Denver to Glenwood Springs, Colorado
The Journey Takes About Three Hours by Car Via Interstate 70
How Far is It? About 158 Miles
The drive from Denver to Glenwood Springs might be one of the most beautiful journeys in Colorado. On top of that, when you arrive in Glenwood (as it's known by the locals), you are in one of the best spa towns in the country. And unlike, say, the drive from Denver to Colorado Springs, this journey takes you through the jaw dropping Rocky Mountains.
Keep in mind that I-70 occasionally closes, in summer due to canyon washouts farther up the road, and in the winter due to heavy snow. Rock slides can also close the interstate. It is always wise to check with the Colorado Department of Transportation to make sure the road is open before heading anywhere west.
Starting anywhere along I-70 in Denver, the three lane highway first travels through the forested foothills west of town where a herd of buffalo occasionally hangs out by the side of the road. A few homes on the hillsides peek out from the pine trees, and roads here and there radiate from the highway into the nearby mountains. The highway will soon narrow to two lanes going east and west.
The elevation also quickly climbs from the 5,280 feet above sea level in Denver to the 7,648 feet above sea level at around Genesee, an exclusive mountain community about 15 miles west of the metro area.
The change in altitude affects people in different ways. Your ears may feel clogged (yawn or chew gum to "pop" them). You might feel nauseous or light headed, particularly if this is your first time at such a high altitude where the air is so thin.
You will have to get used to the altitude, though, because it keeps increasing until you reach the Continental Divide about 65 miles to the west. At that point you will be 14,278 feet above sea level. From there, you'll descend to the 5,761 feet above sea level at Glenwood.
Mountains are on either side of the highway, with dirt roads occasionally veering off to someone's home. In the summer it's incredibly inspiring and makes you feel a little small. In the winter, it can be a little dicey, even though the road is paved and well-maintained. The biggest headache is usually other drivers. People from out-of-state, usually called, Flatlanders," are the ones driving slowly, worried about the curves, and getting stuck behind them can add extra time to the journey.
The next town you will come to is historic Idaho Springs, a nice little mountain community known for its hot springs. It started out in 1859 as a gold mining town and was the hub of the area's mining operations throughout the late 19th-century. Today, tourists stop in for shopping and lunch on their way to and from the ski towns farther up the mountain.
After Idaho Springs, you will keep getting higher in elevation. Four cylinder cars and 18-wheel, semi-trucks sometimes have difficulty with the grade. It can put a strain on many an engine.
The next town is charming Georgetown, a small but cute place on either side of the highway. This is another popular stopping spot for lunch, shopping or a bathroom break. The main street is a step back in time with old, nicely-restored buildings that now house eateries, galleries and other merchants.
Soon you will reach Loveland, also a ski area and where people mail letters to have them stamped with a Loveland postmark for Valentine's Day, and the Continental Divide. Here at the top of the world, where the air is very thin and the skies are very blue, you will pass through the wide, long, well-ventilated Eisenhower Tunnel to reach the west side of the Divide.
You also have, at least in the summer, the option of actually driving up over Loveland Pass, which crosses across the top of the Divide. This road, Highway 6, is paved and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, with epic mountain views and steep drop offs (take a peek over the edge, if you dare, and you might see the wrecks of cars who make the mistake of going too fast on this narrow, winding road).
Once you are on the east side of the Rockies, you will come to Dillon, a town with a sparkling lake and a high altitude, laid back affluent atmosphere. This, too, is a favorite stopping place for skiers, as several famous resorts, including Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper Mountain, are just up the mountain.
Beyond Dillon is tony Vail and then its fashionable neighbor Beaver Creek. Finally, beyond all of these is Glenwood Canyon, perhaps the most spectacular drive in all of Colorado. The double decker highway curves and blends with the canyon, allowing breathtaking views of mountains and the Roaring Fork River. The sense of awe is humbling.
Finally, on the other side of the canyon is the town of Glenwood Springs, a wonderful community usually full of tourists and home to the world's largest outdoor hot springs pool. It is a treat like no other.
The End of the Road
It's a long drive from Denver to Glenwood Springs, about four hours when doing the speed limit (!). But do not rush. This kind of mountain scenery is why so many choose to live in Colorado. If you are new to the state or just visiting, soak up the drive and thank Mother Nature for her gorgeous handiwork.
It is also worth noting that Greyhound runs a bus from Denver to Glenwood Springs, and Amtrak has a train traveling between the two towns. The bus takes about four or five hours, and the train ride is not quite six hours long.