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Old 01-16-2009, 10:34 AM
 
Location: Colorado
4,308 posts, read 12,663,535 times
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Hello,
I am thinking about a trip to Mesa Verde this May and I have a few questions for those who've done this trip from Denver:

1) Would it be better to drive all the way down to, say, Durango in one day and visit the park the next day and then take a slow, scenic drive back home or vice versa?

2) We want to do part of the journey along the Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton - is it better to go north/south or south/north?

3) If we go north/south what's the best route back to Denver after Ouray and where would be a good place to stay overnight?

4) I drive a 4WD but don't have snow tires (yet). I know the weather in the mountains is unpredictable in May, but what are the odds of snow?

5) Would it be best to book hotels in advance or risk waiting till we get there? We're NOT going over Memorial Day weekend.


Thanks!
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Old 01-16-2009, 12:58 PM
 
Location: Colorado
21 posts, read 70,822 times
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I have done the trip to Mesa Verde from Glenwood Springs. Here are my recommendations/responses:

1) I would leave early in the morning and drive staight to Durango. That will give you an evening to relax and a full day in the park, if you need it, and you won't be forced into a long drive afterwards when you will likely be worn out. This assumes a 3 day trip; Day 1 to get there, Day 2 in the park, Day 3 to get home.

2) I have driven the million dollar highway several times each direction and you will be happy either way. I think north to south makes the most sense for you.

3) The "best" route back to Denver depends on your description of "best". I would do one scenic route, either there or back, and one quickest route, either there or back.

The scenic route I would suggest is to take either 285 or I70 (depending on where you live in Denver) and either come up (from 285) or go down (from I70 at Minturn) to (if after Memorial Day and its open) go over Indpedence Pass into Aspen on Hwy 82 to Carbondale turn onto Hwy 133 go over McClure Pass and follow 133 until it intersects with Hwy 50 in Delta then to Hwy 550 in Montrose on through to Durango. It would be a long drive, but the views are amazing.

The quickest way (according to Google - 6hr 40min) is E407 to 285 S to 160.

Places to stay on the scenic route - Carbondale, Aspen, Leadville, Frisco

Places to stay on the quickest route - Salida, Buena Vista, Fairplay(?)

I would recommend the scenic way there (or which ever way brings you down through Ouray) so you can take all day and get to Durango in time for dinner, drinks, and a full nights rest. Then you can go straight back home quickly at the end of your trip when your enthusiasm has worn off.

4) No one can predict the snow. I would say that you will be fine, but definately check ahead of time and keep the Cdot number in your cell phone so you dont get to Ouray and find out the highway is closed. Even if you get as far as Ridgeway (from the North) you can still take a detour and not back track too much. If you are planning to head north from Durango, this is not as big of a concern.

5) I am always more comfortable booking a hotel in advance in case one of the mountain towns is having a festival that is not highly advertised and all of the rooms are booked. I have had a few bad experiences with this, but you can do research ahead of time and you should be fine either way. My inlaws went through Ouray to Mesa Verde this summer and had no problems finding hotels without advanced reservations.

I hope this helps.

Last edited by Powderhound; 01-16-2009 at 01:12 PM..
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Old 01-16-2009, 01:53 PM
 
Location: Colorado
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Awesome! Thanks so much. Oh, one more thing. Do you know how far Four Corners is from Mesa Verde? Is it worth visiting?
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Old 01-16-2009, 02:07 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 6,527,590 times
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Wink Road trip into time

Should be a wonderful trip. Mesa Verde National Park is not only beautiful but once there quite easy to feel history come to life. You may reappraise you own situation in this world.

In order that you asked:

1) No, visit the next day as you will need the time. This Park is off the beaten path and the major attractions farther from the highway than you may suspect. Not to mention that to really appreciate that there you need to spend some time walking and exploring.

2) I prefer the drive south to north, from Durango, CO to Ouray, CO on US 550. It is striking and beautiful in either direction. Nevertheless.

3) A lovely spot to spend the night would be Ouray. The drive from Mesa Verde, or even Durango, will likely take longer than you expect, especially if spending any time in Silverton, CO. If long, the drive from Ouray to Denver, CO in one day is possible, and often beautiful. You might wind your way through the mountains but the quickest route probably straight north to Grand Junction, CO, thence east on I-70 to Denver. Really, consider Ouray.

4) Chances are you will not encounter any snow on the road. But you might a snow storm on the mountain passes. There will be lots of snow present (if perhaps not on the road) on the higher elevations of US 550. You don't need snow tires, but good all season tires are always advisable.

5) If not Memorial Day, you shouldn't have any problem. If knowing your itinerary well, and desiring something specific, then yes, go ahead and book in advance. If adventurous, just go and see what happens.

It seems you may be dealing with certain time constraints in this. You could do this in two days. Three would be better. Regardless, expect long if beautiful drives in both directions. To add another possible equation in this, I must mention the possibility of visiting Hovenweep National Monument on such a journey. It is in the same general area as Mesa Verde, if even more isolated. That part of the charm, and quieter. In contrast it would surely add to your appreciation of Mesa Verde and the Anasazi. Highly recommended if you have the time, although to do this properly you'd best add another day to the itinerary.

Whether Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, or both, either deserves your time, attention and immersion to fully appreciate. To just look and check them off your list would be a travesty. Oh, and if so enticed and more or less deciding to chuck the modern world out the window for awhile, you might also venture further south to Chaco Canyon National Park in New Mexico.
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Old 01-16-2009, 02:49 PM
 
Location: Colorado
4,308 posts, read 12,663,535 times
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I was planning 4 days in all. One day to drive down there, 1 day in the park and then 2 days slowly moseying on home. That's why I think we'll probably go home the scenic route along US 550. Of course, plans are subject to change depending on the weather.
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Old 01-16-2009, 05:56 PM
 
79 posts, read 271,585 times
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You might also visit the Colorado forums over on tripadvisor.com because this topic come up a lot and there is a lot of good advice.
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Old 01-16-2009, 09:33 PM
 
Location: Denver
1,082 posts, read 4,492,062 times
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I have done the May trip to Mesa Verde and surrounds several times from Denver. I also recommend, if you want to do the west slope route, to do the Million Dollar Highway from south to north.

You should know that historically May is the hottest month at Mesa Verde so come prepared for intense sun.

I myself would not want to take I25 north or south on the beginning or end of a holiday weekend, but 285 will definitely be speed patrolled also. Plus, the west slope route is a long drive so if you do use that as one end of your route I guess I'd do it on the way out and take an easier shorter route home.

Have fun.
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Old 01-17-2009, 06:53 PM
 
Location: most beautiful place ever
1,869 posts, read 3,829,585 times
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I've driven from Denver to Durango a few times and have always stayed the night camping in Great Sand Dunes NP. I've always made a circle, from Durango north into Montrose, East, then up through Silverthorne. No matter which way you go, it will be amazing. And I recommend one of the tours in Mesa Verde, you'll learn a lot more and appreciate it better.
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Old 02-06-2009, 10:03 AM
 
87 posts, read 239,633 times
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Went to Mesa Verde last July and stayed at the accommodations in the park, which were very nice and very convenient. The park food is lousy, but you can drive into Cortez for a nice meal. It's difficult, if not impossible, to see all of Mesa Verde in one day. It's worth taking 2-3 days, especially if you don't think you'll ever come back. Expect lots of strenuous walking; if you hike down to see a ruin, you're going to have to hike back up. Weather was cool in the mornings, but warmed up nicely.
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Old 02-06-2009, 01:39 PM
 
Location: Colorado
269 posts, read 1,203,561 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chilaili View Post
Do you know how far Four Corners is from Mesa Verde? Is it worth visiting?
I have been the Four Corners Monument and I must confess that I was irritated to be wasting my time. Your time will be better spent in Mesa Verde NP itself!
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