If you look at the map, you’d think it would be a crazy idea to drive from Denver to Los Angeles, given the number of flights and the distance between them, but you’re completely wrong.
If you want to explore some of America’s most beautiful landscapes, if you want to see places along the way and if you have the time, it’s time to head west until you reach the Pacific Ocean.
The trip from Denver to Los Angeles will take about 15 hours of clean driving. If you stay on the route, you will spend at least 2 days in the Rocky Mountains and want to explore the Arches and Zion National Parks and spend the night in Las Vegas.
Read on to discover the best places on the road, the incredible places to stop and the best travel tips.
How far is it from Denver to Los Angeles and how long does it take to get there?
The fastest and most beautiful route from Denver to Los Angeles is about 1020 miles. Even with short stops for fuel and food it will probably take about 18 hours to get there, so do yourself a favour and drive the slow lane.
|Interstate communication channel
(via I-70 W and I-15 S)
|1,020 miles||17 hours and 20 minutes|
|Death Valley Road
(via I-70 W and I-40 W)
|1,140 miles||17 hours and 50 minutes|
If the goal is to get there as fast as possible, jump on the plane and you’ll be there in a couple of hours. Car trips are designed for those who enjoy the trip as much as the destination.
However, if you split your trips and leave Denver early, you can arrive in Los Angeles around midnight. I hope you have comfortable seats in your car, otherwise your back won’t be your friend the next day.
If you want to get on the road, you want to enjoy the 4 to 5 good days in each direction. If you don’t want to follow the way back, you can take the alternative route through Arizona back to Denver.
It will take you 3 extra hours and almost 200 miles of asphalt, but you can drive the section of Route 66, visit the red rocks of Sedona, the Grand Canyon and cross the Valley of Monuments before returning to the I-70 in Moab.
Morning view from the air on Route 70 along the Glenwood Springs Canyon and Colorado River
Best route from Denver to Los Angeles
Google Maps offers several alternatives, but the best route from Denver to Los Angeles is also the fastest between the major cities of Colorado and California, after the I-70 and I-15.
For those who want to go back in time, we’ve added an alternative route through Arizona – if you’re a hiker in the Desert National Parks and not a big Vegas fan, this route could be perfect.
Route from Denver to Los Angeles
Go west from Denver and follow I-70 to the Rocky Mountains. On the way to the snowy peaks you pass the famous ski resort of Vale, and Aspen is only a short drive away.
The Interstate Route then takes you through the White River National Forest, from the mountains to Glenwood Springs, via the beautiful Hanging Lake.
Walk through the vineyards of Palisade and Grand Junction and over Utah, leaving Moab and Arches National Park on your left.
Stay on the I-70 until you reach the state forest of Fischlake, where you will meet the I-15 in the south.
After passing Zion National Park (which by the way is my favorite in the United States) and the small corner of Arizona, the I-15 crosses Las Vegas before crossing the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles.
Alternative route to Los Angeles via Monument Valley and Arizona
If you don’t want to stay in Vegas, see other fantastic desert landscapes or drive back and forth on different routes from Denver, you can make a detour to Arizona.
You have 3 hours more time if you follow the US-191 south through Arch and Canyonlands National Parks and through Moab to Navajo country.
There are 4 states (New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado), and you can spend time exploring amazing sites like Monument Valley or ancient canyons.
The US-160 will take you directly to Flagstaff by reservation, before taking the I-40 via Lake Havasu to Barstow, California and then returning to the faster I-15 to Los Angeles.
Best stopover between Denver and Los Angeles
If you want to explore beautiful destinations along the way, there are some great places to stay. You can divide your trip into two or more days, depending on what you want to explore. Combine things along the way and plan your journey accordingly.
Exploring the Canyonland and Bogen National Park in Moab, Utah
If you plan to make your trip easily accessible and spread out over three days or make a longer trip on the second day, Moab is the perfect place for your first stop.
About a third of the total distance to Denver is the breathtaking Utah Desert, whose landscape is such that there are two national parks in the area.
Explore Arches National Park on your way from Denver to Los Angeles.
Moab is a large small town in an ideal environment, even if it may seem a bit touristy. This is a great starting point for exploring Canyonland and Arc National Parks.
Full of unique rock formations, including… You guessed it – great arches and hiking trails, it’s a great place to relax if you want to explore more of this area in less time.
Although Moab offers some decent opportunities, the best places to live are those where you can enjoy the landscape and nature in the open air.
Red Cliffs Lodge lies on the banks of the Colorado River and overlooks the amazing cliffs that gave it its name. It may be a little more expensive than some of the Moab options, but you still get your money.
If you’re looking for something even more luxurious, then the Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa, just around the corner, is the place for you. Exciting views, well thought-out furnishings, luxurious interiors and a cheerful atmosphere are all part of it, but at the same time the price is high.
Overnight stay in Las Vegas
If you want to cover the longest possible distance on a particular day or make other stops earlier in your journey, Las Vegas is about 700 miles on the road from Denver to Los Angeles.
Whether you want to relax and enjoy the casino tables, attend an evening show or go to one of the great restaurants on the Strip, you can stay in Sin City or spend a few days there.
Although many prefer the classic hotels at the old end of the Strip or the lush Bellagio, I prefer the more modern facilities of the newer hotels.
Aria combines this unique Vegas feeling with a huge ground floor casino with beautiful modern rooms with great facilities at a very reasonable price. You will benefit from the proximity of the Cosmopolitan with some great restaurants.
What to see on a trip from Denver to Los Angeles
Book Rocks. Palisades Winery in Colorado is the perfect place to stop, especially if you have a passion for wine.
- Rocky Mountains: Endless gorges, snow-capped mountains, hiking trails and clean air, as well as world-class resorts such as Vale and Aspen.
- White River National Forest: A paradise for adventurers, where you can ski, hike and camp in the middle of nature.
- Hanging more: A pristine lake in the forest just outside Glenwood Springs.
- Glenwood Sources: Worldwide known for its hot springs and natural baths.
- Main road: From the I-70 in a southerly direction the route follows winding mountain roads with incredibly beautiful views.
- Palisades vineyards: Find great local wines on your way from Denver to Vegas and you’ll be amazed at what Colorado has to offer.
- Arches National Park: One of the most impressive national parks with its red cliffs and unique arch formations.
- Canyonlands National Park: A large park with more established footpaths, but with a longer detour from other possibilities.
- Monroe Mystical hot springs: A hot spring in the middle of a beautiful landscape
- Bryce Canyon National Park: A series of natural amphitheatres sculpted on the edge of a high plateau.
- Zion National Park: Easy access by car with some of the best views and walks from anywhere in the United States
- Grand staircase Escalante: An uninhabited land full of wildlife, where there are foreign lands to explore…
- Grand Canyon: Walk through the gorges and mighty ridges or simply enjoy the view from the northern edge.
- Valley of Fire State Park: On the way to Las Vegas the park is known for its bright red rock formations that look like fires in the sun.
- Seven Magic Mountains: Just a few kilometres from Vegas, follow the winding roads from the desert valley to the famous neon rocks.
- Mojave National Park: Drive over rough paths to see the grain cones and the Kelso dunes. If you take the longest route through Arizona, there are many other sights worth seeing.
- Monument Valley: Probably the most famous red rocks rising above the desert landscape.
- Canyons of the Ancient National Monument: Fascinating remains of ancient civilizations
- Sedona Red Stones: Endless hiking trails and incredible rocks in the Sonora Desert
- Route 66: Take the world’s most famous street west of Flagstaff.
- Havasu Lake: A unique location along the Colorado River, where even the old London Bridge was delivered from London.
Best time to travel from Denver to Los Angeles
The best time to travel from Denver to Los Angeles is spring or autumn. The weather is ideal, there are fewer people in the various national parks and other places and the prices are also better than during the summer months.
In summer, the walk will be very hot and dry if you plan to stop in the national parks along the way, as the walk becomes unbearable during the day. And once you get to Los Angeles, you’ll know the grey clouds of May and the dark clouds of June that wrap themselves around the coast every morning.
Aspen Highlands Bowl, Colorado, an incredible place to explore all year round.
I-70 over the Rocky Mountains is open all year round, but if you’re planning a winter trip, it’s best to check the weather conditions in advance. Snow storms can cause some roads to be closed because of heavy snowfall, and some roads are permanently closed during the winter (e.g. the fastest road from Denver to Aspen).
Winter may not be the best time to climb the rugged desert parks, but you can enjoy some of the best ski areas in the world already on the road – Vail is on the I-70 and Aspen is just a few minutes away.
As this route passes through a huge mix of terraces and remote locations, it’s important to plan ahead – you’ll want to make sure you have food, water and blankets in your car all year round, and in winter you’ll need snow chains as insurance against getting stuck in the mountains.
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