Planning a Denver to San Francisco road trip this summer?
This amazing road trip in the Western USA is filled with scenic landscapes, beautiful national parks, and amazing attractions.
The drive is a beast – you are looking at 1500+ miles and easily up to 3 days minimum of drive time.
However, the stunning scenery and plenty of famous national parks along the way make the Denver San Francisco drive perfect for long summer road trips with the family!
How many days to spend for the Denver to San Francisco drive?
We recommend a minimum of 5 days to a week for the Denver San Francisco drive.
If you have 10 days to 2 weeks, you can even make a detour to see the Grand Canyon!
The route is perfect for RVs and tent camping with plenty of campgrounds along the way.
Denver to San Francisco Drive Route Options
There are a couple of options for the Denver to San Francisco Drive.
You can take I-70 from Denver to Moab via Arches National Park in Utah and then drive north via Provo to take I-80 from Salt Lake City to San Francisco.
The second option is perfect for those who want to explore the Southwest attractions.
Take I-70 from Denver to Moab, Utah, see Arches, then continue south along I-15 to Las Vegas.
Along the way, you can see Zion, Bryce, and even make a detour to Grand Canyon.
Also Read: Denver to Yellowstone Road Trip
From Las Vegas, take the High Sierras CA SR 395 road to Yosemite in the summer.
Or drive west along I-15 W and then take CA-58 to the Central Coast and reach San Francisco via Big Sur.
The coastal or Yosemite routes are perfect if you are planning a road trip vacation over 10 days.
We have highlighted all routes and attractions in this guide.
Denver to Moab drive
Whichever route you take, the Denver to Moab drive along I-70 is a common part of the road trip.
Here are essential stops along the way.
If you are flying into Denver, take some time to explore the Mile High City.
Denver is known for its arts district, and as the capital of Colorado.
There are plenty of cultural experiences to be had in Denver, from museums to theater performances.
The city also has lively nightlife, with plenty of bars and clubs to choose from.
If you’re looking for outdoor adventures, Denver is an ideal destination – the city is surrounded by mountains, making it a great place for skiing, hiking, and camping.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Spanning across the Colorado Front Range, Rocky Mountain National Park is filled with trails and scenic drives.
Take a day trip to Estes Park and enjoy the park’s attractions like Bear Lake, Trail Ridge Road, and the stunning peaks.
When in the park, make sure to take the scenic drives and stop at all viewpoints for beautiful photos.
The park is also home to many wild animals, including elk, mule deer, black bears, and coyotes!
Located along I-70, Glenwood Springs is a beautiful destination to visit.
The town of Glenwood Springs was once the center of the rich Colorado mining industry.
Today, many old buildings have been preserved and turned into museums that tell the history of this area.
Many old Victorian homes are now home to restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Don’t forget to visit the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, a natural mineral springs outdoor bathing area built-in 1890.
If you are planning to drive to San Francisco, simply continue west along I-70 and head south towards Moab.
If you want to make a side trip along I-70, stop at Grand Junction.
Grand Junction is the largest metro in western Colorado with plenty of outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and biking.
Clifton Mill in Grand Junction offers great photo opportunities along the Colorado River.
There are historic buildings that date back to the 19th century, as well as plenty of cafes and restaurants.
Grand Junction is also home to Colorado National Monument, a beautiful area that has some canyons worth exploring.
Moab, Utah, is another stop along the way.
The drive on I70 between Grand Junction and Moab is a highlight of this trip.
The road follows the course of the Colorado River and the views are just stunning.
You can’t visit Moab and not explore Arches National Park.
If you still have time, try canoeing or rafting down the Colorado River and enjoy some mountain biking in Moab Valley.
Arches National Park
The town of Moab is a gateway to the spectacular Arches National Park.
There are thousands of “arches” in this park, from huge ones like Delicate Arch to smaller ones like Dark Angel.
The park is also full of other colorful rock formations that are just great to explore on foot or by car.
If you have time, visit the Island in the Sky District of the park.
Take a scenic drive along Shafer Trail Road and enjoy amazing views of canyons and mountains.
Denver – Moab to San Francisco via Salt Lake City
If you have less time, take the I-80 route via Salt Lake City to San Francisco.
Salt Lake City
If you are continuing the drive on I-80, stopover in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City is Utah’s capital and largest city, with plenty of activities to enjoy like skiing at the nearby resorts!
There are also some great museums like the Natural History Museum, the Utah State Capitol Building, and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.
There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from in this city.
Reno is the second-largest city in Nevada.
There are plenty of casinos, resorts, bars, and nightclubs if you’re looking for entertainment.
Mt. Rose Ski Resort near Reno is one of the best ski resorts in Nevada!
If you have time, you can also visit Tahoe on this trip.
Lake Tahoe is Nevada’s largest lake and an ideal destination for water activities like swimming and boating.
Visitors can explore the area by hiking, biking, or just relaxing at one of the many beaches on the shoreline!
Located in Northern California at the confluence of the Sacramento River and American River, Sacramento is a beautiful destination.
The city has a rich history that you can learn about at the California State Railroad Museum and the River Front District.
Sacramento is also home to the California State Capitol Building.
Finally, time to reach your destination, San Francisco!
San Francisco is home to many attractions like Golden Gate Park, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and Alamo Square Park.
The Golden Gate Bridge is the most well-known landmark in San Francisco.
Take a boat tour to Alcatraz Island, located just off the coast of Fisherman’s Wharf.
Alcatraz was once a maximum security Federal Penitentiary that housed some notorious criminals like Al Capone and Robert Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz).
Denver – Moab to San Francisco via Las Vegas
If you have more time, take the scenic route via southwest attractions from Moab.
Here are a couple of stops that you can visit.
Bryce National Park
Bryce offers excellent hiking trails and views of the hoodoos, rock formations that seem to pop out of nowhere.
Some of the most common trails are the Navajo Loop, Peekaboo Loop, and Queen’s Garden Trail.
There are also plenty of opportunities for rock climbing in the area.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is one of Utah’s most popular parks.
The park offers numerous opportunities for hiking, camping, rock climbing, and cycling.
There are plenty of trails and attractions like Emerald Pools, the Narrows, and Angels Landing.
There are also lots of sights to see in Zion like the Great White Throne (the biggest cliff face in the park) and Weeping Rock (an interesting geological formation that is quite popular with photographers).
Las Vegas is one of the most popular cities to visit in America.
Sin City is a great place to visit if you’re looking for entertainment and casinos.
Las Vegas is home to several museums, bars/clubs, shops, malls, arenas for sports or concerts, and even a few theme parks!
Las Vegas is a great place to visit, even with kids!
Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
Lake Mead is a reservoir on the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona.
Its primary attraction is Hoover Dam, a massive concrete arch-gravity dam that was built in the 1930s.
The dam is a popular destination and is open to visitors.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers excellent boating and fishing opportunities for this trip!
Grand Canyon National Park
Take the detour south of Vegas to see the beautiful Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon is definitely one of America’s most beautiful sites!
From the rim viewpoints, you can enjoy terrific views of the canyon.
You can also enjoy opportunities to go hiking, horseback riding, or just take in the panoramas of this natural wonder.
There are tours that you can sign up for when you arrive at the park.
Short on time – Visit the West Rim in half a day from Vegas!
Have a couple of days? Visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park.
Denver – Moab – Las Vegas to San Francisco via Yosemite
After seeing Vegas and Grand Canyon, take the road via Alabama Hills and Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite’s east entrance.
This road is open only during summer, so check the dates before you go.
Death Valley National Park
On your way to Yosemite, visit Death Valley National Park.
Death Valley is famous for being the lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin.
The temperature can reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit here during summer!
Death Valley offers excellent hiking trails and panoramic views of its landscapes as well as the famous Badwater Salt Flats.
Mammoth Lakes, California is one of the most beautiful places to visit in California.
The town is famous for its ski resorts in winter, but during summer it becomes a hot spot for hikers and mountain bikers.
The town of Mammoth Lakes is also a charming place to explore.
Yosemite National Park
This is one of America’s most popular national parks for good reason!
Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in America.
There are beautiful lakes, waterfalls like Bridalveil and Yosemite Falls (the highest in North American), cliffs such as Half Dome and El Capitan, and much more!
Yosemite offers excellent opportunities for hiking, biking, camping, and wildlife viewing.
On this trip, you will be entering Yosemite via Tioga Pass road, which is open only during summer.
End your trip in the famous city by the bay!
San Francisco is a beautiful, vibrant city.
Enjoy the views of Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, go on a boat ride to see the city from the bay, take in some museums and other attractions!
There are also lots of opportunities for food and entertainment while you visit San Francisco.
Denver – Moab – Las Vegas to San Francisco via Central Coast
Prefer beaches over mountains? Take the Central Coast route!
Los Angeles is one of the most popular destinations in America.
LA offers visitors interesting attractions, activities, great restaurants and shopping, lots of events/concerts/festivals to attend, culture, and history.
This makes LA a very dynamic place to visit!
Next, Go on a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) along the beautiful beaches of the Central Coast!
The central coast has many beautiful beaches to enjoy, along with rocky cliffs and rolling hills.
Cambria, a small town near San Simeon offers great views of secluded beaches, wild horses, and more!
This trip offers the best of the Central Coast – Beaches, wildlife, rocks, cliffs, and more!
One of the most beautiful areas on the Central Coast!
Big Sur is famous for its winding roads, redwoods, cliffs overlooking the pacific, and more!
As you drive along the Big Sur, make sure to stop at various attractions including McWay Falls, redwood groves, Pfeiffer beach, and more.
Take the Pacific Coast Highway all the way up to San Francisco.
In the end, San Francisco is a great place to finish your trip!
There are lots of things to do in San Francisco, including visiting the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, going on a boat ride to see the city from the bay, exploring Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, taking in some museums and other attractions!
Driving across the United States from Denver to San Francisco is a once-in-a-lifetime trip most people dream about!
You will be traveling through many states and there are plenty of things to see along the way.
You can’t go wrong with taking the cross-country trip, whichever route you choose.