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Aussies Road trip

South Australia...
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Aussies Road trip

Hi all

have read a few posts re the roads in your area and would appreciate some comments on our proposed route through your part of the US. We will be through this area early July 2013.

We are heading from Manitou Springs to Aspen o/night - Grand Junction o/night - Durango 2 nights (Train) - Cortez/Mesa Verde o/night- Moab o/night- Bryce Canyon 2 nights then further.

Can anyone help with roads between -

Manitou Springs - Aspen and driving time.

Grand Junction south to Durango via Montrose and driving time.

I have read comments on your mountain drives and while we are familiar with some mountain driving we have to compensate with the wrong side of the road over there. We are 2 couples in mid 60's driving a Chevy Traverse.

Many thanks

Park City, Utah
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1. Re: Aussies Road trip

Manitou - Aspen - Wonderful drive past Pike's Peak on US24 to State Route 9 to Breckenridge and on to I-70, then south at Glenwood Springs to Aspen. Several mountains passes but every one is totally simple to drive, nothing complex at all. Spectacular drive through Glenwood Canyon on I-70. 4-5 hour.

Aspen - Grand Junction - Totally simple, back to Glenwood Springs then I-70 west. 2.5-3 hours. In Grand Junction, DEFINITELY stay downtown (Fairfield Inn or Springhill Suites) with walking distance to many truly sensational restaurants and bars.

Grand Junction - Durango - Take 50 to 550. Route down on 550 will be the most rugged mountain driving yet, but you'll be fine. 3-4 hours.

Durango - Cortez - Simple one hour trip west on 160. You might think about skipping the overnight here to pickup an extra night in Moab.

Cortez - Moab - Flat drive on 491 to 191, two hours. Again, you could drive from Durango to Moab with stop at Mesa Verde. Long day but it would help you get more out of stay in Moab where two nights minimum is recommended. You'll find more unique things to see/do in Moab than at any other point in this itinerary.

Moab - Bryce - You can do this in a day via route 12, but I don't recommend it. A stopover in Torrey will give you more time to enjoy what will be the best driving day of your trip. One easy mountain crossing Torrey to Boulder, then the drive along the Hogsback spine on route 12 between Boulder and Escalante. Great dining at Cafe Diablo in Torrey, Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder and fun stop at Kiva Koffeehaus along 12 before Escalante.

Bryce - You can really absorb Bryce in a short time so you could drop to one night here. Somewhat depends on your departure plan. Note that sunrise is best time to see Bryce Canyon.

Have fun.

South Australia...
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2. Re: Aussies Road trip

Thanks for that info.

Coming from Manitou Springs, is there an option to turn onto H24 to Buena Vista then turn at Twin Lakes to Aspen which would save doubleing back to Glenwood Springs??

Our leg to Cortez was to spend some time at the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. Do you know how long we need to spend there?

Great help - many thanks

Park City, Utah
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3. Re: Aussies Road trip

Actually, you could definitely do that and come in over Independence Pass. FYI, that is a reasonably significant pass but breathtakingly beautiful. It's longer but well worth it if you're OK with the high mountain driving on that route.

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4. Re: Aussies Road trip

A shorter route: US 24 Manitou Springs to Buena Vista and another 20 miles north of B.V. turn left onto Colorado route 82, going over the Independence Pass to Aspen. For a short stretch going up to the pass (12,095/m) you will be driving on the outside. but this is a well maintained, wide stretch of the road. No problem. The distance from Manitou Springs to Aspen is about 160 miles, 3 hours scenic driving. Do you have a place to stayt in Manitou Springs? The best place, albeit also the most expensive, is the Cliff House,

A further suggestion: Any particular reason why you want to stay in Grand Junction? If so the Hampton Inn is nice and has a good downtown location. But there is there is another routing than the I-70 o either Grand Junction or closer to Durango: Leave Glenwood Springs to Carbondale (11 mileson same route you came from Aspen), then take Co 133 over the McClure Pass to Hotchkiss. This is a really grand route, easy to drive and well maintained, 76 miles. From there drive to Delta on CO92. In Delta you have a choice: 36 miles to Grand Junction on US 50, or 21 south on US 50 to Montrose, if you want to see the nearby Black Canyon of Gunnison; or continue another 35 or so miles to Ouray, called the Switzerland of the US. This is a hot springs spa, nestled in the mountains and the starting point of the Million Dollar Highway. It takes you over about 75 miles to Durango., also designated as US 550. This is the highway Tumbleweed refers to.

For the rest of the trip, I am in complete agreement with T.

South Australia...
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5. Re: Aussies Road trip

Thanks both for the input.

Have noticed the Cliff House and will check out the rates.

Grand Junction was to see the National Monument. We are in fact trying to stay within the Hampton/Embassy/Hilton chain for the benifits so that sounds good.

Quite excited about these routes and realize we can't see everything all at once.

I guess the hard question is the National Monument or perhaps more time on the road to Duango from Delta - Black Canyon etc. We are heading to Zion, Grand Canyon, Bryce and Moab as mentioned. Could be canyoned out :)

Will explore a little more on the net.

Thanks again - will be back with more questions if its ok.

WestSlope,CO
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6. Re: Aussies Road trip

Yes, please feel free to come back with more questions!

Since you are going to Moab and are relatively short on time, I'd probably skip Colorado National Monument & take the route south from Carbondale over McClure Pass through Delta to Montrose. Take a couple of hours to visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park south rim drive (the website has suggestions of about 3-4 overlooks to visit for a good sample of the views for those who are short on time) and then drive to Ouray to spend the evening instead of the Grand Junction night. Another option would be to include Colorado National Monument and the Black Canyon, then spend the night in Montrose at the Hampton there. Then you'd have plenty of time to drive from Montrose to Durango the next day, enjoying the views and stops along the way.

Take your time the next day driving from Ouray to Durango. You might even consider a half day (morning) jeep tour at Ouray, or some hiking that morning. Stop to look around Silverton a bit if you wish, as you won't have a lot of time on the train ride. When you take the train ride, I always recommend the train/jeep tour combination for the best use of your time. It takes you to Animas Forks ghost town and beyond, and many people think that one way on the train is sufficient.

I would most definitely not try to fit in Mesa Verde and the drive to Moab in a day. Mesa Verde will take most of the day (actually, two days is better, but you can see quite a bit in a day) and you won't want to drive on any further than Cortez, in my opinion.

If you are going further, then try to cut a day somewhere (for example, many visitors plan three nights at Las Vegas when one or possibly two would do quite well) to add to Moab so that you can spend two nights there. If necessary, make it one night at Bryce and two at Moab.

South Australia...
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7. Re: Aussies Road trip

Thanks again and looking to perhaps bypass grand Junction.

It would be interesting to get into the July 4 th celebrations. Any suggestions between aspen or perhaps montrose or is it not worth trying to work around these celebrations. We probably have more chance to be at aspen than anywhere but it appears quite expensive.

Columbia, Maryland
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8. Re: Aussies Road trip

I would agree to skip CO National Monument. Although it is unique and interesting in its own right, since you are going to Moab, you will see plenty of red rocks and rock formations.

Heading south on US 550 to Durango - you may want to check out if you are up for this. Look up the million dollar highway. The stretch between Ouray and Silverton has some very white knuckle sections if you aren't used to that type of driving. Heading south you will be on the cliff side of the road with minimal shoulder. For a preview, go to Google Maps and drag the little man onto the road and walk him along the road to see what you are in for.

If you decide you are not up for that, you can always take the other side of the San Juan Scenic Byway. Off of 550 at Ridgeway, take route 62 to route 145 south to Cortez, the US160 east to Durango. It's about 1.5 hours longer but the scenery will make it worthwhile.

Meas Verde needs a day. In a relaxed day you can cover all of Chapin Mesa and take a Cliff Palace or Balconey House Tour. There is also Step House which is a short hike for a self guided tour and the Chapin Mesa Museum which has displays with interesting information. Drive the loops and stop at the points of interest.

Edited: 9:27 am, November 20, 2012
Colorado Springs...
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9. Re: Aussies Road trip

Futher to Dave from Co: I agree with him that if the first part (Ouray to Silverton) stretch of the 550 highway sounds too scary (although it is really well mainatined), take the suggested alternate route. Take the short detour to Telluride., It is all a very scenic road.

Now, should you decide to go to Grand Junction, there is a very scenic road and great resort between Grand Junction and the non-550 route: Go Grand Junction south on US 50 for about 8 miles to the turnoff of CO141 at Orchard Mesa. Take it to Gateway Canyon Resort. It was developed by the then owner of Discoveyr TV Channel and has one of the most interesting Antique Car Museums. The resort is really great.

Continue on CO 141 ro Vanconum throuigh a fascinating valley. At V. pick up CO 145 which takes you past Telluride to Dolores, where you can take the shortcut CO 164 to US !60 to Durango.. You can drive it all in one day from Grand Junction, but if you are in no hurry, a stay at the Gateway Resort is fun. And the whole drive take you through a wide variety of interesting country, on good roads.

WestSlope,CO
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10. Re: Aussies Road trip

Ouray has a really fun community 4th of July, and I've heard that Telluride does, too, but haven't been there for several years on the 4th. Montrose usually has some things going on and really good fireworks, but it can be hot, so "heading for the hills" is a popular activity for the day. Last summer there were very few fireworks displays in Colorado because of extreme fire danger, so having a backup plan is a good idea.

Aspen is more expensive than Montrose or Ouray.

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