Transportation in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Rocky Mountain Transportation
Looking Over to Rocky Mountains

Tourism has been growing rapidly over the years as people are spending a considerable amount of their savings on sight-seeing and adventures for entertainment. There are several spots in this world-renowned area for its beauty and attractions. However, some are only worth visiting in specific seasons. The Rocky Mountains is the place to go throughout the year because each season brings a new form of beauty that attracts tourists. But what is so special about this place?

Getting to the Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains start from British Columbia and Alberta, stretching 3,000 miles all the way to New Mexico. At an elevation of 4,401m, this place consists of breathtaking alpine lakes, wilderness, and wildlife. You cannot cover all of it in one tour, so it is crucial to plan your trip to the Rocky Mountains beforehand. Planning a tour is not only about deciding where and when to go but a very important thing to consider is transportation.

The challenge that many tourists face is transportation because tourist attractions are often in areas not easily accessible. This, however, is not the case with the Rocky Mountains because there are multiple ways of reaching them. The task is how to choose the best transportation plan according to your location and budget.

There are four modes of transportation to choose from when you plan your trip to the Rocky Mountains in any season:

Beautiful Rocky Mountains
Beautiful Rocky Mountains

By Car or Shuttle Service

If you are coming to Vail from Denver, or Loveland or anywhere from the Front range, there are several different routes and journey plans that you can choose from:

  • Boulder/Hwy 36: The distance you will have to cover through this route is approximately 106km and estimated travel time is 1.5 to 2 hours. The journey will be I-25 north to Exit 217 and straight to Estes Park which is the shortest route to reach Rocky Mountains.
  • Hwy 66: An alternate route if you are coming from Denver is through Exit 243 i.e. Hwy 66 leading to Estes Park. This journey plan will take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours as well but the total distance covered would be 114 km.
  • Peak to Peak Scenic By-way: The longest route from Denver, Peak to Peak Scenic By-way will take you about 2.5 to 3 hours to reach your destination. The total distance is approximately 174km as you take I-70 west and head towards Nederland from Exit 244 i.e. US Hwy 6 and State highway 119. Once you reach Nederland, you can take State Hwy 72 and then State Hwy 7 which will lead you to Estes Park.
  • Hwy 34: If you are coming from Loveland, US 34 is the route for you. The Big Thompson Canyon is open for traffic and forms a great route to reach Estes Park if you are coming from Loveland. West side have the following routes for transportation to Rocky Mountains:
  • I-70 West of Denver: A route that will take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, I-70 will take you to Exit 232 and further to US Hwy 40. Drive towards Granby and US Hwy 34 and finally to Grand Lake. Avoid taking this route in winter because it is often inaccessible due to snow or geographical risks.
  • Kremmling Hwy 40: If you can directly take Hwy 40, your distance will reduce to 66km only with a travel time of 1 to 1.5 hours. Remaining journey will be the same as from I-70 West till Grand Lake.

By Bus

Direct public transportation is not available if you want to commute to the Rocky Mountains from Denver. However, you can find multiple bus services that follow the route and can be cheaper than driving yourself to your destination. Greyhound bus service has been the most popular one so the bus could be a good choice for transport if you are planning to visit the Rocky Mountains.

By Plane

If you are not traveling on a budget, the ideal case would be to travel via plane. You need to land at Denver International Airport (DIA) as it is the closest to your destination. From this airport, there are shuttle services that can take you to Vail in the minimum possible time. Commercial airport shuttle services have been very popular in serving tourists and helping them commute from DIA to the Rocky Mountains.

Public Transportation

Unfortunately, public transport is not an option if you want to reach the Rocky Mountains or anywhere nearby from Denver, however there are shared shuttle services that offer very reasonable pricing, although in cramped conditions.

Choosing the Best Transportation Plan

Since there are multiple options to choose from, you must evaluate which mode of transportation and route would suit you the best. To take this decision, there are certain factors to consider:


The most important factor that most travelers need to consider when planning their trip is the budget. Traveling involves a lot of expenses including, but not limited to, shopping, entertainment, accommodation, food, and transport. To choose the mode of transportation on your trip to the Rocky Mountains, get an estimate of all the options mentioned earlier. If you have a limited budget, the recommendation would be to go for the cheapest option. Even though that would be relatively less convenient, you can spend that budget elsewhere on entertainment when you reach.

Geographical Factors

Another thing that you must consider is the location where you live along with the accessibility in available transportation options. Some modes of transportation could be convenient and less costly for one group of people but inconvenient and costly for the other, depending upon their departure locations. Moreover, if some route is closed due to snow, it might be better to take a flight because the inconvenience might ruin your entire trip to the Rocky Mountains. Therefore, choose transportation wisely as the cheapest option might not always be a good choice.

Tourist Reviews

Finally, a good way to choose your mode of transportation is to ask for reviews from people in your area who have already been to the Rocky Mountains. This is a popular tourist spot too, so it is not a difficult task to find someone. Learning from others’ experiences is always great so consider their opinions while deciding how to commute to the Rocky Mountains.

During Your Stay at Rocky Mountains

Tourists usually visit the Rocky Mountains for 3 to 4 days and plan their activities accordingly. Even though there are options ranging from hiking, wildlife and sight-seeing at Garden of the Gods and Cliff Palace, you cannot cover everything in one trip – because there is just a lot! A common question from tourists is how they can travel to the Rocky Mountains if they travel to the destination via plane. There are two most popular modes of transportation within the Rocky Mountains that you can choose from based on your budget and itinerary:

  1. Shuttle services: The most affordable and comfortable transportation in the Rocky Mountains is multiple shuttle services that wander through popular tourist attractions. You can utilize the shuttles as much as you want and plan your own journey accordingly.
  2. Rent-a-car: Another very convenient but expensive way is to rent your own car for 3-4 days so you can go whenever and wherever you want. In case of shuttles, there might be certain restrictions of time and routes, so this freedom is what makes rent-a-car service very popular in the Rocky Mountains.

This problem of transportation within the Rocky Mountains, as well as transportation to this place, could be eliminated if you join a group that is traveling to the Rocky Mountains with an organizer. The greatest advantage to come with tour organizers is that they have ample experience to figure out how to make your experience at the Rocky Mountains the best one possible. There are several things that you might miss out on but the organizers are usually aware of everything simply because they visit the place very often.

However, the problem with such group trips is that the plan is very restricted. The plan initially decided will be followed throughout even if you discover something even better.

In Conclusion

Trip to the Rocky Mountains is a breathtaking experience and you do not want to ruin it by not choosing transportation wisely. Consider the above-mentioned modes of transportation and the factors while planning your journey and you should be able to have a smooth holiday at the Rocky Mountains. Do not rely on a single price quotation. It is always a good idea to ask multiple vendors for quotations and then compare prices and services. This helps you choose cheap and convenient transportation for any trip.