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Recommended Stops Between Tetons and ABQ (Mainly in Colorado)


Jim Gell

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Cathy and I are looking for suggestions on what to see and do during 3 weeks we have between leaving Tetons National Park on September 8 and arriving in Albuquerque Sept 29 for the Balloon Fiesta. We plan to do Southern Utah's National Parks at a later date. We want to come east and see stuff in Colorado this trip.


We came up with this tentative list of places to stop on our way south:


Sinks Canyon State Park – Wyoming

Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado

Garden of Gods - Colorado – & visit Jack and Danielle

Great Sand Dunes National Park – Colorado

Los Alamos Manhattan Project Museum & Bandelier National Monument – Colorado

Pecos National Historic Park – New Mexico


You can help us by commenting on our tentative list and/or suggesting additional places to see, or specific campgrounds you would recommend.


Thanks!


Jim
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One of our favorite parks is in La Veta, CO. Small family park plenty of space for big rigs and with in walking distance to the quaint town. (great ice cream at the grocery store) When you leave you can go west over La Veta Pass drop in to Santa Fe then down to Albuquerque. Also if you are traveling east on 70 the state park in Rifle, CO is very nice. It is terraced up a hill over looking a reservoir. All the spaces are paved, pull through with a patio cover over a table at each spot. If you choose to stay there you can chose you site on line, and be sure to pick one so the door side of the trailer is facing the reservoir. The sunsets are specular. Also the café in Rifle is the on featured on 60 minutes where all the employees are packing. The sign as you enter says "we don't call 911", and the food is good to boot. Dick

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If after Great Sand Dunes you are taking US-285 South through Alamosa, you could detour East to Taos where there is a fair amount to see and do, or detour West to Chama where there is the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

 

When in the Pecos/Santa Fe area you could check out the Galleries on Canyon Road. Take a drive up Hyde Park Road (NM-475) to the Ski Basin. When the Aspens are turning, it is a great drive. Visit the Museums on the Hill. Drive the Turquoise Trail(NM-14) and visit the shops in Madrid where the movie "Wild Hogs" was made.

 

Tent Rocks National Monument is a liitle South of Santa Fe.

 

A liitle Northwest of Santa Fe is Abiquiu where Christ in the Desert Monastery and Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch are located.

 

Also in the general area are Bandelier National Monument and the Chaco Cultural Historical Park.

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We got one of the few large sites in Sinks Canyon. With your truck it might be iffy. Check out the campground map and you'll also see that there's a dead end at one end of the campground so don't get stuck going that way. It's very pretty though for a day trip if staying in Lander.

 

In Wyoming just south of Lander is South Pass City ghost town - worth a visit if staying in that area.

 

Flaming Gorge is great to see. We stayed at Fireman's campground (national forest) on the high rim overlooking the lake. Large sites and you'd fit. Then continue south on 191 into Vernal, Utah and check out Dinosaur Nat'l Monument. The park has a campground and just before coming to Vernal on 191 is Steinaker State Park. We stayed there, too.

 

Then take 40 east into Colorado. Hwy 139 was in bad shape when we last took it - no shoulders and the edge of the pavement was caving over the cliff. Check for updated conditions. or take 64 to Meeker to Rifle. Rifle Gap State Park is nice with large sites. From there you'll have many wonderful options.

 

You could backtrack a little on I-70 west to Grand Junction and Colorado Nat'l Monument and a nice state park on the river at Fruita. Continue on Hwy 50 south to Montrose and Black Canyon Nat'l Park. Then more choices: south on 550 to Ouray and tour Silverton which is a neat old mining town - a day trip if you don't want to take the RV on 550 south of Ouray - it's steep but many RVers do it, including us. It's beautiful country. 550 to Ouray is no problem. You could also do a day trip to Telluride and take the chairlift for a little siteseeing or a hike.

 

If you want to do Mesa Verde Nat'l Park (do a ranger tour of the dwellings for the best experience), take 145 south past Telluride - a much easier drive rather than 550 into Durango.

 

From Mesa Verde head east on 160 to Durango to explore and then on to Pagosa Springs (wonderful clean concrete pools of varying temps overlooking the river). We spend all morning there going from pool to pool. Take a cooler for food and drinks or they sell some there.

 

Then from Pagosa take 84 south into New Mexico - the painter Georgia O'Keefe digs - beautiful drive. Abiquiu Lake Corp of Engineers campground is nice. Continue to Santa Fe area - Santa Fe Skies RV is big rig friendly for exploring this wonderful town or go a little further to Cochiti Lake Corp of Engineers (Tent Rocks Nat'l Monument) where you can make a day trip to Santa Fe. Ask at Cochiti where to leave your truck and catch the public bus in Santa Fe - it's near the great Farmer's Market - and use the easy bus service to get into the heart of Santa Fe. It'll be Hatch chili harvest time and the roasting on the street corners is an awesome aroma. Restaurants will feature them. They're not hot, hot - just right. In this area is Los Alamos/Bandelier Nat'l Park another day trip, as is Taos. A pretty circle drive from Los Alamos is to Jemez Springs around to I-25 again. Hang out in this area until the great Balloon Fiesta. Have fun!!

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While you are in Colorado Springs you could also consider driving or taking the cog railway to the top of Pikes Peak. There is also Cave of the WInds, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, and the Air Force Academy. Lot's to do here.

 

While you are at Garden of the Gods don't overlook the Trading Post which is actually in the park, unlike the Visitor Center which is just outside the entrance.

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Near Colorado Springs we used Mountaindale Cabins & RV Resort nice large sites with plenty of room for out truck and Smart car, a little ride to Co Springs but very nice place and people. We did the Cog railway and it was a great trip.

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Right before you get to ABQ stop at the Cochiti Lake COE Campground. We usually have people stay here and drive the 45 minutes to Balloon Fest. I always

tell campers to leave early, 5:30 and it will beat sitting in traffic watching the balloons lift off. There are lots of good burrito's at the field for

breakfast.

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Colorado has so much to offer and so much to see, with only 3 weeks you'll just hit some of the highlights and your selections depend on your personal preferences. Coming to Colorado and not spending most of your time in the high country seems a waste to me; but then I tend to avoid anything that's on the must see list for tourists.

Especially in mid to late Sept the high country of western & central Co puts on an impressive color show when the aspens turn to their fall colors. From Wy I would come down into western and/or central Colorado and visit some high country towns like Leadville, Buena Vista, Lake City, Pagosa Springs, Durango, Silverton, Ouray, etc; then south through Chama NM on your way to ABQ.

Just an alternate idea filled with views like this every Sept:

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DSC_0060.JPG

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...Colorado has so much to offer and so much to see, with only 3 weeks you'll just hit some of the highlights and your selections depend on your personal preferences....

In my experience, one could say the same about just about any state other than Delaware and Rhode Island which may be smaller than some counties in other states. We have spent several months in a number of states and still not seen everything there is to see while some others claim that after X years they have see everything. After 50 years of RVing, I still have not seen everything and find something of interest just about everywhere we go. One has to make choices based on interest, time available, weather, other commitments and other factors.

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We visited Colorado Springs and ended up staying 5 months... LOVE COLORADO! We stayed mostly at the KOA in Fountain, Colorado just outside Colorado Springs wanted to stay at the Cheyenne Mountain State Park also but ended up in Woodland Park...I love the trees!

 

We drove into Cheyenne Mountain State park and checked out the RV sites. They have 51 full service sites and plenty will fit our big rigs... we measured and there is plenty of areas to turn your rig around fairly easy.

 

While in the area we visited the Royal Gorge Bridge... beautiful! Also visited the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo... if you go to the zoo your ticket also includes the Will Rogers Shrine further up the mountain (we missed that).

 

You mentioned "The Garden Of The Gods"... Don't just go, VISIT! Drive through... then drive through stop at different points... then drive through again! We drove through the Garden of The Gods EVERY chance we had while in the area! We would run an errand and say "You want to take a short cut through The Garden Of The Gods?"... which of course was NOT a short cut! It is amazing how different it looks at different times of the day!

 

Oh, yeah drove to the Summit of Pikes Peak in the Smart... ask Danielle about that one!!

 

Safe Travels,

Debbie

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Love your photos Jim2! I went Elk hunting, self guided on foot with black powder, in September a couple times when I was much younger. First trip took me north of Steamboat Springs and second a little north east of Vail in an area called the Gore-Eagles Nest Wilderness, if I remember right. It was a spectacular time to backpack into the wild. It was very exciting having bulls return my bugles, but the real highlight of both trips was being out in the beauty your photos show so well.

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...Right before you get to ABQ stop at the Cochiti Lake COE Campground. We usually have people stay here and drive the 45 minutes to Balloon Fest. I always tell campers to leave early, 5:30 and it will beat sitting in traffic watching the balloons lift off...

Cochiti Lake has several loops. the newer one with the larger paved sites is becoming very popular during the balloon festival. About 25 miles closer to the Festival grounds is San Felipe Casino. Their RV park is basically a gravel lot, but then so is the Festival grounds. They also allow free dry camping. It is not far off I-25 unlike Cochiti which I believe is about 12 miles from the interstate.

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If you don't have reservations at the Balloon Fiesta grounds and are staying elsewhere be sure to keep checking the Fiesta's web site for traffic information. During takeoffs some roads are closed around the park and it's very hectic to get in. If you can swing a dry camping spot on the Fiesta grounds you'll save a lot of time and headache. Are you an Escapee Boomer BOF? They put together a group every year and they also have 'ins' for crewing on a balloon and possibly a free ride. I don't know if they have any openings left or not. Look in the Escapee magazine for the Boomer BOF contact.

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Are you an Escapee Boomer BOF? They put together a group every year and they also have 'ins' for crewing on a balloon and possibly a free ride. I don't know if they have any openings left or not. Look in the Escapee magazine for the Boomer BOF contact.

 

We have a reservation to stay on site with the Escapee Boomers, and volunteered to crew. We would like to spend the night before our arrival close enough to arrive early though.

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