Spatiotemporal constraints for Late Cretaceous tectonism across the Colorado Plateau and southern Rocky Mountains (northern Arizona–New Mexico, USA) are interpreted in regards to Laramide orogenic mechanisms. Onset of Laramide arch development is estimated from cooling recorded in representative thermochronologic samples in a three-step process of initial forward models, secondary HeFTy inverse models with informed constraint boxes, and a custom script to statistically estimate timing of rapid cooling from inverse model results. Onset of Laramide basin development is interpreted from increased rates of tectonic subsidence. Onset estimates are compared to published estimates for Laramide timing, and together suggest tectonism commenced ca. 90 Ma in northwestern Arizona and progressed eastward with later onset in northcentral New Mexico by ca. 75–70 Ma. The interpreted sweep of onset progressed at a rate of ∼50 km/m.y. and was approximately half the 100–150 km/m.y. rate estimated for Late Cretaceous Farallon-North America convergence during the same timeframe. Previous suggestions that the Laramide tectonic front progressed at a rate similar to convergence via basal traction are not supported by our results. We thereby suggest that (1) a plate margin end load established far field compression and that (2) sequential Laramide-style strain was facilitated by progressive weakening of North American lithosphere from the dehydrating Farallon flat slab. Results are compared to models of sweeping tectonism and magmatism in other parts of the Laramide foreland. Discussions of the utility of the custom script and the potential for stratigraphic constraints to represent only minimum onset estimates are also presented.