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Help with planning road trip

Marcellus, New York
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Help with planning road trip

I have posted on the road trip forum regarding the overall trip we are planning, but after sitting down with a map of Colorado and a whole lot of suggestions for places to visit, I need some expert help figuring out what to try and see in the time we have.

We will be traveling next July and August, and should arrive in CO toward mid-July. We are a family of 4, including two kids who will be 9 and 11 next year. We enjoy scenic drives and relatively easy hikes. Cities...okay to visit, but not somewhere to spend a lot of time. We don't mind the occasional long car day 10 hours) but prefer to keep it to 4-6 hours if possible.

I was originally thinking we would spend a week in Colorado, but the more I learn, the more I am thinking 10+ days would be better. We could probably do two full weeks and still want more!

We will be arriving from the east by car (minivan with low clearance if that matters for driving routes) and plan to continue to the Four Corners area into Arizona after seeing CO. We want to see GCNP while we are out that way.

Any help with an itinerary would be appreciated!

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Atlanta, Georgia
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for Road Trips
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1. Re: Help with planning road trip

The DE on this forum are great and I am sure will give you lots of info. I saw your post on the road trip forum and Tet has given you great advice.

We have been coming at least once a year to Colorado for the past 6 years. Recently we have visited for anywhere from a week to two weeks in September. I know with kids you will be coming in the summer months.

Last September we did a fantastic road trip flying into Denver and out of Albuquerque. We had visited the RMNP several times and in fact will be there again this September and we are going back to Colorado Springs too.

Here are some of the things we did-

Colorado National Monument- Grand Junction, CO

Arches NP- Moab, UT

Monument Valley- UT

4 corners monument

Mesa Verde NP- Cortez, CO

Durango, CO

San Juan Skyway

Silverton, Ouray and Telluride, CO

Santa Fe, NM

Albuquerque, NM

Several years ago we did Las Vegas, Hoover Day, GCNP, a quick stop at the southern UT National parks before heading on to SLC and to Yellowstone and the Tetons.

If you are thinking about doing Yellowstone and the Tetons post on the Wyoming forum and can get lots of help. We have been multiple times in the past few years and after our visit to the RMNP and COS we will be heading there again in September.

Good luck!! You will love this part of the country.

Marcellus, New York
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2. Re: Help with planning road trip

Thank you for your reply, Peachbelle. Right now on my list of possibilities for CO are:

RMNP

Garden of the Gods

St. Elmo Ghost Town (maybe)

Black Canyon of Gunnison NP

Ridgway

Telluride

Ouray

Silverton

Durango

Great Sand Dunes NP

Mesa Verde NP

My problem is really trying to figure out what we can feasibly do in the 10 or so days I think we will devote to Colorado - that list would take us a at least a month! At this point, the plan is to be in CO by around the 11th of July and heading to NM or AZ by about the 21st (but there is some flexibility there...we don't need to be to GCNP until the very end of July).

I didn't put Colorado National Monument or Dinosaur NM on the list because they would take us so far out of the way - I'd prefer not to venture into the Moab area as we were there last summer and I would like to focus on places we haven't been yet. Likewise with your mention of Yellowstone and the Tetons - we visit that area often (flying out this week again, actually), so I'm not planning on devoting any time to that area next year either.

Atlanta, Georgia
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3. Re: Help with planning road trip

With 10 days I think you should be able to spend a couple of days in the RMNP, then head to COS for Garden of the Gods, then to Great Sand Dunes, Durango, San Juan Skyway (Ouray, Telluride and Ridgeway), Black Canyon NP and on to Mesa Verde NP.

Marcellus, New York
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4. Re: Help with planning road trip

Thank you so much! I am going to sit down and map that out then...now I just need to try and figure out where to stay and what exactly to do. I wasn't sure if I was being unreasonable hoping to get to all those places, but if you think it's do-able, then it appears I have a plan. Yay!

And now, the inevitable follow-up questions. :) Do you have any suggestions for the best places to stay in those areas? I think I am going to try for campsites in RMNP but if I am reading things right they don't open for reservations until 6 months out. I'm going to have to look up temperature info to get a feel for whether summer camping would be reasonably comfortable there first.

Thank you again, Peachbelle!

Atlanta, Georgia
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5. Re: Help with planning road trip

We have stayed in Loveland several times to visit RMNP but Estes Park is much closer.

We stayed at Comfort Inn in Durango and did day trips to San Juan Skyway, Mesa Verde and MV.

There are lots of choices in Durango and Cortez near Mesa Verde. For MV there is the View, Gouldings and a couple of hotels in Kayenta, AZ.

Marcellus, New York
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6. Re: Help with planning road trip

Once again PeachBelle, thank you for your suggestions!

I have my draft list of destinations now - I would really appreciate help with refining a route and making sure the time frame for each area is somewhat reasonable. I think we are going to end up doing a fair amount of back-tracking but I don't see how some of it can be helped, but I don't know anything about the area, which is why I'm posting here. :)

Probably will be arriving CO late, will stay somewhere near Denver for a night...

RMNP - 3 nights (possibly camping) - want to do Trail Ridge Road drive, possibly Old Falls River Drive and some short hikes.

Mt. Evans Road - it sounds like something we'd like to do, but not 100% sure - drive this on the way to COS?

Colorado Springs - 2 nights - Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Canyon, other sight-seeing, hikes.

Great Sand Dunes NP - 1 night (possibly camping) - sand sledding, Medano Creek if possible (dry?)

Buena Vista/Leadville/Aspen - 1 night somewhere - would like to drive Independence Pass, see ghost town

Black Canyon of the Gunnison - 1 night somewhere, not sure about camping

Telluride - 1 night - want to do the gondola ride to Mtn Village

Ouray - 2 nights - Box Canyon Falls, Hot Springs, mine tour and/or gold panning

Durango - 2 nights - Durango-Silverton RR, Mesa Verde

Are there great things (hikes, waterfalls, historical sites, etc) that we are going to be driving right past that we should be planning to stop and do? Are there wonderful places totally missing from the list and yet right in the areas we'll be traveling through where we should be planning to stop and stay? Are there places I have us penciled in as spending two days where you only need one (or none?). Everything is wide open for changes at this point. My only reservation right now is at GCNP, which gives us a lot of flexibility with our itinerary prior to that.

Edited: 10:18 am, August 05, 2013
Atlanta, Georgia
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for Road Trips
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7. Re: Help with planning road trip

Looks like a nice division of time. We don't camp or do much hiking so cannot help you there. You will need a full day for the train- suggest riding up and taking bus back- otherwise it can be a long day. Mesa Verde will take you a full day. Get there early if you want to do one of the ranger led tours to some of the houses. We did not do any due to hip issues but enjoyed seeing everything else. We spent a full day there also.

In Silverton we enjoyed eating at the Handlebar's Saloon.

There is a waterfall in Telluride but it is not much to see compared to some of the others in CO.

We have never driven Mt. Evans but if you post again on the road trip forum or pm wings she will be glad to answer your questions.

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i12567-k6722182…

What about the cog RR or driving up Pikes Peak? That is what a lot of people want to do when visiting COS? Also the Royal Gorge area is nice.

Good luck and let us know if you have other questions.

Edited: 11:11 am, August 05, 2013
Windsor, Colorado
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for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
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8. Re: Help with planning road trip

The Mount Evans Scenic Byway and Mount Evans are amazing. Mount Evans is taller than Pike's Peak and at only $10 per vehicle for the forest service recreation fee, a much better deal.

www.mountevans.com

To include the byway on the way from Estes Park to Colorado Springs, this is the shortest but not the most scenic route.

http://goo.gl/maps/pg7NT

Add at least 30 minutes driving time to the google estimate. People just do not drive that fast up Mount Evans. Along the byway section of Squaw Pass Road, people often miss the great overlooks at Eagle's Aerie and Juniper Pass (short trail to the right) picnic areas. Check out the Chief Mountain hike along Squaw Pass Road.

funcoloradohikes.com/chief_mountain.html

GracieCNY, I will look at your Colorado itinerary later and make additional suggestions about routes and hikes and in particular must do's for RMNP.

9. Re: Help with planning road trip

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