What should we not miss in Colorado?

Old Mar 7th, 2012, 01:16 PM
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What should we not miss in Colorado?

We are planning to fly from Detroit into Denver in early September, rent a car, and circle the state for 2 weeks. We are thinking head to Estes Park first, but not sure how long to plan to be in Park. Since there is nowhere to stay , should we plan to stay at Grand Lake or Granby if we take the time to hike a few trails? Can we see the highlights of Park in a day? Will we be able to reach Grand Junction in day ? We hope to stop and look, not just drive. Any specific route suggestions from there to Mesa Verda? Is the Royal Bridge worthwhile or to commercial? Any suggestions appreciated, as we are just fumbling with facts and info at this time! Thanks..
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Old Mar 7th, 2012, 01:55 PM
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Stay in Estes Park for RMNP. I'd do a big loop and come back by Great Sand Dunes NP as you leave Mesa Verde.
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Old Mar 7th, 2012, 02:00 PM
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Places we loved in Colorado:

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Ouray and the drive from there to Durango
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Vail
Independence Pass to Aspen

Not too crazy about Grand Junction.
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Old Mar 7th, 2012, 02:27 PM
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Yes, stay in Estes Park for a couple days. The east side of RMNP has the more impressive scenery so once you cross over to the west side via Trail Ridge Road, you have seen the best sights. I could write several paragraphs about what to see in the park but for sure, take more than one day.

You'll be at some altitude anywhere you go in the state, so it might make sense to decide where you all want to go and then come up with an exact route, starting in a lower elevation and working up to something higher. Most people stay in Denver or Boulder for their first night to help acclimate - Estes Park is a couple thousand feet higher, doable but would be better to ease into it more if possible. If you're going to make a big looop, I think heading south and doing RMNP at the end might make more sense? But that really depends on where else you're going and what the elevation is there.

With 2 weeks I don't see any need to go from RMNP to Grand Junction all in one day. If you stay in Estes Park, drive over Trail Ridge Road and make a few stops along the way, you won't even leave the park until the afternoon. Maybe stop at Glenwood Canyon overnight?

Skip Royal Gorge - for something far more impressive and non-commercialized, go to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park instead. Same type of canyon but much deeper and definitely something to stop for.
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Old Mar 7th, 2012, 02:28 PM
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If your reason for going to Grand Junction is Colorado National Monument and you have seen the national parks in Southern Utah then I too would skip GJ. All four NP's in Colorado are great and should definitely be on your list. If you want to do hiking then give RMNP at least two days at minimum. Allow 1/2 day for Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon for a quick look, or at least a day each if you want to do a hike.I personally would skip the Royal Gorge.
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Old Mar 7th, 2012, 03:09 PM
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Yes on all the above in regards to RMNP and Estes. Glenwood Springs is a good stop- soak in the hotsprings, hike Bridal Veil Falls off of I 70, ride bikes along the bike trail,visit the cemetery where Doc Holliday is buried. Colorado Springs has some good sights too- Garden of the Gods, take the cog railway up Pikes Peak, feed the giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
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Old Mar 7th, 2012, 03:13 PM
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If money is no object and your adventurous then check out
Soaring Colorado. It includes a ride on the Durango Train.
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Old Mar 7th, 2012, 03:21 PM
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Keep in mind that there really aren't that many roads in RMNP and you can easily cover all of them in a half day. Now if you want to do some hiking, and there are some great hikes, that'll take more time. Also the hiking trails on the west side generally have fewer people than those on the east side and still some fantastic scenery.
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Old Mar 7th, 2012, 06:20 PM
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Visiting Colorado Springs US Air Force Academy (south of Denver) fun day trip. Ski resorts, Aspen etc. lovely in the summer.

Re: arrival if early enough in the day (or do a seperate day trip)stop at Boulder for great shopping, lunch and a wonderful Farmers MArket. Great restaurants: great bread.

Estes Park get a condo: we did these last year and we're happy.
http://www.estescondos.com/antlers/index.html

Provisioned at the Safeway grocery in Estes Park. Estes Park has a cute old town section easy to walk and sightsee shop: saw elk downtown last year by the waterwheel.

In RMNP great picnic table place by a river just before the parking lot at Sprague Lake. Sprague Lake is a nice flat short easy walk around trail. The lake is very shallow and great for fishing: we saw several moose at the lake last year.

Keep in mind as others have mentioned, the altitude is very affective: if anyone has any respiratory or cardiac problems be sure to talk with MD before you leave about aspirin therapy...the combination of flying, dehydration and altitude is serious...when we were at the high summit Visitors center we saw an elderly man collapse. I saw him with labored breathing and warned the RAnger just as the man subcombed..it was dramatic: all the Rangers at that level are EMTs just because of this...and it is a long way to the nearest hospital.

Note too all the parking lots are full with hikers cars usually by 9:00am & plan accordingly as the Rangers will not let you stay. There are Park shuttles...you will pay everyday to enter the PArk..but I have to say this is my favorite PArk of all time..just love it. Lucky you get to go....


By the way there is a great back road Old Fall River Road to high Summit Ranger Station: it is a one way dirt road well maintained with pull outs and fabulous photo views..saw several blue Columbines up close, the State flower.
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Old Mar 7th, 2012, 06:39 PM
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Come to the southwest corner of the state and see Mesa Verde National Park and get a sense of what the area was like over 1000 years ago and learn about the ancient puebloans. Durango is a great little town. Drive the Million Dollar Highway and see Telluride.
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Old Mar 8th, 2012, 11:05 AM
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THANK YOU Everyone! I have been to CO, but the last time was 30 years ago, so the beauty of the state is a little *foggy." My spouse has never been there, so everything will be new. We do plan to see RMN Park, Black Canyon of the G, Mesa Verde, Durango (take the scary train ride to Silverton!) 4 Corners, Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods and the Great Sand Dunes NPark. I am just trying to figure out our time line, as we do not want to rush anywhere. We plan to fly in on Labor Day and hope all the families will be back home for school to begin. We assume that sites will be much less crowded than summer months. Thanks, again...
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Old Mar 8th, 2012, 11:21 AM
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Well, the sites have less kids, but September and October are prime visitor season here = great weather and less kids!
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Old Mar 8th, 2012, 11:49 AM
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What's your fitness level and what level of difficulty are you looking for in your hikes? There's a huge range of trails to choose from in RMNP (and elsewhere), you'll get a lot of advice but that advice will be better if you can give us more info about yourself and what you're looking for.
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Old Mar 8th, 2012, 01:00 PM
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If you don't want to rush, you may have a problem with your schedule--even with 2 weeks. Durango and Mesa Verde are a long way from Denver. Maybe you could price an open jaw flight where you fly into Denver and out of Montrose or Durango(I think Durango has an airport.) We have found that open jaw flights are not always that much more expensive---check out drop fees for the rental car first though.

We spent a week a year ago in Rocky Mountain National Park and enjoyed that. We have also spent time in the summer in Breckenridge, which was nice. This past August we enjoyed Telluride--
http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...ride-co.cfm?11
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Old Mar 8th, 2012, 01:17 PM
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Flying in and out of Durango and Montrose would eliminate doubling back, but the flights using those airports are very limited and expensive.
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Old Mar 8th, 2012, 04:50 PM
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I think you will be fine with 2 weeks.

Day 1 Denver Airport Drive to Estes Park
Overnight in Estes Park-3 nights
Day 2& 3 RMNP
Day 4 Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Day 5,6,7,8 Mesa Verde/Durango
Day 9 The Great Sand Dunes
Day 10,11-Colorado Springs,Pikes Peak, G of G,

This still leaves you with 3 extra days on a 2 week trip, if you want to allow for visits at other places or longer at some i've listed, or to allow more time for driving.

I would eat a meal at The Stanley Hotel in Estes and Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.
I would stay at Far View Lodge for a night or two in Mesa Verde and the food there is good. You need a full day here and 2 days if you want to include the Wetherill area too. See as many of the sights/ruins/tours that you can.
At the Great Sand Dunes, you will probably want to bring your own food. There is not much there to stay at or eat at. If you happen to have a 4 wheel drive consider the primitive road drive. If the fall foliage colors has started the back country drive is a good place for it.
Maybe consider stopping Florissant Fossil Monument(I haven't been there yet).

Buy a National Park Pass to save you a bit of Money.

Make your Mesa Verde/Far View Lodge reservation NOW.
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Old Mar 9th, 2012, 03:28 AM
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I would recommend Maroon Bells near Aspen. The hike is spectacular, walk 200 yards away from the lake and the crowds thin out, the challenge level is moderate, the views fabulous...and the aspens may be golden. Have fun!
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Old Mar 11th, 2012, 05:43 AM
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If you are old enough (62), get the senior National Park Pass. Otherwise, an annual pass is $80 and covers all USDA FS, NPS, USFWS, BLM and Reclamation sites. (One car, 4 people over the age of 16, 15 and younger free.)
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Old Mar 11th, 2012, 04:38 PM
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These places in addition to any other that have been mentioned:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...36845987/show/
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Old Mar 25th, 2012, 09:25 AM
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Just turned this thread up on a search as DH and I are talking about a Denver-Denver loop in Sept. also. Regarding Mesa Verde, which we did last year as part of a Colorado Plateau loop, Wetherill won't be open after Labor Day. However, we spent two days at Mesa Verde and found plenty to do without Wetherill.

Someone suggested taking your own food to Great Sand Dunes. DH and I have begun buying a cheap cooler on arrival and picking up a small jar of peanut butter, some deviled ham or similar, bread, fruit, drinks, since we've found that many of the parks don't have food or what they have is substandard. For instance, the "nice" Mesa Verde restaurant (only open at night) at Far View is very good but the other food is marginal. Furthermore, if you're somewhat distant from whatever food service is available when you get hungry, it's convenient to have something with you. Non-perishable or not rapidly perishable, so you don't have to eat it if something else is convenient. Although we haven't done it before on two previous trips, we'll have food with us on a trip to Yellowstone in early June if only because it's a huge park and although there are plenty of places to eat, the nearest one could be 20 miles and a bear jam or two away when you get hungry. (We also appropriate a few condiment packets before or on the trip to avoid buying a jar of mustard or mayo that won't keep. If you eat at the Mesa Verde cafeteria near Far View, they have Grey Poupon in packets, so we liberated a few of those. Beats yellow mustard.)
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