I travelled through Colorado last year around this time - I didn’t get too far off the interstate and I didn’t have time to wander too much, but it was pretty much beautiful across the board and I really liked it.
This year I’m going to be coming in from I-80 on the east, turning south at Cheyenne and staying in Fort Collins for a day. Current plan is to drive through Rocky Mountain National Park - I’m guessing the best way is to take 34 up through to Estes park - and then what? Where are the must-see places in that area? I’m not going to have time to acclimate and those places are 8-11k up, so I probably can’t do much hiking - but there’s plenty of stuff to see not far off the road I’d imagine. It’ll probably be a day of sight seeing followed by heading back to Fort Collins for the night, so you don’t have to plan my route to get out of the state - so scenic routes that loop around back east work fine.
After I leave from Fort Collins again, I can pick my route out of the state. Last year I just went through Denver through I-70 to Grand Junction, but this year I plan to mix it up, take some of the backroads if weather permits - I don’t want to get stuck on the mountains if it’s slushy or freshly snowed though. At least not backroads. It’s hard to tell from google maps which roads, if any, would be relatively developed highways and which ones are scary mountain backroads.
Anyway, I don’t want to go too far out of my way, but I’m sure a scenic route that’d take me to the west end of the state could be planned, starting from Fort Collins heading west. Suggestions?
No shopping or anything like that - I should’ve been more clear but I’m interested in nature scenery and photography. Cool little towns along the way would be cool, somewhere to stretch out and eat, but mostly for the scenery.
Well, señor, I’ve never lived there but have driven and ridden through a few times. As a motorcycle tourer, one route I’ve heard good things about is where you’ll be at Estes Park: the Peak to Peak Highway, heading south about 60 miles from Estes Park. Established in 1918, it is Colorado’s oldest scenic byway.
I’ve only heard and read about this, no personal experience mind you, but we motorcyclists like great scenery, hate traffic bogging us down, and we like finding good eats.
Consider the towns of Frisco and Breckenridge off of I70 for some hanging out time. Just off I70, and they have good food and almost always something going on. Don’t know the dates you are traveling, but if you stay over, consider the The Hotel Frisco Very cute and just off of I70 on main street in Frisco Colorado. You would probably need reservations.
One of my favorite drives when I lived in Boulder was to go up through ft. Collins and head west on Co. 14. I’d take that over the divide and North Park Opens up really nicely. I’d go to Walden and then head south on 125 to Granby. From Granby you can enter RMNP from the west side and then make your way back over to Ft. Collins. I would sometimes take 40 down to Berthoud pass then go east and back up to Boulder.
Anyway, spending most of my time in the Boulder area and front range, I found North Park to be a beautiful unspoiled part of the state fairly close to home.
It’s a lot of driving (I was into that sort of thing).
From Walden you can continue on 14 and go down to 40 which will take you through Steamboat and eventually Dinosaur at the western end of the state. I don’t know what it’s like between Steamboat and Dinosaur though. The big mountains are south of route 70.
RMNP might have road closing due to snow. It snowed on me Sept 17, 1996, and the road was closed until afternoon. Don’t know where-all you might be headed, but Black Canyon of the Gunnison was interesting. Colorado National Monument near Fruita is also a nice drive.
Stop at the Stanley Hotel in Estes. Built by Stanley of Stanley Steamer fame and where The Shining was filmed. Trail Ridge Road in RMNP is a must if it is open–but this time of year we are on the cusp of it being closed. CDOT website has road info in real time.
There is a very LONG (say 8 hr, in summer) loop from Ft Collins through Steamboat down the spine and back to Denver via I-70. I would not do it this time of year generally, but if the weather is clear you will be fine.
FYI, snow expected in high country Fri night/Sat morning.
CLOSED34 US 34 Eastbound / Westbound Trail Ridge Rd. Milner Pass - Rainbow Curve (Milemarker 33-45)Closed because of severe weather. The road is closed due to icy conditions and weather. For more info call Rocky Mountain National Parks: 970-582-1222. Road closure began October 5th, 2012 at 8:25am.
We ended up going up to Estes Park and RMNP for the day. Estes Park is one of those great little towns that’s isolated has everything you’d need. Tourist friendly without being too touristy. I’d like to live somewhere like that one day.
We went up the TRR about 15 or 20 miles stopping a whole lot. Got up to about 11k feet. Ended up going down to some of the side roads in the valley north of Estes Park. Saw some elk, little waterfalls.
Very cool place - if anyone ever finds themselves in that part of the country, definitely check it out.
On the way out, I started from Ft. Collins and headed up to CO route 14, through Walden, and then onto 40 up through Steamboat Springs and onto Craig. I actually screwed up there - I had intended to go west on 40 until 139 and meeting up with 70 west of Grand Junction, but I ended up turning south at Craig onto 13 and hitting 70 there around Rifle.
Took me quite a bit longer than going on the interstate, but worth it. East of the peaks of the Rockies, 14 is a very windy canyon road with a lot of cool scenery. You’re very alone across the top of the mountains there. After the peaks, it becomes more like what I imagine wyoming to be - relatively flatter (with mountains still in the background), lots of grazing territory and cows. I actually got stopped for my first cow crossing at this point, with a cowboy on a horse blocking the road and everything.
I ended up taking quite a long while - the trip between Ft. Collins and where I ended up on 70 was only 160 miles or so, and there were long parts west of the peak where you could easily go 70 mph, but I still managed to take 5-6 hours to get through it, with the slower parts combined with all the stopping to take pictures. Half the day was gone, and I check my GPS, and woops, 600 miles still to go. Ended up just doing it all in one shot - ended up being on the road for 18-20 hours straight. Unfortunately missed most of Utah going through in the darkness, but I can go back from here when money and time permit.
Anyway I’ll post a bunch of pictures when I get around to it. May be a while - I’m on a backup monitor not suitable for photo editing at the moment, and it takes me forever to decide on things like monitors.
You can hike at high altitude without acclimation; just don’ t plan on going fast or far, and remember to protect yourself from the sun, cuz it’s easy to get burned in a hurry up there. In RMNP there’s a nice short hike at the top of Trail Ridge Road here; after a very short climb from the parking lot, you’re on a flat walk of about 1/3 mile, and you end up at a pile of rocks that’s the highest thing for about 20 miles in any direction.
If you’ll be heading south from RMNP, then I can further recommend the peak-to-peak highway, a nice scenic drive. from Estes Park, take CO7, CO72, CO119, and US6 down to Idaho springs.
From I-70, you can optionally do:
-Mount Evans. This is a pretty long detour, but like RMNP, the road to the 14K-foot summit provides spectacular views.
-Loveland Pass. This is the detour for hazardous vehicles that aren’t permitted to take the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70, but again, great scenery. Since it’s a bypass for the tunnel, this pass is kept open year-round.
-Plenty of food and touristy stuff in Frisco and Dillon.
-Independence Pass on CO82. More great scenery as you cruise west to Aspen.
-If your route will take you anywhere near the SW corner of the state, you have to ride the “Million-Dollar Highway,” US550 between Ouray and Durango.
Well I just got started on photo selecting/editing/posting and I have like 2500 to go through, but to start with I’m really happy with this panorama taken from Trail Ridge Road when it gets to about 10800 feet up.
$4 a gallon gas, by far the highest on a drive from Washington state to Kansas and back, temperatures approaching 100 degrees and an extremely rude state trooper who’s sole purpose in stopping me was the assumption that I was in Colorado for no good reason because the tailgate on my Toyota pickup was dented. This was back in 2008.