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Old 04-02-2019, 08:21 PM   #1
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Towing and trip planning Colorado

I'm basically a sea level traveller but were working on a trip to the high elevations of Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mtn NP's, and Rio Grande del Norte NM. First, any travel tips and second, thoughts on towing at sustained 10-12000' elevations (21 and a Tacoma).

Thanks,

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Old 04-02-2019, 09:09 PM   #2
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Black Canyon is one of my favorites. The primary campground is "South Rim" which has many sites suitable for a '21 (and a few that are too small). The North Rim CG is not recommended for trailers - but after my visit I speculated that without my wife around I might risk it. The views from the North Rim are worth the long drive around. The final camping option is East Portal. I would not take a trailer if you paid me. It is about the steepest paved road in the country. But it is worth a day visit if you are a fisherman. Keep your Tacoma in 1st gear and bring a couple of 3/8 oz Kastmasters. I landed a 24" brown trout after casting across the river. Waders are optional as the banks are rather steep and you can access deep water from shore.
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Old 04-02-2019, 09:34 PM   #3
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Black Canyon is one of my favorites. The primary campground is "South Rim" which has many sites suitable for a '21 (and a few that are too small). The North Rim CG is not recommended for trailers - but after my visit I speculated that without my wife around I might risk it. The views from the North Rim are worth the long drive around. The final camping option is East Portal. I would not take a trailer if you paid me. It is about the steepest paved road in the country. But it is worth a day visit if you are a fisherman. Keep your Tacoma in 1st gear and bring a couple of 3/8 oz Kastmasters. I landed a 24" brown trout after casting across the river. Waders are optional as the banks are rather steep and you can access deep water from shore.
Thanks for the tip. We passed thru there pre-trailer and I seem to remember a lot of the roads up there are scenic but higher elevations. Like the road from Montrose to Durango. WOW! Any advice for the route from Montrose to Great Sand Dunes and down toward Rio Grande del Norte? I see some 10-12k passes.
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Old 04-02-2019, 09:44 PM   #4
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Hi Greg - so you don't wanna say Hooray for Ouray!? You could go up to Paonia then up to Marble for a look at where they quarried marble for(some of) Lincoln Memorial and Tomb of Unkbown Soldier. Couple of nice little campgrounds nearby. Some great boondocking outside of Crested Butte.
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Old 04-02-2019, 10:05 PM   #5
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Thanks for the tip. We passed thru there pre-trailer and I seem to remember a lot of the roads up there are scenic but higher elevations. Like the road from Montrose to Durango. WOW! Any advice for the route from Montrose to Great Sand Dunes and down toward Rio Grande del Norte? I see some 10-12k passes.
Montrose to Durango is route 550, the "million dollar highway" I believe. Haven't driven it in recent years but seem to remember it will challenge your driving skills to the utmost.


Montrose to Sand Dunes takes you over Monarch Pass on US50. This is a typical Colorado pass with nothing particularly dangerous to a trailer. Like any other, keep it slow with a lower gear, brakes in good condition, and you should be fine with the trailer.
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Old 04-02-2019, 10:26 PM   #6
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Hi Greg - so you don't wanna say Hooray for Ouray!? You could go up to Paonia then up to Marble for a look at where they quarried marble for(some of) Lincoln Memorial and Tomb of Unkbown Soldier. Couple of nice little campgrounds nearby. Some great boondocking outside of Crested Butte.
Hey buddy, I was just thinking about looking you up. We haven't crossed paths in awhile. Thanks for the tip, we're headed to Colo in May. Should be a great trip.

Greg
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Old 04-02-2019, 10:35 PM   #7
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I used to live in the San Luis Valley where the Great Sand Dunes National Moument is located. It is a beautiful and unusual place with the creek running through. There is an alligator farm just down the road and it is worth a visit. Very unusual! Also down the road a ways is a hiking trail up to a waterfall. Another really neat place to visit and the trail is easy. It used to be that you could follow the stream down below the trail and there was a swimming hole that no one knew about. Things have probably changed now. We have fond memories of our years there and subsequent visits. Wonderful people!
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Old 04-02-2019, 10:45 PM   #8
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If you are asking about your tow vehicle, I would change all the fluids & filters, check your brakes, exhaust & tires. Take lots of coffee, stay hydrated and have a good time.
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Old 04-02-2019, 10:55 PM   #9
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I used to live in the San Luis Valley where the Great Sand Dunes National Moument is located. It is a beautiful and unusual place with the creek running through. There is an alligator farm just down the road and it is worth a visit. Very unusual! Also down the road a ways is a hiking trail up to a waterfall. Another really neat place to visit and the trail is easy. It used to be that you could follow the stream down below the trail and there was a swimming hole that no one knew about. Things have probably changed now. We have fond memories of our years there and subsequent visits. Wonderful people!
Thanks!!Thoughts on best place to camp? We'll be there a few days.

Know much about Rio Grande del Norte NM. I'd never heard of it but it looks cool.
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Old 04-02-2019, 11:51 PM   #10
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[First, any travel tips and second, thoughts on towing at sustained 10-12000' elevations (21 and a Tacoma).]

As a rule of thumb, your normally aspirated (ie not turbocharged or supercharged) engine loses power at a rate of 3% per 1,000 feet increase in altitude. Um yikes. That is a 30% ~ 35% loss in horsepower as you climb up the passes.

At high speeds, the thinner air reduces your horsepower needs, but climbing you suffer from reduced flow of cooling air over the radiator due to low speed - watch your coolant temperature, you might want to turn off the AC and roll down the windows.

If you do not have a transmission cooler and you do have an automatic transmission, get a transmission cooler. Cheap insurance, can't hurt and might help a bunch. A "Scangauge II" which sits on your dashboard and plugs into your OBDII port can tell you your transmission temperatures (and many other things) in real time.

It can get hot here. We get weeks sometimes where the daily high is over 100oF and the nights don't go below 70. (We're in Boulder, on the Front Range, at 5700 feet.) The higher you go, the cooler it gets of course.

Some of the passes are miles long and 6% or more grades with very steep (usually shorter) sections at up to 10%. At low speeds in low gears the climb can seem to take forever while you are being passed by vehicles going 20 or even 30 mph faster than you are on the I-70 passes (Vail and the Ike). You'll get used to it. On the two lane passes, passing opportunities can be rare and pulling over is polite - and gives your tow vehicle a chance to catch its breath, cool off.

Going down - that can be much more difficult. Low gear, and stay off the brakes as much as you can. If you do use the brakes, use them heavily for short periods to get your speed way down and then leave the brakes alone to cool off for as long as you can.

Try to travel mid-day during the week, not on weekends if you can. Many of the passes offer spectacular views and even have a rest area or pull out at the top. Rabbit Ears and Kenosha pass are both worth stopping at for a lunch (bring your own!) and even a hike.

And, ask the same question over on the Toyota Tacoma forum. Those folks know the vehicle and will have good advice.
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Old 04-03-2019, 06:37 AM   #11
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and drink plenty of liquids, I suffered from altitude sickness and had to stop for one night to recuperate until I got acclimated.
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Old 04-03-2019, 07:18 AM   #12
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You didn't say when you plan to go, but you will need to make Rocky Mountain National Park reservations several months in advance if you plan to stay in the park. We like Moraine Park B211-214 in particular because of the views of Long's Peak and the fact that elk bed down in the meadow behind the campsites. The drive up Big Thompson Canyon into the park is fabulous. (Actually all the campgrounds are fine, we just like the elk coming through...)
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Old 04-03-2019, 10:14 AM   #13
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Colorado

Greg, You'll enjoy the trip. If you have crossed the Sierras on some of the two lane passes, ie. Sonora pass you won't have any trouble especially if you have a trans cooler. We'll be in Western Co later this month and there is a rally in June we will go to and visit with good people and one of our old trailers.
Don't worry about it, just go and you two have fun. In Ouray there is a great camp ground in town called 4J's plus one. Maybe our favorite because of the town and the location. We spent our last anniversary there and had a good dinner in a local restaurant.
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Old 04-03-2019, 10:35 AM   #14
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A couple of other thoughts... If you're in Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park after the 4th of July, make a loop by taking the FALL RIVER ROAD up to the Alpine Visitor's Center, then back east across Trail Ridge Rd. You can't take your trailer on Fall River Rd, so it's a day trip w/o the trailer. If you're there before the 4th, you can bicycle the closed Fall River Rd, or hike it with your dog and without traffic.

Camp Hale, between Minturn and Leadville on US 24 has a nice little FS campground on it's SW corner. It's super historic... Where 15,000 10th Mtn Division troops trained during WWII. (Leave anything metal you find alone. There's sure to be unexploded ordinance still in the woods.) There's good boondocking along the Homestake Reservoir Rd a little north of Camp Hale west off of US24 in the switchbacks.

If you're want to spend a day in summer Vail, the Gore Creek CG at the far east end of the valley is a sweet little CG. Get off at the East Vail exit of I-70, and continue east on the not-quite-frontage Rd to the CG. I think it opens in early, middle June.

Look for a PM from me.
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Old 04-03-2019, 09:41 PM   #15
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I have experienced an issue with large elevation changes, with both my previous '08 HL and with my current '08 GX470. The engine electronics does not compensate as soon as it should for the change in air density, and the engine occasionally will sputter and stall, and sometimes smell "flooded" (gasoline smell). Usually this has happened to me when climbing rather than descending. After 15 to 30 seconds the engine would become willing to re-start and it would run fine thereafter. Just FYI, in case you encounter a similar issue.


First time it happened with the HL, I was heading north on 550, up the first really long grade north of Durango. With the GX470 it's only happened once, on the La Sal Mountain Loop Road (I went from Moab, elevation 4000', up the mountain to about 9000' when it conked out).
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Old 04-04-2019, 08:03 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Treblemaker View Post
You didn't say when you plan to go, but you will need to make Rocky Mountain National Park reservations several months in advance if you plan to stay in the park. We like Moraine Park B211-214 in particular because of the views of Long's Peak and the fact that elk bed down in the meadow behind the campsites. The drive up Big Thompson Canyon into the park is fabulous. (Actually all the campgrounds are fine, we just like the elk coming through...)
Site B214 Moraine Park in RMNP
Attached Images
File Type: jpg B214.jpg (164.2 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg RMNP.jpg (183.5 KB, 15 views)
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Old 04-04-2019, 01:21 PM   #17
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When we visit the North Rim of the Black Canyon we like to leave the 21 at the campground at Crawford State Park and take day trips from there. To get from the Gunnison Valley to Great Sand Dunes I prefer Highway 114 over North Pass to Saguache as the grades are gentle and the traffic light compared to Highway 50 over Monarch Pass.
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Old 04-04-2019, 11:08 PM   #18
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Sorry, can’t recommend a campground near the sand dunes as I stay in my friend’s front yard! If you do come via Sagauche as was mentioned (pronounces “Su-Watch”) see if their little museum is still open— used to be a really neat museum. If you end up on Hwy 160, though maybe you’d take 112 through Center, I don’t know, just before you get to Monte Vista you will see an oddity on your right called Movie Manor. It is a big drive-in with a two story motel with large picture windows, angled so you can watch movies from your room. ��
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Old 04-04-2019, 11:26 PM   #19
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Saugauche 4th St. Diner & Bakery!!
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Old 04-05-2019, 11:59 AM   #20
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Great Sand Dunes is a National Park located in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. The NP is a place we have always wanted to visit but never have. We have tried several times to get a reservation at the Pinon Flats campground in the NP but we have never been successful for the dates we could go. There is also an RV park not too far away, Great Sand Dunes Oasis RV Park. We have not stayed there but friends have and say it is OK. There is also what used to be a State Park, San Luis State Park, which is now demoted to a State Wildlife Area which has campsites. They have electric but no water or sewer. I do not know anyone who has stayed there, but the reviews seem OK. Oh, in Antonito, CO you can ride a steam train that goes over the mountains to Chama NM. That is a good trip, especially in the Fall.

As regards Rio Grande Del Norte Nat Mon, you will be traveling south on Highway 285 from Alamosa into northern New Mexico. Once into northern NM, you enter a relatively wild, unpopulated area with no traveler services (fuel, restaurants, etc) for many miles until you get to the junction with Highway 84 north of Espanola. Absolutely, fuel up before leaving CO.

RGDN is a relatively new creation administered by the BLM so I expect you could camp most anywhere. The land feature the RGDN Nat Mon is all about is the gorge of the Rio Grande as it flows south out of Colorado into NM. I think (but not sure) there are a few places where you can hike down into the Gorge and there may be some unimproved campsites in the area of the trails. As you come south on Highway 285, at Tres Piedras, if you take Highway 64 southeast, it will take you past the Earthships north of Taos, across the northern most NM bridge over the Rio Grande, into Taos and back to civilization. The road south out of Taos to Espanola drops down off the plateau into the Rio Grande Gorge. At the intersection of Highway 570 you can turn north and drive up the Gorge for some miles and there are several campgrounds located along the RG river in that area. Enjoy NM!
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