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Old 10-28-2017, 11:37 PM
 
31 posts, read 54,453 times
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Hello,

I am planning to go from Bluff, Utah to Durango with stops along the way in Four Corners, Mesa Verde and possibly Cortez. I've been considering going from Bluff to Mesa Verde on the same day as Four Corners doesn't generally take too long to see and from what I understand, quite a bit of things in Mesa Verde are closed in the winter.

If I went to Mesa Verde on the same day I came from Bluff, I'd go back to Cortez to spend the night and then head off to Durango in the morning. That, or I was considering just going to Cortez for the night from Bluff and then seeing Mesa Verde the next day and then heading off to Durango for the night from there. From Durango the next day, I'd head south into New Mexico.

Any advice on what you would do or would recommend would be greatly appreciated. Also, is the 160 from Cortez to Durango typically reasonably passable in late December? I will be in a rental car so it is unlikely I will have AWD/4WD.
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Old 10-29-2017, 05:43 AM
 
4,657 posts, read 1,327,644 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncas View Post
Hello,

I am planning to go from Bluff, Utah to Durango with stops along the way in Four Corners, Mesa Verde and possibly Cortez. I've been considering going from Bluff to Mesa Verde on the same day as Four Corners doesn't generally take too long to see and from what I understand, quite a bit of things in Mesa Verde are closed in the winter.

If I went to Mesa Verde on the same day I came from Bluff, I'd go back to Cortez to spend the night and then head off to Durango in the morning. That, or I was considering just going to Cortez for the night from Bluff and then seeing Mesa Verde the next day and then heading off to Durango for the night from there. From Durango the next day, I'd head south into New Mexico.

Any advice on what you would do or would recommend would be greatly appreciated. Also, is the 160 from Cortez to Durango typically reasonably passable in late December? I will be in a rental car so it is unlikely I will have AWD/4WD.
The major roads, including 160 should be fine most of the time, unless there is or has recently been a storm move though. I'd try to get an AWD vehicle if at all possible, just in case.

Are you planning to engage in outdoor activities? The weather could be extremely cold or it could be in the 60s, just depends. Most likely the skies will be clear and sunny and you'll have (in my opinion) perfect hiking weather if you're layered properly.
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Old 10-29-2017, 07:12 AM
 
11,256 posts, read 43,199,644 times
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typically, a seasonally unsettled weather pattern will present.

you may have clear weather with warm days and strong sunshine to clear the roads.

you may have storm fronts dropping a fair amount of snow/moisture on the roads which can freeze into black ice.

or any combination of rain/snow/clear that comes at this time of the year. It's not unusual for a pattern to persist for a couple of days followed by something different for a few days.

Your road travels at this time of the year may be a uneventful pleasant journey ... or have times of seriously difficult driving ... or have patches of difficult driving between stretches of clear roads.

You need to be prepared for any combination of these events.

You don't need an AWD or a 4x4. If conditions present that a FWD car with appropriate tires cannot reasonably handle, then you'll find it best to be off the roads until conditions improve. Deep snow is not the issue, it's the black ice slick surfaces that form on the roads or on top of snow that are the problem. Hard snowpacked roads are very driveable with a FWD car at reasonable speeds.

So watch the weather forecasts, reports, and road reports for your travel. You may find that travel this time of the year is much slower than your expectations from posted speed limits in clear weather months. So if your destination is the primary goal of your trip, keep your focus on that objective.

4 corners is but a few minute stop. Mesa Verde facilities area a significant detour off your travel route and most of what you'd tour in the fair weather months is closed for the season; IMO, it's not worth the time and distance to access in December unless you're a very devoted fan of the history/culture of the cliff dwellers. Mesa Verde is not something you can see in a matter of hours for a meaningful visit and be quickly on your way.
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Old 10-29-2017, 08:16 AM
 
Location: Black Forest, CO
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I agree about Mesa Verde - It is awesome, but you need at least a full day there, and go in nicer weather as you will be outside a lot.
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Old 10-29-2017, 09:31 AM
 
5,318 posts, read 2,759,690 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncas View Post
Hello,

I am planning to go from Bluff, Utah to Durango with stops along the way in Four Corners, Mesa Verde and possibly Cortez. I've been considering going from Bluff to Mesa Verde on the same day as Four Corners doesn't generally take too long to see and from what I understand, quite a bit of things in Mesa Verde are closed in the winter.

If I went to Mesa Verde on the same day I came from Bluff, I'd go back to Cortez to spend the night and then head off to Durango in the morning. That, orI was considering just going to Cortez for the night from Bluff and then seeing Mesa Verde the next day and then heading off to Durango for the night from there. From Durango the next day, I'd head south into New Mexico.

Any advice on what you would do or would recommend would be greatly appreciated. Also, is the 160 from Cortez to Durango typically reasonably passable in late December? I will be in a rental car so it is unlikely I will have AWD/4WD.
This second plan takes less driving time than the first because you do not backtrack. Bluff to Cortez one day, see some of Mesa Verde the next day, continue to Durango to stay that night. You won’t have all day in MEVE but you will still have most of the daylight hours. Cortez to MEVE is a short drive, and MEVE to Durango takes less than an hour. What does take a lot of driving time is if you try to see everything in MEVE in that time, especially if you take guided tours that require buying tickets and waiting in line.

In spring of this year, some friends spent the night in Farmington and then met us at the MEVE visitor center pretty late like 11:30 or noon. From there, I drove them up all the roads except to Wetherill Mesa, AND we stopped and toured countless dwellings and a museum, too. We must have spent more than an hour in that museum alone. I played guide, so we did not need to stand around in lines. We were back at the visitor center about 5 pm, then drove to Cortez for dinner together. So figure that was 5 hrs for a jampacked tour of almost all open sites except on Wetherill Mesa.

If you want to actually hike rather than just do the short sightseeing walks to dwellings, you need more time. There are a few gorgeous hikes with incredible views, accessible from Morefield Camper Services parking lot.

Highway 160 (NOT “the 160”—UGH) is well-maintained, but it can still get treacherous. Keep tabs on what conditions are going from Mancos up to Hesperus and down to Durango.
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Old 10-29-2017, 12:34 PM
 
16,508 posts, read 20,906,955 times
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One thing to consider. There has been talk on radio and tv recently regarding a price increase for admission to national parks and monuments, a very sizable increase at that.

Pikabike makes a good point regarding roads. C-Dot does a great job regarding road maintenance but as it will be late December that you are making this trip storms can build up in no time, trust me. When I do winter trips in the hills, I always put extra blankets, some winter coats, a couple sandbags and a small shovel. And I've had to use them!
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Old 10-29-2017, 04:39 PM
 
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fwiw the forecast for late Dec. is highs in 30s, lows of 10 or less. And they are expecting it to be a snowy period.


MV entrance is about 10 miles to Cortez, 40 to Durango. Depending on your exact dates, lodging could be tight in Durango (and expensive). I'd make reservations to avoid surprises.


Call the park and get some advice about what you can do. I know the Museum opens at 9 am (except in really bad weather). No tours but not sure what you can walk to.


You might consider going to National Bridges about a hour northwest of Bluff if you have enough time and the weather is decent.
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Old 11-04-2017, 05:50 PM
 
31 posts, read 54,453 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastwardBound View Post
The major roads, including 160 should be fine most of the time, unless there is or has recently been a storm move though. I'd try to get an AWD vehicle if at all possible, just in case.

Are you planning to engage in outdoor activities? The weather could be extremely cold or it could be in the 60s, just depends. Most likely the skies will be clear and sunny and you'll have (in my opinion) perfect hiking weather if you're layered properly.
I'm glad to know that 160 to Durango is generally fine to pass this time of year. I will be sure to look at the weather forecast in advance. No, I'm not really planning to engage in outdoor activities too much there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
Deep snow is not the issue, it's the black ice slick surfaces that form on the roads or on top of snow that are the problem. Hard snowpacked roads are very driveable with a FWD car at reasonable speeds.
I will definitely keep black ice in mind. I'll never forget the time when I drove to Idyllwild, California. I believe it was winter 2008. It was a nice day with clear skies. The roads were pretty clear but on my way I suddenly spun out into a ditch. I was only going 20-25 MPH, too. Thankfully, no one else was close to me and my car wasn't damaged.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
4 corners is but a few minute stop. Mesa Verde facilities area a significant detour off your travel route and most of what you'd tour in the fair weather months is closed for the season; IMO, it's not worth the time and distance to access in December unless you're a very devoted fan of the history/culture of the cliff dwellers. Mesa Verde is not something you can see in a matter of hours for a meaningful visit and be quickly on your way.
Quote:
Originally Posted by pikabike View Post
If you want to actually hike rather than just do the short sightseeing walks to dwellings, you need more time. There are a few gorgeous hikes with incredible views, accessible from Morefield Camper Services parking lot.
I actually went to Four Corners and Mesa Verde in July 2009. I stayed in Cortez for two nights. The first night was spent getting there from Denver but I had the entire second day to explore and enjoy the park. I will be going through the area with a friend who has not been there before. Time is what I will be a bit short of as my friend has scheduled to fly out from Albuquerque on the 4th of January so I have to work within the parameters of his schedule for this area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pikabike View Post
Highway 160 (NOT “the 160”—UGH) is well-maintained, but it can still get treacherous. Keep tabs on what conditions are going from Mancos up to Hesperus and down to Durango.
Using the determiner "the" before a highway or interstate is a very California thing to do. I try to be aware of it when conversing with those who are not from here but sometimes I fail to catch myself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DOUBLE H View Post
One thing to consider. There has been talk on radio and tv recently regarding a price increase for admission to national parks and monuments, a very sizable increase at that.
I read about this and from what I can tell, MEVE is not on the list for there to be an increase. Also, the price increase will be seasonal (I think from May-September) for the parks that are affected. As a side note, I do wonder how the NPS will contend with the issuance and usage of annual passes as people will just want to buy them as a workaround from paying individual park entrance fees should these very high increases be implemented at only a certain number of parks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DOUBLE H View Post
Pikabike makes a good point regarding roads. C-Dot does a great job regarding road maintenance but as it will be late December that you are making this trip storms can build up in no time, trust me. When I do winter trips in the hills, I always put extra blankets, some winter coats, a couple sandbags and a small shovel. And I've had to use them!
With this kind of unpredictability in mind, I will be sure to pack very well and to expect the unexpected.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NW Crow View Post
MV entrance is about 10 miles to Cortez, 40 to Durango. Depending on your exact dates, lodging could be tight in Durango (and expensive). I'd make reservations to avoid surprises.


Call the park and get some advice about what you can do. I know the Museum opens at 9 am (except in really bad weather). No tours but not sure what you can walk to.
I've been thinking this over for a while since I made my original posting. While it is not ideal, I think due to my friend's time constraints and the fact I've not been to Durango before and that a lot of things in Mesa Verde will be closed, I will plan to go to Durango from Bluff on the same day with a stop over in Mesa Verde for a number of hours. I will plan to stop at the museum and a couple of the cliff dwellings so that my friend may have at least a general overview of the park and the history of the area. Otherwise, if I spent the night in Cortez and went to MEVE the next day, I'd only have the short night and following morning in Durango before making the trek down to Albuquerque.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NW Crow View Post
You might consider going to National Bridges about a hour northwest of Bluff if you have enough time and the weather is decent.
I've looked it up on a map and I would definitely consider going there if I had more time. It looks quite beautiful seeing it with the stars at night. I will definitely keep it in mind for the future, though.
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