Colorado Southwest: A 10-day Roadtrip Itinerary

Colorado Southwest Roadtrip: The Route

Our Colorado road trip started from Denver and passed through the southwestern part of Colorado, including Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado National Monument, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and Great Sand Dunes National Park, before returning to Denver. The route is as follows.


We have a total of ten days and nine nights planned for the itinerary.

Day 1 - 3 | Rocky Mountain National Park

On the first day, we took an early flight and arrived at Denver Airport at around 9:00 a.m. After picking up our rental car at the airport, we drove to Rocky Mountain National Park. Along the way, we first stopped at Boulder Boulder is a cute little town. We took some time here to get used to the high altitude, had a stroll through Pearl Street Mall, and had lunch before continuing on our journey.

After the break, we continued on our way to Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park offers different breathtaking views in each season. In spring and summer, you can enjoy vibrant flowers, while in autumn, you can witness the stunning fall foliage. During winter, the park transforms into a wonderland of snow-covered landscapes.

This visit is primarily focused on experiencing the autumn beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park, and it didn't disappoint. For the first two nights, we camped at Moraine Park Campground and spent the first afternoon around the area. The second day, we focused on the popular Bear Lake area. On the third day, we followed the Trail Ridge Road to the west, enjoying the sights along the way until we reached the Kawuneeche area on the park's west side, and finally camped at Stillwater Campground.

(Note: If you are looking for hotel accommodations, we recommend the Estes Park to the east and the Grand Lake to the west.)

Find a stay in Estes Park:

Find a stay in Grand Lake:

Day 4-5 | Colorado National Monument

We woke up early on the fourth day and enjoyed the wonderful scenery at Stillwater Campground and spent our entire morning there at the Lake Grandby. We then drove back slightly north to walk the Adams Fall Trail, before continuing west to the Colorado National Monument. We entered the park through the northwest entrance and camped at Saddlehorn campground. The next day, we drove all the way south on Rim Rock Drive and left through the east exit.

(Note: If you are looking for hotel accommodations, Grand Junction is recommended for this area.)

Find a stay in Grand Junction:

Day 5 | Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park

After leaving the Colorado National Monument, we managed to travel south to the Gunnison Black Canyon National Park, and walked to all the viewpoints on South Rim just before sunset.

We stayed at Ridgeway State Park for the night, at the great Elk Ridge Campground.

(Note: If you are looking for hotel accommodation, Montrose is just next to Gunnison Black Canyon National Park)

Find a stay in Montrose:

Day 6 | Highway 145, Uncompagre National Forest, and Hovenweep National Monument

The drive on day 6 was particularly long, as we traveled from the previous stop of the Ridgeway State Park We planned to first drive to the southwest border of Colorado, visiting Hovenweep National Monument, and then head east to Mesa Verde National Park. We were a little worried that it would be a boring drive, but we soon realized that the Uncompagre National Forest area is indeed a gem when we passed through Highway 145 around. The fall colors are so beautiful that I would claim it's the most beautiful place in the whole trip.

After passing through the national forest area, it was a smooth transition into the Hovenweep National Monument. We learned a lot about Ancient Puebloan culture walking the Square Tower Trail. This is a great stop before arriving Mesa Verde National Park. We arrived at Mesa Verde National Park after dusk and stayed at Far View Lodge in the park.

Recommended Accommodation: Far View Lodge

Find a stay in Mesa Verde National Park:

Day 7-8 | Mesa Verde National Park

We spent the next two days at Mesa Verde National Park. If you are interested in history and archaeology like me, you will definitely enjoy this unique national park. Here we learned more about the Ancient Puebloan civilization. Mesa Verde preserves the Ancient Puebloan settlements that were built between 1100 and 1300 A.D. in alcoves (in the cliff!). In addition to the unique architecture, the history of the area is also a fascinating story. At the end of the afternoon of Day 8, we drove east to Great Sand Dunes National Park , and camped at Great Sand Dunes National Park .

Day 9 | Great Sand Dunes National Park

It's only until sunrise in the Great Sand Dunes National Park , we realized that the scenery here was truly unique. If you walked a little in the direction of the sand dunes, it felt like you were in a desert, while all around, the mountaintops were still covered in pristine white snow.

Find a stay in Great Sand Dunes National Park:

Day 9-10 | Denver

We left Great Sand Dunes National Park in the afternoon of Day 9 and drove back to Denver, our starting point on the way, visiting the Gardon of the Gods on the way, and returning to the city for food and beer. The next day we spent a full day experiencing Downtown Denver, before concluding our Colorado roadtrip.

Find a stay in Denver:

Further reading

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