OK so I want to go on a weekend trip somewhere in the next couple of weeks, partly to see the colors changing and partly to see some areas in CO that I have not yet been to before the snow comes.
Warning: This post is probably going to be fairly long
So I need help deciding where to go, what sites to include, and what sites to drop out (possibly for another trip). This would be literally a weekend trip. Leave sometime Friday early evening to get wherever, spend all day Saturday driving around / site seeing, spend some hours on Sunday doing the same before heading back to Denver. Here is the full list of things that I'd like to do, and of which I need to narrow down:
Kebler Pass / Crested Butte
Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP
North Clear Creek Falls near Creede (off of Highway 149)
Million Dollar Highway
Obviously all of the things (probably most) cannot be done in a weekend. What I am asking for help with is determining what other posters have been to and would consider "higher up on their list" of things to see/do.
My initial thoughts were to head from Denver (say I left at 6pm) to Crested Butte, and stay for the night. That is a 4 hour drive.
Wake up in the morning, maybe check out the town a little but then get on the road and head over Kebler Pass, which looks like it should take 2 hours (30 miles). I've heard this is just a dirt road, but maybe it is bumpy so you have to go slow? Would need some time for taking photos, etc.
From there we could head back South down to Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, which should be under 2 hours (80 miles). I've never been to this NP, not sure if it is something that can be seen in a few hours (obviously not the whole thing, but at least the scenic parts?) or not.
From there, we could head in a few different directions:
- Telluride: 1 hour 40m, 78 miles
- Ouray: 1 hour, 48 miles
- Gunnison (town): 1 hour 15m, 68 miles
Given those options, I'd like to do some off-roading between Telluride and Ouray. This could include Yankee Boy Basin, Imogene Pass, Ophir Pass or any others in the area, that my vehicle could handle.
Would it be possible (in the time frame allotted) to drive down the pavement into Telluride, then take one of the passes from there over to Ouray. Stay in Ouray for the night. Wake up, take Cinnamon Pass (or Engineer, but I read most travel Cinnamon West and Engineer East, correct?) over to Lake City. Possibly drive the 45 minutes south down to North Clear Creek Falls, then head back up 149 towards Gunnison and eventually home?
Am I over-extending myself with this many "options" ? The above doesn't include the Million Dollar Highway anywhere, nor does it include heading down to Silverton or anywhere in that vicinity.
Vehicle: 2012 Grand Cherokee with QT-II (4-lo) and 20" Nitto Terra Grapplers
Soooo... if you've read this far, what are your thoughts? What have you personally seen in the Central / South Western side of Colorado that is a "must see" and what did you see that looking back, you would have skipped?
Just come check it out, do what you can I have lived here for about 2 years and I am still overwhelemed trying to find time to see everything!
Since you are on a limited time why not stay a little closer to Denver? Such as the Aspen Area? You could driver from Denver to Glenwood Springs (Alot of nice hotels that are much, much cheaper than Aspen, Marriot is always on Groupon for Glenwood, Try and leave earlier, 2pm so at least when you get to Glenwood you can spend an hour or two in the hotsprings before heading to the hotel.
Next morning head down H82 to H133 and go to Marble and do a little off roading to the Crystal Mill. Since you are in Grand Cherokee you will probably not want to go beyond the Crystal Mill. Turn around go back to Highway 82 and continue to Aspen, Go See Maroon Bells, Alot of times you have to take a bus in because the parking is full, but if its not busy you can drive in.
From Maroon Bells head through Aspen, see the town quick, Eat at the Hickory House BBQ (On your left right when you come into town, reasonably priced, really good and fairly quick) Next Head over Independence Pass, awesome drive. At Mile Post 55 there will be a small parking area pull over and check out the Devils Punch Bowl Cliff Jump, takes 2 minutes to take a cool pic, if your lucky some kids will be Cliff Jumping. Head over the pass, goes to over 12,000 feet! Then Highway 24 to leadville. From Leadville you can take highway 9 or 91? which will get you back to I70 from there its about an hour or so to Denver, the other option is stay on Highway 24 and you will be in the Vail area, granted it will be dark by then and farther from Denver, but back on I70.
This would be a really long day but if leave as soon as the sun comes up I think you can could do it.
I would do Independence Pass over Kebler pass.
Another Option, go to Maroon Bells in Aspen, then take Pearl Pass to Crested Butte if you think your Jeep is up for it. I saw a guy do it in a stock 90s Dodge Ram.
Oh, Kebler pass is not bumpy it is a decently maintained dirt road. Last time I was on it in my Jeep I was going 35 but family cars were passing me doing 50 (To Fast)
Thanks for the reply, but I've already done Maroon Bells / Aspen / Independence Pass. It was pretty cool, but didn't get into any off-roading. We didn't stop at the Devil's Punchbowl, but we did stop and explore the Grottos.
I've also already done Glenwood Springs and the Hanging Lake, been to Vail a ton of times, Breck, etc.
So I'm trying to figure out something down in those areas I listed, whether I take some of those options out or try to hit most of them. Going through Google Maps, it'll take me 4 hours to get to Crested Butte on Friday (get there, eat dinner, chill at the hotel, etc.).
Saturday: It'll take 2 hours to get over Kebler Pass (maybe less, but we'll be stopping to take photos) and then another 2.5 hours from Somerset, CO (close to where Kebler Pass ends) down to Telluride. Taking something like Imogene (not sure how rough this one is, I see it as a 4 or 5 (out of 10) on TrailDamage.com) over to Ouray, which should take another hour maybe more, and stay there for the night.
Sunday: Thinking of taking Engineer pass East towards Lake City (2+ hours), and then heading North on 149 back to the city (at least 5 hours).
I dunno, might be too much driving for one weekend. This may be my last summer in CO though, so I want to try to see as much as possible.
I went through your list and it seems a bit of too much driving. Usually, when I travel and have a lot of places to see, I plan my route and skip certain places if time does not permit. You could do the same as well.
When we did some trails in Ouray/Telluride area in 2012, we stayed in Montrose. This was close to Black Canyon of Gunnison NP and close by to Ouray/Telluride. We stayed for 3 nights in Montrose and 1 day was spent driving back to Denver. On Saturday, we did Imogene pass from Telluride side. I definitely suggest that you start early in the morning since there will be less traffic on the trails (I hate on-coming traffic). That afternoon, we just spent time in Ouray and got back to Montrose for dinner. Maybe you could drive down to Silverton (million $ highway) after doing Imogene Pass.
On Sunday, we started early again and drove to Ouray. Took Mineral Creek Road to Engineer Pass to Lake City. The trail does take a long time especially Mineral Creek. From Lake City, we drove back to Montrose (it is quite a drive). Spend the rest of the day, dinner and the next day (Monday), we left for Denver. I really cannot remember how much time it took to drive on the trails.
Also, I have camped before at the Black Canyon of Gunnison NP. If you have few extra hours, I would recommend you spending time there. It is really beautiful and unique.
Hope this info helps. I will try to look at our pictures to see how long it took us on those trails.
I agree that it sounds like a whole lot of driving. What route are you taking from Denver to the Ouray area? From where I live an hour west of Denver, Ouray is still a long day behind the wheel.
Last year I did one day to get there and set up camp. Then went from Ouray to Silverton and camped. Then Silverton to Ouray and camped. Then home. It was a great trip, but a lot of seat time.
Well the initial thought was to leave Denver and head to Crested Butte for the night (4 hours). Wake up, hit Kebler Pass (2 hours) and then head south from there down to Telluride (2.5 hours).
Then I was considering taking Imogene Pass over to Ouray, and staying there for the night. I've read that that trip takes about 3 hours.
Sunday was planning on possibly hitting Engineer Pass going East towards Lake City, but I've read that that leg of the Alpine Loop alone takes 4-5 hours. Then from Lake City, it is still another 5 hours back to Denver. That is a loooooong day.
Keep in mind that I almost expect to do a TON of driving. I don't have enough vacation time left to stretch this out any more than a weekend, and this may be my last summer in Colorado... so I'm trying to make the most of it before winter.
I really hate to say it, but if I were to erase just one thing off your list, it would be Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. (I know - shame on me). It's a beautiful park, don't get me wrong. And if time was not an issue I would reccommend it, but I didn't find the "fun factor" when I was there, and it was a long drive...
Kebler Pass is an easy gravel road, still it was a lovely drive about a month ago when I stumbled across it.
I'm not sure how ambitious you are with the rocks and small stream crossings, but here is a route from Denver to Crested Butte that gets you a lot of off road time in some interesting areas. I drove this route about 2 weeks ago. If you are considering Imogene Pass, then I suspect you will be fine.
Denver to Alma via 285
Alma to Leadville via Mosquito Pass
Leadville to Basalt via Hagerman Pass
Basalt to Marble via 82/133
Marble to Crested Butte via the Devil's Punch Bowl/Schofield Pass
You may already be familiar -- these are all generally considered easy to moderate trails for a Wrangler. Though you need to be a careful in some areas like the Punch Bowl. I drove Mosquito several years ago in a stock 2001 Blazer and last week I watched a mid-2000's stock Lexus SUV come down the Devil's Punch Bowl. On that same drive, I bumped into a group of 6 motorcycles (3 sport bikes & 3 Harleys) just finishing Hagerman. They weren't very excited about the chosen route into Leadville, but they made it through!
Lower passes should be no problem. Cottonwood is questionable due to it being on the divide and above tree line. Kebler is pretty low as far as passes go. Not sure where all we plan on going exactly here yet. Leaving out for Gunnison Friday eve.