Denver to San Francisco Road Trip Guide


Leaving Denver and taking a road trip to San Francisco is going to be a family adventure that you and your kids will remember for a long time to come. You will be leaving behind the quaint bookshops, sedate coffee joints and numerous cultural attractions of Colorado’s most famous city to venture on a voyage of discovery and exploration.

This journey of nearly 1400 miles will expose you to a variety of different landscapes as well as some iconic landmarks. It is a long journey but we are going to offer you several different points of interest along the way, though these are just the tip of a very big iceberg. Feel free to pick and choose to suit your own requirements and pace of travel.

Some like to push out the miles and then explore for a couple of hours. Others prefer to make shorter hops and stop at more places. Traveling in an RV gives you the independence to tailor the journey to suit your selves. Just don’t forget to leave some time to explore San Francisco when you get there. Its fabulous harbor, delicious seafood, and diverse cultural activities will provide ample entertainment for all ages. That’s before we even mention the famous Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz Island.

Share this road trip guide


Max RV length
Max trailer Length
Road trip length: 7+ days
Recommend rig: motorhome
audience: family

Point of Interest

Palo Alto

At first, a visit to a town renowned as a high tech Mecca might seem a little incongruous with an RV road trip that has just taken you across the desert. In fact, this town has much to offer including wonderful drives both on the approach and departure to your final stop.

It only takes about forty-five minutes from Santa Cruz so you have time to admire the views along the way. If you are visiting in the summer then Redwood Resort offers an RV park that includes pool, badminton, and ping pong, though you may not have much time for such activities. Palo Alto is home to the fine Computer History Museum and much of the town is quaint and worth strolling through. If you hanker for something a bit more rural, the Baylands Nature Reserve offers hiking and bird watching.

Santa Cruz

Not only is the two-hour coastal drive something of a breath stealer, but Santa Cruz is also just brimming with things to do. Why not start off by enjoying the three-mile West Cliff Drive? This is a multipurpose path, so you can hike or hire bikes. It terminates at the National Bridges State Beach so don’t forget to take your swimming gear with you.

If the kids are hankering after something a bit more along the lines of a theme park, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk offers rides and other attractions that will keep them occupied for several hours.

The Garden of Eden is a fabulous combination of redwood forest and beach. The San Lorenzo River winds its way through the forest carving numerous water holes on its journey. This geographical mélange allows for swimming, beach picnics and shaded hiking all in one memorable outing.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Three hours from Bakersfield, suddenly the desert is no longer the dominant geographical feature as the ocean starts to take center stage. Although this park is situated almost halfway between the megacities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, you are going to be surprised at just how much of a natural oasis it is.

Of course, the area is famed for its big waves, but there is plenty of safe swimming along the ninety-mile coastline. The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park has seven trails, some of which meander through forests of giant redwood trees. Look out for the trail that leads you to the McWay Falls overlook. This is where the falls tumble into the sea and is one of the most photographer-friendly points along the coast.

A word of warning; larger RV rigs are going to struggle in Pfeiffer and you may be better off parking up and spending a night in the guest lodge.


From Las Vegas to Bakersfield takes four and a half hours, so you will need to decide whether to spend more time in the casino city or move on to another venue that also has much to fascinate.

TheRiver Run RV park is easy to get to and situated right on the banks of the Kern River. It is a family-friendly resort with barbeque pits and kitchen facilities and offers easy access to town. The Kern River Parkway trail offers hiking along the river banks and through the park's 6000-acre grounds.

Bakersfield itself is regarded as the birthplace of country music and the country music capital of the West Coast. Its musical heritage dates back to when Dust Bowl refugees first sought sanctuary in the town. Musical notables include Merle Haggard and Buck Owens who had no fewer than 21 number 1 hits over his career.

One of the visits you should consider if you are a country and western fan is the Buck Owens Crystal Palace which is an eclectic combination of museum, steak restaurant, and music hall all rolled up into one.

Las Vegas

In total contrast to your previous couple of days, you now have the option of visiting the world’s most famous casino city. If you aren’t the type for the velvet tables and one-armed bandits, don’t let that put you off. There are so many other options in this city that it is difficult to know where to begin.

Finding a nearby RV-friendly site is probably high on your agenda. For sheer convenience, you can’t beat the RV site at Circus Circus. This site has all the facilities you might need, including a pool and roaming security.

It might not be the most aesthetically appealing site but for sheer convenience, it is hard to beat. Our bet is that you won’t be spending too long there once you are seduced by all that Vegas has to offer. You are literally within walking distance of one of the most famous strips in the world.

The city is certainly about far more than just gambling and nightlife. It is awash with family entertainment. You might like to consider the Lion Habitat Ranch, Popovitch Comedy Pet Theatre or just watching the tropical fish glide by at Silverton Casino Aquarium, where the world-famous mermaids put in regular appearances and mingle with their audience.

Fishlake National Forest

After leaving Grand Junction you will need to do just over three and a half hours in order to reach this national forest. Here in the center of Utah, there are deer, elk, and black bears, and if you are really lucky you might even catch a fleeting glimpse of a cougar.

In 1889 the water rights were purchased from the native Indians for the princely sum of nine horses, 500 pounds of flour, a cow, and a suit. Today most of the forest comprises aspen trees that thrive in the area. The resort offers pull-through facilities for you though you are able to camp in the park itself. This RV park is surrounded by hiking and fishing opportunities, and don’t be surprised if deer wander through the grounds while you are settling down for your evening meal. This is such a pleasant park that many campers spend their entire vacation here.

Colorado National Monument

Having recently left Denver, you may be feeling that a more rural adventure would suit you better than Grand Junction. If that is the case, Colorado National Monument might be ideal for you. A good place to start off would be at the visitor center, where knowledgeable rangers will be able to answer your questions and offer advice on what to see and do. There are also short films to give you a better understanding of the 36 square mile park.

The Monument is just a part of the much larger Colorado Plateau with its awe-inspiring red canyons and rock formations. Monument Resort RV Park can accommodate RVs and offers a pool and hot tub facility as well as a store. There are volleyball and basketball areas on site. It is situated in Fruita and Grand Junction is just a few miles down the road, meaning you could access both the town and the park from the one site.

Grand Junction

This town has transformed in recent years due to the increase in wine production in the area. There are around fifty estates in the vicinity, so wine tasting is definitely on the cards. The downtown area is the place to go to visit art galleries and view everything from painting to sculpture.

If you want things to be a little more outdoorsy, then your choices expand dramatically. There are three byways that offer hiking through fantastic scenery, or you could opt to follow one of the paved trails along the Colorado River. The Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse area covers over 36 000 acres and is home to 150 wild horses. You can hike through the area or opt for a guided horseback ride. The best time for viewings is early morning or late afternoon.


You may well feel a little sad as your draw to the close of your road trip. But you can still look forward to the final short leg of the journey which offers some dramatic views and passes through magnificent forests. San Francisco is a delight of a city and there is more than enough going on there to help you get over the blues you might be suffering from.

Share this Road trip guide