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Old 03-12-2019, 08:53 AM   #1
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Question on route Estes Park Co to Steamboat Springs

Hi Everyone,

We are planning our first cross country trip from the Chicago area to San Francisco in June (“Hotel California” is finally getting to see California!)
and have a route question for those familiar with Colorado.

We are stopping off first at Rocky Mountain National Park (Glacier Basin Campground) and will be traveling from there to Steamboat Springs.

Which way of these two routes would you recommend that we go?
Thanks so much for all your shared wisdom.
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Old 03-12-2019, 09:30 AM   #2
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I live about 20 miles from Estes Park and drive all of these.

Route 1 is a long ways and will take you on I-70, through the Eisenhower tunnel at 11,000'. If you chose to go that way, I'd suggest that 7 & 119 are a national scenic hwy named Peak to Peak and a much prettier route. Also note that I-70 gets very busy on weekends.

Route 2 is Poudre Canyon and a favorite with motorcyclists. It's a bit steep and curvy and very scenic; but you won't have any problems. Just fill up in Estes, it's a long ways between gas stations.

If you are going after Memorial Day (give or take), I generally just go through the National Park when I want to go to Steamboat. Just get an early start to miss some traffic. I drive a diesel Canyon with a 19 and it's really not a problem.
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Old 03-12-2019, 10:21 AM   #3
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I live in Arvada and also drive these routes frequently.

Another consideration is heavy traffic during rush hour between Golden and Boulder on 93.

I might be slightly in favor of 14 (route #2), but be prepared for being stuck behind a slow moving RV between Cameron Pass and Ft. Collins since there are limited passing opportunities.

As mentioned earlier, 7 & 119 is a very reasonable drive (although there is a short section on the southern end that I have not driven due to my particular geography.)

Try to plan your arrival in the cities (Ft Collins, Denver, Boulder, etc) to between 10 am - 2 pm to avoid rush hour traffic, and avoid the major mountain roads Friday-Sunday. In general, Colorado roads have not kept up with the increase in population.

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Old 03-12-2019, 10:32 AM   #4
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Agreed on Route #2.
Plus there is a string of very nice USFS campgrounds along the Poudre River if you are looking for another place to stop.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/arp/...36603&actid=29

In Walden there is a free public RV dump and water fill.

Right here: 40.733101 -106.278015

Plus a nice free place to camp on a lake.

Right here 40.734254 -106.301002

Enjoy your trip.

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Old 03-12-2019, 11:41 AM   #5
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Why not just drive on Trailridge Rd though Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park? I don't think there's a length restriction on Trailridge. There definitely is on Fall River Rd thru the park, but that's not the main road. We've driven over Trailridge many, many times with our mini-van pulling our (former) Scamp.

If you drive Trailridge, there's a little gem of a campground on the west side: Willowcreek CG. No reservations. And we've always found openings mid-week in the summer. Definitely not weekends. From just north of the dam on Lake Granby, go west on a dirt road +/-2 miles to the CG.
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Old 03-12-2019, 02:01 PM   #6
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Drink plenty of water, the last time I drove through there I got altitude sickness. Stay hydrated...
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Old 03-12-2019, 02:02 PM   #7
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I was raised in Boulder, CO and drove all these roads many times. In fact I helped build the Eisenhower Tunnel in '76 but that is another story. I agree with the advice to take either Trail Ridge road or the northern route via Walden. North Park (the broad valley where Walden is) is one of my favorite places.

I'm chiming in here because actually the biggest caution is common to all three routes and that is Rabbit Ears pass. It is a very long steep decent going into Steamboat Springs. Make sure you stay in a lower gear and keep your speed in check. Many folks have burned up their brakes going down that pass with a load and at too high a speed.
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Old 03-12-2019, 02:51 PM   #8
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If they're staying at Glacier CG for a couple of days, don't drink (much) alcohol & hydrate, they probably won't have any issue with altitude sickness. If so, just get down to a lower altitude as quickly as possible.

Regarding Colorado mountain passes... Almost everyone of them has serious downhill stretches and a strong low gear, and light use of the brakes are a must! Due to the way our Chysler mini-van's transmission worked, we had to use 1st gear on the descents = going very slowly. So, we just mosey along enjoying the scenery and pulled off at every opportunity to let the pissed off drivers backed up behind us pass! Hay... We're retired... And have lots of time!
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Old 03-12-2019, 04:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EscapeBoulder View Post
Regarding Colorado mountain passes... Almost everyone of them has serious downhill stretches and a strong low gear, and light use of the brakes are a must!
I heartily agree. I would argue the 3 most challenging passes are Wolf Creek Pass, Monarch Pass and Rabbit Ears. Rabbit Ears does not have as tight of switchbacks as the other two but that 6.8% grade westbound for seven miles is hard on a tow vehicle.
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Old 03-13-2019, 07:50 AM   #10
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Thanks everyone for all the good advice! We’re excited about this trip!
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