Our American West Itinerary: Two Weeks in Colorado & Utah

Our American West Itinerary: Two Weeks in Colorado & Utah

I've mentioned a minimal American Road Trip itinerary you can do to visit all of Colorado's National Parks with two of Utah's parks as well. That particular itinerary was a trimmed down version of what we did on our first big road trip in 2015. 

Years later, we can look back on that trip as one of the turning points for us. The photos we took on that trip became a significant part of Kelly's photograph collection and we got a taste of extended time in fresh air. We hope part of this blog inspires you to take a trip or to see something you've always wanted to explore. But instead of seeing only the possible trip information, I like to share how we actually did a road trip as well, to give you an idea about how to combine activities and locations. Everyone will have different preferences for the perfect trip so always feel free to piece together your own perfect itinerary.

Here's how we saw Colorado's National Parks + Moab (Canyonlands & Arches)

Day 1: Landed in Denver. Settled in at my brother and SIL's place (it's always great to have family in awesome road tripping locations!)

Day 2: Day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park to the Loch and Timberline Falls. Distance Hiked: 6 miles.

Day 3: Walked around a park near my brothers. Then whole family hikes around Denver. Distance Walked & Hiked: 6 miles

Day 4: Drove to Colorado Springs to drop off nieces and dogs and to celebrate my SIL's upcoming birthday with her parents. Continued the drive to out to Gunnison, CO, stopping to hike at Lamphier Lake along the way. Our plan was to spend the night camping at the base of the Uncompaghre 14er and to attempt a summit the next day. High creek waters that felt unsafe to cross turned us around and we used the smidgen of cell phone service we found to reserve what felt like the last available hotel room back in Gunnison. Distance Hiked: 7 miles

Day 5: Without summiting Uncompaghre, we had a free morning and spent it at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Then we set off to Moab, stopping first for a lake hike HERE and then at the Grand Junction, CO airport to pick up a second car (my bro and SIL would spend only 2 days in Moab with us before heading back home). Distance Hiked: 6 miles

Day 6: Eleven miles as the day warmed to 115 degrees through Canylond's Chesler park district. The day of this hike happened to be my SIL's birthday and we all enjoyed celebrating it with her in such an amazing place. After a break from the heat and tasty pizza dinner, we went back out to Arches to visit the Spectacles and Double Arches. Distance Hiked: 13 miles

Day 7: Summited Delicate Arch first thing in the morning. We drove through Arches to explore a few more formations before my brother and SIL left to head back to CO. Took a much needed nap, dealt with a flat tire on our rental car, and then went back out to Arches to play around Park Avenue. Distance Hiked: 7 miles

Day 8: Hiked the Devils' Garden Primitive Loop (we did the out and back version with every possible side trip). Afternoon break from the heat for lunch and nap. Hiked up to Delicate Arch for sunset and early evening. Distance Hiked: 11 miles

Day 9: Explored around Canyonlands' Island in the Sky District. Hiked to Mesa Arch, Murphy Trail, and the Grand View. Returned to Arches for sunset views and hiking around Sand Dune Arch. Distance hiked: 7 miles

Day 10: Headed out for Mesa Verde. Drove through Monument Valley. Pulled off for a tour of and walk around Hovenweep National Monument. Attempted to find Yucca House National Monument. Learned that Yucca House National Monument is not a physical place you can visit. Stopped by Mesa Verde to pick up tickets for a tour the next day. Drove to Durango. Distance hiked: 3 miles

Day 11: Drove back to Mesa Verde. Did a short hike before taking the Cliff Palace tour. Ate lunch on site and then drove back to Durango for an afternoon of watching rafters and a small town fourth of July parade. Kelly ate the tastiest ice cream sandwich of his life. Distance hiked: 6 miles

Day 12: Hiked to Ice Lakes Basin (where the blog image was taken). We were not prepared for the weather and turned around before reaching the lakes. The basin was still beautiful. We both fell in a creek crossing on the way back. Spent the afternoon watching rafters and kayakers again. Distance hiked & walked: 8 miles

Day 13: Slow morning wandering Durango. Headed out to Alamosa and Great Sand Dunes National Park. Spent a windy afternoon mesmerized by and climbing the giant dunes. Distance hiked: 6 miles

Day 14: An early morning start for the Sand Dunes and more exploring. No official hiking but just wandering up, down, around, and over anything we wanted. Finally pulled ourselves away for the return drive to Denver. Distance hiked: 8 miles

Day 15: Flight back home

Colorado and Utah Itinerary Promo