Things to do and see in Colorado/Wyoming/Utah

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be beginning my whirlwind tour of the midwest. The tentatively scheduled route is home (N. Texas), Colorado Springs, Rocky Mts. NP, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Arches NP, Caynonlands, Bryce Canyon, and back home.

I’d like suggestions for things to do or see along the way.

As an example, on a previous trip I went to Colorado Springs, Telluride, Arches, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, and Carlsbad. Along the way, I stopped at things like Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, Royal Gorge, some petroglyphs north of Moab, Utah, the Very Large Array, a ghost town near the VLA, and 4 Corners.

I’m into hiking and nature photography, so that will be my main focus of the trip. My hiking will be limited to day hikes since I’m traveling alone and am not comfortable backpacking by myself. I like natury-things and ruins or abandoned stuff, but I’m not averse to visiting things sciency or just plain interesting. I’m not too interested in visiting cities or urban points-of-interest. I’ll be doing some camping and some hotels.

So there’s my route and some examples of things I find interesting. If you know of something along the way that I’ve just GOT to see or a great restaurant or the world’s largest ball of foil, I want to hear about it.


Tough Question because you are going to be in arguably the most picturesque area of the western USA. You have been to quite an array of places and already seen quite a bit. Might I suggest a backward haul -> going west on 40 into New Mexico, then north west on 264 out of Gallup. Off the beaten path, you’ll travel through Tuba City - lots of beautiful canyon lands and painted desert. Up through the Kaibab plateau and on into Utah. Where you can hit Zion, or Moab and then on north.

So basically going clockwise instead of counter clockwise. Do you have a reason to go counter clockwise?

Also, in terms of what to see, I have always been of the school where you get into different advnetures on your way to different preset goals you have for the day. I like taking pictures of not only scenery but of the locals. And the two-bit restaurants or general stores. I once asked a man if I could take his picture because I liked his hat…ya knwo what he said?

“sure thing son…” I stil have the photo and it’s of a man with a leather 5 gallon hat, the leather matched his skin, and eyes, tough as nails look.

If you are doing Arches, Canyonlands, and Bryce, you might as well swing through Zion Canyon too. Lovely, and in the same general area.

You will want to schedule an overnight in Estes Park (book it now!) so you can go into the park and hear and watch the elk bugle. It is a chilling sound and a fascinating thing to watch as the bulls gather up their harems for breeding. Mid-september is about the right time. I advise Moraine Park or Horseshoe Park, about 5:00 a.m. Mornings are better because fewer people go then, so it won’t be so crowded. Take a long lens because the elk tend to gather at the edge of the clearings away from the highway. With patience you can get a magnificent shot of a bull in full throat – could be one of the best wildlife photos you’ll ever take.

Colorado/Wyoming/Utah are the midwest? You live in a different world than I do.

If you go to Bryce, I might recommend staying the night in Escalante. Specifically, this place.

Ya know, when I typed that word I knew someone would call me on it. I figured it’s west of where I live and it’s kind of in the middle, so midwest was the best way I could think of to describe it. It was early, I was young, etc, etc. :stuck_out_tongue:

Honestly, I think time is going to be my limiting factor. I have two weeks and I don’t want to give any location I do stop at the short shrift. I will add Zion to my list as a “if I have time”.

Hmm. A couple of reasons. I know the trip from Dallas to Colorado Springs can be done in a day so it’s a fixed point for the first leg. And Rocky Mts and Grand Tetons/Yellowstone are a priority in my trip so I want them early so I can devote as much time as needed. I’ve been to Arches but it was drizzling the whole time and I want to take some better pictures, so it’s a priority but not primary.

Great tip! I’ll do some research on it this evening.

Thanks everyone, and keep it up. This is all useful information.

I just got back from a trip to Colorado and a trip to Rocky Mtn. National Park and Devil’s Tower WY. I did a bit of hiking but the weather wasn’t the greatest so I took some time to explore Trail Ridge Road a bit. Drive up Old Fall River Road, too!

My pictures arehere.

Another good reason to visit Zion NP is stopping to have a slice of Bumbleberry Pie at the Bumbleberry Inn.

What’s a bumbleberry?

From the website:

Besides, it’s right in my neighborhood. I’d love to come out and say hi if you’re in town.

PS - if you’re camping at Rocky, I much preferred Moraine Park CG over Glacier Basin (those two CGs are able to be reserved online).

If you’re going to be visiting this many places, you’re not going to see any of them in depth. As long as you understand that, it’s fine. But most visitors to national parks don’t get more then 100 yards from a paved road, which misses a whole lot of the most interesting parts.

Personally, I’m much more in favor of spending more time in fewer places, maybe 3-4 tops, and getting to know them a little better. My choice is backpacking, but that may not be what you are looking for.

In Wyoming, the Wind River Range is simply spectacular. It has scenery that matches or exceeds that of many National Parks, but gets little notice or traffic. There are vast opportunities for hikes, both short and long.

Consider driving into Green River lakes (the true source of the Colorado River) at the north end of the range, and doing day hikes from there.

As you’re heading from Yellowstone toward Arches, you might consider a drive across the San Rafael Swell. Lots of gorgeous canyons cut through the Navajo, Wingate, Kayenta and some Morrison dinos, Butch and Sundance’s old stompin’ grounds, etc.

A little further west is Capitol Reef NP, another picturesque feature with a large monocline bisected by a strike slip fault, Waterpocket Fold, etc. Killer geology and another place where the Park Service has a historic home that makes pies in the a.m.

Since I’m travelling alone, I’ve ruled out backpacking as an option.

Underlining mine. Turek - for people like Telemark and myself [and I hope Telemark won’t mindmy saying so] but for people like us, getting off the beaten path and seeing what lay beneath in terms of wild beauty is what it’s all about. I don’t mind the vast majority of American’s taking the Brady Bunch approach and staying within 100 yards of the pavement, it leaves a more serene place for me. Selfish? Maybe, but worth it? Oh yeah.

I completely agree with and understand you not wanting to go backpacking by yourself. Not a smart idea for anyone male or female to do this when inexperienced or not familiar with ones surroundings. I don’t know if you are male or female, or inexperienced, but a longass road trip like you are taking has it’s deep seeded merits as well. Heck I loved the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance :slight_smile:

Wyoming native and current resident checking in - a couple of highlights/options.

Yellowstone is heavily promoted, but not over-rated. It is just as wonderful as everyone describes and more. Unfortunately, there are problems right now with the East gate, so you will probably need to go through Jackson Hole, which is massively over-rated.

Speaking of Jackson Hole, if you want to eat dinner there, see if you can get tickets to see the Bar J Wranglers. The best thing about the Jackson area by far.

THere is a wonderful hike just south of Jackson in a town called Afton. It is a short hike to the Periodic Springs, the worlds largest such spring. Water naturally gushes from the rock for 20 minutes, then stops for about the same. It’s very neat, and I can’t do it justice.

South of that, just outside of Kemmerer, Wyoming, is the Fossil Butte National Monument - Great hiking trails filled with fossils. (But it is a desert hike, so prepare accordingly).

Down South of Evanston and Lyman are some great hiking trails in the Uinta Mountains - south of evanston you can even reserve a Yurt and stay in it overnight. (You have to take a class from the Evanston Rec Department, but it can easily be done in a day.

There are great Mountain ranges all over Wyoming, THe Snowy Range, the Uintas (Also in Utah and Colorado), the Tetons, the WIndrivers, etc. Two spots in particular - my favorite place to be is in the Windrivers above Cora, Wyoming (near Pinedale) around the Fishing Lakes and Lake Newfork. It is where we do our Elk hunting and my kids go to Boy Scout camp. THe second is a lake (I believe named lake Marie) at the top of the Snowy Range. Travel from Laramie past Centenial and toward Saratoga. At the summit is the worlds best day hike, beautiful scenery around the lake with a big cliff. After you are done, you can go to Saratoga and sit in the free hobo hot pool.

I would also recommend THermopolis, - great hot springs, etc.

Feel free to contact me if you need more info or contacts.

Thermopolis is very cool or hot as it were, I’ve never seen so many hot springs. You can also climb round mountain, or round top mountain I can’t remember which one it is. It’s not really a mountain more of a hill. But I liked Thermopolis. Cool little place.

However long you spend in Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce, you’ll wish you could be there longer. I would do without the other places, and do the entire trip in these 3 parks. And I’d also recommend Horseshoe Canyon, which is technically part of Canyonlands, but in a remote location. If you do go to Horseshoe Canyon, do not go without talking with one of the Canyonland rangers first.

I second this recommendation. In fact, since you intend to head off towards Bryce, I have a route recommendation.

Visit the headquarters area of Capitol Reef NP and the old town of Fruita. Then backtrack to the east a few miles on highway 24 to the Notom-Bullfrog road. Head south along the Waterpocket Fold until you get to the switchbacks that head west up the cliff. This is the beginning of the Burr Trail. At the top of the switchbacks, take the short spur north to the overlook where you get a spectacular view of the Waterpocket Fold. Then continue west on Burr Trail through the beautiful Long Canyon.

You’ll meet highway 12 at Boulder. Head south. This will take you along the Hogsback, a narrow ridge just barely wide enough for the highway. Highway 12 will take you to Escalante, so you can take advantage of Trunk’s suggestion.

I’m plenty experienced with car camping and I WANT to get experience backpacking. I *totally * agree that it would be best to get off the beaten path. I just don’t think this is the trip to do get backpacking experience, what with the being alone and completely unfamiliar with the area. So, I’m doing the best I can. I’m willing to walk anywhere on the trip that I can leave not long before sunrise and get “home” not long after sunset. This can get me quite aways off the path.

But believe me, after several years without a vacation, I *have * to get out of this place. :slight_smile: