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Old 06-05-2009, 02:39 PM   #1
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Lake City, CO anyone been?

My wife's family takes a trip to Colorado each year and this year they're going to Lake City, CO. We're considering going but would like some feedback on pulling our trailer in the high altitudes. We had no problem at 5,000 ft in NC but Lake City is 8600 feet. We're pulling our 4000 lbs liner with our Buick Enclave. It pulled fabulously in the Appalachians but, these higher altitudes and heat concern me a bit. We'll be traveling from Kansas City.


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Old 06-05-2009, 03:05 PM   #2
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Having attended college at WSC in Gunnison, I've been to Lake City a couple of times via Gunnison.

Getting over the Continental Divide will be your biggest challenge (I think), but I can't really remember the drive from Gunnison to Lake City very well. (Gunnison is already at 7700 ft)

I've crossed Monarch Pass too many times to count in all kinds of conditions but never with a trailer. There is a southern route from Alamosa but I've never been that way. I doubt the heat will be too much of a problem but the thin air might.

The Rockies are definitely not the Appalachians or the Ozarks.

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Old 06-05-2009, 04:33 PM   #3
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According to my road map, high passes protect Lake City from every direction: Slumgullion (11,500) and Spring Creek (10,898") from the south, Monarch (11,300') from the east, and Red Mountain 11,018'), Molass (10,900'), and Coal Bank (10,640') from the south. The only way to avoid these is to come down hwy 50 from Grand Junction, to Montrose, and over to Gunnison, then down to Lake City. No big passes but sure to be a bit "hilly". Your 4,000# trailer is not exactly the heaviest trailer out there, but I doubt your Buick Enclave has a high-torque rear-end, or auxilliary transmission fluid radiator. You might make it, or you might end up like a friend of mine did, trying to pull his 26' Avion from Loveland, Colorado (elev. about 5,000') up to Estes Park (elev. about 7,500') with his older Suburban 1/2 ton without the full tow package: he literally melted the gears in his transmission, and of course had a rather sudden loss of forward travel. Consider a better tow vehicle for the Rockies! Good luck! -tim ps: you could also sneak in from Utah, from the Monticello area I think.
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Old 06-05-2009, 07:50 PM   #4
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Live in Colorado. I have towed a 6000 GVW TT all over the rockies including High mountain passes with a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It had the towing package which included a transmission cooler. I don't know how the compares to your Buick, but I never had a problem. I only got rid of it because of frequent fuel stops. There were places in Wyoming, I could not go without calling ahead to be sure one gas station in town was still in business. In any case I hope you can do it. There is some very beautiful scenery around Lake City.
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Old 06-05-2009, 08:13 PM   #5
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Lake of our favorite spots. Like has been said previously, if you can get over Monarch Pass on US 50, you will have no problems getting to Lake City, if you take that route. The road in from the South accross Slumgullion Pass is another thing. Not that the climb is so tuff, but the decent into Lake City is.

Anyway you go, you should be able to make it OK, just take it easy and let the transmission do the work by gearing down on the grades, and let the engine hold the load on the decents by gearing down also.
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Old 06-05-2009, 08:35 PM   #6
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There is another pass—North Cochetopa Pass (sometimes the "North" is left out, but that's a mistake—the other Cochetopa Pass is a dirt road). It goes from Saguache in the San Luis Valley to US 50, 8 miles east of Gunnison. You could come to the Front Range, drive south to Walsenberg on I-25, go west on US 160 over the not very high La Veta Pass, go north at Monte Vista on US 285 (or another road paralleling it) and pick up the highway west at Saguache (Colo. 114?). Sorry about route numbers—I know the way and forget the numbers sometimes. Another way is US 285 from Denver through Fairplay, close to Salida, over Poncha Pass, to Saguache. This way you avoid Monarch Pass, one of the highest.

Trying to get there from Grand Junction coming all the way around from Las Vegas because I-70 to Denver has some very high passes. Or, coming through Wyoming on I-80 and making your way south through Craig, Meeker and Rifle to GJ. That's a silly way to go.

And some of the high passes go through some spectacular country—Spring Creek and Slumgullion Passes are in some special and largely unspoiled land. Yes, the descent into Lake City is tough and that's why we have 1st gear and trailer brakes.

I know nothing about your Buick, but your trailer is pretty light. Are the brakes good? The mountains won't be as hot as Missouri in the summer. If it goes through eastern mountains easily, it should go to Colorado well. The altitude itself is not a big deal—modern vehicles with computers make them run at any altitude unlike years ago with carbs and relatively unsophisticated ignition systems. Your issues are going up and down. Up means going slower and it helps to have a transmission cooler. If you don't, have one installed, it's worth it to spend some time in Colorado with family. Going down means good brakes and downshifting and being careful. But it's your decision and you have to look at the numbers for your Buick.

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Old 06-05-2009, 08:43 PM   #7
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This information is great Thanks. I was looking into adding a transmission cooler and Transmission temp gauge regardless.

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Old 06-06-2009, 12:00 AM   #8
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Some of the car sites list Enclave with a 4,500 tow rating, and one of the posts above says your trailer weighs about 4,000 pounds. You may be OK, but I'd take it really easy, as you are near the limit of your tow vehicle.

I'd take it slow and keep it in the lower gears going uphill to avoid overheating (also, if necessary, as a last resort, you can turn off the air conditioner and turn on the heater to help engine cooling). And, definitely take it slow going downhill. The passes in the Rockies can be miles and miles long, and if you start to pick up speed and don't immediately control it; it can be a really fast, scary descent with no brakes.

Also, don't even think about using the runaway truck ramps. I don't know if you have ever checked them out closely, but we have some relatives that are longhaul truckers; and they said that gravel is several feet deep, and any vehicle will immediately sink up to the axles a few yards up the ramp. That's what slows the semi's down.

Anyway, you don't want to be stuck in deep gravel about 1/4 the way up one of these ramps, waiting for a runaway semi to ruin the rest of your day. Better to keep it in a lower gear and let everybody honk at you as they pass. And, if you do end up having to use one of these ramps, don't stay in your vehicle. Truckers have very little sympathy for four-wheelers when they are trying to avoid running off the road at high speed.

Personally, I'd think about buying/renting/borrowing a little bit bigger vehicle. It'll make it easier to pry you knuckles off the steering wheel. While we've travelled a lot in the Rockies, I still get a little tense on the long grades, even though our Tundra doesn't have any problems going up or down. It's bad enough concentrating on towing when everybody else is passing you like their racing in the Pike's Peak hill climb.

You'll love the Colorado Rockies!
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Old 06-06-2009, 12:37 AM   #9
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Sorry for the second post; I missed the window to edit the previous entry.

Just looked on the map to see where Lake City was. Highway 149 is a little, two-lane mountain highway. It looks really scenic (and paved), but pretty remote. And, on second thought, I'm not sure I would risk driving this far off the interstate with your rig. The advantage is that you probably won't have to worry about much traffic. But the big disadvantage, is it could be a long wait for a tow truck if your rig breaks down.

It could also be really expensive if you need help. For example, we had a blowout in Mexican Water, Arizona; and it took about 3.5 hours for a tow truck to come a little over 100 miles from Cortez, Colorado. And, the cost was $450 (eventually paid by our insurance company). Up in the Rockies, it could take longer for help to arrive (assuming you had cell service where you break down), even though the distance isn't as far; and it could cost more.

It's kind of like taking a passenger car off on a four-wheel-drive road; you could probably do it and not have any trouble, but there's a higher risk than if you had a vehicle that was better suited to the task. Personally, I'd like to have an extra safety margin to make sure it's a fun vacation, instead of a nightmare from @$!%.

Just my opinion...
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Old 06-06-2009, 07:25 AM   #10
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If I remember right Monarch Pass is no big deal. Slumgullion Pass (between Crede and Lake City) is quite another story. I think that is the pass several people told me not to attempt. I guess I did and it came out OK because I traveled from Creede to Lake City. This is a beauty spot in a beautiful state. There is a nice campgroound at Wagon Wheel Gap and it is worth a walk around Creede and there are some real interesting back road tours.
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Old 06-06-2009, 07:34 AM   #11
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We went through there last summer with no problems.
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Old 06-06-2009, 07:46 AM   #12
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Slumgullion is a stinker of a pass, I think. Last time we did Slumgullion, it was in the MG. We were being chased by a Miata, which had more power than we did, but didn't take the curves as fast. His slowness was not engineered. It was fear factor for sure.

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Old 06-06-2009, 09:09 AM   #13
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Lake City is remote, though like much of Colorado, it has telephones, electricity and maybe even a tow truck. The road from Gunnison is a well maintained federal highway, US 50, then comes the turn off to the south, probably 149. It is also paved and maintained. It is just another road through the forest and along a river.

I suppose because I've lived in Colorado for 31 years I don't think much of all this remoteness and perceived danger. I understand that to some people, especially those used to flat places, Colorado's mountains appear scary. I agree the descent into Lake City from Slumgullion Pass is steep and curvy and requires care, so be careful and make sure your brakes are good. The drive from South Fork through Creede to Lake City is not well known and is very beautiful. But you can go to Lake City other ways and then unhitch and explore. There are some old mining roads and passes accessible from Lake City that are very popular (and crowded with SUV's these days—the backcountry has become so crowded we don't go there anymore) and offer incredible sights.

As I said before, see what your Buick can do. It's not just how much weight it can tow, but what kind of payload it can handle.

The scariest thing about Lake City is that boatloads of Texans vacation there.

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Old 06-06-2009, 12:12 PM   #14
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We were in Lake City last year. It is a great place for an R.v vacation. Lots to do, hiking jeeping and a scenic historic town. Lots of forest service camping and one commercial campground. There are wreckers and service stations. Nearest Buick dealer is in Gunnison at least 70 miles away.
Personally, I wouldn't take your rig there. I like overkill and tow my 25 Safari with a 3/4 ton Excursion. You are over your rig's towing limit by the time you provision your trailer. You may be over your combined gvw when you put yourselves and your luggage and gear in your tow vehicle. You have at least one 10,000 foot pass to go over. It isn't just the uphill climb it is the down hill, the tight curves and braking capacity required. You probably won't end up smoking beside the road, but there will be some white knuckle moments and the anticipation of the drive may put a cloud on your trip.
Get another tow vehicle with a minimum 6000 pound tow rating or pick a destination like Colorado Springs or even Estes Park where you have no high passes to cross.

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