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Old 02-13-2011, 01:20 PM
60 posts, read 141,586 times
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Ok my wife and I have never been to Colorado.

We are debating 4-6 nights. (Last week of February 1st week of March 2011 time frame)

We have discussed possibly moving to Colorado one day so we want to use this trip to see what Colorado is all about.

We want to stay away from big touristy areas.

The following spots have caught our attention.

Antero Hot Springs! Salida and Buena Vista Colorado.

Whispering Pines******** Questio

Colorado Mountain Cabins - Cabin #31

Places up north near lake Grandby and Estes Park look beautiful as well. Are the Hot Springs worth the trouble?

We are going to fly either into Colorado Springs or Denver. We will be renting a 4X4 or all-wheel drive vehicle for the entire stay.

We wanted to road trip it and see as much of Colorado as we can. We were thinking of driving:

I-25 South
to CO-12 West then North
Back up to 69 then to 50 through Salida, 285/25 through Buena Vista
Continue North go stop by Breckenridge and then make our way up to Lake Granby and Grand Lake and East through Estes Park and continue with our huge loop and end up back in Denver or Colorado Springs to catch a flight back to Houston.

Any and all recommendations are welcome. The reason we are NOT going any further out West is because if we did move we would move NEAR one of the (2) major cities and airports so we want to see this part of Colorado that would be relevant to our decision.

Thanks for your help!

Last edited by drvasek; 02-13-2011 at 02:00 PM..
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Old 02-13-2011, 02:07 PM
Location: Laughlin, NV and Southern Colorado
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Best to check road conditions prior to your visit. Not sure that road going east/west through Estes Park is even open in the winter.
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Old 02-13-2011, 02:55 PM
Location: Woodland Park, CO
3,133 posts, read 9,104,729 times
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Fly into DIA (Denver), should be cheaper and a direct flight.

Rent a Subaru, I've done this many times before moving here. It will be great in the snow and get good gas mileage. I usually get the cheap and slow Impreza. Might get lucky and get a Legacy or Outback. You'll fit right in with a Subbie.

I would fly in earlly and jump on I70 west towards Vail. Check out places along the way. Stay the night in Vail in a nice place and take the wife to a fancy dinner. Then jump on highway 24 towards Buena Vista/Salida/Poncha Springs. Then take that towards the Great Sand Dunes National Park....very cool place. Then either go to Alamosa for the night or head east towards I25 and check out Pueblo or head into Colorado Springs. Then spend the last day or two in the Denver/Boulder/Estes Park area, or wherever you could see yourself living.

That should be a fun way to see the majority of Colorado.
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Old 02-13-2011, 03:03 PM
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I think your visit areas are, in fact ... principally in tourist based economy areas of Colorado.

Estes Park is definitely a tourism based economy, although substantially shut down for the winter compared to the summer tourist months. Typically, the last weekend for many businesses is Labor Day, and many facilities/restaurants/stores shut down for the winter. While there are some lodges and cabins that do stay open for the winter months and snow based activities, it's quite low-key compared to the summer months.

BV ... same, it's mostly tourism based economy.

Your planned travel loop through these areas ... Grandby, Grand Lake .... all tourist areas. Grand Lake was founded on the resort biz all the way back in the mid 1800's ... "discovered" by wealthy easterners as a Rocky Mountain destination for their recreation. I've got a "hunter's gazette" book published in that era that features Grand Lake as a principal Colorado destination for hunters/fisherman ... that's pretty significant in light of the expense and time and access of travel from the East Coast of the USA.

Rocky Mountain National Park essentially closes down when the heavy snowfalls start in the fall. Typically, the road you are considering traveling through is closed Oct-May, so it's not even an option for your visit.

IMO, if you're really set on "discovering Colorado", and if you're not into snow activities (skiing or snowmobiling) in the area ... you'd do much better to plan your visit sometime other than the middle of the snowiest time of the year in the area. Also, I'd suggest that you select places that aren't tourist based economies if that's what you're trying to avoid ... "big touristy area" describes much of Colorado, especially the mountain areas with gorgeous scenic vistas and active local business communities.

As mentioned, the weather at this time is highly variable and you may find that a lot of your driving trip at this time will be spent simply dealing with serious inclement driving conditions. Then again ... it's Colorado, so the weather could be very pleasant and the roads reasonably clear.

Update: looking at some of the other posts here ...

I-70 corridor to Vail ... as a long time Vail homeowner & rental property owner ... I don't understand why somebody would advise you to come visit this place if your stated intent is to avoid a "big touristy area". Other than Aspen in Colorado, I can't think of a more pre-eminent world class tourist resort area than Vail/Beaver Creek (along with most of Eagle or Summit counties) ... especially in the middle of ski season. If you're coming to Colorado to get away from an expensive tourist town, this doesn't even come close to an escape from the glitz and glamour and high dollar tourist model. In high ski season, it's even more dramatically so. Even though I'm a skier, my favorite time of the year in Vail is late summer/fall months ... especially after Labor Day weekend when the town takes a breather from the prime summer tourist season before ski season starts again.

Sand Dunes ... an interesting place of unique sands and formations with a backdrop of pretty mountains. But it's in a remote site of Colorado at 8,200' elevation. The winds can howl through this area and the storms coming through are ferocious. While the visitor center is open all year long, the little towns in the area are substantially shut down for the winter ... mostly due to the severe climate conditions. The closest place for ANY services during the winter ... food, lodging, etc. ... is Alamosa. IMO, this is not a place for a casual visitor during the winter months and the height of the snow season. Access may be very difficult and problematic, and like much of Colorado ... the weather conditions can change in a matter of minutes. What may start out as a pleasant back country tour day may turn into blizzard conditions very rapidly. I'd urge you to visit the gov site for the place and heed their cautions about winter visits accordingly. Keep in mind that the area around this, and the access roads for quite some distance ... are subject to the same vagaries of severe weather with difficult road conditions. I have flown the region from Salida through to BV to the Sand Dunes for many years, and it's some of the most inhospitable desolate remote country imaginable during the winter months.

Last edited by sunsprit; 02-13-2011 at 03:44 PM..
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Old 02-13-2011, 03:08 PM
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The area around Divide is wonderfully scenic and the state and county roads are generally well maintained. There is every reason to believe that you can have a very pleasant stay if you choose a cabin near there. Breckenridge is more oriented to skiing. But there is a chance of very severe weather ANYWHERE in Colorado during your time frame. There is no road you have proposed that can't be closed, including the interstates. They probably will be open, but there can be no guarantees.

Estes Park is one of the most touristy sites in the US. However, late Feb. - early March you may well have the entire area to yourselves. The elk will be all over town, and there are herds of bighorn sheep that winter near in the lower reaches of the Park. The National Park does an excellent job of keeping a few miles of their roads open over the winter and you will not have to worry about crowds. Highway 34 over the pass normally is closed until somewhere near the end of May.

Do not underestimate the problems of altitude sickness. At a minimum I would plan my arrival so as to spend the night in either Denver (approx. 5,000 ft.) or Colorado Springs (approx. 6000 ft.). Estes Park is around 7,500 ft. and Divide is 9,000. Beginning the day before you depart take an aspirin a day and drink lots of water.

If you do go to Divide and have 4-wheel drive, and the snow permits (likely), I'd take Phantom Canyon Road from Victor down to highway 50, then back up to Colorado 9 to Hartsel, and 24 back to Divide, stopping at Wilkerson Pass, of course. Colorado 9 takes you up through a major portion of South Park and will be beautiful that, or most any time of the year. This will be a full day.

For something lower key near Divide, try the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. It has a quite remarkable story to tell. And of course there is Garden of the Gods.

Five days will evaporate pretty quickly. I'd suggest a list of things to see and do that are dispersed enough so that if one area is having severe weather you can go to another.

Do get weather forcasts before going anywhere. Do carry blankets and some extra food with you on the road (but take it out at night -bears, you know). I wish you a pleasant stay.
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Old 02-13-2011, 03:47 PM
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Thanks for all the quick posts. That is the exact reason I posted on here to get the information from the people on the ground.

Houston does have direct flights to Colorado Springs but you are correct they are more expensive.

Excellent points on the vehicle and road conditions, that is what I was worried about the most.

Well we would like to stay in a log cabin somewhere away from the ski resorts (even though we like to ski) we just want a little more peace and quiet.

Which area would yall recommend for this time of year? The next time we would be able to make it there would be in June and we were looking forward to the snow and fireplace/hot tub kind of trip.

You are right 5 days may not be enough time to do all of those things so we may have to drop the northern Colorado leg from the loop...
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Old 02-13-2011, 04:09 PM
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If you really want snow I'd recommend the Breckenridge area or Estes Park. The norm for Woodland Park/Divide would be little or no snow at all at that time of year- which is one of the reasons I love it in winter. Snow is pretty, but tends to get in the way of activities if you are not skiing. Of course there will be snow on Pikes Peak and all the area mountains. Salida itself can be hit or miss when it comes to snow, but the mountains are RIGHT THERE, including Monarch ski area.
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Old 02-13-2011, 04:16 PM
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IIRC, the Sand Dunes are the most fun in early June, when the spring runoff is in full flow and you can wade knee deep in clear icy water, or attempt climbing the dunes with one of the ranger-led groups. Nearby Alamosa has a few decent eateries and a tourist steam train that goes over La Veta pass.

The highway site to check is COLO DOT which will advise you what closed due to weather. Click on the map feature to see the big picture and zero in on roadway cameras. The road from Grand Lake through RNMP and into Estes Park (Trail Ridge Road) closed in October and won't reopen until Spring 2011.

My best advice is wait until early June and then see the state in much better conditions.
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Old 02-13-2011, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by drvasek View Post

Which area would yall recommend for this time of year? The next time we would be able to make it there would be in June and we were looking forward to the snow and fireplace/hot tub kind of trip.

Since the most likely places that will have snow/fireplace/hot tub rentals will be in the mountains ... which means tourist areas ...

I'd refocus this trip from a "explore Colorado" expedition to a "relax in a cabin" vacation where you've still got access to dining and entertainment options(musuems, theater, movies, shopping, etc).

Perhaps a cabin in the foothills or a little further up in to the mountains would be appropriate for your escape.

I'm thinking a range from Evergreen (or Conifer) area up to Idaho Springs or Georgetown would work for a rental cabin .... You're not in ski tourist central, but in the mountains while still retaining access to things to do, or the option to just stay around the cabin for a day. Do consider that finding accomodations so close to your departure date may be difficult ....

Save your "explore Colorado" driving trip for June when conditions are more favorable and you can really see what's going on ....

Last edited by sunsprit; 02-13-2011 at 04:32 PM..
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Old 02-13-2011, 09:30 PM
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I always feel that people visit Colorado for the winters but many stay for the spring and summer. Summertime is my favorite time in CO.

Really, though, with how the weather is in the mountains, come in June, see a snowstorm, and you'll still get your romantic fire in the fireplace!
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