Colorado/South Dakota itinerary

Feb 15th, 2018, 07:40 AM
  #1  
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Colorado/South Dakota itinerary

I've planned the below trip for early June, 2019, and I would appreciate your input. We are a family of four - me, DH, son (11) and daughter (10). We love to hike and see beautiful scenery and wildlife. We will have at least 14 days depending on airfare costs. We will fly in and out of Denver.

Plan for the day (overnight)
Day 1 - Fly to Denver (CO Springs)
2 - CO Springs area (CO Springs)
3- CO Springs area (CO Springs)
4 - Drive to Great Sand Dunes (Alamosa)
5 - Drive to Grand Lake - (Grand Lake or ?? Lodging looks limited)
6 - RMNP (Estes Park)
7 - RMNP (Estes Park)
8 - RMNP (Estes Park)
9 - Drive to Mt. Rushmore (Keystone or Custer)
10 - Badlands (Keystone or Custer)
11- Mt. Rushmore & other (Keystone or Custer)
12 - Drive to Denver (Denver)
13 - Denver (Denver)
14 Fly home

I would appreciate any hints on what to see, especially when driving from one place to another. Thanks!
taylorcpa is offline  
Feb 15th, 2018, 09:59 AM
  #2  
 
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You do realize that it is a very long ways from Denver to Mt. Rushmore. Why three nights in C Springs? Seems like a lot of time there. Same for Estes Park/Grand Lake. I would consider a day trip from CS to the Great Sand Dunes. Grand Lake is the back door into Rocky Mt. Nat Park. I would go directly to Estes Park and drive Trail Ridge from there. You are just picking at the front range in Colorado.
fmpden is offline  
Feb 15th, 2018, 01:26 PM
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Personally, I like to make a loop in Colorado. I'd trade a day or two from the Colorado Spring days or others and continue on to Durango to visit Mesa Verde NP. Then loop up and over to RMNP. Since you are going to be a Great Sands NP anyway, make a loop of it.
starrs is offline  
Feb 15th, 2018, 01:59 PM
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You want to hike, see beautiful scenery and wildlife and you have 14 days (or more)?

Skip Colorado Springs and Great Sand Dunes. Go to Yellowstone. This is a no-brainer with that much time.

You still want to see Mt. Rushmore/Badlands? Do a large loop from Denver to Yellowstone, over to the Black Hills and back to Denver. If you want to stop in Estes Park for 2-3 days and visit RMNP, that's fine. 14 days is plenty of time to do that loop. If you can arrange to fly in or out of Salt Lake City you would eliminate some driving.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Feb 15th, 2018, 02:04 PM
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I totally agree with WhereAreWe. Given your stated wants. In June Yellowstone will be loaded with baby bison and baby elk as well as the occasional baby moose, wolf, etc. It is one of my favorite parks.
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Feb 15th, 2018, 03:23 PM
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I do agree that Yellowstone is spectacular and a hiker's paradise. But...since you're traveling with children and if you want a broader choice of lodging, activities, restaurants, I would stick with your plan.

For Rocky Mountain National Park, I would spend all your nights in Estes Park. Grand Lake has limited good lodging and restaurants. You definitely want to spend a day driving Trail Ridge Road to Grand Lake and back. There are some very scenic short hikes along Trail Ridge Road: Alpine Ridge Trail and Tundra Communities Trail. You can even walk out as far or little as you like on the Ute Trail and have great views. Good site for hiking in RMNP: Rocky Mountain National Park hiking trails

We stopped in Great Sand Dunes a few years back and for us a half day there was plenty.
wave725 is offline  
Feb 16th, 2018, 04:14 AM
  #7  
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Thanks for the advice so far.

While I love Yellowstone and think it's the most awesome place on earth, we went there two years ago and I'm not ready for a repeat. My original plan was to spend the two weeks in Colorado and see RMNP and the southwest part but, the kids really want to go to Mt. Rushmore and from Denver is the best place to do that right now. I agree that we're probably spending too much time some places so if you have a suggestion about how to see more then I'm up for it. The other thing is it seems the kids always want to go swimming at the hotel pool and I want to allow enough time to just relax.
taylorcpa is offline  
Feb 16th, 2018, 04:15 AM
  #8  
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Originally Posted by starrs View Post
Personally, I like to make a loop in Colorado. I'd trade a day or two from the Colorado Spring days or others and continue on to Durango to visit Mesa Verde NP. Then loop up and over to RMNP. Since you are going to be a Great Sands NP anyway, make a loop of it.
Do you think I have time for that? Mesa Verde is on my bucket list!
taylorcpa is offline  
Feb 16th, 2018, 05:59 AM
  #9  
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Here's a revised plan. It deletes a day in Denver (which we will add if we stay longer), drives thru Great Sand Dunes, and adds in Durango/Mesa Verde. I could also move a night at CO Springs to somewhere else depending on what time we arrive.

Day 1 - Fly to Denver (CO Springs)
2 - Colorado Springs (CO Springs) Want to see Pike's Peak, Garden of Gods, and Air Force Academy - doable in one day?
3 - Colorado Springs (CO Springs)
4- Drive to Durango via Great Sand Dunes (Durango)
5 - Mesa Verde (Durango)
6- Drive Million $$ Highway (Montrose)
7 - See Black Canyon of Gunnison (Can I make it to Estes Park?)
8 - RMNP (Estes Park)
9 - RMNP (Estes Park)
10-12 Drive to South Dakota, see Mt. Rushmore, Badlands, etc.
13 - Drive to Denver
14 - Fly home
taylorcpa is offline  
Feb 16th, 2018, 07:00 AM
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It sounds like a good trip for you, I still prefer Yellowstone to either Rushmore or Badlands, but this is your trip so I'll add my two cents to that.

Day 4, I would try to get lodging in Mesa Verde if possible to maximize the time there.

Day 6, unless you spend a lot of time along the way, it shouldn't be a whole day.

Day 7. if you can make it to Estes Park depends on how much time you spend in Black Canyon, perhaps think about approaching RMNP from the west, spend the night before along the hwy in Eagle or on 40 in Kremling or Granby then driving Trail Ridge Road west to east and stay in Estes Park the next 2 nights.
emalloy is offline  
Feb 16th, 2018, 07:15 AM
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Cut a day from Colorado Springs if you can make it work. I think you could do all 3 things you listed in a day if you stick to a schedule.

I'd spend another half day at Mesa Verde and then use the remaining half day to drive the million dollar highway.

Black Canyon is spectacular but no more than a half day visit. Viewpoints are amazing but there isn't a lot of hiking available - any trail going below the rim is incredibly steep and you'll probably skip that. I second the idea to enter RMNP from the west.

Early June in RMNP, you can expect snow on some of the higher elevation trails. Shouldn't be a big deal on the tundra but some popular hikes like Mills Lake, the Loch, Lake Haiyaha will probably have some snow on the ground. And you'll want to get up early and hit that area to find a parking spot, or you'll be stuck using the shuttle.

Go to Mt. Rushmore twice - once in the day to see everything, then a brief visit in the evening when the memorial is lit up. Not necessary but if you're staying close by then it's worth a trip at night. You'll want to visit Custer State Park. Badlands is best in the early morning or later evening.
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Feb 16th, 2018, 07:53 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by emalloy View Post
It sounds like a good trip for you, I still prefer Yellowstone to either Rushmore or Badlands, but this is your trip so I'll add my two cents to that.

Day 4, I would try to get lodging in Mesa Verde if possible to maximize the time there.

Day 6, unless you spend a lot of time along the way, it shouldn't be a whole day.

Day 7. if you can make it to Estes Park depends on how much time you spend in Black Canyon, perhaps think about approaching RMNP from the west, spend the night before along the hwy in Eagle or on 40 in Kremling or Granby then driving Trail Ridge Road west to east and stay in Estes Park the next 2 nights.
Thanks for the input. I would rather do Yellowstone, but we've never been to Mt. Rushmore so . . . As far as day 6, could we do the million $$ highway and see Black Canyon? If so, that would give us all of day 7 to get to Estes Park. I really want to avoid one night hotel stays as much as possible.
taylorcpa is offline  
Feb 16th, 2018, 07:56 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by WhereAreWe View Post
Cut a day from Colorado Springs if you can make it work. I think you could do all 3 things you listed in a day if you stick to a schedule.

I'd spend another half day at Mesa Verde and then use the remaining half day to drive the million dollar highway.

Black Canyon is spectacular but no more than a half day visit. Viewpoints are amazing but there isn't a lot of hiking available - any trail going below the rim is incredibly steep and you'll probably skip that. I second the idea to enter RMNP from the west.

Early June in RMNP, you can expect snow on some of the higher elevation trails. Shouldn't be a big deal on the tundra but some popular hikes like Mills Lake, the Loch, Lake Haiyaha will probably have some snow on the ground. And you'll want to get up early and hit that area to find a parking spot, or you'll be stuck using the shuttle.

Go to Mt. Rushmore twice - once in the day to see everything, then a brief visit in the evening when the memorial is lit up. Not necessary but if you're staying close by then it's worth a trip at night. You'll want to visit Custer State Park. Badlands is best in the early morning or later evening.
I think if we can get to Denver early enough in the day, we could either drive Pike's Peak or see Garden of the Gods that afternoon??? That would cut the one day from CO Springs that we could spend at Mesa Verde/Durango.
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Feb 17th, 2018, 09:28 AM
  #14  
 
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2 - Colorado Springs (CO Springs) Want to see Pike's Peak, Garden of Gods, and Air Force Academy - doable in one day?

The drive from Denver Airport to the Springs will take about an hour on a good day, add another 20-30 minutes to get up to Cascade, the access point for Pikes Peak. From there the drive up and back will take 2-3 hours - it's open from 9-5, but last car goes up at 3 pm.

Just an FYI - I live in the area and last summer US 24 was backed up for miles with people going up to the Peak. It was a mess - residents were unhappy - sheer volume. Prepare for possible traffic delays. If you're taking the cog railway, it will take a full three hours up and back.

Garden of the Gods could take all day, depending on what you plan to do there - the park is open from 5 am to 9 pm in the summer, the Visitors Center is open from 8-7

The Air Force Academy is at the opposite end of town, the Visitor's Center is open from 9-5.

Personally, I think that's way too much for one day, unless you're just planning a drive by (meaning, no hikes in GOG).
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