SW Colorado Summer Trip

May 27th, 2007, 04:31 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7
SW Colorado Summer Trip

I've been reading the postings regarding SW Colorado, but I do have specific questions that I was hoping natives or fellow travelers would be able to answer. I apologize ahead of time for the number of questions that I do have...

My husband, our 10 year old son - Seth, and I are heading out from Iowa for a tent camping trip to SW Colorado. We want to raft at least once, Seth has his heart set on the Durango/Silverton train, we plan to hike a lot, and might enjoy an off-road jeep tour. Here are my questions:

1. We're thinking of camping at Ridgeway or Ampitheatre. We want seclusion but also want access to showers. What do people who camp in the national forests do for showers?Are there outside sources for showers in the area?

2. I've read many posts that advise not to do the train round-trip. Is it worth the rather costly amount to take the train combined with a jeep tour? It seems pretty expensive to me -- $300 or so for the day for us as a family...

3. What is the most pristine and quiet place to camp in the area? (We have a truck, but it is not 4WD) We also want to set up camp just once so it is fairly accessible to all we want to see (we know we'll need to drive for things like Mesa Verde, the train, etc.).

4. Where's the best 4th of July celebration in SW Colorado?

I truly appreciate your thoughts. I promise to recheck the thread daily! I'm excited about our trip! We've been to Colorado several times & I'm proud of us for setting a limit to our vacation! There's so much to see in Colorado!
Suzimom is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 06:21 PM
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Ridgeway State Park has coin-operated showers. Even if you don't stay there, you probably can go in and use the showers.

I have always gone both ways on the train. I guess people take other ways back because they are faster, but train is good enough for me.

Afraid I can't answer the other 2 questions.
GBbabe is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 07:30 PM
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We have camped at South Mineral several times, a National Forest CG (San Juan National Forest) just to the north of Silverton. It is quiet, and pristine as far as NF campgrounds go. Its good point it gives you good access to Silverton. Its off US550 on a dirt/gravel Forest Service road. It is easy accessible with a truck, or car for that matter. Most National Forests allow camping almost anywhere with certain limitations if you choose to do so..


"What do people who camp in the national forests do for showers?" -- The short answer is -- without... But there are ways to stay presentable while in public... Its sometimes hard to have it both ways!! Remember it can get cold in the high country. Both times we camped at SM it was below freezing each time, we had frost in the AM. Refreshing.

RedRock is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 08:09 PM
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many (45) years ago, our scout troop spent 2 weeks camping near Durango. I don't remember where it was exactly, but it was next to a small lake. It's a great area.
bigtyke is offline  
May 28th, 2007, 06:30 AM
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Thanks for your ideas! I didn't know the showers at Ridgeway were coin-operated -- good to know! We'll start saving our quarters. South Mineral sounds nice -- I've seen information about it on the national forest website. Thanks again!
Suzimom is offline  
May 28th, 2007, 06:30 AM
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I can provide some info, but not until later today. I'll be back!
DebitNM is offline  
May 28th, 2007, 01:16 PM
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Hi Suzimom,

My computer is acting up but wanted to give a quick response anyway.

Amphitheater is nice, very scenic above Ouray. It is a bit dark for me however. Ridgway is a large state park north of Ouray. Very clean with nice bathrooms, but it is very open in most areas--gee, do I sound picky!

Check out the Colorado State Parks site and check on Mancos State Park. A nice, smallish state park off Hiway 160 between Durango and Cortez. We like it there.

For a jeep trip, Ouray is a great place. Several companies and options. If you are interested, there is a nice KOA just north of town. Also, the hotsprings pool in Ouray is wonderful--has an almost "natural" feel to it and the scenery will knock your socks off. We took the grandkids there last summer and they really enjoyed it, especially the water slide.

Hope this helps. I'll most more as I think of it.

GJLinda is offline  
May 28th, 2007, 02:11 PM
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I have done the train both directions and only one direction. I prefer the train both directions, it takes all day, but so does the other option.
happytotravel is offline  
May 28th, 2007, 02:53 PM
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<<We also want to set up camp just once so it is fairly accessible to all we want to see ...>>

I do not recommend this. If you want to see Mesa Verde you need to arrive early. If you leave from Ridgway it will be a long drive and you'll arrive late morning at best. Same for the train. On a map the distance does not seem far, but the mountain driving conditions do slow you down.

Ridgway does have super clean bathrooms and great showers. GJLinda is correct about it being open in most areas. It was very hot during the day - our shaded tent site did not provide much shade. My boys, though, did enjoy splashing around in the reservoir and fishing.

Maybe take GJLinda's suggestion of Mancos State Park for part of your trip. It really is in a much better location for the train ride and Mesa Verde. I'm going to check it out for my family.

I did the train one-way and the bus on the way back. Our bus driver was a hoot so I was happy with that choice.
wtm003 is online now  
May 29th, 2007, 03:52 PM
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Thanks for all your advice...I had wondered if trying to find one place to camp would be realistic. After reading your posts, I'm thinking that wouldn't be a very good idea at all.

We're now leaning toward Ampitheatre (we like the forest atmostphere) to explore Ouray and Black Canyon for 3-4 days. I think we'll split the other part of the trip down around Durango so we can do the river raft, train, and Mesa Verde without worrying about travel time to and from the camp.

Is Mancos SP wooded at all? My husband and I remember putting up a tent down near Mesa Verde at a state park about 15 years ago in the dark. We got up early morning to continue our journey & discovered we were right on a lake, but there were no trees at all -- not our kind of place (loved the lake, but REALLY want trees!). We're worried that Mancos might be that park.

Any other suggestions for camping near Durango/Mesa Verde for non-4WD vehicle that includes good shade?

Thanks for all for your help!

We're thinking the train will be ok round-trip after all. Think we'll do a jeep tour from Ouray as well. We're narrowing down the river rafting. It seems like an all-day river raft trip really isn't the best choice from what we see offered.

Any other suggestions or advice is most welcome! Thanks again!

Suzimom is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 04:44 PM
Join Date: May 2004
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Crested Butte has a great Fourth of July Festival. they have a parade up and town main street. And they have fireworks.

Its in the main vicinity of where you are going, but I can't help with anything else.
williamscb13 is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 08:31 AM
Join Date: May 2003
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Here are some places to camp in the Telluride vicinity:


Here's some sites in and around MAncos:


There are several companies in Durango that do rafting and 4 wheel drive tours.


I would do the train one way only and then do your jeep tour another day.

Be sure to leave a full day for Mesa Verde.

The drive from Mancos area /entrance to MEsa Verde to Durango is about 40 minute drive. That will get you to train depot and area where you can get raft trips, jeep tours etc.

I would not stay in Ridgway - it is a long, mountainous drive to Durango. The road from Mancos are is quite good, nothings narrow, steep or curvy.

Another area to consider staying is Cortez, which is about 1o minutes west of Mancos. It has lots of reasonably priced restaurants and some nice small sized local museums like things that would hold a 10 year old's interest.


Anasazi Heritage Center, Canyons of Ancients,Sand Canyon-- is a great hike, Cortez Cultural Center

Hope this helps...
DebitNM is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 01:22 PM
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Mancos is quite wooded, especially in the main campground.
GJLinda is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 01:29 PM
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Thanks so much for the added info. I'm glad to hear Mancos is wooded - we must have been at another campground before. I truly appreciate all your help!

Suzimom is offline  

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