Denver, Colorado to Yellowstone Road Trip
Rocky Mountain High Loop: Trace the spine of North America from Colorado’s central Rockies to Wyoming’s Wind River Range to Yellowstone National Park and back.
Start: Denver, Colorado
Day 1 – Rocky Mountain National Park
I-70 West, US 40 West, US 34 East
Your first day’s route takes you from Denver and Winter Park straight into the mountains. From Grand Lake, enter Rocky Mountain National Park and cruise Trail Ridge Road—the country’s highest paved road—over the Continental Divide. End in bustling Estes Park for a night in historic Stanley Hotel (where Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining) or one of the park’s campgrounds.
Day 2 – Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming
US 34 East to I-25 North to I-80 West
Head deep into the Wild West on day two with a stop in Cheyenne. Hop on the Cheyenne St. Railway Trolley for a tour of town, then visit the Capitol and the Historic Governor’s Mansion. Head up the road to Laramie, where the kids can check out the fun Wyoming Children’s Museum and Nature Center or one of the University of Wyoming museums.
Day 3 – Lander and Riverton, Wyoming
I-80 West to US 287 North to WY 789 North
Today’s drive takes you to the doorstep of the Wind River Range, a premier wilderness area known for hiking, backpacking, and fly-fishing. In Lander, try your luck at the Shoshone Rose Casino or take a stroll through Sinks Canyon State Park, where a river vanishes into a cavern and reappears a half-mile down the canyon. Continue on to the small town of Riverton in Wind River Country where you can visit the Wind River Casino or brush up on natural history at the Wind River Heritage Center.
Day 4 – Grand Teton National Park
US 26 West to US 287 North
Get an early start for today’s drive on the Togwotee Trail, the scenic and recreation-packed stretch of US 287 from here through Dubois into Grand Teton National Park. When you reach the Tetons, take a dayhike; visit Jenny Lake; scope for grizzly bears, wolves, and moose; or go fly-fishing. Stay at the Jackson Lake Lodge or Signal Mountain Lodge, or pitch a tent at one of the park’s six scenic campgrounds. Favorites include the shoreline Jenny Lake Campground and the Lizard Creek Campground.
Day 5 – Yellowstone National Park
US 287 North
Geysers, grizzly bears, hot springs, and hiking: Yellowstone National Park has it all. Everyone should save time to tour one of the geyser basins to see the park’s one-of-a-kind geysers, mud pots, and hot springs (including world-famous Old Faithful) and explore the miles of backcountry trails.
Day 6 – Thermopolis, Wyoming
US 14 East to WY 120 East
Exit the park through the East Entrance and cruise to Cody, a historic gateway town packed with museums and old hotels. One standout: The Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a five-museum complex covering everything from natural history to Western art. Then veer southeast to reach Thermopolis and the famous (and free) soaking waters at Hot Springs State Park. Also worth a visit: tiny Kirby, home of Wyoming Whiskey.
Day 7 – Casper, Wyoming
US 20/26 East to I-25 South to US 26 East
Today you’ll press on to Casper, a center for Old West history and outdoor fun of all kinds, including fantastic trout fishing on the North Platte River and winter skiing and snowboarding on Casper Mountain. History buffs shouldn’t miss a stop at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center.
Day 8 – Denver, Colorado
US 85 South to I-25 South
Return home by driving through Douglas (stop for a peek at the striking rock formation Ayres Natural Bridge just west of town). Continue southeast to Cheyenne for lunch and a chance to check out any attractions you missed on your way north. Close the loop by heading south through Fort Collins back to Denver.
End: Denver, CO