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Southwest Sampler

15 Jun 2007  Colorado College Graduation Trip
5.0 of 5 stars based on 7 votes

Colorado to Utah Circle

  • 1. Colorado Springs
    Colorado Springs, El Paso County

    One of the nicest cities I've been to. It has a small town feel with lots to do. Everyone seems to have flowers on their lawn. Pikes Peak adds drama to the views. Great airport south of town. With Denver about an hour to the north you might get a better deal on airfare but if the price difference isn't much save yourself the hassle and go to Colorado Springs airport.
    I had reseved a car with Thrifty car rentals and was pleasantly surprised to be offered an upgrade that cost a few dollars more for a Camry.

  • 2. Poor Richard's Restaurant
    Poor Richard's Restaurant, Colorado Springs, El Paso County

    Cute spot with a book store attached. Great sandwiches! Has a college town feel to it.

  • 3. Woodland Park Cabins

    Cabin in the woods. Why stay in town when you really want the mountains? We had the most awesome view of Pikes Peak from our porch. We were close to town (about 20 minutes) but definitely felt like we were away from the the hustle. Our cabin had all the amenities of home for the same price as a cold , generic hotel room. We had a kitchen with a microwave and full stove with a grill out back. My son loved the loft and I loved the fireplace.
    While I was sipping coffee and admiring the view our host walked up to check if we needed anything and to make sure we unplugged the TV and cable when we were out because of the thunderstorms on the mountain. Morning is definitely the time to go hiking here! We were caught on the top of Helen Hunt Falls when a wicked storm sent slushy hail on our heads. The weather in May is mercurial to say the least. After starting out with loads of sunshine we went from being very warm and getting sunburnt to freezing hail raining on us within minutes.

  • 4. Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours

    We chose the 20 Mile High Tour which is a self guided one. We were driven up a very scary road that I was very glad we didn't have to navigate, though I think our guide was more nervous after my husband went flying over his handlebars testing the brakes! After getting a picture of my husband, son and I on the bikes, our guide ( a nice girl) watched us off. It was cold at this altitude and we were very grateful for the gloves provided by our guide. You are flying! But we loved it. There are no cars on this old mining dirt road but lots of rocks and no rails either. They give you a map which you don't need till you get to an old mining tunnel that's collapsed. This is where you need to pay attention. We went across a stream that was very cold, and then over the tunnel. This was a grand adventure and I highly recommend it. We were awed by the beauty and views which at times seem otherworldly helped by the fact that you rarely see anyone else till the last bit of road.

  • 5. Dee's RV

    After reading Frommer's "Family Vacations in the National Parks" we decided that renting an RV would be a great way to travel. In Colorado Springs there are several RV rental agencies such as Cruise America and Dee's RV. After speaking with Dwayne we decided on the 28 foot class "C" since we had a teen and a grad to share this space. The 'Freelander' sleeps 6 ( and we were 4) so I hoped that my kids wouldn't want to kill each other by the end of the trip. My family have always been tent campers but after traveling in an RV I definitely see an advantage. There's no packing and unpacking, you have food and a bathroom always ready. At points on this trip we needed heating and shortly afterwards air conditioning.
    My kids thought this was the only way to travel.
    Just got my final bill from Dee's RV and the only thing extra we were charged was for the additional miles. Felt much better about renting from a company that doesn't nickel and dime everything.

  • 6. Million Dollar Highway
    Million Dollar Highway, Colorado, United States

    Extremely scary but picturesque road in the sky. I personally saved my family's life several times on this road. My husband was driving and I was navigator ( whose duty is to keep the driver awake). We were behind a snowplow at one point near Silverton and followed the lead of several semi drivers by pulling over and sleeping . Being new to the wonders of RV's (could have been toasty warm) we woke shivering in the cold. We started counting deer and deer # 26 and #27 ran across the road and both the deer and my family survived. Everything in the RV not bolted down went flying including my kids when my husband hit the brakes!
    This is not the way to go if time is an issue, as you cannot and never want to go fast on this road.

  • 7. Soaring Tree Top Adventures
    Soaring Tree Top Adventures, Durango, Colorado

    What a thrill! Tarzan and Jane kinda stuff. This was not really scary after the first moment. I felt totally safe the whole time. You get to swing through the trees just like you wished you could do as a kid watching the movies. My family thought this was probably the coolest adventure ever! By the end even I went upside down over the Animas River. This gets a 10 out of 10. Well maybe take a half point off 'cause it was a bit cold and rainy.

  • 8. Mesa Verde National Park
    Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

    Loved this park! We saw Spruce House first and I recommend reading up a bit about each ruin beforehand. There are park rangers at the sites eager to answer questions. Also go first to the Visitor center to sign up for the guided hikes. Cliff Palace is a must as long as you can handle heights.Our guide told us that this ruin was a more spiritual one since it was more difficult to get to and that tells you that it is a special place. And what a view! Just don't step back to get that picture!

  • 9. Far View Terrace Restaurant
    Far View Terrace Restaurant, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

    On our entire trip this place had the best food. I had the trout and it was "delish". We had a great view at sunset with deer strolling by. Although the game came highly recommended my husband chose the veggie lasagne and though he said it was quite good I think he was disappointed he didn't try the special.

  • 10. Morefield Village Campground
    Morefield Village Campground, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

    Had deer and snow next to us! This campground had it all. Unfortunately we arrived 2 days before the little cafe opened where they offer pancake breakfasts.

  • 11. Capitol Reef
    Capitol Reef, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

    There is no entrance fee for this beautiful National Park. As we drove on the main road in we noticed some cars pulled over into a small parking area where down a sandy path was a gorgeous waterfall! My husband and daughter climbed up and jumped off into the river below where I took pictures. Further down the road were petroglyphs and those bolted down binoculars that weren't very good. A very nice man let us look through his and it was amazing. There were spacemen looking men and deer all chiseled on the face of this rock.
    This park has several campgrounds but they were all full as I suspected they would be on Memorial Day Weekend. Luckily I had reservations at a commercial campground in Torrey. One of the perks at the Fruita Campground are the fruit trees planted by the Mormans. You are even allowed to pick ripe fruit in season for free!
    Before heading for our campground we decided to do a hike up Chimney Rock. What an incredible view of the Painted Desert! Words and even pictures don't do it justice.

  • 12. Capitol Reef Inn & Cafe
    Capitol Reef Inn & Cafe, Torrey, Utah

    Great food and beer. My husband especially liked the "Polygamy Porter". On the label it says to " Bring some home to your wives".

  • 13. Thousand Lakes RV Park & Campground
    Thousand Lakes RV Park & Campground, Torrey, Utah

    This is a very well equipped RV campground. Though we were unable to take advantage of it's many amenities including homemade muffins that you order the night before , we did enjoy a great view of Capitol Reef. The next morning we inquired about doctors as my son was running a fever. Our hostess gave us the telephone # of a clinic in the town of Bicknell. After calling they gave us an appointment a few hours away to give us time to get there.Though the doctor was great there was no pharmacy open so we had to drive a bit further to find a supermarket to get some OTC decongestants. It's a small world. At the supermarket we tried some homemade strawberry jam that a very nice lady was selling and she turned out to be the doctor's wife!

  • 14. Highway 12 Scenic Byway
    Highway 12 Scenic Byway, Utah, United States

    This is a special road. You'll want to take it very slowly so you can drink it all in.

  • 15. Calf Creek Falls Recreation Area
    Calf Creek Falls Recreation Area, Escalante, Utah

    A popular place between Capitol Reef And Bryce we planned on stopping here for a picnic and hike. The hike is about three hours there and back to Lower Calf Creek Falls. Make sure you get a trail guide. We almost missed # 9 which took you down a small path to view some petrogylphs. At the end of the hike was a spectacular waterfall where some hardy and brave souls were swimming. My husband, who likes an occasional challenge dove in. His look of pain decided me and I passed on the swim.
    Upon leaving the camp host offered to let us stay the night in the parking lot since the campground was full but though it was very tempting (this was another special place) we had to get to Byrce.

  • 16. Bryce Canyon National Park
    Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

    This is a fairytale land. Bryce is at a higher elevation so it was a bit cooler than Capitol Reef. The pink hoodoos are magical and if you're willing to hike a little, you can get away from the crowds to really enjoy this place. We loved the Navajo Loop/ Queen's Garden Trail. After becoming addicted to all the beauty we then did the Peekaboo Trail. My advice is always do the more strenuous hike first and watch out for horse dung! Another thing to check on is when the last trams run each day. We barely made the last one at 6:00 pm! It would have been a very long walk back to Ruby's Campground!!

  • 17. Ruby's Inn Campground and RV Park
    Ruby's Inn Campground and RV Park, Bryce, Utah

    I definitely had the wrong impression about Ruby's from it's website. I thought it would be like other commercial campgrounds but I'm happy to say that I loved Ruby's and wish we had planned to stay longer. The campground is set among trees and they did a great job spacing them. The people at the front desk were very helpful . I overheard one of the staff tell some tent campers that they could share their campsite to save some money. The tram to Bryce comes right in front of Ruby's and they have a flag system for safer crossing.
    They have a friendly staff one of whom helped my husband with leveling the RV.
    Ruby's also makes it very convenient to buy Park Passes. There's a little kiosk right next to the office and further down is a restaurant and gift shop.

  • 18. Zion National Park
    Zion National Park, Utah

    Oasis in the Desert. The Virgin River runs through the canyon making Zion a tropical paradise. Like Bryce, Zion also uses trams throughout the park. When we visited Zion the trams ran until 11:00 pm. I believe they started at 6:30 am. Since we were determined to hike Angel's Landing we took the 7:30 tram. At Bryce we were advised by some fellow hikers that we needed an early start for Angel's Landing. The sun can be grueling later in the day.
    In this park you hike up while at Bryce you are at the top and must go below the rim. The advantage is that when you're most tired after getting to the top, it's so much easier coming down that you smile again and have enough energy to even converse!

  • 19. Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel
    Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, Zion National Park, Utah

    If you're coming from Bryce you must go through the tunnel to get to Zion or the town of Springdale. If you're in an RV then you must travel through the tunnel between 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and pay an escort fee of $15. Sadly we didn't know about the time so we arrived at 8:30 pm. Our only option was to travel to the other entrance which takes about 3 additional hours to get to the town of Springdale. The tunnel is impressive and under other circumstances I would've appreciated it more!

  • 20. Zion Adventure Company
    Zion Adventure Company, Springdale, Utah

    We signed up for the Family Adventure Day of Canyoneering. We were to arrive at 7:30 am to meet our guides, Jonathan and Lisa. They had our shoe sizes ahead of time so were able to gear up pretty quickly. It turned out our family of four was the whole group. We loaded up and headed out to Water Canyon next door to Zion.
    Canyoneering is hiking, scrambling and my new favorite, rappelling. Why? For one thing it's so much easier and faster than the hiking up part. After the initial fear is over and you realize that you're safe then it's just plain fun. We did a total of five rappels with the longest one 105 ft down.Into freezing water, though this wasn't my favorite part of the whole adventure.

  • 21. Zion Canyon Campground & RV Park

    Pretty campground along the Virgin River just minutes away from the park. We arrived very late and info about our campsite was in an envelope waiting for us. Our site was right next to the river under the moon and it was enchanting. I wanted to wake the kids up to see it but thought better of that idea and instead had a glass of wine. Oh how I wished we could have stayed at this campground for longer than the one night.

  • 22. Desert Pearl Inn
    Desert Pearl Inn, Springdale, Utah
    Show Prices
    Avg price: $154

    Picked this one out as our luxury stay on this road trip. Beautiful inn and it was awfully nice to sleep in real beds. One problem that almost turned us away was at the check in. It seems that they couldn't accommodate our RV on site, which I was informed of after waiting quite awhile for the manager to get off the phone. We were then told to park across the street where we couldn't find any parking. When we returned to inform our hostess she then told us the parking was really next door on the same side of the street where the hotel owns the parking lot. We didn't care much for how this was handled.
    Outside our room,down a pretty lawn was the river. On the other side of the river was Zion !
    The room was spacious and the beds heavenly. Loved the Southwest decor and the room did have everything for the traveler's comfort including a small refrigerator, coffee make,r glasses, cutting board etc. The kids enjoyed the free videotapes the hotel provides.They keep a binder with a list of what's available in the lobby.
    The Desert Pearl also boasts a picturesque pool and jacuzzi with a waterfall backdrop.

  • 23. Angel's Landing
    Angel's Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

    We did It! Now we have major bragging rights. After reading some of the reviews on Trip Advisor before we set out on this journey, I had serious doubts about attempting this "hike". My first piece of advice is start early. It was even a bit chilly at 8:00 am but you warm up fast. Because of the altitude I would break at the end of each of Walter's Wiggles for a sip of water and to catch my breath since I'm from an altitude of 0. At the end of the wiggles you then decide on whether to go up. Or not! One woman we befriended on the way up asked to join us since her son had chosen to wait at Scout's Landing. She asked rhetorically why she was doing this a few times as we negotiated the climb up.
    At the top it's a party. Everyone's laughing and taking pictures of each other for the folks back home. There was talk about what you could sell at a concession stand up there. Parachutes and alcohol was high on everyone's list. At one point someone saw a butterfly and made ready to capture it in a photo till we realized it was on a small memorial to a young boy who had died on the hike several years earlier. This was a sobering and sad end to the party for us and we decided to head back down which I think is a bit scarier then going up. I felt vindicated when another woman ahead of us told her husband not to rush her. I had gotten a bit panicky myself at one point when my husband did the same to me.
    At Scout's Landing our hiking friend's son now wanted to climb up to Angel's Landing. The brave woman consented for her son's sake and asked us to call her husband when we could as cell phones don't work on the mountain.

  • 24. Antelope Canyon

    This was for my son, the amateur photographer. He had four years of Photo Class in High school and loved it, so after seeing some pics of Antelope Canyon it became a stop on the way to Monument Valley. We had a 10:30 photo tour with Chief Tsosie who turned out to be a very personable man who went way out of his way to make memorable photos.

  • 25. Monument Valley
    Monument Valley, Utah

    We lucked out arriving in time for the Full Moon Tour. Great photo op with one of the guides even playing around posing as one of the monuments.

  • 26. Goulding's Lodge and Tours
    Goulding's Lodge and Tours, Monument Valley, Utah

    This campground has awesome views with red rocks towering all around. It was laid out nicely with all the amenities although a bit close together. You can arrange everything from the campground including tours.
    You must try a Navajo Taco at the restaurant. Wow! Very tasty and filling.
    There's also a great gift shop and museum. Oh and gas. In fact just about anything you need can be found here which is great since it's a long way to anywhere else.

  • 27. The Springs Resort
    The Springs Resort & Spa, Pagosa Springs, Colorado

    Loved this place! We don't have anything like this back home. If we did I'd be here all the time.The resort is actually two parts. As a guest of the inn you are entitled to unlimited access to all the pools 24 / 7 which means that we had it to ourselves at 1:00 am. The stars were blazing in the frosty air while we ran from pool to pool . Each has it's own name and temperature. My personal favorite temp was 101 degrees Fahrenheit. As to a favorite pool ,well that's a bit harder. There are 17 pools to dip in with two of them in the river.
    According to one of the staff members (for the ultimate experience) you should jump into the river and then into the "Lobster Pot" which that night was at 107 degrees.
    We missed the "Swim in Theater " which was on Friday night. Sounds like a lot of fun!

  • 28. Great Sand Dunes National Monument
    Great Sand Dunes National Park, Mosca, Colorado

    Out of all the places on this list, this was my least favorite though that wasn't how everyone else in my family felt. First I'm from Florida. Sand isn't novel or exciting just because it's next to some really big mountains. My kids thought it'd be awesome rolling down the dunes but first you have to get up them after wading through very, very cold water. When you realize those tiny specks along the dunes are people do you start to understand the immensity of them and when the wind picks up those tiny grains and whips them at you, you realize you are on the wrong side of the dune! My son had to rescue me since I had to close my eyes and couldn't find my way. I wear contacts and even if I didn't, the sand stung every inch of me not covered. Instant dermabrasion!
    After washing the sand off our feet we went looking for food. The little restaurant at the park was just the ticket. We had great service and the homemade pie was a justifiable treat after my duress.