Colorado National Parks - family vacation

RICMIC

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Feb 21, 2012
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Two Harbors, Minnesota
I'm an outback, off the grid kind of guy myself, but when traveling with kids remember that it is their vacation also (with you footing the bill.)
We live in Minnesota, but my wife is from eastern Washington, so family trips west have been a regular thing for us. Being age specific, and considering their interests, we modified our excursions thru the years. When my oldest son was 9 or so we made a surprise trip to the Dinosaur National Monument in NE CO, and that was the best part of the trip for him. Later, when we were traveling with my teenage granddaughters, we did the whitewater and horseback trips in WY. I don't think we missed a single NP over the years, but on the trip a few years ago their favorite was a gondola ride to the "Adventure Park" above Glenwood Springs.
 

taskswap

Very Active Member
Jul 9, 2018
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Colorado
Wow! This thread really got off track and into politics. All the op wanted was some information for a Colorado vacation.
You're 100% right. I apologize for getting off track.

If you happen to be "camping" while traveling I can highly recommend Garden of the Gods RV Park in Colo Springs. We go there every year. As a campground it's kind of average, but they have a small arcade for the kids and a cell booster, plus room for all sizes of rig, so it's a decent place to hang your hat. But it's also RIGHT down the hill from Garden of the Gods. That South entrance is lesser-used, sort of on the back half of the loop, so it's an easy way to do an end run around traffic and maybe snag a parking spot. Parking is very limited there.

Another family favorite is Great Sand Dunes NP. Best time of the year to go IMO is May/June before the sand gets too hot to walk on (do not go barefoot there in July!) There's running water you can wade through on the way from the parking lot to the dunes and the kids have a ton of fun playing there.

A lesser-known attraction in that area is Colorado Gators Reptile Park. This is a private place just outside GSD that has a really cool assortment of alligators, crocs, caiman, and other smaller reptiles. You can feed them, get to hold a baby one, and all kinds of stuff like that. The place is heated with geothermal and even shaped like a dragon if you look at Google Maps! It's a cool 2-hour stop on the way in or out of the dunes.

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If you are not from the area and want to go to the Dunes, a lot of routes will take you down I-25 and over 160. That's a good way to go for speed, but a much prettier route is down 285. Colorado has like 7 different micro-climates between dense evergreen, high plains, montaine, and so on. 285 goes through like 5 of the 7. About every 20-30 mins you see totally different terrain and views. Lots of photo ops, and if you need an extra thing to do on a trip, there are some famous towns like Leadville that are easy side trips off that...
 

buckbull

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Jun 20, 2011
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Thanks for getting the thread back on track. I should have specified that my kids will be 18 and 17. We want to make this trip special for my son who has been accepted into the university of illinois school of engineering. He really worked hard in high school and its paid off by getting into one of the nation's top engineering schools. Couldn't be more proud and happy for him. We lost our oldest son a couple years ago and nothing has been easy for any of us. Would have been easy for him to fall behind in school after losing his brother.
 

buckbull

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Went up to RMNP today, taking the old falls river road up. I walked up to the peak and probably glassed up 200 elk in 4 different herds. We pulled off for some pictures about a half mile from the alpine center and we turned around and saw 5 bulls about 40 yards up the hill. Never could see them from a car and everyone just kept driving by.
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dan maule

Very Active Member
Jan 3, 2015
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Upper Michigan
Went up to RMNP today, taking the old falls river road up. I walked up to the peak and probably glassed up 200 elk in 4 different herds. We pulled off for some pictures about a half mile from the alpine center and we turned around and saw 5 bulls about 40 yards up the hill. Never could see them from a car and everyone just kept driving by.
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Gorgeous pictures!
 

buckbull

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Jun 20, 2011
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Durango train ride was excellent but a little long at 7 hours. Spotted a nice muley in mesa verde. Hit the great sand dunes today. Smoke is really bad here in alamosa.

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buckbull

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Nice orange rocks thanks to a mine discharge a few years ago

You're seeing some fantastic country.
I was wondering why that stretch of river was that color. I assumed it had alot of iron in it and was rust. Thanks for the info.
 
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JimP

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Mar 28, 2016
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Gypsum, Co
It was at a EPA super fund clean up site. From what I remember a contractor pulled a plug out of the mine portal and the rest was history. The Animus ran orange for a number of days and it then flowed into the San Juan and eventually into Lake Powell. I'm not sure if all of the law suits have been settled yet.
 

Colorado Cowboy

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Jun 8, 2011
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Dolores, Colorado
damn...I wish you would have said a little more of your plans. You were right at my place when you visited Mesa Verde. Could have taken you to lunch. You are seeing some of the greatest parts of Colorado for sure. A great trip!
 
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buckbull

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Jun 20, 2011
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damn...I wish you would have said a little more of your plans. You were right at my place when you visited Mesa Verde. Could have taken you to lunch. You are seeing some of the greatest parts of Colorado for sure. A great trip!
Thanks for the kind offer. We did the train and the mesa verde all in one day so we were burning the candle from both ends. We didnt get back from the train until after 6pm. The trip has been great but doing 4 national parks and 2 monuments in 10 days has us really running.