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  1. #1

    Default 3 week trip Denver to Denver and lots in between.

    Hello all, any advice gratefully appreciated, we are coming over from the UK for a 3-week trip, in Sept. We previously used this forum when we completed a road trip from Atlanta to LA in 2016 and we received lots of really good advice so here I am again, hoping for your assistance.
    General plan as follows:
    Week One
    Friday Eve 6pm - Denver Airport to Estes Park – stay for Two nights
    Can anyone advise the best route to Estes for scenery – I have been reading a lot of previous replies on this forum and have noted
    Drive from DIA to Boulder and 119 through Boulder Canyon, then Peak to Peak at Nederland (72 to 7) approx 2 1/2 hours from DIA – is this the best route do you think?
    While at Estes we hope to visit RMNP – as our time will be limited any “must see” recommendations will be appreciated. I have already noted down the “Ariel tramway” and “The Stanley Hotel”
    Sunday Estes Park – to Keystone SD stay for Two nights
    Is there a “best scenic” route for this?
    Someone has mentioned the “Trail Ridge Road” is that easy to pick up when leaving Estes Park towards Keystone and do you recommend it?

    I was hoping to go visit Deadwood, or Sturgis (or Both) as well as seeing Mount Rushmore, etc, is this realistic do you think?
    Tuesday Keystone to Sheridan – Stay one night
    Wednesday Sheridan to Cody- Stay one night
    Thursday Cody to Yellowstone for Two nights

    Any advice for things to see and do, best drives, places to eat or “must see and do” would be really welcomed. Thank you from a grateful Brit.
    I didn’t want this to be too long so have only posted about the 1st Week for now.
    Last edited by Scruffygirl; 07-06-2017 at 04:17 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default The makings of a nice trip.

    Hello and welcome back to RTA !

    The route you describe to Estes park is the one we took and it was very pleasant and worth the detour in my opinion. You can always stop and stretch your legs with a pleasant walk around Lily Lake on route. The big problem is if you are planning to do it after a long haul flight, that's certainly not recommended especially when arriving late in the day. From personal experience I would recommend staying near the airport, relaxing and get an early night and head off early morning giving your body clock at least some time to adjust.

    Estes park is close to the Moraine park area of RMNP and has some great walks and scenery along the Bear Lake road which makes for a nice day. The Trail ridge road is an amazing part of the Rocky experience, if it's open. It's the highest continuous paved road in the US and can see high winds and snow at any time and although a good chance it will be open, it's not guaranteed. The other problem is it's starting out in the wrong direction to Keystone and is probably too much to do in one day. If you can juggle your time line you could do an out and back trip from Estes, or stop over somewhere like Laramie and continue to Keystone the following morning. Of course, if the road was closed that would then be off the direct route.

    Not knowing where your trip goes next makes it difficult to offer alternatives into Yellowstone, but you should look at the option of entering the park via the Beartooth highway (212) through Cooke city/Silver Gate, which could be done from Cody but makes it a bit off route.

    Two nights in Yellowstone is really not enough time when you add on the travelling in and out of the park. The place is awesome but huge and very slow going, so I would add an extra night. Seeing a brief outline of the whole of your trip puts us in a better position to see how you can get the best from this first part, rather than seeing bits of the puzzle.

  3. #3


    Thank you for responding Dave, I did think about staying in Denver first night, but got a great deal for the two nights in Estes Park and was advised its only a 2-3 hour drive from the airport so thought it was a good idea at the time to go ahead.

    Ok the remainder of the trip - after yellowstone is as follows:

    Grand Teton NP for two nights
    Vernal for one night
    Bryce Canyon for two nights followed by Springdale also for two nights
    Page for two nights, we especially wanted to see Antelope Canyon, then onto Moab for Two nights.
    Last night will be a stop in Glenwood Springs before heading back into Denver for a flight back to London.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    You do have a nice tip planned ! Are you completely booked without cancellation options ? To tweak it so you are not to rushed at the start and at Yellowstone, you could plan on one night in the Tetons and the same for Bryce canyon. Not because they are not amazing places they are just quicker/easier to visit and the Teton's being so close to Yellowstone would mean you could spend another night in Yellowstone and still have part of the following day to explore the Tetons.

    To be honest if you have to drive to Estes on arrival day you would be better off taking a direct/quick route. If you land at 6pm it could be around 7:30 before you clear customs and get your rental sorted ready to go and that will be after at least 14 to 15 hours of travelling from London.

  5. #5


    Hi Dave,

    Thanks again for responding, Yes i have already pre-booked the trip. The second night at Bryce we have a planned event to attend that cannot be changed. Our flight is due to arrive at 5pm, so i was anticipating getting through customs and collecting car by 6 that unrealistic?

    I guess a direct route to Estes would be the most sensible option, if its going to be dark? little use in scenic route if i cannot see the there one you can recommend?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Getting through customs and getting your car within an hour seems quite unrealistic. It wouldn't surprise me at all if it took you an hour just to get your bags and go through customs. At Denver, there are no car rentals directly at the airport, you're going to have to take a short shuttle ride to whichever company you are renting with - and then potentially have to wait in line to get your car. By the time you get through everything, I would consider it a bonus if you were on the road by 7. (and that's assuming your flight is on time!)

    Sunset in Denver is around 8pm in mid-september, so you need to expect that at least half of the drive to Estes Park would be in the dark.

    Of course, while it might be 7pm Denver time when you get on the road, your body is going to think it is 2am, UK time.

    So in the end, you'd be talking about missing out on most of a scenic drive, because it will be dark, and trying to drive a couple of hours, on mountain roads in the dark, when your body thinks it's the middle of the night, after you've been traveling for at least 14 or 15 hours at that point. To me, that's a pretty horrible way to start a roadtrip - and as Dave originally mentioned, I think you'd be much better off finding a place to stay in Denver.

    As an aside, the Direct Route from the Denver Airport to Estes Park would have you getting on the 470 Toll Road right after leaving the airport. There are no toll booths - it's purely based on them snapping pictures of your license plate. Most rental car companies will absolutely pummel you with "convenience" fees if they pay the toll for you (Many will charge a fee for every day of your rental, even if you only go through a toll once!) so make sure you pay the toll online or check with the rental company about how they handle toll charges.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    Sunset will likely be around 7-7:30pm depending on the time of month. If things go smoothly it's possible I guess as long as there are no flight delays, but unlikely in the real world. (Fingers crossed for you, but ours was delayed by almost 2 hours last trip)

    The quickest route would be taking E470 to I-25 but that would mean a Toll charge. You could go along E56TH Ave and then take US36 through Boulder all the way to Estes.

  8. #8


    Thanks both. Ok direct route to Estes it is then. As for the toll charge, thank you for this, its good to know & i will be sure to deal with it when collecting the car.

    So assuming we make it to Estes safe and sound, anyone have any advice for the routes, etc for the remainder of the trip?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default A few suggestions.

    If the Trail ridge road is open I would drive and sightsee along that on day one with an out and back trip to Grand Lake and if time allows, visit part of Moraine. Then the following morning drive along to Bear Lake and enjoy a walk before taking a direct route to Keystone. Start early for parking at Bear Lake and to get on the road by midday to get to your destination early evening. (US34/I-25/US85/18)

    Keystone to Sheridan. If you have done most of your sight seeing in the Black Hills area you could take a detour to Devils tower and on route to Cody you could visit Bighorn canyon.

    Loads to see in Yellowstone, it's best to plan your days via the NP website but as I previously mentioned, a drive over the Beartooth highway via Red Lodge is memorable. It will take you through the Lamar valley to Tower junction, from there will depend on where you are lodging but you want to try and see the Grand canyon of the Yellowstone.

    As you head to Vernal down 191 and you approach Rock Springs you could hop onto I-80 to Green River (nice little place to stretch your lakes at Island park) and then WY530 down the west side of Flaming Gorger Res for a scenic alternative.

    Another wonderful scenic drive is from UT24 to scenic Byway 12 between Vernal and Bryce. It would be quite a full day on the road but with great scenery and time for short breaks from the car, including a stop at Capital Reef NP. You would continue to Green River UT on 191 and then head to Hanksville.

    A tip for Bryce canyon. Drive all the way to the far end of the canyon and stop at the viewpoints on the way back. They will all be on your side of the road and you won't have to keep crossing traffic.

    Zion is wonderful, again use the NP website for info but the river walk, Weeping rock and Emerald pools are nice easy trails. If you want more of an adventure you can walk in the river through the Narrows, but check weather forecasts first in case of the risk of flash floods.

    I presume you are visiting Arches while in Moab but if you have time, drive down to Grandview point in Canyonlands as well and hike to the end of the Mesa.

    These are just some of many options to consider so it's important to research and rather than set anything in stone other than your lodgings, you can decide as you go depending on how you feel and what time you get on the road etc.

    Any questions just ask.

  10. #10


    Thanks Dave. At the end of our trip we would dearly love to visit Mesa Verde. Do you think it's realistic to travel from Moab down to Mesa Verde then back to Glenwood Springs on the same day ?

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