20 Places To Visit On A Houston to Denver Road Trip

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A straight road trip from Houston to Denver could take around 17 hours without breaks. Depending on your exit from Houston, the route covers between 1053 miles (1695 km) and 1119 miles (1801 km). It’s a big journey that could take you through four states and past some incredible natural, historical and cultural landmarks. You will pass through vibrant cities and plenty of delicious food along the way.

Take the time to explore by adding several stops along the way. Major cities such as Oklahoma City and Austin will require at least a day or so of your time and if you like what you see you might even want to stay longer. Go off the route to discover somewhere new, and most importantly, enjoy your time on the open road. Here are 20 places to visit on a Houston to Denver road trip worth the detour.

Houston To Denver

20 Places To Visit On A Houston To Denver Road Trip

1- Houston, TX

fountain and modern skyscrapers in Houston
Looking for ideas on where to stop on a Houston to Denver road trip? We’ve picked our top 20 spots. Here’s a photo of downtown Houston.

Begin your epic road trip in Houston.

The city is famous for its links to NASA, so stop at the Space Centre if you are travelling with children or are fascinated with space travel.

The Space Centre is packed with interactive exhibitions, a collection of artefacts from space missions and even a SpaceX Falcon 9 that has been flown. Tip: it’s a popular attraction, so reserve your tickets online to avoid standing in line. 

The city is also home to plenty of art galleries, such as the Menil Collection, which houses works of art from Palaeolithic carvings to paintings from the likes of Picasso.

Before you leave, make the most of Houston’s varied and delicious foods.

The city’s sizeable Indochinese population has led to the creation of Viet-Cajun cuisine, a fusion of the best of both cuisines as they influence pho, crawfish and, of course, barbecue.

2- San Antonio, TX

colourful umbrellas and seats by the river
The River Walk in San Antonio is a lovely stop on our Houston to Denver road trip.

Stop in San Antonio to immerse yourself in American history.

One of the most iconic pieces of history in San Antonio is the Alamo, an 18th-century Spanish mission and fortress.

The Alamo was the site of the famous Battle of the Alamo in 1836, which saw all Texan soldiers dying inside the fort.

The buildings themselves have been well preserved and there is an excellent museum and library onsite to help you uncover more of the building’s history. 

While in San Antonio, get some fresh air and wander along the river.

A footpath runs directly along the river’s edge with shady trees overhead.

The route along the river will take you through Downtown and past many shops, bars and restaurants.

Driving from Houston to San Antonio covers 197 miles (317 km) and takes about three hours.

Top tour: San Antonio Missions UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tour.

3- Austin, TX

Texas State Capitol building at dawn
Texas’s capital is worth your time when journeying between Houston and Denver. Here’s the grand Texas State Capitol Building in Austin.

Spend a couple of days exploring Austin, the capital of Texas and a city known as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’, so try to take in a show if you can.

One of the popular things to do in Austin is to try its barbecue, the best of which is served at Franklin Barbecue.

This tiny restaurant has limited seating and there is always a queue, however, it is completely worth it.

Try the tender oak-smoked brisket or the spicy and rich jalapeño cheddar sausage. You can even purchase Franklin Barbecue spices and rubs to take home.

Head to Barton Springs Pool for a relaxing afternoon, a natural swimming hole fed from underground springs.

The water is consistently warm at around 70F making it perfect for swimming or kayaking.

Driving from San Antonio to Austin covers 80 miles (128.75 kilometres) and takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Top tour: Austin Biker Gang E-Bike Adventure.

4- Dallas, TX

Dallas cityscape with blue sky at sunset
When planning a Houston to Denver road trip, leave enough time to spend a couple of days exploring Dallas.

If you arrive in Dallas on game day, head to the AT&T Stadium to see the Cowboys play.

If ice hockey or basketball are your preferred sports, you can also see the Dallas Stars or Dallas Mavs.

History buffs will want to check out the Sixth Floor Museum, dedicated to JFK’s assassination.

The museum is filled with news articles and artefacts and offers access to the window where the fateful shot was fired.

If you are staying the night, go for a drink or enjoy dinner at Reunion Tower, which has a revolving restaurant and incredible views across the city.

Driving from Austin to Dallas covers 195 miles (314 km) and takes approximately 3 hours.

Top tour: JFK Assassination and Museum Tour with Lee Harvey Oswald Rooming House.

5- Fort Worth, TX

Take the short drive from Dallas to Fort Worth to explore this important 19th-century trading post frequented by cowboys.

There are many callbacks to the city’s history to learn more about cowboys and frontier life through its architecture, historical sites and districts.

Fort Worth is a great destination to visit with children.

Explore the Fort Worth Zoo, home to 7000 animals living happily in habitats designed to mimic their natural landscapes, or explore the outdoors on the Forest Park miniature railroad.

The city is home to several impressive art galleries, including the Sid Richardson Museum, the architecturally interesting Kimbell Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Driving from Dallas to Fort Worth covers 32 miles (51.5 kilometres) and takes approximately 35 minutes.

Top tour: Billy Bob’s Texas Honky Tonk Dinner and Photo Package.

6- Wichita Falls, TX

Spend a day exploring the beautiful city of Wichita Falls as you make your way through Texas.

Lucy Park is the ideal Wichita Falls destination for relaxing in nature, having a picnic, or taking a stroll.

A beautiful waterfall within the park is right alongside the Wichita River, which makes for an enjoyable walk along its banks.

Continue your nature-themed day by calling at River Bend Nature Centre.

The centre is packed with indigenous flora and fauna from the area and includes a butterfly conservatory.

After plenty of fresh air and nature, explore the city and its historical district of Depot Square.

The area spans six blocks and is filled with some of the most important historical landmarks in the city, such as the World’s Littlest Skyscraper and plenty of shops selling antiques.

Driving from Fort Worth to Wichita Falls covers 115 miles (185.07 kilometres) and takes approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.

7- Tulsa, OK

Skyline of Tulsa with bridge over the river
Tulsa (Oklahoma) isi a city by the Arkansas River.

Leave Texas and spend some time exploring two major cities in Oklahoma.

First, visit Tulsa, a beautiful city on the Arkansas River, which is well worth a stop on your Houston to Denver road trip.

Fans of Jazz music should stop by the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in the former Union Depot Building dedicated to the music of Jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie.

If you are travelling with children or love marine life spend an afternoon at the Oklahoma Aquarium.

The aquarium is filled with jellyfish, sea turtles and various colourful tropical fish.

Driving from Wichita Falls to Tulsa covers 261 miles (420.04 kilometres) and takes approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Top tour: Participate in a Fun Scavenger Hunt in Tulsa by Zombie Scavengers.

8- Oklahoma City, OK

Image of Oklahoma City in morning light from above shopping area.
Oklahoma City is one of the exciting cities to discover when driving from Houston to Denver.

While in Oklahoma, head to its capital city, Oklahoma City, and spend a few days immersed in its cowboy culture.

Kickstart your day at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, which houses a vast collection of cowboy artefacts and Western art.

Then get to know the most important names from Cowboy history and experience life in the West at several interactive galleries.

If you plan to spend the night, stay at Orr Family Farm for a glamping experience in a Conestoga wagon or teepee, with an outdoor fire and a range of amenities to make your stay a little more luxurious. 

Driving from Tulsa to Oklahoma City covers 106 miles (171 km) and takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Top tour: Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum Tickets.

9- Amarillo, TX

wrecked painted cars buried in the sand as sculptures
Visiting the Cadillac Ranch public art installation of old car wrecks is fun on historic Route 66 – you can easily plan to incorporate this quirky attraction in your Houston to Denver itinerary.

Cross back into Texas and explore the Panhandle city of Amarillo, a Route 66 stop perfect for breaking up your road trip and seeing more of Route 66 culture.

Take a short break at Cadillac Ranch, a unique art installation of old Cadillacs planted in the ground.

The cars are covered in spray paint, and tradition dictates that visitors should grab a can (there are plenty around the ranch to find) and add their own artwork.

Continue your car-themed time in Amarillo by exploring Sixth Street Historic District, which runs along the old Route 66.

Many original buildings are well-preserved along the route and plenty of old Americana to photograph.

Driving from Oklahoma City to Amarillo covers 260 miles (418 km) and takes approximately 4 hours.

Top tour: Amazing Amarillo Scavenger Hunt.

10- Palo Duro Canyon, TX

sunrise at palo duro canyon tx
The Palo Duro Canyon is a stunning natural attraction on the way from Houston to Denver.

Leave the hustle and bustle of cities behind you and make Palo Duro Canyon State Park your next stop.

The canyon is a short drive from Amarillo and an excellent location to spend the night.

There are plenty of camping grounds within the canyon for tents and motorhomes.

Public restrooms and showers are a feature of these campgrounds, and there are day-use sites if you only want to spend the day.

Palo Duro Canyon is a spectacular natural landmark in the Texas Panhandle, with the canyon descending for 800 ft (244 m), creating a dramatic sight.

The national park has many historical sites to visit, hiking trails to explore, and even a museum, The Canyon Gallery.

The Canyon Gallery has excellent views out across the canyon itself and is filled with works of art focusing on the canyon and the landscape and finds discovered through architectural digs in the area.

Driving from Amarillo to Palo Duro Canyon covers 25.2 miles (40.56 kilometres) and takes approximately 30 minutes.

11- Rita Blanca National Grasslands, TX

Continue to make the most of the natural landscapes of Texas and explore Rita Blanca National Grasslands.

Rita Blanca National Grasslands is part of the Great Planes and, with Kiowa, covers 230,000 acres over three states.

The grasslands are well worth stopping by and taking in the sights.

The area is too vast to fully cover on a road trip, however, make the time for a short hike through this rugged wilderness or take a short rest stop here and enjoy the views with a picnic.

Driving from Palo Duro Canyon to Rita Blanca National Grasslands covers 124 miles (200 km) and takes approximately 2 hours.

12- Albuquerque, NM

skyline of downtown albuquerque new mexico
Albuquerque in New Mexico is another place to fuel up and stretch your legs on a Houston to Denver driving vacation.

Cross into New Mexico and explore the state’s largest city, Albuquerque.

The city is one of contrast, with high skyscrapers of steel and glass set against the historic centre of adobe buildings.

To soak up the area’s ancient history, visit the Petroglyph National Monument to see stone carvings on the West Mesa.

These incredible surviving remnants of peoples long ago can be reached through a long hike, but it is well worth it.

Explore the Old Town on foot to become immersed in the city’s history.

Starting in Poco A Poco Plaza, you will wander past adobe-style buildings in rich oranges, colourful paper cuttings and an overall vibrant aesthetic.

There are plenty of shops, cafes and galleries in the area to visit and find a trinket to add to your road trip souvenir collection.

Driving from Rita Blanca National Grasslands to Albuquerque covers 291 miles (468 km) and takes approximately 4.5 hours. 

Top tour: Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Ride at Sunrise.

13- Santa Fe, NM

Houston to denver santa fe
For somewhere different, check out Santa Fe, New Mexico. This is the State Capitol Building entrance.

After spending time in Albuquerque, visit New Mexico’s capital, Santa Fe.

The city lies at the foothills of the breathtaking Sangre de Cristo and is still heavily influenced by its Spanish colonisers.

Spain colonised the area in 1610, and influences of its architecture and style can be seen in many of its buildings.

This Pueblo style is particularly notable in the historic district and at the New Mexico History Museum.

If you are interested in art, head to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

The artist spent the last years of her life in Santa Fe, and the museum serves as a key location dedicated to sharing her collection with the world.

The museum has more than 3000 paintings and drawings of O’Keeffe’s and includes special exhibitions, which have in the past included works from Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock.

Driving from Albuquerque to Santa Fe covers 64 miles (103 kilometres) and takes approximately 1 hour.

Top tour: New Mexican Flavors Food Tour of the Santa Fe Plaza.

14- Capulin Volcano National Monument, NM

Before leaving New Mexico, visit Capulin Volcano National Monument, which offers another excellent opportunity to explore the best of New Mexico’s natural landscape.

Capulin Volcano is an extinct cinder cone volcano with plenty of opportunities to learn about geology and how the volcano-shaped the surrounding landscape at its last eruption.

There are numerous hiking trails, ranger-led activities and more to participate in while exploring the volcano.

Ascend the volcano to see spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains or hike through its forests.

The volcano is surrounded by a lush pine forest, an ideal habitat for black bears and wild turkeys.

Driving from Santa Fe to Capulin Volcano National Monument covers 202 miles (325 km) and takes approximately 3 hours.

15- Trinchera Peak, CO

Begin your time in Colorado at Trinchera Peak.

This mountain is part of the Culebra Range and, for keen hikers, is a great way to get some fresh air, boost your heart rate, and enjoy the natural surroundings.

Hiking to the summit takes around half a day, so pack a lunch and put on comfortable shoes before ascending.

The trail is easy to follow, with some steeper sections offering a little more challenge.

Many hiking routes are family friendly and another good opportunity to get kids to switch off technology and return to nature.

Once you reach the peak, take in the views of the mountains, forests and valleys surrounding you.

You may even see some local wildlife, as bighorn sheep and elk are often seen at the summit.

Driving from Capulin Volcano National Monument to Trinchera Peak covers 159 miles (256 km) and takes around 4 hours. 

16- Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO

road leading towards mountains with blue sky and puffy white clouds
Great Sand Dunes National Park is another natural area to explore in Colorado when you hit the road from Houston to Denver.

Continue exploring Colorado’s stunning natural landscape by spending a day in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

The park is open year-round with no limitations on visit length.

There are campgrounds for tents and some RV’s, and even passes allowing you to camp in the dunes.

The park is home to the Great Sand Dunes, the tallest dunes in North America.

Surrounding these impressive dunes are grasslands, wetlands and even alpine lakes.

The park is also an International Dark Sky Park which gives, on a clear night, magical views of the stars.

While in the park, take advantage of various activities beyond hiking, like sandboarding (or sand sledding down one of the dunes), head out on a ranger-led tour, or pack your camera and make the most of the unique landscape around you.

Driving from Trinchera Peak to Great Sand Dunes National Park covers 53 miles (85.3 kilometres) and takes approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.

17- Pueblo, CO

Your first city stop in Colorado is Pueblo which sits on the banks of the Arkansas River. Historically the city was a gold mining town frequented by cowboys and those seeking to make their fortune.

Begin your time in Pueblo in the Union Avenue Historic District on a walking tour with a guide or independently.

The buildings date back to the city’s gold mining past with dark redbrick and sandstone, 70 of which are listed.

You will uncover more of the city’s gold mining history and how it evolved after the gold rush.

If you fancy a bite to eat, head into Old Town, where you will find an exceptionally wide variety of restaurants serving everything from American classics to Polish stews and Italian pasta.

While in Pueblo, try a dish with green chilli pepper, the city’s mascot. This pepper is often roasted and included as a side or part of a dish.

One of the best ways to try green chilli pepper is by ordering the slopper, a hamburger covered in green chilli pepper sauce.

Driving from Great Sand Dunes National Park to Pueblo takes 122 miles (196.34 kilometres) and approximately 2 hours.

18- Pike & San Isobel National Forest, CO

Pike & San Isobel National Forest is a vast forest and grassland covering almost 3 million acres.

Stop at the forest for a short stroll and some fresh air before continuing your road trip.

There are many hikes varying in difficulty across the forest with short loop trails to follow, which are perfect for families.

For those who fancy a more restful visit to the forest, head to one of its many lakes and ponds to catch some fish.

Keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife in the forest, as you may see black bears, mountain lions, wild turkeys and elk during your hike.

Driving from Pueblo to Pike & San Isobel National Forest covers 120 miles (193.12 kilometres) and takes approximately 2.5 hours. 

19- Colorado Springs, CO

Colorado Springs Mountain Forest.
If you love nature, you’ll definitely want to visit Colorado Springs when road tripping from Houston to Denver.

Colorado Springs is a tremendous final stopping destination on your road trip to Denver.

The city is at the foot of the Rock Mountains and has some spectacular views across the peaks.

Get out into nature again and marvel at the Garden of the Gods.

This park is filled with unique and rich red rock formations towering up from the earth.

Once you have had your fill outside, head into the visitor centre to learn more about the Native Americans who lived here and uncover the natural flora and fauna of the park.

Take a break to reflect on your road trip with a cold local beer at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company and dine on their delicious bison patty melts or lamb belly tacos.

Driving from Pike & San Isobel National Forest to Colorado Springs covers 95 miles (152.89 kilometres) and takes approximately 2 hours. 

20- Denver, CO

roads in and out of Denver with skyline in the distance
Finally, the Denver city skyline beckons and you know that your epic journey from Houston to Denver was worth it.

Arrive in Denver, the capital of Colorado, to round off your epic road trip.

Make the most of the city’s art scene by visiting the Denver Art Museum, which is a work of art.

Continue your arty foray into the city by visiting RiNo Arts District, packed with workshops, boutiques and galleries from local and international artists.

Explore Larimer Square, the city’s historic centre that was developed in the early 1800s.

The square was once an important hub during the state’s gold mining days, and today is home to many historical buildings housing quirky bars and restaurants serving some incredible dishes.

Driving from Colorado Springs to Denver covers 70 miles (112.65 kilometres) and takes approximately 1.5 hours. 

Top tour: Discover Rocky Mountain National Park from Denver.

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sarah holmes travel writer
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.