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Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

South Florida
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Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

We are planning a 9-day vacation in June that will begin and end in Denver (we'd love to go longer, but that's all the time we have). We have two kids (7 and 9) and are considering visiting Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, and/or Rocky Mountain. In the parks, we're up for some short, easy hikes. If anyone has information regarding ranger-led tours or really good private tours that you think kids would enjoy, we'd sure appreciate your thoughts. We'd also like to spend a day or two in Denver, going to the zoo, the aquarium, or any other fun places you think we shouldn't miss. Somewhere along the trip, we'd like to do a half-day mild rafting trip. Also, if there are any other really interesting ideas anyone has for stops along the way (for example, if there's a really interesting cave tour, or mine tour, or whatever), we'd love suggestions. Since we're from South Florida, which is the only place my kids have ever lived, everything will be a new experience for them. Finally, I heard that some of the chuckwagons are lots of fun, so if anyone has any particular suggestions in that department, we'd love it if you passed them along. Thanks very much.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
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for Santa Fe, Mesa Verde National Park, Boulder, New Mexico
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1. Re: Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

9 days... I would stay in Colorado, plenty to do. Save Utah for another time.

Day 1 arrive in Denver. Stay in the Lodo or Downtown area. Maybe visit the zoo, aquarium etc.

Day 2 Rocky Mtn National Park. Stay in Estes Park. Plenty of great hikes. www.nps.gov/romo/

Day 3 RMNP to Buena Vista CO. See things along the way.

Day 4 Raft trip out of Buena Vista. Possibly visit St Elmo Ghost Town, Mt Princeton Hot Springs. Drive to Alamosa for the night

Day 5 Sand Dunes Nat Park in morning. The river may be flowing over the dunes, great fun for kids. Drive to Durango for the evening.

Day 6 Durango/Silverton Train. Stay in Durango

Day 7 Mesa Verde Nat Park. Stay in Durango

Day 8 Drive back to Denver.

Day 9 Denver day

evergreen, colorado
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2. Re: Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

I agree with Casa, there is so much to see in colorado in 9 short days, and I think she has terrific itineraries. I wanted to add another fun thing to do in Denver with the kids is Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, which is below Lodo in downtown Denver.

www.elitchgardens.com

Colorado Western...
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for Ouray, Outdoors / Adventure Travel, Montrose
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3. Re: Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

Here are a bunch of other suggestions for kids' activities (and these are all free):

colorado-for-free.com/ColoradoCategories/Kid…

Note that some of these are festivals which only occur during certain dates.

WestSlope,CO
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4. Re: Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

I agree--stay in Colorado!

Great itinerary posted...I'll give you a couple more options with my 2 cents worth of advice LOL!

Re things to do in Denver: Denver has lots of fun things to do with kids, but if I were coming from out of state, I would concentrate on things unique to Colorado and the West. For example, the aquarium is great for our landlocked kids but I imagine you have some wonderful opportunities to see aquatic life. Elitch Gardens is also great, but geez, you have Disney in Florida. Ditto the zoo.

Chuckwagons: I know of the Flying W in Colorado Springs and the Bar D in Durango but haven't personally attended. We used to have a good one in Montrose and it was a lot of fun. Okay food, a crowd, but a fun show.

I would not advise Estes Park and Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park on your second day here due to the possibility of altitude sickness. I would spend a couple of days in Denver or Colorado Springs just to help get acclimated a little bit. Might not bother you at all but doesn't hurt to be cautious. Other postings here talk about altitude sickness and what to do about it.

Re: train ride in Durango--great scenery and fun for a while, but it is expensive and kids can get pretty bored. You know your kids...some kids love it, some hate it after the first hour. If you decide to try it, there's a new zip line course reached by train that sounds like fun. Look at durangotrain.com

If your kids are really into dinosaurs, consider an itinerary that includes Grand Junction/Fruita with the dinosaur museum and Riggs Hill.

Okay, so here are a couple of itineraries:

OPTION ONE:

Day 1: Arrive Denver, rent car and drive to Colorado Springs. Explore as time allows, maybe going to the Flying W for dinner. Climb around in Garden of the Gods. Other things to do: Seven Falls, Cave of the Winds, Rock Ledge Ranch historic site, Pikes Peak Cog Railway.

Day 2: same as Day 1, spend the night in Co Spr again.

Day 3: Colorado Spr to Gunnison, Montrose, or Ouray, depending on what you want to do. I would recommend Morrow Point boat tour--look at Curecanti National Recreation Area web site for info. Then Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park outside Montrose. Lots of short hikes to spectacular overlooks, ranger programs. Stop at Russell Stover Candy factory outlet in Montrose for provisions if you dare!

Day 4: If you stayed in Montrose night 3, take a short drive to Delta this morning to see a recreation of Fort Uncompahgre, a fur trade outpost and living history museum. High on the list of "Best Places to Take Your Kids in Colorado." This is not a hokey tourist trap. Look at Silverstage.net/FortUncompahgre.htm Then on to Ouray. Box Canyon Falls, Mine tour, jeep tour, Hot Springs pool, Sneffels ghost town. Spend night in Ouray.

Day 5: morning in Ouray, then on to Mesa Verde National Park, via the Million Dollar Highway to Durango or, if your driver is leery of steep dropoffs with no guard rails, go via Ridgway, Telluride, Dolores, and Cortez. If you go the Dolores way, be sure to stop at the Anasazi Heritage Center. Spend night in either Durango or Cortez, or at the Lodge in Mesa Verde.

Day 6: Mesa Verde Your kids are at a great age for this.

Day 7: On toward Buena Vista. Explore along the way.

Day 8: half day raft trip such as Salida West Family Raft Trip at Whitewater Encounters. Then on to Denver. Spend night in Denver.

Day 9: Denver. Allow time to get to airport at least 2 hours early.

OPTION TWO: (will try to make this one shorter)

Denver to Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs to Montrose/Ouray

Ouray to Delta/Fort Uncompahgre.

Here's where you could include Grand Jct/Fruita if kids are into dinosaurs.

Either Delta to Grand Jct, OR Delta to Paonia, to Redstone (side trip to Marble for hike to marble quarry)

Glenwood Springs, raft trip.

East on Interstate 70 toward Denver. Take a ride on a gondola (ski lift) in one of the mountain towns. Hike, explore.

Either go on to Denver or go to Estes Park via Grand Lake and Trail Ridge road through Rocky Mountain National Park.

Okay, I can't resist one more option. Take Amtrak train from Denver to Glenwood Springs and raft trip. Rent car for travel to Redstone, Marble, Paonia, Delta, Montrose and Black Canyon Natl Park, Ouray, Mesa Verde, then loop back to Glenwood via Grand Junction. Amtrak back to Denver. Rent car for trip to Estes Park and Rocky Mtn Natl Park if you have time. My grandkids love the Amtrak trip. You can read, play games, get up and walk around, eat in the dining car or snack bar, watch for deer, elk, mountain sheep, and eagles.

You will have a wonderful trip, I'm sure, whatever you choose to do!

WestSlope,CO
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for Colorado
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5. Re: Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

Just saw 1FourFun's post to theyoungfamily4 from Florida re Peak 8 Fun Park. Sounds like a great place to take kids for mountain fun.

South Florida
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6. Re: Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

Wow! These ideas are really helpful. Thank you all very much for taking the time to give us your thoughts. The tough part will be choosing which loop to do. Thanks again!

Sunny088

Sarasota, Florida
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for Sarasota, Longboat Key
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7. Re: Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

Great suggestions thus far! And one point to re-emphasize (as a fellow Floridian): stay in Denver a couple of days at the start to acclimatize; you WILL feel the altitude!

Casa's itinerary definitely works and yet you might be a bunch of time in the car (b-o-r-i-n-g for the kids) if you go all the way down to Durango/Silverton, even though that is dramatic country. Instead I'd probably focus on the Denver, Central and Northern portions of the State. Estes Park would be fun for the kids, also Summit County has lots of activities (Breckenridge/Keystone area). Gold Mine? Several options for you in Idaho Springs, right off of I-70 in the mountains west of Denver. Rafting is there as well, though you'd have more choices for rafting in Buena Vista. The suggestion of a visit to Redstone and Marble is also a great one.

And like the others, I'd save the Utah parks, and Mesa Verde, for a separate trip and simply focus on the mountains for this one. Drive to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain, see glaciers, maybe BigHorn Sheep, Elk; I think the kids (and you) will love it.

WestSlope,CO
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8. Re: Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

cbchrc has good advice. Definitely consider whether or not your kids are good "road trippers" before tackling a big loop and driving somewhere new almost every day. What do you really want to see and do? Is covering lots of territory part of the adventure or will it be a chore?

One of my grandkids at age two happily sang and chatted for two straight eight hour days in the car. I would NEVER have attempted that with my son. And portable DVD players, if you have one, makes travelling with kids much easier!

WestSlope,CO
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for Colorado
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9. Re: Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

I just ran across an article in GoColorado.com titled "Dinosaur Ridge." Looks like there might be lots of articles there useful for trip planning.

South Florida
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10. Re: Suggestions for 9-day Denver loop

Yes, those are good points. We are definitely keeping in mind travel time. My kids are pretty good with road trips and can do 4-6 hours in a day and be OK if the end result is worth the trip. Based on the suggestions I've received so far, we are thinking of dropping the Utah part.