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Denver to Durango: non-stop or stop along the way?

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Denver to Durango: non-stop or stop along the way?

Old Apr 25th, 2005, 08:48 AM
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Denver to Durango: non-stop or stop along the way?

After quite a bit of research on Colorado, I'm leaning towards spending time in southwest Colorado. I'm interested in having some time to hike, visiting the Mesa Verde NP, and doing a bit of "touristy" stuff in the mining towns.

Here's my itinerary: Is this doable? Also, would you recommend I fit in a day in another town rather than spend all my time in the Durango area?

SUN: Land in Denver in afternoon and drive to Salida. Spend night in Salida

MON: Depart early for Durango. Spend afternoon walking around town and acclimating to altitude.

TUES: hiking trails in/around Durango

WED: morning hike in Durango and afternoon ride on Narrow Gauge Railroad from Durango to Silverton (3.5 hrs). Spend night in Silverton.

THURS: Ride train back to Durango in morning and do "touristy" stuff: Melodrama Theatre at Strater Hotel. Maybe take scenic drive on Skyway.

FRI: Spend day at Mesa Verde National Park.

SAT: Drive back to Denver (8 hours) and catch plane back home.

Any input would be much appreciated!!
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Old Apr 25th, 2005, 09:40 AM
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That's one long drive you have on the tail end of your trip. Personally, I'd stay closer to Denver on the last night before your flight out. The mountain roads are tough anyway without being in a hurry.

I think Mesa Verde definately needs a full day on its own. I think you can shave some time off in Durango. Instead of staying the first night in Salida, you might want to drive a little farther and stay in Gunnison (or Crested Butte). Black Canyon has some great hiking trails.

These are just my thoughts.
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Old Apr 25th, 2005, 10:16 AM
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I agree that Mesa Verde to Denver is an awfully long drive for one day. Granted we took the scenic route (with a stop at the Black Canyon), but, as I recall, it took us one long day plus half of another to get from Frisco to Mesa Verde.

Actually, I agree with JackOneill all the way around!

One other suggestion...we spent our night between Frisco and Mesa Verde in Ouray. As was mentioned on another thread today, that drive on the Million Dollar Highway leaving Ouray is one of the most, if not the most, spectacular that I've ever seen. Personally, I found it very frightening! But so incredibly beautiful! We happened to be there in mid to late June when the snow melt caused lots of waterfalls.

You don't specifically say where you plan to spend that Friday night (or if you did I missed it). You might want to consider staying right in Mesa Verde. If so, you need to reserve early. We really enjoyed the peace and quiet in the park. And the restaurant is excellent.
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Old Apr 25th, 2005, 10:25 AM
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We've been around SW Colorado and LOVE it. We were much more enthralled with Ouray than Durango. We took a jeep tour up to Yankee Boy Basin, which was covered in wildflowers. Ouray has a small, but fascinating historical museum. And a soak in the hot spring pool there is a wonderful end to the day.

One of our favorite hikes in Colorado was to Hidden Falls near Glenwood Springs - another great hot spring pool. This is about 3.5 hours from Denver - maybe a closer place to stay? Although there is so many neat places between Durango and Denver!
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Old Apr 25th, 2005, 12:15 PM
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Thank you all for your suggestions.
Yes, I've been thinking that I would probably be missing out if I spend 90% of my time in Durango. Colorado has so much to offer -- I wish I had a lot more time!

I will definitely have to look into Gunnison.
As for the Million Dollar Highway -- is that part of the San Juan Skyway I've read about? Would a drive there during the evening be adviseable? I might do that drive after my day at Mesa Verde NP on my way north, perhaps with a stay in Ouray before leaving Colorado the next day.
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Old Apr 25th, 2005, 12:26 PM
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nyc2, I'm not sure whether the Million Dollar Highway is part of the San Juan Skyway. It's been nearly 6 years since our trip so I'm a little fuzzy on exact details. Hope you'll hear from someone who knows.

As for driving it in the evening...early evening would probably be okay. But, personally, I wouldn't recommend driving it as it's starting to get dark. For one thing, what's the point? You wouldn't be able to see the beauty. And I really do think it's a scary, windy road.
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Old Apr 25th, 2005, 01:24 PM
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nyc2--Hubby and I are doing a similar trip in July. We found that flying into Denver and out of Grand Junction was a good way to not retrace our trip. The cost was just about the same. The next problem was the altitude accommodation. Coming from the east coast to Denver at 5000ft was all we thought we should do the first day so we are staying in Golden the first night. The next day we will drive to Gunnison. It seems like a long drive for you to drive the first day to Salida and that is 7000+ ft. If we had to get tickets all over again we probably would do it in reverse--fly into Grand Junction and out of Denver.

After Gunnison and viewing the black canyon of the Gunnison, we will head to Ouray.

Then Durango

Then MesaVerde, staying at the Far View Lodge.

Then we will be going on to Moab for two days (which you could miss and go on to Grand Junction)

Finally we will spend the last night in Grand Junction.

We, too. would like suggestions for local hikes--1-2 hours.

Most of the comments have been to stay in Ouray and Mesa Verde so hope we are doing the right thing. Are you staying at the Strater Hotel? It sounds really interesting. I would like any comments about this hotel but for us it is just an overnight.

Anyway, I will be checking into this thread to see what the Fodor experts have to say.
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Old Apr 25th, 2005, 01:34 PM
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We based our trip a few years ago in Ouray, with visits to Durango (and train ride) and Mesa Verde. I thought the drive back to Ouray after a day at Mesa Verde was too long. We also left early enough to ensure the drive on the Million Dollar Highway was in daylight. I wouldn't want to drive it for the first time at night.

Just remember when planning that driving times are going to be longer than you expect. Ouray from Durango is about 70 miles (I think - it's been awhile). We were surprised when we went to the Ouray visitor center and the drive time they gave was 2 and a half hours - until we drove it.
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Old Apr 25th, 2005, 03:16 PM
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I would head east from Durango and stop by Great Sands National Park before heading north back to Denver. I like doing the big loop through the state instead of back-tracking.
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Old Apr 26th, 2005, 05:55 AM
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nyc2,

You are going to miss SO MUCH if you just drive straight from Denver to Durango. Leadville is a great little town with lots of history (north of Salida). After Salida, take time to stop at Monarch Pass and ride the gondola to the top - perhaps the most spectacular view of your trip.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is also a not-to-be-missed stop. It is deeper than the Grand Canyon, but not as wide. Far superior to Royal Gorge. Some hiking trails and great overlooks. Plan half a day here for the South Rim drive (entrance about 15 minutes east of Montrose).

The Million Dollar Highway is part of the San Juan Skyway. I believe the San Juan Skyway loops all the way from Ouray to Durango to Telluride and back to Ouray. And don't drive it at night - there is no point. If you can, spend a whole day (or at least half a day) driving between the two. There are lots of hiking trails in that area.

In Durango, there is a small "walking-around" downtown - not somewhere I would plan to spend an entire afternoon (but I like hiking and sightseeing more than shopping).

WED: I'm not sure about this train thing...I think you may have to revise your plans. You can't ride to Silverton in the afternoon; the latest train leaves about 9:30 am. You can ride the bus back that afternoon from Silverton and do some hiking. The first train back to Durango doesn't leave Silverton until about noon, so the plan for riding back the next morning probably won't work either.

I would really recommend that you spend at least one night inside Mesa Verde at the Far View Lodge, especially if you have never been there before.

And I would definitely take a little extra time driving back to Denver. Go back via 160 to Pagosa Springs and stop at all the stops around Wolf Creek Pass and Treasure Falls.
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Old Apr 26th, 2005, 05:56 AM
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Thank you all for your many great suggestions! The itinerary I'm now planning is so much better. . .

Margo, I am now considering flying into and out of Grand Junction. It's only a bit more expensive than flying into Denver, and it'll get me that much closer to the sites I really want to see.
JackOneill, the Black Canyon is a site I will have to visit en route to Durango from the Grand Junction airport.

So this is what I'm thinking:
I'll land in Grand Junction on Sunday, take a leisurely drive to Durango (more leisurely than from Denver!) while stopping along the way. (I have also read that Grand Junction is worth checking out -- Colorado National Monument.) I'll spend that night in Durango. The next day I'll take the railroad to Silverton and the bus back (and save 2 hours in the process) and spend a 2nd night in Durango. I'll hike the next day near/around Durango. (Margo -- check out the Animas City mountain Trail -- it is supposedly a moderate half-day hike in northern Durango that takes you up to a mesa with great views. You might also want to check out the following url for hikes in the San Juan National Forest near Durango:
http://www.southwest-vacation-travel...ing-trails.htm.) I'll drive to the MVNP to spend a night at the lodge. The following day I'll explore the MVNP, spend a night in Cortez, and then take the Million Dollar Highway the next day (in daylight!) to spend the night in Ouray.
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Old Apr 26th, 2005, 06:04 AM
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nyc, I love that itinerary! Much more relaxed, and you will see so much more. There are lots of jeep trails out of Ouray - you can rent a jeep or take a tour. The Bon Ton is great in Ouray for a nice dinner, and there is an ice cream place that is also wonderful...I don't remember the name of it, but any local can tell you.
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 06:00 AM
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nyc2 and Margo

Please write a trip report when you return. We are thinking about the same area. Thanks and have a great trip.
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