How to Travel From Chicago to Denver by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado Skyline.

 GettyImages-Walter Bibikow

To get from the Windy City to the Mile High City, you’ll have to plan ahead, as the distance between the two is 923 miles. Flying, from either Chicago Midway International Airport or Chicago O’Hare International Airport, is the quickest and likely the cheapest route, and thus the recommended mode of transportation to get from Chicago to Denver.

There are no direct bus routes, and with the transfers, it will take you more than 24 hours to reach your destination. There is a direct train route from Chicago to Denver, but this option will also take quite a bit of time. The train, however, might be less expensive than flying, depending on airfare prices during the dates of your trip. Driving will take you upwards of 15 to 16 hours, and you’ll have to plan for accommodations, meals, and refueling costs along the way. Be sure to review our Denver guide for trip planning as well as our guide to Denver's public transportation.

traveling from chicago to denver
 TripSavvy / Hugo Lin

How to Get From Chicago to Denver

  • Train: 18 hours, 15 minutes, from $100
  • Flight: 2 hours, 50 minutes, from $50 (quickest and least expensive route)
  • Bus: 24 hours, 35 minutes, from $114 (longest and most expensive route)
  • Car: 15 hours, 42 minutes, 1,008 miles (1,623 kilometers)

By Train

A direct train departs from Chicago Union Station once daily and arrives at Denver Union Station. By taking Amtrak between the two, you’ll cruise across Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska before reaching in Colorado, a journey that will take more than 18 hours. Depending on what deals you can find on flights, the train might be the most economical choice, especially if you’re booking last-minute.

There are multiple advantages to taking the train. The Amtrak is comfortable, smooth, and there’s space to roam around in and stretch out. The baggage allowances are generous, and if you need to bring a bicycle or extra pieces of luggage, you’ll be able to make the arrangements. Many of Amtrak’s long-distance trains have observation cars so that you can take in the country’s views as you make your way across the country.

By Bus

Taking the bus will take you the longest amount of time to get from point A to point B, and you’ll have to transfer in St. Louis as there are no direct bus routes. The journey will take you more than 24 hours and cost more than other modes of transportation (depending on what prices are available for airfare). Taking the bus might not be as comfortable as the other options, and you’ll have to be concerned about traffic and inclement weather as you travel west.

The Greyhound bus station is located at the Chicago Amtrak Bus Station at Chicago Union Station, located at 225 S. Canal Street. Book your bus tickets online through Greyhound or Busbud. The biggest advantages to taking the bus are that you won’t have to drive or navigate yourself and there are a few different departure times.

By Car

Driving from Chicago to Denver will require planning as you traverse 1,008 road miles, which will take nearly 16 hours. If you’re traveling with kids in tow, this options offers the most flexibility, but you’ll have to stop along the way for gas, accommodations, and food. From Chicago, you’ll take I-290 west to I-88 west to I-76 west to reach your destination in Denver, keeping in mind that there will be multiple tolls along the way.

The biggest advantages of driving are that you’ll have a car to explore the country at your own pace. You’ll drive through Des Moines, Iowa; Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska; and cross Colorado’s northeastern border. You can stop to stretch your legs when you want to, rest at a hotel or at a campsite when it suits you, and make a big adventure out of a good ol' American road trip.

By Plane

Flights from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) or Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) leave for Denver, Colorado, at several times daily on Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier Airlines, and Spirit Airlines. Southwest Airlines and Delta leave for Denver hourly.

The average flight duration is about 2 hours and 45 minutes. You will have to factor in the time and expense it takes to get to the airport, however, using either Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) public transportation, ride share, or driving. The time difference between the two cities is one hour, with Denver operating behind Chicago.

The biggest advantages to flying to Denver from Chicago are that it’s the quickest route between the cities, there are multiple carrier options and frequent flight times, and in many cases, flying is cheaper than all of the other modes of transportation. Plus, when you land in Denver, you can catch a train that takes you straight to downtown (if that's your destination).

What to see in Denver

Denver, the capital of Colorado, is one of the most exciting—and fastest growing—cities in the country. Stroll through Larimer Square, Denver Milk Market, or 16th Street Mall for shopping, dining, and nightlife; snap a photo in front of Denver Union Station; and learn about art, culture, and history at The Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and the History Colorado Center. Children love the factory tour of Hammond’s Candies and visiting the Denver Zoo.

Of course, there are tons of things to do just outside of the city as well. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, where you can hike or listen to a concert, is only 17 miles away; Estes Park, at the foot of Rocky Mountain National Park, is 66 miles away. And you can easily venture even farther into the mountains for even more outdoor adventure on a day trip or weekend getaway. Spending time in the mountains, exploring nature, and seeing Colorado’s splendor is easy when you're in or around the city of Denver.