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How long should we visit and what are the must do's?

Ohio
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How long should we visit and what are the must do's?

Hi, I'm curious how long you would suggest for a visit to Mesa Verde. I was thinking a little of a day. Will we need more time than that? What are the must do's while there? My husband and I are late 30's and have a 14 year old daughter. We love hiking and have been to several American Indian ruins. We are doing a good old fashion road trip with our pop up camper through Colorado, Utah and a tad of Arizona so this is 1 stop of many. We plan on being at the Great Sand Dunes National park in the morning and drive to Mesa Verde after Lunch. Maybe have some of that evening at Mesa Verde, the whole next day and possibly some of the next morning because then were onto Page Arizona. Although we want to see as much as we can in 2 and 1/2 weeks, we are not ones that rush through things either.

WestSlope,CO
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1. Re: How long should we visit and what are the must do's?

That sounds like a pretty good amount of time at Mesa Verde, although you could easily spend another full day or two. Head for the visitor center first and get your ranger-guided tour tickets for the following day; then you can plan the rest of your day around your tour times.

A little more off the beaten track is the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The visitor center for that area is the Anasazi Heritage Center at Dolores. The roads into the monument are largely unpaved, so many visitors in rental cars don't drive it.

I don't know the rest of your Colorado itinerary, of course, but I would highly recommend you plan at least one day in the Durango area, too, if not more. There's lots to see and do, and the surrounding mountains are some of the most scenic and historic in the state, and IMO, the whole country. Maybe at least make time for a drive to Silverton and out to Animas Forks ghost town, or take the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge train ride/jeep tour combo. There are lots of pretty places to camp.

Ohio
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2. Re: How long should we visit and what are the must do's?

I just googled it and it looks like we will pass through Durango from the Great Sand Dunes to Mesa Verde. Thanks for the suggestion. What would you say we should def do there? I hate to add more but might as well. I'm still trying to figure out our exact route. We are coming from Cincinnati Ohio, driving with pop up for about 2 1/2 weeks. Our plan so far is Pikes Peak Cog Rail, Great Sand Dunes, now maybe Durango, Mesa Verde, possibly Page Arizona (not sure if it will be worth going hours out of the way for), Monument Valley, Canyonlands and Arches National Park in UT back into CO to Glenwood Springs and Mt Evans and back home. Any suggestions would be wonderful. Thanks again, Rhonda

Charleston, South...
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3. Re: How long should we visit and what are the must do's?

You should allow the majority of one full day.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
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for Santa Fe, Mesa Verde National Park, Boulder, New Mexico
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4. Re: How long should we visit and what are the must do's?

Everything in Mesa Verde NP is a must do to me, lol! I would get tickets for a tour of Cliff Palace or Balcony House (I prefer Cliff Palace). See Spruce Tree House, all the sites on Mesa Top Ruins Road, also if time, drive over to Wetherill Mesa. My favorite place is Farview Ruins. Visit www.nps.gov/meve If you can, try to get lodging inside the park at Farview Lodge.

WestSlope,CO
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5. Re: How long should we visit and what are the must do's?

I haven't been to Page, so can't speak to whether it would be worthwhile for you, but I have driven quite a bit in the states you plan to visit and have driven between Colorado and Ohio, plus have planned lots of road trips. So my two cents' worth would be to skip Page and go from Cortez to Monument Valley, then toward Moab, etc. I just think by the time you get to Monument Valley you will have gone about as far west as you'll have adequate time to do.

I was assuming this would be a summer trip...is this correct? If so, you won't regret spending as much time as possible in the pleasant summer weather of the Colorado mountains.

As far as what to do in or near Durango...anything outdoors! Raft, hike, ride horses, mountain bike, zip line... Probably the number one "must" in the area (aside from Mesa Verde, of course) is the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge train ride, and I always recommend the train-jeep combo or one of the other combination tours as the best use of time and "bang for the buck." Or, since you are driving yourselves, you could drive to Silverton and probably out to Animas Forks ghost town. (Check road conditions...the road to Animas Forks is a maintained dirt road, narrow & washboardy in places but not a 4 wheel drive road) There are numerous campgrounds in the area. Vallecito Lake is pretty, but when we did the train ride we camped at a forest service campground just outside Durango. There's a dinner horseback ride I'd love to do at Mancos, or there's the chuckwagon dinner at Durango (Colorado Springs has one, too) which everyone says is lots of fun. (I haven't been to that particular one, but have been to similar ones and they are enjoyable.) There's a melodrama in Durango, too, which is another popular family activity.

After Monument Valley, you could head to Newspaper Rock, then maybe the Needles Overlook (my hubby's vote for most impressive views of Canyonlands) Camp at the Wind Whistle Campground. Then on to the Moab area, where there's lots to see. Arches, of course, but don't miss Dead Horse Point State Park. But be advised that is is going to be hot if this is a summer trip, and if you are going to splurge on a hotel/motel or campground with a pool, this might be the place so that you could relax and enjoy the pool (or air conditioned room) during the heat of the day and do your hiking in the early mornings and evenings.

My suggestion for your itinerary would be to then backtrack slightly to La Sal Jct and head back into Colorado through the mountains and the Paradox Valley, then drive to Telluride to see this historic village and ride the free gondola to Mountain Village for awesome views. On to Ridgway (the original True Grit was filmed in the area and a picture with the jail wagon is a must, plus in your own vehicle you can drive up Owl Creek Pass to camp and hike) and Montrose, where you'll visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (allow at least two or three hours). From there, head on to Delta, then over McClure Pass to Redstone (tour the Castle if you can...the whole town has such an interesting history!) and Glenwood Springs, (Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is tons of fun, and you should at least tour the Hotel Colorado lobby, birthplace of the teddy bear and purported to be haunted...another must if your daughter is in to ghost hunters like my granddaughter). Then on to Mt. Evans, etc. as you planned.

6. Re: How long should we visit and what are the must do's?

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