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Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

Delaware
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Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

Arriving into ABQ on a Wednesday afternoon 6/22/11 and will be spending the night in Old Town. The following day is set aside for travel to Durango.

I believe the most direct route is to follow 550 up but I was thinking of instead taking the more eastern route through Santa Fe, Chama, Pagosa Springs. My reasoning for this is that I believe this route may be more scenic / interesting. Will have the entire day as I do not need to get to Durango until evening to check into hotel for the night and dinner is flexible as to when/where. Looking for any thoughts or suggestions. My questions and concerns are:

1. Is there enough time to take this route without feeling rushed?

2. Would there be any advantage to going up the other way and into CO via Cortez in order to get advance tour tickets to Mesa Verde for the following day (and do they still offer this?).

3. Going up via 550 would allow us to stop off at Aztec ruins or some other Native American sites versus going the other route which I am guessing would offer more Spanish colonial type of feel (would like to get the best overall experience of NM).

Plan on returning back to ABQ from Moab, UT and the return drive I don't believe will allow enough time to do any real sightseeing stops along the way as it is a much longer distance.

I have taken some time to browse through the archived post topics related to some of this but would appreciate any thoughts or ideas. Thanks!

Rio Rancho, New...
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1. Re: Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

Your planned route thru Pagosa Springs is a very scenic drive (especially thru southern Colorado). It's "do-able" considering you leave early and dont spend too much time at the sights on that route. Another route (which I prefer time-wise) is US550 from Bernalillo, thru Cuba then turning north on NM537. That will take you to Dulce, NM and US64, Take US64 east (a little ways) to US84 and head north to Pagosa Sprs. I usually take this route to avoid traffic in Santa Fe and Esanola, NM. However, if Santa Fe is a stop for you then the route thru Santa Fe, Espanola, Chama would be best. Hope this helps and if you happen to be driving north on June 24 San Juan Pueblo (north of Espanola) has their Annual Feast Day.

Albuquerque, New...
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2. Re: Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

I usually take 550 out of Bernalillo through Cuba and Aztec. The other route would be more scenic and longer. If you haven't been to Santa Fe, by all means you should consider but doesn't sound like you can plan much time for that on your way to Durango. Probably can get some time in at plaza in Santa Fe. Writer above is correct, though, about traffic from Santa Fe through Espanola. Don't know the answer to your Cortez question. Aztec Ruins are small but I appreciated them. Main Street Bistro in downtown Aztec is good. Also El Bruno's in Cuba is good stop for lunch.

Albuquerque, New...
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3. Re: Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

I would go the Santa Fe, Pagosa Springs route. Much more scenic, especially near Ghost Ranch. Quite pretty high country from Pagosa to Durango. Time is not much longer than US550. 550 advantage is time, as it is 4 lane all the way to Bloomfield. Why not do this route on the way back. Moab to Monticello to Cortez to Shiprock/Farmington. Not too far to go upto Aztec for the ruins. You can by-pass Santa Fe by taking NM 599 just south of the city. Longer route, but cuts off all the city traffic.

Albuquerque, New...
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4. Re: Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

If you haven't been to Santa Fe, don't bypass. Take Old Pecos Trail exit to plaza.

Delaware
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5. Re: Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

Thanks so much for the feedback! Visiting Mesa Verde & Arches / Canyonlands are the focus of the trip and I chose Albuquerque as our airport both for cost as well as to include seeing some of New Mexico as well. Santa Fe, in my opinion, is in itself a destination and for us will have to wait for another time, so I really appreciate the suggestions to take the shortcut around SF / Espanola. We'll have to play it by ear and if it looks good then maybe we can make a stop in SF at least to see the Plaza (experiencing Old Town in ABQ is our substitute for SF as of now!).

May try and make a stop at Aztec ruins on the way back. From what I have seen it looks quite amazing. Recently I saw a show on either Travel channel or History channel which focused on Chaco / Aztec / Mesa Verda ---really got me excited about visiting!

Albuquerque, New...
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6. Re: Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

Agree that Santa Fe is itself a destination but going to plaza via Old Pecos Trail, spending a good hour or so, and then exiting via Guadalupe to 84 is worth whatever you save on bypass. You're already there! At least you won't be fighting the traffic on Cerillos or St. Francis exits. It's the traffic from the bypass to Espanola and then through Espanola that gets me and you won't avoid that on the route to Abiquiu and Chama. The bypass does NOT get you around Espanola. I think Old Town plaza is prettier than Santa Fe's but Santa Fe's is better for the surrounding shops, restaurants, portico, museums, architecture, old world charm, and people watching. Start your drive a bit earlier and in one hour you can have breakfast around the Santa Fe plaza. Saving Aztec for drive back is good idea, and you probably don't really need more than an hour, after all that you've seen.

Albuquerque, New...
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7. Re: Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

Or do you mean the "shortcut" that takes you through Cuba, 537 to Dulce, and then to Pagosa Sprrings, skipping Santa Fe altogether, along with Abiquiu and Chama? I understand the reason for that route (timewise, to get to southern Colorado) but it would not be my first choice. I think you will be missing a lot.

Delaware
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8. Re: Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

Bleicherblog,

I really like your suggestion about the route and including a short visit to SF, maybe we can make this a stop to include lunch as well. Also it just occurrred to me that what passes for "terrible traffic" for you guys may not seem so bad for us....we live in northern Delaware and are used to the high density traffic of the I-95 "northeast corridor"!

This will be our first ever trip to the Southwest (been to California but that doesn't really count) and the time that you and the other area experts take to contributing to the forum is most appreciated!

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9. Re: Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

Definitely check on the availability of advance tour tickets at Mesa Verde NP. I was there not long ago and did not see any indications that was possible. The website indicates tour tickets have to be purchased in person at the Far View Visitors Center, which is a 25 minute or so drive beyond the park entrance. It is not clear if they can be purchased for the next day. A possibility to look into is staying at Mesa Verde in the Far View Lodge. Cortez is a nice enough town, but Durango offers much more. The drive via 84 through Pagosa Springs is quite scenic.

Albuquerque, New...
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10. Re: Routes between Albuquerque and Durango

Obviously, I think Santa Fe is worth even a short visit since you are so near (unless you head toward Cuba). I do think, however, that if you want to start in ABQ in the morn and arrive in Durango by evening, with a scenic, longer drive in between, you will be more comfortable if you are further along your route than lunchtime in Santa Fe. I think a breakfast in Santa Fe is a great idea and you can get some great recommendations here for places around the plaza. You are absolutely right about all this talk of "terrible traffic". It's not so terrible compared to what you are probably describing. Traffic on I25 between ABQ and Santa Fe is continuous and steady but 75 pretty much all the way. The Old PecosTrail is a lovely entry way to city and plaza without the local traffic of Cerillos (in particular) or St. Francis exits. 84 traffic out of Santa Fe seems a little too fast at the start (a big long descent), but the views of the Sangre de Cristo are wonderful. Things start to slow down through Pojoaque and Espanola can be a maze of lights and local traffic. Once out of Espanola, everything calms down toward Abiquiu...a country highway now and the only thing slowing you down ahead will be mountainous roads with the scenery you hoped for.