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Fall vacation in Colorado

Old Jul 29th, 2014, 12:34 PM
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Fall vacation in Colorado

The more research I do to narrow down where we want to spend time, the more options I come up with. I could really use some help!

My 14 year old son and I will be flying into Denver early evening on October 2 and leaving early morning October 11. I want to spend time in the mountains, foothills, anywhere outdoors. Not counting the days we fly in and out, we have 8 days to take in as much as possible.

I will have a rental car for getting around, and hopefully a car will be okay because the SUV prices were astronomical. As a single mom I don't have a lot of money to spend, so I'll be looking for lodging that's basically a step or two up from a roach motel in order to budget. My money will be spent on activities, not lodging. I don't plan on us spending much time in the hotel if the weather cooperates.

I initially planned on spending time in EP (for RMNP and to drive over to Grand Lake), CS (for Garden of the Gods and sightseeing), and Denver (because I really want to check out Golden and I figure there's some stuff in the big city worth seeing).

However, now I'm reading about Breckenridge and that's piquing my interest as well. However, I don't want to spread our travels so thin that we're spending more time in transit than in just enjoying where we are.

We plan on white-water rafting, hopefully there will still be some outfitters running in early October, as well as horseback riding. It would be cool to check out a train ride. We love ATVing but can't find anyplace that allows riders under 16 so I don't see that happening. My son will be turning 15 a month later and is football player who towers over me, so understandably he doesn't want to ride double behind Mom

TL, DR: Best cities to divide our time between, especially for hiking and wildlife watching. Will need time to try to adjust to altitude before we do any big hikes. No need for fancy restaurants or hotels with pools. I understand the weather in early October can go any which way. Would love the locals views on the best places to go. Much thanks!
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Old Jul 29th, 2014, 06:10 PM
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Ok - October is the change over season. Should should warm clothes because it will beginning of winter in the mountains. The probability of snow in the mountains will be high. Some of the ski areas will try to open by mid to last half of October. The good news is that the lodging should be cheap. All kinds of deals, especially in the ski areas like Breckenridge, will be available. Restaurants will also have specials. However, some of the higher end restaurants may be closed or in rehab for the winter.

White--water rafting is done. No water as most streams will be too low for any type of water activity. The Georgetown Railroad will be on a limited schedule and may have shift to weekends only. You will need to check the web site.

With eight days I would look to staying in Frisco as a hub. Should be able to get cheap housing and you might for a condo. For there you could do day trips to Georgetown, Leadville,Vail, Aspen, Glenwood Springs and canyon. The big hot spring outdoor pool in Glenwood Springs is great as are some short hikes (Hanging Lake) out of the canyon that are nice. You can ride he length of the canyon on bikes. Leadville has a terrific 12 mile paved hiking loop called the Mineral Belt trail. The drive over Independence pass into Aspen is about as scenic as it gets. Much of this will be very weather dependent at that time of year.

You might save Colorado Springs for another trip since it is in a different direction. It is an hour and half south of Denver airport. You could hit Estes Park. In early Oct it could be still busy with Aspen changing and the Elk herds. It would be harder to find inexpensive lodging.

Personally I would skip CS and Garden of the Gods. I don't it is worth a couple of days and the travel out of your limited time.
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Old Jul 29th, 2014, 06:50 PM
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However, I don't want to spread our travels so thin that we're spending more time in transit than in just enjoying where we are.

Amen to that.

By far the best place for wildlife viewing will be RMNP, so either Grand Lake or Estes Park. If that is important then you should go there. The elk bugling is a fantastic wildlife spectacle.

With 8 days you could spend a few around RMNP and then a few in Summit County (Breck / Frisco area). That's not too much driving. However, keep an eye on weather forecast as Trail Ridge Road can temporarily close in early October.

Ditto what fmpden said: skip Colorado Springs. Garden of the Gods is nice for sure, but it's out of your way and you'll be seeing more amazing stuff in the mountains. You can get a taste of Garden of the Gods by stopping at Red Rocks, outside of Golden.

And yes, bring layered clothing as you'll get temperatures all over the chart.
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 05:25 AM
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Colorado is awesome and October should be truly gorgeous.
With a 14-year-old, I would check out Glenwood Springs, which seems to be great for families. The hot springs mentioned above are very popular, plus the vapor caves at Yampah spa, which are a neat combination of exploring a cave while taking a natural steam bath. www.yampahspa.com/caves
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is fun-- you ride a gondola to get up the caverns and a western themed amusement that includes an alpine slide and some other fun rides. http://glenwoodcaverns.com

If you like hiking, the Hanging Lake Trail mentioned above is amazing, although pretty strenuous. Allow about three hours to do the 2-mile hike. We stayed at the Hanging Lake Inn in Glenwood Springs, which was reasonably priced and very clean and comfortable, with a free breakfast. www.hanginglakeinn.com/home.html

From Glenwood Springs, you can do a daytrip to Aspen (45 minutes away) and up to the Continental Divide and on to Leadville, making a loop back to Glenwood.
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 06:54 AM
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Not sure which Continental Divide Jayne is referencing but your go through the divide at the Johnson/Eisenhower tunnels on I-80. There is no divide around Aspen or Leadville. All of those areas are on the western side of the divide which exactly why all the ski areas are there.
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 08:37 AM
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Make that I70 I think. ;O)
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 08:41 AM
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I had the same thought as Nelson, skip Garden of the Gods and go to Red Rock if you must see some red rocks.

I like the idea of using Frisco as a base for several days. Since you want to visit RMNP as well and spend a couple days in Denver, here's what I would do....

Arrive in Denver on the 2nd (Thursday)
3rd - all day in Denver
4th - morning in Denver, drive to Frisco
5, 6 - day trips from Frisco and overnight there
7 - morning around Frisco, drive to Estes Park via Grand Lake and Trail Ridge Road
8, 9 - Estes Park and RMNP
10 - RMNP and overnight in Denver.

Day 4, 7 and 10 are all kind of flex days. Day 4 - if you want to see more of Denver just spend most of the day there and head to Frisco late afternoon. Or if you want to get to the mountains, just leave Denver after breakfast. Same goes for day 7 and 10.

The one thing you will have to watch is the weather for the drive from Frisco to Estes going through Grand Lake and over Trail Ridge Road. If there's a snowstorm at higher elevations then TRR could be close temporarily (or permanently til spring).

Also, for acclimation purposes it would be better to go from Denver to Estes and then Frisco. But Estes will be really busy on the weekend so it's your call as to whether you would rather deal with crowds at a lower altitude or less crowds but possibly feel the effects of altitude a bit more in Frisco. Either way you're going to notice the altitude and you won't really acclimate in such a short trip anyway.

It looks like the Georgetown Railroad has a mostly full schedule, weekends are the normal summer schedule but weekdays they drop the first train of the day.
http://georgetownlooprr.com/schedule-fares
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 08:48 AM
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Oh, and at that time of year sunrise is around 7 am and sunset around 6:30pm. So you're going to want to get up early and make the most of the daylight. In RMNP elk should start gathering the meadows around 5ish? for the rut. If you're there on the weekend expect a lot of people along the roads, they will get there early and stake out a spot to watch.
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 09:40 AM
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Lots of great information here, exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for. Thank you, everyone. I appreciate it so much!
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 11:39 AM
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I suggest you go to Winter Park for a few nights, and drive from there to Grand Lake, and through RMNP, if that's a must. Staying in Frisco puts you much further away.

There is a YMCA facility nearby, Snow Mountain Ranch, which has horseback riding and hiking. Also cabins to rent. And a grill for getting burgers, drinks, snacks, etc. It's inexpensive.

Re: Independence Pass and the Continental Divide, I just 'checked in' there on FaceBook when we drove over it the other day. It says "Independence Pass over Continental Divide".
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 11:40 AM
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PS. You shouldn't need an SUV.
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 12:04 PM
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Yes, I meant to say Independence Pass, which crosses the Continental Divide. Lucky you, Tabernash!
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 01:20 PM
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