If you’re looking for a trip that will be full of adventure, excitement and the grandeur of nature, look no further than this cross-country road trip from Chicago to Grand Canyon.

The “chicago to grand canyon on route 66” is a trip that many people have taken. The road trip was a long one, but the scenery and history makes it worth it.

Road Trip from Chicago to Grand Canyon

A road journey from Chicago to The Grand Canyon takes you from the beginning of Route 66, America’s most historic highway, to one of the country’s most iconic natural marvels. While this is an amazing vacation to do, rich with history and breathtaking landscapes, it is not for the faint of heart.

The 1700-mile journey from Chicago to the Grand Canyon takes 26 hours to accomplish, with two routes available. St Louis, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and the Coconino National Forest; Omaha, Denver, and Mesa Verde National Park are some of the highlights along the journey.

If you’re going on such an incredible adventure, you don’t want to miss any of the magnificent sights along the route. Read on for tips on which route to take, where to stop along the way, what to see and do along the way, and when to go on this epic road trip.

What is the distance between Chicago and the Grand Canyon, and how long would the journey take?

Route alternatives for a road trip between Chicago and the Grand Canyon

Route Distance Time to Drive
Route through New Mexico 1725 kilometers 26 hours
Route through Colorado 1655 kilometers 26 hours

Depending on whatever route you pick, a road journey from Chicago to the Grand Canyon will take you through at least six states.

As you can see, you’re going to embark on a massive adventure that won’t be finished in a single day, even if you wanted it to. That is why we are going to spread it out across four days. Remember that you always have the option of taking additional diversions or staying longer at one of our suggested destinations. That is the allure of road trips!

The best part about this road trip is that the two primary routes take approximately the same amount of time. Because there is no obvious ‘short route,’ you must decide which stops appeal to you and your traveling partners.

Blue river running between tall silvery blue high rise buildings with several bridges and a large road by the side of the river Starting in Chicago, this itinerary will take you across six states’ ever-changing environment.

moondogpro/Shutterstock.com

The best way to go from Chicago to the Grand Canyon is via car.

Both of our suggested routes, as previously said, take roughly 26 hours to complete, not considering pauses and short diversions to see local sights.

The Route through New Mexico

We’ll depart from Chicago on the I-55 and travel southwest for 300 miles to St. Louis.

From here, take I-70 west for another 200 miles over the plains of central Kansas, until you reach Ellsworth. This is where we leave the Interstate and go southwest on US-156 and then US-56 for a total of 421 miles till we reach Springer, New Mexico.

Red cliffs contrasting with bright blue sky with trees and dry grass landscape One of the many reasons to visit Arizona is to see the magnificent Coconino National Forest.

Shutterstock.com/John Charboneau

You’ll then travel I-25 all the way to Albuquerque before transferring to I-40. This section of the I-40 follows the famous Route 66 that we began on all the way to Flagstaff. This section of the route is surrounded by the gorgeous Coconino National Forest and is studded with little villages that showcase the historic road’s history.

You just have 80 miles to drive from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Village, using US-180 north and then US-64.

The Route through Colorado

Start on the I-88 toward Iowa City and Des Moines, then transfer to the I-80 at East Moline.

Des Moines, located just under 5 hours into your trip, is a nice area to stop and have a longer break. Continue on I-80 from Des Moines through Omaha and Lincoln, which are both excellent places to stop if you need to rest.

Take small detours to visit the small towns of Kearny, Gothenburg, and North Platte, which all have interesting things to see: Fort Kearny State Park, Pony Express Station Museum, and Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Museum, respectively, as you travel west through Nebraska.

Return to I-80 and exit at exit 102 (right after Big Springs) to join I-76 in Denver. Take a break along this stretch of road in the almost-ghost town of Merino, with its vivid murals depicting a bygone period.

Homes built into steep rocky cliff, with deep tree lined canyon to the side Mesa Verde National Park’s cliff houses appear out of nowhere amid the spectacular natural surroundings.

Sopotnicki/Shutterstock.com

After passing through Denver, follow US-285 south until you see signs for Del Norte and CO-112 W. Take US-160 from Del Norte to South Fork and Durango, as well as your optional detour to Mesa Verde National Park (a must-see in our opinion).

You’ll need to continue on US-160 for 3 hours 45 minutes to reach Tuba City from Durango. Take US-89 south to Grand Canyon Village, then AZ-64 west to Grand Canyon Village.

Between Chicago and the Grand Canyon, the best locations to stop are

As you would expect on a trip of this length, there is an astounding lot to see and see along the route.

While many of these will be things you can stop to view for a short time or even an area you can just appreciate as you drive by, you’ll need a few locations to stop and refuel along the way:

Omaha (the Route through Colorado)

At six and a half hours into your journey (via the Route through Colorado), Omaha is a no-brainer when it comes to choosing somewhere to stop over.

Omaha, famous for Warren Buffet, the annual College World Series, and (supposedly) the Reuben sandwich, is a cultural and entertainment hotspot.

If you have a full day to spare, we highly suggest a visit to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, which is frequently ranked among the top five zoos in the world.

On the other side, if you want premium shopping, galleries, and restaurants, Omaha’s Old Market neighborhood will not disappoint. The Farnam, with its magnificent decor and superb service, is our pick for an overnight stay in this delightful region.

Denver (the Route through Colorado)

Denver, often known as ‘The Mile High City,’ is noted for its enhanced culinary culture as well as its scenic mountain environment.

With over 50 museums, Denver is certainly not short on cultural attractions for those looking for a dose of intellectual stimulation. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science and Denver Art Museum are two of our personal favorites.

Denver, on the other hand, has just as much to offer those who want to relax with a drink in their hand. The city is known for its craft beer culture, with over a hundred brewpubs, brewers, and tap houses. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can always join one of the city’s numerous ‘beer trail’ excursions.

You’ll want to stay in the center of downtown Denver since there’s so much to see, learn, eat, and drink. The Four Seasons Hotel Denver is unsurpassed in terms of location and facilities. Furthermore, if you want to get away from the city, the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance is just a mile away from the motel.

Domed roof lit up by bright sunlight with city landscape in the background Denver, located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, has a lot to offer as a road trip destination.

Shutterstock.com/Nick Courtney

Dodge City (the Route through New Mexico)

Dodge City, dubbed “the most wicked town in the Old West” throughout history, is located on the famous Santa Fe Trail, near the fort it was named after, Fort Dodge.

Many of the city’s ancient structures and landmarks have been preserved, while others have been recreated in their original form. There is perhaps no better place in the world to get a sense of what life was like in the wild west than San Francisco.

For your overnight stay, our top choice is the Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Dodge City, which is helpfully located at the entrance to the city’s Wright Park. Not only does this position you favourably for local attractions: you’ll also be close to the main road, ready for your onward journey the next morning.

Albuquerque (the Route through New Mexico)

Albuquerque is your best option for that final dose of big city charm on our Route through New Mexico to The Grand Canyon. At just under 6 hours from the Grand Canyon, Albuquerque is a great penultimate stop, allowing you chance to enjoy a huge selection of bars, restaurants and entertainment before heading out into the wilds of the Canyon.

We suggest seeing some of Albuquerque’s major sights, such as the San Felipe De Neri Church, while you’re here. Take a trip on the longest aerial tram in the Americas, the Sandia Peak tramway, if you’re feeling a little more sedentary after a long day of driving.

Staying in Albuquerque’s old town district is the greatest way to see all the city has to offer. Hotel Chaco is head and shoulders above the competition in terms of location and client experience.

This magnificent resort is an easy option for a short stay since it is close to Albuquerque’s principal museums, galleries, and top restaurants. Also included is valet parking, which is ideal after a long day on the road!

Brightly coloured little flags strung out across historic street with tiled path and plaster covered buildings When you visit Albuquerque, you may learn about the region’s Hispanic roots.

EQRoy/Shutterstock.com

On a road journey from Chicago to the Grand Canyon, there are many sights to view.

We’ll be traveling for around 7 hours every day on average, so we’ll need to make sure there are lots of minor breaks along the route with sites and activities to keep things interesting. Thankfully, there is no shortage of them to choose from.

Remember, if one of these places truly appeals to you and you want to spend more time there, you may add an additional night on top of what I’ve previously mentioned.

Long straight road labelled route 66 runs towards mountains in the distance The legendary Route 66 is well-known.

Nyokki/Shutterstock.com

Route through New Mexico

  1. Route 66, America’s most renowned highway, once stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles. While you can no longer drive it in its entirety, there are still plenty of historic sights along the road devoted to its past.
  2. The iconic Entrance Arch is a towering marvel of design that symbolises the area’s history as the gateway to the west. It is the smallest and third most recent addition to the register of national parks.
  3. Kansas City is unusual in that it is officially two cities with the same name, separated by two states. It is Missouri’s biggest city and Kansas’ third largest.
  4. Cheyenne Bottoms Refuge is a watering hole that serves as an essential pit stop for migrating birds since it is the biggest source of water in an otherwise arid region. This makes it an ideal area for seeing a variety of uncommon and unique birds.
  5. Northwestern Corner of Texas – a modest and sometimes overlooked monument on US-56, just on the state boundary between Texas and New Mexico.
  6. Las Vegas, New Mexico – not THAT Las Vegas, but a town known for its cowboy and outlaw heritage.
  7. The Santa Fe National Forest is a protected National Forest that spans over 1.5 million acres in the middle of nowhere.
  8. Albuquerque, New Mexico is the state’s largest city and home to some of the state’s most acclaimed cultural attractions and top-rated eateries. An excellent choice for an overnight stay
  9. El Malpais National Monument and National Conservation Area – Malpais means “badlands,” which well describes the craggy volcanic scenery found here.
  10. Nearly 14 million acres of colorful fossils and ancient artifacts make up Petrified Forest National Park.
  11. Humphreys Summit is Arizona’s highest natural point and a dormant volcanic peak (a fairly easy 4.8 mile hike)

Yellow crop, green trees, mountain in the background, pink sky Near Flagstaff, Arizona, Humphreys Peak rises.

antsdrone/Shutterstock.com

Route through Colorado

  1. Des Moines – well known for hosting the Iowa Caucus, Des Moines also has a variety of sculpture parks and botanical gardens.
  2. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is one of the top five zoos in the world, with North America’s biggest cat complex and one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests.
  3. Fort Kearny State Park is a rebuilt memorial to the historic United States Army garrison that was established in 1848.
  4. Gothenburg’s Pony Express Station Museum is a tiny (but notable) museum built in a modest cabin and historic Pony Express mail station. Seasonally open
  5. Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park Museum is located in North Platte, Nebraska, on Buffalo Bill’s ranch. Tour the renovated home and barn, which are filled with mementos.
  6. Colorado’s Merino – Merino is called for the kind of sheep that grazed there years ago, and it is nearly a ghost town. Take a snapshot with the vibrant storefront paintings that evoke a bygone age.
  7. Denver – The Mile High City’s culture, gastronomy, and outdoor pastimes are not to be missed.
  8. Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States, is noted for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan mountain houses, notably Cliff Palace.
  9. Kaibab National Forest – A 1.6 million-acre forest that wraps around the Grand Canyon’s north and south rims.

When is the best time to go from Chicago to the Grand Canyon?

When I tell you that Arizona is quite hot in the summer, you probably won’t be surprised. It and Nevada, in fact, routinely have the country’s hottest temperatures.

With the majority of the sights being outside – both along our journeys and at our destination – we’ll need nice weather. However, as the old adage goes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. This is especially true while visiting Arizona, particularly the Grand Canyon, during the summer.

Sunset over Cape Royal at the Grand Canyon North Rim This 1,700-mile journey culminates at the famed Grand Canyon, which does not disappoint.

Shutterstock.com/Erik Harrison

As a result, we recommend doing your road trip from Chicago to The Grand Canyon towards the beginning or end of summer.

This way, you’ll still be able to enjoy the great outdoors, but the heat won’t be so oppressive that you spend the whole time hunting for shade and drink.

The “colorado to grand canyon road trip” is a journey from Chicago to the Grand Canyon. The journey will be taken by car, and it will take 3 days.

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