Colorado always tops the list of our favorite places. If you love being in nature, Colorado is your place. Each time you go there, you will find something different. As I always say – “Colorado never disappoints”.
Earlier we visited RMNP (Rocky Mountain National Park), which was actually our first road trip in USA. This time we planned to visit Colorado again, but for different places. Do you know, Colorado offers 4 national parks, each one unique in its own way. Our plan was to cover 2 more national parks this time along with some famous attractions in Colorado Springs.
We planned our 5-day road trip from Omaha, Nebraska to Colorado, covering Denver, Gunnison, Montrose and Colorado Springs. I really love road trips because of my passion for driving and to be able to have full control over the trip unlike Air travel (usual delays and restrictions).
We left for Colorado at around 6 AM with almost everything loaded in the car (blankets, food, toaster, camping stuff, books etc). It’s an 8 hours drive from Omaha to Denver, which was our first stop. We took enough halts at gas stations, Starbucks and Taco-Bells and reached Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham ,Denver at around 6 PM. Hotel was just average, not what we expected, but our plan was to stay there for just one night, so it was manageable. Location of hotel was good, very close to Denver airport and there were many restaurants near by. We had dinner and went to bed. Next day we were to leave for Gunnison.
We woke up early and after having complimentary-breakfast, left for first attraction of our trip – Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park. National park was around 5 hour drive from the hotel. We started at around 7 AM, our target was to reach there as early as possible, since Canyon is famous for its darkness and lesser amount of sun-light available throughout the day. Drive was just spectacular with amazing scenic views of lakes and snow covered mountains. We reached national park at around 12:30 PM which was actually late, but we tried our best 🙂 . At the entrance we purchased the entry pass which is 25$ per vehicle for 7 days. Make sure to bring cash, as credit/debit card machines often don’t work due to poor signals. We had to wait for few minutes for the card transaction to complete.
We never visited any Canyon before, this was just mesmerizing. There were various view-points along with hikes, from where canyon can be seen. Park offers hiking, fishing, rock-climbing and camping, some of which require reservations and permits. We visited almost all points and did hiking as well. Park was not that crowded so that was a relief. After sun-set we headed to our hotel in Montrose.
From Gunnison national park, our hotel Stay Wise Inn ,Montrose was just 15 mins away. We reached at the property at around 6:30, it was a beautiful place and at a wonderful location with mountains surrounding it. We wished we could have stayed here bit longer. We had dinner in a nearby Nepali restaurant and food was just awesome. We went to bed early with happy faces and with the excitement of the trip.
We left for Great Sand Dunes National Park in the morning, it was a 4 hour drive. We reached the park at noon. There was a long queue of vehicles at the entrance, we had to wait around 30-40 mins, just to reach at the entrance. Needless to mention, parking was a big problem. To our luck, somehow we managed to get a parking spot. We had never seen or imagined such Nature’s wonder, Sand Dunes of Colorado are the tallest in North America. To our surprise, there was a creek just before the dunes with freezing water, where people were enjoying.
Hiking on dunes needs real strength, due to the elevation and strong winds, it was a mistake to wear shorts. Among the activities are snowboarding, hiking, camping, horseback riding and seasonal hunting. We just hiked, took pictures and left for our next destination. Just before the entrance, there is a nice restaurant, where we had some food before leaving for Colorado Springs.
Our stay was at Quality Inn & Suites, Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs which was nearly 3 hours drive from Great Sand Dunes. We left the park at around 6 PM and checked-in hotel at nearly 9 PM.
Quality inn was very close to Garden of the Gods , prime attraction of our trip and we had still 2 days left in the trip, so we chose to cover it at the end. We inquired at the reception about nearby popular places and got some good advice. We planned to visit Pikes Peak, highest summit of southern front range of Rocky Mountains. It was not too far from our hotel, just 1 hour drive. We had a nice complimentary breakfast and left for the place. There was a small queue of vehicles at the entrance of the destination, ticket was 15$ per adult. If you are in Colorado Springs, this attraction is highly recommended. Driving till top was not easy, as it has elevation of 14,115 feet with deep and steep valleys.
They also provide tourist-bus option for those who don’t want to drive. There is a checkpoint just before the top, from where you must take shuttles, as it’s too risky to drive. Whole drive was scenic with visitor centers in between, once we reached at the checkpoint, we parked our car and waited for shuttle. Make sure to bring your winter essentials, as it was too cold out there, people were ice-skating, yes there was snow in May. Thankfully we had loaded our car with jackets, gloves and woolen hats. At the top, it was just beautiful, whole city can be viewed from there and clouds were almost touchable.
There was a restaurant and visitor center which was a savior in that cold, it’s unbelievable they were selling hot coffee, donuts, french-fries and many other fresh stuff. After spending quality time there, we returned to our car through shuttle and drove to our next destination.
Seven Falls was near our Hotel so we drove back for an hour to reach there. It’s the only natural waterfall of Colorado to be listed in National Geographic’s list of international waterfalls. It’s privately owned by Broadmoor and opened to public since 1880. There is no parking space available there, so they provide shuttles from Norris Penrose Event Center. We parked at the Norris center and waited for next available shuttle. Once we reached the park, there was a long queue for tickets, we waited for almost 1.5 hours there. Waterfall is at 1 mile distance from the entrance, so we decided to take a walk. Fall is really cool and can be viewed from observation center or from the the top (there are 224 stairs). There are hiking trails at the top, we did a small hike, took some pictures and left for Garden of the Gods . Restaurant there was costly and so was the gift shop. On our way back, there was again a long queue for shuttle, we waited for our turn and finally returned to Norris center.
From there we headed to Garden of the Gods , which was the prime reason, we came to Colorado Springs. It was already late, so we decided to just cover the park by ourselves without any guided tour. We firstly went to Visitor Center and inquired about the park and available tours. We liked Segway tour among all available guided tours and booked one for next day early morning. Just to mention, park entry is free. After watching a movie regarding park’s geology and history, we visited the park, It was amazing to see such rock formations, each unique in it’s own way. Really park justifies its name. It was a good hike, we covered almost whole park and took many pictures. After sun-set we returned to our hotel.
So finally, last day of the trip, we were to leave for Omaha today. After having breakfast, we checked-out of the hotel and left for Garden of the Gods. Our Segway tour was at 8 AM, we were there 15 mins before. Our guide was very friendly, he taught us how to ride Segways and asked us to practice in the parking area. There was no-one else for this tour, mainly because it was Monday, also park was less crowded. Guide appreciated our timing 🙂 . Tour was really good, he told us about each rock formation and took us to a place from where Pikes Peak can be viewed.
Segway was real fun, so was the informative tour (Highly recommended). Whole tour took just an hour and we were ready for drive. It was an amazing trip with so many wonderful places. We reached at home in evening with beautiful memories still fresh in our minds.
There are few more activities to do in Colorado Springs, so they can be planned as well based on your preferences. Let us know, if there is any place, that should have been on the list.
Happy Reading & Keep Traveling !!!