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National Parks/itinerary

KMK83
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605 posts
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National Parks/itinerary

Hello,

My husband and I are planning to visit a friend who lives in Durango sometime in mid to late April (possibly early May) for a week. We will be using Durango as a base and staying there most nights.

Our friend knows the area, but I like to get a lot of opinions to put together a loose itinerary. We mostly want to hike and just take in the scenery.

I understand that it will likely be too cold/snowy/muddy to do mountain hikes, but what about the San Juan Skyway and/or Million Dollar highway? I know that the weather is unpredictable, but generally speaking, in mid/late April, would the drives be worth it to take in some views, or should we just plan to spend all our time in a lower elevation?

We have heard Mesa Verde is a must and will likely take a full day, so that is on the list. Besides that, we're not sure. We're interested in visiting the desert and some of the other parks. Would you suggest Canyonlands, Arches, or Monument Valley from Durango? I'm guessing all of these would require a full day?

If anyone has any suggestions or recommendations on an itinerary based out of Durango, I'd appreciate it! Thank you.

Edited: 11 February 2013, 16:30
WestSlope,CO
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for Colorado
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1. Re: National Parks/itinerary

If you do "out and back" day trips from Durango, you're going to be doing a lot of driving and backtracking to any of the places you mention except Mesa Verde.

An easy day trip would be to the Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec. You could also stop at the Southern Ute Cultural Center in Ignacio.

Pagosa Springs would be a great day trip. So would a trip to Telluride. It'll be off season in Telluride but the views will be there and not everyone closes up shop between ski season and summer!

It's a little over 3 hours to Monument Valley, about three hours to Moab/Canyonlands. Moab area/ Arches National Park really needs a full day and at least two nights is the usual minimum recommendation, but you could get a little sample of it as a day trip, and include a stop at the Needles Overlook for some awesome views into Canyonlands country. If you could manage at least an overnight it would be better, and then you could do the Million Dollar Highway (as always, check the weather first), visit the Black Canyon, then head for Moab for sunset views, then some sightseeing the next morning before you head back to Durango, with a stop at the Needles Overlook.

www.moab-utah.com/photo/needlesoverlook.html

It's about 2 1/2 hours to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with a drive through Silverton, Ouray, and Ouray on the way there and back. The drive would definitely be worth doing at that time of year if you have good weather and dry roads, or possibly if the road reports say "icy spots." You can get good views of the Black Canyon in an hour or so, so to me that would be more feasible as a day trip if the weather is clear and the roads are dry. (You could also go back by way of Telluride if you didn't want to drive the Million Dollar Hwy twice.) If you go, don't miss the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park just north of Ridgway (turn at the River Sage sign). The giant eagle statue there silhouetted against the mountains is a sight to behold.

For a LONG day trip in very good weather, you could get a very early start and head out for Telluride (Lizard Head Pass has amazing views IMO) then drive the Unaweep Tabeguache Byway to Gateway to see the world class auto museum there (home to the famous collection of autos and memorabilia of Discovery Channel founder) then drive on to intersect Hwy 50/550 and go to the Black Canyon, then back to Ouray>Silverton>Durango. You would definitely want to choose a day where good weather is predicted, and check the road conditions. Don't do this drive if snow is predicted, and plan to spend the night in Montrose or Ouray if you need to. Or probably better to reverse the route so you're doing the Million Dollar Highway first, when you're fresh.

KMK83
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2. Re: National Parks/itinerary

Thank you misspWestSlope, this is excellent info!

I think we will try to spend a night in the Moab area, it sounds like there is a lot to see.

Tyler, Texas
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3. Re: National Parks/itinerary

Take a picnic to Black Canyon..good picnic spots. Eat in Mancos, Absolute Bakery to or from MV. Ouray is a good overnight spot. Do visit Telluride

Atlanta, Georgia
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4. Re: National Parks/itinerary

We did a September trip to the SW. We visited Arches NP first then based ourselves in Durango for about a week before heading to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We did a day visit to Mesa Verde, got up early and went to Monument Valley for the day, and drove the San Juan Skyway one day. We also visited Silverton, Ouray, Telluride and Ridgeway. Yes we did a lot of driving but had reservations in Durango (very affordable) and did not want to move around. Here is the link to some of the photos we took of the area-

…tripadvisor.com/tripwow/ta-0693-2f04-ec52

Hope you enjoy your visit. We really enjoyed our time in the SW.

KMK83
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5. Re: National Parks/itinerary

Thank you both!

Great pics, PeachBelle, thanks for sharing!

6. Re: National Parks/itinerary

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