11-Day Adventure Road Trip from Colorado to Wyoming

Natalie Gomez
27th August 2017

The gist

Perhaps a little less famous than the canyons and chasms of Arizona and Utah, Wyoming is, nonetheless, a remarkable slice of the American West. It is, afterall, home to the stunning geography that is Yellowstone National Park. With its spurting geysers and roaring waterfalls, this is scenery spectacular and noisy enough to capture the imaginations of even the youngest travelers. It’s also readily accessible from Denver – the modern capital of Colorado – whose museums and eateries will frame the start of your trip.

Days 1-3

Set on the edge of the Rocky Mountains – to the point that it is known as the Mile High City (it sits at an altitude of 5,280ft) – DENVER is also a playground for youngsters. The Children’s Museum of Denver (general entry $13) is split into a range of interactive areas including The Assembly Plant, where kids can construct helicopters and buildings; Bubbles, described as “a world of soapy science”; and Fire Station No1, which makes use of a real decommissioned fire engine as an exhibit. Denver Art Museum (adults $18) – one of America’s finest galleries, with works by the likes of Picasso and Matisse – makes a real effort to engage with children. Admission is free for anyone under 18 and there is a Just For Fun Center, where the very young can play, and art-making facilities for those who like to paint and draw.

The Museum of Nature and Science (adults from $16.95, children, 3 to 18, from $11.95), meanwhile, boasts an IMAX Theatre, a sky-gazing planetarium and a host of huge dinosaur skeletons – whose stories are brought to life by clever multimedia displays.

STAY: The Four Seasons looks after children with its rooftop pool, games consoles and child bathrobes.

Day 4

Take Interstate 25 due north of Denver, cross the state line, and stop in Cheyenne.  The Wyoming capital is a perfect first pit-stop along the way. You can immerse yourself in the history of the frontier era at the Old West Museum, with its 150 horse-drawn wagons, 1850s clothing and interactive children’s gallery.

STAY: The Little America Hotel sits in 80 acres of grounds – offering a heated outdoor pool and family-sized rooms.

Distance in the day: 101 miles.

Day 5

Forge north-west along Interstate 80 to the tiny town of Rawlins. This is a day of wild scenery, as the road sails past the north edge of Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, a million acres where Native Americans once crafted mahogany bows.

STAY: The Best Western Cottontree Inn in Rawlins has an indoor pool and offers family-sized rooms complete with breakfast.

Distance in the day: 149 miles.

Day 6

Take the 287 north-west from Rawlins. This is a long day’s travel, but it’s made worthwhile by Grand Teton National Park (seven-day permit $30 per car). The West at its most visually dramatic, the 40-mile long Teton range is capped with snow even in summer.

STAY: Dornan’s Spur Ranch Cabins within the park has two-bedroom cabins with full kitchens.

Distance in the day: 256 miles.

Day 7

Stay put and enjoy this epic setting. Families can hike along trails like Lupine Meadows Trailhead – which is as idyllic as it sounds. Wildlife abounds here and it’s not uncommon for walkers to spot deer, elk or moose. Alternatively, no trip to the West is complete without a horseback ride, and you can book an excursion via Grand Teton Lodge Company. Easy one-hour rides, suitable for younger children (though kids must be at least 8 to ride), cost $43 a head. Longer two-hour trips in the saddle are also available, as well as rafting and fishing expeditions depending on your taste.

Days 8-10

One of the joys of Wyoming is that you can easily swap Grand Teton National Park for Yellowstone National Park (seven-day permit $30 per car) in under an hour, heading north on the John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway, which links these two protected wonderlands. Yellowstone is a true American must-see – sure to mesmerize kids and adults alike with the raw power of its landscape. Its most celebrated resident, the geyser Old Faithful, bursts into life every 63 minutes with a screaming outpouring of steam. And while the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone cannot quite match its namesake in Arizona for size (it is “only” 24 miles long), there are “oohs” and “aahs” to be found where the Yellowstone River dives into it in two stages, as Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls.

STAY: Old Faithful Inn has been in business since 1904 – next to the star attraction.

Distance in the day: 27 miles

Day 11

End this spectacular trip with a visit to a third and final state. Leave Yellowstone by going north-west on the 287, cross into Idaho, then take the 20 south-west to Idaho Falls. From here, you can easily take a flight back to Denver – but before then, cool your heels in a pretty city where the Snake River veers over a small drop to create the water feature in question.

STAY: The Hilton Garden Inn Idaho Falls makes for a soft journey’s end, with its kids’ menu and comfortable family rooms.

Distance in the day: 140 miles.

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