Iowa to Estes Park I 80

I-80: Iowa To Estes Park Road Trip

I-80: Iowa to Estes Park Road Trip

Iowa to Estes Park makes for the perfect road trip. Living in the Mid-West, specifically Iowa, puts us smack dab in the middle of the country.We enjoy an occasional road trip to Estes Park, Colorado; and we have found I-80 to be a fun, adventurous experience. Yes, there is a lot of traffic, but it does provide the quickest and most efficient route to the Estes Park area.

Elk Horn, Iowa First Stop On Iowa To Estes Park Road Trip

Elk Horn, Iowa offers a glimpse into Danish America. Stop into the world-famous Danish Windmill and experience Danish hospitality while in the area. Stroll the grounds for a quieter place in time as you explore this beautiful town.

Elk Horn, Iowa

From the Danish history to the people and the food, you will love your stop off of I-80 in southwest Iowa. This will be the beginning of an epic road trip from Iowa to Estes Park.


Iowa to Estes Park

Omaha, Nebraska

The Omaha, Nebraska area does provide a nice variety of things to do. We have often added a day in Omaha on our way to Estes Park. Omaha is four hours from home for us, so it’s a nice way to break up the 12 hours of travel. We love a good zoo and the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha is a fantastic one! If you would like to venture out into something a little different, Omaha happens to be home to some awesome culinary tours. My friend Lisa recently experienced strolling through the Old Market on a culinary tour. Who doesn’t enjoy a little food culture, right?

Kearney, Nebraska

The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, located in Kearney, Nebraska, goes right across I-80. From covered wagons to all about the land where the buffalo roam, this is a family-friendly museum that is a must-see! Traveling East to West offers different views under the archway on I-80. There are a couple of exits off of the Interstate, which makes it easy to get to.

Tip: Visit the Classic Car Museum in Kearney before you leave town.

Kearney Archway

North Platte, Nebraska

As you continue on I-80 towards Estes Park, you will come to North Platte, Nebraska. If you are traveling with tweens or teens, I would highly suggest that you spend some time tanking the river and riding the go-carts at Cody Go Karts.


tanking in North Platte

History buffs will appreciate all that Buffalo Bill’s Historical State Park has to offer. You may want to plan a minimum of 24 hours in North Platte, from the history, fun and food– you will be busy!

If these stops don’t work on your way west, make it a point to stop on your way back East. June- August are peak travel seasons and I would highly recommend making hotel or campground reservations before you leave home. It can be disappointing to not have a place to call it a night when you have planned on it. Plan your road trip on I-80 before you leave home and Estes Park will be ready for you when you arrive.

Estes Park, Colorado

And one more tip! Once you arrive in Estes Park, make sure you have 24 hours to acclimate yourself to the higher altitude. Having experienced altitude sickness, I can tell you that these 24 hours will be time well spent. Then, plan your climb through the gorgeous trails of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a trail like this that awaits you.

Tip: Hike the Bear Lake to Fern Lake Trail to experience this view at Odessa Lake.

Rocky Mountain National Park


This road trip is enticing any time of year. The summer season brings beauty, unlike anything you will have ever seen in Rocky Mountain National Park. Pack your binoculars, hiking shoes/boots, rain gear, and backpack for a memorable experience.

Happy Traveling~ Sara





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A traveler at heart with a passion for travel in the Midwest. SaraB

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14 thoughts on “I-80: Iowa To Estes Park Road Trip

  1. My family always traveled straight through in about a day and a half, with a stop in Ogallala or North Platte overnight. When I went out a few years back on my own, I made it to Sterling the first night.

    It seems like a LOOOONG drive, but just remember once you get past Lincoln, there are always milestones – Grand Island, Kearney, Lexington, North Platte, Ogallala – a half hour to 45 minutes apart. If you break it up that way rather than thinking of how many hundreds of miles you still have to go, it goes a whole lot quicker. 🙂

  2. Unfortunately, altitude sickness does impact a lot of people the first time they visit the Estes area.

  3. Good stops on I80! We make the drive from Utah to Iowa at least twice a year, I80 all the way. And really great tip for adjusting to the altitude in Estes Park. It’s only beautiful if you’re not sick the whole time you’re there.

  4. This is a very late question, but where is that exact trail in your picture?? GORGEOUS!!

  5. Lincoln and Grand Island offer lodging right off of I-80. If you have time, you should really swing into the Old Market in Omaha…. really a fantastic place!

  6. Hello Sara, my wife Suzie and I are driving from Connecticut, near New York City, to Estes Park leaving early May 4, 2016 and arriving Friday May 6. That’s 3 days to drive almost 1800 miles, but it’s for my son’s graduation from the U of Colorado, Boulder on May 7, so it’s worth it. I can’t remember why, but we decided we didn’t want to fly this time. We love traveling together though – we hardly turn the radio on because we’d rather talk to each other. Anyway, we plan on getting to Chicago the first day. That will leave us about 1,000 miles to go. We want to get past Omaha but not go as far as North Platte the second day. Do you think we will have a hard time finding places to stay between those two places? With such ambitious driving plans the last thing I need is to hit the wall and then not be able to find a hotel.

    Thank you for your ideas. We will definitely stop at the Archway Monument on the way out and maybe we will stop in Omaha on our way back. We are taking a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park after his graduation then driving back in at least five days, maybe six.

  7. Hi Sara! When I saw your title indicating a road trip on I-80 from Estes Park I had to check it out. I’ve been on that freeway many times in my life. And I’ve been to North Platte quite a few….the only thing you left out was the thriving metropolis of Fort Morgan, Colorado where I was born! Thanks for the mini-vacation and a few memories. ~Kathy

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