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Old 08-30-2009, 09:01 AM   #1
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E to W thru Colorado

My wife and I will be traveling from Atlanta to Bryce Canyon and surrounding area in mid-September, possibly coming through (southern) Kansas. I would like to pick a scenic (not highway) route through Colorado that would be appropriate for this time of year. Any suggestions? We have a strong diesel TV so not to worry for making elevations.
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Old 08-30-2009, 09:13 AM   #2
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Actually I-70 is quite scenic after you pass Denver (no offence to the very helpful Denver Airstreamers). You can try US 36, US 285 or US 40. I have not been on these but almost any route would be a scenic drive.
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Old 08-30-2009, 09:51 AM   #3
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Thanks, Michelle. Many years ago I lived in Denver as a ski bum, and used to travel (hitchhike) 70 to go skiing - you are right, that is a pretty road.

On a more southern route, what about Route 50 - running from Pueblo towards Gunnison and Grand Junction - does anyone know if that is a decent road?

On a northern route, is Estes Park out of the question - either from the standpoint of snow and/or towing (mid September) and heading towards Steamboat and Rabbit Ears Pass?
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:01 AM   #4
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Take I-70 west through Denver and into the mountains. Just after Idaho Springs, get off on US 40 and go that route westward. At Craig Colorado, take the road to Meeker and then down to Rifle Colorado where you will re-join I-70 westward.

This is an absolutely beautiful drive through small mountain towns and very scenic views atop Rabbit Ears Pass and through the canyons of western Colorado.
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:04 AM   #5
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Another way would be to take 160 west out of Walsenburg, all the way over to Cortez. You would have the highlights of Sand Dunes Nat. Monument, Wolf Creek Pass, hot springs in Pagosa Springs, and Mesa Verde Nat. Park. Or do I-70 one way, and 160 the other; just be sure to leave lots of time for all the parks in southern Utah (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Grand Staircase/Escalante, Zion, Cedar Breaks)- they are all fantastic, and there should even be some fruit-picking going on in Capitol Reef in september, in their heirloom orchards. You'll have an incredible trip! Drive safe! Also wanted to say that Trail Ridge road, from Estes Park over to Granby, is usually open in September, barring a freak snowstorm.
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:06 AM   #6
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In my opinion the most scenic route through Colorado is US-160 from Walsenburg to Cortez. It is a vacation in itself. You pass near Great Sand Dunes NP, the historic mining town of Creede, Co, Durango, where the Durango Silverton railroad is located, and Mesa Verde NP just to mention a few sights.When you get to Cortez, highway 160 goes south by Four Corners Monument (that is as far as I have been) and goes into Arizona. Looking at the map, I see a state hwy 98 that goes to Page, AZ where Glen Canyon Dam is located. There you join US 89 which goes right to Zion, passing through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
On this route you will pass through examples of just about all types of scenery you find in the Rocky Mountain - Inter Mountain west. I hope this helps. Enjoy your trip,

Ken
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:19 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by w7ts View Post
In my opinion the most scenic route through Colorado is US-160 from Walsenburg to Cortez. It is a vacation in itself. You pass near Great Sand Dunes NP, the historic mining town of Creede, Co, Durango, where the Durango Silverton railroad is located, and Mesa Verde NP just to mention a few sights.When you get to Cortez, highway 160 goes south by Four Corners Monument (that is as far as I have been) and goes into Arizona. Looking at the map, I see a state hwy 98 that goes to Page, AZ where Glen Canyon Dam is located. There you join US 89 which goes right to Zion, passing through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
On this route you will pass through examples of just about all types of scenery you find in the Rocky Mountain - Inter Mountain west. I hope this helps. Enjoy your trip,

Ken
I concur!

And... I can offer Courtesy Parking opposite Mesa Verde.
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:24 AM   #8
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Highway 50 is a great road to take. it's in good condition and lots to see. you could head out of Colorado springs up through southpark and down to 50. this is also nice. I think that whatever route you take will be great. The leaves are changing early here.
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:34 AM   #9
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On a northern route, is Estes Park out of the question - either from the standpoint of snow and/or towing (mid September) and heading towards Steamboat and Rabbit Ears Pass?
Estes Park and the route you mention is very scenic. The problem is not likely to be snow or towing. However even in mid September the traffic on Trail Ridge road can be annoying. However if you don't mind going slowly, Rocky Mountain NP is very beautiful.

Ken
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:58 AM   #10
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Wow - thank you all!! This was EXACTLY the kind of info we were looking for. I think we will explore the route 160 ideas, as the more southern route better fits our plans. And AirstreamGypsy, we may take you up on your offer!

We were even trying to make the FCU rally at Heron Lake, but timing may be just too tight - we purposely don't want to rush our trip.

Again, thank you!
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Old 08-30-2009, 11:06 AM   #11
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When you look at the big picture seen from I70 southwards, you've got several E-W routes (that also have connecting routes to one another):

I70. Interstate traffic.

US 50. You can take it as far as Grand Junction (to the west of the main mountains) and connect there to I70. Some flatlanders are a bit in awe of Monarch Pass on 50 (plus a couple of much smaller passes), but it's not that terribly bad.

US160. You can drive it all the way to Cortez. It does have Wolf Creek pass and some smaller stuff. Same story.

US64. This crosses northern New Mexico. One smaller pass (visible from my house!) and some high country that apparently doesn't qualify as a pass (but still feels like one).

I40, central New Mexico. No passes. Interstate traffic.

US60, central New Mexico. No passes. Lonely country, but interesting.

I10, southern New Mexico. No passes. Interstate traffic.


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Old 08-30-2009, 11:18 AM   #12
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If you follow Rt 50 across Kansas, you will be following part of the old Santa Fe trail to Dodge City. There are numerous sites commemorating the trail and some spots where you can still see the wagon wheel ruts. And places that the pioneers used as landmarks such as Pawnee Rock and Bent's Old Fort. Dodge City is a hoot - but if you grew up with Gunsmoke, then it is a stop not to be missed.

I agree with Great Sand Dunes. There are no bad choices. Happy trails, Podner.

Pat

As you begin the route there is the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Emporia.
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Old 08-30-2009, 12:09 PM   #13
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Brad:

After reading though all of the posts, I cannot disagree with any of them. I live in SW Colorado near Mesa Verde. Airstream Gypsy lives in a very scenic area near Mesa Verde also. Any of the routes you take would provide you a great deal of scenic territory.

The Four Corners Unit is hosting a rally at Heron Reservoir which is near Chama, NM (a few miles south of Pagosa Springs) Sept 17-20. If you come through Colorado on the South route (160) about that time we would be glad to have you stop in.

Check it out on our website. You can access it off Airstream.com where they have links to the different units.

Enjoy your trip. The weather is great here right now.

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Old 08-30-2009, 02:07 PM   #14
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Brad, Any route through Colorado is very scenic. To speak for US 50, it comes through southern Kansas and crosses the high plains east of Pueblo. Once you hit the mountains west of Pueblo, you'll go through Cañon City and then down to the Arkansas River valley as far as Salida. It's a nice, though winding road. Monarch Pass has a good road, well maintained for those freak snows that come often. Then you go down to Gunnison and follow the Gunnison R. to Blue Mesa Reservoir. At the Blue Mesa Dam, you can take Colo. 92 (get fuel in Gunnison-last chance for a while) and it follows the Black Canyon, a beautiful drive, but if you don't like heights, well this road isn't for you and maybe you should have gone through New Mexico). It is very winding and slow, but worth it. You can get to the north rim of Black Canyon NP just before you get to Crawford State Park—about half gravel road and primitive camping, but an awesome canyon.

You can camp at Pueblo Res. state park, a series of small parks along the Arkansas R., federal campgrounds along Blue Mesa Res., and Crawford State Park. 92 rejoins US 50 at Delta and thence to Grand Jct. through high desert. If you stay on US 50, you'll go over Cerro Summit, a fairly high pass also and through some beautiful country and can go to the south rim of BCNP. There are many other sidetrips along the way. US 50 is both 4 and 2 lane in various places. Fuel is cheapest in Pueblo and GJ.

It can snow on the high passes at any time of year, though July and August are rare. September can be full of surprises and Denver, not in the mountains, has gotten 1 1/2 feet in September. Watch weather forecasts, be prepared to wait a day for Sept. snows melts fast, and mostly it won't snow. I-70, because it has so much traffic and thus lots of accidents, is the most likely mountain highway to be closed in winter. Not trying to scare you. We travel as late as the beginning of December and early in April and often the roads are clear and dry and little snow is to be seen.

You can go west one way and east another. I don't know when it starts snowing on Wolf Creek Pass (US 160), but it gets more snow in winter than you can imagine. Trail Ridge Rd in RMNP is a road where it can snow anytime, is spectacular, but traffic is a real problem, especially on the east side. But it's something to do once, best midweek, and cross to the west side, stop in Grand Lake (funky town) and then keep going west.

Some roads go primarily through high desert, some places with no trees and just sagebrush and some grasses. Other high desert areas are covered with piñon/juniper forests which usually grow no higher than 25'. Higher areas have Ponderosa and Lodgepole pines that can be 100' or more in height. Many other conifers can be seen too. The images of ski areas do not typify Colorado—it's a very mixed terrain, trees or no trees, and many climates.

I've lived in Colorado 31 years and my wife virtually all her life, and we're still finding new places to explore, so you'll have to move here to see it all.

Enjoy your trip.

Gene
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