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  1. Default Denver, Durango, Grand Canyon North Rim

    Hi Everyone,

    My girlfriend and I are planning our first ever roadtrip at the beginning of October; We're planning on leaving Denver and heading to Durango and camping out there for the evening and then driving to Arizona. We intend on no more than a three or four day trip. Can you please give us information on routes to take that include Mesa Verde and then off to the Grand Canyons?

    Thank you,

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Central California

    Default Scenic or Direct?


    The leg from Denver to Durango is where time is saved or spent. Three routes come to mind.

    The first route is very nice and pretty quick. It goes from Denver down Hwy 285 to Hwy 160 and west over Wolf Creek Pass to Durango. This one is about 6 hours 45 minutes, not including stops.

    The second route is from Denver west on I-70 to just short of Grand Junction, then south on Hwy 550. This route takes you through Ouray, the Million Dollar Highway and about 7 hours, 45 minutes, not including stops.

    The third route (my personal favorite) is from Denver southwest on Hwy 285 to Poncha Springs then west on Hwy 50 to Montrose, then south on Hwy 550. This route also takes you through Ouray, the Million Dollar Highway and about 8 hours, not including stops.

    Just west of Durango is Mesa Verde, as you probably know, and from there it is a pretty obvious shot to the Grand Canyon. The question is do you want to go to the north rim or the south rim? The north rim is less crowded and has a smaller area along the canyon that is accessable. The south rim is the more popular because the rim drive is longer and there are more facilities. Some might say that the view is better because the sun is to your back, but both sides are great.

    The only problem I see with your plan is to do all of this in 4 days, assuming you need to be home on the 4th day. You can get home from the Canyon in about 12 hours, not including stops, by making your way up to Moab, UT and on to Denver by way of I-70. That is a long drive and you'll probably want to spend the night in Rifle or Glenwood Springs before heading on home.

    To me it looks kind of like this. Day 1 - to Durango, Day 2 - Mesa Verde and drive to Grand Canyon (5.75 hours to the south rim and 7.5 hours to the north rim), Day 3 - Grand Canyon, Day 4 - drive to Glenwood Springs, Day 5 - drive home.

    Don't push it, and have a great time.

    Craig Sheumaker
    co-author of the travel guide: America's Living History-The Early Years

  3. #3

    Default Great Sand Dunes Natl. Park

    The Great Sand Dunes Natl. Park (GSDNP) is worth stopping at if you do I-70 or US Hwy-285 to get south to US Hwy-160. If you're going to camp in Mesa Verde and do the GSDNP, then you will have to be sure to get an early start (sunrise at the latest).

    Note: From a scheduling perspective, it makes a difference if you're doing the north versus the south rims of the Grand Canyon. The north rim could be closed during the latter part of October.

  4. #4
    RoadTrippers A & R Guest


    US Highway 40 to Az Hy 64 North will take you to the South rim.
    It's all easy from there. Parking, viewing, browsing.

    The South Rim is a good place and an easy way to see the Grand Canyon for the first time.
    You have a beautiful viewing area out the back door of the El Tovar hotel and ya don't have to be a hotel guest, everyone is warmly welcomed:

    This pic taken by our 7 year old on the back viewing area of the El Tovar Hotel. Nothing at all as dramatic like being there in person.

    All visitors are welcome to walk through the El Tovar Hotel, and it's worth walking through. Then a short walk over to the near-by Bright Angel Hotel with an entirely different view, and excellent, free Grand Canyon museum.

    If you want to fly over the canyon:

    Grand Canyon Airlines is close by and you might want to check their fix-wing prices. Much cheaper than helicopter rides. If you choose to take a flite, you have to book way in advance.

    If you want to hike the Canyon:

    If you guys plan on hiking down the trail to the bottom of the canyon, read up and bring lots of liquids.
    It's high altitude, thin air down and back, 4 hours down, 12 hrs back. It's as tough as a hike gets.
    The sign at the entrance to the Bright Angel trail is a real eye opener.
    Last edited by RoadTrippers A & R; 08-02-2007 at 09:56 AM.

  5. #5

    Default Monument Valley

    Don't forget about Monument Valley. If you are going west from Mesa Verde, this is definitely a worthwhile stop and not too far out of the way. From Durango to the South Rim via Monument Valley is 8 hours. From Monument Valley to the South Rim is 4 hours. Travel options in this region are endless!

    Have fun.

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