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Itinerary Help for Summer National Park Loop

CT,RI
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47 posts
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Itinerary Help for Summer National Park Loop

Hi Colorado Forum!

I have been planning our family trip to Colorado with the help of all of you; I have read through this forum and used the search function. Thank you all for such wonderful advice thus far.

I am finalizing our itinerary and hope someone can read through and let me know if there are any glaring issues that I haven't seen.

We are a family of 5- kids are 19, 15 and 13. We love to travel to new places and see the sites, light hiking, flishing, photography and National Parks. We have visited 10 National parks and numerous National Monuments over the years.

July10-We are flying into Denver and staying in Colorado Springs for the night.

July 11 Breakfast with a friend and drive to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Stay the night in Great Sand Dunes.

July 12 Drive to Durango. Husband and Son have Fishing plans in the area and the girls and I would like to take the train to Silverton. I was hoping to take the bus to Silverton (930am) and the train return. Is this possible? Was hoping we could do the drive to Durango and get there in time? Stay the night in Durango.

July 13/14 Mesa Verde National Park with stays in the park at night.

July 15 Drive to Black Canyon of the Gunnison NationalGunnison National Park, Stay in Grand Junction. Could we do the Colorado National Monument and BCNP on the same day or will this be too much to squeeze into the day?

July 16 (Visit CNM if we can't the day before) Drive to Rocky Mountain National Park. Any suggestions for stops to break up the drive that day? Stay in Estes Park 4 Nights.

July 17-19 RMNP

July 20 Drive to Denver and Flight home.

Any advice is appreciated. Thank you in advance, we are looking forward to our trip!

Colorado National Monument
Monuments & Statues, Mountains, National Parks, Nature & Wildlife Areas, Parks
Black Canyon
Canyons, National Parks
San Juan National Forest
Forests, National Parks
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Mountains, National Parks, Deserts
Windsor, Colorado
Destination Expert
for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
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1. Re: Itinerary Help for Summer National Park Loop

Yes, you can visit Black Canyon and Colorado National Monument in the same day. Coming from Mesa Verde, you have about 5 hours driving time (including getting to the park/monument) plus touring time at Black Canyon and the monument. You want at least 2 hours at Black Canyon and another 2 hours at Colorado National Monument.

These folks were planning the same thing.

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g33450-i1252-k5713…

There are many great stops from Grand Junction to Estes Park. I would consider spending a night in Grand Lake--the town on the western side of RMNP. That would give you a chance to explore some of that side of the park and increase your chances of viewing moose. Since you mentioned fishing--Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake and Lake Granby are all right there together. After a night in Grand Lake, you could drive and explore all the many short trails and overlooks along Trail Ridge Road to Estes Park. Otherwise, you will be doing Trail Ridge Road as an over to Grand Lake and back trip from Estes Park. You need at least 4 hours to enjoy Trail Ridge Road between Grand Lake and Estes Park. More is better.

If you do not spend the night in Grand Lake, then I would drive the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway (go through Central City) on the way to Estes Park from Grand Junction and save Trail Ridge Road for a day trip from Estes.

Some stops along the way from Grand Junction to Estes Park

Glenwood Springs--Hanging Lake hike(will be busy in July), short rafting trip on the Colorado River

coloradowhitewaterrafting.com/TripRates.htm

Vail is beautiful in the summer for a stroll or grab a bite to eat. See the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

Historic Georgetown or Historic Idaho Springs. There is a new zipline in Idaho Springs. Take the short hike to St. Mary's Glacier near Idaho Springs.

colorado-hiking-vacations.com/st-marys-glaci…

Atlanta, Georgia
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for Road Trips
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2. Re: Itinerary Help for Summer National Park Loop

We did a similar trip last September but had previously been several times to the RMNP. We will visit RMNP again this September.

We did Denver, CO NM, Arches NP, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde NP, Durango, San Juan Skyway, and also included Santa Fe and Albuquerque. We had a wonderful trip. I was fortunate to get great airfare and no one way car rental fees so we flew into Denver and out of ABQ.

The DE here on the CO forum are awesome and I am sure will give you some great info. Enjoy your trip planning.

WestSlope,CO
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for Colorado
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3. Re: Itinerary Help for Summer National Park Loop

The only big problem I see is the day you want to ride the train. I would recommend you stop at the Great Sand Dunes for two or three hours on July 11, then drive on toward Durango, or at least as far as Pagosa Springs.

And I'll chime in with fv to suggest an overnight in Grand Lake, then Trail Ridge Road, with three nights in Estes Park.

I think you might wish you had at least one more night in SW Colorado. I hate for you to miss the historic & picturesque towns (not to mention the scenery) of Ouray and Telluride. A jeep tour is darn near mandatory, too, to get up into the mountains & see the old mines, ghost towns, summer wildflowers and mountain peaks. The only place to "cut and paste" a night would be to take one from Estes Park.

Pagosa Springs...
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for Durango, Pagosa Springs
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4. Re: Itinerary Help for Summer National Park Loop

Consider a tour at Chimney Rock National Monument, just west of Pagosa Springs. A stop in Pagosa would allow everyone to tube down river (through downtown) and / or fish. The downtown stretch is stocked, so plenty of large trout pulled out. Lots of scenery and great photo opportunities too...

www.chimneyrockco.org

www.visitpagosasprings.com

Thibodaux, Louisiana
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5. Re: Itinerary Help for Summer National Park Loop

I was definitely thinking the same think as misspWestSlop. SW CO has so much to offer. Ouray is such a beautiful town and I would definitely recommend a Jeep ride in that area. The highlight of one of my trips was a ride to "yankee boy basin". I agree with taking a night from Estes park, its well worth it.

WestSlope,CO
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for Colorado
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6. Re: Itinerary Help for Summer National Park Loop

You could easily spend that three or four days in Estes Park/RMNP, but since you are taking the time to drive to SW Colorado, I'd try to allow a good amount of time there.

CT,RI
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47 posts
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7. Re: Itinerary Help for Summer National Park Loop

I will look into changing our reservations in Estes Park to give us another day down in SW Colorado. The jeep tour sounds great.

How long of a drive would it be from Colorado Springs to Pagosa Springs with the stop in Great Sand Dunes National Park? Is the drive from GSDNP to Durango too much to do early in the morning?

Thank you all so much for the great advice!

WestSlope,CO
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for Colorado
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8. Re: Itinerary Help for Summer National Park Loop

I think it is too far from Sand Dunes to drive to Durango and hope to catch the 9:30 bus or train. Google Maps says 3 hr 30 minutes, but I think it might take a little longer because these are two lane roads and you have several small towns and a mountain pass.

It would take you a good bit of the day to get from Colorado Springs to Sand Dunes to Pagosa, but visiting the Sand Dunes will give you a good break from driving, then you can hit the river or the hot springs when you get there late that afternoon. 5 1/2 hrs to 6 1/2 hours drive time, depending on your route, plus a couple of hours at the dunes.

Edited: 16 February 2013, 21:45
9. Re: Itinerary Help for Summer National Park Loop

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