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Old 08-17-2012, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by sbbi98 View Post
Thanks Idunn and Jim!!

In San Juan area, must we join a jeep tour to see the picturesque beauties? or riding on Million Dollar Highway would be fine?

If we rent a SUV instead of a regular full-size car, will it help for going into those dirt roads? I am not sure generally speaking if rental SUV is 4WD or 2WD, or if it has high clearance?

If we do need a jeep tour, could you recommend a decent jeep tour in San Juan area? How long/much does it normally take? What are the popular/good routes?

Thanks again!
You can make this as involved as you want. Or you can just drive a bunch in Aspen areas and see a ton of cool foliage. Don't overthink this.
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Old 08-17-2012, 05:54 PM
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CR 7 is easy until about the last 2 miles, then it comes down to your comfort zone with maneuvering and bumping. It was within my limit in a AWD but not by a lot.

CO drivers tailgate a lot and fairly close. That may not be unusual these days but I notice it.

Yankee Boy Basin is a classic jeep tour. Have to have high clearance for the last few miles unless you are quite brave.
Here are some jeep tour companies out of Ouray: http://ouraycolorado.com/businesses/Jeeping

Last edited by NW Crow; 08-17-2012 at 06:04 PM..
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Old 08-17-2012, 08:02 PM
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Wink 4WD and then 4x4

Unless one is practiced in off road driving, the type where a Jeep would be necessary, then you might not want to attempt a crash course in it on vacation.

An SUV of some type would be the state vehicle, if they had such a designation. So you wouldn't be out of place renting one. However most anything halfway sound should be able to navigate a dirt road such as Kebler Pass. 4WD (think also, AWD) would only be helpful in the snow, unlikely to be encountered, and otherwise only on roads one might end up high centered on, 4x4 or not.

Ouray is a mecca of Jeep rentals. You can check for specifics; my understanding Jeeps can be rented for private use (presumably wishing you and equipment back in one piece), or also the option of letting someone else do the driving, in a tour. There are some great Jeep trails in that region, but that is what many of them are: something requiring a true 4x4 and high ground clearance (including requisite skill of the driver, with any luck).

Consider that a 4WD rental may be exactly that: maybe with some ground clearance, but without the low gearing of a 4x4, and possibly sans any underbody skid plates either. In other words, something suitable for fetching groceries, being the common use, but beyond that not much more than driving on snow. Most of these things are not as capable or rugged as a Jeep Wrangler, nor intended to be. One might easily traverse a road such as Kebler Pass in a Rubicon wannabe and no one the wiser, but if somewhere more ambitious then the rental company may have some questions if their SUV is discovered marooned well out in the woods, its transmission or oil pan shipwrecked on a large rock—or unaccountably rolled down half a mountainside.

Last edited by Idunn; 08-17-2012 at 08:13 PM..
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Old 08-17-2012, 09:30 PM
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Keep in mind this is late Sept we are talking about. A lot of places the foliage will be past peak.

Again, I would stay off of the unimproved roads unless you know what you are doing and have some previous experience with it. A lot of these roads are fine in July, but weather can get temperamental in the high country and they are just not designed to be dragging mom and dad up there in a rental car to diddybop around. It's easy to run off the road or pop a tire, pop a gas tank, damage a suspension component and then what are you gonna do? Call Triple A? With what? You are in the wilderness. Tourist season is over and winter is coming so many of these roads are not well traveled.

Your average rental car is not outfitted properly for such travels and in addition, an experienced trained driver could take on some of those unimproved roads with a rental car/SUV because they know what to look for and how to negotiate it safely and successfully, but someone without that experience and training will quickly have issues.

The reason why I raise this is because the OP has already shown reluctance about heights and other issues. If Independence Pass is a worry, many of these other roads will really be a worry.

The other thing is at that time of year those high elevation areas will have shed their aspen leaves anyways. In my opinion once you get to around Sept 24th, I would reckon most areas above 8500 feet will be past peak.

If you do want to get on those roads get a jeep tour with someone experienced who knows what they are doing and where they are going. It is well worth it.

I would stick to asphalt. You'll see tons without big hassles.
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Old 08-17-2012, 09:46 PM
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while wanneroo mentions his guideline timetable for fall colors season end as Sept 24th in the high country, that's a time frame based on average year temps and moisture.

With the drought of this season and the high temps this year, my bet is that the fall foliage at altitude will be of a very short duration and earlier than average.

Best to follow the foliage reports and be ready to adjust your travel plans as needed if the colors are your primary focus of Colorado travels. You may even find that the colors will be turning along the Front Range, well past their season in the high country by the end of Sept.
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Old 08-18-2012, 12:53 AM
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Thanks all again.. I made "late sept" decision based on this website:
Colorado Fall Color Drives
and this:
Doerzman Photo -Recent Trips
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Old 08-29-2012, 04:59 PM
Location: Ned CO @ 8300'
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Reports coming in from various parts of the state that foliage is already beginning to turn.
Drought might affect fall foliage | Aspen Daily News Online
Photo from Aspen/Snowmass Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/skiaspensnowmass
Photos from Silverthorne area: PHOTOS: Fall colors start enveloping Colorado | 9news.com
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Old 08-29-2012, 07:20 PM
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Wink Autumn color timing

The reports are correct; aspen and other vegetation are beginning to turn even at lower elevations. Some deciduous trees began to turn about two weeks ago.

Overall, still not widely advanced, from what I've seen—although cannot speak for the entire state. For those interested in autumn color, plans might have to be advanced a bit this year. As well, the amount of color and quality of it might be randomly all over the map, as weather and all else so off.
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Old 08-29-2012, 07:37 PM
Location: Littleton, CO
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Yikes, that's pretty early

My parents are coming out the last week of September which is normally peak, I wonder how much will be left?
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Old 08-29-2012, 09:51 PM
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I think because of the warm dry winter and earlier spring, it confuses the trees a bit.

Here in PA we had the same thing and already we are seeing significant color and leaves changing in spots which is way early. It's still 80 degrees.

I've seen aspens start to turn in small numbers as early as the beginning of August and I've seen strong color at the end of August as well.

It's all highly variable and unpredictable. At the end of the day, depending on elevation and other factors, there is almost always color to the end of September, somewhere in state. In addition sometimes leaves hang for a while, other times, all it takes is an early snow or night of wind and it strips most of them off.

I'm looking at visiting Vail and much of the rest of the state this year, possibly 2nd week in Sept, which is usually a good week regardless.
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