Colorado vacation plan: July 4th

This is a custom summer vacation plan contest entry geared for a family of four which include parents and two teenagers. This vacation plan will appeal to people who are reasonably fit and appreciate the beautiful outdoors. The destination is southwest Colorado with its evergreen-clad fourteeners, the treasures of our national parks, and small cities and towns that time seemingly forgot. This area is rife with gorgeous sights and it’s one of the most beautiful spots in the state. The length of stay is 10 days. All pricing is in U.S. Dollars. This trip is geared to take advantage of the July 4th holiday.

Day 1:

Fly into Colorado Springs and pick up a rental SUV at Avis ($698.00).

Drive 1 – hours to Canon City and stay at the luxurious and rustic Big Horn Mountaintop Lodge ($300.00 plus tax) which is just a stroll from the main gates of the 1,053-foot-deep Royal Gorge which was carved by the Arkansas River more than 3 million years ago. This is the site of the world’s highest suspension bridge. Ride the astonishing aerial tram (2,200 feet long and 1,178 feet above the canyon floor) and enjoy the outdoor musical entertainment. Dine on steaks, seafood or pasta at a locals-favorite, Merlino’s Belvedere (1330 Elm Avenue). Finish your evening back at the lodge and enjoy the unparalleled views stretching across this natural wonder.

Day 2:

Start out your day in the mid-morning. Today is the long, but scenic drive day southwest into Durango (about 5 hours). As you drive southwest, continue through Salida, over Monarch Pass (11,312 foot elevation) through Gunnison to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison with a short detour to the National Monument to view the Canyon. Continue south and experience the famous Million Dollar Highway and continue on and arrive in Durango in time for a late lunch or an early dinner. Try a place that is a local favorite called Ken & Sue’s Place (937 Main Ave). Wonderful contemporary cusine with a touch of an Asian accent.

Check into the historic and beautiful Strater Hotel (699 Main Avenue) ($169.00 for a room with two full beds) where the likes of Butch Cassidy, Louis L’Amour, John Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe have stayed and been entertained.

Finish your evening close to home base listening to the honky-tonk and ragtime entertainers and period-dressed waitresses at the Diamond Belle Saloon in the Strater Hotel. The Diamond Belle is truly an institution and will transport you back to the days of the turn of the 19th century.

Day 3:

Yesterday was a traveling day and today will be a day of relaxation. Sleep in and then mosey on out to explore downtown Durango. Have a juicy burger for lunch at Lady Falconburgh’s Barley Exchange and while you’re there, pick a beer out of more than 100 beers on the menu and 20 on tap!

After lunch, drive over to the Trimble Hot Springs. The main attractions there are the Olympic-sized outdoor pool and a smaller outdoor pool with massage jets and two private tubs. The source water, heated far beneath the LaPlata Mountains, emerges through a fault at Trimble at a piping hot 119 degrees before being mixed to a more tolerable temperature. The area is beautifully landscaped with outdoor grills and a volleyball court. Enjoy a therapeutic massage (30 minutes for $45.00 or 60 minutes for $67.00) or perhaps an herbal oil wrap that includes a foot massage ($72.00). These services include a complimentary private outdoor soak in the therapeutic waters.

Take your relaxed and rubbery body back to your hotel for a nap before dinner. Wake up refreshed and relaxed and enjoy dinner at The Red Snapper Restaurant (144 E. 9th Street). Be lulled by the beauty of their many saltwater aquariums and the delicious seafood and steaks.

Day 4:

Today is the 4th of July! Catch a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad. On Independence Day they have a special train called the Independence Day Express which will allow its riders to enjoy the holiday festivities in Silverton, a well preserved mining town, which include parades and fireworks that illuminate the glorious peaks surrounding the town (Adults $89.00, Children $49.00). Lunch at the Handlebar Restaurant (117 13th Street) which is as much a museum as an eatery with its mining artifacts and mounted animals – don’t miss the baby-back ribs! Buy a bottle of the sauce on your way out. To experience the unique beauty and history of the San Juan Mountain Range, nothing beats a trip along these tracks on a steam locomotive. This is an all day event.

Day 5:

Take a half-day white water rafting trip on the Animas River. Mountain Waters Rafting Outfitters (their booth is in the Albertson’s parking lot in downtown Durango; $176.00 for 4 people) provides river trips for all levels of experience and thrill. If you’re ready for high adventure, take the Upper Animas Trip which is a Class V! The Lower Animas has some good rapids, but is a bit more sedate. It winds its way 20 miles south through the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.

In the evening, try an old-fashioned chuck wagon dinner and show with the Bar-D (www.bardchuckwagon.com on County Road 250); corny but fun! The music is darned good and the frontier-style food isn’t bad! An evening of family fun and a few laughs.

Day 6:

Today we experience the dramatic Mesa Verde National Park with its twisting canyons, panoramic views and outstanding archaeological remains. Get an early start to be able to absorb everything this spectacular area has to offer. It is about a one hour drive from Durango and the entrance fee is $10.00 per car. Start at the visitors’ center for information, maps, tickets for tours and Indian exhibits. This is an all day event.

Day 7:

Today we see Colorado at its rugged best – on horseback! The Rapp Corral (47 Electra Lake Road) has a custom-designed itinerary and a personal and historical perspective for their trips into the San Juan National Forest. Consider the Hermosa Cliffs excursion into the elevated peaks, forests, and breathtaking views of Electra Lake and the LaPlata cliffs. This ride climbs 1,000 feet in elevation and is nothing short of spectacular. This is a 5 hour trip during which you stop for a picnic lunch ($120.00 per person).

In the evening, go to the Durango Pro Rodeo and see how real horseback riders can handle a mount! All performances start at 7:30 p.m. ($12.00 at the gate, $10.00 in advance) at the LaPlata County Fairgrounds (25th Street and Main). Full Western BBQ served at the concessions.

Day 8:

Check out of the Strater Hotel in the morning and head to Ouray (about a 1.5 hour drive). Ouray is nestled in a narrow, steep-walled valley, surrounded by 14,000 foot peaks, and is appropriately referred to as the Switzerland of America. Check into the China Clipper Inn (525 2nd Street; $180.00 per night for a suite accommodation for 4). The China Clipper Inn has magnificent views of the San Juan Mountains, beautiful gardens and is tastefully decorated.

That afternoon, enjoy the awesome alpine landscape in the back of a four-wheel-drive jeep. Switzerland of America Tours (226 7th Avenue; $60.00 per person) has experienced guides and will take you on a personalized high adventure tour to see ghost towns, unimagined scenic vistas, wild flowers and white-knuckled passes cut into cliffs with sheer drops. For the more adventurous, take the keys yourself to one of their vehicles and head into the high country. There are over 500 miles of 4 wheel drive trails in the area. Free mapping service is provided.

Head back into town and dine at the Buen Tiempo (206 7th Avenue) for delicious Mexican fare accompanied by their wonderful Margaritas.

Day 9:

Get up early today and hit the hiking trails. You can find both short and long trails to suit your abilities. A good map of hiking trails in the Ouray area can be picked up at the visitors’ center next to the Ouray Hot Springs Pool.

Leave the Ouray area in the early afternoon for the trip back to Colorado Springs (about 5 hours). Check into the Marriott Residential Inn in Colorado Springs (3880 N. Academy Blvd.; $139.00 for a studio suite for 4 people). Enjoy dinner in Colorado Springs, perhaps at The Briarhurst Manor if you want to end your trip on a luxurious high point (404 Manitou Avenue) or maybe at El Tesoro, whose building served as a brothel at the turn of the century (10 N. Sierra Madre Street) with excellent and authentic Native American cuisine.

Day 10:

Wake up and pack for home. The Colorado Springs Airport is just a short 15 minute drive away.

Submitted by Judy Potrzeba

Filed Under: 2006 Summer vacation plan writing contest entries

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Comments (21)

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  1. Darlene Parratore says:

    I read and enjoyed every bit of this adventure, I realize it’s an essay, but the way it’s related makes it more of an adventure. I know that Colorado is a magnificent state and reading this essay makes me want to revisit and take part in the activites described here.

    The essay is fully detailed and leaves nothing to chance, nor do u have to guess at prices, locations, etc.

    It’s very thoughrouly inclusive and if I was planning a trip to Colorado, I’d surely take these suggestions to heart and book my trip closely to the suggestions given in this essay.

  2. VERONICA says:

    Wow how wonderful the essay was. I have always wanted to visit Colorado, now more than ever. I love the way everything was planned out – day by day and the description were done very well. I really loved the write up, I am going to keep this copy for when I do go to Colorado, my trip will be easier following this. Thanks

  3. VERONICA says:

    Wow how wonderful the essay was. I have always wanted to visit Colorado, now more than ever. I love the way everything was planned out – day by day and the description were done very well. I really loved the write up, I am going to keep this copy for when I do go to Colorado, my trip will be easier following this. Thanks

  4. VERONICA says:

    Wow how wonderful the essay was. I have always wanted to visit Colorado, now more than ever. I love the way everything was planned out – day by day and the description were done very well. I really loved the write up, I am going to keep this copy for when I do go to Colorado, my trip will be easier following this. Thanks

  5. VERONICA says:

    Wow how wonderful the essay was. I have always wanted to visit Colorado, now more than ever. I love the way everything was planned out – day by day and the description were done very well. I really loved the write up, I am going to keep this copy for when I do go to Colorado, my trip will be easier following this. Thanks

  6. VERONICA says:

    Wow how wonderful the essay was. I have always wanted to visit Colorado, now more than ever. I love the way everything was planned out – day by day and the description were done very well. I really loved the write up, I am going to keep this copy for when I do go to Colorado, my trip will be easier following this. Thanks

  7. Lana Lynn says:

    Terrific Essay! I know where my family and I are going on our next vacation. Thanks for the great info and wonderful description

  8. Don says:

    Great trip, but why the SUV with the itinerary you planned? I would not upgrade and use the money saved (including gas) to get a good pair of hiking boots for you and the kids. Go for the soak at the hot springs after your hike up to treeline.

  9. Sherie Martel says:

    This essay was amazing! I never thought of taking my family to Colorado for a vacation, until now! The way you planned out this vacation is something I could never image. So all I want to do is pack the old bags and head to this amazing place. I think this would be a vacation that my family would never forget. Thanks!

  10. Phyllis Simon says:

    This essay is incredible and very descriptive. The itinerary is fantastic and very detailed. I could smell the fresh air, feel the relaxing massage and taste the mouth watering meals. This makes everyone want to plan a trip to Colorado, I know I do. Thanks!

  11. L. Hughes says:

    Colorado might be the most beautiful state in the United States. Thanks for doing it justice with this essay.

  12. Judy Potrzeba says:

    Hi L. Hughes,

    I agree with you about the beauty of Colorado–I’m always impressed with it’s majesty being a flatlander and all….

  13. Carmen Bertolino says:

    Your very descriptive and tantalizing essay has solved my vacation plan dilemma. I was planning a trip to either see the Pyramids in Egypt or Mexico, but I’m staying in the good ol’ USA and thanks to you I’m headed for Colorado!!! A very thankful Bravo to you!!!

  14. Val Potter says:

    Your descriptions of each event are nicely written. I thoroughly enjoyed the overall plans you’ve decided on! My favorite one is the four-wheel-drive jeep; I wouldn’t have ever thought about that. Normally, I would plan on doing only some hiking trails, but the jeep tour is great for families with kids too! Great job! Next summer is going to be a Colorado trip with my family-I guarantee it!!

  15. Lauren LaVoie says:

    I just wanted to say that your Colorado Vacation Plan is fantastic!! You’ve really thought it through. For my 25 anniversary I was trying to decide what state my husband and I should go to; we were thinking Arizona, Colorado, or Wyoming. After reading your day to day plan I’ve already decided! Thanks for being such a help. I didn’t realize there was so much to do in Colorado. You won my vote!

  16. Kristin Willingham says:

    What a phenomenal idea to horseback ride and receive a beautiful landscape of Colorado. I’m amazed at the price of that event…only $120 per person for five hours!? That’s wonderful!! My boyfriend loves to ride horses, but I’ve never done it before. Now I can actually join an activity my boyfriend likes for vacation. Great plans!

  17. Cindy Choe says:

    What a beautiful trip that is going to be! We need to seriously meet so you can help me plan my family vacation trips!! I always have such a difficult time with vacation ideas, but this time I’ll just copy your plans! Ha! Thank you for your intelligence!!!

  18. Valerie Pheftski says:

    You came up with these plans all by yourself? Wow, you deserve an award for this! Can you plan my trips? You even added relaxation times during the trip, fantastic idea! I really enjoyed reading this Colorado Vacation Plan. My wife and I will definitely visit Colorado sometime just because the white water rafting plan seems like an exhilarating experience.

  19. Angela Sensabaugh says:

    I was just at CO for business. I would go back and see the state in different eyes. The trip sound wonderful and I would do this with my family in a beat.

  20. Elaine Hohs says:

    I love the trip you planned! Please keep writing so I will no longer have to plan any other trips!

  21. marshall says:

    My wife and I have done the Colorado,Utah,Arazona,New Mexico trip many times and each time is different and more enjoyable..We are now planning a trip there for june 27 thru july 11.We picked those dates because we are flexable and we got the cheapest flight.Strange thing is that even after clearing cookies and doing other tricks,we kept comeing back to a flight of $ 302.00 per but it kept going away.We finally booked it but same flight ,same airline came out to bottom line $352.00 sometimes and $342.00 others both starting at $302.00..We booked the $342.00….Also the strangest thing of all,a rental car at the airport from the same company,same type car is $750.00 at airport and $350.00 if we pick it up away from airport.No one wants to tell us how far from airport etc etc but I can have a limo pick me up and tale me back and still save money…Crazy..

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