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Summer 2014 road trip

Pelham, New York
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Summer 2014 road trip

Going to do a road trip to Colorado in early July 2014. It will be 2 adults and 2 teens. We would like to see some national parks, ranger talks, do some short hikes, some rafting and maybe horseback riding. My early itinerary looks like this…

Day 1- Arrive in Denver from NYC. Drive to Rocky Mountain N P stopping in Estes Park for lunch. Go to the visitors center then drive the Trail Ridge Road to Grand Lake where we will stay for 3 nights.

Day 2-Horseback riding in RMNP out of Grand Lake (Sombrero Ranch). Drive Old Fall River Road. Check for ranger programs.

Day 3-Do some hiking in RMNP and check ranger programs.

Day 4-Drive to Glenwood Springs stopping at Hanging Lake for a hike, then go to the hot springs. Staying in Glenwood Springs 2 nights.

Day 5- Would like to see Colorado National Monument, Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range, and Grand Mesa. Not sure if this is doable in one day. What would you suggest? We’ll be staying in Glenwood Springs again.

Day 6- Drive to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Then drive to Ouray where we’ll stay for 3 nights.

Day 7- Do a jeep tour out of Ouray. Visit Box Canyon Falls. Enjoy the hot springs.

Day 8- Drive to Mesa Verde for the day then back to Ouray. I know it’s a tough drive but we’d rather change hotels as little as possible.

Day 9- Drive to Great Sand Dunes then stay in Salida for 2 nights.

Day 10- Do whitewater rafting out of Salida.

Day 11- Leaving Salida. Drive to Pikes Peak and do the Cog Railway. Spend the night in Denver.

Day 12- Depart for NYC

I’m trying to get a lot in by staying in as few central locations as possible. Trying to keep driving to about 3 hour spurts. I would love any input from anyone else as to what to skip , must see, other activities, hotel and restaurant recommendations or anything else that you think might help me. Also we’ve been to Denver before so not really looking to spend much time there. Thank you for all your help, I can always count on this site to set me straight. Rob

Fruita, Colorado
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1. Re: Summer 2014 road trip

I'm only going to address day 5. No way can you do all of that in one day. The drive to the CO National Monument from Glenwood Springs is going to take you around an hour and a half alone. Then enjoying the Monument will take a couple of hours if you go from Fruita, stop at the visitor's center for a ranger talk, stop at some of the overlooks and maybe do a short hike or two. This is best done in the morning, the light on the Monument's geographic marvels makes for great photos and it does get hot in the afternoon.

Hiking into to the wild horse area is best done early in the morning in the summer and can require some time, determining where the horses have moved to that day. You cannot drive past the trailhead. blm.gov/pgdata/…littlebookcliffs_web.pdf

The drive over the Grand Mesa on Hwy 65 is a great drive - 63 miles with cool forest and views that go on for miles. But then you are going south, away from Glenwood Springs so you will have to retrace that 63 miles (which you don't do at hwy speeds) to get off of the Mesa and back onto I-70.

If you want to do all of that in the Grand Junction area, you really need to stay in the Grand Junction area to make this work and plan on 1 full day for the horses and Monument and then head south over the Grand Mesa to Montrose and the Black Canyon the next day. To head back to Glenwood would be a waste of time, imho.

Also, you probably will not be able to take a rental car over Fall River Road. All rental car contracts and credit card companies clearly state that you must stay on pavement with the rental or you void the contract. You will see a rather extensive discussion on this topic in the Top Questions on the right side - "What kind of rental car do I need . . ." Check it out and read your insurance coverage if you have questions.

Windsor, Colorado
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for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
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2. Re: Summer 2014 road trip

While I can appreciate your wanting to stay in Grand Lake to limit the crowds one can experience in Estes Park, do understand there is an exchange involved. Estes Park is much busier than Grand Lake because it is adjacent to the highly favored east side of RMNP. The east side of RMNP is more diverse, more dramatic, has more areas available for exploration and has the most sought after hikes. You can NOT easily explore the east side of RMNP from Grand Lake. In the summer, to get from Grand Lake over Trail Ridge Road to the east side of RMNP takes about 90 minutes one way assuming minimum delays for elk jams and people afraid of mountain driving.

Old Fall River Road is a one way dirt road (usually violates a rental car contract) and the entrance to Old Fall River Road is from the east side. You will have to drive back over Trail Ridge Road on day 2 to get to Old Fall River Road. Old Fall River Road usually opens to vehicles around July 4. However, Endovalley Road which is the road you use to get to Old Fall River Road was partially washed out by the September 2013 floods. RMNP will have to reconstruct a bridge and parts of Endovalley Road before anyone will be able to access Old Fall River Road by car.

Trail Ridge Road is way more than just a drive. There are many, many overlooks, short trails, scenic picnic areas and pulloffs along the way. Taking the time to enjoy these greatly increases not only the scenery but enhances your chances to see wildlife. Plan on about 6 hours to explore Trail Ridge Road between Estes Park and Grand Lake. The "wow" overlooks for most people are between Estes Park and the Alpine Visitor Center. Getting an early start reduces traffic and also improves wildlife viewing.

Day 1, drive to Grand Lake from DIA and not to Estes Park or over Trail Ridge Road. Schedule a late afternoon horseback ride. Take an early afternoon boat tour of Grand Lake. Visit the RMNP Kawuneeche Visitor Center. Get the inexpensive guide to Trail Ridge Road. Day 2, get an early start, pack a picnic lunch and drive and explore Trail Ridge Road and then go to Bear Lake Road for the very popular (with good reason) short hikes in that area. You can return to Grand Lake by way of Old Fall River Road if it is accessible by the time of your visit.

Grand Lake does not have extensive lodging options. People have been pleased with finds on vrbo, homeaway and flipkey. www.grandlakechamber.com is helpful and you can check reviews here on TA under the hotels tab of the Grand Lake forum. In Granby, families really enjoy the cabins and activities at Snow Mountain Ranch. Winding River Resort (also a campground) has cabins very close to the west entrance to RMNP and is in a lovely location. They also offer horseback riding.

To clarify SusieLou's post - Fall River Road is paved. It is Old Fall River Road that is dirt. These are two different roads

Edited: 24 November 2013, 03:39
WestSlope,CO
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3. Re: Summer 2014 road trip

At first glance...You're going to have a pretty long first day and hit the high altitude Trail Ridge Road before having any time to acclimate, and you'll be heading west in the afternoon, plus miss a lot of the favorite hikes on the east side of the Park. But I see that others have addressed Rocky Mountain National Park, too.

By staying in "as few central locations" you will actually be doing more driving and backtracking than necessary so will have less time to see and do things. I understand not wanting to change hotels more than necessary, but IMO you're going to need to cut out at least a couple of places, especially if you don't want to change hotels a couple more times.

For example, trying to hike into the Little Book Cliffs, see Colorado National Monument and drive up to Grand Mesa is way to much to try in a day, especially when you factor in an additional three hour round trip from/to Glenwood.

And it really is not feasible to visit Mesa Verde from Ouray. Really. Either way you go will have sections of slow mountain driving on roads you really don't want to drive when you're tired after a full day of sightseeing. Even if you are willing to make the drive, you are going to short change yourselves by spending so little time at the park. By the time you drive there, you may not be able to get one of the tour tickets for Cliff Palace or Balcony House. This is one of the most interesting parks for ranger talks and seeing the stars/night sky, too.

I'd try to rearrange or skip something so that you can spend at least one night in Durango (preferably two) or in the park at Far View Lodge.

Consider trying to fit in your raft trip at Glenwood (or in Durango if you stay there and skip your night in Salida, heading to Colorado Springs after a quick stop at the Great Sand Dunes.) You could go to Colorado National Monument from Glenwood, then over Grand Mesa, on to Delta, Montrose and the Black Canyon then on to Ouray instead of going to Grand Junction and back to Glenwood.

Edited: 24 November 2013, 03:58
Pelham, New York
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4. Re: Summer 2014 road trip

Thanks alot for your input. As usual I can always count on you to set me straight. I'm thinking now of 3 nights in Estes Park. Day 4 - Go to Glenwood Springs maybe stopping at Hanging Lake then doing the hot springs. Day 5 - drive to either Colorado Natl Monument or Little Book Cliffs. Stay back in Glenwood Springs. Day 6 - Driving to Ouray but making a day of it and stopping at Grand Mesa and Black Canyon of the Gunnison on the way there if its doable. Day 7 - Jeep tour out of Ouray. See Box Canyon Falls. Day 8 - Leisurely drive towards Durango on Million Dollar highway. In Durango check out Chimney Rock. Day 9 - Drive to Mesa Verde for the day. Stay in Durango. Day 10 - Drive to Salida stopping at Great Dunes N.P. on the way. Staying in Salida. Day 11 - Rafting trip out of Salida. Day 12 - Drive to Pikes Peak Cog Railway then on to Denver. Stay in Denver and leave in the morning.

After your suggestions I think I'll stay in Estes Park and stay a couple of nights in Durango. You guys are always helpful. This is still a work in progress so any input is always appreciated. Rob

Breckenridge...
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5. Re: Summer 2014 road trip

Day 5- if you plan to come to GJ for the National Monument, I do not see any reason to drive back to Glenwood just to turn around and retrace your steps (more or less) the following day.

If you come to GJ for the national monument or Little Book Cliffs, look at staying in Pallisade or up on the Mesa. July will be hot in GJ but the evenings are nice...otherwise rent a condo up at Powderhorn or somewhere up on the Mesa for a quiet evening with nice cool temps.

Matt

Fruita, Colorado
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6. Re: Summer 2014 road trip

Once again, driving to and from Glenwood eats up a lot of your time to do other things. It will take almost 3 hrs. to retrace your steps from Grand Jct. to Glenwood and then back to the I-70 exit to the Grand Mesa. It seems it wouldn't take that long to toss your pjs and toothbrush into a suitcase and relocate to another hotel rather than have to drive the interstate (and unfortunately that stretch is not the most interesting in CO). Grand Jct. offers lots of great hotels and activities in the evenings. Outdoor concerts, a great farmer's market downtown, art on the corner (over 100 pieces), and outdoor dining. And, as mentioned, there is some lodging on the Mesa, although the condos usually have a minimum stay and the cabins can be rather rustic.

WestSlope,CO
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7. Re: Summer 2014 road trip

I agree to stay in Grand Junction, or Montrose (the Black Canyon has great stargazing and ranger programs, too) rather than backtracking to Glenwood Springs for night 5. As SusieLou says, you will spend way more time backtracking than it would take to just load up the car and change hotels. And then to just turn around the next day and do it again....and SusieLou's right...the drive is nice but not the most scenic part of your trip. If you feel you must stay 2 nights in Glenwood, then skip Grand Junction and Grand Mesa and spend some time in the Glenwood/Aspen/Redstone area before driving past Redstone over McClure Pass to Paonia and Hotchkiss (wineries and fruit stands are in this area if you want to stop) and then on through Delta to Montrose for your detour to the Black Canyon before you go to Ouray.

Another option if you really want to spend two nights in Glenwood would be to skip Salida and do your rafting in Glenwood or Durango, then go to the Sand Dunes and on to Colorado Springs from Durango. Then you'd have the night that you would have spent in Salida to stay in Grand Junction (or Montrose) after your day exploring there. Or keep Salida and skip Colorado Springs.

Pelham, New York
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8. Re: Summer 2014 road trip

Thanks again for the advice. Trying to trim down the itinerary a bit. Wondering which area you would prefer and why, Grand Junction or Colorado Springs? Again we'd like to do some easy hiking, sightseeing, and maybe some other outdoor activities. Thanks again Rob

Fruita, Colorado
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9. Re: Summer 2014 road trip

Well, I live in Grand Junction so I may be a bit biased. CO Springs is a lovely city, but it is a city. Of the things on your "to do" list, I only see one thing that is tied to the CO Spgs area - the cog railroad. On the other hand, if you give up Grand Junction you give up the CO National Monument, the wild horses, the Grand Mesa (300 lakes, world's largest flat topped mountain) and some great memories of just picked awesome peaches. Guess you'll have to decide.

WestSlope,CO
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10. Re: Summer 2014 road trip

It just depends...either would be good. Or skip them both and add time in Ouray, Durango, Telluride or Salida. Take a family vote, I guess!

On the one hand, you've expressed interest in Colorado National Monument and the Little Bookcliffs. Hiking in Grand Junction will be hot at that time of year, but you could certainly hike into the Little Bookcliffs early a.m. after getting an early start from Glenwood, then drive through the Monument during the heat of the day, just stopping briefly at overlooks rather than hiking there. No guarantees you'll see the horses, but its possible, and wouldn't that be a cool thing? SusieLou mentioned some other things to do there, (sounds like you'll be there just in time for peaches!!!) or as I mentioned, it wouldn't be out of line to spend most of the day in Grand Junction and then head to the Black Canyon for a ranger program that evening, then stay in Monrose. Or, as Matt suggested, see if you can find lodging for a night up on Grand Mesa.

Pros for Colorado Springs would be that Pike's Peak is an icon of the American West and the cog rail is a fun, unique way to get to the top of a 14er, and it makes a convenient stop before departure. You'd likely be able to fit in a visit to Garden of the Gods, too. Cons for Colorado Springs might be that you are going to see lots of beautiful mountain scenery in other places. Plus it is one of Colorado's larger cities, which can be a plus or a minus, depending on your preferences.

Edited: 25 November 2013, 21:08