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Old 12-06-2021, 01:09 PM   #1
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Southern Utah and Colorado tour questions

I'm planning our trip to Southwest Utah starting late April 2022 and I'm looking for input on our time allotted to each location. We will spend our time hiking (max 3 to 5 mile hikes) and picture taking. What do you think? We are skipping Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon as we've done those before. Also I'm not sure where the best place is to access Grand Staircase/Escalante. It looks to me like any hikes there involve long drives on rough roads.

I'm attaching a map of our route. This is the amount of time we plan to stay in each location. We are not on a schedule so can add/subtract as needed. There's so much to see, it's a bit overwhelming, and I don't want to miss anything. I have seen other threads related to this tour that have been helpful in determining our route, so I'm just checking to see if I've missed anything and the timings are reasonable. What do you think?

Valley of Fire - 2 nights
Kodachrome - 2
Capitol Reef - 2
Moab - 4
Black Canyon Gunnison - 2
Durango - 2
Mesa Verde - 3
Bears Ears - 2
Monument Valley - 2
Page (including Antelope Canyon, Marble Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, Grand Staircase?) - 5
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Old 12-06-2021, 01:21 PM   #2
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Sounds like a wonderful and memorable trip.......take plenty of pictures so others can dream.....
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Old 12-06-2021, 07:45 PM   #3
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What do you think?

Valley of Fire - 2 nights
Kodachrome - 2
Capitol Reef - 2
Moab - 4
Black Canyon Gunnison - 2
Durango - 2
Mesa Verde - 3
Bears Ears - 2
Monument Valley - 2
Page (including Antelope Canyon, Marble Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, Grand Staircase?) - 5
I can think of a million things to do in between what you have suggested. I have found for us, we never schedule two 2-day stops in a row. Too much traveling. So I would add a couple of days here or there. Bear's Ears are pretty far out there, so I would think about more days there. Also Natural Bridges National Monument hiking for sure. Three natural arches. It's right below Bear's Ears.

If you are going right by Black Canyon AND Durango, for Heaven's sake, stop in Ouray and soak in one of the hot springs. Orvis is best, but you will see nake people. Oh yeah. Montrose has good ones too. Orvis is HOT! Downtown not so much. Ouray (pronounced u-ray) is my favorite town in all of Colorado. You HAVE to watch for snow in Colorado in April and even May. For sure! Red Mountain Pass is right outside of Ouray, on the way to Durango.

If you are going to go all the way to Durango, realize some of the most rugged and most beautiful scenery is between Ouray and Durango. Schedule a bunch of time there!!! Silverton comes to mind. More hot springs at Trimble, close to Durango. More at Pagosa Springs (a little out of the way). Hiking EVERYWHERE!!!

Moab is close to Ridgeway and Telluride. Don't forget Needles District, Canyonlands N.P.. The camp is called Squaw Flats (for now). GREAT HIKING!

Monument Valley and Page could be over a week by themselves. It depends on what you like. Antelope canyon for photography FOR SURE. Go to Lee's Ferry at river's edge for giggles. The Vermillion Cliffs at daybreak are unreal.

Escalante is best accessed by Hwy 12 and Hole In The Rock Road, outside Escalante. Everything is far away down there!

There are more things to do here than you have time for. So what it is you like most of all? I'm sure it's there!

Did I mention I like hot springs.
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Old 12-06-2021, 08:14 PM   #4
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Just outside of Page, Horseshoe Bend is worth a stop. A couple of neat ruins in Bears Ears - House on Fire in Mule Canyon off UT 95 (check to see if the bridge is still out between the canyon & Blanding) and Fallen Roof Ruin off Cigarette Springs Road about 1/2 way between the Dugway & UT 95.
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Old 12-06-2021, 09:51 PM   #5
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Hi Jill & Kevin,

I took a trip thru s. Nevada & s. Utah last month. Only paid campsite was Kodachrome. Boondocked outside of Capital reef. Donít know if youíre going to be near goblin valley but lots of dispersed there. Give me a text. Hope to see you guys at dome rock. Julie
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Old 12-06-2021, 09:55 PM   #6
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We have traveled and camped in SW CO and UT for many years. A couple of thoughts to consider:

In Moab, I assume you will be going to Arches NP. Arches is in very high demand; can have long lines to get into. The "Islands in the Sky" Canyonlands district is easily accessible from Moab. Depending on your interest (sightseeing from vehicle pull offs vs. hiking) we prefer the later, and therefore the southern part of Canyonlands (Needles district) that is closer to Monticello and is on your current route as you re-enter UT from CO. Also Natural Bridges NM is nearby which has a nice small CG.

The route you have planned appears to be on US 550 from Montrose to Durango. We did this once in a rainstorm at night pulling a pop-up. My memory from ~1995 can be faulty but I remember it being steep and an unpleasant tow. Others can comment on the road condition. I have avoided that route since! US 160 east of Pagosa Springs is also very steep (near Wolf Creek ski area) so I would not recommend that as an alternative route (i.e.,
Montrose to Poncha Springs to Great Sand Dunes NP to Durango). I have heard CO 145 is better route (others can comment please).

Capitol Reef NP is one of the nicest places IMO on your route. Very popular NP campground, but a wonderful place with wildlife, varied terrain, hiking. 2 full days minimal. I would recommend 3.

Mesa Verde NP campground is old and relatively poorly maintained (we were there 3 years ago). Rather than pull your trailer up the mesa, I would camp at the bottom of the hill. 3 days is a lot at MV NP. Two max.

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Old 12-06-2021, 11:47 PM   #7
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Going to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP: I would recommend taking the long drive to the north rim. The views are to die for - looking straight down 3000 feet. Hmmm, perhaps a bad choice of words... Leave the trailer behind - the campground on that side is too small for most anything bigger than a tear-drop.
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Old 12-06-2021, 11:59 PM   #8
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Looking at your route, trip length, and time of year, I would consider skipping CO altogether and heading south from Moab towards Monticello/Blanding. You could cut over to Mesa Verde from there pretty easily to tack that on.

In late April/early May it’s still pretty much winter/mud season for much of the route from Ridgway to Durango (during an average snow year at least). Good for avoiding crowds but not as good for hiking or other recreation unless you’re packing skis or snowshoes. And yes, Red Mtn pass is one of the more (most?) challenging paved passes in the state even in the summer.
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Old 12-07-2021, 09:01 AM   #9
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Uncle Tim is correct, Ouray is nice tourist town and he is a hot springs aficionado.
We also like Ridgway very much a few miles North, with its State Park a few miles North of the town. The town has a very rich history in mining, railroad, cattle ranching and more recently an art center. Many activities at the state park, a nice lake and numerous camping sites. Our preferred camping is the campground below the dam the, Pa-Co-Chu-Puk campground. The west edge of the west loop overlooks the river and has great views in all directions, and many pull thru sites.
A lovely corner of our state.
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Old 12-07-2021, 09:09 AM   #10
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Moab is pretty chaotic - if the timing works out to try for reservations at Dead Horse Point State Park (reserveable 4 months ahead) it's a terrific peaceful place to stay away from the hustle and bustle of Moab. Nice hiking and spectacular scenery there and at the adjacent Canyonlands Island in the Sky section, and a very scenic 30 minute drive into Moab. The BLM Horsethief primitive campground is also nearby.

If you have never seen Arches NP then certainly you should do that while in Moab. But it is very crowded and you have to go in early in the morning - they often close the entrance by 9 and don't reopen it until around 3PM. Devil's Garden is a terrific hiking opportunity in your range, and there are plenty of other easily accessible features in the park, all worth seeing.

There are some other very nice hikes in your range in the Moab area. Check out Corona Arch, west of Moab on Hwy 279, Old Potash Road, and Fisher Towers east of Moab on Hwy 128 that runs along the Colorado River.

At Capitol Reef, Cohab Canyon and Chimney Rock are two really nice shorter hikes. And don't miss the pie and sourdough bread at the Gifford House museum and store adjacent to the campground.

Kodachrome Basin has lots of great short hikes. Angel's Palace, Panorama Point, and the slickrock viewpoints on the Shakespeare Arch trail were our favorites.
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Old 12-07-2021, 10:54 AM   #11
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Quote:
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What do you think?

Valley of Fire - 2 nights
Kodachrome - 2
Capitol Reef - 2
Moab - 4
Black Canyon Gunnison - 2
Durango - 2
Mesa Verde - 3
Bears Ears - 2
Monument Valley - 2
Page (including Antelope Canyon, Marble Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, Grand Staircase?) - 5
As has already been said, you're spending too much time traveling as having only a day or two at most parks. BTDT!

Many parks we camp are merely sleepingstops along the way. For example, were spending three nights a Palo Duro SP in TX, one night in Valley of Fires, NM (been there before), three nights in Oliver Lee, NM using one day to see White Sands NM, and two nights at City of Rocks (also been there before).

We now try to stay four nights minimum at any major park. For example, two nights at Capital Reef gives you one day to enjoy the park that we find needs at least four days in the park minimum, or at Moab we would easily spend three days in Arches NP. For us, we would add at least two days to most of you spots and at Moab easily 7-10.

I'd give my advice on what to do in the parks, but others here have already done that. If time does become a issue eliminate a couple and go back to those in the future.

Food for thought,

Perry
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Old 12-07-2021, 01:31 PM   #12
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The route you have planned appears to be on US 550 from Montrose to Durango. We did this once in a rainstorm at night pulling a pop-up. My memory from ~1995 can be faulty but I remember it being steep and an unpleasant tow. Others can comment on the road condition. I have avoided that route since! US 160 east of Pagosa Springs is also very steep (near Wolf Creek ski area) so I would not recommend that as an alternative route (i.e.,
Montrose to Poncha Springs to Great Sand Dunes NP to Durango). I have heard CO 145 is better route (others can comment please).
I really appreciate all the input from everyone, but this is input I need but didn't think to ask about. Do you think it will be easier to go through Telluride on 145, stay near Ouray, then do a day trip up to Gunnison?
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Old 12-07-2021, 01:33 PM   #13
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Just a great big thanks to everyone who has responded. This is exactly the kind of info I needed. We will be adding nights to most stops, and adding a few stops as well. Once I figure out the final route and durations I will post an update. Thanks again to all!
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Old 12-07-2021, 02:15 PM   #14
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I really appreciate all the input from everyone, but this is input I need but didn't think to ask about. Do you think it will be easier to go through Telluride on 145, stay near Ouray, then do a day trip up to Gunnison?
This is what I would do. Hwy 145, otherwise known as Lizardhead Pass, is still intense. This is South of Telluride. Not as much as Red Mountain. Both will take you to Durango but Hwy 145 is farther. I would absolutely stay around Ouray and try to get in Amphitheater campground. A little intense to get there, but really nice.

Going to Telluride from Ridgeway over Dallas Divide is pretty easy and worth it. Telluride must be seen to be believed. Note that Ouray, Telluride and Ridgeway are all going to be higher than Durango. Durango will be warmer, the others are prettier.

If I had to blow something off, it would be Gunnison. It's nice but not like the San Juans and southern Utah.
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Old 12-07-2021, 04:04 PM   #15
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This is what I would do. Hwy 145, otherwise known as Lizardhead Pass, is still intense. This is South of Telluride. Not as much as Red Mountain. Both will take you to Durango but Hwy 145 is farther. I would absolutely stay around Ouray and try to get in Amphitheater campground. A little intense to get there, but really nice.

Going to Telluride from Ridgeway over Dallas Divide is pretty easy and worth it. Telluride must be seen to be believed. Note that Ouray, Telluride and Ridgeway are all going to be higher than Durango. Durango will be warmer, the others are prettier.

If I had to blow something off, it would be Gunnison. It's nice but not like the San Juans and southern Utah.
Tim,

If you are going from Montrose to the 4-corners area, do you recommend going via Dallas Divide to CO145 west to CO141 to Dove Creek, or CO145 to Cortez? My one trip on US550 was enough. I now go up to Alamosa and continue north, or head on US550 to Farmington -> Shiprock -> Monticello. Advice appreciated.

Jill - I agree with Tim - adding Gunnison adds a lot of distance and time. I would head from Moab to Monticello. If you want to see MV NP, a long day trip (90 miles each way) could work from there along day trips to Needles district and National Bridges.
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Old 12-07-2021, 04:18 PM   #16
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If you do wind up heading south from Moab down to Cortez, the Needles District of Canyonlands NP is terrific - very isolated and pristine, nothing there but a primitive campground and hiking so not crowded. And while the reservations section of their campground is always booked, more than half of the campground is first come first served and quite a number of spots will fit a trailer. If you don't happen to get one of those campsites, there is a BLM campground, Hamburger Rock, just a mile outside the park. Also a private primitive campground, Needles Outpost, so there is always a place to camp if you don't get one of the park campsites.
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Old 12-07-2021, 04:25 PM   #17
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Tim,

If you are going from Montrose to the 4-corners area, do you recommend going via Dallas Divide to CO145 west to CO141 to Dove Creek, or CO145 to Cortez? My one trip on US550 was enough. I now go up to Alamosa and continue north, or head on US550 to Farmington -> Shiprock -> Monticello. Advice appreciated..
I love Hwy 145. It is pretty and full of peaks and aspen the whole way. Pick a warm, clear day for travel in the Spring. Let the sun heat up the road before travel and watch out for ridgelines coming down to the road. They hide shady and slippery spots. They can flip a car.

Hwy 141, will be lower in elevation and more circular. We don't take that road except to be on it. I would choose Hwy 141 if weather or cold temperatures were a concern. It will be warmer. And less people. Dallas Divide can be slippery if the Sun does not get to it.
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Old 12-15-2021, 01:20 PM   #18
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Jill, I have taken something like 42 wilderness trips (backpacking and float) on the Colorado plateau, and I would have to do some calculations as to trailer-supported day hikes. But quite a few. Since you live in Sacramento, this does not have to be "the trip of a lifetime." Rather, "the trip of the Spring of 2022. Don't try to see everything on one trip, as you will just get frustrated. I would echo the comments about skipping the Colorado mountains leg of the trip. Mud season there, as it is in most of the Rockies that time of year. You did not mention your interest in, or skill at hiking, but this is definitely hiking country. You might get some additional ideas if you check out the Canyon Country section of our Smugmug site: https://twohikers.smugmug.com/Canyon-Country which has just a FEW of our trips to canyon country.

A word or two about the places you might be staying. Westview RV outside of Cortez is very nice, and for Blanding, the Blue Mtn RV park is also nice. Good luck getting a reservation at Dead Horse Point. I tried again this year, and I simply cannot click fast enough to beat the Reservation Bots. The Fruita campground is great, and on a reservation system. However, the reservations become available 6 months ahead of time, and you need to be on-line at exactly 8 am MST 6 months to the day you want to start. We were successful this year, but could not get the site we wanted. Valley of Fire does not accept reservations. You need to be there about 8:30 am and lurk.

Have a wonderful trip, but don't be in a hurry.
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Old 12-15-2021, 02:24 PM   #19
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Thank you everyone for your input. This trip is still a work in progress but we have decided to remove the Colorado legs except for Mesa Verde and possibly Durango. I never knew mud season was a thing! We will save Colorado for a future trip. And we have extended our stays in most of the other places. We have the time, so why not

I appreciate the campground input too. It's good to have BLM etc as a backup but we generally prefer to have reservations so one less thing to worry about. For Valley of Fire there is a campground at Echo Bay that's relatively close (30 minutes) so we might try that or find an RV park. For Dead Horse Point I will get on a laptop or 2 and try my luck at open time - we will see what happens!
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Old 12-15-2021, 02:50 PM   #20
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If you aren't able to get a site in the park at Capitol Reef, there are a bunch of dispersed camping areas just west of the park. And for an RV park in Torrey, Thousand Lakes RV is a good one, we've been going there for 20 years. Their water/electric back-in sites on the north edge of the campground are the best, terrific views of the red rock cliffs.
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