The capital and most populated city in Colorado, Denver is just east of the Rocky Mountains’ Front Range, in the South Platte River Valley. Also known as the Mile-High City due to its being one mile above sea level, Denver and its surrounding area are known for year-round recreation opportunities, professional sports, and a vibrant cultural and music scene. The city offers four seasons along with easy access to mountains, rivers, and lakes that are calling to be explored.
Denver is in a perfect location for starting a road trip to other states in the southwest and is around eight hours from Salt Lake City, Utah. With a myriad of things to do on the route, a two to three-day road trip to Salt Lake has a lot to offer. In fact, the biggest challenge may be to not stop at every interesting place along the way.
After you enjoy the gorgeous scenery as you travel west through Colorado and north and west through Utah, you will arrive at Salt Lake City. Like Denver, Salt Lake City is its states’ capital and most populated city. The city, which got its name from its proximity to the Great Salt Lake, is the world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is surrounded by mountains, leading to it being popular for year-round recreation opportunities. Upon arrival, you will encounter plenty of things to do, along with places to stay, park your RV, and pitch your tent while exploring.
If you find dinosaurs interesting, the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry at Jurassic National Monument in Elmo is worth checking out. A little more than an hour from Green River, the Quarry has the densest concentration of dinosaur bones from the Jurassic age that have ever been found.
More than 12,000 bones have been found there, which are believed to have belonged to at least 74 different dinosaurs, with more than 75% of the bones coming from carnivores. The Quarry has been key in helping paleontologists learn about the period and also brings about some questions; like why there were so many of the dead animals in one place, with most of them being ones who eat meat? The Quarry is open from April through October.
As you travel west in Utah, your next stop will be in Green River at Goblin Valley State Park. Be ready for some unique scenery; within Goblin Valley are many interesting rock formations that tell the story of the geologic history of the area. Called hoodoos, the rock formations are mushroom-shaped sandstone rocks, some of which rise to 150 feet.
The shape of the hoodoos is the result of the hardness of the sandstone being inconsistent. Over many years, wind and water have eroded the large sandstone rocks, which has created the unique hoodoos. Goblin Valley State Park does not have many plants or animals due to its lack of water and food. However, the fascinating rock formations will easily hold your interest.
Now that you are rested and relaxed after enjoying the hot springs, you are ready to put in a few hours on the road. Less than three hours from Glenwood Springs is the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. Located near Grand Junction, in western Colorado, the Area was established in 2000. Within the National Conservation Area, which includes more than 120,000 acres of land, you will encounter one of the largest concentrations of natural arches in North America, ancient petroglyph sites, and the Old Spanish Trail.
Popular for recreation, the Area includes excellent mountain biking opportunities on Mack Ridge and a portion of the Kokopelli trail, which runs to Moab. In addition, 25 miles of the Colorado River run through the Area, where boaters can float along and enjoy views of sandstone canyons of varied colors.
Continue west on I70 for about an hour until you come to Glenwood Springs, where you can make a stop at the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, which features the largest mineral hot springs pool in the world.
Water comes from the Yampah spring, which produces over three million gallons of water each day with a temperature of 122 degrees. Prior to reaching each of the two pools at Glenwood Hot Springs, the water is cooled; the resort’s Therapy Pool has a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit while the water in the main pool is cooled to between 90 and 93 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot springs are known for their healing waters; in fact, “Yampah” is from the Ute language and translates to “Big Medicine”. The warm water will be a great way to relax after earlier physical activity!
Just 45 minutes from Breckenridge is Vail, a town with pedestrian villages that were developed for skiers. Surrounding the valley where Vail is located is the White River National Forest and Gore Range mountains, where a visitor can engage in hiking and mountain biking.
Roam the pedestrian villages to check out the unique shops and world-class restaurants that Vail has to offer and engage in a variety of activities depending on the season; during the winter, choose from skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, tubing and even sleigh rides.
During warmer months, take a hike, try a zip line, ride a mountain coaster or check out the Hot Summer Nights concert series. No matter the time of your visit, you will be treated to mountain views and amazing scenery!
Less than two hours from Denver is Breckenridge. Known for its skiing, Breckenridge has a lot to offer year-round. During winter months, visitors come for the skiing, and the town and its surrounding area offer trails for snowshoeing. During the summer, visitors to Breckenridge can enjoy mountain biking trails, horseback riding and alpine hikes; near the town is the trail to the peak of Quandary, one of Colorado’s 14ers. Fishing in crystal clear water is also part of the area’s appeal. Breckenridge offers things to do indoors, like an escape room, as well as exceptional dining and shopping opportunities. Not only will you find a lot to do in Breckenridge, you will also be treated to some gorgeous scenery as you will be surrounded by mountains!
In just a little more than two hours you will arrive at your destination; Salt Lake City. Continue traveling north, passing through Provo and Orem, before reaching Salt Lake City (also known as SLC and the Crossroads of the West). The city and its surrounding area are packed with things to do.
For example, check out the Great Salt Lake, which in an average year takes up about 1,700 square miles. Sometimes called “America’s Dead Sea”, the lake is a habitat for millions of birds as well as brine shrimp. During the cooler months of the year, the city is popular among those looking to enjoy downhill skiing; there are nine ski resorts within an hour of the city. Hiking and mountain biking are popular among recreation enthusiasts and there are trails that are easy to access just outside the city. You can also check out Temple Square, which is considered a holy location among Mormons and includes a scenic square among 10 acres.
With so much to see and do, you might want to spend more than a night or two in the area. Fortunately, Salt Lake City and its surrounding area offer plenty of choices for camping, whether with an RV or a tent.