Where to sleep & what to see while driving from LA to Denver in 2 days?
June 17, 2006 5:31 AM   Subscribe

Roadtrip advice. LA-Denver in 49 hours. Where to sleep, what to see along the way?

My sister and I are driving from LA to Denver next weekend, starting around 9:00 AM on Friday, and must arrive in Denver by about 10:00 AM on Sunday so I can catch a plane.

Any advice as to routes to take, and in particular places to spend the night would be appreciated. Driving a Jetta. Neither one of us has ever done this part of the country, besides LA, Vegas and Denver themselves. We would love to spend Friday night in Vegas and Saturday night in SLC, but that seems kind of crazy given the geography.
posted by Amizu to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You've got two basic choices for the route: east on I-40 to Albuquerque and then north on I-25, or I-15 north to I-70 in Utah, then east. (I don't think you're going to be able to leave the interstate for very long, unless you plan to drive many many hours a day.)

Personally, I think the I-70 route is more scenic, especially through the mountains in western Colorado--that's some amazing stuff. Also, there's a stretch of road in Utah where you go for 106 miles with no exits, which is a pretty unique experience. I'd recommend Cedar City, UT for the first night--it has a very large selection of hotels. Second night would presumably be in the mountains west of Denver; I've got no recommendations for that (never stayed there).

On the I-40 route, the first night would probably be Gallup, NM, which also has a large hotel selection. Don't know where to go the second night; I've stayed in Raton, NM, and it's pretty nice, but I think you'd want to be 2-3 hours north of there.

Some sightseeing possibilities for I-70:
-Bryce Canyon: incredibly beautiful, but pretty far out of the way.
-Hoover Dam (if you haven't been): not very far from Vegas, so you might be able to stop here. Probably won't have enough time for a tour, though, unless you feel like driving really late to make up for it.

And for I-40:
-Grand Canyon: only about 45 minutes north of the interstate, so you could totally sneak a peek. It'll cost you $20, but it's worth it.
-Albuquerque: there's a museum dedicated to atom-bomb stuff that's pretty cool.
-Santa Fe: just a really nice-looking city.

If I were in your place, I would do one of the following:
1. I-70 with no sights
2. I-40 with Grand Canyon only
posted by equalpants at 6:22 AM on June 17, 2006

Both drives equalpants recommends I second for your timeframe. Albuquerque had a lot of reasonable and cute motor inns along the old Route 66 stretch. Fun old kitschy diners too.

It's too bad you can't add another day on and go through Durango to Silverton on 550 in SW Colorado. That is one of my favorite drives.

Enjoy it! I love driving through this part of the country.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:00 AM on June 17, 2006

If you get out of LA early enough, it is only 5 hours to Las Vegas so you could be that by 4pm which seems to be way to early to stop nearly halfway across the country. You have about 1000 miles to go, stopping after 250 miles means you have to drive a looong way on Saturday.

If it were me, I'd go up 15 to St. George UT and stay there. It is not nearly as glamorous as Vegas, but you have to be in Denver on Sunday morning. If you get up on the road really -like before dawn so you're at the park gates at sunrise -- early on Saturday, you can cruise through Zion National Park. You won't get the whole experience of the park but you from the car you can drive through some areas with some pretty cool rock formations.

Then get back on 15 and take it up to I70 to Denver. Not sure where I'd stop, maybe Green River if you did to to Zion, if not press on Eastward toward Glenwood Springs. If it were me catching a plane, I'd get as close to Denver as possible on Saturday.

You are traveling through some of the most beautiful parts of the country, unfortunately you'll only be able to see most of it at 75mph with little time for siteseeing.
posted by birdherder at 8:12 AM on June 17, 2006

You could do Vegas to Durango via the Grand Canyon north rim on the first day, and then Durango to Denver through the Rockies on the second. I really like Durango.

If you can squeeze in a stop at Mesa Verde, it's pretty spectacular from an anthropological point of view.
posted by hammurderer at 8:36 AM on June 17, 2006

on the extremely off-chance that either of you are labor history buffs and you decide to take the I-25 route out of New Mexico, you can stop off to see the Ludlow Massacre memorial, just north of Trinidad, Colorado.
posted by scody at 1:11 PM on June 17, 2006

I just did Olympia, WA to Denver (21 hours) then Denver to DC (28 hours) over the weekend. That was pretty crazy. You have a lot of time to spend driving, I'd reccomend staying off the interstate for the interesting parts.

If you go through Durango, there's the added bonuses of the Canyonlands on the approach, and Wolf Creek Pass & Leadville on the way to Denver.
posted by blasdelf at 12:34 AM on June 22, 2006

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