Colorado Travel Planning Guides : Vacation Ideas : A Colorado Road Trip

Road TripA Colorado Road Trip

It's normal for a visitor to Colorado to go to many different cities, resorts and attractions during their time in Colorado. There are many resources on this site to help you navigate your trip and find the Colorado Vacation Destination that you're looking for. While you're at this Colorado Destination, you may be looking for lodging, dining, a camp ground or a special Colorado shop. Resources on this site to help you plan your Colorado Road trip are listed below.. We recommend checking out our maps page, our Colorado travel guides page, our events page and our excellent map identifying the locations of Colorado's cities and resorts and more.

We recently received this question...

We are planning on riding motorbikes through Colorado late July or early August on our way to Sturgis in South Dakota. We will be entering your state from the southwest having just been to Monument Valley. Can you recommend a route through - we would like to go to Silverton, Telluride, Ouray, Leadville, Aspen, and probably exit through Estes Park or Fort Collins. We don't have to be on the interstate, we quite like smaller roads if there are lots to see. We have about 3-4 days here, it all looks beautiful, mostly interested in scenery and the historic towns etc. Thanks RAE (See our answer below)

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Hi Rae. Thanks for your question. You've picked a great time to drive through Colorado. The challenge is going to be experiencing it all in 3 to 4 days. I'll focus on the places you've highlighted but you're going to be driving close to and through some spots that I don't think you'll want to miss. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is the first full week of August. The weather in the Colorado mountains should be good. You may get a rain shower but they go away quickly and things dry up pretty fast too. So bring your rain suit and be prepared to pull over at certain times. Lower elevation places may be warmer. Click on links below to learn more about highlighted areas.
From Monument Valley enter Colorado on highway 160 and go to Cortez. Head east on 160 to Mancos. From Cortez to Mancos You have the opportunity to check out Mesa Verde National Park. The park is the largest archeological preserve in North America. There are fascinating Indian Cliff Dwellings that date back to 600 AD. There are lodges to stay in around the park. You leave the park the same way you came in (State highway 10) and head to Durango. Durango is also a cool town with lots going on but their main attraction is the Durango Silverton Railroad. There's also the Soaring Tree Top Adventures which is a pretty neat course of ziplines that you can only reach by taking the Durango Silverton Railroad.
You can take a day to ride train from Durango to Silverton and back, but since you're driving and time is a concern, you'll probably want head north on highway 550 to the small historical town of Silverton. In 1883, Silverton boasted having a population of 2,000 people with 400 buildings-two banks, five laundries, 32 saloons and several hotels. An invisible line ran down Greene Street keeping the respectable side of town divided from the bawdry red light district-the Infamous Blair Street.
Continue north on hwy 550 and at Colorado road 361, you'll turn left to go to Telluride.
It's the only road in and out of Telluride. The gondola runs during the summer so take a ride up the mountain and check out the views.

Double back to hwy 550, and continue heading north on the most scenic road in America, the San Juan Skway, towards Ouray (hwy550). Ouray is known as the Switzerland of America. It's a quaint town with a big hot springs pool, a great museum, lots of spectacular views, four wheeling trails and lots more.

Head north to Montrose. Montrose is a bigger town with an airport and it's where most people from Ouray and Telluride go to shop. In Montrose, you'll want to head east on highway 50 and you should take a stop at the Blue Mesa Reservoir and Black Canyon National Park. The views are Impressive.

You'll continue heading east on highway 50 and will come to Gunnison. Gunnison is more of a western cowboy type city and only 45 minutes to the north on highway 135 is Crested Butte. Primarily known as a ski town, Crested Butte is the official wild flower capitol of Colorado and an out of the way mountain town. The lifts are open for rides in the summer and there's lots of fun stuff to do.

Double back on on highway 135 to highway 50 and head east to Monarch Pass. This is an awesome drive and you'll want to take a quick stop at the top. Be ready for a lower temps though.

Continue east on highway 50 towards Salida. Definitely drive through Salida and check out the downtown. There's a great vibe and art culture.

Get back on highway 50 and head west to hwy 285 (Poncha Springs). Head north on 285 and ride beside the Arkansas River towards Buena Vista.
The Arkansas River is the most rafted river in Colorado. If you're up for an adventure, you should consider taking a half day trip through Brown's Canyon. Along the highway are numerous rafting companies that will take you for a ride, but our recommendations for on this section of the river are:

In Johnson Village (just south of Buena Vista) the road turns into highway 24 and you want to stay on that. Buena Vista is home to Cottonwood hot springs which may be worth a stop after your long drive.

Check out BV's downtown and head to north on hwy 285 to hwy 82 (Independence Pass) where you'll turn west.

On hwy 82 you'll go through Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes is home to twin glacial lakes, the ghost town of Interlaken and spectacular hikes and views. After Twin Lakes you'll continue driving west on hwy 82 to the top of Independence Pass. Independence Pass is closed during the winter due to heavy snow fall. But in the summer it is open and you must stop at the top. The views are breath taking. Heading down to the other side of Independence Pass you'll come to Aspen.
There's always good music and culture in Aspen and the Gondola is open for rides to the top of the mountain.

At this point, you can choose to take the quick route and head back over to highway 82 (Independence Pass) to highway 24 and north to Leadville or take the long route and head north on 82 to Glenwood Springs, home of Glenwood Caverns and the Glenwood Springs Hot Springs. From Glenwood Springs you'd take I70 east to highway 24 (Minturn) or highway 91 (Copper Mountain) and head south to Leadville. The drive from Aspen to Leadville over Independence Pass is about an hour and a half. The drive from Aspen to Glenwood Springs to Leadville is about 3 hours.

Leadville is a good choice for a stop. Every year, on the first weekend of August, Leadville hosts the festival Boom Days. Leadville is known as the Museum Capitol of Colorado and the history is fascinating. There's also the Leadville Southern Railroad that will take you on a great scenic ride.

At this point there's no doubt, you need to scoot along, so exit Leadville north on highway 91 and head to I70 where you'll go east. At the Dillon/Silverthorne exit (#205), you'll head north on highway 9 to Kremmling. From Kremmling. From there, you'll head west on highway 40 where you'll run into Hot Sulphur Springs. The setting of this place, the individual springs pools and price make it must stop.

Get back on highway 40 and head east towards Granby/Grand Lake. Before you get into Granby, you'll come to highway 34. Turn left on Highway 34 and head toward Grand Lake. The Town of Grand Lake is an awesome setting. It's an easy stop for lunch and a jaunt through the shops. Get back on highway 34 and head towards Estes Park. You'll drive through Rocky Mountain National Park which is a wonderful drive and well worth the time.

When you're finished in Estes Park take 34 to Loveland and in Loveland take Hwy 25 north to Fort Collins. It's definitely worth taking the brewery tour in Fort Collins and a visit to their downtown, the Budweiser brewery and the Poudre canyon is worth the time. Continue taking highway 25 north to I80 in Wyoming which will take you to Sturgis.

Jeff - Coloradoinfo

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