Sometimes you just need to grab a girlfriend, pack your gear and hit the road…consider driving 10 hrs a day through the breathtaking and ever changing Colorado landscape as an added bonus…
Join me on a journey South West in CO, almost all the way to UT and NM. I usually make my blog posts too verbose, so this time it is all about pictures, roads, and directions.📸🚗🏞🌎
Going west from Denver on I70 you’ll be greated by the Rocky Mountains as you exit town. There are 2 scenic overlooks on your right that you may want to stop at. If you are lucky, you will see a whole wild buffalo herd roaming the valley grazing peacefully.
Our usual first stop on the road to stretch the legs and grab coffee is Idaho Springs, or as it is widely known – “Where the Gold Rush started”. Check the Frothy Cup Coffee Shop and don’t forget to taste their local fresh baked goods! Another place I love in that little town is The Soap Shop. Beware the (soap) cake slices and cupcakes are not edible and may make your mouth froth 👅.
After Idaho Springs comes Silver Plume, an old mining town, which looks completely deserted/run down at first, but if you go on the right night you can taste spectacular concoctions at the Apothecary. Pair cocktails with 4th of July fireworks over the Rockies and you are all set 😉.
Driving further west through Glenwood Canyon left me breathless. I had not seen such stunning landscape before and I didn’t see anything similar for another 1000 miles. The vertical canyon walls full of vegatation reach towards the sky and the Colorado River flows underneath the road with all its power. Yes, it is the same river that carved the Grand Canyon and we followed its path for a few hundred miles west.
While going through the canyon, keep an eye out for the Hanging Lake sign and leave some time to stop by and do the walk around the lake if the full hike seems too long or difficult. The exit is on the east side of I70. (We missed it and drooled over Google pictures of Hanging Lake for the rest of the trip). Another must in Glenwood Springs are the hot springs 😆. #obviously Not “clothing optional”, I’m sorry, so put on a swimsuit over your birthday suit.😉
We stopped for lunch in Gypsum, name sounded cool, apparently comes from gypsum sands and not from gypsies. 🤔 Town was such disappointment… (as was the food 😤)
Took a left off I70 right before Grand Junction and headed south for another 2 hours until we hit Ridgway (“Because there is no “e” in amazing either!”). How not to love ’em CO town slogans 😆. That drive is entirely through farm land or as my friend named it “Land of the Brisket”.
I say: “Holy Cow!”, Janna says “Holy Brisket”
From Ridgway we went to Ouray to check out Orvis Hot Springs at sunset. Our first taste of “clothing optional” (read: nude) hot springs in CO was absolutely amazing! The amenities are simple but clean and comfortable and the landscape is beautiful. The people were super friendly and not intrusive by any means. We met the cutest little naked old lady that was soaking with her husband after a hike and they told us about the art they make and urged us to check Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (which was apparently next door) as well as the village of Buena Vista on our drive back to Denver.
We made it to Telluride after dark and bee lined straight for the bar. I thought that driving that winding mountain road into the box canyon in pitch black was the scariest thing ever… (until I experienced the 16 degree downwards incline on the road to the bottom of Black Canyon in broad daylight…I may have not made it all the way down due to severe fear and nausea). Thank my girlfriend for the picture of the river that runs through it 😊.
On the way back to Denver we decided to take the scenic route (read: much longer) through the mountains as parts of that road are closed in winter and we HAD to explore while Mother Nature was giving us the chance.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was our first stop. Decision was made like this: “Look National Park on our left. I’ve never heard of this one before. We should stop and take a look.” Most decisions were made that way 😉. #muststop #curiositywillkillme
Pictures and words don’t do it justice. It is such raw beauty that I expected a Native American to pop up on a horse at the ridge. (And he totally belonged there…I was the intruder)
Black Canyon was formed by erosion from the river that runs through it. (Before it was dammed, quite the same story as the Grand Canyon.) Grand Canyon is times older than Black Canyon and the rock its made of is more succeptible to erosion, hence it is wider and bigger.
Driving east from Black Canyon we stumbled upon Blue Mesa Reservoir. Well, there was water on our left, then on our right, then under us, then in front of us, basically all around us for 80 miles. It’s spectacular and quite arid in Fall but I imagine how beautiful it must be in Spring with all the green bushes and wildflowers.
The afternoon had us craving coffee so we stopped in Gunnison – “Make way for horses”. It is the Wild Wild West there, dude ranches et all. (You don’t know what’s a “dude ranch”? Google it! Or I promise to write about it if I go stay at one.) #dudette Gunnison has a college, regional airport that services Crested Butte, main street that is also the highway and apparently horses that wait for green light to cross it…BUT the town lacks good coffee!
Monarch Pass sneaks up on you after Gunnison (or should I say “snakes up” on you as the wide open road becomes a winding path up into the moutains). In case you didn’t know, in addition to a “hot springs problem”, I have a fascination with mountain passes. Slow down at the top not to miss the rest stop and enjoy stepping over the Continental Divide. Or if you are a dude, pee on each side of the sign, it will drain in a different ocean…(Yeah, that’s what guys do apparently…among other stupidities.)
Monarch also looks like a really cool local mountain to ski/snowboard. They say the snow at the pass is spectacular, I believe them! Coming down from Monarch Pass you are heading left towards Buena Vista. Do NOT pee at the Poncho Whatever gas station… #lessonlearned #whennaturecalls
Coloradians call Buena Vista “the whitewater capital” of the state and indeed the opportunities for water sports and outdoor activities are plentiful. The town has a really cool vibe about it, great food, local arts and crafts, and very cute picture opps. Will definitely be back! The 14,000 footer mountains are breathtaking.
Leaving Buena Vista, Mother Nature gave us a proper send off with the most incredible sunset of the trip! #ivegotasunsetobsession (Basically I have a lot of problems 😆)
We stopped for dinner at a brewery in Leadville. It is home to an ultra trail marathon (I believe it’s a 50 miler) and ultra mountain biking race (100 miles???) but I’ll write more about Leadville in Winter when I return to watch the ski jorring event in March (skiing + horse back riding down Main Street). #onlyincolorado
After dinner and gasing up, we hopped back on I70 at Copper Mountain and we were in Denver 2 hrs later.