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Half day at Black Canyon enough?

colorado
posts: 474
reviews: 8
Half day at Black Canyon enough?

We'll be driving back from Mesa Verde (where we will have spent 5 days in Durango area, Mesa Verde, etc.) to Frisco, where we live, with my parents in tow.

We'd like to split up the long drive, probably stopping in Ouray for a bit, then spending the night somewhere. Thinking about Black Canyon area. I suppose we have to stay in Montrose? And, is the next morning/early afternoon enough time to see Black Canyon? My dad wants to take photos, mom wants to see stuff, boyfriend and I don't care too much.

And I assume Black Canyon area is prettier and more worth stopping in than, say Salida (where we'd spend the night if driving back the other way from Mesa Verde)?

Thanks for any advice! This will be in July, btw.

14 replies to this topic
WestSlope,CO
Destination Expert
for Colorado
posts: 8,144
reviews: 112
1. Re: Half day at Black Canyon enough?

I would choose the Black Canyon stop. Yes, a minimum of two hours to a half day will be about right if you aren't taking the trails but just doing the rim drive and overlooks; and yes, Montrose would be the place to stay unless you want to spend the night in Ouray. Just after Ridgway, be sure to stop at the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park. The turnoff is on the west of the highway just north of Ridgway.Your dad will get some great pictures of the magnificent eagle statue there, and they probably have some great memories of Dennis Weaver's acting. In Ridgway proper is the railroad museum (with a Galloping Goose) and the jail wagon from the original True Grit. You could also drive a little way out the Owl Creek Pass road for some nice views/photos of Courthouse Mountain & Chimney Peak.

Dinner in Montrose would give you a few more options than Ouray, and reasonable lodging is available. If you happen to come through on a Thursday, downtown Montrose hosts Main in Motion all summer, with Main Street blocked off for a big community night out with music, food, etc. I also recommend the Museum of the Mountain West if you have the time.

You can drive either through Telluride & Ridgway or Durango>Silverton>Ouray>Ridgway. The scenery is awesome either way. I know you posted before, but don't remember the rest of your itinerary.

When you get to the canyon, drive down the East Portal Road to get a perspective from the bottom of the canyon (and realize that it gets much deeper) and see the river up close, (watch your speed and your brakes!) and then drive the South Rim drive, stopping at the visitor center and as many overlooks as you wish. The distance from the road to the rim varies at each overlook. The park website has suggestions for which stops to be sure to make if you have limited time. If you don't see that page, let me know and I'll find it. I think it is under "plan your visit."

If you have time as you go through Nathrop/Buena Vista, you could turn west and visit St. Elmo ghost town and maybe take the hike to Agnes Vaille Falls if your folks are up for it. Part of it is fairly steep, but it is not a long hike. (Same goes for Cascade Falls in Ouray)

colorado
posts: 474
reviews: 8
2. Re: Half day at Black Canyon enough?

Thank you, again, for the incredibly informative advice! :) Glad to know we can get something out of it for only a few hours or so...

colorado
posts: 474
reviews: 8
3. Re: Half day at Black Canyon enough?

Sorry--a few more questions!

Does Montrose offer any artsy or quaint shops, etc., like Salida does?

And, I'd always wanted my parents to experience the drive up 285 (Collegiate range, etc.--so gorgeous), but I guess the road to Ouray will be even more spectacular (they will have already taken the train ride to Silverton, but there's still more to see on way to Ouray, right?)...

Thanks again for your advice...:)

Ohio
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 6,508
reviews: 197
4. Re: Half day at Black Canyon enough?

the stretch of road between Silverton and Ouray is great. The whole road from Durango to Ouray is beautiful.

Early morning light is the best for photographing the Black Canyon for sure. We spent a full day/night there, so.... your timing is great for the photographer in the family. Considering the lighting-- I would do the rim for photos first, then follow it with the drive down into the canyon. Driving in and out does not take long-- save it for mid day so you get the morning light on the rim.

Ohio
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 6,508
reviews: 197
5. Re: Half day at Black Canyon enough?

My husband enjoys photography. Go here: http://angel-gallery.com/travel-slideshows/ Click on the Colorado/Utah link. There are a few photos on the road thru Colorado, but then you will see the Black Canyon shots, followed by shots from the road from Ridgway to Durango. Give you an idea of what you will see and the canyon in morning light. Can show your dad.

Colorado Western...
Destination Expert
for Ouray, Outdoors / Adventure Travel, Montrose
posts: 564
reviews: 7
6. Re: Half day at Black Canyon enough?

Montrose does have a number of small art galleries and other shops along its downtown Main Street. If you happen to be here on a Thursday evening in July, you can enjoy our weekly street fair called Main in Motion, which features numerous musicians, vendors, and miscellaneous other entertainment.

WestSlope,CO
Destination Expert
for Colorado
posts: 8,144
reviews: 112
7. Re: Half day at Black Canyon enough?

You won't want to miss the Canyon Gallery on the corner of Main and Townsend downtown, "Colorado's Gallery of Fine Landscape Photography " featuring the work of photographers who specialize in Colorado mountains, landscapes, and wildlife. Some other downtown shops/galleries:

Tiffany, Etc., Ouray Silversmiths, Simpson Gallery, Around the Corner Art Gallery, The Canyon Gallery

http://www.thecanyongallery.com/

http://www.montroseart.com/

http://www.mikesimpsonart.com/

http://www.ouraysilversmiths.com/#

There are several antique stores, (a big one just south of Montrose on the west side of the highway, can't think of the name) and there's a really fun, eclectic little row of shops just south of Montrose (Rusty Moose is one) and I can't for the life of me remember what it is called. Now I'm going to have to drive out there, lol! But, yes, there are some fun little shops in Montrose, and a downtown of historic buildings, (Montrose was a transportation, agriculture and supply hub for the mines in the surrounding mountains, so there's lots of history, just as in Ouray, Telluride, etc) plus some sculptures scattered around downtown--the PAX (Public Art eXperience) I could find last year's "map" but didn't see an updated one for 2012. www.cityofmontrose.org/index.aspx?nid=194

When you are heading north toward Montrose, be sure to stop several times to look toward the south for views of the San Juan Mountains that you just passed through! One of the best places for a great photo is at the Visitor Center Overlook at Ridgway State Park. You can go to the visitor center and park for about 10 minutes, I believe, without having to pay the park entrance fee.

And again, you have to stop at the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park, esp. if you like art, nature, views. The eagle sculpture there is just magnificent. The pictures on the website don't do it justice, because it is huge!

http://dennisweaverpark.com/

Edited: 10:53 am, April 23, 2012
colorado
posts: 474
reviews: 8
8. Re: Half day at Black Canyon enough?

Thanks everyone for the information!

I assume Montrose is the best place to stay when visiting Black Canyon...? Just saw hotels in Delta, etc., and forgot what these towns are like. We'd especially like a hotel with a pool. :)

Ohio
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 6,508
reviews: 197
9. Re: Half day at Black Canyon enough?

We liked this little place in Montrose:

tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g33559-d573927-…

WestSlope,CO
Destination Expert
for Colorado
posts: 8,144
reviews: 112
10. Re: Half day at Black Canyon enough?

Yes, IMO Montrose is often the best place for staying when visiting the Black Canyon. There's a variety of reasonable lodging and good restaurant choices. You could also stay in Ouray the night before, then visit Montrose and the Black Canyon for a few hours, then head on down the road. Or, you could drive from Durango to Montrose, then to the Black Canyon, then on to Gunnison for the night. Either way, you'll have time to drive the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway on your way back to Frisco the next day.

Which route are you taking to Durango? The entire loop of the San Juan Skyway has awesome scenery, so hopefully you'll be able to see most of it during your visit. One way to accomplish that is to take the drive from Durango to Silverton and Ouray & back as a day trip; then on your way home, drive through Dolores to Telluride to explore a bit, then on to Ridgway and Montrose. (I think the views along Lizard Head Pass and Dallas Divide are equally as scenic if not quite as jaw-dropping as the Million Dollar Highway.) Have dinner in Montrose, do a little shopping or museums, etc. as suggested above, then spend the night. After breakfast, head for the Black Canyon, then on to Frisco via the Collegiate Peaks byway.

The Country Lodge mentioned by Wings does have a small outdoor pool, open seasonally. It is a historic older motel with character. The Hampton Inn is the newest hotel in Montrose, I believe, and there's a Holiday Inn Express, too, plus several other choices. Over the past few years, we've had relatives stay at the Days Inn, the Quality Inn, and the Best Western Red Arrow, as well as at the Country Lodge. All were satisfied with the cleanliness and room comfort, but it has been at least two years since I've actually been in any of the rooms so I hesitate to give a solid endorsement of one over another.

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