After years of traveling around the main cities and mountain towns of Colorado, I realized we had never been to the southern part of Colorado. We decided we wanted to take a trip from Denver to Moab, UT, and while going straight there would only take 5-1/2 hours, we decided to take the scenic route to discover all the fun things to do in southern Colorado.
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I’ve put together a run down of our Denver to Moab road trip and all the family friendly things to do along the way.
Make sure to check out Fun things to do in the Car to Pass the time!
1. Denver with Kids
Whether you call Denver home or you are flying into Denver, it’s worth a short stop to see what this mile-high city has to offer.
>>> Find the Best Rental Car Prices <<<
First off, it’s nicknamed the mile-high city because the elevation is at 5,280 feet. That said, drink lots of water and avoid alcohol if you are not used to the elevation.
Here are a few fun things to do in Denver with kids:
Visit the Denver Zoo
The Denver zoo is your typical, big-city zoo. There are 80 acres of exhibits from a world of birds to a lion that welcomes you as you walk in. Enjoy food, animals, a carousel, and a gift shop.
If you visit Colorado in winter, make sure you stop by Denver Zoo for Zoolights, a magical lit-up experience.
The Denver Aquarium is right next to the children’s museum. Both offer lots of fun for families in Denver. The aquarium has plenty of exhibits, a walk-thru water tunnel, and mermaids. You can also eat at the aquarium restaurant with a unique atmosphere of fish and sea creatures swimming in the walls around you.
Take Them Out to a Ball Game
Plan an evening to check out a Rockies Baseball game. Check the schedule for any special events going on at the game. For example, if you are there around 4th of July, you’ll get a pretty impressive fireworks show afterward!
More things to do around Denver with Kids
>>> On a budget? There are plenty of Free things to do in Denver as well (like a free candy factory tour!!) <<<
Got extra time during the day? Denver is fun, but there are a lot of really great day trips from Denver the whole family will love.
Next on the Denver to Moab Road Trip for families:
2. Colorado Springs with Kids
Denver to Colorado Springs- just over an hour drive
Colorado Springs is full of fun things to do with kids. I actually prefer visiting Colorado Springs over Denver, so if you have limited time, head here!
Garden of the Gods with Kids
Garden of the Gods is the top destination to visit in Colorado Springs, and it’s very kid-friendly.
Garden of the Gods has lots of hiking trails, but if you want to get up close with the main garden area, you can park at the Central Garden lot and use the paved trail to walk around (yep! It’s stroller-friendly!)
Bonus: It’s FREE to visit. Find out everything you need to know about visiting Garden of the Gods.
Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs
The Space Discovery Center is definitely less known and less visited. But it is a lot of fun to visit.
Our kids had a blast not only learning about space, but having a few hands-on experiences.
You can drive underwater rovers, use technology to direct rovers on a similar Mars landscape, get up close with rocket boosters, and learn about different technology for space travel and how it affects our everyday lives.
Find all the fun the Space Discovery Center offers here.
Visit the Manitou Cliff Dwellings
These cliff dwellings are in a town called Manitou Springs, which is next-door neighbors with Colorado Springs.
Later in this road trip you’ll stop at larger dwellings, but for a shorter, easier version you can stop in Manitou instead (or in addition).
The cliff dwellings here show how the Ancestral Pueblo people lived and formed homes and structures. You can get up close to the dwellings and even walk through some, and they don’t require a long hike to get to!
>>> Check out more fun things to do in Colorado Springs with Kids!, like going through a cave and visiting a castle <<<
Next on the Denver to Moab road trip for families:
3. Play at Sand Dunes National Park
Colorado Springs to Sand Dunes National Park – about 2-1/2 hour drive
You’ll probably want to stay in Alamosa when visiting the Sand Dunes. Alamosa is the biggest city near the Sand Dunes with plenty of lodging and food. It is about a 30-40 minute drive to the Sand Dunes from Alamosa.
We stayed at Comfort Suites which was a pretty standard hotel with a pull out couch so we could all fit in one room.
There are plenty of other standard hotels in Alamosa, like
You can, of course, see if there is any lodging available right near the Sand Dunes, but there are limited choices that are seasonal and book quickly:
What to do at Sand Dunes National Park
What may seem like a big (huge) giant mountain of sand is actually really exciting once you step foot on it.
When you are at the sand dunes, you are able to hike around, sled, or board down the sloping sides.
The sand dunes get really hot on the surface in summer, so you’ll want to plan early in the morning or later in the evening. During the day, you can take a short hike to Zapata Falls or have a picnic in the shelter nearby.
When you visit the Sand Dunes, you’ll want to make sure to rent an appropriate sled for the sand, not a snow sled.
>>> Everything you need to know about planning your trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park. <<<
Next on the Denver to Moab Road Trip with kids:
4. Pagosa Springs, Colorado – Denver to Moab Road Trip
Alamosa to Pagosa Springs – 1 hour 40 minutes drive
Pagosa Springs is a beautiful town in southwest Colorado. You’ll drive through Wolf Creek pass, which can be beautiful in great conditions and demand caution in snowy conditions. Pagosa Springs makes a great stop on this Denver to Moab road trip.
Where to stay
We stayed at Wyndham Pagosa and it was perfect! The large property has a unit that will fit your family, big or small. It was nice having a kitchen, laundry, and multiple bedrooms to stretch out a little.
Check out other places to stay in Pagosa Springs to find the perfect fit!
What to do-
Soak in the Hot Springs
Pagosa Springs is well known for its many hot springs. You can stay overnight or just spend the day at The Springs Resort, which has many soaking pools on site.
A more budget friendly option is to stop at Healing Waters, where you can also either stay overnight or just grab a day pass.
Though the most budget-friendly option (FREE) is to visit the hot springs right along the San Juan River.
Hiking in Pagosa Springs
There are a lot of beautiful hikes in Pagosa, and that is always a fun, family-friendly, budget activity.
Make sure to check out the popular Treasure Falls. You can see it right from the highway, or you can park and get out and make the short trek up to see it up close.
Other things to do in Pagosa Springs with kids
There are plenty more things to do in Pagosa Springs as a family. Look into a fun rafting trip, check out the fun parks and playgrounds, stop by the Wildlife Park, or go tubing (on the river or down a snowy mountain!)
>>> See the full list of things to do in Pagosa Springs with kids. <<<
Next stop on the Denver to Moab road trip:
5. Visit Mesa Verde National Park
Pagosa Springs to Mesa Verde National Park- 2 hours 20 minute drive
>> We did not stay near Mesa Verde National Park. Rather, we used it as a stop on the drive from Pagosa to Moab <<
This is a unique National Park. When I think of National Parks, I usually think of hiking around all day to see all the beauty it offers.
This park is beautiful, but it’s more about seeing the ancient sites than about hiking around.
You can easily bring kids to Mesa Verde National Park. It is full of cliff dwellings made by the Ancestral Pueblo people from hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
The sites can be seen from many quick pull-overs. Some sites will be up close (like the pit houses), and some sites will be seen on a mountain across the way.
The main cliff dwellings can almost all be seen from a pullover; however, if you’d like to get close up, you will have to book a ranger-guided hike to see them.
There is so much to see at Mesa Verde National Park, and my kids really loved making this stop.
>>> Check out all the easy, cool stops in Mesa Verde National Park! <<<
Next stop on the Denver to Moab Road Trip:
6. Moab, Utah
Mesa Verde National Park to Moab, UT – 2 hours 45 minutes drive
We stayed at another Comfort Suites in Moab. This one was also a standard hotel with a pull out couch, perfect for our family to all stay in one room.
The final destination is Moab, Utah. This outdoor playground has so much to discover. Here are a few fun things to do in Moab with the kids.
Arches National Park
Arches was a highlight of this Denver to Moab road trip. This national park is full of natural, geological wonders. The best part? You can see so many arches with just a short hike! This makes is perfect to have kids along.
Many trails were not stroller friendly, so I would highly recommend using a baby hiking carrier if your little one is too young to walk very long.
Arches National Park currently requires reservations during high season.
>>> Check out the many kid-friendly hikes you can do in Arches National Park. <<<
Hiking Around Moab
Moab has so many beautiful and unique hikes.
If you’re looking for dinosaurs, petroglyphs, or more cool geological features, you can find plenty in Moab.
Hang out Downtown Moab
Moab is a fun little town with plenty to do. Grab some ice cream, check out a live outdoor show, or do a little shopping.
We loved stopping at the food truck park so everyone could pick exactly what they wanted for dinner one day.
Play at a Unique Park
From Swanny City park to Old City Park and everything in between, you’ll find a park that your kids love in Moab.
Swanny City Park will host plenty of events and shows in the summer, plus it’s next to the town’s rec center with a great pool to play in. Old City Park has a great disc golf course, horseshoes, playground, and a cute duck pond.
>>> See the full list of activities and hikes in what to do in Moab with kids! <<<
Denver to Moab Itinerary
If you have a full week, here is a sample itinerary of how to plan your route from Denver to Moab with great stops along the way!
Day 1- Denver
Day 2- Colorado Springs
Day 3- Sand Dunes, then Drive to Pagosa
Day 4- Pagosa Springs
Day 5- Drive to Mesa Verde and stop. Continue to Moab.
Day 6 and 7 – Explore Moab
Denver to Moab Road Trip
That completes the Denver to Moab road trip for families! To get back to Denver, you can take a more direct route up I-70 that will take about 5-1/2 hours.
If you’d like some stops along the way back to Denver, be sure to check out my Colorado Road Trip post that includes some of the mountain towns.
I hope you’ve found some inspiration and fun things to do on this Denver to Moab road trip. I’d love to hear how it goes if your family hits the road!