Denver to Albuquerque Drive Guide: The Best Places to Stop on Your Road Trip

Albuquerque, New Mexico is one of my favorite U.S. cities. The culture, the food, and the weather are great. Folks in Denver looking for a cool road trip should considering making a Denver to Albuquerque drive.

The journey takes 7-10 hours, depending on which route you choose. The perfect road trip itinerary allows three full days to explore Colorado Springs, Great Sand Dunes National Park, a portion of historic Route 66, and a bunch of artsy cities like Taos and Santa Fe.

albuquerque road trip
Albuquerque is one of the most underrated cities in the U.S.

Keep reading for a list of recommended places to stop on the road between Denver and Albuquerque!

All photos by Quirky Travel Guy.

Road Trip Basics: Map, Distance, and Driving Time

Denver to Albuquerque
Distance: 548 miles
Drive Time: 9 hours, 40 minutes
Days Needed: 2–3 days
Highlights: Colorado Springs, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Taos, Santa Fe

denver to albuquerque drive map

The most direct route between Albuquerque and Denver is straight down I-25, covering 450 miles and taking 6 hours, 45 minutes. But that route misses a lot of the best spots along the way.

So we’re suggesting a route that follows I-25 down through Colorado Springs and Pueblo, before detouring west to Bishop Castle and Great Sand Dunes National Park. 

From there, we’re heading south on smaller roads through the artsy town of Taos, the mineral springs of Ojo Caliente, and the city of Santa Fe.

Ideally, you’d have three full days to complete this road trip. You can spend night one at a hotel in Colorado City or Walsenburg, then spent most of the second day at Great Sand Dunes, before spending the night in Taos. 

On day three, pass through Santa Fe and arrive in Albuquerque by night.

Where to Stop on a Denver to Albuquerque Drive

Denver, CO

denver capitol

Let’s recap some of the highlights of Denver’s before moving on to the road trip. While in the Mile High City, be sure to see the “One Mile Above Sea Level” sign on the Colorado State Capitol Building.

Also check out some of Denver’s best neighborhoods, including Baker, Speer, and City Park, home of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. And see our list of free activities in the city for more ideas.

Colorado Springs, CO

With nearly a half-million residents, Colorado Springs is the largest city on this road trip, so you should probably spend some time in the city.

The Garden of Gods is a fascinating outdoor attraction. This natural landmark has odd geological formations and a display about a dinosaur that was found there.

If dinos aren’t your thing, ride the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway all the way to the summit on a scenic 9-mile route.

You may also be interested in a tour of the Ghost Town Museum. It’s right in the middle of town, and it has rescued artifacts from the Pikes Peak region on display.

The Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame or National Museum of World War II Aviation may interest some road trippers. And be sure to look out for the quirky Humpty Dumpty statues around town!

colorado springs humpty dumpty

Grab lunch while you’re here. See this guide from local residents for upscale culinary suggestions. For something more casual, try Arceo’s Mexican Restaurant.

Pueblo, CO

If you’re going to make a pit stop in Pueblo, head to the Pueblo Riverwalk (aka historic Arkansas Riverwalk.) It’s an ideal place to stretch your legs, do some shopping and people-watching, and admire the views.

Another point of interest in town is the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum. You can spend a lot of time touring the 85,000-square-foot facility to see the old military and civilian planes.

El Pueblo History Museum delves into the history of the ethnic groups and cultures of the region.

Rye, CO (Bishop Castle)

Bizarre and fascinating are two words to describe Bishop Castle, an impressive structure built over 60 years by a single man. 

That man would be Jim Bishop (yes, he named it after himself.) He built this beauty over decades, one rock at a time. It’s obvious he’s creative and isn’t afraid of heights one bit. The castle has staircases, stained glass windows, and towers that guests can climb.

Admission is free and tours of the grounds are self-guided. The castle sits at 9200 above sea level.

Getting to Bishop Castle requires a bit of a detour from I-25. It’s 30 minutes each way from Colorado City, so that’s an extra hour of driving to add to the road trip.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO

great sand dunes tourists

After Bishop Castle, we’re leaving I-25 and swinging west to experience the tallest sand dunes in America.

Great Sand Dunes National Park sits on the western side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the Rockies in southern Colorado.

Stop at the visitor center to learn about the park, and wade across a small creek to reach the dunes.

I had the thrill of climbing these dunes, some of which reach 700 feet tall. If you have the time, I recommend hiking the Montville Nature Trail and the Mosca Pass Trail.

These particular trails aren’t particularly crowded, and go to almost 10,000 feet in elevation.

great sand dunes national park

Taos, NM

We’ve made it to New Mexico. Hooray! Taos is known as one of many very artsy towns in the state and a hub of Native American culture.

Start at Taos Pueblo, a community listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. People have been living in these adobe houses for 1000 years, and about 150 still live there today.

Visit the Millicent Rogers Museum for Native American and Hispanic art, the Taos Museum for interesting art and architecture, and the many art galleries (more than 70!) in town.

And make sure to see the magnificent Royal Gorge Bridge over the Arkansas River.

Outside the city, road trippers have the option of visiting Ojo Caliente Resort to take a dip in the mineral hot springs.

Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe is one of five American cities with an installation of the immersive art experience Meow Wolf. Titled House of Eternal Return, the facility has more than 70 rooms to get lost in.

Santa Fe has a lot of quirky attractions. Try the Museum of International Folk Art, which has colorful art from cultures around the world, and more than 100,000(!) toys.

Or the Reptile and Bug Museum, a small building with collections of live insects.

Fans of art should visit some of the city’s art galleries and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. And stop by the campus of Santa Fe Community College to see an 82-foot whale statue named Ethyl, who was financed by Meow Wolf. 

Even the State Capitol building is worth seeing, because it looks nothing like the other capitols that have white columns and a large dome. This one is called the Roundhouse because it’s a big round building, tan in color, with no dome. Very unique!

From Santa Fe, you can head right down the highway to Albuquerque. Or hop on historic Route 66 and pass through some old small towns on the way.

Albuquerque, NM

albuquerque street
End your road trip from Denver in the Nob Hill neighborhood.

In the Querque (I think that should be the official nickname), popular tourist attractions include Old Town, Sandia Peak Tramway, and the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. I really loved the vibrant Nob Hill neighborhood as well.

Petroglyph National Monument is one of the largest sites of prehistoric art in North America. Riconada Canyon is the best short hike, a 2.2-mile loop trail that features more than 300 petroglyphs.

One of my favorite places to hang out in the city was Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. The Rio Grande runs all the way up to Albuquerque, so it’s fun to see the water and spend time in the park. 

rio grande albuquerque
The Rio Grande running through Albuquerque.

As for quirky things in Albuquerque, start with the Rattlesnake Museum. It’s a small museum, and yes, they have live snakes on display. The city also has a Telephone Museum and an X-Ray Museum. 

Breaking Bad fans should seek out the Walter White Tombstone, a fake headstone in honor of the show’s main character. Find it on a wall in a strip mall at The Village Shops at Los Ranchos.

And of course, most people know about the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, when 500 air balloons soar into the air each October.

You can always explore the International Balloon Museum if you’re in town any other time of year.

Keep an eye out for those weird “speed limit 18” signs around ABQ!

albuquerque speed limit

Other Possible Detours Between Denver and Albuquerque

Castle Rock, CO

The town of Castle Rock is right on I-25, It’s very close to Denver, so it’s like a suburb. Stop here if you want to shop at the Outlets at Castle Rock, hike to the mountain known as Castle Rock, or hit the Philip S. Miller Complex for zip lining, trekking, and climbing.

Manitou Springs, CO

Just west of Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs has attractions like Manitou Cliff Dwellings and Red Rock Canyon Open Space.

Las Vegas, NM

The Las Vegas in New Mexico is a lot more tame than the one in Nevada. Stop here to check out the Rough Rider Memorial Collection on Grand Avenue.

Tour the small museum, grab some treats from Charlie’s Bakery and Cafe, and get back on the road.

Mesa Verde National Park, NM

One of the coolest, overlooked national parks in the United States is Mesa Verde. This is the famous park where you can explore the remains of old dwellings built into the cliffs. 

Other New Mexico Destinations

Head further south, and you can experience White Sands National Park, the UFO-mad town of Roswell, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Albuquerque is one of the coolest stops on a drive between Austin and Los Angeles.

Interested in driving in the opposite direction? We also have a road trip guide for the drive between Denver and Seattle.

Do you have any other suggestions for places to stop on a Denver to Albuquerque road trip?

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