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Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

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Effingham, Illinois
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Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

We have been to northern Colorado before and LOVED it so we want to come back and experience the southwest area as much as possible as i hear it is just as beautiful. Therefore, planning a trip for NEXT July and need some help. We tend to like the small quaint towns usually so for that reason I was thinking Ouray over Telluride???

I have a family of 4 with 2 teens. My sample interary includes:

1 day at Mese Verde

1 all day rafting class 3 or higher

1 day renting a jeep(out of Ouray or Telleuride), hopefully doing the Million dollary hiway tour or seeing as much of the area as possible

another day rafting - hopefully different river somewhere else

and the last day saved for exploring towns or hot springs in Ouray, not sure exactly.

So the help I need is if Ouray would make for the best base to do these things? I looked at Telluride and I think we would be best suited to the mom and pop location over the ritzy location, even though Telluride does look beautiful it probably comes with a cost. Also, my family does not like moving around much. They usually would prefer to stay in one location and drive more to get where they are going but I am not opposed to staying in more than 1 location if needed. Also, looking for a 2bed cabin with a hot tub and that has been extremely difficult to find with a budget of $200/night. I have since realized that it will be at least $325/nt. for those requirements.

Also, What jeep companies would be best to rent for 4 people? Any suggestions on 2 different rafting trips on different rivers?

Any help with this would be greatly appreciated.

Park City, Utah
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1. Re: Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

Both great destinations. Probably Ouray over Telluride as it's somewhat easier to access the things you'll want to do. I'm more familiar with Telluride than Ouray so I'll let others answer the other detailed questions. We're likely taking our Jeep over to Ouray this August or September.

Have fun.

Charleston, South...
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2. Re: Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

Ouray will be more budget friendly than Telluride. Do find the time to spend a day in Telluride too tho. Ride the free gondola between Telluride and Mountain Village (great views), take a hike, some leave from right in town. Check out the great small museum ~ documents the history of Telluride from before the white man to present day. Horseback ride in the mountains? The Brown Dog has wonderful pizza and sandwiches. The drive from Ridgway to Telluride is spectacular.

WestSlope,CO
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3. Re: Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

Are you driving in or flying?

Ouray sounds like a great fit for you as far as atmosphere and "feel" of the town, and it is a good base for a day trip to Telluride, Black Canyon, and jeep tours or renting a jeep. (But you don't need a jeep for the Million Dollar Highway) There's no rafting right in Ouray, however, so you'd have to travel some for that. And there aren't lots of individual cabins like you find in some locations. (Nor are there many small individual cabins in Telluride) There are some vacation rentals...we'll all have to do some thinking and searching to find something like what you want. Did you want a private hot tub? There's a hotel with hot-spring-fed hot tubs for guests only and I think they have a family suite. I'll do a little looking if I get some time.

Ouray is a bit far for visiting Mesa Verde as a day trip, however. (Telluride is a little better for Mesa Verde, but still quite a drive after a long day sightseeing there.) Add up your drive time to Durango then to Mesa Verde plus 1/2 hour or so into the park and 5 or 6 hours in the park, then 1/2 hour back to the highway and then back back to Ouray either via Silverton (and the Million Dollar Highway is not a road you want to drive at the end of the day when you're tired) or around by Telluride and Ridgway...and I think you'll understand what I mean. (And you wouldn't have time to make any stops along the way).

I understand you'd rather not move around, but I think you'd have a better trip and more time to do things if you split your trip at least into two locations...possibly part in Durango for visiting Mesa Verde and one of your raft trips (and staying in a cabin); and the rest in Ouray. You could explore the Million Dollar Highway in one direction when moving between the two locations and save yourselves quite a bit of backtracking.

Edited: 15 July 2013, 05:34
Charleston, South...
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4. Re: Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

MisspWestSlope has given some great suggestions.

I forgot to give you the link for horseback riding.

www.ridewithroudy.com

www.visittelluride.com

www.OurayColorado.com

www.telluridemuseum.org

www.mountainwestmuseum.com

www.telluridetours.com

www.tellurideoutside.com

www.browndogpizza.net

Effingham, Illinois
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5. Re: Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

Thank you so much for each of your replies, links, and advice! Decisions, decisions... I did find a vacation rental in Ouray with plenty of space and a private hot tub but it has a minimum 4 night rental so if I stay 2 different places I will have to find a new rental. Oh well, I will keep looking and planning. I still need to figure out the best area to do the rafting in.

Yes, we are driving in (20 hour drive..Ugggh!) and I have spoiled them on past vac's with private secluded 2-3 bed cabin rentals with a private hot tub. Good tip on the Ouray to Mese Verde tiresome drive. Good to know. I dont want to overextend ourselves. I like to keep busy, but not exhausted :) The boys may decide that they would rather not do the Mesa Verde since it is farther south and I am out voted by the boys 3-1. It if takes away time from rafting or jeeping it will surely lose out. Thanks for your help with everything!!

WestSlope,CO
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6. Re: Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

You might ask if you could negotiate a 3 night rental. Or maybe you could get up early your last day and drive around by Telluride to ride the free gondola and visit Mesa Verde at least for a little while, then spend the night in Durango (maybe time for a quick session of tubing on the river to refresh everyone after Mesa Verde? Or the alpine slide at Durango Mountain Resort? Hey, sometimes a little bribery works wonders!) before heading toward home.

Durango will be a great place for one of your raft trips. Take a look at Rigs Whitewater if you stay in Ouray.

http://fishrigs.com/colorado-river-rafting/ Ridgway State Park is a good place for one of the popular new water activities, stand up paddle boarding, and there are other location options, as well. fishrigs.com/family-adventures-ouray-colorad…

Edited: 16 July 2013, 01:32
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7. Re: Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

Here is a trip report I did on our stay in Telluride. We loved both Telluride and Ouray.

Telluride

Why did it take us so long to visit this beautiful area? We have actually had Ouray, Colorado on our bucket list for awhile. For us Ohio people who need a mountain fix, it is much easier to fly into Denver and then drive to the Breckenridge/Aspen or Boulder/Estes areas.

There seemed to be a lot of visitors from Texas and Arizona. We did find several Ohio people who now have chosen to retire here— they all told us that they loved living here.

The scenery in this part of Colorado is breathtaking. It seemed that everywhere we hiked or drove, we were surrounded by breathtaking mountain vistas. We absolutely loved Telluride/Ouray and the San Juan Mountain area.

This trip was planned at the last minute. My husband’s schedule freed up and as he has tired of my whining about not having any vacations planned for the rest of my life, he mentioned that we should try to get away and hike. I jumped on it. We were able to redeem last minute FF miles on AA, with a slight charge since we were booking less than 3 weeks ahead, flying into Montrose Colorado.

One of our travel decisions was whether to stay in Ouray or Telluride and, if we stayed in Telluride, whether we should stay in the town of Telluride or Mountain Village. Summer lodging rates were really very inexpensive everywhere. I had several choices for lodging at $100/nt. I spent a couple days researching possibilities and then booked a 2 br condo at the Lodge at Mountain Village from a listing on VRBO. We thought this was a fabulous place to stay. We would not have been upset if we had chosen to stay in Telluride or Ouray either.

Telluride is a very charming western town. Having trails that started right from town is a really wonderful feature. The condos were at one end of town. Small well-kept homes, some very colorful, line the main street and there are neighborhoods where you can walk right into town, or take their free bus. Looking at the real estate postings in the windows, these are very expensive small homes and very expensive neighborhoods. A trail to a waterfall is at the far end of town—how fabulous is that? A lovely town park and river trail run through the town, surrounded by spectacular mountains—it is just beautiful. There is a summer festival almost every weekend in Telluride—except for the weekend we were there. They were setting up for their biggest festival, the Telluride Filmfest, as when we were leaving on Tuesday. I would have loved to have been there for a festival. We were there for the seemingly very popular Blizzard Sale in Mountain Village—a very good ski equipment and apparel sale.

Mountain Village has a more country club feel with hotels, a lodge, restaurants, condos and multi-million dollar homes dotting the mountain peaks and golf course—but what a setting!!!! I had been warned that the Village would be dead in the summer but there seemed to be a lot of people around.

I envisioned Mountain Village as condos on the mountain overlooking Telluride, but the Village is not actually visible from Telluride. There is a free gondola that took you from Telluride to the top of the mountain (10,500) where there were hiking and biking trails and Allreds Restaurant (with the fabulous Happy Hour--more on summer restaurant deals later). Then the gondola headed down to Mountain Village where you could access restaurants/shops/ condos/hiking or hop on another gondola that took you to the Lodge/grocery store/parking area/more condos and homes.

This gondola connects Telluride and Mountain Village and runs all day and until midnight or 2AM. It enabled you to get back and forth, to access trails, to take your bike or your dog (it seemed that everyone here has at least one dog)---and to enjoy the most spectacular views as you headed back and forth. The ride from Telluride to Mountain Village was about 20 minutes. I never tired of riding that gondola.

More hiking and scenic drives later........As a heads up, we did not take a jeep trip--the #1 activity to do in this area. We thought about taking one---a week just wasn't long enough to do everything.

Car rental

We arrived at the Montrose Airport and rented a car from Alamo/National. Since we were renting last minute, I tried to Priceline/Hotwire a car but they rejected a bid that was higher than what I was able to get with Alamo. We paid $194 including all fees and taxes for the week (compact car that was fortunately upgraded). The last couple times we have rented cars, I have gotten my best price with rental agency member specials. I was not previously an Alamo member but joined and received the discounted rate+ $40 off members only discount. We were upgraded to a Hyundai Santa Fe. I would definitely recommend getting a jeep or high clearance vehicle for this area. There are some beautiful drives on well maintained dirt roads but having a SUV/Jeep makes the driving much easier.

We had our first ever accident with a rental car when my husband backed into an Aspen tree in the parking area of a trail—just a little dent on the rear hatch but the window shattered and we needed to do a vehicle exchange. The only car rental agencies at the Telluride Airport, are National and Hertz. They were most helpful when we needed to switch vehicles—and the Telluride Airport is just about 10 minutes from Mountain Village. National wasn’t open when we arrived at the airport but the Hertz representatives helped us out and we exchanged the car the next day. We were upgraded again to a Jeep Liberty—I really liked that car. There were some amazing cars in the rental lot at the Telluride Airport. I am assuming they cater to the very rich. The airstrip is on a mesa with a very short runway. Only private planes land there. You should drive up that hill though and see the fabulous views from the mesa---also many more multi million dollar homes.

Driving to Telluride

The drive from Montrose to Telluride is spectacular and we stopped several times to take photos. Ralph Lauren owns about 15,000 acres and his ranch is enclosed by the fence that stretches for miles. We saw a very unassuming wooden sign/gate “Double RL Ranch”. I guess that was the entrance. We also saw some guests hanging around his white teepee guest suites. His son was marrying Lauren Bush on Labor Day weekend and there were lots of activities planned for the guests. What a setting for a wedding.

Our condo at the Lodge at Mountain Village

We enjoyed staying in the condo at the Mountain Lodge at Mountain Village. We didn’t need a 2 br/2 ba but it worked out great for us. The condo was very well equipped, had a fairly small living area with fireplace/kitchen and bedroom with fireplace/bath on the first level. The living room and bedrooms each have flat screen tvs. The second br/bath is in a loft area that could get warm in the summer. It had a ceiling fan in the loft and there were fans in the condo---no A/C. It had a small balcony with 2 chairs and a table where we could have our coffee in the morning;happy hour in the afternoon and look out at the mountains.

We enjoyed eating at the Lodge restaurant called The View (for obvious reasons). There is a small pool and hottub at the Lodge that seemed to be used continuously, but there were only a few guests at any one time. Best of all, the owner was able to get my husband on the golf course twice at the guest rate. My husband ranks the course as one of the most beautiful courses he has ever played.

Blue Lakes Hike

The mornings in Telluride are glorious and make it really worth getting up early. We were always up early, had breakfast, and were on the road by 8:30 AM—and it’s a good thing because we had rain almost everyday at about 1:30 that would last about an hour or 2.

On our first full day in Telluride, we decided we should head to Ouray because the reason we were really visiting this area was because I had read so much about the beautiful town of Ouray. Although from an aerial view, Ouray and Telluride are only 12 miles apart, unless you have a ATV, it is impossible to go across the mountain and you must go around. It takes about an hour to get to Ouray—except this first day—it takes us forever because we have to stop and gawk and take some photos. The drive is beautiful.

On the way, we see Dallas Road, the road that leads to the Blue Lakes Trail, so we decide we’ll do the 6 mile hike. The literature we had from Ouray really doesn’t mention the 9 miles of dirt road that you have to drive to get to the trailhead. The hike though is really beautiful. The literature also says “not too difficult for children who are used to hiking” I guess we maybe should have waited a couple days to do this hike because I did think it was difficult—not a steep uphill hike but a continuous uphill where I definitely noticed the altitude (well that’s my story and I’m sticking with it). It was a slow climb for us (because of me) and then when we got to the Lower Blue Lake the skies opened up and it started to rain. Going down, in the rain, I had an issue with my knee (no ACL, I should have had a wrap, I did have my trekking poles). I tried not to be a wimp and my husband was very understanding. I never had another problem with my knee. The hike up was only 3.3 miles to Lower Blue Lakes. I never thought I would have a problem with such a short hike but it did seem like a long 3 miles. I would do the hike again. I guess the week before, it still had wildflowers that were pretty spectacular. Next time, I would wait until Day 3 to do this hike.

Before the hike, I did ask my husband if he wanted to take his raingear. “There’s not a cloud in the sky” he said. It was pretty surprising how the weather could change in the afternoon.

We never made it to Ouray.

Ouray and the Million Dollar Highway

We were up early again the next morning and even my husband was happy to do a scenic drive today. The famous San Juan Skyway drive is spectacular –the drive from Telluride/Ridgway/Ouray is part of the 232 mile loop that heads down to Durango and Cortez. We didn’t do the entire drive but we decided that today we would drive part of it--the Million Dollar Highway from Ouray to Silverton. What a wonderful drive. It does have switchbacks, drop offs, curves—and no guardrails. In the winter the snowplows push the snow over the side of the road. Throughout the drive, there are fabulous views, old mine buildings, amazing mountain vistas. Definitely a “must do” drive. We lunched in Silverton and then headed back to Ouray. The drive this direction is just as enjoyable.

We planned on hiking 3 trails in Ouray at some time during our stay. Box Canyon Falls, the Ouray Perimeter Trail and the Sutton Mine Trail (suggested at the Ouray Visitors Center as an alternative to the Bear Creek Trail). It was raining when we returned to Ouray at 1:30. Instead of hiking we enjoyed the Ouray Historical Museum in the old hospital—lots of mining history and local historical information. We never did do any of the hikes in Ouray—a reason to return.

Telluride

I know Telluride is home to the rich and famous and the not so famous but still rich but what a great place to have a home. Jerry Seinfeld’s 18 million dollar home is for sale, Oprah once had a house there, Tom Cruise has a house there, etc…but I can see why. It’s absolutely beautiful. I think I could happily live in even the most lowly homes there—but why do I think even these homes are really expensive? Most places we visit seem like wonderful places to visit and I want to return to many, but Telluride seems like such an amazing place to live. Hiking, skiing, mountains…………

And what about those ridiculously huge log cabins in Mountain Village---I suppose those are all second (or third…) homes. It seems almost unimaginable that you could really live in one of those homes.

This is one casual town though. The standard dress code seemed to be jeans, khakis, hiking boots, denim, a bike and a dog. Even at dinner, everyone was very casually dressed. I didn’t see much jewelry, bling etc….

There are some really nice hikes from Telluride.

Bear Creek Canyon starts right in town, 5 miles RT with a Bear Creek Falls. How great is it to have a waterfall in your town.

River Trail is about 3 miles long and extends the length of the town. It also connects to other trails I walked along this trail while my husband golfed. It was a great way to spend the morning. I walked along the river and then walked the Idarado Legacy Trail, with its mining information stations, past the large homes at Pandora Estates to the Mill and Bridal Veil Falls, the falls at the far end of the town.

You could take the gondola to Station St. Sophia and hike or do the bike trails—lots and lots of hikes

We hiked the Ridge Trail, which is a hiking only trail. It starts at Station St. Sophia and ends at Mountain Village.

Great map and list of hikes in the Telluride Visitors Guide

Telluride Golf Course

My husband enjoyed playing this beautiful course. He played 2 mornings. I took the gondola into town, hit the Blizzard Sale, hiked, went to lunch in town and walked around Telluride and Mountain Village while he played.

• It seems that there are some particularly wonderful times to visit this area:

Winter, of course, for skiing.

Late July/early August for wildflowers—I kept hearing about the fabulous flowers at Yankee Boy Basin—you would have to take a jeep ride there.

Early October for the Aspens--the photos are spectacular

For a festival—the Filmfest is Tellurides biggest festival but it seems like there is a festival there every weekend, except for the weekend we were there. We just missed the Mushroom Festival---I hate to even ask about that festival.

Weather while we were there: Aug. 23rd-Aug 30th

We had perfect hiking weather about 75 degrees but it seemed warmer. It was warmer than 65-70 predicted and I did have to wash a couple tee shirts that I took. There was a washer/dryer on the first floor of our complex. We started the mornings wearing sweatshirts but very quickly were in tee shirts. The sun was delightfully warm, no humidity—really wonderful—except for the afternoon showers.

We would have been able to hike a bit more if not for the afternoon showers. After getting caught in the rain the first hike, we made sure we hiked early and then planned on eating lunch about 1:30 during the rain.

Alta Lakes

This is a beautiful area. The narrow dirt road, Alta Lakes Rd., that leads to Alta Lakes was just up the road from Mountain Village. We drove about 4 bumpy miles on the road to the ghost town of Alta, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and then we continued on to the lakes. There are campsites surrounding the lake---just tents and some truck campers--no motor homes or trailers, they wouldn’t have made it up the road. What an absolutely beautiful place to camp. We walked around the lake and just enjoyed the peacefulness. We walked up to a second lake—there may have been another lake—we didn’t know and we were there before some of the campers had even awakened. There were only about 5 campsites that we saw that were occupied. There may have been additional trails there but we didn’t see any. There were some ATVs that headed up the road.

After our stop at Alta Lakes, we once again headed to Ouray for the Grillin’and Chillin’ Festival. We watched a miner's drilling competition, ate grilled ribs and Olathe corn, enjoyed the entertainment.

We stood in amazement as we watched children do a zipline. They had created a zip line for children and to get to the line, they had a ladder on a picnic table, leaning up against a tree. The children were in harnesses, but I was a wreck watching the little ones climb that ladder (some in flip flops) and then zip down the line. The first child we watched could not have been more than 3 years old. I figure they will have that child rapelling by the time he's 5.

We planned on hiking in Ouray again, but once again didn’t hike-- I did read about the hikes though. There are a lot to choose from. We had the best of intentions. We enjoyed Ouray, but as you can tell from this report, we definitely need to return.

Scenic Drives

Every drive we took was absolutely breathtaking and there were many drives listed in the Visitors Guide. All the main roads were very well maintained and we were able to slowly negotiate most of the dirt roads in our SUV. At the Visitors Center in Ouray, they told us which dirt roads we could take. Dirt roads we drove: Dallas Rd to Blue Lakes trailhead, Alta Lakes Rd. and Last Dollar Rd.

4x4 Off roading

This area is off roading heaven--the old mining roads are perfect for this--those miners had to have been awfully brave or just crazy to do some of these roads--and the 4x4 off roading trips are supposed to be the highlight of a visit to this area—we never got around to taking one. Driving to Blue Lakes, Alta Lakes and Last Dollar Road was actually good enough for me. Most visitors rave about their trip over Imogene Pass—the road that connects Telluride to Ouray.

There is so much to see and do in Telluride and Ouray. It is an amazing place to be outside and enjoying the mountains. We would love to return. We saw many locals and visitors fly fishing and biking on the trails and on the mountain roads(I was totally impressed with how strong these bikers are).

Restaurants

One advantage of visiting a ski town in the summer is dinner and happy hour specials.

The best special, and one that was recommended by a local was the happy hour at Allreds—it lasts from 5PM to closing. There were daily beer and wine specials and order from the menu appetizers that were very reasonably priced: $10 huge burger and fries, smoked salmon, mussels, sliders, truffle fries………..

New Sheridan Chop House $21 steak and wine special. This was a bar and parlor special---a delicious steak and glass of red or white wine. We sat at the end of the beautiful bar in the New Sheridan. The historic hotel has been restored and the dining room and bar are beautiful. They have an amazing lighted wine display, reds in one glass case and at a different temperature than the whites—all the bottles were tapped. Steve from Sidney, Australia sat next to us. We totally enjoyed his company. He had been traveling around the country on business and decided to make a 2 day stop in Telluride.

The Nook at the Hotel Telluride offered daily specials. They had a great prix fixe meal offering

No special at The Telluride Bistro but we had great Italian there--and it was crowded. Rustico had also been recommended for Italian.

We enjoyed a couple meals at The View at Mountain Lodge.

For lunch we ate at the Brown Dog Pizza and Poachers Pub.

An afterthought...

Twenty(by)Telluride

We really enjoyed a free event in at the New Sheridan Bar (not the dining room bar), sponsored by the Arts Council, where locals presented slide shows and shared their stories. Each presenter showed 20 photos and were allowed to speak for 20 seconds on each photo. A historian, a couple artists, a paddleboarder, a journalist….—there were 9 presenters. This has been a once a month event and the bar was packed.

The Canadian Rockies--Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, Yoho are our favorite mountain get away but the San Juan Mountains of Colorado have become another special mountain destination for us. We were in awe at the spectacular beauty of the area. It was great to be in the mountains. We hope to return.

Besides being an absolutely beautiful place to visit, there are so many things to do in the summer--even if you are not a hiker--and it's hard to beat the summer lodging discounts.

Nearby:

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is in Montrose.

Mesa Verde is only 80 miles away.

I'm sure there are many other great places to visit in the area

I forgot to mention the Wednesday night concerts in Mountain Village and Shakespeare in the Park

Golf--My husband said the Telluride Golf Course was one of the most scenic courses he has ever played.

Fishing, swimming, biking, camping and loads and loads of scenic drives.

There were so many ways to enjoy the outdoors and the mountains, we just couldn't do it all.

WestSlope,CO
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8. Re: Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

LindainOhio, I think your trip report has the makings of a really good traveler article! Do you know how to post it that way?

Oh, one minor correction, commercial planes do land at the Telluride airport, believe it or not! Even in the winter!

And one more little caveat, even if you rent an SUV with four wheel drive, it is breaking the rental contract for most companies to drive them off-highway, and you could be liable for any damages that might occur when you are in a prohibited area, plus the loss of use while the vehicle is repaired. It would be a good idea to get a clear explanation of this policy when you pick up the car and ask if there are any roads that are prohibited, or, for example, if driving to trailheads is allowed. Or rent a 4 wheel drive from one of the jeep rental companies that specialize in off road vehicles.

Charleston, South...
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9. Re: Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

Great report and I agree ~ it would make a great article as well. As mentioned, the Telluride airport has commercial flights. In fact, it is the highest commercial airport in North America. Regarding the rain you encountered.... August is considered "monsoon season", we often get the afternoon showers then. We got married in Telluride (19 years ago this month) and it had been beautiful every day, but on the day of the wedding monsoon season started. However, we got a fantastic double rainbow later. :-)

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10. Re: Ouray or Telluride as base for 5 day trip?

Wow--at the time, I know we didn't know about being prohibited from driving the dirt roads. We will definitely check next time. I know there are roads in Alaska where they prohibit rental cars.

I should also add that we had purchased trip insurance with Travelguard. Since the deductible is so high on our personal car insurance, Travelguard did pay for the broken window.

I have never posted a travel article. Not sure how I would do that.

Edited: 05 August 2013, 16:41