Colorado Road Trip
August 17, 2010 8:54 AM   Subscribe

5 day road trip through Colorado, where should we go?

Our rough plan is to start at the top near Fort Collins, work our way through Rocky Mtn National Park, Estes Park, Steamboat Springs, Vail, Pikes Peak, then leave through Denver. Is this a good route? Anything in particular we should check out? We'll have out dog with us, so we might be limited to mostly sightseeing. Any advice on cheap lodging?
posted by slowtree to Travel & Transportation around Colorado (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This is not along your planned route but I've always found south/southwest Colorado beautiful, specifically, the route through Ouray - Telluride - Silverton - Durango.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:01 AM on August 17, 2010

I love the little town of Nederland which isn't far from Boulder. If you do make it down to the four-corners area, be sure to visit the Anasazi Heritage Center and the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
posted by jardinier at 9:10 AM on August 17, 2010

You could couchsurf for cheap lodging. Check out the breweries. Most forest service roads off of the front range have free camping. Go rafting, either on gore, the numbers, or the royal gorge, in descending order of excitement. Hike. Call the oric, located in the Denver rei, for trail suggestions. What other things do you want to do?
posted by craven_morhead at 9:12 AM on August 17, 2010

Visit Garden of the Gods if you are in the Colorado Springs area.

Fort Collins has some awesome breweries. Odell's is my favorite (I think they have a more unique selection of beers than the other breweries), but New Belgium is also worth checking out for the tour, or just the free beer samples (they give you four pretty good sized glasses).

The Standley Hotel in Estes is vaguely interesting if you aren't staying there. You can score some good food in town; there are quite a few Nepali/Tibetan people working in town, so maybe checkout Nepal's Cafe (other food options:,+CO). The shopping area of town gets incredibly busy during the summer, so if you are trying to avoid crowds you should talk to the rangers at RMNP about a less traveled hiking trail. There's a tiny town to the north of Estes called Glen Haven, there is a cute little cafe, inn, and general store there.

Not too familiar with Vail in the summer. If you have bikes, I think there are a lot of trails up there.

Where are you coming from/going to?
posted by Kharon of the Mekon(g) at 9:28 AM on August 17, 2010

The route we came up with was just a rough idea. We are totally open to other suggestions. Maybe we'll add a southwest leg.

We are coming from and returning to Cincinnati OH.
posted by slowtree at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2010

I spent a good week of a road trip that I took a few months ago through Colorado. I had two dogs with us and we took them on a bunch of hiking with us and rock climbing.
You're going to be really limited at places like Rocky Mtn National Park though if you have dogs and it's obviously entirely too hot to leave them in a vehicle.

I agree with hapax_legomenon on SO Colorado...I liked it a lot more than the more Northern Route you are speaking of.

I think a fun route using some of the places you mention is Fort Collins, through the Roosevelt National Forest, through Rocky Mountain National Park, to Boulder, to Alma (South Park area =), to Salida, Crestone, Great Sand Dunes National Park, to Del Norte (Penitente Canyon is right there, awesome primitive camping - most beautiful stars I've ever seen in my life, and 300 sport climbing routes or you can just hike through the Canyon looking at the awesome rock - pets allowed), then Lake City through the Engineer Pass to Ouray - THAT is some awesome scenery, you'll need a good 4 wheel drive vehicle though. Then you could head back east, Pikes Peak, then leave through Denver.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:50 AM on August 17, 2010

Seconding Garden of the Gods - beautiful and otherworldly. If you happen to find yourself in Colorado Springs, their Goodwill is unusually awesome. And Viva El Taco on Academy Blvd. is some seriously cheap and awesome drunk-chow.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:01 AM on August 17, 2010

My favorite memory of the times I've been through Colorado is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. At the time, it drew a lot fewer crowds than the more traveled Rockies national parks, and the view down into the canyon is just awe-inspiring.
posted by Drastic at 10:03 AM on August 17, 2010

Bishop Castle nr Rye, CO.

Brilliant madness.
posted by i_cola at 10:05 AM on August 17, 2010

Cottonwood Pass between Crested Butte/Gunnison and Buena Vista is awesome. And lots of places for Fido to play. The west end of the drive is along the Taylor River; the east end is really cool serpentines and leads to the top at the Continental Divide.
posted by webhund at 10:10 AM on August 17, 2010

Telluride is awesome, as is black canyon of the gunnison. I'd check out silverton and crested butte as well, all very dog friendly towns.

Colorado springs is only about an hour away from denver, but the town kind of sucks, IMHO- lived there for 2 years. Garden of the Gods is great, but it's crowded.

The engineer pass is AWESOME as well.

If you are a beer guy, check out dry dock in denver- amazing beer.
posted by TheBones at 10:11 AM on August 17, 2010

5 days is a long time for that trip, depending on whether you're planning on taking hours to hike, raft, climb, or whatever each day. Most of the mountain towns don't have a lot to offer in the way of just walking and exploring - things tend to be more activity-based. You could add on southern CO or the four corners area if you wanted without missing much by driving faster.

The breweries in Fort Collins are good. Odell's has the best tour, IMO, as well as the best beer. It would be worth getting bikes from the bike library and riding up the trail, too, if you're into that kind of thing.

Going into Estes Park from there is a good idea. The Stanley Hotel is fun to poke around in. Driving across RMNP is fun and doesn't take very long, depending on how often you stop to look at stuff. You'll come down through Grand Lake and Granby - the lakes there are very pretty. From there you'll drive pretty far north to Steamboat, and then you could work your way southwest through Craig and down to Rifle. From there you could just come back on 70, which goes through a bunch of ski towns, or drive further south and east in a big loop through Gunnison, Salida, back up to see Pike's Peak, and finally hit Denver.

We live in Fort Collins - memail if you have questions about this specific town!
posted by peachfuzz at 10:47 AM on August 17, 2010

I agree with Drastic - the Black Canyon of the Gunnison was amazing!

I've been the northern route and the southern route. I enjoyed the southern route more.
posted by JaneL at 12:09 PM on August 17, 2010

There's lots of dog friendly lodging in Manitou Springs, at the base of Pike's Peak. Great Sand Dunes National Monument in the San Luis valley might also be a nice rompy place.
posted by pickypicky at 12:27 PM on August 17, 2010

Thanks for everyone's help. Here is our updated itinerary based on your advice:

Great Sand Dunes Natl Park
Mesa Verde
Ouray (renting jeep for mountain trails)
Black Canyon of Gunnison
Crested Butte
Estes Park
posted by slowtree at 2:16 PM on August 17, 2010

Looks like a good plan. Let me know if you want to grab a beer in Denver.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:40 PM on August 18, 2010

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