Mesa Verde to Denver in an RV

Jan 12th, 2010, 10:12 PM
  #1  
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Mesa Verde to Denver in an RV

Hello all -- My husband and our three kids are renting a one-way RV from San Francisco to Denver at the end of March. We are making our way south to the Grand Canyon before heading east. We are thinking about going to Mesa Verde and then up north to I70 into Denver. I need some advice about the drive from Mesa Verde, probably Cortez, up north to Grand Junction or Glenwood Springs. Should we take 145 to 62 to 550, or 160 east to 550? Is one more scenic than the other? How are the roads at the end of March? Which drive would be better for an RV (not too steep, no snow)? Thanks for any help or suggestions you can give me!
ooeygooey is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 02:20 AM
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You may still run into snow.
I can't advise on the roads from Mesa Verde north you ask about, but another possibility is going along the southern part of Colorado and taking in the Great Sand Dunes before heading north to Denver.
I would say the mountains would be more scenic but there are some pretty good grades on I70.
Gretchen is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 04:14 AM
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The road up into MV is fairly steep, but you see people driving RVs up it all the time, so you should not have trouble. After seeing VM I would consider going northwest from Cortez on 491 then north on 191 to visit Canyonlands and Arches before heading to Denver on I-70. Of course you would want to check the weather in any case to be sure of no snow on your route, but I don't recall any big grades on this route.
emalloy is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 08:50 AM
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I like the idea of going back into Utah and driving up 191 through Moab. We could take the river road, 128, up to I70, too. Do these roads get bad weather in late March/early April?

Thanks for you help!
ooeygooey is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 08:57 AM
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I've done both those routes in a class C motorhome, which I assume is the type of vehicle you'll be renting since they're the most ubiquitous type of RV rental. Any route from Mesa Verde to Denver has the potential for running into snow at that time of the year, although the probability is less than if you were going earlier in the month. Both the routes you are interested in have their scenic highlights. You'll have to go over mountain passes and divides on either route, but nothing that an RV should have particular difficulty with under dry, clear conditions. Be mindful that you won't have a lot of power going uphill and, until you get to Montrose, the roads will be simple 2 lane state highway. Fortunately, most of the steeper inclines provide an extra 3rd lane going uphill for those traveling faster to pass those of us traveling slower. Be aware that there is no extra 3rd lane for going downhill though. Save your brakes when going downhill by downshifting into lower gears.

The 145 and 62 route is probably gentler on the inclines and, depending upon your comfort driving an RV, that may be important to you. It's a relatively long, gentle uphill until you get close to Lizard Head Pass where it steepens briefly, then a relatively gentle downhill to Telluride. Most of the scenery will be to your right. From Telluride, 145 gets a little steeper heading downhill through a beautiful little canyon of the San Miguel River to Placerville and Hwy 162. From Placerville, Hwy 162 heads on a steady, moderate uphill to the top of Dallas Divide. Just after cresting Dallas Divide there is a nice little "turn off/widening of the shoulder" on your right that you can pull over onto and get out to take in a magnificent view of the Sneffels Range on your right and the peaks of the San Juan Mountains in the Big Blue Wilderness Area in the distance ahead. From Dallas Divide it is a moderately gentle, but steady downhill into the town of Ridgeway. Mind your speed in Ridgeway as the local law enforcement is strict....and a little sneaky. From Ridgeway to Montrose to Grand Junction the 550/50 route is easy and flat, and somewhat.....boring.

The other route you mentioned, 550 out of Durango and up to Ridgeway, may be a little bit more scenic, and a little bit more time consuming as you need to go over two passes and one divide. For the first nearly 25 miles from Durango to the Durango Mountain Ski Resort, Hwy 550 is a moderately steady uphill. From there it gets steeper as you head toward Coal Bank Pass and Molas Divide, then a moderate downhill into Silverton. From Silverton you climb up to Red Mountain Pass then down toward Ouray. This is the steepest and trickiest part of this route with numerous switchbacks and segments without guardrails. It's also the prettiest, but keep your eyes on the road. This part of Hwy 550 is known as the Million Dollar Highway - referring to either the amount of money it took to build it at the time, or the amount gold overlaid in building it, or the value of the scenery....I'm not sure which.
furledleader is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 10:20 AM
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Hwy 550 is a beautiful drive, but it can also be a very scary one especially in an RV. I would not even consider it if there is snow on the road or in the forecast. The stretch down to Ouray can be treacherous. If you're worried about "steep" try one of the other routes.
historytraveler is online now  
Jan 13th, 2010, 06:13 PM
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Have you ever driven an RV? Have you done much mountain driving? Have you driven in snow?

These are a lot of concerns for this portion of your trip. The roads are often only 1 lane in each direction, with sharp drop offs and pulloffs sometimes few and far between.

Think about this trip realistically.
DebitNM is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 06:49 PM
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We have done all the routes you have mentioned and IMHO hwy 550 from Durango north to Ouray is the more scenic drive. They don't call it the Million Dollar Highway for nothing. DH has driven 550 in a 24 ft class A motorhome several times but as others have warned, if there is snow, ice or the chance of either I would not go either of these routes.

Hwy 666 to Hwy 191 would be the better option if there is snow and ice. As ooeygooey mentioned, Hwy 128 from Moab back to I-70 is beautiful! Also I-70 from Grand Junction back to Denver is one of the most beautiful interstates you will find. Again...pay close attention to the weather!

Utahtea
utahtea is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 07:20 PM
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FWIW,Highway 666 no longer exists in CO, utahtea. It is now 491.
DebitNM is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 11:18 PM
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DebitNM, I knew they changed it in New Mexico, but didn't realize they changed it in Colorado & Utah. I have to stop looking at my old maps!

Utahtea
utahtea is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 05:37 AM
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S'ok, utahtea!
DebitNM is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 10:46 AM
  #12  
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You guys are unbelievably helpful and generous with your information! Especially Furledleader with the play-by-play of the drives. Thank you all so much!

Just fyi, I have driven an RV many times before and have driven in mountains/mountain roads, just never in that part of the country. Sometimes, state by state, the roads can really be very different in terms of what was built. So, I am asking from a point of excess caution. And a desire to keep my passengers happy and not nauseous!

I think we'll just have to play it by ear -- if the weather is perfect, we may try this "million dollar" road, but if there is any chance of the weather turning on us, we may try the drive through Moab. We are so looking forward to the trip, I'm sure we'll be happy with whatever we choose -- and I will try to remember to come back and post about the trip when we get back.

Thank you all again for your help!
ooeygooey is offline  

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