This spring I decided to hit the road on an adventure from my home in Chicago to my home in Denver. I packed my vehicle, loaded up my clothes, and hit the road. I took a few pit stops along the way, but my first destination was my home in Denver. It was a long drive, but I was glad to have it behind me as soon as I arrived.
On June 22, 2014, I returned home to the Windy City after a two-month road trip. I had been attending a course at the University of Colorado, where I met the love of my life, Tariq. In addition to getting to know her for the first time, I also reconnected with my roots and the places where I was born and raised.For an unforgettable journey through the Midwest, take the scenic route from Chicago to Denver. From the Great Lakes to the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the list of attractions is long and exciting.
It takes about 1,000 miles to get from Chicago to Denver and 14:20m. Be sure to visit Omaha, Davenport and Des Moines, visit Starved Rock State Park and the Morton Arboretum, visit Cody Park and the Red Rocks Amphitheater.
For the discerning traveler, the inland areas are just as incredible as the east and west coasts, so read all the way through and get inspired for this unique trip.
How far is Denver from Chicago and how long is the trip?
In addition to a number of roadside attractions, a road trip from Chicago to Denver also offers some great sites and attractions in the larger cities along the way, such as Omaha and Des Moines.
The fastest route is 1000 miles long and will get you to Denver in 14 hours and 20 minutes. It is theoretically possible to go there in 2 days, but it is preferable to spend at least one day on each stopover if possible.
To Colorado, take Interstate 80 and Interstate 76, with the former passing through several cities, which can cause traffic jams. Still, there are four to six lanes on the entire route, so don’t expect major delays.
You will be driving along the Platte River for most of the trip, so visit the Platte River State Park once you arrive in Omaha.
Daniel Stephen Hakes/Shutterstock.com
You will drive mainly through the Great Plains, which are not only easy to traverse, but also very beautiful to see. You may be able to make do with a light meal, as there are plenty of places to stay and shop.
Best route for a road trip from Chicago to Denver
The best road connection between Chicago and Denver is the combined Interstate 80-Interstate 76 route. Not only is this the shortest option, but it’s also a pretty quick detour to the sights near the other routes.
Leaving Chicago and heading directly west, take Route 88 past the Morton Arboretum to Rochelle. From there, you can take Highway 39 north to Anderson’s Japanese Gardens or south to Starved Rock State Park.
Once back on the main road, continue on Interstate 80 to Davenport, then on Interstate 80 through Iowa City, Des Moines and Omaha. Next, you will see the Great Platte River Road Arch, which leads to North Platte.
Shortly after passing Lake McConaughy, you will find yourself in Colorado. There, take Interstate 76 through the Pawnee National Grassland and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, then head toward Denver.
Best places to stop between Chicago and Denver
If there’s one thing about this trip from Chicago to Denver, it’s that the cities are beautiful and the hotels excellent. Here are some of the best places to stay along the way:
Life in Des Moines
If you want to split your trip from Chicago to Denver into two days (and you absolutely should), spend the night in Des Moines.
Iowa’s capital is a business town, and it shows in the impressive architecture, especially in some of the hotels. If you want to feel like an insurance tycoon over the weekend, book a room at the Hilton Des Moines Downtown.
No trip to Iowa would be complete without the beautiful capital city.
With stylish interiors, an excellent gym and a quality swimming pool, this hotel will meet all your needs. Whether you want to eat à la carte, have an American breakfast or dine extravagantly at a chic restaurant nearby, you can be sure to do so in style.
The rooms and common areas have an elegant, sophisticated feel and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a view of the city, so you can fully immerse yourself in the life of the big city. The most important thing is that your stay offers value for money.
King’s Breakfast in Omaha
Located in the heart of the route, Omaha is the best place to stop. Omaha is home not only to the best food in the Midwest and beyond, but also to the famous Henry Dorley Zoo and Aquarium, among other attractions.
There’s nothing like a luxury hotel with a great pool for an adventure. Stay at the Omaha Marriott Downtown in the Capitol District.
The best cities are even more beautiful at night, and Omaha is no exception.
After your rooftop swim, enjoy the skyline, mingle in the hotel’s bar or double your workout with a session in the gym.
Breakfast is all the more delicious when it is accompanied by a beautiful view, and that is what this hotel offers. Whether you’re relaxing in your chic room or enjoying a cup of coffee on the balcony, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better view of the city.
The Durham Museum and Old Market are also within walking distance, as are many fine restaurants. Best of all: Whatever your budget, you’ll have no trouble getting a room at this first-class hotel.
What to see on a road trip from Chicago to Denver
The states in the Midwest are often mistakenly called the flyover states, but there’s plenty to see on a trip from Chicago to Denver if you know what to look for. Here are some of the places you shouldn’t miss:
- Morton Arboretum: Open-air tree museum with tens of thousands of different plant species.
- Rochelle Railroad Park: A popular place to picnic and watch the trains.
- Starved Rock State Park: The sandstone canyons adjacent to this park are probably the most beautiful natural attraction in the region.
- Anderson Japanese Gardens: The garden, which is a microcosm of the designer’s experiences in Japan, is one of Rockford’s most iconic places.
- Davenport: There are more parks here than in the average city, making it a great place to walk and bike.
- Amana colonies: A series of historic, self-sufficient German villages with some of the best restaurants in the region.
- Des Moines: Despite its relatively small population, Iowa’s capital is one of the most attractive cities in the Midwest.
- Henry Dorley Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha: With its balance between recreation and exploration, this zoo is a serious contender for the title of best zoo in the world.
- Great Platte River Road Archway Monument: This exhibit on the Oregon Trail and Nebraska history is a must-see.
- Cody Park: Located in North Platte, this park features everything from old trains to sports fields.
- Lake McConaughy State Recreation and Wildlife Management Area: If you want to fish or swim, this is one of the best options in the entire Midwest.
- Pawnee National Grasslands: The region is known for its unique geology, hiking trails and scenic meadows.
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge: Once a chemical weapons factory, it is now home to a wide variety of wildlife.
- Fort Collins: The historic district of Fort Collins is located in the north of Denver and is particularly beautiful.
- Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater: Converted into a red rock amphitheater and popular live music venue.
Enjoy a walk through Starved Rock State Park to start your trip off right.
Eddie J. Rodriquez/Shutterstock.com.
Best time to drive from Chicago to Denver
In many ways, there is no better time to take a road trip from Chicago to Denver. Since most of the sights you will visit are in cities, your time should be tailored to the cities you want to focus on the most.
You will spend most of the trip in Iowa and Nebraska. So it’s good to know that the hot, humid climate of the Great Plains can make summer driving quite uncomfortable, especially if you make the trip in two days.
If you plan to explore these states in detail, it’s probably best to do so in the fall, when the temperature doesn’t rise above 70 degrees and leaves can be seen on the trees. This is also the time when harvest season begins, so Nebraska is especially beautiful at this time of year.
As for Denver, every season has its advantages. It is one of the few examples of a city that you can visit once per season and have a different experience each time.
Autumn brings out the best in Denver, especially at sunset.
Denver usually attracts large crowds of tourists in the summer, and also does well in the winter, thanks to the nearby slopes of the Rockies. However, keep in mind that summer temperatures often reach 90 degrees and you’ll have plenty to do in the winter when you’re not skiing.
Spring can be a good option in terms of temperatures, but unpredictable rains have spoiled the plans of many Denver visitors. But if you are lucky, you can take advantage of the low number of tourists and get cheap accommodation.
If there’s one thing Denver is known for, it’s food and drink, and most of the city’s festivals take place in the fall. Also, the temperatures at this time of year are much more moderate (averaging around 70 degrees), making fall the best time of year to visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where should I stop driving from Chicago to Denver?
You should stop driving at the Colorado border.
What is there to see between Chicago and Denver?
There are many things to see between Chicago and Denver. The Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the Colorado River, and the Grand Canyon are all places you can visit.
Can you drive from Chicago to Denver a day?
Yes, you can drive from Chicago to Denver in a day.
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