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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,

Greg
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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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