When we mentioned our western road trip, we kept things pretty general by sharing what we’ve learned about road trips. But now it’s time to let you know something very specific: You need to visit Colorado and Utah.
These two states were always interesting to us, but not really high on our list of priorities.
Well, once we set foot in them that all changed. In fact, they become two of our favorite places during our 3-week road trip, but for totally different reasons…
Let’s start with why you should visit Colorado.
Denver is an awesome city
We were vaguely aware of Denver before we visited. We knew it had become a popular place to live and that it’s high up in the mountains.
Now that we’ve spent some time there we can see that it’s got a lot more going for it than just the mountains.
Two of the best aspects are its size—not too big or too small—and the fact that you’re completely surrounded by nature. You have all the benefits of a city but can see mountains off in the distance. Within a few hours, you can be skiing, camping, or hiking them.
As far as the city aspect, The Denver Art Museum and the area surrounding it immediately grabbed our attention. The architecture is striking and we loved the exhibits inside the museum. Nearby, there are other great monuments, more distinctive architecture, and a really impressive library.
While we didn’t get to try as much as we’d like, we were impressed by all the food options available, too. There’s a great coffee scene and it’s easier to find natural food options than many other parts of the country.
These are a few examples of what stood out to us, but it wasn’t one thing in particular that made us love Denver so much. It’s the combination of all these different factors within one city.
Usually, you have to choose between urban living or being close to nature, but Denver struck a good balance. It’s not the best in the country in terms of one specific thing, but it’s better than most on a lot of different factors.
The Rocky Mountains are more beautiful than you think
That nature near Denver that we mentioned…
We were mostly talking about the Rocky Mountains. If you haven’t been there you probably have a general awareness of them, but trust us on this, they’re much better than you imagine.
Just over an hour north of the city, you reach Rocky Mountain National Park. We stayed in Estes Park, which is a small town right at the base of mountains, and entered the park from there. It has a nice mellow vibe to it and it’s literally right at the entrance to the park.
Even if you don’t go into the park itself, the Rockies are a stunning backdrop nearly everywhere in the state. There are plenty of other natural attractions, too…
Closer to Central Colorado, are Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, which sit along the Colorado River. They are surrounded by forest with that same Rocky Mountain backdrop. If the weather’s right, this is a great area to go camping or hiking.
What’s so great about Utah?
While Colorado overwhelms you with the Rocky Mountains, Utah has plenty of natural beauty of its own.
In the north, Salt Lake City is another high elevation city near the mountains, but nearby there’s also the Great Salt Lake, which is where the city’s name comes from. Nearby, Provo is another small city on a lake.
While these are both nice to visit, what really stood out to us in Utah is the desert.
Head to the Southeast toward Arizona and you’ll be stunned by the red color of the sand. The desert is full of mesas and mountains, plus the Colorado River runs through the area.
But, those aren’t what we loved most…
One word: Arches
Just above Moab is Arches National Park. That same red-colored sand surrounds you and the highlight of the park is the rock formations.
Huge rocks in a wide variety of shapes dominate the landscape. Make your way up to higher elevations and get a fantastic view to go with these natural rock formations. Some are large and flat while others actually form natural arches that you can walk in the middle of.
This was one of our favorite places and we especially loved visiting it right after Colorado. The huge desert offered a stark contrast to spending time in snow-capped mountains and green forests.
If you can’t do a long road trip, you should still visit Colorado and Utah
While this was part of a much larger road trip for us, when we look back these two states stand out as two of our favorites. Such dramatic landscapes and wide open roads cross both states. Visiting them together shows you how incredibly diverse the landscapes in the US can be.
So, while we hope you can take a cross-country road trip sometime, if you just don’t have the time for that you still should visit Colorado and Utah.