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Colorado trip 5/9-5/16...Itinerary suggestions?!

Colorado trip 5/9-5/16...Itinerary suggestions?!

May 5th, 2013, 05:54 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,443
Is a Fusion front wheel drive? I think you would be fine,but I don't know how much snow, where, and if they could even possibly get more next week(I wouldn't think so, but I would have sworn it would never snow here in Oklahoma in May and it has the past 2 nights-a very first for us)
spirobulldog is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 07:19 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 2,997
I misunderstood - you are driving to Chicago, so there is no real reason to go to Denver. I'll throw out this suggestion, similar to the one I offered above, but cutting out the Denver backtrack. Maybe this is now worth $.03 instead of $.02.

CO Springs -> Buena Vista -> Leadville (river rafting) -> Vail (famous shopping & dining) -> Breckenridge (fun town) -> Kremmling -> Granby -> Grand Lake.

You are now on the west side of RMNP. This is different than the east side but highly scenic. The Never Summer Mountains are well named. You guys will have a blast hiking or snowshoeing over there. Good chance to see wildlife.

Then instead of going to Denver consider this: Grand Lake -> back to Granby -> Walden -> Cameron Pass (extremely scenic) -> Fort Collins (where I live, a GREAT town. River rafting starts around May 15, so you could possibly do it here also). This cuts quite a few hours out of your driving time and avoids the mess of going through I-70 to Denver.

As spiro mentioned, stopping on places like Florissant Fossil Beds can turn out to be the unexpected highlight of a trip, so it's best to pad time for a spontaneous stop like that.

Whatever you decide have a great trip.
Nelson is online now  
May 5th, 2013, 07:29 AM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,304
I'm not understanding the plan to spend 2 days in CO Springs. If you had a lot of time or were coming back for more trips, ok. But with just one week for the whole state, CO Springs shouldn't be much of a priority.

RMNP is not closed, just the road the connects the east and west side. I will disagree with Nelson on the advice to visit the west side. East side is far more scenic and you'll get more bang for your buck by spending a day there as opposed to the west side.

Either way you'll be limited in how much hiking you can do due to snow and mud. You'll be confined to lower elevation hikes. Gem Lake might be hikeable, its not the greatest hike but I can't think of any other trails that might be hikeable other than the most basic 'walk around the lake' types (Lily, Sprague and Bear Lakes). Maybe the trail to Cub Lake because its fairly low elevation as well?
WhereAreWe is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 07:39 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
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.....If you still think I'm being senseless, don't feel obligated to respond........

Are you saying that if we don't agree with your plan, don't comment. I lived in this state for 33 years and I think you have a wonderful plan for a drive by. Enjoy your trip.
fmpden is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 10:21 PM
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Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 9
Many thanks for your time, patience, and suggestions! Everyone definitely has their own opinions about what is best, so I'm trying to take that into consideration (e.g. Some think I should plan an entire trip around the CO Springs/Manitou Springs area, whereas others think I should pass on it completely).

I have a NEW and (hopefully) improved itinerary based on the feedback I've received:

CO Springs-->Gunnison National Forest-->Black Canyon of the Gunnison-->Glenwood Springs-->White River National Forest (I had forgotten about seeing the Maroon Bells)-->RMNP
*This would allow for detours to Florissant Fossil Beds, Gunnison Forest, and Vail.

It seems like it would be easier to do the west side of RMNP and hit Grand Lake as well, but if Trail Ridge is closed, does that mean Grand Lake is not an option? I know there are differing opinions on which side of the park to visit, as well. I might just play that by ear based on the weather, and contact the park visitor centers ahead of time. Elsewhere, someone suggested Coyote Mountain Lodge as a place to stay in Estes Park if I do the west side.

I'm still holding on to a small hope that I might do a detour to Telluride or Ouray after Black Canyon-- is that ridiculous?

Thoughts? Does this seem like a good way to hit a few of the high points of CO?


Nelson, you mentioned Leadville, Kremmling, Granby, and Walden, but what are the specific attractions/hikes in those areas?

Spiro- Your analogy made perfect sense. I realize I was trying to do too much and appreciate the tiem you took to give me lots of other options. The Fusion is FWD.

Gretchen- I'm starting in CO Springs because we are taking the southern route from MI through St. Louis and Kansas City, and we're visiting a friend in the Springs. Also, I am planning to leave early on 5/16 to make it from RMNP area to Chicago in a day (Yes, 17+ hours and a time change, but we've done similar trip lengths before). I'll just have to figure out whether to go straight E to I-76 or south to I-70 then up to I-76; Google maps seems to think the latter is faster, but I'd trust everyone's native knowledge over Google.
sarahbeth11 is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 11:43 PM
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Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 9
To clarify time in each place (feedback still welcome):

Late night 5/9- Arrive in CO Springs
5/10-5/11- CO Springs (AFA, Garden of Gods, Pike's Peak, Broadmoor Lunch, Royal Gorge? Glen Eyrie?)
5/12- Gunnison Forest & Black Canyon
5/13- Glenwood Springs (Hot springs, Arkansas River rafting)
5/14- Vail (breakfast w/ friend), then White River National Forest for the day. Leave in evening for Grand Lake OR Estes Park
5/15- RMNP
5/16- Leave early AM
sarahbeth11 is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 05:25 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,299
I’m still not clear where you are staying on the night of the 12th? Glenwood Springs??? It’s really a long drive from Colorado Springs to Glenwood the way you are going—but I guess you know that.

I assume that on the 13th you mean Colorado River rafting?? since that's the river that flows through Glenwood Canyon and Glenwood Springs. Also if you want to see the Maroon Bells, I would think you would go on the 13th since Aspen is about an hour drive from Glenwood while it is a good two hour drive from Vail, requiring that you backtrack to Glenwood Springs on I 70. Plus on the drive from Glenwood to Aspen you get a great view of Mt. Sopris.

If you really want to river raft, Buena Vista is about 1 ½ hours from Vail and that is the Arkansas River. And the drive to Buena Vista takes you by the highest mountains in Colorado—Mt Massive and Mt Elbert –just south of Leadville. Lots of river rafting companies just south of Buena Vista—I assume you’ve checked and rafting trips are running now. This is the one we’ve always gone with http://www.whitewater.net/rafting-buena-vista-colorado/

As to your return to the Midwest, if you’re in Grand Lake you really have no choice but to go south to I-70 and then east to Denver, picking up I 76 there. If you are in Estes Park, I would take highway 34 east, down Big Thompson Canyon through Loveland and continue east and pick up I 76 near Wiggins.

(BTW-There are a lot of beetle-killed trees around Grand Lake and on the west side of the park—you might want to check with the park rangers to see if the areas you are planning to visit are impacted.)
martym is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 06:55 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I guess you are driving through Denver to the Springs. Haven't looked at a map but if so be sure to take 225 to get to I25 south.
Gretchen is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 07:02 AM
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 163
I've lived in Colorado since 1977 and here's my humble tips:

Book in Estes Park very early; places book up fast. There are a number of budget motels as well as the famous Stanley Hotel. Even if you don't stay at the Stanley, walk through it.

Glenwood Hot Springs is wonderful. There's a small fee if you don't stay at their hotel. This time of year will not be crowded. Glenwood has a number of budget hotels as well as historical ones.

Check road conditions before you head out for the day. Snow shouldn't happen in mid-May, but sometimes it does. Roads should be open in mid-May, but weather is unpredictable.

As other posters have mentioned, a smaller area might be more enjoyable; mountain roads can be slower speed -- and you'll want to stop multiple times just to enjoy the view.

Enjoy your trip!!!
kwood1955 is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 07:46 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 2,997
sarahbeth11, My mention of Kremmling, Granby, and Walden were just as waypoints so you could identify routes to take. I was trying to minimize your driving time while still getting you through some scenic areas.

Leadville has river rafting nearby, one of your interests, and is also an interesting historical town with Colorado's highest mountains towering around.

WhereWeAre and others are correct that the east (Estes) side of RMNP is more dramatic that the west. But the west side has it's charms, is very beautiful, fewer people, lots of wildlife. You can drive 10 miles into the Park until the road closure at the Colorado River Trailhead. It's shorter by a couple hours to get to Grand Lake from Vail than it is to get to Estes. The latter is doable however, so your call.
Nelson is online now  
May 6th, 2013, 10:55 AM
Join Date: Aug 2008
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Re: CO Springs...it seems you want to see the mountains and get out in nature, do some hiking, etc. I'm still not understanding why you would want to spend 2 days in CO Springs then when you have so little time. Garden of the Gods is nice but pales in comparison to any park in Utah. Royal Gorge is touristy and pales in comparison to Black Canyon. You can check out Pikes Peak for sure, but there's so much to do/see in Colorado that I'm just not understanding the idea of spending more than a day in CO Springs.

Re: RMNP...you can go to either side. With limited time, you are better off on the east side. You'll be able to see more with shorter hikes than you would on the west side. Plus if you base yourself in Estes for the last day if makes the drive home shorter.
WhereAreWe is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 02:33 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 4,710

I agree with Nelson. Pick these 3 from your list and spend two nights in each place. Don't splurge for the Broadmoor. You would be on the younger side of their guests and probably not enjoy it. Have brunch or lunch and stroll the grounds.

Follow Nelson's directions from Colorado Springs to Glenwood. Enjoy the hot springs, take a hike & go to Aspen for lunch.

It makes sense to end your trip in Estes Park if you are driving straight through to Chicago.
wtm003 is online now  
May 6th, 2013, 05:31 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 9
I think we're all in agreement that I'll pass on southwest Colorado this time! I appreciated Nelson's directions (thanks for clarifying!) but it looks like it would prevent me from going to Black Canyon, which I've heard is a must-see. Could I maintain the route that has me leaving from CO Springs early in the morning, spending the afternoon at Black Canyon, and arriving in Glenwood Springs late in the evening, spending two nights there before hitting White River Forest on my way to RMNP for the last two nights?

Martym- you're right; I was looking at a Buena Vista company, so I'll have to decide whether to fit that into my itinerary or just go in Glenwood Springs, which would be easier. The stop in Vail will just be about a 2-hour one to meet up with a friend, so I intended to stop there before the Maroon Bells, but I overlooked the fact that I would be back-tracking. I'll have to rethink things with that leg of the trip. I'm a bit stuck since I really want to see Black Canyon but also don't want to back track...

Gretchen- I'm not driving through Denver to get to the Springs; I planned to take I-70 to US-24.

WhereAreWe- Again, everyone has a different take on the appeal of CO Springs. We are visiting a friend at the Air Force Academy, going to Garden of the Gods (heard it's gorgeous at sunrise??), the Focus on the Family Center (can't miss the chance to harken back to many childhood years listening to Odyssey!) Pikes Peak, tea at Glen Eyrie, and a meal at the Broadmoor. If we can make it to Black Canyon, we'll drop Royal Gorge at your suggestion. Good thoughts on staying in Estes Park to make the drive home easier.

Since we're keeping to cheaper hotels, I'm thinking of splurging for dinner in the Penrose Room at the Broadmoor (yes, I know it's $78 for a three-course meal); thoughts on whether it's worth it to do this over a nice lunch there?
sarahbeth11 is offline  
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