Are you ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime? This 1,100+ mile road trip through 3 national parks, Indian reservations, and cowboy towns awaits your arrival! Prepare that camera for impressive sights of bison, elk, hot springs, geysers, and some of the best mountain peaks!
In the summer of 2018, I started my adventure road trip with my brother CJ in the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado. We spent about 10 days on the road together exploring Denver, Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and then headed back to Denver. With this guide, you will cross through 3 states: Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana!
Prior to our trip, we had to decide whether to pack our own camping equipment or rent gear out in Denver. At the time, it made the most sense for us to rent camping equipment. With some research online, we found that Outdoors Geek in Denver offered all the equipment we would need for $327. And, we could pick some food and additional items at REI. This totally saved us time, money (because we didn’t own everything that we needed for a camping trip), and the hassle of packing, checking several bags, unloading, cleaning equipment upon return, etc. Definitely take the time to weigh out your options!
Camping Rental Equipment from Outdoors Geek
Our 2 person Yellowstone National Park Rental Camping Package for 4-7 days from Outdoors Geek consisted of:
- 1 – Marmot Limestone 4 person tent that is 8′ x 8′
- 2 – Marmot or The North Face 15-20 degree sleeping bags
- 2 – Big Agnes Two Track Self-inflating sleeping pads
- 1 – Camp Table
- 1 – Cooler for beer (or food)…ok, or both
- 2 – Camp Chairs
- 1 – Two Burner Stove
- 1 – GSI Cook Set for 2 (dualist cookset + frypan or similar-based on availability)
- 1 – Complimentary Care Package
In addition to the package, we got:
- 1 – Bear Canister (definitely needed, you are in bear country)
- Camp soap (biodegradable, can double as shower soap if needed)
- 2 – Fuel propane
- 1 – Lantern
I booked RT flights from Newark to Denver using my United MileagePlus Explorer credit card. Check out the card to receive countless travel benefits and earn up to 40,000 BONUS miles!
National Park Pass
If you plan on visiting more than one park this year, you would benefit from purchasing a national park pass: America the Beautiful Pass. It covers your entrance into the park, as well as any passengers in your car (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free.
Day 1: Arrival into Denver, Colorado
My flight landed into Denver airport at 11:30pm, so there wasn’t time to do anything, except take the train to the historic Union Station! From there, I met up with my brother and we checked into our AirBNB (use this link to book an AirBNB and you could get up to $55 off your first booking).
PRO TIP: Union Station is not only the main transportation hub in Denver, but it also offers and array of top-notch restaurants, shopping, and bars!
Day 2: Garden of the Gods
I woke up this morning and picked up our rental car at a Budget in downtown Denver. We rented the car for 8 days for $347. Since CJ had a work conference to attend today, I reached out to my friend Stacey who conveniently lives in Denver. We spent the day at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs exploring the grounds on our own.
Denver’s food scene is definitely eclectic and you can find just about anything you want! From Japanese to Israeli or American to Italian you will not be at a loss for options. We decided to grab dinner in the trendy LoHi (lower highlands) neighborhood of Denver. We enjoyed an authentic Izakaya (Japanese pub) experience at Mizu and highly recommend the food here!
Day 3: Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Trail Ridge Road
Today we set out on the first leg of our adventure road trip through the national parks, but first, breakfast! We met up with two other friends that happened to be in Denver at Gallop Cafe. This American cafe in the beautiful, Highland neighborhood offers healthy, homemade options for breakfast and lunch. Everything we ordered was delicious! We definitely recommend this spot!
After saying our good-byes at brunch, we picked up our camping equipment at Outdoors Geek, stopped at REI and Walmart for additional food, water, and other items, then we hit the road! We had a 60 mile journey ahead of us until our first stop: Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. From Denver, budget about 2-3 hours of driving and stopping to take pictures along the way.
PRO TIP: If you’re like us and want to enjoy entertaining commentary about the park, download the GyPSy Guide and start enjoying your professional guided tour while en route.
We stopped at Lily Lake which has an easy, handicapped accessible 3/4 mile loop around the lake.
Then, we settled in at Moraine Park Campground and made an early dinner before hitting Trail Ridge Road.
Moraine Park campground offers stunning views of the surrounding park!
Rocky Mountain National Park can be enjoyed through its countless hiking trails, or by enjoying one of many scenic drives, including Trail Ridge Road. I highly recommend that you leave time in your itinerary for this scenic drive. We only planned for one night in the Rockies and chose to do this drive so we could see more of the park than we would on foot.
PRO TIP: Trail Ridge Road crosses about 50 miles of spectacular scenery and can take anywhere from 2 hours of non-stop driving to an all day trip with picture stops and meals. We spent about 3 hours on the road with stops for pictures and some walking.
Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved highway in North America, reaching more than 12,000 feet in altitude. It travels through Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park to Grand Lake. You will want to pull over at every chance you get to take a picture!
We made our way to the Alpine Visitor Center located at 11,796 feet above sea level, one mile west of the highest point on Trail Ridge Road. Make sure you take the steps/trail up the mountain for the most spectacular views of the Rockies!!
The next morning we hit the road for Wyoming! After several days in WY exploring the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park, we made our way back to Denver.
We finally arrived into Denver after about a 9 hour car ride. We returned our camping gear to Outdoors Geek (which was uper easy, they just checked we returned everything in. one piece). Then, checked into our AirBNB (use this link to book and get up to $55 off your first stay!) and quickly got changed to head out to see the Avett Brothers at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater!! We bought tickets using flash seats.