Hello again. I'm here following Southwest Dave's suggestion to ask about routes. We have been doing research and planning the route but I'm lost at what to do at the very end of the trip. To put some context, we'll start from College Station, TX and go west, then north, north east, and then back to Texas. On the way, and taking several days to visit these places taking as much time as we can, we'll visit Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Black Canyon, and other places on the route. My "problem" starts after Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison marks, more or less, the beginning of the last part of the trip, after which we'll be driving back home. Originally we thought to go to Great Sand Dunes National Park, Capulin Volcano National Monument, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, and then drive home. However, Great Sand Dunes may not be the best for us in June as we are traveling with young kids and the NPS website says "Sand temperatures may soar to 150 degrees F; always plan your dunes time for early morning or evening to avoid burned feet, heat exhaustion, or fatal lightning strikes." If we don't go there, then a number of possibilities may open for this last part of the trip.
On the one hand, we could continue more or less on the same route (US-50 E -> CO-114 E -> US 285 S or CO-17, more or less) as we had planned but not stopping at Great Sand Dunes NP (in which case any suggestions of other locations along this route would be great). On the other hand, we could instead drive south towards Santa Fe, NM (for example, US-550 S, US-160 E and US-84 E, or US-50 E -> CO-114 E -> US 285 S, or maybe start with this route but turn east on CO-112 W, US-160 W and US-84 E). The first of these would take us through the "Million Dollar Highway", for example (by the way, is it worth it? I have read a lot about how beautiful it is but also about how dangerous it can turn...).
I appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you may have. I would guess it is safe to say that by this point of the trip we'll be tired after around 25 days on the road. On the other hand, we have learned that there are always places to visit and to learn from so if we are doing this trip and there are locations that would fit well, we would be happy to take side roads and take a little longer to get home, as long as the weather doesn't get crazy.
The Million dollar highway is an amazing drive and the only thing I can think of when you say "turn dangerous" is during the winter months when ice and snow might be an issue. I drove it in a 30ft RV without any concern and really enjoyed the scenery. The mountain towns of Ouray, Silverton and Durango are wonderful and you could consider taking the Mountain steam railway ride ! The road is part of the scenic "San Juan skyway" which makes a great loop and includes Telluride if you had the time. You could just head via Telluride and Dolores to Cortez and visit Mesa Verde NP and then head to Durango and ride the train to Silverton. You could then head south towards Albuquerque or east to Pagosa springs and either head to Santa Fe or towards Taos Pueblo on US64 which takes you to the Rio Grande Gorge bridge. Having said that, US50 from Black canyon through Currecanti Nat rec area and over Monarch pass is a nice drive and if you head to the dunes you can enjoy them without wandering too far out if it's uncomfortably hot. So basically you have a plenty of good options, it's what appeals to you.
This is great, thanks!
I'm glad you're getting other opinions on this. If I were in your shoes, I would probably be looking to continue east from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison through Pueblo and or Colorado Springs to Dodge City and then turn south through Oklahoma to DFW and home. That's only about 150 miles longer than the shortest route possible from the Black Canyon to College Station, and for that you get to see some things and areas you didn't see on your way west and north, including crossing the Continenta Divide where there are some real mountains, the USAF Academy, Dodge City, and several Native American museums and cultural sites in what was until relatively recently known as Indian Territory but is now the State of Oklahoma.