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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    South Central Orange County
    Posts
    249

    Default LA to southeast Colorado and back via Denver in May

    Howdy, folks. It's been a while.

    I'm planning my next great road trip for May 2014, and I can't remember ever having driven in Colorado except in summer. If I make a giant loop trip from LA via Albuquerque and back via Denver, what are the chances of getting through Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park? Is there usually too much snow in May?

    Any places that are "must sees" if we take I-40 to Albuquerque and up to southeast Colorado via Raton (or going as far as Amarillo and driving straight up state roads)? The only reason to go to Amarillo I can think of is to take a family photo at the Cadillac Ranch. Historic sites will get a priority, so I reckon we'll stop by Bent's Old Fort.

    I'd love to see Mesa Verde and Pecos National Monument, but I don't think we'll have time to get that far off track.

    BTW, this will be a trip with me, my wife, and our 2 daughters (7 and 14).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Posts
    209

    Default Pecos

    Pecos National Monument really isn't “far off track”, even if you want to go all the way east to Amarillo. You can get from Pecos N.M. back to I-40 fairly quickly.

    Also, the Pecos and Fort Union National Monuments are operated as a single unit. One $ 3.00 entrance fee is valid at both parks for 7 days. Just make sure to save your receipt.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default It's a gamble.

    Quote Originally Posted by shirohniichan View Post
    ... what are the chances of getting through Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park? Is there usually too much snow in May?
    I assume you mean the Trail Ridge Road? That is subject to snow and blizzards twelve months of the year. A sudden storm can close it at a moment's notice. I recall in 2001 it was closed when I wanted to drive it, in August. I have also been there in June and July, when, although officially open, a blizzard had closed it.

    In 2009 I planned to drive, and checked at the visitor centre in Ft Collins about the likelyhood of it being closed the next day - this was in September. Not 1%, I was told. Two and a half hours later it was closed by a sudden storm.

    I finally got to drive it, on my fifth attempt, a week later. Well worth waiting.

    Lifey

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default A few ideas.

    You can visit the Bear Lake road area of RMNP near to Estes park as well as other areas but the Trail Ridge road across the park to Grand Lake typically doesn't open until late May and as Lifey said above, can close any day of the year after officially opening.

    From Santa Fe you could visit Taos Pueblo, drive the Enchanted circle and drive up through San Luis [home of the Stations of the cross] to Great Sand dunes NP. Attractions around Colorado/Manitou Springs include Cave of the Winds and Garden of the Gods.

    After RMNP you could drive over the continental divide at Loveland Pass with a detour from I70 to US6 and perhaps drive through historic Leadville and link up with US50 near Poncha Springs. Along US50 you will cross the Continental divide again on Monarch Pass and the go through Currecanti Nat Rec area to the Black canyon of the Gunnison. From Montrose head south on 550, the spectacular 'Million dollar Highway' through Silverton to Durango and then to Mesa Verde NP.

    How much time do you have available for the trip ?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    As far as Trail Ridge Road goes, it's just the luck of the draw, I think. I've been to RMNP twice and got to be on that road both times. The second time, we just came off it and they were considering closing it because of snow coming down -- and that was in August.

    In ABQ itself: National Museum of Nuclear Science, Rio Grande Nature Center State Park (A nice place for a short hike along the historic river), Petroglyph National Monument. Outside of ABQ are the Acoma Pueblo, and the Bandera Volcano and Ice Caves (both of these are on my list of things to do when in ABQ next time).

    The museum is good for a 4-5 hour visit, and the Rio Grande park could be another half day or less.


    Donna

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    South Central Orange County
    Posts
    249

    Default

    I should have mentioned that we have almost no extra time on the way there. After we leave Lamar we'll take a more leisurely clip to get home.

    Instead of taking I-40 out as we usually do, I'm considering I-10 to Phoenix, and then taking AZ 87/260 through Payson because we've never driven that road.

    Leadville sounds tempting. Instead of taking I-70 back to I-15 I'd like to take US 6 to Bishop and back down to LA via I-395. If we do I'll want to check out Great Basin Nat'l Park.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    I'm considering I-10 to Phoenix, and then taking AZ 87/260 through Payson because we've never driven that road.
    I was turned on to that "shortcut" between Phoenix and I-40 east by a truck driver at a rest stop. Specifically, this is how you do it:

    Take I-10 downtown. At Exit 147 where I-10 heads south, take the AZ-202 Red Mountain Freeway to Exit 13, which is AZ-87 north. Take that to Payson, then AZ-260 east to Heber. Take AZ-277 a few miles to AZ-377 to AZ-77 just south of Holbrook. Not only is this very scenic, it can actually be faster than taking I-17 to Flagstaff to pick up I-40.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    South Central Orange County
    Posts
    249

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    I was turned on to that "shortcut" between Phoenix and I-40 east by a truck driver at a rest stop. Specifically, this is how you do it:

    Take I-10 downtown. At Exit 147 where I-10 heads south, take the AZ-202 Red Mountain Freeway to Exit 13, which is AZ-87 north. Take that to Payson, then AZ-260 east to Heber. Take AZ-277 a few miles to AZ-377 to AZ-77 just south of Holbrook. Not only is this very scenic, it can actually be faster than taking I-17 to Flagstaff to pick up I-40.
    Nice! Google maps says it will take a little longer, but I'll take it!

    On the return trip I have to decide between I-70 and I-80.

    If I-80 we'll see the state capitols of Wyoming and Utah, not to mention the famous Ames Brothers Pyramid near Buford. We could cut through Great Basin National Park and follow US 6 to Bishop on the way back.

    If I-70 we could cut south to Arches National Park, Four Corners, Monument Valley, and the South Rim on the way back. I've been to all those places, but my oldest daughter was only 3 the last time we went to Arches and Monument Valley. My younger daughter has never been there or the South Rim (although she saw the North Rim 2 years ago).

    Decisions, decisions...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Another scenic way between I-10 and I-40 is:

    Take US-60 East (exit 154 from I-10) through Apache Jct., Florence Jct, Superior, Globe. At Globe, US-60 turns northeast towards ShowLow. Between Globe and ShowLow, you pass through Salt River Canyon -- beautiful country, there!

    At ShowLow, you have a choice.You can go up AZ-77 through Taylor and Snowflake (also beautiful forested mountains), or go a little further east on US-60 and pick up AZ-61 to AZ-180 and then US-180. You then turn right to go into Petrified Forest NP from the southern end of the road. View PFNP and pick up I-40 either before or after going a little further north of I-40 to the Painted Desert portion of the NP.

    Donna

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, CO.
    Posts
    304

    Default

    RMNP Trail Ridge Road over the top (Estes Park heading west) is usually opened by Memorial Day. But it's always uncertain if it will or won't because it depends on the snowfalls in late May.
    Sometimes it opens and then is closed for awhile again.

    You can get to Estes Park and the eastern side of RMNP year round.
    Last edited by noFanofCB; 01-13-2014 at 09:59 AM. Reason: estes park location clarification

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