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  1. Default Colorado mountain road trip

    The date: late January-early February.

    The route: From Southern California, on I-15 and I-40 to Meteor Crater, AZ. Northwards to Four Corners. Hwy-160 east and north through Wolf Creek Pass, CO. Hwy 149 north over Slumgillion Pass, to Hwy 50 just west of Gunnison. 50E to 285N north of Poncha Springs, 285N to 24E through Buena Vista, CO. 91 E over Fremont Pass and to Interstate 70, where I will go east at least as far as the detour over Loveland Pass.

    Then back to the highway, I-70W through Eisenhower Tunnel and all the way through CO and UT until catching 89 South, which I would take until catching SR-67 South to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Then back to 89, thence to I-15, thence to Las Vegas and home.

    The questions:

    1. How long? 10 days?
    2. How viable? Will these roads and mountain passes be open at the beginning of February? If not, what is the best way to get from Four Corners to I-70 in the Rocky Mountains?
    3. What are viewing conditions at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon like in early February? Are they any better or worse than the South Rim? For that matter, assuming a clear day, how does the view from the North Rim, where I've never gone, compare to the South Rim that I've seen several times? I am trying to decide whether to follow my planned route or skip Meteor Crater and go to the tried-and-true South Rim.
    4. To get to Four Corners from Meteor Crater, Streets and Trips is telling me to stay on the interstate to Gallup, NM, and take secondary roads north. How does that compare with taking secondary roads straight from the crater through the Navajo reservation?
    5. If I stop and take a few pictures along the highway in Colorado City, AZ (the polygamist town), will they shoot me?

    Thanks,
    Bogart

  2. Default North Rim not possible in January

    The first roadblock is that North Rim access is closed until May 2007. The route (SR67) is alpine in nature and will be snowbound. Got a snowmobile?

    The driving alone on this route if the pavement is dry will be about 4 days. With 10, that would give you 6 days for seeing "stuff."

    How viable? Will these roads and mountain passes be open at the beginning of February?
    Hard to say -- major roads through the San Juans and other ranges in Colorado are kept open as much as possible. But you could encounter road closures almost anywhere depending on conditions. I would keep flexibility as an option.

    If not, what is the best way to get from Four Corners to I-70 in the Rocky Mountains?
    There are several options -- first, Durango east (on US160) through Wolf Creek Pass to US285 and north on that through Buena Vista. Second, directly north from Cortez or Durango (two main routes are possible, with two additional variations). Third, the desert-Monument Valley route north from Kayenta AZ through Utah & Moab. Or, all the way east to I-25 and north on that to the Denver area. There will almost always be a way to get through.

    Grand Canyon North Rim is about 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim, and at the North Rim you would be adjacent to the "elbow" & the northerly arm of it (if you see the entire Canyon as a reclining "L") -- so the views are different. From the North Rim, you get a feeling more of being out in it, than you get from most places along the South Rim. Still, the Grand Canyon from the rims is what it is -- the scenery is similar. But I never discourage anyone from going there; as you know, it is wholly magnificent. North Rim is wilder & more rustic -- less-visited. Again, not open to motorcars until mid-May.

    To get to Four Corners from Meteor Crater, Streets and Trips is telling me to stay on the interstate to Gallup, NM, and take secondary roads north. How does that compare with taking secondary roads straight from the crater through the Navajo reservation?
    The road north from Gallup through Shiprock and Cortez or Farmington is wide open and visually spectacular, with the Chuska Mountains to your left, and flatter country to the right. That said, the road through the Navajo Nation through Window Rock or Chinle is also very nice (the terrain is hilly, and north from Window Rock, if you go that way, it is forested high country along the spine of the mountains). Six of one, half dozen of the other, in terms of attractiveness. Knowing them both, if I had to choose only one, I'd go north from Winslow to Second Mesa, across to US191, and take that north to US160. Be sure to take time for Canyon de Chelly, at Chinle, if you haven't been there before. I recommend the guided tour through both arms of the canyon (the full-day tour).

    If I stop and take a few pictures along the highway in Colorado City, AZ (the polygamist town), will they shoot me?
    I've never been shot at up there. But no one will make small talk with you at the gas station. I've found the locals there, on my very few visits passing through, to be courteous but chilly. Not surprising, given the history of their interactions with the outside world.

    Bob
    Last edited by Robert Schaller; 11-30-2006 at 11:46 PM. Reason: Added info on Canyon de Chelly

  3. Default

    North Rim is closed. Bummer. South Rim it is, then. That will be shorter, at least.

    EDIT: how about the Million Dollar Highway, US-550? Is it open in February? And would I be taking my life in my hands to try it?
    Last edited by Bogart; 12-03-2006 at 02:53 PM.

  4. Default

    Any Coloradoans reading the forum?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default There are several members who call Colorado home

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogart View Post
    The route: From Southern California, on I-15 and I-40 to Meteor Crater, AZ.
    I have another suggestion -- Quartzite will be in full-bloom then, why don't you use I-10 from So Cal, stop at Quartzite (here is a very good article about what it is like!) and the follow US-60 to Prescott over to I-17 and then take SR-260 to SR-87 to Winslow and the Crater. The follow US-191 to Four Corners. -- You would go through the reservation that way, and yet still be on good roads.
    Northwards to Four Corners. Hwy-160 east
    I hope you are planning to visit Mesa Verde NP? It is really pretty with snow on the ground!
    and north through Wolf Creek Pass, CO. Hwy 149 north over Slumgillion Pass, to Hwy 50 just west of Gunnison. 50E to 285N north of Poncha Springs, 285N to 24E through Buena Vista, CO.
    That is also gorgeous country -- I hope you have all of your winter gear? When you reach Buena Vista, take the detour to Nathop and the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. It is a very nice place -- and in addition to the pools, you can sit in the stream (covered with ice) and still be comfy from the hot water rising out of the sands!
    91 E over Fremont Pass and to Interstate 70, where I will go east at least as far as the detour over Loveland Pass.
    It is not really a detour. It is the original highway (US-6) and the views are pretty great -- it can also be a darn scary road when it is icy....
    Then back to the highway, I-70W through Eisenhower Tunnel and all the way through CO and UT until catching 89 South,
    Now, you will be driving on my favorite Interstate highway in the country!
    which I would take until catching SR-67 South to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Then back to 89, thence to I-15, thence to Las Vegas and home.
    You can always stick in Byrce or Zion instead of the Grand!

    Hope this helps!

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 12-03-2006 at 07:06 PM. Reason: Added link to today's featured article

  6. Default

    How is Zion in February? I had indeed been thinking about stopping there after learning that the North Rim will be closed.

    How about the mountain passes? I see the road south of Aspen is closed in winter. How many of these other Colorado roads--the roads south of 70, that is, b/c I don't plan to go north of the interstate--are kept open?

  7. Default

    So, here's the deal. Colorado is getting pounded by snow. Pounded

    Is this trip a good idea? Should I make alternate plans (like the Pacific Coast Highway trip I've been kicking around)? Should I wait to make a decision? Of the routes I listed in the first post, which of these have been close, which might I expect to be closed if another blizzard rolls through, and how long does it take for them to be opened after closing?

    Departure day would be about three weeks from now.
    Last edited by AZBuck; 01-06-2007 at 03:31 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default I think I'd go PCH

    The 15-day forecast for Denver calls for possible snow most days. Personally, a little driving in snow is no big deal. But it looks like you might be doing more than a little driving on more than a little snow.

    Actually, even though this is kinda against the roadtrip philosophy, I think I'd start looking at last-minute cruising rates. When it's cold and wet, I always yearn for hot, sunny beaches myself. :-)

    I don't know how far north on PCH you were thinking of going, but the 15-day forecast for Eureka, CA, sure looke more inviting than the one for Denver, imho.

  9. Default

    Depending on time, I was considering going from Vegas as far north as Crater Lake before cutting west to the coast and turning south on PCH. I think that might be the better plan. As much as I like the Rockies, I don't want to get us all killed.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 01-07-2007 at 10:49 AM. Reason: Format for clarity

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default That sounds good

    Be aware that you might find snow/ice conditions on the Siskiyou Pass on I-5 (at the Oregon/California border). I-5 is heavily travelled so this might delay you a bit but shouldn't ruin your trip. At most, it might be closed for a few hours or overnight. But you don't want to get up right on it before finding out. If the weather looks iffy, I would start checking at about Redding, CA, for pass reports as that is the last major city before the pass where you might find lodging. The Yreka area has lodging too but it is limited and can get filled up fast if the pass is closed.

    From O-DOT's website:
    To get travel information in Oregon by phone simply dial 511. The information provided via 511 is the same as displayed on ODOT's Web site, TripCheck.com. Please be aware that some phone companies in Oregon do not support the 511 dialing option. If your carrier is among this group you may still access travel conditions using your phone. Dial toll free 800.977.ODOT (6368). If dialing from outside of Oregon dial our toll number 503.588.2941.

    Crater Lake is beautiful in the winter but you will want to also check road conditions before going there as well. And don't forget to check conditions on whatever route you plan on taking from I-5 to the coast.

    This has been a really strange year weather-wise. Because of that, I figure it's better to check regularly than have an unpleasant surprise.

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