Salt Lake City to Denver, I70 vs I80: Which is Better?

Are you wondering which route is better from Salt Lake City to Denver, I70 vs I80?

Between I70 VS I80, I70 comes with a mesmerising scenery of the Rocky mountains and places for you to stop and relax. But, I80 promises a quicker drive and can get you to your destination as soon as possible. However, both routes have their risks, especially if you’re passing through in winter. 

So, if you can’t figure out which would be a better route to take, worry not! I have a whole article ahead comparing them to help you pick!

A Quick Overview

Here’s a little chart to sum up the main features of the two interstate routes. Let’s have a quick look at them first!

Distance525 miles520 miles
Driving Time8 hours7 hours 45 minutes
Condition of RoadLots of steep roads and turnsMore straight roads, less turns
SceneryVery scenicNot so scenic
DangerPerilous RouteHigh in traffic fatalities
Midway StopsVarious places to stopNot a lot of stops
Winter Road ConditionsSlippery and there’s ski trafficProne to blowing snow

I 70 vs I 80: Showdown

There are various aspects setting these routes apart! Be aware of them when you’re planning a Salt Lake City to Denver drive. If you are planning on renting a car, take help of Avis. And it comes with both Pay Now and Pay Later options!  

Now, let’s get into the main features of the two routes. I know you’ve been eager to know about it!

Distance & Time

When looking at the distances, both Interstate 70 and Interstate 80 are about 500 miles roughly. However, the distance from Salt Lake City to Denver via I-70 will be an additional 5-mile drive, compared to I80. 

Are you looking for the fastest route to travel from Salt Lake City to Denver? In that case, I 80 should be your immediate pick. It should help you reach Denver as quickly as you’d like. 

However, you’ll only save 15 minutes by not taking I70. So if you’re not in a hurry, why not take the I70 instead? It’s a little slower but will assure a time well-spent.

Winner: It has to be  Salt Lake City to Denver via I-80. Because the distance is shorter and less time is required to reach Denver. 


Whether you are going on a nice road trip or a business trip, some scenery is always appreciated. And I70 has exactly that. 

I70 is the most scenic route from Salt Lake City to Denver. This route is breathtaking with many well-known stops along the way. Most of these involve a backdrop of forests, the Rocky Mountains, and waterfalls. You wouldn’t want to miss out! 

On the other hand, the I80 proves to be more of a dull drive in comparison. It is very desolate and very grating for such a long drive to Denver. There are too many isolated long stretches and you’ll certainly get drowsy after a point.

Winner: It has to be Salt Lake City to Denver via I-70. Given that it has some of the most spectacular interstate scenery out there. 

Traffic & Danger

For instance, I70 has steep climbs along the high elevation roads up to the Canyon views. 

Both I70 and I80 from Salt Lake City to Denver have their own risk factors. Despite being scenic, the I70 is perilous in a number of ways. 

To add to that, the views along the way are mesmerizing enough to be distracting. Let alone all those snaky turns through the Spotted Wolf Canyon. 

But there is less traffic than I-80 unless you’re traveling in winter. 

Similarly, I-80 comes with its own dangers. Given its high-speed limit, it’s known for its high traffic fatalities. Besides this, there are also numerous animal migration areas. 

However, stretches of fencing have been installed to help prevent tragic accidents on migrating animals.

For both roads, you’d have to keep an eye out for installed signs. Besides that, be cautious for your safety and others. And you should be good to go!

Winner: I-70, since you can avoid speeding drivers, enjoy the scenery as long you drive carefully. 

Midway Stops 

While I70 comes with lots of stops in between SLC and Denver, there’s barely any if you take I80. Given the long drive, stops are pretty essential for simply taking a break. Plus you never know if your vehicle could need a quick fix. 

I70 is good for camping between Denver and Salt Lake City. 

When you take the I70, a popular stop is the Eisenhower Tunnel. It is one of the highest tunnels in the world and an interstate system. Then, there’s the drive-through Glenwood Canyon, being one of the most celebrated stops. 

Next, there’s Glenwood Hot Springs with several hot springs to let you chill out mid-trip! And it is home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool

Now, despite I80 not having nameable stops, there are installed signs along the way.

These signs let the driver know where to stop. Just in case of an emergency. So if you watch out for those signs, you could find a place to safely rest.

And then, there’s Vail with it’s numerous ski resorts if you’re looking to go skiing. If you mean to check into one there, it’s good to know about early departure fees!

Winner: I70, due to its various eye-catching stops and experiences to have throughout the journey. 

What About in Winter?

When it comes to I-70 vs I-80 in winter, both are risky routes to take. Even when it isn’t snowing, both roads tend to get pretty icy and dangerous in winter. 

I70 from SLC to Denver comes with Eisenhower tunnel and Vail Pass. The problem there is the altitude. Even in normal weather conditions, they take a while to cross through. 

So, you’d have to be more careful in winter, given the slippery slopes. Additionally, there’s also ski traffic during that time.

Now, while I80 is an easier road due to less twists and turns, it’s still a difficult pass in winter. Especially when the snow is blowing, or during a wild storm. What makes it harder is that there aren’t any places where you could wait out the storm.

It’s best to check weather conditions first before taking either of these routes. And a good idea to avoid them in case of blizzards and snowstorms.

Winner: I-70, if you don’t mind sitting through hours of ski traffic & remember to be very careful.

Final Verdict: Which Route to Take?

Now, let’s bring up the ultimate question. Which route should you take?

Well, are you in a hurry to get to Denver from SLC and couldn’t care less for the scenery? Well, I80 is what appears to be the shortest driving route between Salt Lake City and Denver. So it’s perfect for you! 

It’s a straight drive with few to no distractions. So, if you’re used to driving long hours without a place to stop, go right through I80.

But, if you don’t have a time crunch, I70 is the best route for you. 

First, you can enjoy a scenic drive on your way out of SLC to Denver. Next, you also get to stop at so many attractions along the way. And you can take as many beautiful pictures as you can. To post on your socials!

Regardless though, it’s important to remember to be careful despite the route you pick. Given how both routes have their risks with high traffic situations & dangers in winter. 

But, as a nature lover, I’d have to recommend taking the I-70. The rest is up to you!!


What are the top cities to stop at between Salt Lake City and Denver?

One of the most popular cities is actually Park City. There are a number of well-known cities to stop between Salt Lake City and Denver. Besides that, there are also other cities worth stopping by. These include Cheyenne, Fort Collins, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, and Boulder.

What falls halfway between Salt Lake City and Denver?

Rawlins, Wyoming is the city that falls halfway between SLC, Utah, and Denver, Colorado. But if you’re looking for the exact halfway point between the two cities, it would be Creston Junction, Wyoming. It’s about a 267-mile drive from either of the cities, requiring 4 hours roughly. 

How long did it take for the I70 route to get built?

It took about 11 years for the I70 route to finish getting built. This project was actually worth a total of $490 million. And it was finally completed in 1992 through the Glenwood Canyon, previously known as Route 6 & 24. It is considered both an environmental & engineering success.

Take Away

Was this comparison on the route from Salt Lake City to Denver, I70 vs I80 helpful? Hope we were able to help you reach a conclusion.

However, both roads are best avoided in rough weather conditions.

Thanks for sticking through till the end!

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