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Old 05-17-2008, 10:14 AM   #1
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Crossing the Great Divide

Planning to go through Denver this summer, then on to Utah to spend a month at their National Parks array. What will be the easiest climb over and across the Rockies? Are there any difficult passes to avoid? In other words, I'm looking for the long gentle slope rather than the strenuous one (if such a route exists) even if going north or south from Denver is recommended.
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Old 05-17-2008, 10:31 AM   #2
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Santart.....I-70 is not that bad. There are some steep climbs over Floyd hill, outside of Denver and another one up through the Eisenhower tunnel and the one on vail pass, however, there are several lanes and you can take your time on the right hand side. Some beautiful scenery and towns along the way. Another way is highway 285 west out of Denver. The climbs aren't bad on that road and you would end up in southwest Colorado going that way.

Others will chime in with their favorite routes. Colorado is a beautiful state and the roads are generally in good condition.
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Old 05-17-2008, 10:38 AM   #3
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It completely depends on you final destination. I-70 would be the easiest overall and has plenty of places to pull out of traffic and let things cool off. US285 also has some steep climbs when leaving Denver, has some steep climbs pulling up to Kenosha Pass and you will have to deal with two lane road most of the way. In addition, US50 over Monarch Pass is is long steep climb and decent. Probably more that you'd be comfortable with since you asked the question. But do-able.

In any case, make sure you cooling systems and braking systems are in tip top shape, turn off the A/C on the long pulls and take it slow. You'll be fine.
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Old 05-17-2008, 10:44 AM   #4
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Santart;
I echo Steve's suggestion and might add that picking up US50 W out of Salida would be the least strenous route through the Rockies. 285 & 50 provide plenty of scenery and not near the traffic encountered on I70.
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Old 05-17-2008, 11:05 AM   #5
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Interstate was built for commercial traffic, not passenger vehicles; military or private, thus the lane width, shoulders, signage, overhead clearances, lighting, grades, lane slope, etc, etc, etc.

Thus, Interstate highways are ALWAYS the way to go when the rig is unsteady, or the rig is old, etc.

Trip plan for stops every two hours, and plan an hour off the road after every four is what we trip-planned as truck drivers. It gives one the opportunity to check things over inside and out.

I often recommend the Rand McNally truck drivers atlas, with far more information than I can describe (found at any truck stop; large format); it's real help to RV'ers is what roads one may wish to avoid and ones to which to adhere in re weather, road construction and the rest. For example, roads designated for trucks have better, wider shoulders, better signage and lighting, etc. This can make for good trip-planning when one wants alternate routes.

Rand McNally Road Carrier Atlas
[url=http://store.randmcnally.com/product/road+atlases/motor+carriers'+atlases/2008+rand+mcnally+motor+carriers'+road+atlas.do[/url]

Also, look to the U.S. Dep't. of Transportation for road information:
National Traffic and Road Closure Information

Weather by city or zip code:
NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

There are also available truck stop guides for the U.S. which I carry these days for knowing where I can almost immediately park my 63' rig if a problem comes up. (I was glad that my twice-annual Dallas to Chicago trips of a few years back included truck stops exit numbers as I had to get out of a tornado one time). I can also often find a mechanic, who, while he may or may not be able to help my problem, may know of someone who does.

There are also guides to mountain passes which have detailed information:
Mountain directory:
Welcome to Mountain Directory
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Old 05-17-2008, 12:23 PM   #6
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Wellllll, this is how I'd probably do it. The only little stretch that I'm not super familiar with is the one from Antonito, CO down to Chama, NM (point D to point E on the map).

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Old 05-17-2008, 12:47 PM   #7
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D to E above takes you over Cumbres Pass, 10,200'. Wolf Creek, north of there, is 10,800'. Vail, on I-70, is 11,000'. Monarch Pass is 11,300'. You just can't get across Colorado below 10,000'. If you take I-70, there are really three passes immediately west of Denver, not two. The going down part is the hardest--you either get out of overdrive and "coast" at 70 mph or get in the right lane in 2nd gear and go down at 35 mph.

I'd go I-70--you get to see Cottonwood Canyon, a real engineering marvel. Then you pass right by the Colorado Monument at Grand Junction. Here is my route(s):

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You really must try to see Antelope Canyon, on the east side of Page, AZ. It's easy to get to ($15 for a Navajo jeep ride--you must pay, this is on Indian land). If you're not familiar, Google it before you go.

The hard part of your trip is figuring out your alternate route back home--there are no passes in Ariz or NMex (that a Colorado point of view, of course), just a hill now and then. And there are so many parks to see! For example, if you take the southern route out of Kanab, you can stop at the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon and then Lee's Ferry as you proceed toward Page.

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Old 05-17-2008, 03:18 PM   #8
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Ah, I'd forgotten that Cumbres is in there.

Ok, if you want to stay lower, then go down to Tres Piedras from Antonito, and from there go up to Chama. There's some high (and very lonely) country in the middle, but nothing difficult to climb.


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Old 05-17-2008, 06:58 PM   #9
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There are two passes between Antonio, CO and Chama,NM. they are just a few miles apart.
La Manga is a couple hundred feet higher than Cumbres.

La Manga/Cumbres Passes
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Old 06-27-2008, 08:24 PM   #10
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Change in plans

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeppelinium View Post
D to E above takes you over Cumbres Pass, 10,200'. Wolf Creek, north of there, is 10,800'. Vail, on I-70, is 11,000'. Monarch Pass is 11,300'. You just can't get across Colorado below 10,000'. If you take I-70, there are really three passes immediately west of Denver, not two. The going down part is the hardest--you either get out of overdrive and "coast" at 70 mph or get in the right lane in 2nd gear and go down at 35 mph.

I'd go I-70--you get to see Cottonwood Canyon, a real engineering marvel. Then you pass right by the Colorado Monument at Grand Junction. Here is my route(s):

Attachment 60562

You really must try to see Antelope Canyon, on the east side of Page, AZ. It's easy to get to ($15 for a Navajo jeep ride--you must pay, this is on Indian land). If you're not familiar, Google it before you go.

The hard part of your trip is figuring out your alternate route back home--there are no passes in Ariz or NMex (that a Colorado point of view, of course), just a hill now and then. And there are so many parks to see! For example, if you take the southern route out of Kanab, you can stop at the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon and then Lee's Ferry as you proceed toward Page.

Zep
Many thank yous for all the great responses, maps and ideas. Our plan now in to take the New Mexico/Arizona route in from Texas and gradually work our way to Denver after a brief stay in Breckenridge to attend the wedding of a close cousin. The only park in Breckenridge is Tiger Run and they are asking $52 a night for a space so we will be boondocking unless anyone knows of a place nearby with a reasonable rate. We will reverse the directions you all offered and include Antelope Canyon and several state parks in our National Parks tour. Hope ten weeks will be enough to satisfy my mid-year wanderlust. Leaving a week from tomorrow--can't wait!
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Old 07-03-2008, 09:26 PM   #11
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There's an RV park off of I-70 near the Eagle River called River Dance at the Gypsum exit, but it's almost as expensive as Breckenridge and few or no trees. The parks around Glenwood Springs are full of long term oil and gas workers and that is probably true west of there (Rifle, etc.). There's one in Glenwood Canyon (G. C. Resort) where it's very hard to get in any space and some say the owners are not so nice. The problem staying in a resort area is there are always high prices.

You can check out Colorado State Parks on their website and check for open spaces through their reservations system. The Colorado SP have some nice areas. The best get reserved early, but you can check them for cancellations.

Your best bet crossing Colorado if you are worried about the passes is I-70. You'll learn more about your Land Yacht at altitude on a truck route with no grade more than 7%. Then come back and see the whole state. Monarch (US 50 west of Salida) is long and steep and sucks a lot of gas (a couple of weeks ago I went over in a big hurry passing cars and used at least 3 gallons of gas, maybe more). Wolf Creek Pass has been rebuilt and may be easier, but I haven't been that way for years. Drive slowly, watch temps and enjoy the scenery.

Enjoy your trip—looks like you're leaving in a few days.

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Old 07-03-2008, 09:45 PM   #12
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Or better yet, boondock at Vail Pass. I-70 Exit 190, Vail Pass Rest Stop exit. Turn right towards the Black Lakes.
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Old 07-12-2008, 10:40 AM   #13
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Or better yet, boondock at Vail Pass. I-70 Exit 190, Vail Pass Rest Stop exit. Turn right towards the Black Lakes.
This little beauty of a boondocking spot is at 10,500'. You can park where HenryLasal is pictured, or back in the corner of the parking area in the background of the photo. The lake has fish and is on the other side of the berm in the right hand photo, so it's right there. I've boondocked there many times, even leaving the Airstream there to attend reunion fesivities in Vail--no problem.

This parking area is at the end of the old vehicle road. Past this point it is blocked off and is only used for the bike path. I think it's particularly "safe" since bikers are peddaling by all the time during daylight hours. You'll also often see tent campers there.

It's 17 miles from the boondock to Breckenridge. I know, having barfed my guts out doing it on a midguided bike round trip one July 4th....

Zep

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