Jason Langley/Reciprocity Images

Iconic National Parks in Colorado and Utah

From Durango, drive about 45 minutes to Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Dark Sky Park. Purchase tickets in advance to join a ranger-led tour of Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and archeological sites. You’ll learn about site preservation efforts and how you can help protect public lands by following Leave No Trace outdoor ethics principles: Plan ahead and prepare, travel on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife and be considerate of other visitors.

Depart Colorado and drive about two hours to Moab, Utah, for another national park experience. Arches National Park is filled with intriguing red rock formations. Trek through its desert trails by day or set out at night for spectacular stargazing. Like Mesa Verde, Arches National Park has an International Dark Sky designation. Its ranger-led programs reveal the best vantage points and fascinating features of the night sky; evening programs also allow you to avoid timed entry restrictions and crowds. Stay overnight in Moab at the Sorrel River Ranch and let the retreat’s rustic luxury inspire another day of discovery in the West.

200 km
2 hours by car
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Trekking through the red-rock landscapes of Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park
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Ryan Salm

Exciting Excursions from Moab to Bryce Canyon City, Utah

See more of Moab’s rugged beauty on guided adventure tours. Go flightseeing above Canyonlands and Arches national parks with Redtail Air Adventures, then ramble along the desert terrain in a four-wheel-drive vehicle with NAVTEC Expeditions. Choose from a variety of tour packages to visit popular points and off-the-beaten-path elements you may not otherwise get to see.

Afterward, begin the five-hour drive toward Bryce Canyon City, taking the Scenic Byway 12 for park access and panoramic views. Marvel at arid landscapes along the winding road and stop to savor Utah must-sees including Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, where you can stretch your legs in otherworldly slot canyons. Refreshment options along this route include Kiva Koffeehouse, built with natural materials to blend into its surroundings, and Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm, a sustainable destination restaurant in Boulder. Find unique accommodations at Yonder Escalante, your glamping site for the night. Choose from deluxe and tiny cabins or stay in a vintage Airstream camper.

236 km
4 hours by car
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Horseback riding in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park
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Steve Greenwood

Nature and Culture in Bryce Canyon City, Utah, and Page, Arizona

Continue to Bryce Canyon City, Utah, to visit its namesake national park. Bryce Canyon National Park is home to the greatest concentration of hoodoos on Earth. Take a guided horseback ride to the Bryce Amphitheater to gaze at these iconic rock spires. Want to explore on your own? Set out on foot or rent an e-bike to find impressive sights along the park’s Shared-Use Path. When riding, keep to paved surfaces to protect soil microbes and other natural wonders. After your excursion, refuel at one of the on-site restaurants and stop by the park’s General Store to prepare for your upcoming journey to Page, Arizona.

Arrive in Page after two and a half hours on the road and drive 10 minutes more to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. There, you’ll find the often-photographed Horseshoe Bend, where the Colorado River curves through Glen Canyon. A short, accessible trail leads to a scenic overlook and viewing platform where you can snap some photos of your own. Lower Antelope Canyon is another must-see place near Page. Its swirling slot canyon is incredible to behold but challenging to navigate; book a guided tour to get the most out of your visit. Later, connect to local culture with a meal and a show at Red Heritage, a Navajo-owned and operated dinner theater highlighting traditional cuisine and powwow dancing. Stay in Page at the Hyatt Place Page/Lake Powell. Day six of this trip takes you to Grand Canyon National Park.

242 km
2.75 hours by car
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A breathtaking vista on the North Rim of Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park
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Touring Grand Canyon National Park and Flagstaff, Arizona

Rise early to make the two-hour drive from Page to Grand Canyon National Park, home to one of the USA’s most arresting natural wonders. Take in the magnitude of the iconic expanse during a walk along the Rim Trail or a cruise on Desert View Drive. Observation areas are available on both routes, revealing panoramic views of the canyon and Colorado River. For an entertaining and eco-friendly alternative, park your car in Williams and ride the Grand Canyon Railway. You’ll see the natural wonder and nearby countryside and enjoy some Old West amusements on board.

From Williams, drive about 30 minutes to Flagstaff to sample craft beverages along the Flagstaff Brewery Trail. Local favorite Mother Road Brewing Company is known for its sustainable practices and community partnerships. It’s also known for serving road-trip themed brews in its original tap room on historic U.S. Route 66. Drink in some highway nostalgia before heading to Lowell Observatory. Explore fascinating exhibits throughout the campus and spot celestial wonders in the starry night sky. Lowell Observatory is committed to reducing light pollution and preserving natural habitats in the Flagstaff area. Learn about these efforts on a tour or science talk, both included in general admission. Little America in Flagstaff is your resort for the night. Rest amid towering Ponderosa Pines before beginning the final leg of your journey.

175 km
1.75 hour by car
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Exploring Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff, Arizona
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A Grand Finale in Flagstaff, Arizona

Spend the last day of your Western states road trip exploring natural and cultural gems around Flagstaff. Start with a ranger-led tour of Wupatki National Monument to learn about the ancestral Puebloan sites it preserves. Take a short drive south to tour another of Arizona’s national monuments: Sunset Crater Volcano, where an eruption reshaped the landscape 1,000 years ago. Park rangers know these areas best and can lead you on memorable tours that don’t disrupt the natural environment. Before leaving Flagstaff, amble around the Southside neighborhood and Route 66 landmarks downtown. Start at the Flagstaff Visitor Center to embark on a self-guided audio tour. Later, depart Flagstaff for big-city Phoenix, where you’ll catch a flight home from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) and reflect on your remarkable road trip through Colorado, Utah and Arizona.

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