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Old 05-27-2012, 07:54 PM
Location: MO Ozarkian in NE Hoosierana
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We [13 & 19 yo boys, woman, and I] are discussing various places for vacation this coming July. I've been to CO ~15 years ago, quick ~4 day trip, was great... went to Denver and up to Rocky Mtn St Park. We are outdoors people - btw, some of the boys' favorite trips have been to Arkansas when we rented a cabin out in the middle of a forest with a stream we could fish and canoe, and to Wawa, Ontario, Canada area were we rented a cabin near a lake and again did some kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and waterfall chasing. We'd be coming from the Rolla, MO area, and I'd like to make some kind of circular trip,,, hate seeing the same road twice We'd have ~8-9 days to make this trip, bopping about in a Honda minivan. Any ideas are greatly appreciated... thanks!
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Old 05-28-2012, 09:45 AM
Status: "Not politically correct" (set 8 days ago)
Location: Western Colorado
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Ouray Colorado - Come Visit
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Old 05-28-2012, 10:13 AM
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Take I-44 over to either 166 or Kansas 400 just before the turnpike. Pick up US 160 in eastern Colorado. Spend a good part of a day at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Continue west to Durango. You could rent a place on/near lake Vallecito and fish it or Lemon reservoir. Mesa Verde is nearby and worth two days of your time. There is also the Durango-Silverton steam railroad, 4X4 rentals, and terrific hiking almost anywhere. Circle north to Ouray and get out of the car to check out the local scenery - at least Box Canon Falls. The municipal hot springs swimming pool is something you don't get in Missouri either.

Since you've been to Denver and RNP, I'd stay south of I-70. You could dodge back over to Colorado 141 and take in Unaweep Canyon, or continue north to US 50 and to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. From there you can go east to Royal Gorge (vastly overrated, but many thousands come every year, so what do I know?), or take a scenic drive up through South Park and US 24 back to Colorado Springs (Garden of the Gods, Air Force Academy, Manitou Springs).

This is far more than can be done in 9 days but even so I have left off 1,842 separate museums, sites, scenic spots, and places of interest by actual count. More or less. Some time spent on line would help you sort out some of the things that interest you the least.

Hope you enjoy your trip.
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Old 05-28-2012, 09:27 PM
Location: MO Ozarkian in NE Hoosierana
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jim9251 - ... that looks quite the interesting locale, thanks, never heard of this place.

Arrby - some ideas there,,, and will make a list of them, and separate them per interest areas.

This is great... its those that actually live and breathe the Colorado air, instead of just the 'net searching that have been doing so far, that brings some good helpful ideas that otherwise might not have thought of... again, thanks.

lol - with that said, the less we see of other people, the better,,, so Royal Gorge will most likely be towards the lower parts of the list
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Old 05-28-2012, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by ShadowCaver View Post
lol - with that said, the less we see of other people, the better,,, so Royal Gorge will most likely be towards the lower parts of the list
And so will a whole lot of other places--Durango being one on the above list that is overrun in the summertime. You will also fight traffic, especially on weekends, even in relatively sparsely populated mountain areas statewide. My suggestion would be to pick one of Colorado's lesser known areas, base your vacation there, and not try to make a massive road trip out of the deal. The big caveat this year is that Colorado is gripped in serious drought that seems to be intensifying, not improving. Fire danger is already severe in most of the southern half of the state and will likely be severe statewide within a couple of weeks. Unless the Southwest Monsoon arrives early and strong this summer, Colorado may not be a pretty place to be at all this summer. Conditions are already worse than I've seen since 1977, and may eclipse some of the savagely dry years during the 1930's. I just made a combination business/pleasure trip across southern Colorado and northern New Mexico and personally observed how bad conditions currently are.
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Old 05-29-2012, 04:10 PM
Location: Littleton, CO
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I am a huge fan of Mesa Verde National Park (near Durango). It is one of the most spectacular and unique places to visit. You can camp in the park or you can stay in the hotel in the park. There are still some rooms left.

Great Sand Dunes National Park is also a cool and unique stop.

Cave of the Winds, Garden of the Gods, Pike's Peak and the Air Force Academy are all near Colorado Springs.

Go rafting on the Arkansas River. You can get a raft company in Salida (has hot springs), Buena Vista, and Canon City very easily. Water levels are likely to be low.

Glenwood Springs and the hot springs are very cool.

While I get the desire to stay away from humanity, you'd avoid crowds better if you traveled to Wyoming or Montana. The things I have listed are unique to Colorado.
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Old 05-29-2012, 04:41 PM
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If the prime tourist destination sites are on your agenda, consider that mid-July will typically be scorching down in the 4 corners area, along with Mesa Verde. While these are unique destinations worthy of a visit, in the middle of high summer tourist season won't avoid crowds ... Mesa Verde will typically be operating at capacity at this time. Lodging and restaurant choices there are limited and not inexpensive, too. You'd best check for accomodations reservations ASAP for places such as Mesa Verde before you go.

With the limited amount of time you have for your travels and the drought conditions this year in the high country, white water may be at very low levels and I've heard some operators are already looking at a very short season. Perhaps this wouldn't be a good year to plan on such on-the-water activities in Colorado's high country.

You didn't mention if you would be tent camping or seeking motel accomodations for your travels. Tent camping opens up a whole set of possible forest areas in the mountains, with some backpacking wilderness areas that could be worthwhile to visit. There's a lot of Nat'l Forest and Park options in Colorado, ranging from areas in the hills adjacent to the Front Range and over the Continental Divide up in the high country. Grab a Colorado map and you can't go wrong with any one of these areas, they all have their local outdoors activities.

My perspective on a limited time vacation trip would be to minimize your car travels into crowded resort areas and spend most of your time in a more focused pursuit. Your choice ... lots of driving and days of travel, or setting up a base somewhere and taking life at a slower pace.

If you are seeking more crowded areas with very nice accomodations, then it's very easy to choose Vail or Aspen as a destination ... and take advantage of the outdoor activities that are around those areas ... hiking, bicycling, fishing, horseback riding ... and enjoy the town offerings for dining and entertainment in the evenings. As well, Glenwood Springs, Steamboat Springs, Gunnison ... or even a place as typically crowded as Estes Park will offer nice cabins and lots of locally based activities. It's all simply a matter of your priorities for a vacation and your budget.
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Old 05-29-2012, 04:44 PM
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Or the OP could go to sunsprit's home state of Wyoming and avoid a lot of crowds altogether and enjoy some splendid mountain country (Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains being a personal favorite of mine when I lived in Wyoming).
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Old 05-29-2012, 07:24 PM
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Wink When in the mood for a western road trip

It seems you are interested in a road trip, but if wishing a more centralized location then venues such as Durango and Ouray could work quite well. Ouray in particular is ever so lovely, with Durango being substantially larger with more activities. The drive between the two on US 550 is spectacular, so a vacation splitting the difference could be quite nice.

Obviously July in Colorado means lots of tourists. So expect a good many on major roads and all favored destinations.

If wishing an epic excursion, then it might begin with a warm up one day drive to Alamosa, CO worthy of any road warrior. Alamosa is not where most of the tourists hang out, but as the largest town in the area (and a practical if long drive from home) it offers the best selection in lodging and restaurants. Who cares if the scenery is better just to the west when all you want to do is crash, and thereafter ready to enjoy it all the next day during daylight.

From there you could continue through South Fork and over Wolf Creek Pass to Pagosa Springs and at last Durango, which is not only a nice town in a beautiful location, but with by far the most selection in services. From there it is an easy excursion to visit Mesa Verde National Park, which is certainly a unique and interesting place. For anyone liking railroads, taking the narrow gauge train between Durango and Silverton could be great, and certainly a lovely trip through beautiful mountains.

If somehow skipping it, you'll probably wish later that you visited Ouray, so include that somehow. From there it would be a good day of driving through sometimes interesting, and at times quite scenic country to Jackson Hole, WY. A nice town in a lovely setting that anyone will pay a premium for in lodging come summer. But a great jumping off place to visit the splendors of both Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.

Yellowstone NP is not unknown to tourists, but it is still more than worth it. However one advantage of merely passing through versus making it your sole vacation is that not long after on the road again much of this activity left behind, and it can be largely just you and the wide open West. If looked for and sought, the West can be far more than overcrowded souvenir stands.

A town such as Gardiner, MT might be quite nice for the night. Although expect at the height of summer that everyone else has the same idea. It may be worth it—as would certainly Ouray, CO—but consider that nearby and far larger towns such as Livingston and Bozeman, MT would offer a better selection of services at surely somewhat less cost via value in lodging.

It would be a lovely and not particularly long drive between such towns as Bozeman and Kallispell, MT. If one could find lodging there, Whitefish, MT could be all the nicer. But the advantage of either is proximity to Glacier National Park. You surely will remember the remarkable drive over the Going-to-the-Sun road across this magnificent national park.

On the far side of this pass and park you'll find the vast flat plains stretching east of Browning, MT. Depending on how one has allotted their time, it could be a very long 24+ hour push back home. Such states as Nebraska may wish to differ, but one could consider all sights worth seeing basically over, so just enjoy a lot of fairly empty road for what it is. But if still in the mood, one could chuck in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Or would you just prefer a quiet cabin by the river?
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Old 05-29-2012, 07:44 PM
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Given that the OP will have driven quite some distance to get to Colorado's mountain country ...

I'm stunned at the suggestion above to reel out a day's travel of mid 500-600 miles for an Ouray CO to Jackson WY (Please Note: the town is JACKSON, the surrounding area is the 'hole) day trip.

Followed by a quick breeze by YNP! Get a clue, OP ... mid-July is the height of summer tourist season. There's no such thing as a "quick drive" anywhere in, near, around, or through YNP at this time. It's loaded with tourists who may just happen to be intent upon seeing the sights, including the wildlife. That means a lot of folk crawling through the park at slow speeds with an entirely different agenda than a "quick drive through" YNP. IMO, if YNP was to be an objective for this proposed vacation trip, I'd suggest YNP as your destination and the entire focus of your trip ... get lodging there and spend the time it takes to enjoy the place instead of just tagging it as a destination that you came to, saw, and left.

If the goal of the "vacation" is to see how many miles you can rack up covering the west, you can do that ... but if the goal is to actually see and enjoy the offerings ... then the poster above and I will have to differ as to what constitutes a "vacation" and outdoor enjoyment. I simply don't agree that grinding out the extreme mileage per day that is proposed by car will be "fun" for the family.

I won't even do that kind of aggressive schedule of travel hours per day traveling by air, and I've got a 150 mph 4-seater aircraft to do it with that is a very capable mountain region aircraft that can take me places into the backcountry that aren't readily accessible any other way; as well, I can travel very quickly to all the tourist town airstrips. Typically, on a 3-4 day weekend, I'll visit one or two places in Colorado at the most ... but generally, I pick a destination and stay there for the duration.

I've done my share of "iron butt" motorcycle tours throughout the region, where the goal was mileage per day and the respite of finally camping out for a night ... but there's simply no comparison to finding a place to explore and doing it thoroughly. The suggestion by jazzlover above pushes into that threshold ... I'd be tickled to have a week to spend in the Thermopolis area or similar destination areas of Wyoming ... for a camping or cabin vacation trip. There's lot of lore, outdoor experiences, and far fewer tourists per location than heading to Colorado's tourist areas.

Disclaimer: as jazzlover knows, and I've posted on these forums many times ... I've been a Vail homeowner for over 30 years. It's my primary choice for a place to relax, ski in the winter, and spend a lot of time during the summer months. With the hiking, fishing, bicycling, town amenities, ready access to Dillon Lake for sailboating ... it's where I've invested my time for many years, and the charms of the place and the area have yet to wear thin. Plus, there's concerts during the summer months, Farmer's Markets, and many other things of interest in the area and town that can cover the spectrum for the entire family. I haven't looked at the concert program schedule this year, but the music is usually of high caliber ... and the outdoor concert venue is spectacular.

Last edited by sunsprit; 05-29-2012 at 08:00 PM..
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