Gateways - Denver/Denver or Albuquerque
Day One: Visit Denver, CO, the Mile High City, sitting exactly 5,280 feet above sea level. Just west of Denver is the Lariat Loop Scenic Byway, which takes in the Denver Mountain Parks System, including the world famous Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, follows Bear Creek Canyon on SH 74 and the Lariat Trail into Golden. Visit Buffalo Bill’s Museum and Grave and the Hiwan Homestead, as well as sites of religious and scientific importance such as the Mother Cabrini Shrine and Dinosaur Ridge. Also nearby are the Mount Evans and Guanella Pass Scenic Byways– begin in the town of Idaho Springs at the Visitor Center for an orientation and stroll through the Idaho Springs Historic District. From there, follow SH 103 to Echo Lake, another one of Denver’s mountain parks. Open only in the summer, the drive to the summit of Mount Evans on SH 5 takes you to the top of a 14,000 foot peak, one of 54 “Fourteeners” in Colorado. Continuing west, stop in Georgetown and visit the Georgetown Loop Railroad, drive the byway to the summit of Guanella Pass, at 11,669 feet above sea level.
Day Two: Continue traveling west to Grand Junction on I-70 and take a side trip on the Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway. At Copper Mountain, follow SH 91 over Fremont Pass into Leadville, the highest incorporated city in North America at 10,430 feet above sea level. Stop at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum and tour the mining district above town. Follow US 24 over Tennessee Pass past the site of Camp Hale, where the brave men of World War II's 10th Mountain Division trained for winter combat. Make a final stop in the town of Minturn to learn the late 19th century railroad history of the Rocky Mountains before reconnecting with I-70 west. Continue west to Colorado’s Wine Country and visit Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction and the Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic Byway. Visit Fruita’s Dinosaur Journey, home to a number of large scale robotic dinosaurs and hands-on activities or Dinosaur Hill, Rabbit Valley and Riggs Hill, all well-known paleontology areas.
Or chose SH 65 over the Grand Mesa via the Grand Mesa National Scenic Byway where the top of Grand Mesa ranges from 10,000 to 11,000 feet above sea level. The cool, green slopes covered with aspen welcome hikers and numerous lakes will attract anglers. Winter months provide unlimited terrain for snowmobilers and cross country skiers. Travel west to Delta, the City of Murals, then south on US 550 to Montrose, CO.
Day Three: Visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park east of Montrose then continue south to Ridgway where US 550 meets the San Juan Skyway, an All-American Road. Here the traveler has two choices – follow US 550 south to Durango, CO or west via SH 62 to Telluride, CO then through the San Juan National Forest to Cortez, CO. Either route features spectacular mountain scenery, wide open ranchland and rich mining and railroad history. Ouray has a public hot springs pool; Silverton is the northern terminus of the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and also provides access to the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway – a backcountry adventure via four-wheel drive roads. Telluride is a festival lover’s dream with its spectacular mountain setting. The Dolores River Valley features recreation access points and wide open ranchland.
Day Four: Continuing on the San Juan Skyway, visit Mesa Verde National Park and the Ute Mountain Tribal Park. Then travel west via the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway to Hovenweep National Monument and the Four Corners National Monument.
Day Five: Head back to Denver by heading north to I-70.
Day Four: Visit Mesa Verde National Park. Travel south to Farmington, NM, experience ancient Indian ruins, golf, fly fishing, and arts and crafts.
Day Five: Travel to Santa Fe, NM and visit Chaco Culture National Historic Park.
Day Six: Depart for Albuquerque, NM.