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8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

Chicago, Illinois
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8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

Hello Colorado people! My family (17 and 14 year olds) is planning an 8 night trip either first week of July or second week of August. We would fly into Denver early on a Saturday, and leave late afternoon the following Sunday. I would like to do a loop through Colorado Springs, Great Sand Dunes NP, Mesa Verde (stay Durango) and at least 3 nights Estes Park. Would like to at least have lunch in CS, Boulder, do peak to peak scenic drive, Trail Ridge road, raft (if convenient), and do a few nice hikes. Loved Hanging Lake years ago. Also we would like to limit our overnight to 4 locations. We have been to Ouray , Telluride, and Vail in Summer months before.

I guess I'm trying to figure out how to split up the time. With altitude issues, I'm thinking we head South first. Is it possible to make it to Durango from Colorado Springs with a semi-meaningful stop at GSD? It's just not quite working out on paper. I'm used to working with 2 weeks.

Please, any help is much appreciated.

Columbia, Maryland
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1. Re: 8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

it's about a 6 hour drive from CO Springs to Durango via I25 to US 160 or I25 to US 50 to US 285 to CO 17 to US 160. You will also miss out if you don't allow time for stops on this drive. The drive across US 160 over Wolf Creek Pass has a couple of places worth stopping at. Doable in a day but a long day. Others willbe able to tell you how long to allocate for Great Sand Dunes.

WestSlope,CO
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2. Re: 8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

I believe it's closer to 7 hours from DIA to Durango if you take I-25>160, and more like 8, 8 1/2 if you make the detour to Great Sand Dunes and a little longer if you go via Canon City and Salida.

What did you want to do in Colorado Springs? You said at least have lunch. Are you comfortable with one or two fairly long driving days?

Let's see if we can make it work....

Saturday: Arrive, drive to Colorado Springs. Maybe an hour or so at Garden of the Gods, then U.S. Olympic Training Center and lunch, then head for the Great Sand Dunes. Maybe pick up supplies for a picnic supper. The Dunes will be hot in August, so plan to arrive at the Dunes around 5:30 (so you can visit the visitor center before it closes--6:30 in the summer, I believe) and then spend the evening there. Or, if you feel like you can just have lunch in Colorado Springs and drive on, then spend 2 hours at the Dunes and drive on, you could make it to Pagosa Springs that evening and relax at one of the hot springs pools there.

Sunday: Go river tubing in Pagosa Springs, then on to Durango.

pagosaoutside.com/pagosa-springs-tubing/

pagosa.com/adventureguide/…

Monday: Mesa Verde

Tuesday: hiking, zip line, or Durango-Silverton train. The train=jeep combo tour would allow you to see some of the Alpine Loop and Animas Forks ghost town. There's also a train/hike and a train/horseback ride and other combo tours.

Wednesday: This will be your long drive day, but you can break up the drive with several short stops if you wish. Durango to Grand Lake will be approximately 8-9 hours plus stops, (depending on which route you want to take) or you could stop at Winter Park. So...you'll want to get an early start. There are several routes. Possible stops:an hour and a half for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (just time to see the canyon and stop at a couple of overlooks); Redstone; Hanging Lake; Alpine slide at Winter Park.

Thursday: drive Trail Ridge Road, explore along the way. Overnight Estes Park

Friday: Estes Park

Saturday: Estes Park

Sunday: drive to airport for departure

Edited: 01 December 2011, 16:04
WestSlope,CO
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3. Re: 8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

I don't see where you'll fit in a raft trip unless it is in Durango. And the river flows in August might not make for the best rafting. But then again, it could be good, too. Might just have to wait and see on that.

If you'd really like to include rafting, you could go to Canon City, Buena Vista, or Salida to spend the night your first night, then raft in the morning and drive to the Great Sand Dunes after rafting. Spend the night at the lodge outside the dunes, or in Alamosa, and head for Durango the next day. But that would make 5 locations for overnight stops instead of 4 unless you drive all the way to Estes Park from Durango and I wouldn't recommend that.

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4. Re: 8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

Thank you for your thoughts. I keep looking at the map, and I just have to break my 4 location rule.

Now looking at- stop in Colorado Springs (G of the G's and lunch) then on to Buena Vista for the 1st night

Great sand dunes and on to Durango night 2

Guided fishing and night in Durango -3

Daytime Durango and Mesa Verde late afternoon (visitor center, get next day tix) Stay Far view Lodge on night 4

After day at Mesa Verde- drive scenic drive to Ouray for night 5.

On to Grand Lake -night 6

Trail Ridge rd. to Estes-nights 7 and 8.

How long would you give yourself to get from Estes to Denver Airport via Peak to Peak and lunch in Boulder?

Thoughts? I am kicking myself for not fitting in Mesa Verde on 2 previous trips to the area. Other than the hassle of the single night stays, does it seem like it flows enough? Is this a typical route? Should I rethink the drive to SW Co? Thanks for any additional feedback!

Edited: 02 December 2011, 04:06
Columbia, Maryland
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5. Re: 8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

Buena Vista on the first night is a good place to stop. On our western road trip out flying into Denver, Buena Vista was our first night stop on our way to Durango. Check out the Vista Court Cabins for a nice and quiet place to stay. http://www.vistacourtcabins.com/

Also, if you are a beef fan, check out Qunicy's for dinner. The menu is simple - filet mignon on Sunday thru Thursday, prime rib Friday, Saturday. Baked potato, salad with house dressing. The only decision is how you want it cooked and what you want to drink. Price goes about $1 per ounce. You won't get a less expensive dinner out all trip.

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6. Re: 8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

Thank you again. Now I have a revised idea. i think this works best, however I do end up leaving out Colorado Springs, ouch.

Take time from airport to Estes, via Boulder, peak to peak. Stay Estes 2 nights.

Then to Buena Vista in afternoon via trail ridge rd.(night 3 BV)

Then to Durango via Great Sand Dunes for the 3rd and 4th of July (nights 4 and 5)

one night Mesa verde (night 6)

one night Ouray (night 7)

one night between Ouray and Denver - Any ideas? Maybe Vail.

How does that look? I like the idea of being in Durango on July 4th, I think.

I think I'm getting closer, any feedback is very appreciated!

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7. Re: 8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

final itinerary- my husband found out the Pike's peak hill climb car race was going on during the week we would be there, so found a way to put it in.

What do you think of this plan?

We'll fly in Friday night now. Head to Boulder for overnight and to acclimate.

Sat- Boulder in a.m. - take peak to peak rd. to Estes Pk.

Sun-Hike in RMNP, stay Estes

Mon-Take trail ridge rd. with stops and end in Glenwood Springs for the night.

Tues.- Need to end at Far View Lodge at Mesa Verde (already booked) 2 options- mapquest suggests heading over to Utah and down, giving us a chance to see Needles Overlook at Canyonlands (haven't been there) but I know this would add at least 1 1/2 hours to drive. Or take Million Dollar Highway/550, which will take more driving time, but might be more scenic ( we travelled the portion between Durango and Ouray about 5 years ago)

Wed.-visit within Mesa Verde for most of the day, leave by 5:00 to make it to Durango for 4th of July fireworks show.

Thurs.- full day in Durango. Not sure- maybe fishing, or rail trip (if we took the Canyonlands driving route) Stay Durango.

Friday- head early to Great Sand Dunes, stay this night in Buena Vista or push to Colorado Springs.

Sat.-Garden of the gods, pre-race day activities???

Sun.- Race day, head to airport.

I have a feeling it will be crazy busy in Colorado Springs during this weekend. Not my cup of tea. Does anyone know just how difficult it is to get around during the race weekend?

How does this look?

Edited: 04 December 2011, 03:09
WestSlope,CO
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8. Re: 8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

Looks good.

The Needles Overlook is awesome but my preferred route in the summer would be Glenwood to Redstone, over McClure Pass to Paonia/Hotchkiss, (fruit stands!) and to Montrose for a quick stop at the Black Canyon (see at least three overlooks), then Ridgway. Since you've already driven the Ouray to Durango route, you could head west at Ridgway (stop for a photo at the jail wagon from the original True Grit movie, and maybe a quick stop at the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park--hate to use the word awesome again but the eagle statue there is truly awesome) and go over Dallas Divide, then through Telluride (free gondola between town and Mountain Village) and over Lizard Head Pass to Dolores, Cortez, Mesa Verde. Stop at the visitor center in Cortez to get your Mesa Verde tickets for whichever ranger tour you most want to take the next day. Then when you get to Mesa Verde you can check in at Far View and see some of the park that evening, get your bearings, and plan your next day.

On your full day in Durango, I'd probably take the train ride. Different scenery from what you see on the highway. As I mentioned before, one of the train combo tours gives you the most bang for your buck time wise, IMO.

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9. Re: 8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

Thank you for the route suggestions. I remember the drive from Ouray to Telluride to Arches during that trip. Not sure what part of it, but there was some pretty hairy sections with big unguarded drop offs on the right. Does your route include this Section or anything that resembles it?

Also, how long does it take to get from Montrose to the visitor center at Black Canyon of the Gunnison? I would assume we could see a few viewpoints in an hours time. Is that about right.

Also, I think we will try the train, then raft adventure combo in Durango. I'm sure the kids would like the train/zip line, but those prices are through he roof!

Thanks again.

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10. Re: 8 nights-focus on 3 locations-with teens

The 12 or so miles just south of Ouray through (above?) the Uncompahgre River gorge is the section you remember with the unguarded dropoffs. And there are a few other places along the way that people generally consider a little hairy between Durango and Ouray. The route between Ridgway and Telluride is almost as beautiful scenery-wise but doesn't have the dropoffs.

And going that way would put you through Cortez at about the right time to stop at the visitor center to pick up your tour tickets. Then you'd know the time of your tour the next day and can plan your day accordingly. Of course you can get your tickets in the park, but you won't have to hurry quite so much to get there before closing time.

There are a couple of other ziplines in Durango. Yes, the zipline (Soaring Tree Top Adventures) reached by train is the Cadillac of ziplines--great fun, I'm sure, but pricey. (Of course, some of the cost is the train ride & the remoteness) I think your teens would also like the other combo adventures, but the train-raft would give you a chance to get the raft trip in that you wanted.

The South Rim visitor center of the Black Canyon is about 13-15 miles from Montrose and takes 20-30 minutes to get there (depending on your starting point). Highway 50 to 347. (Google maps and Mapquest are incorrect at this time--Google wants to send you to Elk Creek on Blue Mesa and Mapquest wants to send you to Hotchkiss) And yes, in an hour you can get a nice sample of the viewpoints. Two or three (or more, if hiking) is recommended, but an hour is still worthwhile, IMO. I would recommend at least Gunnison Point, Chasm View, and Painted Wall. The Painted Wall is the highest cliff in Colorado, Imagine the Empire State Building plus 1000 feet. So if you only have time for one viewpoint, that would be the one. You are likely to see deer along the way, and maybe other wildlife. If you're lucky you might spot a Peregrine falcon or golden eagle, but very likely you'll see several different hawks. nps.gov/blca/…wildlifewatching.htm

I can't help you with how busy Colorado Springs will be on race days, as I've never been there. They've been doing it a long time, though, so probably have a good handle on it. You might ask on the Colorado Springs forum, as those guys may not be following this thread.