11-Day Colorado to Utah Itinerary

One of first adventures together Johnny and I took a road trip from Colorado to the Utah Mighty 5.  This is an epic trip.  I had never been to the Rocky Mountains or Red Rock Country before and was mind blown at the beauty.  We squeezed a lot of miles into 11 days.  This trip could easily be a month long.  The U.S. Park Pass is a must when going to all of these national parks on 1 trip.  It is $80 and valid for 12 months.  Most of the parks are from $25 to $35 a piece so this will save you a lot of money.  

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Itinerary:

Day 1

  • Arrive in Denver 
  • Drive through Boulder
    • Flat Irons (Chautauqua Park)
    • Forsythe Canyon
  • Alberta Falls (1.7 mi)
    • Starts at Glacier Gorge Trailhead
  • Camp Rocky Mountain National Park
    • Moraine Park Campground-Site D167
  • Drive time for the day: 2 hours

Day 2

  • Hike Twin Sisters Lake (7.0 mi)
    • Past Lily Lake Visitor Center
    • Trail Ridge Road-48 miles one way
  • Camp Rocky Mountain National Park

Day 3

  • Drive to Idaho Springs 
    • White water raft Clear Creek 
      • AVA-about 3 hours long
  • Drive to Vail 
  • St. Mary’s Glacier in Vail, CO (1mi)
  • Camp in Vail, CO
    • Gore Creek Campground-Site 16
  • Drive time for the day about 3 1/2 hours 

Day 4

  • Drive to Moab, UT 
  • Arches National Park
    • Scenic Drive (14 mi) 
      • Drive through and park to take each of the next listed hikes
    • Park Ave Trail (2mi)
    • The Three Gossips (right off the road)
    • Balanced Rock (right off the road)
    • The Windows (3 arches 0.5 mi)
    • Double Arch (<1 mi)
    • Delicate Arch Hike (3.2 mi)
    • Devils Garden and Primitive Trail (7 mi) 
      • See 7 different arches
      • Shorter 1 mi option
  • Stay at Moab Under Canvas
  • Drive tie for day about 4 1/2 hours

Day 5

  • Canyonlands National Park
    • Drive scenic 4×4 trail
    • Chesler Park Loop (10 mi)
      • Soda Spring and Elephant Hill Trailhead
      • Needles District
  • Stay at Moab Under Canvas
  • Drive time for the day about 4 hours

Day 6

  • Drive to Capitol Reef National Park (2.5 hr)
    • Fruita district
    • Hickman Bridge (2 mi)
    • Fremont River Waterfall (2.5 mi)
    • Scenic Loop Drive (125 mi) 
      • Burr Trail Road to Water fold Pocket to switchbacks
    • Sulphur Creek Hike (6 mi) *
      • Chimney Rock Trailhead
      • Need car or shuttle back to beginning 
    • Sunset Point Trail (1 mi)
    • Goosenecks Trail (0.8 mi)
  • Camp (all first come first serve)
    • Fruita Campground (developed) 
      • $20
    • Cedar Mesa Campground (first-come first-serve)
    • Cathedral Valley Campground 
      • Free
      • No water
    • Backcountry sites
      • Free
      • Need a permit
      • No water
  • Drive time for the day about 2 hours

Day 7

  • Drive to Bryce Canyon 
    • Bryce Point
    • Queen’s Garden Loop (1.8 mi)
    • Navajo and Peek-a-boo Loop  (6 mi)
      • Start at Sunset Point
      • Connects you to Queen’s Garden Loop 
    • Rim Trail
      • Fairyland Point
      • Sunrise Point
      • Sunset Point
      • Inspiration Point
      • Bryce Point
    • Rainbow Point Shuttle
      • Brings you to 8 different stops ending at Rainbow Point
      • 3.5 hour if you ride the whole way
      • 40 mi
      • Bus begins at 9 am and 1:30 pm
      • Must have reservation to get on this bus
  • Camp at Sunset or North Campground (first-come first-serve)
    • $20
  • Drive time for the day about 3 hours

Day 8 

  • Drive to Zion National Park
  • Must take shuttle into Park
  • Hike The Narrows Bottom Up (6-8 mi)
    • Start at Temple of Sinawava (take shuttle)
  • Hike Angel’s Landing (5 mi)
  • Camp 
    • Watchman Campground
    • Site A012 
  • Drive time for the day about 2 hours

Day 9

  • Drive to Mesa Verde National Park 
  • Stay in Durango (40 mi past Mesa Verde)
    • Leland House
  • Drive time for the day about 6 hours

Day 10

  • Drive to Colorado Springs (6 hr)
  • Hike Garden of the Gods (1 ½ mi)
  • Stay at Antlers Hilton in Downtown Colorado Springs
  • Drive time for the day about 6 hours

Day 11

  • Drive to Denver -1 hour
  • Flight home
Angel’s Landing

Day 1

Our flight landed in Denver pretty early.  We spent no time in the city.  We got a rental car and grocery shopped then headed to Boulder.  We walked up and down the Pearl Street Mall.  I would love to hike the Flat Irons one day.  We then headed for Rocky Mountain National Park.  We had reservations in Moraine Park Campground.  This campground is closer to the Estes Park entrance.  Site 167 was really close to the bathroom.  It was a little bright at night due to the bathroom lights. This campground does not have showers.  We set up camp then headed for a small hike that evening.  We hiked to Alberta Falls.  It starts at Glacier Gorge Junction Trailhead.  This was a really easy 1.6 mile hike.  The waterfall is amazing!

Twin Sisters Summit

Day 2

We started the day before sunrise.  We hiked Twin Sisters Peak Trail.  This is a hard 7.5 mile hike.  The views were amazing.  Since we were there so early there was barely anyone on the trail with us.  After the hike we drove the Trail Ridge Road.  We stopped at many of the overlooks.  All of the overlooks are short walks to incredible views.  After we stopped in Estes Park to walk through The Stanley Hotel.  We had a drink at the fancy bar then headed back to camp.  

Day 3

White water rafting is one of our favorite things to do together.  We woke up early and headed to Idaho Springs to white water raft on Clear Creek Canyon with the company AVA.  We rafted the Lower Canyon on Clear Creek.  I highly recommend this trip  It took about 3 hours.  After we headed to Vail.  We stopped at Crazy Mountain Brewing.  The beers were great.  We camped at Gore Creek Campground.  This campground is one of my favorites.  It is super small and along a creek.  It was not crowded at all.  There are no showers here.  

Day 4

This was a long driving day.  We woke up early and headed to Arches National Park.  In the park we stopped at many of the short stopping points.  We did hike the Delicate Arch.  This is a moderate 2.9 mile hike.  This hike is packed with people.  You have to wait in line to get under the arch but it is still worth it.  After we hiked Devil’s Garden Loop.  This is a hard 7.5 mile hike but it gets you away from a lot of the traffic that is in the rest of the park.  We stayed the night at Moab Under Canvas.  We finally got to shower here! There is a clean shared shower trailer or you can stay in a suite and get a private bathroom.  Glamping was so much fun.  The beds were very comfortable and it felt like luxury living after sleeping in tent with no showers for the last 3 nights.  

Delicate Arch

Day 5

Canyonlands was probably my favorite national park of the trip.  First we drove the scenic drive through the Islands in the Sky District.  This part of the park was pretty busy.  After we hiked the Chesler Park Loop to the Joint in the Needles District.  It is an 11.5 miles moderate hike.  We saw only 1 other person on this hike with us.  It is about 1 1/2 hour drive from Moab Under Canvas to the Elephant Hill Trailhead.  You will drive down a road that you think you are definitely not supposed to be on but there is a trailhead at the end.  This is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve every been on.  It such a fun hike from climbing up and down rock to the slot canyons to just finding the stacked rocks.  A thunder storm started at the end of the hike so we had to run the last little bit back to our car.  It was pretty scary but we made it our pretty dry.  We stayed another night at Moab Under Canvas.  

Canyonlands National Park-The Needles

Day 6

Capitol Reef National Park was our next stop.  This national park was probably the least crowded.  We set up camp at the Fruita Campground.  It is first come first serve.  We had a great spot by the orchards with a great view.  We drove the scenic look drive and stopped at a few of the easy overlooks.  Our big hike of the day was Sulfur Creek Hike.  This hike was really fun.  It was an easy 6 mile hike.  You are basically walking in the creek the whole time with big and small waterfalls.  The hike brings you back to the visitor center.  You do have to get a ride back to your car up the road or hike on the highway back.  The rangers had already left when we got there so we started hitch hiking back.  Luckily a worker from the general store stopped and drove us back to our car. 

Capitol Reef National Park-Gooseneck Overlook

Day 7

Bryce Canyon was our next stop.  We hiked the Navajo Loop passing through Wall Street and Queen’s Garden Trail.  This is a 2.6 mile moderate heavily trafficked loop.  It had great views of the park.  After we drove the Rim trail and stopped at many different points.  This is a beautiful park.  There is a free shuttle tour that will bring you to all the stops if you do not want to drive.  We just drove in our car to many of them but parking is limited.  Camping was first come first serve.  It was a really busy campground.  We spent the rest of the evening at the tent.  

Bryce Canyon National Park

Day 8

The next national park was Zion.  This is a really busy national park.  The drive in had a lot of traffic.  We camped at the Watchman Campground.  It is at the front of the park by the visitor center.  This was helpful because we could leave our car there and take the shuttle from the visitor center to our trailhead.  We parked at our campsite and immediately headed for Angel’s Landing hike.  You can take the shuttle to the Grotto Trailhead.  This is a hard and busy 4 mile hike.  The switchbacks are rough.  There are chains toward the top where it gets very steep.  You are basically in a line getting to the top at this point.  The views are beautiful.  After this hike we did an easy hike to the Emerald Pools.  We would both love to go back to hike the Subway and the Narrows.  You can hike the Narrows bottom up if you do not have a permit.  We thought about doing this but decided to do Angel’s Landing instead.   

Zion National Park

Day 9

It is a long but beautiful drive from Zion National Park to Durango, Colorado.  We drove around beautiful Lake Powell.  You can definitely add a stop at Lake Powell and Grand Canyon National Park to this trip.  We stopped at the 4 corners.  This was super cheesy and probably a rip off but we literally drove right past it so we had to stop.  You pay like $5 and have to wait in a long line to take a picture on the 4 corners.  There are little vendors selling jewelry and things around the site.  We had plans to stop at Mesa Verde National Park but bypassed this to get to Durango faster.  We stayed at the Leland House in Durango.  This was the cutest bed and breakfast.  It was in a great location and had warm cookies upon our arrival. They provide bikes to get around town. Breakfast the next morning was amazing.  I would definitely stay more nights here just to relax and enjoy this little town.  

Angel’s Landing

Day 10

We decided to stay the night in Colorado Springs this day instead of Denver to see Garden of the Gods.  It is a beautiful area.  Our bodies were pretty worn out from the week of hiking so we just had a nice stroll through this area.  We booked a cheap Priceline Express Deal hotel at the Hilton.  It was a great spot to walk to everything that night.  

Bryce Canyon National Park

Day 11

This was an easy drive from Colorado Springs to Denver for our afternoon flight home.  

Moab Under Canvas

This area is so amazing.  We both talk about how we want to bring the girls on this same road trip and want to see all these parks in the winter.  We have traveled to Denver twice since this trip and love the city too.  Most of this trip we were able to cook our meals.  We ate at a couple restaurants but mostly ate sandwiches and food at our campsite.  This saves a lot of money when we travel to do this.  We ate at a couple restaurants at the end during our rest days but mostly ate what we bought at the grocery store.  This part of the country should be on everyone’s bucket list!

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