Taking a road trip from Chicago to Colorado is a relatively easy route that takes place mostly along Interstate 80. You'll be driving through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado. As you drive through these states, you'll have plenty of opportunities to see both Americana and natural wonders. The urban cities of Des Moines, Omaha, Lincoln, and Denver are all accessible as you travel, but you can always find a quaint town to investigate as well. Natural wonders like Lake Michigan, Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains are all must-see sites that should be on your Chicago to Colorado itinerary.
The national park system of the United States has many diverse natural preserves, recreational facilities, and historical sites that are set aside and managed for all to enjoy. There are several national parks that are near your route, and you can begin your trip at one national park near Chicago and end your trip with another in Colorado.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park runs 15 miles along the southern shore of Lake Michigan. There are over 15,000 acres of dunes, swamps, oak savannas, marshes, rivers, prairies, woods, and other diverse habitats. You can hike on more than 50 miles of trails, many of which take you to the dunes, and some of these dunes are over 200 feet in height. These varied habitats feature an incredible number of plants and animal life, and visitors can enjoy a multitude of water-based activities on the 22,000 square miles of Lake Michigan.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado makes for a great stop toward the end of your Chicago to Colorado RV road trip. You can view spectacular vistas comprised of mountains, alpine tundra, rivers, and waterfalls. There are more than 100 peaks that stand above 11,000 feet, including Longs Peak, which is 14,235 feet in elevation and is one of Colorado's "fourteeners." The Continental Divide is part of the park as well. While visiting, you can see a multitude of animals, such as bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, marmots, elk, and more. The Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in North America and runs for 48 miles between Estes Park and Grand Lake. Many parts of the road travel above the tree line into areas of tundra.
It's always a good idea to visit some of the many interesting state parks that lie along your route. Your Chicago to Colorado road trip passes close by multiple state parks in each state, and you can count on finding plenty of recreational opportunities.
Rock Creek State Park
Rock Creek State Park is a much-visited state park in central Iowa. It hosts a lake with 15 miles of shoreline and a swimming beach, and anglers can fish for bullhead, catfish, saugeye, bass, bluegill, and crappie. The lake is 18 feet at its deepest point, and it has an average depth of 9 feet. The lake also offers many avenues for boating fun, with a maximum allowable 5 miles per hour speed limit. Families will enjoy the playground and picnic areas, and there are lots of multi-use trails in the park. In the winter, visitors can snow ski, ride snowmobiles, and ice fish.
Platte River State Park
Platte River State Park is located between Lincoln and Omaha in Nebraska and is a good midway point to stop over on your Chicago to Colorado road trip. This family-friendly park features both old, vintage cabins along with new, luxurious cabins. There's a spray park, a waterfall, a playground, and plenty of multi-use trails. Visitors can climb to the top of either of two observation towers and view the Platte River.
Lake Pueblo State Park
Lake Pueblo State Park makes for a fun place to visit any time of the year. The lake has 60 miles of shoreline, and the park covers over 10,000 acres near Pueblo, Colorado. You'll enjoy activities like sailing, boating, fishing, tubing, and water skiing, and there are two marinas that offer full services for boating activities. Be sure to take in the great views of the Arkansas River that flows below the dam, and don't miss the multiple trails that take you through juniper stands with 200-year-old trees. The Greenhorn and Wet mountains are easily visible from many areas in the park, and the view of Pikes Peak is amazing.
Many of the places along your route are unique areas that you'll definitely want to include on your road trip itinerary from Chicago to Colorado. If possible, try to take a few days to visit some of these fun attractions.
Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha is an outstanding and unique zoo. It features the world's largest indoor jungle and desert exhibits, and it also has the largest nocturnal exhibit in the world. You're sure to enjoy the aquariums, some of which offer interactive experiences, including camel rides. When you're tired of walking, you can take a break and watch a feature film at the Lozier IMAX theater.
These beautiful gardens have been in existence since the 1930s. Visitors to the Sunken Gardens will find an amazing landscape of tulips, lily pads, firs, roses, and more in themed gardens that are a restful treat for the soul. Located in Lincoln, this site is well worth stopping for a break from the road.
Pikes Peak should absolutely be on your Chicago to Colorado itinerary. The inspiration for the song "America the Beautiful," Pikes Peak is located conveniently close to the city of Colorado Springs. You can easily visit the site by driving up the Pikes Peak Highway, taking a ride up on the cog railway, or hiking up one of the trails. One of the more popular trails up the peak is the Barr Trail, which sees an elevation increase of 8,000 feet during its 13-mile path.
The road from Chicago to Colorado is a fairly long but straightforward drive through several states, and you'll pass through many large cities that have plenty of amenities and interesting attractions for all tastes.
You'll enjoy visiting the city of Des Moines in Iowa as a break from your Chicago to Colorado road trip. The gold-domed Iowa State Capitol is an excellent example of late 19th- and early 20th-century architecture. There are plenty of cultural museums to visit, and you can have fun strolling through the Downtown Farmers' Market. For a restful and tranquil respite, make sure to visit the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. If you plan to stay at a campground, the Sleepy Hollow RV Park & Campground is a family-friendly option that offers plenty of amenities and fun activities. You can also find several dump stations in the area.
Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska, and it has many interesting sites to visit. The Capitol building has a domed tower with observation decks, and the Sunken Gardens has beautifully designed gardens, lily ponds, and sculptures. There's also a children's zoo, and you can view a nice collection of American art at the Sheldon Museum of Art. Everyone has a great time staying at the Camp A Way campground, a park that has been around a while and knows what campers love. You will be able to find numerous dump stations in the area if needed.
Colorado Springs is known for being a winter resort town, but it's so much more. The city is home to the U.S. Olympic Committee and is home to premier, professional-level training facilities. The Garden of the Gods has multiple walking trails and an informative visitor center, and it's renowned for its red sandstone formations. Pikes Peak RV Park is a restful and tranquil campground close to Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs, and the famous Pikes Peak; you'll certainly appreciate the opportunity to kick back and catch your breath as you reach the end of your trip. If you need to utilize a dump station, you can find multiple options throughout Colorado.
A road trip from Chicago to Colorado in an RV is the perfect way to see a large swath of the United States. There's a rich heritage that's waiting to be discovered at many historical sites, and you can heighten the experience of visiting national and state parks by traveling in a vehicle that allows you to relax the entire way. With careful planning, you can design the perfect map for your road trip across the Midwest.