One of the easiest and best ways to reach downtown Denver from Denver International Airport is by taking the Denver Airport rail. This light rail line, which opened in 2016, is known as the A Line or the University of Colorado A Line. Operated by the Regional Transportation District (RTD), the A Line connects Denver International Airport with Union Station in downtown Denver in about 37 minutes. Once leaving the airport, the train makes six brief stops before reaching its final stop at Union Station.
For those who are wondering, a Lyft or Uber will cost about $30-$40+ from the airport to Union Station depending on the time of day and traffic. A one-way ticket on the airport train is $10.50. So, if you are traveling alone or with a few people, the train is a great option. But, if you are traveling in a larger group, an Uber or Lyft might be the better choice. This guide will focus on those who choose to take the airport train.If you are looking for more information about Denver and Colorado, I highly recommend picking up a guidebook such as Fodor's Colorado or Moon Denver, Boulder & Colorado Springs.
Orientation to Denver International Airport (DEN)
Denver International Airport (IATA: DEN), also known as DIA, is an international airport located about 18 miles northeast of downtown Denver. At over 33,500 acres, Denver International Airport is one of the largest airports in the world by area.
The airport consists of one main terminal and three auxiliary concourses (Concourse A, Concourse B, and Concourse C). After arriving at one of the three concourses, passengers will make their way by foot or underground train to the main terminal.
Once at the main terminal, travelers will find baggage carousels, taxis, ride pickup, rideshare, parking, a hotel, security checkpoints, restaurants, and access to public transportation.
If you are trying to reach downtown Denver from Denver International Airport, one of your best options is by riding on the University of Colorado Line A.
University of Colorado Line A Map
Opened on April 22, 2016, the University of Colorado A Line connects Denver International Airport with Union Station in downtown Denver. After departing Denver Airport Station, the train makes six stops along its 23 mile journey before arriving at Union Station. Once at Union Station, travelers can transfer to other light rail lines, commuter rail lines, and local and regional buses.
University of Colorado Line A Timetable
The first westbound train departs Denver Airport Station at 4:12AM and arrives at Union Station at 4:43AM. The last train departs Denver Airport Station at 1:27AM and arrives at 1:58AM. Throughout the day, trains depart roughly every 15 to 30 minutes. There are no westbound trains between 1:28AM and 4:11AM.
Arrival at Denver International Airport
Welcome to Denver. When you land at Denver International Airport, your plane will arrive at one of three auxiliary terminals (Concourse A, Concourse B, or Concourse C).
Once inside your arrival concourse, follow the signs towards Baggage Claim/Terminal which will lead you towards a train that will bring you to the main terminal. This is true for all three concourses.
Concourse C is the most northern concourse at the airport while Concourse A is the most southern. And, the main terminal is south of Concourse A.
Concourse A is connected to the main terminal by a bridge if you wish to walk. Concourse B and Concourse C are not connected to the main terminal by walkways. To reach the main terminal from these concourses, you must take the Automatic Guideway Transit System (AGTS).
Automatic Guideway Transit System (AGTS)
If you follow the signs towards Baggage Claim/Terminal, you will arrive at a platform for the Automatic Guideway Transit System (AGTS). This is just a fancy name for the underground train which connects the main terminal with Concourse A, Concourse B, and Concourse C. This train is free and departs every few minutes.
Unless you need to connect to another terminal, be sure to take the train in the direction of Baggage Claim/Terminal. The journey to the main terminal from each concourse only takes a few minutes.
Welcome to the main terminal of Denver International Airport, officially known as Jeppesen Terminal.
While the terminal consists of six floors, you only need to worry about the floor you are currently on, Floor 5. It is here on Floor 5 where you will find baggage carousels, security checkpoints, and access to the airport train to downtown.
If you checked in luggage, be sure to grab your luggage from the baggage carousels on this level. If you find yourself on another floor inside the terminal, make your way to Floor 5.
From here, it is only a short walk to the Transit Center and Denver Airport Station where you will find trains departing towards downtown Denver.
To reach the Transit Center, walk towards the south exit of the terminal. If you don’t know where this is, or you are lost, just follow any sign which reads Transit Center, Westin Hotel, or Train to City. The south exit of the terminal is located underneath the large hanging American flag which is hard to miss.
Exit the terminal by passing through the sliding glass doors under the flag. Directly in front of you will be an escalator. Take the escalator from the current floor you are on, Floor 5, down to Floor 1 where you will find Denver Airport Station.
Denver Airport Station
At the bottom of the escalator is Denver Airport Station, part of the Transit Center. Straight ahead, you’ll find the platforms for the University of Colorado A Line trains. These trains depart to and arrive from downtown Denver.
Before boarding the train, you will need to purchase a ticket from the ticket vending machines on the right. While not covered in this guide, you can also purchase tickets here for RTD Buses which depart nearby.
Note: Between July and August 2023, as part of its Zero Fare for Better Air program, RTD is offering free fares on its entire system. This means you may hop on the train without purchasing a ticket.
Once at Denver Airport Station, you will find multiple ticket vending machines for purchasing tickets. While all machines accept credit cards (Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover), only certain machines accept cash and coins. If you are planning on paying with cash, avoid the CREDIT/DEBIT ONLY machines.
If you don’t want to use the machines, you also have the option of purchasing tickets and day passes on your mobile phone by installing the RTD Mobile Tickets app on iOS or Android. For the purpose of this guide, I will focus on purchasing tickets from the vending machines.
Touch the screen to begin. From here, you will need to select one of three ticket options.
1. Full Fare
2. Discounted Fares
Most travelers will select Full Fare. This ticket costs $10.50. Your ticket, known as a Regional/Airport Day Pass, is not only valid for the airport train but can also be used on local, limited, and regional rail and bus travel in all RTD fare zones until 2:59AM the next morning.
Discounted fares are also available for seniors who are 65 and over, youths between the ages of 6 and 19, individuals with disabilities, and Medicare recipients. All discounted fares can be viewed by visiting https://www.rtd-denver.com/fares-passes/discount-fares.
In addition, active duty members of the U.S. military can ride for free on all RTD services.
With ticket in hand, you can now board a train towards downtown Denver.
Denver Airport Station is the final station for eastbound University of Colorado A Line trains. And, the first station for westbound trains heading to Union Station in downtown Denver. With only one train line departing from this station, it’s hard to get lost.
Depending on the hour of the day, most trains depart every 15 to 30 minutes except between 1:28AM and 4:11AM when no westbound trains are operating.
At the station, electronic information boards display the next departure time in minutes and departing track number. One tip: double check the departing track number and board that train. When two trains are at the station, sometimes rushed travelers board the wrong train and have to wait another 15 to 30 minutes.
Riding the train
All trains feature open seating so you may sit wherever you like. Depending on the train car, seats are configured in groups of two or three with some facing forward and some facing backwards. Be sure to keep your ticket nearby in case you are asked by a train employee for your ticket. If you board a train without a ticket, you could face a fine.
As you are probably traveling with luggage, you might be wondering about luggage storage on board the train. Running the length of each train, above each seat, is overhead storage similar to an airplane. If your luggage can fit in the overhead bin on your flight, then you should be able to fit your luggage above your seat. If you are traveling with larger pieces of luggage, you will have to use the larger luggage towers located at the ends of each car.
Now sit back and enjoy the ride. If you are traveling to Union Station, the last stop, your journey will take about 37 minutes. Welcome to Denver.