Travel Advice - Colorado for Fall colors

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by veereshai, Aug 16, 2013.

  1. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    777
    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    Hello everyone,

    As the subject states, my wife and I intend to go to Colorado for a week in the last week of September. I'll most likely fly out of DC on September 23rd and would like to come back on September 30th if there are enough places to see in Colorado. I wouldn't mind cutting it short if there aren't enough places to see. So, I need your help to decide on the best route and places to see. What would be a good route for me to see the best fall color? I can think of two options right now:

    (i) DC -> Denver -> Rocky Mountains -> Maroon Bells -> Ridgway/Telluride/Ouray -> Denver -> DC. As far as my research goes, it seems the peak for fall colors is usually around September 25th in CO. So, would it make sense to head to rocky mountains directly and explore Denver on my way back or would it be better for me to explore Denver for couple of days and then go to RMNP?

    (ii) DC -> Durango (take the million dollar highway) -> Ridgway/Telluride/Ouray -> Maroon Bells -> RMNP -> Denver -> Durango -> DC. I am somehow not sure about the second option.

    Also, I have no experience driving a 4X4 and a lot of websites suggest that it's required to have such experience. I wanted to check with you guys and get first hand info about how easy are most places to get to with a regular passenger car.

    As far as accommodation goes, I need to book motels/hotels in most of these places. However, if there are places where camping would help (to get the golden light) please let me know and I'll plan accordingly.

    Last but not the least, it'd help if you could list out any hidden gem that I shouldn't miss for fall colors. For now, I think I have a decent list of places I can see around Ridgway but suggestions are always welcome.

    Needless to say, I thank you in advance for any information that might help me :smile:.
     
  2. juangrande

    juangrande Mu-43 Top Veteran

    805
    Dec 2, 2012
    COLORADO
    First, in Sept. you most likely won't need 4x4. If there is a freak storm, it most likely wouldn't stay on the ground long. You'll have access to where you want to go by car and foot. Second, why waste any time in Denver? Third, camping would seem unlikely since your flying in, unless you are an experienced backpack hiker w/ appropriate gear. It can also be quite chilly first thing in the morning in the mountains ( 25 degrees ). The Maroon Bells are gorgeous, but then you'd probably stay in Aspen, which is quite pricey. There are outlying towns,tho. Take Independence Pass either coming or going. The million dollar hiway, too is worth the drive. Maybe, go to the Bells 1st. Afterward leave for Telluride but stop in Pagosa Springs on the way for a stopover. The spa/hotel there is quite nice as is the town.
    As a health suggestion, carry water with you constantly and HYDRATE. This will mitigate altitude sickness.
     
  3. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    777
    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    juangrande,

    Thank you for your reply. I was thinking Denver because tickets to and from Denver are cheaper than flying into any other airport except for Durango. If Denver's not worth it, then I'll fly to Durango and back. I can probably stay for a day or two at Aspen and see the locations you mentioned. I'd definitely want to do the last dollar road and various people on the internet seem to be of the opinion that a 4x4 is needed, hence the question.

    So, I can modify my second option to :

    DC -> Durango (take the million dollar highway) -> Ridgway/Telluride/Ouray -> Aspen -> Durango -> DC.

    I think I'll skip RMNP for now as I'd rather spend more time exploring few locations and come back to see RMNP later or next year. Camping might be out of question if it's going to be that cold in the morning, thanks for the heads up!
     
  4. juangrande

    juangrande Mu-43 Top Veteran

    805
    Dec 2, 2012
    COLORADO
    The drive from Denver to Aspen, for instance, is beautiful. Just take the 285 south to the Buena Vista turnoff then over Independence Pass. 4 hrs. roughly. I'm not sure about Aspen to Telluride, but I'm guessing about the same. I do highly recommend Pagosa Springs, although they recently had fires near there, so I'm not sure about the trees. The springs are similar to the ones in Europe that are renowned. Very sulfurry,( remove your silver jewelry) but relaxing and healing. I'm not sure why you'd need 4x4, unless you were doing some off roading as chances of a major snowstorm during your stay would be slim. Of course, you never know in Colorado! (Front wheel drive sedans handle better in snow than rear).
    Flying into Denver affords you more driving time thru outstanding scenery. Spending TIME in Denver was my objection!
     
  5. If you are truly a flat lander I would suggest picking up a finger pulse oximeter about $35 on Amazon. They clip on a finger tip and give you your per cent oxygen saturation and pulse.
     
  6. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror!

    947
    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    Clint
    Just rent a Subi (Subarau)...you'll be fine...drink LOTS of water.
     
  7. TetonTom

    TetonTom Mu-43 Regular

    Really a great time to visit. Of course the fall colors are nice, but its also nice to visit places without the crowds of summer. And by then there's usually been a dusting of snow on the highest peaks to add to the palette is colors.
    I'm sure you'll be fine with a comfortable passenger car. Don't sweat that part...
    I've lived in several parts of the state, and IMO the best fall color views are in the Elk and West Elk ranges. Best would be Kebler Pass, west of Crested Butte. Also beautiful is Cottonwood Pass, west of Buena Vista.
    Oh yeah, and if you've never been to Great Sand Dunes and the Sangre de Cristos, then fAll is a great opportunity!
    And no need for the pulse oxymeter... As a mountaineering guide, I'll tell you that we don't even bring them anymore on 20,000' + peaks, because they don't really tell you anything that's going to keep you well or keep you from getting sick. Pretty to look at, but that's about all...
     
  8. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    777
    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    My bad, I thought you said don't fly into Denver. Thank you for all the locations, I'll soon chalk out a detailed plan and post it here for you guys to comment on and see if it's doable.

    I am flat lander, didn't think it would be that bad high up there.

    Thank you for the advice, I had not accounted for the high altitude part, I'll definitely drink loads of water.

    Thank you for these locations too, I'll look them and see how I can best add them to my itinerary.
     
  9. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    If you did rent a 4WD, Engineer Pass and Imogene Pass are basically dirt roads - no special driving skills required. Black Bear Pass into Telluride might have a bit more pucker- factor than you would like.

    This (unfortunately named) website has pretty realistic trail reviews
    http://www.traildamage.com/
     
  10. zapatista

    zapatista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    668
    Mar 19, 2012
    Denver, Colorado, USA
    Mike
    You still haven't paid your CO entry tax Juan.
     
  11. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    777
    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    Thanks TC for the website and the advice. The only video that I saw which got me thinking was a video where an SUV was having a tough time en route to crystal mills. It's not on the list, but if I decide to go there, it'll most likely be a guided tour.
     
  12. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    777
    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    Update:

    I have been pretty busy with moving to a new place and searching for car :(. However, I did manage to note down a lot of places from my research and have made an excel sheet. I am still working out the exact details but I booked my tickets today. I found a good deal from DC to Durango, so I'm flying on 24th to Durango and returning to DC on the 1st of October. I've booked an intermediate SUV for a week and will drive down to Telluride/Ridgway the same day. I hope the peak colors will happen that week.

    I still need to book the hotel rooms though, any suggestions guys?
     
  13. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    777
    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    Update:

    Got back from the trip last night and I have to thank everyone here and so many others on the internet. The trip was amazing, I can't wait to go back to Colorado again. Even though this year seems to be pretty bad for fall colors, my wife and I had an awesome time there. I was lucky enough to see Maroon Bells last Saturday with the perfect mix of snow and fall colors. Although it was very cold, I didn't mind it as it was awe-inspiring. Will upload some photos here soon.
     
    • Like Like x 1