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driving denver to durango in early may

chapel hill
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driving denver to durango in early may

Wondering about best route considering the weather and scenic elements and time?

thx

Chicago
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1. Re: driving denver to durango in early may

There are so many possibilities. How far off the beaten path do you want to go? How much time do you have?

chapel hill
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2. Re: driving denver to durango in early may

I would like to get from Denver to Durango within 1 day or in 1 1/2 day. It seems the driving around Durango- the san juan skyway is a must - but I am wondering about the drive along the way from Denver to Durango. Is early May-- a bad time to go- in terms of enjoying the scenic beauty of the area. My choice is to either fly from Denver to Durango and save my time for the Durango area or to enjoy the drive to Durango and have less time around there.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

thanks

Columbia, MD
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3. Re: driving denver to durango in early may

There are several routes that will take between 7 and 8 hours drive time. You can't go wrong with any one of them scenery-wise.

I researched numerous routes for a road trip last year.

Here's the one we took - we broke it up into 2 days, but it is about 7.5 hours drive time. I70W to Loveland Pass (route 6) Over Loveland Pass back to I 70W. CO route 91 through Climax and Leadville (Leadville - the 2 mile high town surrounded by 14K foot mountains) to US Route 24 south. Route 24S through Buena Vista (this is where we stopped) to Route 285 S. That leg of the trip paralelled the collegiate peaks. Route 285 S to route 160W. Route 160W over Wolf Creek Pass to Durango. Route 285 passes through the headwaters of the Arkansas River.

A little faster route is to take US 285 out of Denver - it joins the above route at Buena Vista. I've read that 285 is very scenic also.

A third route is 285 S to US 50 west to US 550 south. US 550 S between Ouray and Silverton is the Million Dollar Highway. A bit of white knuckle driving involved there. Stretches of mountain on one side, 2 lane road, cliff on the other with no guardrail or shoulder. Going south you will be on the cliff side most of the time.

There are other routes. As far as mountain scenery, you can hardly go wrong with any choice.

WestSlope,CO
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for Colorado
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4. Re: driving denver to durango in early may

If you do the drive, how long will you have in the Durango area? If you'll still have at least three to five days, I'd drive. If you only would have two days, then fly. You might get some snow in early May in the higher mountains but it isn't too likely and it will melt off the roads quickly. Early May might not be the best time for hiking or camping, but it is usually fine for scenic driving! Especially since you're allowing yourself time for an overnight stop if the weather would happen to get yucky. The mountain peaks will probably still have some snow, so that adds to the scenic beauty, and foliage will be starting to green up.

Will this be a loop trip, returning to Denver? Then drive one way and return another.

Ouray, Colorado
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5. Re: driving denver to durango in early may

It will be around 8 hours if you go through Ouray. You can cut the time by taking US 160 across the bottom of the state. Of course, there are numerous ways to get there but I-25 south to Walsenburg will put you on 160 and then buzz west across the state.

You would see many of the BIG mountains on US 160. There are 4 14ers around Alamosa (Blanca, Little Bear, Lindsey, and Ellingwood ) and you might be able to see Culubra as you pass LaVeta. I suppose you would see the back sides of the Crestones in the distance too as they help create the Great Sand Dunes NP by blocking all the sand but I can't remember... Wolfcreek is pretty pass.

Personally, I like the scenery from Ouray to Durango as it is more dramatic and you are in it as opposed to seeing it out in the distance but there is that road (Million Dollar Highway). I drive that road myself (the really nasty part) all the time (i.e. 2 times per week all winter long) but I am not intimidated by heights. If you do go to Durango through Ouray, it will take longer than hitting 160 in Walsenburg.

chapel hill
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6. Re: driving denver to durango in early may

Thanks everyone for the advice. What do you all think about doing this type of trip the first week of may. Will we miss a lot of the beauty since it's mud season

WestSlope,CO
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7. Re: driving denver to durango in early may

No, it will still be very beautiful scenery-wise. In early May there's usually still some snow on the peaks, which really gives definition and depth to the crags, but things will be starting to green up on the lower slopes and in the valleys spring will be in force. Melting snow makes dirt roads and trails soft and muddy, so not suitable for hiking, camping, mountain biking, jeeping, etc in many areas. There will be likely be some areas that the aspen & foliage won't be leafed out fully, but it will still be a beautiful drive. You may spot some seasonal waterfalls, too, that are only there in the spring.

Columbia, MD
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8. Re: driving denver to durango in early may

Miss the beauty? Heck no. You will see snow topped mountains that look like postcards. You may even get lucky and have a snow shower like we did in June up on Loveland Pass. The only time mud comes into play is if you want to hike or drive off road.

Pagosa Springs...
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for Durango, Pagosa Springs
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9. Re: driving denver to durango in early may

Personally, I love Colorado as it wakes from its winter slumber. The birds chirping, snow melting and the rivers flowing as everything begins to turn green.

Mud season may limit trail access, but the beauty of the mountains is intact. In fact, I have found the mountains reveal different features each season. In springtime, the waterfalls are fabulous, rivers are powerful and the critters are active!

My first visit to Colorado before moving here from Raleigh NC was in early May. Have a great visit!

WestSlope,CO
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10. Re: driving denver to durango in early may

Here's another possible 7 day itinerary:

Plot a route to Montrose on Day 1. If you've never driven Interstate 70 over Vail Pass & through Glenwood Canyon, you might go that way. Either turn south at Glenwood Springs to Redstone & over McClure Pass to Hotchkiss/Delta & Montrose. Or, go to Grand Junction for the wineries and Colorado National Monument--spring is perfect time to visit there--, then on to Montrose (or overnight Grand Junction, then to Montrose in the morning.) Visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. (should be some cactus & wildflowers blooming there & since Black Canyon is lower elevation, the trails & walks to overlooks should be fine for walking.)

Day 2, Black Canyon if you didn't get there on Day 1, then drive to Ridgway, Telluride, Dolores, Mesa Verde.

Day 3. Finish Mesa Verde, then to Durango.

Day 4. Durango, maybe train ride.

Day 5. Drive to Silverton & Million Dollar Highway to Ouray for the day. Overnight Ouray or drive back to Durango.

Day 6. Pagosa Springs over Wolf Creek Pass to South Fork, then 149 to Creede, Lake City. Intersect Hwy 50 and drive to Salida or Buena Vista. Watch for deer, elk, bighorn sheep all along the route, and near Creede you might even spot a moose. After Gunnison and before you start to climb Monarch Pass, you might be there at the right time to see wild iris blooming if you are a wildflower fan.

Day 7, return to Denver via Leadville, Breckenridge, or 285.

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