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Old 05-16-2018, 09:17 AM   #1
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Colorado, NM, Utah? Sept/October

We plan to hit the road late August and head west from Virginia one more time. We've seen many western highlights (Mt. Rushmore, RMNP, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Moab, Bryce, Monument Valley, WY, MT, Idaho, Oregon X2, redwoods in California, etc.). This trip we are thinking of visiting southern Colorado, some of NM, and maybe swing back into Utah. We have to be in Myrtle Beach, SC by Nov. 1 so we have all of Sept and most of October to stay in the west before heading back east.

Was thinking we'd start in Colorado Springs, swing down into northern NM, then back up into southern Colorado. Or maybe stay in southern CO from Colorado Springs then swing down into NM as we head back east.

So looking for suggestions for best places to see, scenic roads/routes. Also, any suggestions for non interstate routes through the mid west. We've traveled I-40, I-70 and I-80 but don't mind trying other good routes, especially if there are interesting things to see along the way.
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Old 05-16-2018, 09:52 AM   #2
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You could start in Colorado Springs and see the Garden of the Gods, there's also a nice zoo in the springs, and a lot of other attractions you can Google. From there you could take 285 south, some nice mountain passes/views. Take that south to 160 and head West. Right before you get to South Fork is the rest stop from the movie Vacation with Chevy Chase. If you're comfortable going over Wolf Creek Pass, Pagosa springs is a nice stop for a few days. From there you could continue to Durango, go north to Ouray then drop down to the 4 corners area and see the cliff dwellings.

There is a ton of sights in southern Colorado you can find on Google.
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Old 05-16-2018, 10:06 AM   #3
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Southern Utah has the Big 5 national parks: Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capital Reef and Zion. Others include Monument Valley, Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon. And there's a lot more. One of my favorite hikes is the Zion Narrows; basically hiking up the Virgin River and the slot canyon it has cut into the Grand Staircase. In places its like 25 feet wide and 2500 feet tall, absolutely breath-taking. Easy to moderate, you go up as far as you want and then backtrack out. More advanced to difficult is the top rope in and hike out.
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Old 05-16-2018, 10:19 AM   #4
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For your list,

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in early October.
Mesa Verde National Monument in SW Colorado.
Carlsbad Caverns in SW New Mexico.
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Old 05-16-2018, 12:30 PM   #5
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Mesa Verde, Ouray, Durango in CO.

Santa FE and Taos in NM

Wasatch range, Park City, Heber City in UT
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Old 05-16-2018, 12:43 PM   #6
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Keep your eye on the weather report (like a couple of times a day). Weather in Colorado in October can be gorgeous, and you can find yourself under a bunch of snow, especially at higher altitudes. Colorado weather reports are generally good for 12 hours. The three day report only means that the prediction for day 3 will change. Ten day is just a guess.

Leaf peeping can be wonderful during the second half of September - the peak color rolls south with the max in the north in early September and later in the south. But later in the period, all it takes is for storm to roll through and all those beautiful Aspen leaves become forest floor mulch.

The good news is that when a storm rolls through, its generally gone the next day. So just be prepared to hunker down for a day or so
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Old 05-16-2018, 03:47 PM   #7
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From Colorado Springs take 24 to Buena Vista & check out that area. Then take 50 to Gunnison (day trip to Crested Butte and Taylor Reservoir - a nice forest service at Taylor with electric but not sure if it would still be open at that time).

CO 50 west to Montrose & Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Then 550 south to Ouray (Ridgway State Park) and do a day trip or two to Silverton.

From Ouray take62/145 to Telluride (free gondola ride) & 145 south to Cortez, CO (Mesa Verde Nat'l Park). Then 160 east to Durango and on to Pagosa Springs (plan to spend a couple mornings at the springs soaking in small clean concrete pools of varying temperatures overlooking the river.) Take a small cooler and spend a couple hours.

From CO160 take 84 south to Abiquiqu (stomping grounds of the famous painter, Georgia O'Keefe) Abiquiqu Corp of Engr park if still open. Then Santa Fe and day trip from there to Taos & Bandelier Nat'l Monument and Los Alamos tour. Visit or stay (if open) at Cochiti Lake Corp of Eng & tour the Kasha-Katuwe Nat'l Monument (Tent Rocks) - very unique.

Check out dates for the Albuquerque Balloon Festival the beginning of Oct. All the RV parks up to Santa Fe are busy and raise their prices for this event. If going to the Festival get a reservation now & it's best to stay on the grounds - either hookups or dry camping. Weekends are the busiest in the area.

Return home via Texas Hill County possibly working in Big Bend Nat'l Park and Davis Mountain State Park - night tour of the Observatory.

Stop at Branson, MO if that's your thing.... or go to New Orleans.

Have fun!
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Old 05-16-2018, 04:06 PM   #8
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From Colorado Springs take 24 to Buena Vista & check out that area. Then take 50 to Gunnison (day trip to Crested Butte and Taylor Reservoir - a nice forest service at Taylor with electric but not sure if it would still be open at that time).

CO 50 west to Montrose & Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Then 550 south to Ouray (Ridgway State Park) and do a day trip or two to Silverton.

From Ouray take62/145 to Telluride (free gondola ride) & 145 south to Cortez, CO (Mesa Verde Nat'l Park). Then 160 east to Durango and on to Pagosa Springs (plan to spend a couple mornings at the springs soaking in small clean concrete pools of varying temperatures overlooking the river.) Take a small cooler and spend a couple hours.

From CO160 take 84 south to Abiquiqu (stomping grounds of the famous painter, Georgia O'Keefe) Abiquiqu Corp of Engr park if still open. Then Santa Fe and day trip from there to Taos & Bandelier Nat'l Monument and Los Alamos tour. Visit or stay (if open) at Cochiti Lake Corp of Eng & tour the Kasha-Katuwe Nat'l Monument (Tent Rocks) - very unique.

Check out dates for the Albuquerque Balloon Festival the beginning of Oct. All the RV parks up to Santa Fe are busy and raise their prices for this event. If going to the Festival get a reservation now & it's best to stay on the grounds - either hookups or dry camping. Weekends are the busiest in the area.

Return home via Texas Hill County possibly working in Big Bend Nat'l Park and Davis Mountain State Park - night tour of the Observatory.

Stop at Branson, MO if that's your thing.... or go to New Orleans.

Have fun!
Lot of great suggestions;

Let me add My Welcome to Colorado from an earlier post;

......

Might give you too much but will also give you some things to put into the plan.

Colorado, and the many options for a trip.


Let me start off by saying that IMHO Colorado offers as much Adventure and Beauty as any part of the country – add to that that is very close to the center of the US – Close to Yellowstone and Utah - and it’s exceptional weather make it a great destination vacation.


In my first dozen plus trips to Colorado I usually traveled to RMNP and Colorado Springs. Having spent most of my life either on the left coast or the right coast I actually only did the touristy drive through when going from one coast to the other. I never really was able to spend much time just being immersed in the culture or the people and land of the state. Having seen the Coors commercials I was under the impression that Golden was a town located deep in the Rockies – not just 15 minutes from downtown Denver, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered this. In the 90’s my son was invited to Vail for a July 4th sports tournament, so we visited every summer while he was in College, arriving in Vail from, Colorado Springs – Albuquerque – and Salt Lake – Denver – Giving me an opportunity to learn a little about the state and the many drives/areas it offers, this started to Open my eyes, exposing me to the many attractions and so much more about the state. Then when my son moved there in 2002 and I discovered that I had only scratched the surface and would spend the next 5 years learning more about the state.


With my truth in a very limited -knowledge, on the state of Colorado I will move forward with my personal suggestions for a week (Or month) or two in Colorado – a sort of 7-17 days to see the state. You need to Understand that I believe this is one of the last great Wild Places in the US, and is IMHO a National Park, once you hit the Foothills. You need to set aside twice the time you think if you really want to, enjoy, see, touch, Love this state the way it deserves. If you take the time, you will return again and again – Discovering that it has just so many surprises – all of which just continue to amaze me.

So let’s start at the obvious spot, Denver/ Golden – you could start with a tour of the Coors brewery catch dinner in the town and then have a great walk along Clear Creek, you will need a little planning to get a site in the CG (Clear Creek CG)as it has now been Discovered and is normally FULL. (an option is JeffCoFairgrounds). Because I have 4 Granddaughters in Colorado and this is the closest CG I am slightly biased as to how great it is. It is within walking distance of – restaurants/Main Street – Community Center – Library – Coors – Downtown Golden.

Peak to Peak drive is the next thing I would insist that you experience – for me I would base camp in Golden and make this drive a couple of times, or make the loop across Trail Ridge and Berthoud Pass – not a drive for the faint of heart (In the RV)as both offer switch backs and areas free from guard rails on some very impressive grades to get over and down from these Passes.(the reason for the base camp is to allow a couple of good drives. (Peak to Peak and Trail Ridge) Along with these drives are an unlimited number of areas to take great hikes – just do a quick search and you will not be disappointed, almost every jurisdiction will have dedicated Open Space areas with great trails /hikes.


Most people will start in Rocky Mountain NP – I am sure most are aware of the Pine Beetle Kill – it has decimated the beautiful green forest of RMNP – making it a very different trip from what it was just 5-6 years ago. Still it is RMNP and it does have some very impressive natural features and hikes to offer. IMHO Estes is (the east side of the park – where most visit) just not that attractive in the tourist season. (a personal Bias as I tend to go where and when the crowds are not) The Camp Grounds leave much to be desired and the town is much too crowded for my personal taste. With that said I love to visit and spend time on the other side of the park – WEST- at Grand Lake a smaller town with still a sort of quaint feel about it, much more family oriented and not nearly as crowded. The drive from one side of the park to the other over Trail Ridge is not to be missed – the many hiking areas away from the crowds are many and varied – from Longs Peaks- 14,000’+ to many of the hikes to lesser known peaks and lakes, more than enough to spend the entire trip on and only scratch the surface. ( if you were to drive over Trail Ridge you could make a quick run to The Steamboat area –Lakes –Town - State Parks – just lots to see and do in this area then just head down to Dillon and pick up there)


Leaving Golden I would head out Rt 6, driving along Clear Creek to Idaho Springs and the entrance onto I-70 going through the tunnel (actually a number of tunnels – 6?) and getting off on at Rt 91 and heading to Leadville, Highest incorporated Town in the US 10,000’and home of Quincy's Steak House for a Leadville dinner. Turquoise Lake, 4X4 trails, historic town, and base for a day trip over Independence Pass and a dash to Maroon Bells in Aspen. This trip is good anytime the pass is open but is truly spectacular in the last week of September when the Aspen turn GOLD. (this is taken in the Toad or TV as it is a restricted length road)


From Leadville down to Buena Vista – home of the Arkansas River Rafting adventures – great in the early summer with the snow melt. If you have missed the rafting at its peak, not to worry, as the trails and drives in the Collegiate Peaks are again very special, you can get all the way over to Crested Butte – a very neat little ski town – by 4X4 or gravel road. (Home of Bud Light commercials and Crystal Mill)

If you are into crossing National Parks off a list then the next destination would be Great Sand Dunes NP, this could be a Toad drive or a stop but unless you just love sand in your shoes you see most of it pretty quickly.


Now for some difficult decisions – Gunnison area – Lake City – Ouray – Telluride - Trout Lake - Silverton – Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP – Gunnison Lake – Fly Fishing Hikes and 4X4 trails that are hard to believe if you have the time all of the afore mentioned areas are special. Gunnison is the center geographically, and will allow you to resupply, Lake City – wild – beautiful – isolated – 4x4 trails – Ouray – must see – the Alps in Colorado – hot Springs – Hikes Drives – Silverton – the middle of the San Juan’s – many of the 4x4 trails will bring you here – just a great area – Black Canyon – Surprising! – must see – on and on as you travel in this area. Notice I have left out Mesa Verde and Durango, so you certainly should/could include these, as both are interesting, just – for me again Durango is too Large/crowded – Mesa Verde is IMHO more of a to be included in Utah, and can be seen in a later time of year when the rest of Colorado is immersed in Winter.


Lake City – Just a special little town that still has a western charm that is hard to match – 4X4 trails to die for – hikes – lakes – 14ers – fish – Creede and on and on – it is just located in something close to an unspoiled paradise. JMHO.


Ouray or Ridgway SP – would be the logical base camp choice – central location – hot springs – CG – Near Silverton – more trails – Telluride just over the mountain – Hikes -- 4X4 trails just a great location and neat little town/area
.

Silverton – in the middle of it all – if you are really into the backcountry this might just be for you – they have CG’s in town but you can easily Boondock in the NF – train – 4X4 trails – quaint – beautiful – but isolated.


Now if the weather is really cool you can always bounce over to Utah and warm up if it’s great and if you need more Colorado head up to Delta and Rt 133, catch Marble and Redstone before getting back on I-70 two interesting areas with neat little histories. If you did not get over to Maroon Bells catch it now – this is a great treat that I will never visit too often.


Now if you are headed West just follow the route into Moab – if you are headed back to Denver just take I-70 back – the over and under highway along the Colorado River just East of Glenwood Springs is considered one of the most beautiful parts on the Interstate Highway system and it will head through Vail and right back into Denver – If you can remember to get off at the exit (exit 243) just east of Idaho Springs you can take Rt 6 back to Rt 58 into the City.


The other Option, if you are headed South is to head down to Mesa Verde NP/Cortez by using Rt 145 or through Silverton Rt 550 to Durango and over (Note that 550 is a road that some love and other just think everyone should stay off -- I’ll drive it every time I have a chance but google it to see pictures)

The other popular option is to head to Utah – either from Grand Junction (Colorado Monument) or 141 or 90 over to Rt 191 – if you take I-70 try to remember to get off at exit 214 then follow Rt 128 into Moab –just a Special Drive.

Well that’ my welcome to Colorado Loop – just to drive it and only “see” most of it would take the week and just not be fair but if you really push, it can get you into the state so you return Often to Hike – Bike – Drive, many of the wild and Beautiful areas that are offered. Or you can take your time spending weeks in every location and still return to discover more adventures.

Hope this helps to get your interest up for Colorado.

Not a fan of the Springs - just too much really good to see.

With your timeline and location head north catching some of these;

Silverton
Ouray
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Marble
Maroon Bells
Rifle
Dinosaur NM
Flaming Gorge
Jackson

Hope this is of some help,

Best of Luck,
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Old 05-16-2018, 04:22 PM   #9
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Do check out campsites ahead of time if you have particular needs (size or hookups) because many (most?) of the bigger campsites with hookups are snapped up fully way in advance. Gorgeous areas - you will be in awe.
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Old 05-17-2018, 05:05 AM   #10
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Do check out campsites ahead of time if you have particular needs (size or hookups) because many (most?) of the bigger campsites with hookups are snapped up fully way in advance. Gorgeous areas - you will be in awe.
At this point, we haven't picked travel dates. After kids start back to school, we've had success getting sites most everywhere we've traveled with only a few days (some with only one day ahead) reservations. Are these places in CO so popular at that time that we need to consider more advance reservations? We don't need fancy resorts but do need fairly level sites that can fit our 43' coach.

I'm one who prefers to travel with more flexibility and rarely have done advance reservations (expect for longer stays in popular destinations like Myrtle Beach). I keep reading how that is changing with the surge in RV ownership.
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Old 05-17-2018, 05:19 AM   #11
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At this point, we haven't picked travel dates. After kids start back to school, we've had success getting sites most everywhere we've traveled with only a few days (some with only one day ahead) reservations. Are these places in CO so popular at that time that we need to consider more advance reservations? We don't need fancy resorts but do need fairly level sites that can fit our 43' coach.

I'm one who prefers to travel with more flexibility and rarely have done advance reservations (expect for longer stays in popular destinations like Myrtle Beach). I keep reading how that is changing with the surge in RV ownership.
IMHO, you will be fine in the Fall - Be sure to schedule around the Aspen in the Mountains. https://lynn.smugmug.com/Travel/Colo...pens/i-tsVRkXg as they are spectacular, and would be the center of any trip out west in September.

We, like you have seldom made reservations and think we are still able to go to most places in the shoulder seasons with little issue. (We have no issue with a Wal*Mart or other last resort location) Work around the weekends and special events and you will be fine.

Be sure to take Photos and share your adventure when you return.

Best of Luck,


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Old 05-17-2018, 05:46 AM   #12
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In Mexican hat, UT - eat at the Swinging Steak. Nearby is the Valley of the Gods, Moki Dugway, 4 Corners, and Monument Valley. The Gould's Stagecoach Dining room in Monument Valley is a good place to eat too. south of Monument Valley is Cameron, AZ. The trading post there is really good.
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Old 05-17-2018, 06:43 AM   #13
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AAA has a road map called “Indian Country” that shows numerous sites of interest in Arizona and Mew Mexico primarily. IIRC there are also some in Colorado and Utah. It makes a great road trip that time of year. We have used the map for shorter trips, and we still intend on doing pretty much everything on that map one of these days. If you aren’t a AAA member, you can pick up the map on EBay or Amazon (used). We got ours in a stack of things someone left in a campground laundromat.
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Old 05-17-2018, 11:08 AM   #14
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