Free 7 Day Trial RV GPS App RV Trip Planner Campground Reviews RV Maintenance Free 7 Day Trial ×
RV Trip Planning Discussions

Go Back   iRV2 Forums > CAMPING, TRAVEL and TRIP PLANNING > Camping Locations, Plans & Trip Reports
Click Here to Login
Join iRV2 Today

Mission Statement: Supporting thoughtful exchange of knowledge, values and experience among RV enthusiasts.
Reply
  This discussion is proudly sponsored by:
Please support our sponsors and let them know you heard about their products on iRV2
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
 
Old 09-07-2017, 10:44 PM   #1
Senior Member
 
FirstTracks's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: Cottonwood Heights, UT
Posts: 372
TR: SW Colorado (San Juans and Mesa Verde NP) 9/1-7/2017

DW, the dogs and I just returned tonight from a week boondocking and exploring the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, with an extra stop at Mesa Verde National Park. They haven't nicknamed the San Juans the "American Alps" without reason, and while I'm not a big National Park guy as I prefer wilderness over the often sanitized National Park experience, Mesa Verde gives you a once in a lifetime opportunity to view ruins of Anasazi cliff dwellings up close and personal.

We left after work on Friday, Sept. 1, got caught in horrific rush hour traffic along the Wasatch Front, and lost a lot of time as a result. It was thus that we didn't pull into our campsite along Klondike Bluffs Road just north of Moab, Utah until 10 p.m. It was just a transit stop, but Klondike Bluffs suited our needs perfectly -- it was just off US-191, it was easy to locate a spot in the dark, and we didn't see anyone except for the patrons of Skydive Moab dropping into the nearby airport.


Our camp on Klondike Bluffs Road.

We broke camp early the next morning and headed for Telluride.


Dropping into the Paradox Valley en route to Telluride.


Telluride, Colorado


Starting up Last Dollar Road at Telluride, long before it turns to dirt.

I had intended to camp on Last Dollar Road, but the road looked tight past the overlook at which several others were already camped. I chatted with one of the campers and he convinced me to not proceed further with my TT in tow, so we headed south to my "Plan B" -- Trout Lake.

The North Trout Lake Road, south of Ophir, becomes Forest Service land legal for dispersed camping just beyond the east end of the lake. About a half mile east of the lake the road makes a sharp bend across the creek next to the historic Trout Lake Trestle from the days when this road was a railroad bed, and heads southwest to Lizard Head Pass. Right next to the trestle we found what would be our own little nirvana for the next two days beneath the stunningly beautiful Mount San Miguel.


Camped at the end of the Trout Lake Trestle


The evening sun lights up Mt. San Miguel, as seen from my camp patio.


Trout Lake


Our camp on North Trout Lake Road.

The following morning DW, the dogs and I drove to Mountain Village and loaded the free gondola that connects Mountain Village with Telluride, where we spent the afternoon browsing the streets, letting the dogs swim in the San Miguel River, and grabbing an excellent pizza. The town was absolutely bustling thanks to the holiday weekend and the Telluride Film Festival.




The dogs were at first a bit freaked loading a moving gondola cabin, but they were pros by the end of the day.


Downtown Telluride


How about this RV?

On the morning of our fourth day, Labor Day Monday, we crossed over to US-550 at Ridgeway, Colo., to take on the infamous Million Dollar Highway through Ouray to Silverton. Reading forum reports on this road left me with a bit of trepidation, but I can now say that if you're used to mountain driving, US-550 isn't considerably worse than any other western mountain road. You just exercise common sense, drive with attention and engine braking, and it's easily negotiated. We stopped near the top of Red Mountain Pass to take in the mine ruins and have a bite to eat from the trailer kitchen.


Ouray, Colorado


Mine ruins on Red Mountain Pass.


Abandoned mine buildings on Red Mountain Pass.

At the bottom of Red Mountain Pass, at its south end three miles from Silverton we turned right onto County Road 5 and quickly arrived at the Anvil and Sultan Camping Areas established by the USFS on either side of Mineral Creek. These are free dispersed camping areas without marked sites. There was a large Class A and a pair of trailers already at Anvil, but only a single tent was pitched at Sultan and it looked to be closed up for a number of days with no one in sight. I dropped the trailer right next to the creek at Sultan. There we would be serenaded by the sound of the rushing water for two nights -- we only planned one night in Silverton, but this was just too perfect. Another Class A would arrive at Sultan about 100 feet away on our second night, as would a camper van across the creek at Anvil, but that was it.


Our spot at Sultan Camping Area.

In between those two nights we did the tourist thing in Silverton, which is a very different town than Telluride. The latter, a ski resort town popular with the rich and famous, just oozes wealth from its pores. Although Telluride's downtown core has been lovingly preserved, the tarmac at its tiny airport is dotted with numerous large private Gulfstreams and Lears, and the forested slopes around town are speckled with luxury condos that are probably occupied two weeks per year, in between colossal high-rise hotels. By contrast, Silverton's outskirts are occupied by single-wides on gravel lots. Nevertheless, Silverton's entire downtown core is a designated National Historic District that has received no less love in its restoration than has Telluride.


Downtown Silverton

As you might guess from its name, Silverton owes its existence to a mining heyday that once brought the town fame and glory. Fun fact: Silverton was the second city in the U.S. to get 110-volt A/C service. Instead of luxury hotels and condos, the mountains surrounding Silverton are absolutely littered with mining ruins everywhere you look. It's a mining history buff's Mecca.

As she's very claustrophobic, DW stayed at the RV while I drove 25 minutes to be a tourist at the Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour. Arriving at around 10:30 a.m., I had to wait for the 11 a.m. tour. About 15 people disembarked the mine train at the end of their 10 a.m. tour, but when the clock struck 11 I was the only customer standing there. I got my own private tour!

Sure, it's been adapted for tourists and is sort of like a mining museum set up one-third of a mile into a mountain, but it was a real, working mine at one time and my guide was a retired miner, so it's the real deal. It's worthy of $18.95 and an hour of your time in Silverton.


The entrance to the Old Hundred Mine.


While lights have been added to the tour area for tourist comfort, the 1/3-mile mine train to access the tour area is typically pitch black.


The contraption that looks like an elevator in the lower tunnel accesses another draft 700 feet higher in the mountain. The upper tunnel is the alternative escape route.


If you think your black tank is nasty...

For the afternoon I went back to retrieve DW and we took a 4x4 adventure to the ghost town of Animas Forks, el. 11,200'. Virtually any high-clearance 4x4 can get there without difficulty.


Climbing past other mine ruins en route to Animas Forks.


Animas Forks


Animas Forks


Animas Forks


Animas Forks

On our way back to the trailer, the hardcore skier in me had to detour to see Silverton Mountain, an experts-only haven where a single chairlift carries you to relentless steeps that you're required to ski with a guide.


Move over Vail, that's the entire "base village" at Silverton Mountain.

After one more night beside the bubbling Mineral Creek, we bid farewell to Silverton on Wednesday morning and headed south towards Durango.


So long, Silverton. We'll meet again.

My plan had been to find a boondocking spot along Hermosa Park Road near Durango Mountain Resort, and although that plan was already cut in half by spending an extra night in Silverton, we opted to further revise the Hermosa Park plan from two nights all the way down to zero and instead continue on to Mesa Verde National Park where we made camp on a little slice of BLM land less than two miles from the park entrance. Now I'm not one to second guess someone else's choices, but for the life of me I can't understand why people would insist upon paying for a spot in the crowded National Park campground (without even hookups at most sites) when this was far prettier, absolutely free, I couldn't see or hear any neighbors, and I had to comply with virtually no rules.


DW seems happy with our Mesa Verde campsite choice.


Looking toward Mesa Verde from camp.


OK, I couldn't have both level and a fully extended awning, but I'll still take it.

After dropping the trailer at camp we took a driving tour of Mesa Verde together. DW didn't sleep well that night, so I went back alone in the morning for the walking (and climbing) tour of the Balcony House ruins. Really, it's a shame to visit this park and not get tickets for one of the tours; otherwise, you're just looking at any of the numerous Anasazi cliff dwellings from a distance.


Mesa Verde National Park


Looking north from Mesa Verde.


To get to Balcony House you first downclimb some metal stairs from the mesa top, then you ascend this 30-foot ladder.


Balcony House


Balcony House


Leaving Balcony House is no less intimidating.

We broke camp at around noon after the tour, and headed back across the state line into Utah. We had planned to camp one more night about halfway between Monticello and Moab to break up the return drive, but with hot temperatures and a blazing sun we scratched those plans and made a run for Salt Lake, arriving home a day ahead of schedule. No matter, we had a wonderful week camping our way around beautiful southwestern Colorado!
__________________
Marc Guido | Cottonwood Heights, UT
Grand Adventure - our RV channel on YouTube
2016 Evo by Forest River T2050 (26') & 2014 Toyota Tundra 4WD 5.7L V8
FirstTracks is offline   Reply With Quote
Join the #1 RV Forum Today - It's Totally Free!

iRV2.com RV Community - Are you about to start a new improvement on your RV or need some help with some maintenance? Do you need advice on what products to buy? Or maybe you can give others some advice? No matter where you fit in you'll find that iRV2 is a great community to join. Best of all it's totally FREE!

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest so you have limited access to our community. Please take the time to register and you will gain a lot of great new features including; the ability to participate in discussions, network with other RV owners, see fewer ads, upload photographs, create an RV blog, send private messages and so much, much more!

Old 09-08-2017, 06:13 AM   #2
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Twin Cities
Posts: 685
Wow! What a fantastic overview of an area now on my bucket list for sure. Thank you!
TJFogelberg is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-08-2017, 06:40 AM   #3
Senior Member
 
Busskipper's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Grasonville, MD -- Golden, CO
Posts: 6,111
OMG ............

What a great write up - Just hoping that this is not your only trip into the San Juan's.

Being a little selfish as reading and looking at your Images is so Refreshing, You are doing what most just "Dream of" - if people who have purchased an RV then complain about the CampGrounds just followed your lead, .....well let's just hope they stay in the Camp Grounds, as that's just the right place for them. IMHO, this is one of the most Beautiful and Wild Places left in the US to enjoy, and you sure seemed to enjoy it.

For your future trips - look into - Alpine Loop - doable in your truck - Lake City - the National Forest around Dunton and Lizard Head Pass - this group of Images, is from between Million Dollar Road and Trout Lake, suggesting a possible reason to return - https://lynn.smugmug.com/Travel/Colo...pens/i-tsVRkXg - ................

Such a great post!

Thanks for sharing.

Couple of people you might enjoy following, communicating with;

Ken/4runnerguy - on another forum is much like you, just without the Camera, think the two of you might cross paths -
https://www.rv.net/forum/index.cfm/f...4.cfm#29214534

Dan - has the camera and is another who just gets it - Look, Mom, We're Camping!

Just so much more to Explore and Experience.

........


__________________
Busskipper
Location - Grasonville, Maryland - and/or - Superior, Colorado
2005 Travel Supreme 42DS04 - GX470 Toad
Busskipper is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-08-2017, 06:48 AM   #4
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 268
We have traveled the Durango loop on the million dollar highway all the way around back to Durango at least 8 or 9 times, absolutely the most spectacular views. Trout lake is my daughters favorite memories from 25 years ago...
tucsonrv is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-08-2017, 08:29 AM   #5
Senior Member
 
FirstTracks's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: Cottonwood Heights, UT
Posts: 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by TJFogelberg View Post
Wow! What a fantastic overview of an area now on my bucket list for sure. Thank you!
My pleasure. Thanks for the comment!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Busskipper View Post
OMG ............

What a great write up - Just hoping that this is not your only trip into the San Juan's.
Oh, it certainly won't be. Thanks for the compliments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Busskipper View Post
if people who have purchased an RV then complain about the CampGrounds just followed your lead, .....well let's just hope they stay in the Camp Grounds, as that's just the right place for them. IMHO, this is one of the most Beautiful and Wild Places left in the US to enjoy, and you sure seemed to enjoy it.
I'm often struck by the marketing photos the RV dealers and manufacturers put out there that usually show that idyllic Cleaver family enjoying their RV in the middle of some vast gorgeous wilderness. Those photos represent what seems to be a minute fraction of RV buyers, yet their marketing efforts ignore the wants, needs and expectations of the majority of their customers. At each "RV Park" that we passed this trip I just shook my head in disbelief at rigs packed in next to one another like they would be in a supermarket parking lot. In my case, I think it has to do with how I got here in the first place: I started out as a backpacker, so my first camping experiences weren't spent in an RV, they were spent hiking many miles into wilderness areas. Then as I got older I started truck camping just because it was easier, yet I could still get the truck into difficult and remote spots for both scenic beauty and isolation. A weekend camping with the truck required far less time and preparation than a weekend backpacking. We then wanted more space, so we bought a TT...but my desire to get into those more remote spots isn't lessened any.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Busskipper View Post
For your future trips - look into - Alpine Loop - doable in your truck - Lake City - the National Forest around Dunton and Lizard Head Pass
Our trip to Animas Forks was along a small portion of the Alpine Loop, we just had limited time in Silverton (two nights and one full day). That was intentional. Having never visited the region before, we wanted to get a good overview for future visits. We did make it to Lizard Head Pass because North Trout Lake Road on which we camped rejoins CO-145 right at the pass.


Others boondocking at Lizard Head Pass.

And I'll check out those links and references -- thanks! After this cup of coffee it's time to start cleaning up everything. When I pulled into the driveway last night I just dropped the trailer and plopped onto the couch to put together this post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tucsonrv View Post
We have traveled the Durango loop on the million dollar highway all the way around back to Durango at least 8 or 9 times, absolutely the most spectacular views. Trout lake is my daughters favorite memories from 25 years ago...
We had so many favorites this time it's hard for us to rank them, but the Trout Lake area was right up there for us as well. As for those views, the San Juans are just amazing mountains. I sideline as a ski writer, a career that has taken me to nearly 200 ski areas around the world, and the San Juans are among the most spectacular mountains that I've been fortunate enough to experience.
__________________
Marc Guido | Cottonwood Heights, UT
Grand Adventure - our RV channel on YouTube
2016 Evo by Forest River T2050 (26') & 2014 Toyota Tundra 4WD 5.7L V8
FirstTracks is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-08-2017, 08:43 AM   #6
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 268
3 miles north of Rico (name has left me) is a forest service campground and this is one of our top 5 campground.
tucsonrv is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-08-2017, 08:50 AM   #7
Senior Member
 
FirstTracks's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: Cottonwood Heights, UT
Posts: 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by tucsonrv View Post
3 miles north of Rico (name has left me) is a forest service campground and this is one of our top 5 campground.
Perhaps it's this one?
https://www.campendium.com/cayton
__________________
Marc Guido | Cottonwood Heights, UT
Grand Adventure - our RV channel on YouTube
2016 Evo by Forest River T2050 (26') & 2014 Toyota Tundra 4WD 5.7L V8
FirstTracks is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-08-2017, 09:55 AM   #8
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 268
Yes, they have electricity but no water. When you first come in by the host and rest rooms is a water spigot for rv'. Easy in and many pull thrus but make reservations early small campground and not many spots for large units.

Not much in Rico but a coffee shop and a gas station with homemade curious, soaps, ect.
tucsonrv is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-10-2017, 06:04 AM   #9
Senior Member
 
texoz's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 117
Thanks for these posts. On our way there at the moment. Excitement level is now a notch higher!
texoz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-10-2017, 10:22 AM   #10
Senior Member
 
FirstTracks's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: Cottonwood Heights, UT
Posts: 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by texoz View Post
Thanks for these posts. On our way there at the moment. Excitement level is now a notch higher!
You'll love it! Your timing should be very good, for the aspens were just starting to change earlier this week.
__________________
Marc Guido | Cottonwood Heights, UT
Grand Adventure - our RV channel on YouTube
2016 Evo by Forest River T2050 (26') & 2014 Toyota Tundra 4WD 5.7L V8
FirstTracks is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2017, 07:00 PM   #11
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 256
Awesome post and photos.
Thanks
__________________
Vern, Paula and Kip the psycho billy devil dog
2017 Dutch Star 4369 2014 CR-V Toad
2017 Newmar Ventana 3412 (sold)
OverDo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-12-2017, 05:39 PM   #12
Senior Member
 
FirstTracks's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: Cottonwood Heights, UT
Posts: 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by OverDo View Post
Awesome post and photos.
Thanks
Thank you!
__________________
Marc Guido | Cottonwood Heights, UT
Grand Adventure - our RV channel on YouTube
2016 Evo by Forest River T2050 (26') & 2014 Toyota Tundra 4WD 5.7L V8
FirstTracks is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
colorado



Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Mesa Verde RV In Wolfforth, TX happy tails Camping Locations, Plans & Trip Reports 0 09-15-2014 10:51 AM
Detroit to Mesa Verde Co. - I80 or I70 Robot9000 Navigation, Routes & Roads 3 07-19-2011 03:02 PM
Mesa Verde NP to Santa Fe j griff Navigation, Routes & Roads 3 05-12-2008 06:34 AM
Mesa Verde NP to Zion NP moldmkr Navigation, Routes & Roads 8 05-09-2008 02:43 AM
Flagstaff to Mesa Verde to Colo. Sprngs. Chickadee Navigation, Routes & Roads 9 03-24-2008 06:31 AM

» Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 11:56 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.