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Old 04-17-2012, 09:30 PM
Location: Colorado
1,706 posts, read 2,930,444 times
Reputation: 1741


I have driven from COS to Boulder/Estes on a weekday and back to COS. We did the drive through Denver, although you do take 470 to the western side of Denver. It was pretty bad but certainly not Washington DC type of traffic. We left at 7:30a.m. and got to Boulder at 9:30 or so. Not bad time wise, but there were times I wanted to pull my hair out. We stopped in Boulder at a great breakfast place near the campus, the All American Pancake house or something. I highly recommend it. I think you can do COS to Boulder with the timeline you have scheduled for Day 4, easily.

As for your time in Colorado Springs. The Air Force Academy Chapel won't take you a ton of time, maybe 45 minutes unless you really want to gawk. The gift shop is neat. Then back onto 25 to get to Garden of the Gods.

Definitely take some time to walk around the Central Garden area, this is where Kissing Camels is best viewed. If you want to take a short hike, I recommend going to the Siamese Twins. It is a mile and you can get an awesome shot of Pikes Peak through the "keyhole" in the twins. Definitely stop to get a picture of your children holding up Balance Rock.

There are several bathrooms in Garden of the Gods, main parking area, Scotsman, and at the Trading Post. There is a visitor's center which is nice, but I rarely go.

Then you can have lunch in Old Colorado City or Manitou. I love restaurants in both places. The Loop has a great variety and it is on the corner of the main road and Ruxton Ave. Walking down the main street of Manitou is similar to Estes Park, but I think Manitou has better variety of shops, vs. Estes.

You could then take the cog up to the top of Pikes Peak. This will take about three hours round trip. Come back down and have dinner in Manitou or Old Colorado City. As for where to stay? It really doesn't matter. There are hotels in Colorado Springs which aren't far from Manitou or Old Colorado City.

Looking at your outline, you could spend nights two and three in Colorado Springs so you can get an early start at your activities. Especially since I'd recommend the early cog train vs. an afternoon one. We sometimes get Florida like weather, clear in the morning, clouding up with a passing shower and a clear night.

If you come down on Night Two, I'd recommend going to the Chapel, then hotel.

Day 3, get the 9:30ish cog train, lunch in Manitou, walk around Garden of the Gods. Dinner in Manitou or Old Colorado City.

Good luck and enjoy your trip!
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Old 04-17-2012, 11:35 PM
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
20,888 posts, read 37,589,171 times
Reputation: 20986
Originally Posted by Arrby View Post
...Sunset at GOG will effectively be around 8:00 pm in early June. "Effectively" because it sets behind the mountains long before the theoretical horizon. This may be later than you would want to wait if driving to Boulder.

I'd spend the day in CS, then drive to Boulder. Get an early start and you could spend two or three hours each in Manitou Springs and GOG, and squeeze in the cog railway to the Peak. Or sleep in a bit and skip the trip to the Peak. Have a good supper somewhere - Manitou, Old Colorado City, or CS, and once the traffic has died down around 6:30 pm or so, drive the two hours (or less) to Boulder.

To deliberately choose to drive into and completely through Denver on a weekday morning when you have a good alternative is an act of madness,.
Good idea... Plan your stays around the traffic (and with short time frame, don't be hanging around in mornings waiting for traffic to clear.)

I would drive to destinations between 8-10 pm and be ready to enjoy the new city / area in AM. (Most of these places are ~ 2 hrs apart)

Remember, you are coming from a later time zone, so you can do slightly later nights without getting too tired.

AVOID traffic to save time and have a better (less stressful) experience. It is very ez to do in Colorado, as unlike CA... it is not busy ALL DAY and night.

Just be advised, stuff closes early (food) and CO used to 'close up' at 10 PM when the news came on... . Not like 11PM on left coast (tho I imagine that has changed in CO, since about 30% of the current residents are from left coast, and CO is not so 'agrarian' anymore.)
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Old 04-20-2012, 01:58 PM
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
15 posts, read 23,083 times
Reputation: 17
Speaking of traffic …

I'm looking at lodgings outside of downtown Denver and considering two places:

-- Quebec Street, in Denver, just south of 70
I think the area is between Park Hill and stapleton

-- South Abiline St, in Aurora, along 225 between E Alameda and E Missisipi

Would one location be an advantage over the other in terms of:
… driving from Co Springs back to Denver?
… driving to/from downtown Denver
… driving to Boulder?
… driving back to the airport (in the morning)?

Thanks for the tip about the altitude change. I'm coming from sea level so will definitely be affected during the first couple of days.
I miss the days when we could bring a 1 liter bottle FULL of water onto an airplane, I'm normally a "thirsty" person and like to drink water throughout the day.
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Old 04-20-2012, 04:43 PM
2,253 posts, read 5,849,218 times
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Wink Traffic & lodging

Other than more direct access into central Denver, the Aurora address appears best in all other respects.

Keep in mind that during some times of the day Denver is no picnic to drive through. I'm referring principally to I-25; the guess that I-225 would not be as problematic, but others with more direct experience can best answer that.

If Denver itself is not the attraction at that point, you might consider lodging on the outskirts. Somewhere near Centennial would allow easy, if longer, access to DIA via E-470 (which is a toll road). This should work fine, unless wishing to visit Boulder (and then a pain). If Boulder of more interest, then you might consider lodging to the north or northwest. E-470 (again, a toll road) from I-25 around to DIA is a breeze, and fairly lightly traveled. Without exactly knowing, probably much the same if from its continuance as the Northwest Parkway from US 36.
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Old 06-04-2012, 01:24 PM
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
15 posts, read 23,083 times
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My trip is next week, I am so excited!

Quick question … I'll be staying overnight in Estes Park and then driving to Grand Lake the next morning.

I was looking at the map and see that there are two possible routes going toward Grand Lake. Is one route more preferable than the other?

One possible route (southern route):
Taking US-36 west, then meeting up with US-34.

Second possible route (northern route):
Taking US-34 from Estes Park.
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Old 06-04-2012, 01:46 PM
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
15 posts, read 23,083 times
Reputation: 17
And another question ...

I read that there are turnpikes on the highways (and roads?) in Colorado. We don't have turnpikes here in California. Is there anything I might need to know about turnpikes?
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Old 06-04-2012, 02:14 PM
20,346 posts, read 37,868,858 times
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I've no idea what turnpikes anyone is talking about.

I'd stick with Rte 34 all the way, IMO much more scenic.
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Old 06-04-2012, 02:56 PM
Location: Ned CO @ 8300'
1,993 posts, read 4,191,494 times
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The only turnpike I know of is US 36 between Denver and Boulder, still referred to as the Denver-Boulder turnpike: The portion of U.S. 36 between Boulder and Denver is known as the Denver-Boulder Turnpike, which was a toll road that actually had its tolls removed once the bonds were paid off in 1967. It was built in 1952 and became part of an extended U.S. 36 in 1967.

There is nothing unusual about it - it's just another highway.


  • An expressway, esp. one on which a toll is charged.
  • A toll gate.
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Old 06-04-2012, 04:22 PM
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Wink But Trail Ridge Road across RMNP

There is only one—paved—road across Rocky Mountain National Park, US 34, otherwise known as Trail Ridge Road.

There are a number of routes into Estes Park, with US 34 and US 36 being two of them. If from the direction of Denver and Boulder, US 36 is the most direct route into Estes Park; but once there, you'll be taking US 34 across the park to Grand Lake. From the front range, US 34 would lead one from Loveland up the quite scenic canyon of the Big Thompson river to Estes Park. Another scenic alternative from the Boulder area is to head west to the Peak to Peak road (at Nederland), which will enter Estes Park as CO 7.

The confusion you may have in regard US 36 and 34 is that there are initially two ways to begin across Trail Ridge Road. If US 34, then one will pass through the north entrance of RMNP via the Endo Valley. US 36 will lead one through the main entrance of RMNP, and then begin winding up the mountain to where it intersects US 34—from which point west one is on US 34. This would be at the Deer Ridge Junction. If any doubt in this, by the sharp 180º corner at Many Parks Curve (with pedestrian walkways and great views to the east) one is on US 34.

Either route to Deer Ridge Junction is fine, although the Endo Valley is lovely, and this northern entrance is generally less busy than the main entrance.

And while US 34 is the only way you're getting across RMNP—save on a hiking trail—there is one partial alternative. From the Endo Valley one has the option of continuing to the far western edge of it, and thence the original dirt road following the Fall river. Beginning just before a picnic area and end of the paved road, the Old Fall River Road is a relatively narrow ONE-WAY route 9 miles to its terminus at the Alpine Visitors Center with US 34. From that point west one would be on US 34 to Grand Lake. Given its nature, the Old Fall River Road is not the quickest alternative; and also one not open from its winter closure until maybe June, more usually July.

But never fear, anywhere in RMNP is beautiful, and any way come to Trail Ridge Road is magnificent.
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Old 06-07-2012, 05:13 PM
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
15 posts, read 23,083 times
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Thank you very much for your responses, they are very helpful. Now I kinda want to drive both sections. I'm not sure what time I will arrive at Estes Park. Perhaps if it is early enough, I might be able to do a loop in the afternoon ... taking the northern leg west, and looping back at the 36/34 junction, taking the southern leg back to our hotel in Estes Park ... or the other way around, taking the southern leg west, looping back at the 36/34 junction, taking the northern leg back to our hotel in Estes Park. I have the feeling it would be great in either direction.

I'm going to try to tack on Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre during my drive from Grand Lake to Denver/Aurora. We'll probably stop for lunch around Golden/Lakewood and then take a little detour toward Red Rocks.

I was looking at Google Maps for directions from Red Rocks back to Aurora and it shows 2 possible routes:

Option 1: US-285 N to I-25 S to I-225 N
Option 2: US-6 E to I-25 S to I-225 N

Would one be more preferable to the other in terms of things to see along the way and Friday afternoon traffic? I'm guessing we'd probably be driving around 3pm on Friday.

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