Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip

  • Post last modified:June 4, 2021
  • Reading time:12 mins read
Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip

This Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip takes you from Colorado to the Wild West and spectacular nature in Wyoming. White mountains, vast grasslands, deep lakes, gurgling rivers and roaming wildlife are all blended into breathtaking scenery in the huge parks. And the charming Wild West towns on the way add another dimension to the Denver to Yellowstone drive.

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Denver to Yellowstone road trip guide

You find the destinations on the itinerary marked out on the Denver to Yellowstone road trip map below.

  • Total driving time: 21.5 hours
  • Total distance: 1183 miles (1903 km)

Denver, Colorado – The road trip to Yellowstone National Park begins

The road trip to Yellowstone starts in the Mile-High City, Denver. The elevation of the Colorado city is between 5,130 to 5,690 feet (1560 to 1730 m). It’s very convenient to start the road trip to Yellowstone National Park from Denver. In relatively little time you can go from the hip and modern city to the wilderness in Yellowstone. And on the way on the Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip you can visit fun Wild West towns that make you want to come back.

Red Rocks Amphitheater is an attraction not to miss when you visit Denver. It’s said to be the only naturally occurring amphitheater that’s acoustically perfect in the entire world. The natural amphitheater sits 17 miles (27 km) west of Denver and the surroundings are breathtaking. A live concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater is one you remember and the optimal start on the Denver to Yellowstone road trip.

Denver is also the perfect city to visit for beer lovers. The state of Colorado is one of the states in the country with most breweries per capita. The Mile-High City is because of that sometimes even called “Napa of Beer”. Therefore an excellent idea when you visit Denver is to fit in time to take a brewery tour. Coors Brewery is the largest in the city, but there are lots of smaller ones that you can visit as well if you prefer to not go mainstream.

A fun and free thing to do before you start the Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip is to go and check out Denver Capitol Building, which is modeled after the US Capitol Building in Washington. The building and surroundings are pretty and if you climb up to the 13th step of the stairs on its east side you’re exactly one mile above sea level. Previously both the 15th and 18th steps have been regarded as the exact one mile level. But since 2003 the 13th step is identified as the benchmark step.

Capitol Building in Denver during sunny day
Capitol Building, Denver.

Casper, Wyoming – A convenient Denver to Yellowstone stop on the Oregon Trail

  • Driving time: 4.5 h
  • Distance: 277 miles (446 km)

The city of Casper sits in central Wyoming at the base of Casper Mountain and mountains are visible from wherever in town you are. And through the Wyoming city the untroubled North Platte River runs.

Casper’s location is very convenient halfway between Denver and Yellowstone. The great location and the majestic surroundings makes the city a great place for where to stop between Denver and Yellowstone.

Even though Casper itself isn’t the prettiest town on the Denver to Yellowstone road trip itinerary it features breathtaking scenery with wilderness just around the corner. If you run into a traffic jam in the Casper area it’s most likely because of wildlife crossing the road. This peaceful western setting is far away from the hectic city lifestyle.

If you want to learn more about Casper and the exploration of the West a fantastic place to spend an hour or two before you continue the Denver to Yellowstone drive is the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. At the center you get to know more about the history of Wyoming and the opening of the West.

Just like you’re going into the Wild West through Casper on the Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip, westward expansion once passed through right here. Permanent exhibits at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center are the Oregon Trail, Mormon Pioneer Trail, California Trail and Pony Express Trail.

Oregon trail grasslands during daytime
The Oregon Trail, Wyoming.

Cody, Wyoming – Wild West life on the Yellowstone road trip

  • Driving time: 3.5 h
  • Distance: 214 miles (344 km)

The Wild West town Cody in Wyoming sits about 1 hour away from where Yellowstone begins and it’s the perfect gateway town on the Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip. But even though Cody is a gateway town you need to remember that Yellowstone is huge. When you arrive at Yellowstone East Entrance you still have almost an hour left to reach the southern loop within the park.

Therefore the best thing you can do on the Colorado to Yellowstone road trip is to split them into two separate destinations instead of combining Yellowstone and Cody while staying in Cody. If you do the latter the drives in and out Yellowstone National Park will be really exhausting.

Cody on its own really deserves at least a night or two on the road trip from Denver to Yellowstone National Park. The city is named after its the all famous founder Buffalo Bill, whose real name was William F. Cody. Buffalo Bill passed through Wyoming in the 1870s and fell in love with the beautiful setting. It’s easy to see why when you visit on the Denver to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone road trip.

Apart from the scenic environment, a highlight when you visit Cody on the Denver to Yellowstone drive is to explore the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. It consists of several museums under one roof where you can indulge in the founder of Cody and the history of the Wild West.

And Cody is definitely the best chance to attend a rodeo on the Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip. Cody is known as the rodeo capital of the world with nightly rodeos during summer. The rodeo venue sits with a beautiful mountain backdrop so make sure that you get there in time to enjoy the Wild West atmosphere.

The rodeo venue in Cody
Rodeo in Cody, Wyoming.

Alternative stop: An alternative to Cody on the Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip is the town Red Lodge in Montana. Red Lodge offers fewer things to do compared to Cody but it’s nevertheless a very pretty and peaceful town where you stay right where the legendary Beartooth Highway begins.

Yellowstone National Park – Spectacular nature in America’s first national park

  • Driving time: 2 h
  • Distance: 80 miles (129 km)

Yellowstone National Park became the first national park in the US the 1st of March in 1872. And visitors come from near and far to take in the dense forests, vast valleys, gurgling rivers, towering mountains, captivating thermal activities and exciting wildlife.

Luckily, Yellowstone National Park is so big that there’s room for everyone to enjoy the park. By size Yellowstone is so big that it’s even larger than some small states. Even though the main roads of the park tend to become crowded every summer it’s still possible to find your own part of the park to explore if you don’t mind a hike.

A highlight in the park and one of the reasons to visit Yellowstone National Park are the hot springs and geysers. Around 60% of the world’s hot springs and geysers are said to be inside Yellowstone. Of the hot springs the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is certainly one for the Denver to Yellowstone road trip itinerary. It’s the most photographed spring in the park and its huge size and bright colors are breathtaking.

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone.

Old Faithful is a geyser that must be included on the Denver to Yellowstone itinerary as well. Its faithful eruptions occur about once every one or two hours. So if you just missed one you don’t need to wait much longer for the next one.

The wildlife is another highlight as you visit on the Colorado to Yellowstone National Park road trip. Bison jams happen all the time in Yellowstone so make sure that you add extra driving time for that. In Lamar Valley the bison love to roam freely and they don’t mind crossing the road at all.

Bison in Yellowstone between trees
Bison in Yellowstone National Park.

Jackson Hole/Grand Teton National Park – More awe-inspiring nature to fall in love with

  • Driving time: 2.5 h
  • Distance: 99 miles (159 km)

As the distances are long when you move from place to place in Wyoming it’s about 99 miles (159 km) from your Yellowstone accommodation if you stay at Yellowstone Lake down to Jackson Hole. But it’s only 10 miles (16 km) from where Yellowstone ends in the south to where Grand Teton National Park starts. So the two national parks sit very close to each other in Northwestern Wyoming and that makes it convenient to visit both of them on the same trip.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

In Grand Teton National Park the tall Grand Teton mountains rise up from the lush grasslands like granite towers. The Grand Teton mountains reach a staggering 13,775 feet (4198 m). And Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake in the park beautifully reflect the heights of the mountains.

Jackson Lake is 15 miles (24 km) long, while Jenny Lake is much smaller. Both are great for water activities if you want to be active on the Denver to Wyoming road trip. For less active amusement you can also catch the Jenny Lake shuttle boat to get across the lake and enjoy the beautiful views from the water.

Another great spot for the Grand Teton itinerary for scenic views and some history is the Mormon Row Historic District. In the 1890s settlers arrived from Idaho and established the small community. When you visit Mormon Row today especially two buildings stand out. One of them is Andy Chamers Homestead and the other one is Moulton Barns. They both picturesquely sit in front of the amazing backdrop made up by the Teton mountain range.

Barn at Grand Teton stop of road trip route
Moulton Barns, Grand Teton.

Lander, Wyoming – A peaceful stop on the Yellowstone drive

  • Driving time: 3 h
  • Distance: 160 miles (257 km)

The small Wyoming town Lander sits around 3 hours away from Jackson Hole. That makes Lander a very peaceful and convenient overnight stop on the Denver to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone road trip. If you have an overnighter in Lander you can enjoy one last day in Grand Teton National Park before you make the drive down to Lander in the afternoon.

Lander is known as the town “where the rails end and the trails begin”. The town and area is a real outdoor playground. Hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing are very popular things to do in Lander and its surroundings. Sinks Canyon State Park is a natural treasure that sits just a few miles south of Lander.

Surroundings on Lander drive.

Alternative stop: An alternative to Lander if you prefer to have more time in Grand Teton National Park without having to drive in the dark is to stay closer to the park in Dubois. Dubois is an authentic cowboy town that sits on the way just 86 miles (138 km) and less than 2 hours away from Jackson Hole.

Dubois, Wyoming.

Laramie, Wyoming – Old West charm on the Yellowstone road trip

  • Driving time: 3.5 h
  • Distance: 224 miles (360 km)

Laramie is located in beautiful Wyoming surroundings brimming with western history from its older days. The city was founded in 1868 and its Historic Downtown area has well-preserved buildings with Old West charm.

The downtown area in Laramie is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and it’s a fun place to explore on the Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip. Many buildings from the 1800s still stand to this day. An interesting slightly newer building is Laramie’s Historic Carnegie Library. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie financed the building of the library in 1906. Today the building houses city offices and in 1981 when the library moved out of the building the residents passed the books one-by-one to the new location of the library.

But not all about the Wild West is charming. Laramie’s Territorial Prison from 1872 is a former prison that used to house many feared and desperate Wild West villains. Most notably outlaw Butch Cassidy was once held at Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie. Nowadays touring the grounds at the former prison site is a great way to learn more about Wyoming’s history on the Denver to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone road trip.

Wyoming road trip in Laramie
Stop in Laramie, Wyoming.

Finishing the Yellowstone road trip loop in Denver, CO

  • Driving time: 2.5 h
  • Distance: 129 miles (208 km)

After a spectacular Wyoming adventure it’s time to round off the Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip. We complete the loop and make it back to the starting point of the itinerary, Denver.

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Yellowstone road trip hotel search

Use the booking tool below to find the perfect accommodation for your road trip from Denver to Yellowstone. Browse the map for options in various areas, or click on the search button to start with hotels in Denver.

Booking.com

Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip FAQ

You find the answers to some frequently asked questions about the Denver to Yellowstone National Park road trip below.

How long does it take to drive from Denver to Yellowstone National Park?

The 571 miles (919 km) from Denver to Yellowstone takes about 10 hours to drive.

What is halfway between Denver and Yellowstone?

Casper in Wyoming conveniently sits halfway between Denver and Yellowstone National Park.

How far is Jackson Hole from Denver?

From Denver to Jackson Hole it’s 813 miles (1308 km), which takes about 8.5 hours to drive.

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