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Old 05-21-2011, 05:35 PM
67 posts, read 205,815 times
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I'm interested in your suggestions. In july, family members from out of state gonna visit me in Colorado for the first time. They will stay for a week. I want them to have a great experience in Colorado.

I live in Denver metro and I'm especially interested in awesome day trips and scenic road trips in the vicinity. I know for sure that I'm gonna take them to Colorado Springs for Pike's Peak and the Garden of Gods. Another trip that shouldn't be missed is up to the Rocky Mountains NP and Estes Park.

I would be glad to hear more suggestions. I really want to represent Colorado at its best! What would be a nice drive if you just want to enjoy the landscape? What are some pleasant towns that are worth a visit? I think Leadville and Breckenridge might be an idea. What do you think?

Thank you very much
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Old 05-22-2011, 10:42 AM
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  1. red rocks
  2. st. mary's
  3. some boulder areas (green mountain, el dorado canyon, flagstaff road is a fun road to drive out of towners up)
  4. twin lakes
  5. rafting of the arkansas is always a hit when we have out of towners
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Old 05-26-2011, 03:16 PM
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Wink Just a bit of driving

An interesting question, with surprisingly few replies.

Your notion of Breckenridge and Leadville, particularly Breckenridge, are apt enough for a scenic day trip from Denver. Breckenridge is the more typical tourist town, with lots of options in shopping and restaurants, and beautiful as well in its architecture, as well the surrounding mountain landscape. In summer it is also a fairly easy drive of roughly 2 hours from Denver. Great scenery all along the way. Only problems with traffic possibly on I-70 closer to Denver on a Sunday afternoon return.

One slight detour you may wish to make either coming or going would be to bypass the Eisenhower Tunnel to take the original road over Loveland Pass (elevation 11,990 feet). This road joins I-70 just east of the tunnel entrance, winds up the mountain, down past the legendary A-Basin ski area just on the far side of the pass, then on down through the Keystone resort to join I-70 again at Silverthorne/Dillon. From there but a short stretch of I-70 west to Frisco, thence Breckenridge. Another option, shortly after Keystone, would be to bypass I-70 by taking the road that skirts the south side of Lake Dillon, in effect a short-cut to Breckenridge.

Placing Leadville on the itinerary might be advisable only if your group has an interest in history. It can be a very interesting place in that regard, with a rich mining history still reflected in much of the town. Otherwise, there are other towns in Summit County, such as Breckenridge, that everyone may enjoy more. It also, in driving from Breckenridge, would pose something of a detour. Not bad, but still the necessity the drive back to Frisco, thence through Copper Mountain to there. Another option, if the time and inclination, to continue south from Breckenridge over Hoosier Pass (elevation 11,532 feet), through Fairplay in South Park to loop back north through Buena Vista on US 24 to Leadville. If never having taken this route, it offers a lot of beautiful mountain scenery. If willing to shorten the stays in the towns along the way, a route such as this is perfectly feasible in one day.

Something that would be more of a stretch would be not only to visit Leadville, but since more or less in the neighborhood also take the opportunity to drive over Independence Pass. In time taken, this is pushing the envelope, and more of a dedicated road trip if one day. But from not far south of Leadville the drive through picturesquely situated Twin Lakes over Independence Pass (elevation 12,095 feet) to Aspen is one of the great drives in Colorado. Fantastic scenery all the way. From what is the quite charming town of Aspen, but a matter of continuing down the Roaring Fork Valley to rejoin I-70 at Glenwood Springs, and then probably the desire a straight shot back to Denver. Although be forewarned that one may be tempted along the way by not only Aspen, but such things as the large public hot spring pool at Glenwood Springs, or maybe stopping to see the sights in Vail. If attempting such an excursion possibly best to advise your audience to expect a lot of driving with but brief pauses along the way. However if extended to several days . . .

Back to more commonly considered reality, is how one might venture to or return from Summit County. One great option is to do that via Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. In truth, RMNP and vicinity can easily demand several days all its own. But that could come another time, and just in driving it is a spectacular route from Estes Park over Trail Ridge Road to Grand Lake and beyond. Trail Ridge Road, across the middle of the high mountains of RMNP, is notable as the highest continuous highway in the United States (highest elevation of road, 12,183 feet). A fantastic drive. The scenery will make up for what are posted speeds of 35mph through most of the Park. Also know that the Park charges an admission fee of $20 per vehicle (good for 7 days), so best to spend the $80 for an annual pass (good for all national parks and monuments) if at all thinking of visiting again in the year.

From Grand Lake on the west side of RMNP, it is a short drive south to Granby. From there one could continue south through the ski town of Winter Park and over scenic Berthoud Pass (elevation 11,307 feet) to join I-70 near Empire. But if the destination Summit County, a quite good option is to turn west from Granby to Kremmling on US 40. This is more open ranch country, following the course of the Colorado River. For more urban dwellers, it is a look back into an oft forgotten rural Colorado which still exists in places. Also, all the way to I-70 in Summit County, less traffic than often accustomed to, a chance to relax and enjoy a vast and inspiring panorama. From Kremmling turn south on CO 9, and interesting vistas of high mountains at a distance on either side in ever up towards Silverthorne.

While that is a lovely drive in either direction, as day trip it might be best in driving west towards Grand Lake. It is a bit of a drive north from Denver to Estes Park. At the end of what might seem a long day the relatively short and fast drive down I-70 from Summit County may seem preferable, other than the somewhat still long drive from Estes Park if the other direction. If headed west, just know that Estes Park could prove a day-long detour itself unless determined to keep moving. An early start would be advisable, as at a rough guess possibly about 5 to 6 hours to Summit County if via Estes Park and RMNP.

A note on traveling to Estes Park from Denver. If wishing to take the time, taking US 36 to Boulder to spend some time there on Pearl Street and elsewhere can be nice. From Boulder a simple and lovely matter to continue north to Lyons, then continuing on US 36 up into the mountains to Estes Park. If bypassing Boulder, then US 66 off I-70 presents a straight and easy drive to Lyons, and on. However, if interested in the most scenic, then advisable to continue north on I-70 to Loveland, driving through that town on US 34 to follow the course of the Big Thompson River to Estes Park. It is one of the great drives in Colorado, with a route along the river within a very scenic canyon, jagged tired cliffs of rocks reaching high up on either side, intermixed throughout with dense forest. Along the road there are any number of more usually small and, at times, quaint cabins. Beyond the line of development along the road rises wilderness surrounding. Estes Park's location is scenic no matter which direction approached, and this no different. One winds suddenly up out of the river canyon to find Olympia dam and the reservoir of Lake Estes beyond. A rise in the road shortly beyond, and then the view of Estes Park proper down below, seemingly nested in its small valley, encircled to the immediate west by high and more usually white capped mountains of RMNP.

This of course but touches the surface. If Colorado Springs, then directly to the west of it another world altogether in Manitou Springs. Within a single day and return from Denver there is much that might be seen and explored. Not to mention that if the focus is often west from there, that the plains east can prove of interest as well in their own way; for one, it is a sight remembered in being so far east as to no longer have the Rocky Mountains visible, but in driving west through open vast fields to slowly see them emerge on the horizon, growing ever bolder.

Expect to do some driving, and much is possible.
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Old 05-26-2011, 04:12 PM
67 posts, read 205,815 times
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Thanks everyone for your suggestions.

Idunn, you wrote an awesome description of possible day-trips. You did a hell of a job! Leadville is one of my personal favorites, that's why I picked that town. Along with Silverton and Ouray, it's one of my favorite historic mining towns. Silverton and Ouray are too far for a day-trip though.

Breckenridge on the other hand is a town I don't find too interesting. It's just personal preference, I guess.

I've considered going some of the routes you mentioned. Going through South Park Basin, Buena Vista, making a big round through Leadville and going back to Denver. It's a very scenic but also a pretty ambitious drive.

Going from Estes Park to Grand Lake through the RMNP is a drive I consider, too. It might be a good idea to spend the night in Grand Lake. I have never been there, so it would be a new experience for me, as well as for my family.

I'm gonna do some research about the other routes you mentioned. Thanks for you help.
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Old 05-26-2011, 04:53 PM
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Wink Grand Lake as lodging

Grand Lake would be a nice place to spend the night. It is similar to Estes Park in being directly adjacent to RMNP, only of course on the west side. As with EP, it is a largely seasonal tourist town, but on a smaller scale, the town itself and also number of visitors. However still in summer with an ample option in lodging, restaurants, and other services. It enjoys a scenic location directly on the north shore of naturally beautiful Grand Lake, with lovely views of mountains surrounding, but principally to the east in RMNP.

Cannot say for sure, but July being the height of tourist season, it might be advisable to book lodging in advance, or at least on any weekend. Otherwise there would be other options not that far removed in Granby and Winter Park, and some places in-between. But Grand Lake itself would surely be the most ideal. Once there, if lodging in town, it would be a simple and pleasant matter to walk about anywhere one wanted to in town.

Exploring farther out, such as east of town, or into RMNP, would of course entail some driving. The flora and fauna of the west side of RMNP is different from the east side, which tends to be drier. Sadly the greater prevalence of trees killed due the mountain pine beetle are yet on the west side. That is interesting and informative, if disheartening. This unfortunate destruction will also be visibly manifest in Grand County, and the greater area including Summit County. But still the west side of RMNP can be a wonder, and of all the more interest if seldom having visited it. For one, a greater chance of seeing moose on that side.

RMNP is a fabulous place still relatively close to the front range, more possible than the San Juans and places such as Ouray. If of course that lovely town with charms all its own.
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Old 05-27-2011, 01:36 AM
Location: Colorado
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I recently took some of my out of town friends to Look Out Mountain near Golden. We went to see Buffalo Bills grave and museum. Plus, it has some outstanding views from there. You can see DIA. Plus the little town of Golden, along the main street, has some cute shops and good places to eat. There's a nice hiking trail/park there too. It's like a 20 minute drive from Denver. I had to go easy on my guests because the altitude was killing them (they swore up and down it was). LOL!

When you go to COS you should try to squeeze in the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Your entrance fee includes a stop at the Will Rogers Shrine. (Not to be missed!) I think all of that is close to the Garden of the Gods. I wish I could go with you!

And there's always something going on in Denver itself. Like the Denver Museum, the Art Museum, The Aquarium, etc. But those are mostly rainy day places. I hope you have a nice sunny day to show them around.
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