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Old 09-02-2013, 08:30 PM   #1
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Estes Park/RMNP to Albuquerque

We have 2 days to make the drive and really don't want to take I-25. Any scenic suggestions, places to stop, overnight, etc,? We've done the Million Dollar Highway (fortunately without the AS) and been to Taos and Sante Fe. Any help appreciated.
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Old 09-02-2013, 08:46 PM   #2
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Greg,

Not sure if this fits in to your plans, but Great Sand Dunes NP is fabulous, maybe as a POI in your planning.
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Old 09-02-2013, 08:55 PM   #3
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Thanks Brad, that looks interesting. See you two next month.
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Old 09-02-2013, 09:00 PM   #4
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285 from Denver to Santa Fe is about the only other way south with out going out of your way.
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Old 09-02-2013, 09:41 PM   #5
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A couple of pics from Great Sand Dunes NP; you also have Mesa Verde NP and Durango in the general area if you can fit them in!!
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Old 09-02-2013, 09:46 PM   #6
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As MoJo said, Hwy 285. Stay at the Great Sand Dunes. Then head south. When you get to Antonito, CO. Go west on Hwy 17 to Chama, NM. From Chama, you can go south on 84 or west on 64 to Bloomfield then south on 550.
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Old 09-02-2013, 09:57 PM   #7
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Great info folks, thanks. Guess I will get the maps out and make a plan.
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Old 09-02-2013, 10:22 PM   #8
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Re: Scenic Route from Estes Park, CO to Albuquerque, NM

Suggested route:

* US-34 - From Estes Park, take US-34 west over Trail Ridge Road to Granby, CO.

* US-40 - From Granby, take US-40 south to Empire, CO and I-70.

* I-70 - From US-40/I-70 junction, take I-70 west and exit at junction with Hwy 9, near Frisco.

* Hwy 9 - From Frisco, take Hwy-9 south to Fairplay and junction US-285. Note: There is a dump station just south of Frisco at the Frisco Water Treatment Plant. It costs either $5 or $10 to dump and fill fresh water tank (sorry, don't remember exact amount). GPS coordinates = 3933.998'N 1063.141'W.

* US-285 - In Fairplay, take US-285 south to Breckenridge, which is about half-way to the Great Sand Dunes. Breckenridge is a ski area with lots of restaurants and shops, and it's a good place to stop for lunch or to take a break.

* US-285 - In Breckenridge, continue on US-285 south to Mosca and follow signs to Great Sand Dunes National Park.

* OVERNIGHT STOP - Great Sand Dunes National Park. Note: There is an alligator farm nearby that you may find interesting. See links below for more info:

http://coloradogators.net/

Colorado Gator Farm - AWESOME - Review of Colorado Gators Reptile Park, Mosca, CO - TripAdvisor

* US-285 - Continue south on US-285 to Santa Fe, NM, then follow the signs to I-25. If you decide to take an extra day travelling, Hyde Memorial State Park, in the mountains about 7 miles northeast of town, has a great little campground. Note: Hyde Memorial State Park is NOT on I-25. Access is via city streets on Hwy-485.

* I-25 - Continue on I-25 to Albuquerque.

Gotta love the Colorado Rockies!
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Old 09-02-2013, 10:53 PM   #9
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Greg,

US 285 does not go to Breckenridge. Perhaps Buena Vista?

There is a bypass around Santa Fe called the Relief Route.

Otherwise a good route with lots of mountain driving and beautiful views. Only two major passes. There's a KOA a bit west of Alamosa where we will be on Sept. 30 and thence to Albuquerque.

You could do it in 2 days, but it could be a challenge depending on where you are used to driving. A land better seen with more time.

And, perhaps strangely, the man we just bought a house from, lives in, I think, the town you live in. He now teaches at U. of Miss.

Gene
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Old 09-03-2013, 02:45 AM   #10
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Re: Corrections for Scenic Route from Estes Park, CO to Albuquerque, NM

Ah, Gene caught my mistakes. I added the stop in Breckenridge at the last minute and didn't verify the highway numbers on the map. See corrections in bold text, below.

Note: The portion of the route from Estes Park to I-70 is mostly winding mountain roads. However, from Frisco south, the road is relatively flat and straight even though the elevation is 8-10,000 feet. This stretch is very green, because of all of the snow in the winter, and it is beautiful with mountain peaks visible on both sides of the road. This is our preferred route from Phoenix to Denver, because it's cool and much more scenic than the I-17 / I-40 / I-25 route. Driving time from Estes Park to Breckenridge is about three hours, and from Breckenridge to the Sand Dunes is about the same.

==========

Suggested route:

* US-34 - From Estes Park, take US-34 west over Trail Ridge Road to Granby, CO.

* US-40 - From Granby, take US-40 south to Empire, CO and I-70.

* I-70 - From US-40/I-70 junction, take I-70 west and exit at junction with Hwy 9, near Frisco.

* Hwy-9 - From Frisco, take Hwy-9 south to Fairplay and junction US-285. Note: There is a dump station just south of Frisco at the Frisco Water Treatment Plant. It costs either $5 or $10 to dump and fill fresh water tank (sorry, don't remember exact amount). GPS coordinates = 3933.998'N 1063.141'W.

* Hwy-9 (cont.) - 10 miles south of Frisco, Hwy-9 passes through Breckenridge, which is about halfway to the Great Sand Dunes. This town is a ski area with lots of restaurants and shops, and it's a good place to stop for lunch or to take a break. Past Breckenridge, continue south on Hwy-9 to the junction of US-285 in Fairplay.

* US-285 - In Fairplay, take US-285 south to Villa Grove. Then, three miles south of Villa Grove, follow the signs to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve via Hwy-17.

* Hwy-17 - From the junction of US-285 and Hwy-17, take Hwy-17 south and follow the signs to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Note: Turn-off is one mile north of Mosca.


* OVERNIGHT STOP - Great Sand Dunes National Park. Note: There is an alligator farm nearby that you may find interesting. See links below for more info:

http://coloradogators.net/

Colorado Gator Farm - AWESOME - Review of Colorado Gators Reptile Park, Mosca, CO - TripAdvisor

* US-285 - Continue south on US-285 to Santa Fe, NM, then follow the signs to I-25. If you decide to take an extra day travelling, Hyde Memorial State Park, in the mountains about 7 miles northeast of town, has a great little campground. Note: Hyde Memorial State Park is NOT on I-25. Access is via city streets on Hwy-485.

* I-25 - Continue on I-25 to Albuquerque.
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Old 09-03-2013, 10:00 AM   #11
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Now that I've taken my map out and looked at the routes I used to travel years ago, there are many options.

Colo. 9 through Breckenridge (Breckenridge Brewery at end of town has good beer and nachos) goes over Hoosier Pass. My recollection is on the north side, there is a steep climb with some tight switchbacks. If you continue on I-70 and take the Copper Mtn. exit, Colo 91 goes over Fremont Pass—straighter and you go through Leadville, highest incorporated city in the universe, or planet or US. From Leadville, US 24 to Buena Vista and then 285 to Villa Grove. I think this is an easier route with a trailer.

If you take US 40 to Kremmling and Colo. 9, you avoid Berthoud Pass on going US 40 the other way—also lots of switchbacks and steep.

If you are traveling in mid to late Sept., leaf peepers will be out on weekends from the Front Range cities and traffic will be really bad. The further west you go, the less traffic.

But too far west, and some of the routes are really slow (for. ex., Colo 131 from Steamboat to I-70).

There's also the Peak to Peak Hwy. from Estes Park south to Nederland, Black Hawk—turn right at Black Hawk to Central City and take the Central City Pkwy to I-70, go west to wherever, or east to Evergreen, take Colo. 74 to Jefferson County 73 to Conifer and US 285 to Villa Grove—but that is leaf peeper territory. The aspens turn in mid to late Sept.

If you are really adventurous, I think the gravel road over Boreas Pass from Breckenridge to Como is pretty good. It was a railroad route and the grades are better. There are a number of other passes only suitable for 4WD in the area.

Anytime in Sept., it can snow on the Front Range and in the mountains. I recall 1' and more snow in Denver in mid-Sept. one time and more in Evergreen. It melts fast, but closes some passes for a while. Best to give yourself more time to both appreciate the beauty and have some time for snow possibilities. I-25 is boring (and traffic in Denver can be bad at rush hour), but it gets you there fast. Avoid the tollroads around Denver (E-470 and something called the Northwest Parkway)—very expensive.

Gene
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Old 09-03-2013, 08:19 PM   #12
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Greg,

No disrespect to the previous posters, and not disputing some of the great recommendations, but I think their suggestions may be a little high brow for you. Here's my suggestion:

Stay on I-25 - it is a lovely road. Some highlights:

Exit 102 - There is a great 7-11 just off the highway, pick up some Twinkies (freshly baked) and a Big Gulp.

Exit 149 - Love's Truck Stop. Nothing says love like the smell of burning diesel.

Exit 172 - Escape to paradise at the Big Boy just off the cloverleaf. Always open.

Exit 219 - Mid-afternoon break with a Slurpee and Beef Jerky from Murphy's Truck Stop. Great deal on CB radios. Tell them you know me.

Think about it: the Rockies? Just a lot of rocks. Don't ruin a perfectly flat ride with a lot of twists, turns, elevation and spectacular sights.
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Old 09-03-2013, 08:29 PM   #13
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You can always count on Brad to add some kind of a twist, weird that it may be.

Gene and Phoenix, thanks for the additional possibilities. Looks like I need more time.

And tell me more about this house thing!
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Old 09-04-2013, 11:12 AM   #14
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Speaking of weird, and this may be too far south for your return trip, but we are headed to Marfa, TX (Tumble In) from ALB on our route to Austin. Was recently on 60 Minutes and my bride tells me is in the new Airstream Life issue.
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