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Old 01-14-2013, 03:30 PM
Status: "Harlan Ogilvy was right!" (set 3 days ago)
 
Location: Bel Air, California
21,253 posts, read 21,726,006 times
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We will be driving from Estes Park to Great Sand Dunes NP in July and are looking at two possible scenarios that seem to involve about 8 hours of driving time. Would prefer to stay off interstates as much as possible and look forward to visit historic sites, mountain vistas and photo opportunities.


Option 1
  • Peak-to-Peak Hwy
  • CO-91 to Leadville
  • US-24 to Buena Vista (St Elmo)
  • US-285/CO-17 thru San Luis Valley to Great Sand Dunes NP
The Arkansas River rafting trips looks like a blast and we could possibly stay over in Buena Vista instead of pushing on to GSDNP but there seems to be some concern about snow pack and river flows again this year. We are heading for New Mexico and while the start from BV would only cost us an hour, I was looking forward to driving a bit of the San Luis Valley backroads and maybe seeing some flying saucers at night.

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=panor...id=po-51716834



Option 2
  • US-36/Denver/I25 to Colorado Springs (Garden of the Gods)
  • Cripple Creek (could substitute Peak-to-Peak for the backtracking to CC)
  • Royal Gorge
  • CO-69 to Westcliffe/Pass Creek Road
  • US-160 to GSDNP
Any thoughts on these two? Anything I may be missing betwen these two routes?
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Old 01-14-2013, 05:04 PM
 
Location: Na'alehu Hawaii/Buena Vista Colorado
4,866 posts, read 9,600,682 times
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Or, you could go over Trail Ridge Road, down to Granby, get on Highway 40, go over Berthoud Pass, and get on I-70. Lots of photo ops!

Not sure how you plan to get from Cripple Creek to Royal Gorge unless you plan to drive that nice four-wheel road from Victor to Canyon City.
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Old 01-14-2013, 05:31 PM
 
Location: Ned CO @ 8300'
2,019 posts, read 4,318,343 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghengis View Post
We will be driving from Estes Park to Great Sand Dunes NP in July and are looking at two possible scenarios that seem to involve about 8 hours of driving time. Would prefer to stay off interstates as much as possible and look forward to visit historic sites, mountain vistas and photo opportunities.
Option 1
  • Peak-to-Peak Hwy
  • CO-91 to Leadville
  • US-24 to Buena Vista (St Elmo)
  • US-285/CO-17 thru San Luis Valley to Great Sand Dunes NP
This route does not take 8 hours. More like 6 hours at most. Just did it last summer. We stopped for the night in Salida and went to the Sand Dunes early in the morning.

Are you planning to stay/camp there? Temperatures in July can be hot and sand surface temperatures can soar to 140 degrees on sunny summer afternoons. Afternoon thundershowers are common in July with cool winds, heavy rain and lightning. Nights are surprisingly cool, thanks to the 8200' elevation - lows may drop into the 40s.
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Old 01-14-2013, 05:45 PM
 
16,492 posts, read 20,881,915 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghengis View Post
We will be driving from Estes Park to Great Sand Dunes NP in July and are looking at two possible scenarios that seem to involve about 8 hours of driving time. Would prefer to stay off interstates as much as possible and look forward to visit historic sites, mountain vistas and photo opportunities.


Option 1
  • Peak-to-Peak Hwy
  • CO-91 to Leadville
  • US-24 to Buena Vista (St Elmo)
  • US-285/CO-17 thru San Luis Valley to Great Sand Dunes NP
The Arkansas River rafting trips looks like a blast and we could possibly stay over in Buena Vista instead of pushing on to GSDNP but there seems to be some concern about snow pack and river flows again this year. We are heading for New Mexico and while the start from BV would only cost us an hour, I was looking forward to driving a bit of the San Luis Valley backroads and maybe seeing some flying saucers at night.

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=panor...id=po-51716834
Hey G! Wazzup?

Both Fremont Pass (91) and Tennessee Pass (US 24) aren't bad climbs. Leadville has a lot of history to it, trust me. As a kid I got to spend a couple summers at a cabin at Twin Lakes, just down the road from town. Keep in mind- elevation. It's the highest incorporated city in the United States at 10,290 ft. Give a little time to get used to the elevation. Nine of Colorado's fifty four 14,000 ft. peaks are on this route, including the two biggest-Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive (it is too!)

As you're at 9500 ft. they don't look so big but as you get into Salida you drop 2000 ft., the mountains(in this case the Collegiate Range) are several miles closer to the highway and they stand tall and awesome. Bring plenty of camera film. Watch for deer and elk. This 2 lane road isn't as wide as I'd like, but you'll be good! An interesting side stop is St. Elmo, a ghost town that got picked through decades ago. My first time there was in '63. A nice stop also is the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. Downtown Salida has a complete facelift to it, you'd like it if you have time.

Lots of restaurants and motels in Salida if you want to do overnight there. For that matter Buena Vista does as well. My favorite restaurant is the Country Bounty; the Salida Hot Springs is right across the street from it on hwy. 50.

285 over Poncha Pass is a fairly easy climb at 9010 ft. You don't see the Sangre De Cristo mountain range that clearly, but once you get past Villa Grove, then the valley opens up. The sand dunes entrance is maybe an hours drive from Villa Grove. Alamosa has adequate rooms and motels, but I don't know the area quite as well as Salida.

Leadville and Salida certainly fixes in on tourism. Alamosa does but not quite as much as Alamosa (and Monte Vista) have quite a bit of agriculture to its past. I like all four towns a lot, I've stomped through this area many times since the early 60's.

I'll comment on the other route later tonight, several other people will comment as well. We have a few posters from Salida, maybe one or two from the San Luis valley area.

Last edited by DOUBLE H; 01-14-2013 at 06:01 PM..
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Old 01-15-2013, 07:47 AM
Status: "Harlan Ogilvy was right!" (set 3 days ago)
 
Location: Bel Air, California
21,253 posts, read 21,726,006 times
Reputation: 33347
appreciate the replys...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreaming of Hawaii View Post
Or, you could go over Trail Ridge Road, down to Granby, get on Highway 40, go over Berthoud Pass, and get on I-70. Lots of photo ops!
we have 3 nights in Estes Park and will plan on doing Trail Ridge during that time

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreaming of Hawaii View Post
Not sure how you plan to get from Cripple Creek to Royal Gorge unless you plan to drive that nice four-wheel road from Victor to Canyon City.
seems like there are a number of potential routes, from easy to a bit more adventerous to RG from CC with High Park Rd seemingly the easiest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Neditate View Post
[/list]This route does not take 8 hours. More like 6 hours at most. Just did it last summer. We stopped for the night in Salida and went to the Sand Dunes early in the morning.

Are you planning to stay/camp there? Temperatures in July can be hot and sand surface temperatures can soar to 140 degrees on sunny summer afternoons. Afternoon thundershowers are common in July with cool winds, heavy rain and lightning. Nights are surprisingly cool, thanks to the 8200' elevation - lows may drop into the 40s.
had considered Oh My God Rd from Central City to Idaho Springs as well as the hour + drive up to St Elmo so I'd think the 8 hours is close to accurate....

at the lodge in GSD for a one night stay...

Quote:
Originally Posted by DOUBLE H View Post
Hey G! Wazzup?

Both Fremont Pass (91) and Tennessee Pass (US 24) aren't bad climbs. Leadville has a lot of history to it, trust me. As a kid I got to spend a couple summers at a cabin at Twin Lakes, just down the road from town. Keep in mind- elevation. It's the highest incorporated city in the United States at 10,290 ft. Give a little time to get used to the elevation. Nine of Colorado's fifty four 14,000 ft. peaks are on this route, including the two biggest-Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive (it is too!)

As you're at 9500 ft. they don't look so big but as you get into Salida you drop 2000 ft., the mountains(in this case the Collegiate Range) are several miles closer to the highway and they stand tall and awesome. Bring plenty of camera film. Watch for deer and elk. This 2 lane road isn't as wide as I'd like, but you'll be good! An interesting side stop is St. Elmo, a ghost town that got picked through decades ago. My first time there was in '63. A nice stop also is the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. Downtown Salida has a complete facelift to it, you'd like it if you have time.

Lots of restaurants and motels in Salida if you want to do overnight there. For that matter Buena Vista does as well. My favorite restaurant is the Country Bounty; the Salida Hot Springs is right across the street from it on hwy. 50.

285 over Poncha Pass is a fairly easy climb at 9010 ft. You don't see the Sangre De Cristo mountain range that clearly, but once you get past Villa Grove, then the valley opens up. The sand dunes entrance is maybe an hours drive from Villa Grove. Alamosa has adequate rooms and motels, but I don't know the area quite as well as Salida.

Leadville and Salida certainly fixes in on tourism. Alamosa does but not quite as much as Alamosa (and Monte Vista) have quite a bit of agriculture to its past. I like all four towns a lot, I've stomped through this area many times since the early 60's.

I'll comment on the other route later tonight, several other people will comment as well. We have a few posters from Salida, maybe one or two from the San Luis valley area.
Thanks HH, always appreciate your input

unless we loop over from Royal Gorge I don't think we'll detour to Salida but Leadville will be a stop if coming from the North. Hoping to acclimate a bit in Estes Park though I'm sure some huffing and puffing is in store.

I'm thinking of driving South from GSD on the East side of the SLV and heading West along one of the gravel roads across the Rio Grande south of San Luis...

https://ssl.panoramio.com/photo/13797534

If we do take in the Eastern trek, I'm trying to figure a way to work my way from Breckenridge and Boreas Pass but that may require eliminating some touristy stops such as Royal Gorge. I could be content with simply a long drive to the Sand Dunes but hope to be there in time (5-6pm) to see a bit of them before the flying saucers come out at night.
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Old 01-18-2013, 11:32 AM
 
Location: Cole neighborhood, Denver, CO
1,123 posts, read 2,441,150 times
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Option 1.
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Old 01-18-2013, 01:03 PM
 
825 posts, read 1,601,139 times
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Going south out of Estes Park on 7, then 72 down through Nederland, then on 119 down to I-70 near Idaho Springs is a pretty, but slow drive. From there you could go over to 9 and south to Brekenridge. 9 will take you all the way through South Park, down through Alma (which actually is the highest incorporated community in the US) and Fairplay and connect with 50 just a couple of miles west of Royal Gorge. From there the easy route is back west to Salida and then south, but 69 down to Walsenburg and then back west is a pretty spectacular detour.

If you do decide to go down to Garden of the Gods and then to Cripple Creek, you can go on down to US 50 by either the Shelf Road out of Cripple Creek or Phantom Canyon Rd out of Victor. The Shelf Road is, well, interesting. It is little maintained and 4 wheel drive is strongly recommended. Phantom Canyon Rd, while gravel, is well maintained and suitable for any car. I would far rather drive Phantom Canyon for the scenery than go to Royal Gorge. From Cripple Creek to Canon City by paved road (County 1, County 11, 9, and US 50) is a bit over an hour. From Cripple Creek down through Victor and Phantom Canyon Rd and back to Canon City is two hours, maybe two and a quarter.

While in Cripple Creek/Victor area I would definitely take the time to go to - American Eagles Scenic Overlook .
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Old 01-18-2013, 04:11 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 6,013,607 times
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Wink Probably no aliens, but . . .

Well, to begin with, you are unlikely to see any flying saucers in the San Luis Valley. Probably a better chance of hummingbirds towards sunset at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge.

If you like simple motels, then it should do; reports have it as acceptable. It is not connected with and outside the park. There is also a restaurant there (supposedly open in summer). Some seem to prefer the location for proximity to Great Sand Dunes NP early in the morning or late in the day. I'm guessing it is somewhat rustic. More sumptuous accommodations, and decidedly better choice of restaurants, can be had in Alamosa. It really isn't that far a drive, unless you just must be near the park.

If wishing to avoid interstates, then why would you consider driving through Denver to Colorado Springs on I-25? Yuck. I suppose the Royal Gorge is okay, but unless determined to see the sights in that region, other routes are preferable to GSDNP.

The Peak to Peak Byway south from Estes Park is a lovely drive, only particularly in summer expect to spend more time sightseeing than fruitlessly trying to drive fast. Besides which, the speed limit is more usually posted at 40mph or so, and residents along the road will not appreciate tourists making a racetrack out of it. If taking this route, the town of Central City would be worth at least driving through; it is adjacent to and just up the hill from Black Hawk. Besides which, this also allows the easiest access to I-70 via the Central City Parkway (a monstrosity of a road, if convenient, recently built). I-70 from there is a simple and beautiful drive on west to Summit County. If determined to really avoid interstates, then one could drive a few miles east from this intersection to County Road 65, which heads to Bergen Park and then via CO 74 through Evergreen to eventually intersect US 285 one way or another. Those liking off the beaten path detours should love this (but have a GPS, or map, and keen sense of navigation handy).

US 285 is the main route south to Salida and points beyond in the San Luis Valley, if avoiding the interstate and opting for a mountain route. An often lovely drive, and once past Bailey without as much traffic. If not feeling as adventurous in finding US 285, it can be simply met by continuing east on I-70 to CO 470, south, just beyond the edge of the mountains, and then back into them on US 285, off CO 470 shortly south of the Morrison exit.

The drive is roughly six hours from Estes Park to Alamosa, with some variances due possible route. But if not wishing to drive as far (presumably with some sightseeing thrown in), then Salida would make a good way-stop. Nearby Buena Vista could do as well, but at least in lodging Salida has better options. You can always go funky, otherwise perhaps stay at the Hampton Inn. Central Salida is not readily discovered from the main business drag of US 50, but is worth visiting. Not only are its historic buildings quaint, but the finer choices in restaurants likely best discovered there, downtown.

Alternatively, to US 285 that is, one wouldn't go amiss in visiting Breckenridge and taking that route. In any event, you'll likely meet up with and use US 285 from south of Buena Vista. As said, I-70 is a perfectly beautiful and swift (save on some holiday or something) route to Summit Count and Breckenridge from the Peak to Peak Byway. Use of Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park would allow one to basically skip all interstate travel. Expect to be traveling at 35mph or less most of the way across to Grand Lake, but oh is it scenic. From there on down to nearly Granby, then east to Kremmling, and there south to Silverthorne at I-70. Once past RMNP the road opens up, speeds increase, and it is easy motoring with relatively little traffic. Moreover in passing and possibly visiting such as Hot Sulphur Springs and Parshall, seeing aspects of an older more authentic Colorado.

Not sure about Boreas Pass, although presumably it is passable by passenger vehicles in summer. Otherwise Hoosier Pass on CO 9 is a lovely drive as well, and paved. If visiting Leadville, then of course skip both, as you'll be using Fremont Pass, and so down along the headwaters of the Arkansas River to Leadville. Quite a historic town. Although Breckenridge is as well, although now well covered in a lot of glitz. Both are worth visiting, if a slight detour in one direction or the other would be necessary. If from Leadville, the drive on south to Buena Vista is simple. Do however consider the slight detour in visiting the quite small town of Twin Lakes. It enjoys a lovely setting directly at the base of the high mountains through which Independence Pass passes. Continuing on via that to its far terminus in Aspen may entail more time than you wish, but what a drive.

Should you venture out on San Luis Valley backroads to discover the Rio Grande River, just take a good sense of navigation with you. They are not always as well marked as they might be, and all out there as sometimes questionable dirt roads in the flat sagebrush. The river in that region has only just begun to cut down through the black volcanic rock. This is far more appreciated a bit farther south outside of Taos, where a very high bridge crosses that deep canyon via US 64. Taos, if you get as far, well defines in many aspects why New Mexico is called "The Land of Enchantment."

Meanwhile, back around Alamosa, once there you may wonder why you bothered. Yes, the sand dunes are interesting, but at last only a bunch of sand deposited there due the winds liking the lower divide in the otherwise high Sangre de Cristo Mountains. After some hiking, and maybe a sunburn, you might be ready for something else (assuming not meanwhile abducted by aliens). You could visit the small town and eclectic religions center of Crestone; where you might also have chosen to find lodging. Beyond that, venturing west on US 160 might prove most fruitful.

One can see mountains from anywhere in the San Luis Valley, but once west of Del Norte with a closer appreciation of them, and decidedly so once at South Fork. Definitely in tourism country now. If taking the fork in the road at South Fork to remain on US 160, then eventually to Wolf Creek Pass and on at last to Pagosa Springs and Durango. That may be beyond the mandate of such a trip. But one could take CO 149 from South Fork, continuing up along the Rio Grande River to discover some of the fair country of its headwaters. Drive as far as the old mining town of Creede, now gentrified (kind of), and no great trespass in distance or time. It is a lovely drive, a unique town and, well, kind of in the neighborhood anyway.

Last edited by Idunn; 01-18-2013 at 04:40 PM..
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Old 01-18-2013, 05:22 PM
 
Location: Ned CO @ 8300'
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We didn't see any UFOs but we did stop at the UFO Watch Tower with our 9 year old nephew. UFO WATCHTOWER
If you have time, it's an interesting place to visit.
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Old 01-19-2013, 11:37 AM
Status: "Harlan Ogilvy was right!" (set 3 days ago)
 
Location: Bel Air, California
21,253 posts, read 21,726,006 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
Well, to begin with, you are unlikely to see any flying saucers in the San Luis Valley. Probably a better chance of hummingbirds towards sunset at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge.

If wishing to avoid interstates, then why would you consider driving through Denver to Colorado Springs on I-25? Yuck. I suppose the Royal Gorge is okay, but unless determined to see the sights in that region, other routes are preferable to GSDNP.
Yeah, pretty sure now we won't do the CO Springs/Gorge/Cripple Creek option.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
The Peak to Peak Byway south from Estes Park is a lovely drive, only particularly in summer expect to spend more time sightseeing than fruitlessly trying to drive fast. Besides which, the speed limit is more usually posted at 40mph or so, and residents along the road will not appreciate tourists making a racetrack out of it. If taking this route, the town of Central City would be worth at least driving through; it is adjacent to and just up the hill from Black Hawk...
Can't see a reason not to take Peak-to-Peak and we won't be in any hurry. Depending on what time we get going we may even do the OMG Road to see the miming relics along that route...Russel Gulch, Nevadaville...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
Not sure about Boreas Pass, although presumably it is passable by passenger vehicles in summer. Otherwise Hoosier Pass on CO 9 is a lovely drive as well, and paved. If visiting Leadville, then of course skip both, as you'll be using Fremont Pass, and so down along the headwaters of the Arkansas River to Leadville. Quite a historic town. Although Breckenridge is as well, although now well covered in a lot of glitz. Both are worth visiting, if a slight detour in one direction or the other would be necessary. If from Leadville, the drive on south to Buena Vista is simple. Do however consider the slight detour in visiting the quite small town of Twin Lakes. It enjoys a lovely setting directly at the base of the high mountains through which Independence Pass passes. Continuing on via that to its far terminus in Aspen may entail more time than you wish, but what a drive.
The more I look at it the more that section through Independence Pass intrigues me, maybe even enough to drive in from the North off I-70 and through Aspen and on back to hook up with 24 North of Buena Vista. Google has it at 8 hours and the biggest things that I would regret not going by to the North on 24 would be Leadville and the Hayden Ranch complex.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
One can see mountains from anywhere in the San Luis Valley, but once west of Del Norte with a closer appreciation of them, and decidedly so once at South Fork. Definitely in tourism country now. If taking the fork in the road at South Fork to remain on US 160, then eventually to Wolf Creek Pass and on at last to Pagosa Springs and Durango. That may be beyond the mandate of such a trip. But one could take CO 149 from South Fork, continuing up along the Rio Grande River to discover some of the fair country of its headwaters. Drive as far as the old mining town of Creede, now gentrified (kind of), and no great trespass in distance or time. It is a lovely drive, a unique town and, well, kind of in the neighborhood anyway.
We are on our way to Santa Fe and will have to save Durango for another visit although we have driven that route in the past coming from Mesa Verde and then North on the San Juan Hwy.

Any reason we couldn't drive this route in a passenger car?

https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=3...us&mra=pr&z=10

That 2nd crossing of the Rio Grande looks pretty interesting both for the bridge and the river bluffs and buttes to the south and I'd like to get some photos with the morning light.
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