Colorado Road Trip Ideas - 9 days - mid May

Apr 14th, 2019, 01:26 PM
  #1  
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Colorado Road Trip Ideas - 9 days - mid May

Hello All,
I am planning to do a road trip in Colorado from May 10-19th. I am flying into Denver from Florida with my wife both in early 30s. I have been done another road trip in Colorado before where I drove through Denver - Estes Park (RMNP)- Glenwood Springs - Aspen - Denver. We had a blast in that trip and inspired our friends to do a honeymoon trip in Colorado too
This time we want to visit the southwestern part of the state. I am not sure about how the weather is going to be as I read somewhere that the hiking would be difficult as everywhere it would be muddy. Is that true ?

This is a rough Itinerary or more like places we would like to visit in the order we would like to visit. Any input would be highly appreciated. We would have a rental car but not a 4x4 so can't go off-road

We both like to visit Natural Places, Hiking, Biking etc

Denver
Garden of the Gods
Pikes Peak
Royal Gorge Bridge
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Black Gunnison National Park
Crested Butte
Back to Denver where we meet our friends for few hours and fly back to Florida

The total driving time is around 20 hrs. I am not sure how much time do i need to assign to Mesa Verde and BGNP or Crested Butte ?

Also, If I can add something else and remove something from the trip, I am more than open to suggestions.

Thank you
ashishahuja23 is offline  
Apr 14th, 2019, 09:27 PM
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So hopefully the Colorado regulars will respond. But I will just say that my brother has lived in Colorado for some years, I've gone to visit a couple of times. Like other places out West, many of these mountain roads will take longer than what Google Maps estimates.

Mesa Verde in particular is a LONGG way from Denver. And most people spend 2-4 days there as there is a lot to see in the vicinity.

I recommend that you break out your trip like this for more clarity

Day 1: Land in Denver. Drivetime to Colorado Springs: 1 hour
Night 1: Sleep in Colorado Springs
Day 2: Garden of Gods.

Finally, I have read that the cog train is not operating on Pike's Peak.Confirm that's still the case, and if so, are there are any group tours? Because it's a great place to burn out brakes on the way back down.
5alive is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 05:00 AM
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Originally Posted by ashishahuja23 View Post
Hello All,
I am not sure about how the weather is going to be as I read somewhere that the hiking would be difficult as everywhere it would be muddy. Is that true ?
You're going to run into significant snow on the trails at higher elevations, not mud. Lower elevations will be muddy. You'll need to check the most recent trail conditions reports for each location before making definite plans to do specific hikes.

How did you pick out those locations?
Garden of the Gods - ok but not amazing IMO
Pikes Peak - same as above
Royal Gorge Bridge - very touristy, Black Canyon is better
Great Sand Dunes National Park - quite a bit out of the way
Mesa Verde National Park - 2 nights
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - great views but not many easy hikes (hiking down into the canyon is extremely difficult)
Crested Butte - why this town in particular?

I'd suggest a total rework - hit the interstate and drive to Moab instead of Colorado Springs. You can drive through Colorado National Monument at Fruita if you want, then continue on to Moab and visit Arches and Canyonlands. Moab is far more scenic and amazing than Garden of the Gods, and you can do this section in 3-4 days. From there, head to SW CO and Mesa Verde for another 3-4 days. On your way back to Denver, pick either Black Canyon of the Gunnison or Great Sand Dunes to visit for a few hours. (You could still go to Royal Gorge if you choose Great Sand Dunes as it's not far out of the way, but I would not go to Black Canyon and Royal Gorge on the same trip as I think the canyons themselves are fairly similar, just a very different experience because one is a national park, the other is a touristy place).

That's about 16 hours of driving, leaving out Crested Butte.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 05:27 AM
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Finally, I have read that the cog train is not operating on Pike's Peak.

It's been out of service for over a year.

You can still drive up though - check hours and conditions here: The shuttle isn't operating yet for the 2019 season.

https://coloradosprings.gov/pikes-pe...ricas-mountain

We live at 8,500 feet in Colorado and hike year round, but it can be tricky - be prepared for snow and mud in May. There is currently no snow in Garden of the Gods and due to it's lower elevation, it's a good option. There's a wonderful Visitor's Center near the entrance to the park as well.

I love Crested Butte - great choice. Lots to do there including hiking, biking, etc. May is too early for flowers and trails might be snow covered, but it's a great little town in a beautiful spot. Nearby Gunnison is fun too - some good restaurants and cute town.

I think your list is a bit ambitious for nine days - lots of driving, not much time to see the places you're driving to. Heading south is a good plan for May.
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 15th, 2019, 07:15 AM
  #5  
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Thank you very much guys.
@5alive@WhereAreWe Your options are great but I have already been to Moab, Arches and Canyonlands before. Although I love those national parks, I wanted to see something different. I had 9 days to do a road trip so i thought Denver area would be great this time of the year but I guess I didn't think it through. I might have to check flying into SLC if I want to do Canyonlands, Arches again as it would be closer or go to a different state where there is less snow and driving conditions are easier.

@Melnq8@5alive@WhereAreWe
Any other Ideas for 9 day road trips ?

I have already been to California, Seattle, Olympia, Portland, Tetons, Yellowstone, Maine, Glacier, Death Valley, 4 out of 5 in Utah, RMNP

Any ideas are really appreciated
ashishahuja23 is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 07:41 AM
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I like the plan WhereAreWe gave, Arches, Canyonlands and Mesa Verde could easily fill 9 days, and they will not be snowy so hiking will be fine. If you really want more to do, head uo to Dinosaur NP and come back to Denver pn CO 40 through. Steamboat Springs.
emalloy is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 08:11 AM
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If your flight plans aren't set, look at flying into Albuquerque or Santa Fe instead of Denver. You could still visit a lot of things on your original plan and add some New Mexico stuff where it will be a bit warmer and hopefully less muddy. For that matter, you could look at Phoenix for your airport - drive time is about the same to Mesa Verde as it would be from Denver and again, you could make a loop through New Mexico and Arizona and check out some different things than previous trips. The desert is getting hot by May but you'll be driving through higher elevations quite a bit so it won't be as warm as the Phoenix area.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 09:58 AM
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There's always the Colorado National Monument, on the Western Slope, which should be plenty warm in May. From there you could head down to Ouray, "the Switzerland of America" and then work your way back up to Denver. Lots of options really, I wouldn't be too fussed about the weather. Just temper your expectations and go for it.

https://www.nps.gov/colm/index.htm

https://www.ouraycolorado.com/
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 15th, 2019, 10:28 AM
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I would check it out and plan the trip
Also, I have simultaneous tickets to California for the same dates so I am going to explore that option too
ashishahuja23 is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 07:27 PM
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Flying into ABQ is a good option. You could do a loop up to Santa Fe and Taos, see the Great Sand Dunes, continue to Pagosa Springs to Durango and Mesa Verde. Weather should be great with this more southern route..

Another option could be ABQ to Santa Fe and Taos to Durango to Mesa Verde to Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon and Grand Canyon then back to ABQ.

bailey123 is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 09:28 PM
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Early May is a little too early for the central mountains part of the state. The big issue this year is that we have had near record snowfall in all of Colorado. Many of the areas are seeing from 50 to 80% above average for snow this year. We needed it after several dry years. Coupled with a cold March so no early melting of the snow pack. Hiking anything about 6,7000 feet probably is out of the question. Many of the high mountain passes will still be closed at that time. Sticking to the southern part of the state will be ok for a driving and sightseeing. The Cog railroad up Pike Peak is gone. It could reopen in a couple of years but don't count on it. If hit MVerda I would plan on at least two nights in the park -- if you can get reservations.
fmpden is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 10:38 PM
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>>Also, I have simultaneous tickets to California for the same dates so I am going to explore that option too<<

Where in to California?? It is a big state. Re snow out here in CA -- we have also had very heavy snow this year. In fact big storm today/night and chains controls have been up over the Sierra most of the day and tonight and likely tomorrow too. I know your aren't traveling until next month but our high trails will also be snow covered . . . just like in Colorado.
janisj is offline  
Apr 16th, 2019, 01:41 PM
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I would be flying into San Jose and then going to Golden Gate Bridge, Point Reyes, Muir Woods and then down to Yosemite Valley through El Portal. Hopefully some snow would be cleared by Mid-May and Waterfalls would be at full flow.
I have also shorten the duration of my trip to 6 days
thank you very much everyone for your inputs. I really appreciate it
ashishahuja23 is offline  
Apr 16th, 2019, 02:40 PM
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>> . . . some snow would be cleared by Mid-May and Waterfalls would be at full flow. <<

Oh -- getting in to Yosemite Valley wouldn't be a problem -- Tioga Pass, the back country and (probably) Glacier Point will be inaccessible. The Waterfalls wil be a full tilt and it will be gorgeous.
janisj is offline  
Jun 4th, 2019, 05:55 PM
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Hello All,
I ended up cancelling both the trips because of some urgent work in office. I have an opportunity to travel to Denver again in July 4th week from July 3rd - July 8th. I was wondering if you can help me plan this last minute trip. I have been to RMNP before but if there is a chance, I would love to visit it again even for a day. I arrive late night July 3rd so I guess i have time from July 4th - 8th. I was thinking not to drive too much and go 1-3 hrs from Denver and explore some mountain towns and eat good food, hike and drink some good beer.

As was my original plan for 9 days i have to shorten it for 5 days
Denver
Garden of the Gods
Pikes Peak
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Crested Butte or Ouray or Telluride - Not sure which is a better option ?
Denver

or
Denver - Stay for couple of nights and check out RMNP
Breckenridge - 2 nights
Colorado Springs - 1 night

What do you guys think ?

Also, I am from florida so would like to escape the heat so would prefer to be at higher elevations

WhereAreWe
bailey123 Melnq8 emalloy
ashishahuja23 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2019, 02:37 AM
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I am not a fan of Garden of the Gods vis a vis the rest of Colorado scenery. Pike's Peak railway is closed I think. I'd do the mountains. A loop through RMNP on to Breck and Aspen and back to Denver. You could go up Mt. Evans.
Gretchen is offline  
Jun 5th, 2019, 05:02 AM
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Your original plan will be very difficult (if not impossible) to squeeze into five days. Unless of course, you don't plan to get out of your car

As mentioned upthread, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is closed (will reopen in 2021), but Pikes Peak Highway is not - you can still 1) take a tour or 2) drive yourself as far as Devil's Playground and take a shuttle from there to the summit.

https://www.pikes-peak.com/alternatives-summiting-peak/

https://ticket.pikes-peak.com/checko...ica-s-mountain

Keep in mind that you need several hours for either, and that Fourth of July weekend will be packed. I live nearby and the traffic on Highway 24 can back up for miles near the turn off to the Pikes Peak Highway, as July 4th is a very busy time for visiting "America's Mountain".

I think Garden of the Gods is a local gem, especially if you enjoy hiking, but once again, it will be flat out busy on July 4th weekend.

As will RMNP of course.

Because the weekend will be so busy (and because frankly CO seems busy all the times these days) you really need to scale back on your wish list.

You could fit RMNP, Breck and Denver into five busy days - I suggest you spend at least 1-2 nights in each place - one night only gives you a full day to explore.

Or you could easily fit Denver (what specifically do you want to see there?) and the sights of CO Springs into five days (also spending nights in each).

Or if you absolutely must see the Sand Dunes (where do you plan to stay - what time do you arrive in Denver?) you could head down that way and then spend the bulk of your time in the Gunnison/Crested Butte area (beautiful spot, will also be very busy and accommodation will be at a premium), before driving back to Denver for departure, but it will involve a lot of driving and you'll not have time for anything else.

In any case you'll see mountains. No shortage of those here.
Melnq8 is online now  
Jun 5th, 2019, 07:34 AM
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With your limited time, you should focus on an area just to min travel at that time. Obviously, all of the mountain sites will be very busy at that time. Personally would stick to the central mountain area -- Estes Park (RMNP), Breckenridge, maybe Leadville or Glenwood Springs and the canyon. You could stay in Breckenridge and day trip to surrounding areas if you like. Most of the mountain towns will have 4th of July activities including fireworks ---- IF not too dry. It will be a busy time but most of those areas handle the crowds fairly well.

Or it could be Colorado Springs, Sand Dunes, Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gardens. Most of that is in the front range area and that time of year it can be hot so if trying to stay cooler the first option would be better.
fmpden is offline  
Jun 9th, 2019, 07:20 PM
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Telluride and Ouray should be off the list. Too much windshield time for your limited time. I’ll leave it to the front rangers to make other suggestions
bailey123 is offline  
Jun 14th, 2019, 07:55 AM
  #20  
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Hello All,
Here is the updated plan. Could you please care to comment and also suggest some restaurants and places to stay. May be some scenic routes to take ?
Melnq8 bailey123 fmpden
Gretchen
3rd July - Reach Denver by 8:30 - Eat Dinner and Drive to Idaho Spring on I70
4th - Drive to Mt Evans in the morning and then drive to Breckenridge and stay in breckenridge
5th - Drive Leisurely to Black Canyon of Gunnison through Independence pass ( Where can i stay at Gunnison ?)
6th - Visit Gunnison and Stay in Gunnison
7th - Drive to Great Sand Dunes ( 3+ hrs ). Hike High Dune and Stay near by ( which town i should stay in ? or any BnB's ?)
8th - Drive to Colorado Springs ( visit Garden of the Gods ) and then continue to Denver to catch flight at 7 pm

Thank you very much
ashishahuja23 is offline  

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