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Old 01-29-2013, 08:05 AM
 
Location: Rhode Island
4 posts, read 44,884 times
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Planning a dirivng trip for the week of May 26th. We'll be flying in to Denver and staying a few days in the area, then driving down to Santa Fe for another few days before heading to Sedona for the final few days and our flight home out of Phoenix. It's our first time in the area.

My questions are about the drive from Colorado down to Santa Fe, and which route makes more sense for us. The options we're considering are I-25, which I guess is pretty easy and direct, or I-285, which is by all accounts more scenic and a bit longer. I'm leaning toward I-285, but my SO is looking for more information before we make a decision. So I figured I'd put her questions to you all:

1) What's the time difference if we drove I-25 versus I-285? Can both be done in a single day, even with a couple of stops for photographs?
2) Is the scenery really THAT better along I-285?
3) We're really interested in wildlife -- is one road better than the other for spotting critters?
3) Do either roads have any "scary" stretches -- with "scary" defined as high drop offs and no guard rails, super-steep up or down inclines, or anything else that might freak out someone who lives exactly AT sea level?

Thanks so much in advance for any help you might provide!
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:39 AM
 
Location: Black Forest, CO
1,509 posts, read 2,215,132 times
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I drive I-25 from Colorado Springs to Santa Fe frequently. From Colorado Springs its about a 4.5 - 5 hour drive. I have also cut across at Walsenburg on 160 to 285 and taken that route. From that point, the time difference is minimal - maybe 15 minutes longer to take the 285 route. I have not tried to pick up 285 from any farther north, so my comments below reflect only that portion from Walsenburg over to 285 at Alamosa and south.

Both routes I have driven have mountain passes (Raton for I-25) and La Veta pass for 160). Both are nice wide roads with guard rails and not super steep, but you do get up there a bit.

The 285 route has fewer amenities so you must plan ahead and watch your gas gauge, maybe bring a lunch, etc. It is more scenic that the I-25 route, and you will probably see more wildlife.
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:56 AM
 
Location: Fort Collins, USA
1,438 posts, read 2,348,202 times
Reputation: 1772
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffJA1970 View Post
Planning a dirivng trip for the week of May 26th. We'll be flying in to Denver and staying a few days in the area, then driving down to Santa Fe for another few days before heading to Sedona for the final few days and our flight home out of Phoenix. It's our first time in the area.

My questions are about the drive from Colorado down to Santa Fe, and which route makes more sense for us. The options we're considering are I-25, which I guess is pretty easy and direct, or I-285, which is by all accounts more scenic and a bit longer. I'm leaning toward I-285, but my SO is looking for more information before we make a decision. So I figured I'd put her questions to you all:

1) What's the time difference if we drove I-25 versus I-285? Can both be done in a single day, even with a couple of stops for photographs?
2) Is the scenery really THAT better along I-285?
3) We're really interested in wildlife -- is one road better than the other for spotting critters?
3) Do either roads have any "scary" stretches -- with "scary" defined as high drop offs and no guard rails, super-steep up or down inclines, or anything else that might freak out someone who lives exactly AT sea level?

Thanks so much in advance for any help you might provide!
I stongly urge you to take 285. It is much more scenic and much more varied then I-25. Although it will take you a little longer (7 hours vs. 6 hours according to mapquest) it's a little shorter in distance.

As for 3 (above), you'll be in mountains and valleys on a 2 lane road rather then mostly on the plains on an interstate and so you are more likely to see wildlife close up on the former.

In terms of mountain passes, the steepest on 285 is Kenosha pass where you leave the the Front Range and pass into South Park. There are some dropoffs but it's no Trail Ridge Road or Independence Pass. And I-25 has Raton Pass on the border of Colorado and New Mexico. The other pass on 285 is Poncha pass but it's a fairly low-key stretch of road (at least by Colorado standards). There's a winding section of 285 where you descend from South Park into the Arkansas valley but it's also fairly easy driving (as long as you aren't too distracted by the views of the Collegiate Range to the west).
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:00 AM
 
Location: Aurora, CO
6,509 posts, read 10,147,919 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xeric View Post
I stongly urge you to take 285. It is much more scenic and much more varied then I-25. Although it will take you a little longer (7 hours vs. 6 hours according to mapquest) it's a little shorter in distance.

As for 3 (above), you'll be in mountains and valleys on a 2 lane road rather then mostly on the plains on an interstate and so you are more likely to see wildlife close up on the former.

In terms of mountain passes, the steepest on 285 is Kenosha pass where you leave the the Front Range and pass into South Park. There are some dropoffs but it's no Trail Ridge Road or Independence Pass. And I-25 has Raton Pass on the border of Colorado and New Mexico. The other pass on 285 is Poncha pass but it's a fairly low-key stretch of road (at least by Colorado standards). There's a winding section of 285 where you descend from South Park into the Arkansas valley but it's also fairly easy driving (as long as you aren't too distracted by the views of the Collegiate Range to the west).
I second Xeric's suggestion. There isn't much to see on I-25 between here and Santa Fe. The only times you hit mountains on I-25 are over Raton Pass and again as you cross the southern Sangre de Cristos between Las Vegas and Santa Fe.

Plus if you're on 285 you're within driving distance of Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Rio Grande Gorge, and Bandelier National Monument should you decide to modify your itinerary.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:04 AM
 
Location: Pueblo - Colorado's Second City
12,170 posts, read 20,920,900 times
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Just keep in mind 285 is NOT a interstate but a highway and is two lanes most of the way and has stop lights in the smaller towns.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:30 AM
 
Location: The Berk in Denver, CO USA
13,915 posts, read 20,103,660 times
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Default 285

285.
Go thru Taos.
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:04 AM
 
Location: Cole neighborhood, Denver, CO
1,123 posts, read 2,437,061 times
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285 has some great scenery, but then again I-25 isn't that bad, either. The most scenic part of 25 is the southern area of Colorado, through Trinidad and over Raton Pass. It is quite beautiful.

From 285 you can also take a slight detour and go past the Sand Dunes.

Either way you go, I also suggest taking a detour through Taos.
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Old 01-29-2013, 03:27 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 6,007,883 times
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Wink US 285 to Santa Fe

As suggested, US 285 is definitely the more scenic route, especially as through the mountains. Yet it is a route often through high mountain valleys and over easy mountain passes; nothing to be concerned with from a driving standpoint (or passengers fearful of possibly looking down over a cliff).

As never having been there, I-25 could be somewhat interesting, but largely only skirting the mountains, and often at a distance. Its greater attraction would be in the ease interstates have, and as the quickest route in time.

US 285 from its intersection with CO 470 near Denver offers a more varied and beautiful route. With better chance of seeing wildlife as well. It is mostly two-lane all the way to Santa Fe. It expands in lanes initially in winding into the foothills and the many small commuting communities. Expect the greatest amount of traffic here, with most of it left behind by Bailey when the road returns to what will be two-lane mostly continuing.

There is then Kenosha Pass into the high, wide and largely flat South Park (with high snow-capped mountains surrounding). Then dropping down somewhat to Buena Vista (which will require a very brief detour if wishing to see it). What cannot be missed is a superb view of the Collegiate Range of mountains as one drops down towards town. These a predominant feature to the west all the way to Poncha Springs (near Salida), and then lost from view as one winds up to the summit of Poncha Pass. From there gently into the very far most northern reaches of the San Luis Valley.

Shortly on, and just south of the quite small town of Villa Grove, one comes to a junction and decision. If remaining on US 285, then more along the west side of this large valley, through Saguache and Monte Vista; it is arguably the more scenic alternative. That most direct to Alamosa is to choose CO 17, which runs basically as strait as an arrow there.

From Alamosa one can choose to continue on along either the west or east sides of this valley. US 285, along the west side, may seem somewhat barren by Antonito and not far beyond it the New Mexico border. But then the San Juan Mountains draw closer by the vast dome of San Antonio Mountain, and distinctly more interesting by the small town of Tres Piedras. From there one could cut over to Taos on US 64, and also the notable view of the Rio Grande River far below in its volcanic rock canyon from the bridge over-crossing it. But one might also have driven east on US 160 from Alamosa, and then from historic Fort Garland south on CO 159 to the border, on the east side. One will pass through the oldest town in Colorado, San Luis (formerly, San Luis de la Culebra), and by there and on into Taos with a good view of the high Sangre de Cristo Mountains just to one's left. It is an interesting route, in also passing through such small villages as Questa, NM. And just south of there, over and through one of the arms of the mountains reaching out, so pine trees and so forth.

If continuing on US 285 one will pass through small villages and see aspects of an older and more traditional New Mexico. Also from south of Tres Piedras through a forest of quite large juniper and piñon trees, in this flank out from the San Juan Mountains. These left behind to an extent as all becomes drier in suddenly dropping down towards the town of Ojo Caliente. If the time, there is a small hot springs resort there of the same name, which is wonderful (even an hour or two spent would be refreshing and well remembered; they also offer lodging at this resort, as well more modest options in town).

While US 285 in New Mexico a perfectly fine and often interesting and scenic route, there is still Taos, and thus some reason in only that to choose an alternative route. In either event one will meet up in Española, and from there on four-lane into Santa Fe. Besides which, it is a lovely drive south of Taos in undulating country, again reminiscent of an older more traditional New Mexico, past and through such small hamlets as Pilar.

From Taos one might also opt to skip the perfectly fine and more ready route along NM 68, to take NM 518 towards Peñasco and the High Road to Santa Fe. This through the mountainous flank of the Sangre de Cristo past such ancient places as Truchas.

If with as much interest in that, then your decision in Colorado already made, and it will be US 285 all the way.
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Old 01-29-2013, 03:48 PM
 
Location: CO/UT/AZ/NM Catch me if you can!
4,690 posts, read 4,309,632 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
As suggested, US 285 is definitely the more scenic route, especially as through the mountains. Yet it is a route often through high mountain valleys and over easy mountain passes; nothing to be concerned with from a driving standpoint (or passengers fearful of possibly looking down over a cliff).
Thank you. I was wondering if someone had snuck up and built another Interstate while I wasn't looking. I-25 Denver to Santa Fe is BORIIINNNGG! US 285 is by far the better route. Yep, you have to go over a few mountain passes, but if you don't like driving in the mountains why on earth would you come to Colorado in the first place?
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Old 01-29-2013, 06:34 PM
 
Location: Rhode Island
4 posts, read 44,884 times
Reputation: 11
Thanks so much for all the thoughtful replies. Sounds like a no brainer...Rte-285 is our route. I'm hoping by late May the weather should be decent, and not much of a concern on the high passes. I assume there are places to pull off and get some photos of all the scenic places you've all described? Thanks again. Really looking forward to this trip!

Last edited by Mike from back east; 01-29-2013 at 07:00 PM..
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