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New Mexico - Mesa Verde - Durango: Looking for itinerary suggestions

New Mexico - Mesa Verde - Durango: Looking for itinerary suggestions

Old Aug 30th, 2010, 06:50 PM
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New Mexico - Mesa Verde - Durango: Looking for itinerary suggestions

I'm planning a trip (August 2011) that I want to include Santa Fe (Taos), Mesa Verde and Durango. Not sure how best to organize it. We'll be flying into Albuquerque (from a week in the Bryce/Zion/Grand Canyon area). We'll have about a week and want a few days in Santa Fe/Taos, want to see Mesa Verde, and probably do the Durango Silverton Train Ride. We'll be flying out of Albuquerque.

I don't want to drive all the way to Durango the day we arrive, as I think it will be late afternoon (haven't booked tickets yet but that's what the schedule looks like now). Should we stop in Santa Fe the first night or is there someplace else that makes more sense, between Albuquerque and Mesa Verde. We probably want to spend the last night in Santa Fe. Assuming we want at least a couple of days in Santa Fe does it make sense to have them at the end of the week?

How many nights in each place would you suggest? Thanks
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Old Aug 30th, 2010, 08:04 PM
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Santa Fe is out of the way going from ABQ to Mesa Verde/Durango. It is a 3 hour drive from ABQ to Durango, if you can manage, I'd just head there after flying in. There really isn't anywhere along the route that is particularly a great spot to spend the night [Bloomfield would be about it, and that is an hour from Durango].

How long to spend in Santa Fe and Taos and Durango really depend on what you like to do and what you want to spend your time doing? Are you active tourists or more sedate?

Will you want to hike in Mesa Verde or just drive the loop or visit the cliff dwellings? You could spend as little as 1/2 day or as long as 3 days, it depends on how much you want to do.

I would start with the things that are most important to you to see and do and then figure out how many days in each spot are needed to accomplish it.

The train will take almost an entire day if you take it both ways, it will take less if you take the bus one way [which I recommend doing].

Do you want to shop in Santa Fe, see museums, go to galleries??

What do you want to see and do in Taos? Do you want to stay overnight there or do a day trip from SF?
Give us more of an idea as to what you like to do, and then we can help you to better plan.
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Old Aug 31st, 2010, 02:35 AM
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Would it not be better to start your trip by renting a car in say Springdale or Flagstaff and end it in Albuquerque.You could then drive from the G.Canyon ,visit Monument valley and drive on to durango,visit Mesa verde drive on(have a look at Chaco canyon on your way to Taos.Then S.Fe and finally end in Alb.Paul
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Old Aug 31st, 2010, 02:57 AM
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As always, excellent advice/questions from DebitNM, but I like Tovarich's suggestion a lot, except that you would likely visit Mesa Verde first since it "comes first" geographically. Chaco Canyon seems out of the way on this route to me (which is why I, sadly, have never seen it), but otherwise, this looks good. Do not ignore Cortez as a place to spend the night.
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Old Aug 31st, 2010, 04:13 AM
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We've left ABQ in the afternoon on rt 550 and gone up to Bloomfield for the night, then gone back a half an hour to Nageezi to take the gravel road into Chaco Canyon, (Bloomfield has the closest lodging other than camping that we have found) then back to Bloomfield for the night and up to Mesa Verde with a stop at Aztec Ruin on the way. If you can stay at Mesa Verde it will make for easier travel as getting up and down the mesa takes a bit of time.

If you decide to go up via Santa Fe, consider going to Bandelier NM, not too far from there and a very interesting comparison to Mesa Verds as the housing is carved into the mountainside, actually hardened volcanic ash.

Have a great trip.
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Old Aug 31st, 2010, 04:31 AM
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Thanks for the replies. Ideally we would rent a car in Vegas, do Zion, Bryce, GC, MV, then Santa Fe and drop off and fly out of Albuquerque. But prices for that rental are over $1400 for two weeks (closer to $1800 if you want Alb airport versus off airport location). You can rent two cars - pick up and drop off in Vegas and then in Albuquerque for $610 (total), plus two tickets to fly between Vegas and Albuquerque on Southwest for $119 each. End up saving over $700 doing it that way. I checked prices on multiple sites last year and again just now.

Sooo - assuming no one can find me a decent car rental price doing it the logical way.... then we'll do this leg in and out of Albuquerque.

I like the idea of driving straight from Albuquerque to Durango although goole maps and mapquest put it at almost four hours. DebitNM are you sure its only three hours? Even if it's four we could probably do it. Can't check flight times this early for next Aug, but for this year there was a flight that got in around 4 pm.

If we spent the first night in Durango (or Bloomfield) and the second at Far View Lodge and the third in Durango that would give us almost two full days in Mesa Verde. Is that enough to see the four main sites, drive the loops and maybe do a short (2-3 hr) hike? We will be doing quite a lot of hiking the first week of our trip so don't need a lot of hiking time.

So if we spent the third and fourth nights in Durango that would give one full day - probably would do the Silverton trip, most likely by train. Are there any "ghost" towns within easy driving distance of Durango? Maybe they don't even exist anymore. I lived in Fort Collins in the late 70s (college) and did a photo project of Colorado ghost towns , I'd love to visit one now. Most of ones I did were to far north too get to on this trip.

That would leave four more nights, (three full days) for Taos and Santa Fe.

Suggestions?
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Old Aug 31st, 2010, 05:48 AM
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We have a second home in the very close to Mesa Verde, we drive to and from ABQ frequently, and it is pretty close to 3 hours to Durango, if you drive straight through. It will depend on when you leave airport with rental car, traffic on I 25 at rush hour will impact that time. It takes us just under 4 hours and we are 50 minutes away from Durango.

see the four main sites Which sites are you including? I ask, because the tours are times and it may not be possible to get all in one day, especially if you are including Wetherill Mesa [which you should see!]

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...od-to-keep.cfm

The Petroglyph Hike is really nice:
http://picasaweb.google.com/DebitNM/MesaVerdeMay2009

Aztec Ruins are interesting, very small and wouldn't take much time, but they really aren't must see:
http://picasaweb.google.com/DebitNM/AztecRuins

Thses are from The Loop Drive:

http://picasaweb.google.com/DebitNM/MesaVerdeInWinter

These should be helpful too:
http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...by-debitnm.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...by-debitnm.cfm
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Old Aug 31st, 2010, 07:49 AM
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Good to know it's closer to three hours. I think we will plan to spend that first night in Durango and then be able to be at the MV visitor center by mid morning. I've read many of your posts and they are very helpful.

By 'four main sites' I meant Cliff Palace, Balcony House,Long House and Spruce Tree House. I know you need tours to visit the first three. I also have read that at peak times you may have to limit visits to one of Cliff Palace or Balcony House. We will be there August 21 & 22, 2011 (Sunday and Monday). Is that still peak season? Is it possible to see all four of them in two days (assuming we arrive around 10 the first day and stay till dusk the second)?

Another question - I know Balcony House requires a 32 ft ladder climb and my traveling companion (my SIL) can't do that. She says the 8-10 foot ladders are ok but not a 32 ft one. Is there a hike or something she could do in that area if I wanted to Balcony House myself. Or at least someplace shady and comfortable to wait. Obviously in August she can't wait in the car for an hour.

And what did you think about the Durango and Santa Fe and Taos portions of the week?
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Old Sep 1st, 2010, 08:38 AM
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There is a place that has shade where your companion can sit while you do Balcony House. There is also a trail she could hike: Soda Canyon Overlook Trail [1.2mi]

"Soda Canyon Overlook Trail 1.2 miles, round-trip
Begins one mile north of the Balcony House parking area along the Cliff Palace Loop Road. The trail is an easy walk to the canyon edge and offers views of Balcony House and other archeological sites along Soda Canyon.
Natural History: The trail goes through big sagebrush, Utah juniper, yucca, and gambel oak.This is a fairly low-growing, open area and will be hot in the summer.
"

FYI - Long House has 15 ft ladders.

You should also do Step House and Badger House while at Wetherill Mesa. A great look at the evolution of the dwellers' homes.
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Old Sep 1st, 2010, 10:47 AM
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Thanks. I assume you have done all these houses. Are the ladders really scary. I've read quite a bit about the Balcony House one, but not the others. I just don't want her to find herself in a situation where she is uncomfortable. But I also don't want her to have to do a lot of waiting around while I do the houses if it's not something that would bother her. So the more info ahead of time the better.

What do you think about the number of days I'm planning in each location? Thanks again for sharing all your expertise on the area.
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Old Sep 1st, 2010, 02:05 PM
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My DH doesn't like heights and has done all of the ladders, as have I. I find that if you just look straight ahead, and go hand,foot, hand foot, you can make them ok. But I can't speak to anyone else's level of discomfort.

There is also a tunnel at Balcony House that you have to crawl through on hands and knees, so be sure not to bring stuff with you. I swing my backpack around to my front, and can get through ok, it;s close quarters, for sure.

The biggest issue is once you go in there is only one way out and that is via the ladders. They do warn people and I have never seen them have to get someone out who was having issues. I suppose that if they had too, another Ranger could come in and take you back out the way you came in, but
I haven't seen this done, so am only guessing. I have done the dwellings many, many times and most people do ok.

I would do a day in Taos [either an overnight or as a day trip] and 2 days in Santa Fe.

The rest of you plan looks good.
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Old Sep 1st, 2010, 04:28 PM
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If you ride the train, consider adding the zipline with it. Really fun and one of the best things we have ever done. We loved our 4 corners area trip and especially Mesa Verde.
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Old Sep 1st, 2010, 04:34 PM
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I am guessing if her SIL won't climb ladders, she isn't going to zipline, but I could be wrong
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Old Sep 2nd, 2010, 03:33 AM
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If your SIL drives, she could do the mesa top loop and stop at the overlooks and see if she could pick you out on your tour of Cliff Palace. The views of the ruins are excellent and there are several that you can't see otherwise.

We found the Cliff Palace ladders a bit challenging, not from the height of the ladder, but because we weren't acclimated to the elevation and were sucking wind by the time we got to the top.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2010, 12:36 PM
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I found the ladders to be a 1 on a scale of 10 as far as difficulty or scariness. Maybe just me, dunno.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2010, 01:22 PM
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I'm not a fan of heights. Cliff Palace was fine for me, but I decided not to visit Balcony House. Mr. Pickle and the kids did and all agreed I wouldn't have enjoyed that ladder climb.

Lee Ann
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Old Sep 4th, 2010, 03:26 AM
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Looks like people are split on the ladders issue. Sounds like Balcony House is probably not going to be enjoyable for her but maybe she can handle the others. Deb - the tunnel exiting Balcony House - it's large enough for a relatively small person and a day pack? And no, I don't think ziplinning is going to work. Thanks for all the input.
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Old Sep 4th, 2010, 06:17 AM
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What I did with pack was to swing it around and wear it in front, like a baby sling, with the straps on and the pouch/bag part on my chest. Worked fine.

The ladders exiting the other dwellings aren't as bad as Balcony House since they are between rock walls and you don't feel "exposed" and out in the open. The onese exiting Balcony House are from one level to the next, like a ladder perched along side a house when you are trying to get from the ground to the roof. Does that make sense?
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