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Old 02-14-2016, 10:48 AM   #1
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Colorado Trip

We are planning a "loop" through Colorado the first couple of weeks of September from Texas.

We plan to go direct to the Estes Park area then make our way south going through Leadville, Breckenridge, Aspen, and Pagosa Springs. My questions are:

1. How is the route from Aspen to Pagosa taking, of course, Hwy 82 over to Hwy 24, then Hwy 285 down to Hwy 160 to Pagosa? My main concern is the last leg to Pagosa on Hwy 160. It looks narrow with steep drop-offs. Is it do-able or is it another "Million Dollar Highway"? We have a big rig with toad and have driven the mountains several times but don't want to bite off more than we can chew.

2. Any suggestions are welcome, to include what to see, to where to stay. I lived in Denver over 40 years ago and was very familiar with some of these roads but a lot has happened since then.

3. Are we leaving too late in the year? We plan about 2 to 3 weeks.

Thanks in advance.

Don
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Old 02-14-2016, 02:42 PM   #2
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You definitely don't want to take your 42' MH on Hwy 82. Anything over 35' is prohibited. This would take you over Independence Pass - EL 12,000.

160 into Pagosa Springs is nothing compared to 82. Many RVers use 160. We have and it's no big deal.

Don't know where you're planning on staying for Aspen but some options for highways getting to Pagosa are I-70 west to Grand Junction and then taking 50 to 149 into South Fork (a nice RV park in Creede) and 160 into Pagosa.

You could also head east on I-70 to 24 into Leadville and continue south on 285 to 160 into Pagosa.

Definitely plan on soaking in the springs at Pagosa. We usually spend a couple mornings doing this. The pools are immaculate, concrete and each one has a different temperature. They overlook the river so it's a nice relaxing morning.

September is a perfect time for your trip.
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Old 02-14-2016, 03:05 PM   #3
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I'm doing a similar trip in August.. Thanks for the route info.
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Old 02-14-2016, 04:28 PM   #4
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Let me echo the difficulties you'd face on Highway 82 over Independence Pass - and yes, there's a length restriction of 35 feet overall. Beautiful scenery, however, you may want to check this link:

https://www.codot.gov/projects/SH82/...formation.html

Highway 285 is a relatively easy drive down toward Del Norte and join Highway 160. As you head west on 160, you'll come to South Fork. From South Fork, you can take a side trip of about 20 miles to Creede, a quaint old mining town, which is on the east side of Wolf Creek Pass. There's a very nice RV park in Creede, and the Creede Rep theater puts on great theatrical shows (closes mid-September) - very professional. We take in several plays each year.

Creede Repertory Theatre | Creede Repertory Theatre

The Mountain Views RV Park alongside the Rio Grande River in Creede is very nice. We've stayed there many times:

Home

There are lots of great shops in Creede along with a few good restaurants. The Antlers is very good, alongside the Rio Grande River:

Riverside Restaurant

They also have an RV park at the Antlers as well, although not quite as nice as the Mountain Views RV Park.

And then there's the Tommyknocker Tavern - fun, casual place.

Home

A couple of things to know about 160 heading west from South Fork. 1) There are some narrow places for a few miles out of South Fork heading up to Wolf Creek Pass, however the two lane road is a good one. 2) And then there's Wolf Creek Pass leading into Pagosa Springs, CO.

If you have 8 minutes, here's a video of the old C.W. McCall song describing Wolf Creek Pass - enjoy the ride:



Just before you get to the top of the Continental Divide heading west, you'll go through a short tunnel. After that, the road gets wide, and is very nice. It turns into a 3 and 4 lane highway, but it is steep once you hit the Continental Divide and descend. Just before the Wolf Creek Ski Area, there is a fairly sharp left hand turn that goes under an avalanche chute protection tunnel - just slow down, and it's easy to handle. You can stop at the Continental Divide for a rest in a large parking area, which is just past Wolf Creek Ski Area about a mile on the left.

SLOW DOWN on Wolf Creek Pass. We've seen far too many accidents there, mostly involving 18 wheelers whose drivers aren't familiar with mountain driving. Use your engine brake and air brakes to keep it under 35 and you'll be fine. There is a very sharp let turn by the Lookout parking lot - well marked - but be sure you plan ahead and slow down for that turn. After that, the hard part of Wolf Creek Pass is behind you. You too can now enjoy the scenery.

Gear down, take it easy, and be safe. We live in Pagosa, and drive that route frequently. Highway 160 doesn't quite compare to the two lane Highway 550, the Million Dollar Highway, which has no guard rails. Highway 550 isn't as steep as Wolf Creek Pass, but the drop offs on 550 are a LONG way down - did I mention there are no guard rails?

Wolf Creek Pass has two run away truck ramps for out of control vehicles in case you lose your brakes. Since you've driven the mountain passes before, you should be comfortable taking Wolf Creek Pass into Pagosa. Wolf Creek Pass and the valley on the west side are two of the most scenic places in Colorado.

Weather wise, as you know from your Denver experience, the weather in Colorado can change quickly. Be sure to check road conditions IF there is snow forecast. Most of the time, in early September, it will not be an issue.

Road Conditions, Speeds, Travel Times, Traffic Cameras, Live Streaming Traffic Cameras, Road Closures and Road Work Information provided by Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) a branch of Colorado Department of Transportation

We'd also recommend soaking in the hot springs in Pagosa. The Wolf Creek Run RV park is very nice, next to the river, but a bit pricey.

Wolf Creek Run Motor Coach River Park - Home Page

Check Trip Advisor for some great restaurants in Pagosa.

The 10 Best Pagosa Springs Restaurants 2016 - TripAdvisor

The Alley House Grille is excellent but pricey. Eat at Kips Grill and Cantina (very casual) if you want to try the restaurant that Oprah chose on her trip through town a few years ago.

Alley House Grille - Home

Kip's Grill - Kip's Grill Main Menu

Just guessing that you may head home after Pagosa. Highway 84 heading south toward Santa Fe is a good two lane road, with a short narrow climb out of Pagosa - easy to handle. We also travel that route routinely. It will take you down to Santa Fe, and Interstate 25 then south on New Mexico 285 to Interstate 40, which will take you back toward Texas.

Hope that helps! Enjoy your trip!
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Old 02-14-2016, 06:45 PM   #5
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I agree, the only fault in your route is driving an RV on 82 over Independence Pass. The easy fix is to eliminate stopping in Aspen. Aspen isn't RV friendly and with only 3 weeks to see all you want to see, you need to eliminate something. Once you head south to Leadville, just stay on 24/285 to Buena Vista, Poncha Springs, Del Norte, South Fork; and then 160 west over Wolf Creek Pass.
I spend every summer in South Fork. Hwy 285 and 160 are both good roads and well traveled by 1000's of RV's all summer. Yes, Wolf Creek Pass is a long climb and steep descent, but its good road, with good shoulders and guard rails. no white knuckle sections like Red Mtn Pass.
Sept is not too late, its one of my favorite times in the high country. The summer crowds are gone, the hunting crowd hasn't arrived yet, its a bit cooler and the Aspen leaves will be in full colors around the 3rd week in Sept. We usually don't get our first snow until Oct, but up over 10,000 it can snow any month.
PS: you'll find half of your Texas neighbors have summer homes up here in the South Fork area. We see more Tx plates than Co plates during summer.
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Old 02-14-2016, 07:36 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twogypsies View Post
You definitely don't want to take your 42' MH on Hwy 82. Anything over 35' is prohibited. This would take you over Independence Pass - EL 12,000.

160 into Pagosa Springs is nothing compared to 82. Many RVers use 160. We have and it's no big deal.

Don't know where you're planning on staying for Aspen but some options for highways getting to Pagosa are I-70 west to Grand Junction and then taking 50 to 149 into South Fork (a nice RV park in Creede) and 160 into Pagosa.

You could also head east on I-70 to 24 into Leadville and continue south on 285 to 160 into Pagosa.



Definitely plan on soaking in the springs at Pagosa. We usually spend a couple mornings doing this. The pools are immaculate, concrete and each one has a different temperature. They overlook the river so it's a nice relaxing morning.

September is a perfect time for your trip.
Thank you for your info. It is much appreciated.

Don
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Old 02-14-2016, 07:40 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pagosajoe View Post
Let me echo the difficulties you'd face on Highway 82 over Independence Pass - and yes, there's a length restriction of 35 feet overall. Beautiful scenery, however, you may want to check this link:

https://www.codot.gov/projects/SH82/...formation.html

Highway 285 is a relatively easy drive down toward Del Norte and join Highway 160. As you head west on 160, you'll come to South Fork. From South Fork, you can take a side trip of about 20 miles to Creede, a quaint old mining town, which is on the east side of Wolf Creek Pass. There's a very nice RV park in Creede, and the Creede Rep theater puts on great theatrical shows (closes mid-September) - very professional. We take in several plays each year.

Creede Repertory Theatre | Creede Repertory Theatre

The Mountain Views RV Park alongside the Rio Grande River in Creede is very nice. We've stayed there many times:

Home

There are lots of great shops in Creede along with a few good restaurants. The Antlers is very good, alongside the Rio Grande River:

Riverside Restaurant

They also have an RV park at the Antlers as well, although not quite as nice as the Mountain Views RV Park.

And then there's the Tommyknocker Tavern - fun, casual place.

Home

A couple of things to know about 160 heading west from South Fork. 1) There are some narrow places for a few miles out of South Fork heading up to Wolf Creek Pass, however the two lane road is a good one. 2) And then there's Wolf Creek Pass leading into Pagosa Springs, CO.

If you have 8 minutes, here's a video of the old C.W. McCall song describing Wolf Creek Pass - enjoy the ride:



Just before you get to the top of the Continental Divide heading west, you'll go through a short tunnel. After that, the road gets wide, and is very nice. It turns into a 3 and 4 lane highway, but it is steep once you hit the Continental Divide and descend. Just before the Wolf Creek Ski Area, there is a fairly sharp left hand turn that goes under an avalanche chute protection tunnel - just slow down, and it's easy to handle. You can stop at the Continental Divide for a rest in a large parking area, which is just past Wolf Creek Ski Area about a mile on the left.

SLOW DOWN on Wolf Creek Pass. We've seen far too many accidents there, mostly involving 18 wheelers whose drivers aren't familiar with mountain driving. Use your engine brake and air brakes to keep it under 35 and you'll be fine. There is a very sharp let turn by the Lookout parking lot - well marked - but be sure you plan ahead and slow down for that turn. After that, the hard part of Wolf Creek Pass is behind you. You too can now enjoy the scenery.

Gear down, take it easy, and be safe. We live in Pagosa, and drive that route frequently. Highway 160 doesn't quite compare to the two lane Highway 550, the Million Dollar Highway, which has no guard rails. Highway 550 isn't as steep as Wolf Creek Pass, but the drop offs on 550 are a LONG way down - did I mention there are no guard rails?

Wolf Creek Pass has two run away truck ramps for out of control vehicles in case you lose your brakes. Since you've driven the mountain passes before, you should be comfortable taking Wolf Creek Pass into Pagosa. Wolf Creek Pass and the valley on the west side are two of the most scenic places in Colorado.

Weather wise, as you know from your Denver experience, the weather in Colorado can change quickly. Be sure to check road conditions IF there is snow forecast. Most of the time, in early September, it will not be an issue.

Road Conditions, Speeds, Travel Times, Traffic Cameras, Live Streaming Traffic Cameras, Road Closures and Road Work Information provided by Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) a branch of Colorado Department of Transportation

We'd also recommend soaking in the hot springs in Pagosa. The Wolf Creek Run RV park is very nice, next to the river, but a bit pricey.

Wolf Creek Run Motor Coach River Park - Home Page

Check Trip Advisor for some great restaurants in Pagosa.

The 10 Best Pagosa Springs Restaurants 2016 - TripAdvisor

The Alley House Grille is excellent but pricey. Eat at Kips Grill and Cantina (very casual) if you want to try the restaurant that Oprah chose on her trip through town a few years ago.

Alley House Grille - Home

Kip's Grill - Kip's Grill Main Menu

Just guessing that you may head home after Pagosa. Highway 84 heading south toward Santa Fe is a good two lane road, with a short narrow climb out of Pagosa - easy to handle. We also travel that route routinely. It will take you down to Santa Fe, and Interstate 25 then south on New Mexico 285 to Interstate 40, which will take you back toward Texas.

Hope that helps! Enjoy your trip!
Pagosajoe,

Wow, what a lot of great info. Thank you much for your time in responding. My time in Denver was limited to working through college and skiing a hell of a lot in Loveland, Arapaho Basin, Breckenridge, Winter Park, etc. Did well in skiing. Not so well in college.

Again, thank you for your response.

Don
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Old 02-14-2016, 07:43 PM   #8
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I agree, the only fault in your route is driving an RV on 82 over Independence Pass. The easy fix is to eliminate stopping in Aspen. Aspen isn't RV friendly and with only 3 weeks to see all you want to see, you need to eliminate something. Once you head south to Leadville, just stay on 24/285 to Buena Vista, Poncha Springs, Del Norte, South Fork; and then 160 west over Wolf Creek Pass.
I spend every summer in South Fork. Hwy 285 and 160 are both good roads and well traveled by 1000's of RV's all summer. Yes, Wolf Creek Pass is a long climb and steep descent, but its good road, with good shoulders and guard rails. no white knuckle sections like Red Mtn Pass.
Sept is not too late, its one of my favorite times in the high country. The summer crowds are gone, the hunting crowd hasn't arrived yet, its a bit cooler and the Aspen leaves will be in full colors around the 3rd week in Sept. We usually don't get our first snow until Oct, but up over 10,000 it can snow any month.
PS: you'll find half of your Texas neighbors have summer homes up here in the South Fork area. We see more Tx plates than Co plates during summer.
Thanks Jim,

I guess we might scratch Aspen from our list since Hwy. 82 is a bust. I drove it in a 1968 Mustang, back when, and it didn't seem so bad, but a 65 ft. rig is probably different.

Don
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Old 02-14-2016, 08:02 PM   #9
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I was lucky to have my 34'11" RV previously and made the HWY 82 trip south from Aspen. At some points the road narrowed so much that the stripe in the center disappeared and there was only one lane. I have no problems driving this route, but even with my 37' coach that I have now I would not drive it due to the legal restriction. There are definitely some pluses to shorter RV's and the ability to enjoy this pass and the "Lost Man Campground" just before the Continental Divide (2nd highest campground in the U.S., I believe) are some of those benefits. I would avoid Aspen also and turn south on 24 towards Leadville and hook up with 50 to Gunnison and Blue Mesa Lake and head south on 550 to Ouray, Silverton & Durango before heading back east on 160 to Pagosa Springs. My 2 cents (++) worth.
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Old 02-14-2016, 08:10 PM   #10
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Hey Pagosajoe, are you from Pagosa, by chance? Good thorough write-up!
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Old 02-15-2016, 07:32 AM   #11
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Hey Pagosajoe, are you from Pagosa, by chance? Good thorough write-up!
That we are...Pagosa is a great place! And, thanks for the kind words.
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Old 02-15-2016, 02:09 PM   #12
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Pagosajoe: Last time we were in Pagosa we played pickleball indoors with your friendly townsfolk. . then went for a soak in the pools. We were staying at the base of Wolf Creek in a forest service campground. We just love that area!
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Old 02-16-2016, 08:22 AM   #13
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Pagosajoe: Last time we were in Pagosa we played pickleball indoors with your friendly townsfolk. . then went for a soak in the pools. We were staying at the base of Wolf Creek in a forest service campground. We just love that area!
Nice to know that you had a good time in Pagosa! The valley at the base of Wolf Creek Pass is one of the most beautiful places in Colorado. You chose wisely!
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Old 02-16-2016, 12:07 PM   #14
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A great view west toward Pagosa, looking over the lush ranch lands at the base of Wolf Creek Pass.
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