I'm looking into doing a trip starting and ending in Denver in late September, early October. I'd love to hear about any not-to-miss spots along my route as well as advice about the weather and driving conditions. I'm a complete chicken when it comes to driving in the snow. So, is early October too late for me to visit Colorado?

Here's a rough plan:
Denver-Great Sand Dunes-Black Canyon of the Gunnison-Mesa Verde via Durango-Hovenweep-Canyonlands-Arches-Rocky Mountain National Park-Denver

Or, I could go in the opposite direction first. What do you think? I just thought I'd save the biggest WOW (Arches and Rocky Mts.) for the end. I plan to spend 10-14 days for this trip. Last year I saw a lot of the highlights of S. Utah and N. Arizona (Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly), but I missed Arches! So this new trip is planned around that.

Any tips on nearby places to see are appreciated! I'd also like advice about the places I've listed - are they worth the trip? What should I see there?

As well, will I run into snow on my trip in late Sept. - early Oct.? How much? Thanks!