Exploring the Southwestern U.S. is on many travelers’ bucket lists – especially as part of a road trip. But did you know that you can get a sense of Southwestern culture on a road trip within the Great Plains? Running along the western border where the Plains meet the Rocky Mountains, Interstate 25 eventually connects with Interstate 10 – and the two form a great road trip route.
Along this route, there are several big cities, including Denver, Colorado, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. Every day, thousands of motorists make the drive between El Paso and Denver – or vice versa – admiring the landscapes and occasionally stopping to see the sights along the way.
Whether you’re planning to make the long drive between El Paso and Denver for business or pleasure, below you’ll find all the info you need to safely make the journey as a road trip along the western border of the Great Plains.
In this post, I promote travel along a route that crosses the traditional lands of the hinono’eino’ biito’owu’ (Arapaho), Chiricahua Apache, Jicarilla Apache, Mescalero Apache, Ndé Kónitsąąíí Gokíyaa (Lipan Apache), Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Pueblos, Piro, Piro/Manso/Tiwa Tribe, Pueblos, Sumas, Taos Pueblo, Tampachoa (Mansos), Tigua (Tiwa), and Tséstho’e (Cheyenne) peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
El Paso to Denver Distance
When preparing an itinerary for the El Paso to Denver drive, you’ll benefit from knowing the drive time and distance. As the crow flies, the distance between Denver and El Paso is 557 miles. When driving, the distance goes up to 637 miles between these two cities.
Remember that these numbers are estimates. How many miles you end up covering will depend on how many tops you make and where you start and end in each city.
Denver to El Paso Drive Time
At 637 miles, it takes around 10 hours without any stops to drive between these two cities. As you can see, the drive between El Paso and Denver is a long one, and it’s not very realistic to make it nonstop. Some people may even include an overnight stay and make the Denver to El Paso drive a two-day road-trip.
Also, remember you need to consider your start and end point within each city to know how many hours you’ll spend on the road.
Stops to Make on Your Drive from Between El Paso and Denver
If you decide to make a road trip out of your drive between Denver and El Paso, you may want to know about interesting places you can check along the way. Below you’ll find 7 stops to make on the drive between El Paso and Denver.
Known as El Paso’s Boot Hill, Concordia Cemetery used to be part of Rancho Concordia, a ranch owned by Hugh and Juana Stephenson. The couple had built a chapel and a cemetery and Juana became the first person buried in that cemetery in 1856.
The graves in this cemetery are a door to explore a bit of Texas’ past. There are between 60,000 and 65,000 graves in it, with some belonging to famous lawmen and gunslingers.
The cemetery’s most popular grave are that of John Wesley Hardin, Texas’ most notorious outlaw, and the grave of John Henry Selman Sr., the man who shot Hardin in the back of the head after a dispute between Hardin and his son, John Selman Jr. another detail worth mentioning is that Concordia is the only place to have a Chinese cemetery in Texas.
White Sands Missile Range Museum
Very few people are aware of the incredible history that surrounds missiles. White Sands Missile Range Museum explores military history, explaining the origin of America’s missile and space activity.
The museum has a section on the Atomic Age, focusing on the developments accomplished by Dr. Wernher von Braun on rocket technology. There’s an enormous collection of missiles and rockets that have been tested at White Sands, including a WAC Corporal and Loon (U.S. version of the V-1) and Pershing II and Patriot. Needless to say, citing the museum is a must-see experience for military historians and those with an interest in aero science.
World’s Largest Pistachio
You can’t call it a road trip unless there’s one quirky attraction on it. The drive between El Paso and Denver has the World’s Largest Pistachio.
Located in Alamogordo, the huge pistachio is pretty hard to miss – there are signs for this place all over New Mexico. The sculpture was built in 2008 to attract customers to McGinn’s PistachioLand, a farm where the McGinn Family grows pistachios, makes pistachio candy and packages pistachio products. It has worked wonders as hundreds of road trippers stop to take a photo with the giant pistachio and then head over to the store to buy pistachios or pistachio-based products. You can sample 20+ varieties of flavored pistachios before making a purchase. Make sure you stop by the gift shop, too. They have tons of corky souvenirs!
Salina Pueblo Missions National Monument
Located 10 miles west of Mountainair, New Mexico, the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is a vestige of the early encounters between Pueblo Indians and Spanish Colonials. This historic site comprises three Spanish missions, Quarai, Abó, and Gran Quivira, and the partially excavated pueblo, the Gran Quivira pueblo.
The only downside is that the missions and pueblo are a bit far away from each other. It is a 40-55 minute drive between each site, which means, you can’t really do the visit in less than 4 hours. If needed, you can miss the visitors center, since the same information is available at the visitor center at each of the other sites.
Route 66 Auto Museum
Take a walk back in time at the Route 66 Auto Museum. Located in Santa Rosa, the Route 66 Auto Museum is one of the most popular stops along the drive between Denver and El Paso. You’ll spot it in a second, thanks to the iconic yellow car on the top of the enormous sign pole.
The museum houses a stunning collection of restored vintage cars, some dating back to the 1930s. There’s also tons of items of automotive and Route 66 memorabilia on display to get a sense of what it felt like to travel along Route 66 back in the day.
Bishop Castle is a place you have to include in your drive between Denver and El Paso. From the history to the structure itself, everything about this building is astounding.
Bishop Castle is a three-story castle built by Jim Bishop in Colorado. The man built this castle with his bare hands and it took him nearly 60 years to complete it. At 160-feet high, the castle is quite a sight to behold and a bit of a thrill to climb. The structure has stairs all over, which visitors can climb to go to the top if they’re daring enough. Visiting the castle is free, although donations are encouraged.
Molly Brown House Museum
As the name suggests, Molly Brown House Museum used to be the mansion of American socialite and philanthropist, Molly Brown. Although she was better known for being of the Titanic survivors.
The house tour delights both visitors who love history and architecture. Since the property is Victorian, the house is filled with period furniture and stunning architectural details. At the same time, the rooms have different displays, portraying Molly’s public life and her experiences aboard the Titanic.
Other Tips for Your Drive Between Denver and El Paso
Now that you know the basics of the drive and are inspired to make a few stops, here are some final tips to help you finish planning your road trip:
- The route between Denver and El Paso crosses in three states: Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.
- There are several major cities along the route, including Colorado Springs, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces.
- If you want to make an overnight stop along the way, I recommend stopping in Santa Fe, which is about 5 hours, 40 minutes from Denver, and 4 hours, 50 minutes from El Paso.
- There are also plenty of rest stops and commercial truck stops to choose from along the way, and plenty of gas stations and truck stops along I-25 and I-10 if you need fuel, toilets, snacks, or other services.
Should You Fly Between Denver and El Paso Instead?
While making a road trip is a refreshing change from flying to another city, it’s inevitable not to wonder if it would be more convenient to fly instead of driving between Denver and El Paso.
There’s no right answer and you should always take into account your needs, budget, and interests to make the right decision.
- Time-wise, the drive from Denver to El Paso takes around 10 hours nonstop. We’ve already mentioned that it’s virtually impossible to travel that distance without any stops. When flying, that distance is reduced to 4 hours.
- Cost-wise, you need $239 to make the drive from El Paso to Denver, whereas round-trip flights between El Paso and Denver start at $81.
If we take into account these two variables, flying is the better alternative to travel between El Paso and Denver. However, if you have no time constraints, a road trip is always a great way to get off the beaten path and explore unique places.
Have any other questions about making the drive between El Paso and Denver in either direction? Let me know in the comments below!