The Ultimate Denver to Grand Canyon Road Trip

Last Updated on March 31, 2024 by foxintheforest

If there’s one trip you’ve got to take in your lifetime it’s an epic Denver to the Grand Canyon road trip. Stuffed to the brim with stunning scenery, amazing adventures, and plenty of outside time, you can travel from Denver to the Grand Canyon countless times and never see the same thing twice.

In fact, I’ve road tripped from Denver to the Grand Canyon so many times, and I’d still do it in a heartbeat. Simply put, it never gets old and there’s always something cool to see. As a long-time Denver local and professional outdoor writer, I’ve personally done every single route between Denver and the Grand Canyon.

If you want top-level, local insight on the best way to drive from Denver to the Grand Canyon, then you’re in the right place. I’ll be giving you all the juicy insider secrets to the best things to see and do along the drive to the Grand Canyon.

About this Denver to the Grand Canyon Road Trip Guide

Inside this exclusive, local guide to road-tripping the Grand Canyon you’ll find:

  • Info on the best times to road trip to the Grand Canyon from Denver
  • Noteworthy stops
  • A comprehensive 14-day itinerary with options for shorter trips.
  • Additional stops to add to your trip
  • Hot tips for driving from Denver to the Grand Canyon
denver to grand canyon road trip

How Far is it from Denver to the Grand Canyon?

Distance depends on which rim you plan to visit. From Denver to the South Rim is 11 hours and 674 miles while the North Rim is 11 hours and 690 miles via the most direct routes.

Is it Worth Driving to the Grand Canyon?

OMG YES! It would be a shame not to drive from Denver to the Grand Canyon. Overall, the scenery is incredible just along the road and there is so much to see along the way.

With so many stops you can add and subtract attractions to suit your itinerary. You’ll find yourself wanting to go back in a year or two just to see different things en route to the Grand Canyon.

When is the Best Time to Road Trip to the Grand Canyon from Denver?

You can drive to the Grand Canyon from Denver any time of the year. However, when you go will heavily depend on if you’re visiting the north or south rims (more on that later).

Regardless of which rim you choose to visit, the absolute best time to visit the Grand Canyon from Denver is during the spring or fall months. During the spring, you might not be able to drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, but the desert sun will be a warm welcome. Fall is stunning – especially if you’re headed to the north rim – since the fall colors are in full force.

Summers are also a possibility, but it is brutally hot. Monsoon rains make slot canyons a serious danger. Not to mention, it’s the most crowded time to visit the Grand Canyon (and everywhere else). If you’re just looking to drive, and you don’t want to get out and see much, summer might be the right time for you.

denver to the grand canyon road trip itinerary.

Where Should I Stop Between Denver and the Grand Canyon?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gone from Denver to the Grand Canyon countless times and rarely see the same thing twice! There are so many epic stops between Denver and the Grand Canyon. Seeing them all in one go is virtually impossible (unless you have a month).

If it’s your first time making this fantastic Grand Canyon road trip, there are a few stops that you cannot miss.

A few must-see attractions are:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park: best done in summer when Trail Ridge Road is open. (can be skipped if you’re a Colorado local)
  • Glenwood Springs and Hanging Lake (can be skipped if you’re a Denver local)
  • Colorado National Monument
  • Moab: Home to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park
  • Antelope Canyon
  • Bryce Canyon
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison
  • Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona
  • Monument Valley
  • Pagosa Springs

Should I Visit the North Rim, South Rim, or Both?

The first choice you’ll need to make is if you would prefer to visit the North Rim vs the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Which rim you decide to visit largely depends on what you want to see and do. Of course, you can visit both, but that will require quite a bit of extra time.

The North Rim sits over 1,200 feet higher in elevation than the South Rim at 8,297 feet above sea level vs 7,000 feet in the south. It’s wooded and vastly different than the south rim. As such, the park is only open from around May 15th until October 15th. Roads frequently close over winter as they are not plowed.

However, the North Rim sees 10% of the traffic of the South Rim. There are very few views of the Colorado River from North Rim (the big exception is Toroweap, which is its own adventure about 4 hours from the North Rim Park). In short, fewer crowds, far fewer services, and longer views. You get a sense of how vast the canyon is from here.

The South Rim offers more dramatic views with steep drops that show off the mighty Colorado below. However, the South Rim feels more like an amusement park than a national park. There are Grand Canyon sunset tour buses everywhere, a high volume of crowds, and tons of services and amenities. You’ll have to dip below the rim on strenuous hikes to get any sense of solitude.

The South Rim is open year-round and less prone to snowy road closures.

The two rims are separated by a 4-hour drive, so plan accordingly.

grand canyon best viewpoints

A Local’s Look at the Best Way to Get to the Grand Canyon from Denver

Personally, the absolute best road trip from Denver to the Grand Canyon is to do it in a loop. You’ll get to see a wide variety of things along the way and incredible scenery. This lets you make the most of your road trip.

I’ve designed this itinerary to hit all of the highlights, but it’s really easy to pick and choose what you’d like to see. If you’re short on time, select the adventures that sound the best to you.

My advice, especially if you hail from Denver, is to skip Rocky Mountain National Park and Glenwood Springs as these two stops are awesome day trips from Denver. You can even pass by the Colorado National Monument since this is an easy weekend getaway in Colorado.

For the return journey, if you live in Denver, you can skip Moab (unless you’ve never been). Since getting out to Moab for the weekend is another easy option.

Take note of the slight differences in the itinerary if you’re headed to the North Rim or the South Rim. Both itineraries see the same attractions, but a few of the days are split up due to driving routes.

denver to the grand canyon

Denver to Grand Canyon Road Trip Map

Here are maps of two routes to the Grand Canyon from Denver. One that heads to the South Rim and one that stops at the North Rim to help you decide on the Grand Canyon North Rim vs. South Rim.

South Rim Route

Map of a Denver to Grand Canyon Drive to the South Rim.

Get the interactive version here. Note: Glenwood Springs, the Colorado National Monument, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon are left out for brevity. See itinerary days for mileage and drive times.

Total Miles: 1,664 miles
Approximate Drive Times: 32 hours
Total Days: 14 – 18

North Rim Route

Map of the Denver to Grand Canyon drive to the North Rim.

Wanna explore more? Check out the interactive version here.Note: Glenwood Springs, the Colorado National Monument, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon are left out for brevity. See itinerary days for mileage and drive times.

Total Miles: 1,715 miles
Approximate Drive Times: 32 hours
Total Days: 14 – 18

A Note About Rocky Mountain National Park

These maps don’t show the detour through Rocky Mountain National Park (since the road was closed for the season when I wrote this). However, this detour adds around 4 hours (with stops) to your first day.

Denver to the Grand Canyon Road Trip Itinerary

This itinerary spares no expense when it comes to seeing things along the way to the Grand Canyon. It’s long – 14 days not including your time in the Grand Canyon, but you’ll get to see everything.

I get that you may not have that kind of time (le sigh, imma rite?), simply ditch the things you don’t want to see to shorten up the trip.

If you prefer to travel slower or want to spend more time in a place listed here, simply nix something that doesn’t sound as appealing.

Local Tip: Short on time? Look for the “must-see Denver to Grand Canyon stop” heading at the bottom of each attraction.

Day 1 Option One: Drive through Rocky Mountain National Park

If you don’t live in Denver and you’re just here to visit, it’s worth it to make a drive through Rocky Mountian National Park on your way to the Grand Canyon.

Keep in mind, it’s out of the way and adds about a 4-hour detour to your day. However, driving Trail Ridge Road is one of the most scenic drives in Colorado. Plus, spending the day at Rocky Mountain National Park is certainly a Colorado bucket list item.

Just note, you’re going to need an advanced permit to visit the park.

Things to do in a day:

Local Tip: This stop only makes sense if Trail Ridge Road is open. Typically the road closes in late fall and doesn’t open until late spring. Check conditions before you travel.

End the Day at: Glenwood Springs, CO
Drive Time: 4-5 hours
Miles: 283 miles

Day 1 Option 2: Glenwood Springs and Hanging Lake

Must-see Denver to Grand Canyon Stop if you’re not from Colorado.

If the long detour through Rocky doesn’t tickle your fancy, head to Glenwood Springs instead. Nestled right along I-70 in a stunning canyon, Glenwood Springs is an excellent place to play.

The top attraction? Hiking to the famous Hanging Lake. Arguably one of the most beautiful places in Colorado, Hanging Lake is an easy-to-moderate hike right off the highway, making it an ideal stop on your Denver to Grand Canyon road trip.

Local Tip: You’ll need an advanced permit to hike to Hanging Lake. Permits do sell out fast in the summer.

End the Day at: Glenwood Springs, CO
Drive Time: 16 minutes
Miles: 9.6 miles

 Local Tip: Hanging Lake has been experiencing temporary closures due to trail maintenance from the 2021 landslides (yup, even in 2024). Always check on the permit website for the most accurate and up-to-date info!

Colorado Road Trip

Day 2: Colorado National Monument

Welcome to the start of red rock country. Take a scenic cruise through the Colorado National Monument. There are a few short hikes along the way, or you can opt to just see magnificent red rock spires and canyons directly from viewpoints. Since this stop is right along the main route to the Grand Canyon, it’s well worth the time if you haven’t checked it out before.

End the Day at: Fruita, CO
Drive Time: 2.5 hours
Miles: 164 miles

Day 3: Fruita or Denver to Goblin Valley

Located in the heart of the San Rafael Swell, Goblin Valley State Park is one of my favorite hidden gems. These weird and whacky hoodoos are quite a trip – and worth seeing up close. You can also enjoy some of the best non-technical canyons of the San Rafael SwellLittle Wild Horse Canyon – nearby.

With over a mile of smooth-running slots, this is a must-see in the area.

Local Tip: If you’re from Colorado and you don’t want to stop in spots that are easy weekend getaways from Denver, start in Goblin Valley.

End the Day at: Goblin Valley State Park, UT
Drive Time: 2 hours
Miles: 139 miles

Person hanging out by the hoodoos of Goblin Valley during this Denver to Grand Canyon road trip.

Day 4: Goblin Valley State Park to Spooky Slot Canyon in Escalante

Get ready because today is one of the most beautiful days of driving on the entire trip. Seriously. The stretch of road between Goblin Valley and Escalante never disappoints! You’ll make your way through Capitol Reef (stop to do an Escalante hike or see the petroglyphs) with the goal of reaching the Spooky and Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon Trailhead, which will give you access to one of the best Kanab hikes.

Spooky Gulch and Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon are simply a must-do. As an amateur canyoneer, I highly recommend this trail – it’s one of the best non-technical slot canyons in Utah. Make your way through the tight squeezes and weird landscapes for a one-of-a-kind adventure.

Just be aware, there is one rope ladder, and some light scrambling (climbing with your hands) on this hike.

Local Tip: If you enjoy free camping, Hole in the Rock Road has plenty of options. Otherwise, stay in nearby Escalante.

End the Day at: Spooky Slot Canyon or Escalante, UT
Drive Time: 3.5 hours
Miles: 138 miles

Day 5: Escalante to Bryce Canyon

Must-see Denver to Grand Canyon Stop.

Rise and shine. Today is an early wake-up, but it’ll be worth it. Start your day with a stunning sunrise over Bryce Canyon at Inspiration Point. The early alarm not only delivers you a sunrise you’ll never forget, but you’ll also beat the crowds at Bryce Canyon.

Spend the day scoping out the viewpoints or enjoying iconic hikes such as Queens Garden and Navajo Loop or the Fairyland Trail.

Pro Tip: Some of the steeper hiking trails, including the famous Wall Street, close during winters in Bryce Canyon, so check local conditions before you go and as you make your way from Bryce Canyon to Moab.

End the Day at: Bryce Canyon, UT
Drive Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Miles: 85 miles

Denver to bryce canyon

Day 6 and 7 Option One: Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park

The next day you’ll want to make a choice – opt to drive to Zion National Park. Day 7 you can explore the many amazing views of Zion or opt to tackle challenging hikes such as the Narrows or Angels Landing.

Keep in mind, you’ll need to reserve a spot on the shuttle going through the park’s main road. You’ll also need advanced permits for the most popular hiking trails.

Local Tip: Zion is crowded. I’m personally not one for massive crowds, so if that’s not your thing, see Option 2 below.

End the Day at: Zion or St George, UT
Drive Time: 1.5 hours
Miles: 76 miles

Day 6 and 7 Option Two: Buckskin Gulch, The Wave, and White Pocket (South Rim Recommended)

Must-see Denver to Grand Canyon Stop

If crowded busses aren’t really your thing – opt to spend the day along House Rock Valley Road instead. Situated near Big Water, Utah, this easy dirt road features a jam-packed day of activities.

You can try your luck getting permits for the Wave hike. Or if you aren’t one of the lucky few, you can hike Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch instead. Here you’ll find the longest-known slot canyon in the world. This gentle hike lets you explore wandering slots, examine old rock art, and enjoy plenty of desert views.

Unlimited permits ($5 per person or dog) must be purchased in advance. Be sure to snag permits when you have cell service since there is no coverage at the trailhead.

Afterward, if you have a 4×4 vehicle, head further down the road to White Pocket. Arguably one of the strangest rock formations in the Vermillion Cliffs wilderness area, this wild and wacky landscape offers amazing photography opportunities (and in my opinion, is better than the Wave).

Pro Tip: If you’re headed to the South Rim, you’ll pass right by House Rock Valley Road, making this a quick detour on your road trip from Denver to the Grand Canyon. If you’re headed to the North Rim, save this activity for the return journey – as you’ll pass right by the turnoff.

End the Day at: Kanab, UT or Page, AZ
Drive Time: 6 hours
Miles: 210 miles


View of the Wave in Arizona

Day 6 Option Three: Arrive at the North Rim

From Kanab, it’s about a 1 hour and 40-minute drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Stop in Kanab to fuel up on gas and food since services on the north rim are limited (and pricey).

There’s a lot of incredible hiking on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (Cape Final is a personal fave). Not to mention, some of the best Grand Canyon Viewpoints, such as Bright Angel Point and Cape Royal.

End the Day at: North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Drive Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Miles: 81 miles

Day 8: The Grand Canyon South Rim with a stop at Horseshoe Bend (South Rim)

Headed to the South Rim? Make a pit stop at the famous Horsehoe Bend before you hit the park. This mellow hike takes you right to the rim of the famous Horseshoe Bend viewpoint. There’s a small fee to enter. The gentle trail has plenty of places to stop if you need it.

Local Tip: We visited just after midday and canyon walls were lit up great for easy photo snapping. It is crowded but certainly worth a quick stop.

End the Day at: South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Drive Time: 3 hours and 20 minutes
Miles: 197 miles

Denver to grand canyon road trip

Grand Canyon to Denver Road Trip Itinerary: Return Journey

Had your fun exploring the Grand Canyon? Now it’s time to return from your Denver to Grand Canyon road trip. Turn that frown upside down, because there is plenty of amazing things to see on the way back.

Day 1 and 2 Return from the North Rim: Buckskin Gulch, the Wave, and White Pocket

If you’re coming back from the North Rim, your first stop needs to beHouse Rock Valley Road. See day 6 and 7 above for details about how to spend the day exploring Buckskin Gulch, the Wave, and White Pocket.

Local Tip: There is some dispersed, free camping quite a ways down School House Road, including a small BLM campground otherwise, stay in Page, Big Water, or Kanab.

End the Day at: Page, AZ
Drive Time: 3 hours
Miles: 122 miles

Day 1 Return from the South Rim: Page and Antelope Canyon

Now it’s time to discover a different kind of canyon on your return to Denver from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Hire a guide to take you through the famous Antelope Canyon. This highly-photographed slot canyon can only be visited with an official Navajo Guide (the canyon is on the reservation).

The 2-hour tour makes for the perfect stop en route to Monument Valley.

End the Day at: Page, AZ
Drive Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes
Miles: 128 miles

Otherworldly feel of the rocks at Antelope Canyon during your drive from Denver to the Grand Canyon.

Day 2 Return from the North Rim: Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon

Headed home from the North Rim? After exploring the Vermillion Cliffs area, you’ll make a few fun-filled stops near Page, Arizona. First, don’t forget to snap your obligatory pic at Horseshoe Bend.

This roadside stop involves a quick hike to an overlook and takes around 1-2 hours to complete. You’ll need to pay a small fee to enter ($10 per vehicle).

Next up, book your Antelope Canyon tour. Again, this 1-2 excursion helps to break up the drive to Monument Valley and delivers stunning canyon views.

End the Day at: Page, AZ or Monument Valley, UT
Drive Time: 2 hours and 6 minutes
Miles: 110 miles

Day 3 return both rims: Monument Valley to Moab, Utah

Must-see Denver to Grand Canyon Stop.

Drive up through the rez to the iconic Monument Valley. Take a detour at the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Here you’ll find a few campgrounds and some roadside attractions. Many people come to the park to gaze upon iconic views of the famous red rock mittens.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to eat plenty of fry bread!

You can opt to either stay in the park to catch a sunrise and sunset or make your way to Moab.

End the Day at: Moab, UT
Drive Time: 2 hours and 51 minutes
Miles: 296 miles


Denver to Moab things to do

Day 4: Arches National Park

Must-see Denver to Grand Canyon Stop.

As one of the top desert locations, there are endless things to do in Moab. I visit this town multiple times a year and one of my favorite excursions is to Arches National Park.

If you want to spend one day in Arches, it’s essential to show up before sunrise. In fact, seeing Delicate Arch for sunrise is a real treat – not to mention it’s when the trail is the least crowded.

Afterward, be sure to check out other Arches hikes and views. If you’re into scrambling canyons, then pick up permits for the Fiery Furnace – a fun-filled choose-your-own-adventure in the heart of Arches.

The Arches Scenic drive is one of the most beautiful drives in Moab, so get your camera ready!

For an amazing sunset spot, head to the Windows and Double Arch.

Pro Tip: If the park is too crowded, they do close the front gates. In order to ensure you get in, plan on arriving before the sun.

End the Day at: Moab, UT
Drive Time: 16 minutes
Miles: 11 miles


Day 5: Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Dead Horse Point State Park via Gemini Bridges Road

If you’ve got a vehicle with a little bit of clearance (think a 4Runner) then take the alternative way to Canyonlands National Park via Gemini Bridge Road. This road climbs a hillside that provides stunning views of Moab.

Grand View Point and Mesa Arch are must-see attractions in Island in the Sky. Inside the park, you’ll find some of the best hikes in Moab along with plenty of views overlooking the iconic White Rim Road.

Your first stop is the Cayonlands Island in the Sky district. Avid photographers will want to jostle with the crowds to capture a shot of Mesa Arch at sunrise. But if crowded spots aren’t your thing, skip this attraction and head to Grand View Point for sunrise, then hit up Mesa Arch after the crowds dissipate.

Dead Horse Point State Park delivers a dog-friendly alternative to Island in the Sky. Even if you don’t have Fido in tow, you’ll want to stop here to scope out an epic sunset.

Take the paved road back towards Moab to round out your amazing Denver to Grand Canyon road trip.

Pro Tip: Canyonlands in winter is an excellent time to photograph Mesa Arch – it’s far less crowded.

End the Day at: Moab, UT
Drive Time: 1 hour and 53 minutes
Miles: 124 miles

denver to grand canyon road trip mesa arch stop

Day 6 option 1: Black Canyon of the Gunnison

If you aren’t tired of staring into the endless abyss of canyons, then you’ll want to make one more stop – the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Located about 3 hours from Moab, this lesser-known Colorado National Park delivers dizzying canyon views.

From the south rim, you can spend the day driving the rim in search of the most vertigo-inducing views. Sheer drops of over 1,000 feet await you at this incredible park.

Local Tip: This stop is best done in the spring and fall (summers are insanely hot, and the road closes to vehicles in winter). Black Canyon of the Gunnison hikes are also best at this time of year too.

End the Day at: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (camping only) or Gunnison, CO
Drive Time: 2 hours and 35 minutes
Miles: 165 miles

denver to the grand canyon black canyon of the gunnison

Day 6 Option 2: Back to Denver

If you want to opt-out of the Black Canyon, simply make the drive back to Denver today instead. Moab is about 6 hours from Denver via I-70.

End the Day at: Denver, CO
Drive Time: 5 hours and 26 minutes
Miles: 354 miles

Day 7 (Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park only): Back to Denver

After you’ve gotten your fill of sheer granite cliffs, make your way back to Denver to end your Grand Canyon road trip. The drive from the Gunnison takes a slightly different way home. If you don’t want to repeat stretches of I-70, you can take Highway 50 instead. It’s a bit longer, but more scenic.

End the Day at: Denver, CO
Drive Time: 5 and a half hours
Miles: 286 miles

Other Notable Stops and Itinerary Stops

Choosing the perfect Grand Canyon road trip itinerary is no small task. With so much to see, it can be to tough to choose. If you’re looking to extend your Denver to Grand Canyon road trip, check out these additional stops.

Capitol Reef National Park

Often called one of the best-kept secret parks, Capitol Reef has a lot on offer. You’ll be driving right through the heart of the park, but there are plenty of amazing, secluded hikes in Capitol Reef such as the famous Cassidy Arch Trail to put on your bucket list.

Nearby attractions: En route between Goblin Valley and Escalante.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

As a note-worthy alternative to Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks sees a fraction of the crowds and still has expansive views of hoodoos. It’s a bit deeper than Bryce, making you feel small amongst sandstone giants. However, you can’t hike down into the canyons due to their steepness and fragility.

Nearby attractions: Bryce Canyon

View of the dazzling colors and rick formations that make up Cedar Breaks National Monument

Moon House Ruins

As an off-the-beaten-path adventure, snag permits to the Moon House Ruins. Located up a navigable dirt road, the Moon House is an impressive Ancestral Puebloan structure built into the cliffs.

Nearby attractions: This isolated area isn’t really near a whole lot, but it would be a detour between Monument Valley and Moab.

The Needles: Canyonlands National Park

Located about an hour and 40 minutes from Moab, the Needles District of Canyonlands is a must-see. Most of the best hikes in Canyonlands can be found here including the famous Druid Arch. Not to mention, the drive into the park is beautiful. Backpacking the Needles (advanced permits required) can be an adventurous outing that puts you in the heart of terra incognita.

Nearby attractions: Moab

Hiking in the Needles, Canyonlands National Park.

Mesa Verde National Park

If you’re looking to avoid Moab, but still want to loop your Denver to Grand Canyon trip, consider stopping at Mesa Verde National Park. One of the few national parks dedicated to preserving antiquities, this incredible collection of ancestral Puebloan ruins offers great insight into the advanced civilizations that called the American Southwest home.

Local Tip: The park is really only worth it if you book a ranger-led tour to the ruins. You won’t see much otherwise, since most of the cities nestled in the cliffs can’t be seen from the main roads.

Nearby attractions: Pagosa Springs, Canyon de Chelly, Ship Rock.

Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Tired and weary from the road? Stop at Pagosa Springs for a deep, relaxing soak. There are several different hot springs throughout this sleep western slope town, including free hippy dips right by the river.

Local Tip: Traveling in October? Pagosa Springs is stunning in the fall.

Nearby attractions: Mesa Verde, Ouray, Durango

Denver to the Grand Canyon via pagosa springs

How Long Should I Spend in the Grand Canyon?

Honestly, you can spend a lifetime exploring the Grand Canyon and never see the same thing twice. If you’re visiting for the first time, and you plan to hike below the rim, you’ll want at least 2 to 3 full days in the park and check out iconic viewpoints like Toroweap Overlook

For backpacking or visiting both rims in one trip, you’ll want more time, ideally 4-5 days.

Local Tips for Your Denver to Grand Canyon Road Trip

Ready to hit the road? Be prepared with these expert tips for driving from Denver to the Grand Cayon.

Purchase an Annual National Parks Pass

Along your Grand Canyon road trip itinerary, you’ll be stopping at so many national parks, it makes sense to purchase an annual pass. This pass lets you into any national monument, historic site, recreation area, or national park for a 12-month rolling period.

Bring Plenty of Sun Protection

The desert is a brutal and unforgiving place throughout the year. Be prepared with plenty of sun protection. Don’t forget to pack:

  • sunscreen
  • sunburn balm
  • lip balm with SPF
  • sunshirt
  • sun hat
  • sunglasses
  • lightweight pants to protect your skin from the sun and cacti.

Pack Lots of Layers for Varying Conditions

Regardless of the time of year, you’ll want to pack plenty of non-cotton layers to stay protected. Traveling from the high alpine to the desert requires clothing to keep you comfortable. Regardless of the time of year, be sure to bring:

  • rain jacket
  • pants – preferably zip-off pants
  • fleece layer
  • hat, beanie, gloves
  • puffy jacket

Don’t Skip Sunrise

A lot of places see tons of crowds during popular seasons – especially in summer. To make the most of your trip, try to get up for sunrise as much as possible. You’ll not only maximize on views, but you’ll stay one step ahead of tour busses, and long entry lines.

Plan Permits in Advance

There are several permitted activities on this Denver to Grand Canyon itinerary. Plan well in advance so you can secure permits and lodging. Things tend to fill up fast between spring and fall. Occasionally you may get lucky and be able to snag a cancellation, but you don’t want to put your whole trip in jeopardy.

Camping Road Trip from Denver to the Grand Canyon

There is ample free camping en route to the Grand Canyon from Denver. Learn how to find free camping in order to save on lodging. Just be prepared to be self-sufficient and pack out all of your trash.

Additional Grand Canyon Trip Planning Resources

Looking to travel to the Grand Canyon Like a pro? I’ve got you covered with these incredible resources.

Picture of Meg Atteberry
Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

Hi There!

Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.