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lunalulu2 Mar 9th, 2015 03:57 PM

Colorado trip in early May
My boyfriend and I will be traveling out to Denver for a concert on May 11th. We will most likely be flying into Denver either the night of 5/6 or late morning on 5/7 and heading home on 5/12. I know we will be staying in Denver the night of 5/11. I have never been to Colorado. We love the outdoors, wildlife,history, and hiking. We would like to possibly go rafting but I know that the timing is not ideal. We would like to see as much of the beautiful scenery out there as possible. We are not big fans of the more touristy or developed areas but can tolerate them if it is the best option for a place to stay.

We have the option of staying in a free condo in Steamboat Springs but I am not sure if that is the best location for us. After doing some research it does not really look like there is as much in that area as there is in other parts of the state. I originally was looking at RMNP but was deterred because Trail ridge road will not be open yet. I have also considered doing two nights in Steamboat and two nights on the way out or back somewhere in between near Breckenridge etc. The other option that looked very nice was SW Colorado, Telluride in particular. Especially if I can return in the future to do RMNP. My concern with that is drive time with us only having a short visit. I will say that I do love scenic drives and it sounds like that one is beautiful. I thought if we did that we may want to drive straight there but then stay a night somewhere in the middle on the way back.

As you can tell I am totally overwhelmed by all of the great sounding options that Colorado has to offer. I am also very indecisive, heh. Hopefully I will get to return to Colorado at some point in the future but if there was a chance that this would be my only trip, what would you recommend? Thank you in advance for any suggestions!

Virginia1990 Mar 9th, 2015 07:49 PM

If you don't mind driving, here's an option. I've done this loop as part of a week long road trip, I think it leaves you enough time to see some good stuff, but it will be about 14-15 hrs of driving.

Fly into Denver 5/6 night, stay in Denver.

5/7 - Drive to Durango (mapquest says 6-7 hours, I didn't do this part of the drive because we came in from eastern CO to Durango), explore the downtown area that afternoon/evening and stay in Durango.

5/8 - Visit Mesa Verde NP near Cortez, CO all day. Do the tours (Cliff Palace and Balcony House are the ones I've done), and there is some hiking there in the park along with Spruce Tree House, which is a self-guided tour. I believe this is a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you come down to this area, this place is definitely a must see. Some advice, MV is about an hour from Durango, but it's also about a 45 minute drive from the park entrance to the top of the mesa where everything is. Just so you are aware. Drive back to Durango and spend the night there.

5/9 - Get an early start for this one. Drive Million Dollar Highway to Silverton. Just north of Silverton, there is a campground to the left. Go back through the campground (which is beautiful in itself) until you get to the pull off for Ice Lakes hike. About a 7 mile hike to an alpine lake around 11,000 ft (be careful with altitude). Beautiful hike, one of my favorites I've ever done. A friend and I did this in about 4 hours and we are not super in-shape hikers, just average. Just to gauge about how much time it could take you. After your hike, continue on the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray. I would stop and explore a little bit here, it's a very picturesque town and there are some good places to eat (including breweries!). Continue on to Montrose to spend the night. Durango to Ouray is about an hour and a half to two hours, and Ouray to Montrose is about 45 min to an hour.

5/10 - Drive Black Canyon of the Gunnison on your way to Colorado Springs. No hiking in the Black Canyon, but there are some pull outs where you can stop and look down to the river. It's very pretty, sheer cliffs. I think it's worth seeing if you are already out this way. This won't take you too terribly long. But I would recommend relaxing that afternoon/evening in Colorado Springs.

5/11 - Go see Garden of the Gods in the morning. This is another one of my personal favorites. There's plenty of trails all over the park and you can spend as much or as little time here as you want. After you're done here, drive on up to Denver, check into your hotel, and get ready for your concert! You could always cut this out and go straight to Denver after driving Black Canyon of the Gunnison if you are feeling too rushed. But Colorado Springs is only about an hour drive from Denver.

Doing this itinerary may seem like a whirlwind, but it will get you a wide variety of experiences in the short amount of time you have. You will see the mountain towns, mesas, large red rock formations, an alpine lake, and Native American ruins. Million Dollar Highway will get you the mountain experience you are hoping for with RMNP. Granted, it's not RMNP, but it's still beautiful, and I think it's just as good. I've been to both. And after you see Colorado once, I'm sure you're bound to go back. After I went on what I though was a once in a lifetime trip for me in 2012, I'm returning for my third time in April this year :)

A note on Telluride - I went here last summer, and although it's a beautiful place, it's quite expensive and can be a bit of a pain in the butt to get to from most other areas of CO when trying to tie it in with visiting other places. I think visiting Durango and Ouray are good enough to satisfy what you are looking for in Telluride, and you will get a beautiful mountain hike in with Ice Lakes.

Nelson Mar 10th, 2015 07:18 AM

You are doing your homework and have realized that there some tradeoff to be made visiting Colorado in May. Virginia's itinerary is a wonderful Tour de Colorado, but given the amount of time you have, is waay, waay too much driving for my taste. You say you love scenic drives so maybe that works for you, but it sounds exhausting to me.

My $0.02 is to consider one of these options:

1) Don't write off RMNP just because Trail Ridge Road is closed. The east side of the park is full of dramatic mountain scenery. Many of the lower elevations trails should be snow free by May and starting to burst into flower. You can also rent snowshoes for higher elevations trails. Spend your time between Boulder and Estes, or maybe even visit Fort Collins (where I live - it's a microbrew capitol of the country if that has interest for you.). All of these places can be simply beautiful in May, with the lower elevations greening up and still a lot of snow up on the high peaks. I can give you lots of recommendations for hiking trails if you decide to do this.

2) Drive a loop that takes in Colorado Springs (Garden of the Gods is beautiful this time of year), and Breckenridge, then back to Denver. This also gets you some great mountain scenery and a taste of Colorado without so much driving. You'll be able to get out of the car and actually enjoy being in the state.

Whatever you decide, be aware that early May will sometime bring big snowstorms to the mountains or even to the Front Range corridor. Keep an eye on the weather and be prepared to alter plans if necessary.

Have fun!

lunalulu2 Mar 10th, 2015 10:53 AM

Thank you both for your replies. After receiving a few responses on another forum about it being mud season, I have started heavily considering delaying this trip until we can come at a better time. I am concerned about spending all of the money and time and not being able to see what I want to see and hike and raft etc.

Nelson Mar 10th, 2015 01:14 PM

Have a great trip whatever you decide. There are concerts throughout the summer so you should easily find a reason to be here at a different time.

Tabernash2 Mar 29th, 2015 02:20 PM

Steamboat is wonderful. And the mountain has southern exposure, so maybe the mud dries earlier.

If you have a free condo there, I would plant myself there. Plenty to see and do in Steamboat.

tomfuller Mar 29th, 2015 08:34 PM

On St. Patrick's day I was on the California Zephyr eastbound through Colorado. The most beautiful daytime scenery on an Amtrak route is through the Ruby Canyon and the Glenwood Canyon. Driving I-70 you see some of the same scenery east of Glenwood Springs but one of you is driving.
The California Zephyr leaves Denver at 8:05AM every morning. The trip up from Denver to Winter Park/Fraser is also very scenic. Granby is among the highest elevation stations on the route. I did see a little snow on my recent trip.
The trip through Ruby Canyon along the Colorado River east of Green River Utah is a special treat since there are no roads there just railroad tracks and a few rafters.
Coming through the Glenwood Canyon we did get mooned by a rafter. I would try for some rafting somewhere near Glenwood Springs. Near the Hotel Colorado is the world's largest hot spring fed swimming pool. I have seen people swimming in that pool from the train in December.

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