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Open Roads Forum  >  Roads and Routes

 > Colorado experts...help please

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texasjayco

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Posted: 01/21/23 08:29pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Headed up to RMNP in July for a few weeks. Starting at Stillwater near Grand Lake, then over to Estes Park at Mary's Lake for a couple weeks.

My question is the route to Stillwater from Raton Pass.
I'm pulling a 36ft 5th wheel (16K lbs) with a Ford dually with exhaust brake tune. Lots of mountain driving experience. Def want to avoid Denver.

Looks like there are three good options other than going thru Denver:
A - cut off at Walsenburg and go up thru Salida, Leadville, Silverthorn, Kremmling, Granby.
B - cut off at Pueblo and go up thru Canon City, Silverthorn, and on up.
C - Co Springs and over to Hartsel, up to Silverthorn, and on up.

Which would you choose?

Also, going from Stillwater to Mary's lake...how would you go?


Thanks for your help!!

Mark


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Posted: 01/22/23 08:52am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

This is just my opinion. I would not go over Trail Ridge (US34) towing anything there are some very tight hairpin curves.


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Posted: 01/22/23 09:36am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I have found The Mountain Directory to be indispensable when planning routes in the mountains. I have the combined East/West version on my laptop and have it open, along with Google Maps and RV Trip Wizard when planning all travel in mountains. It will give you all information on grades, elevations, restrictions (tunnels and bridges, too), runaway truck ramps - all you need to know.

The Mountain Directory

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ppine

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Posted: 01/22/23 09:43am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Colorado driving is not for the faint of heart.
Colo Native is right about Trail Ridge Road.
All of your proposed routes will work, but all require mountain driving skills.
RMNP is over rated because of the size of the crowds. I went once never to return when I lived there. I would encourage you to spend more time in the adjacent National Forests and less time in the Park.

BarabooBob

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Posted: 01/22/23 11:30am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Trail Ridge Road is one of the most beautiful roads in the US> You do need a reservation to drive over the road. I have towed over it many times and will continue to do so when I can get a reservation.


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padredw

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Posted: 01/23/23 05:51pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I have traveled most of this route. Some of it many times towing a 34' fifth wheel:

A - cut off at Walsenburg and go up thru Salida, Leadville, Silverthorn, Kremmling, Granby.





RAS43

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Posted: 01/23/23 06:54pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I would not take C as there is major road work on I25 on the south side of Colo. Springs including replacing bridges. Completion is 2024. What a mess!

Thom02099

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Posted: 01/28/23 03:12pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

texasjayco wrote:

Headed up to RMNP in July for a few weeks. Starting at Stillwater near Grand Lake, then over to Estes Park at Mary's Lake for a couple weeks.

My question is the route to Stillwater from Raton Pass.
I'm pulling a 36ft 5th wheel (16K lbs) with a Ford dually with exhaust brake tune. Lots of mountain driving experience. Def want to avoid Denver.

Looks like there are three good options other than going thru Denver:
A - cut off at Walsenburg and go up thru Salida, Leadville, Silverthorn, Kremmling, Granby.
B - cut off at Pueblo and go up thru Canon City, Silverthorn, and on up.
C - Co Springs and over to Hartsel, up to Silverthorn, and on up.

Which would you choose?

Also, going from Stillwater to Mary's lake...how would you go?


Thanks for your help!!

Mark


My personal preference would be A, since it takes you through some beautiful scenery. Not so much on I-25 and there's lots of construction going on in the Springs and north of Denver.

Mary's Lake is a favourite of mine, make sure you have reservations well in advance. I believe they have a 6 month window for reservations. Run by the Town of Estes Park Recreation and Parks department, it's the least expensive campground in Estes Park.

I also would not recommend taking Trail Ridge over to Estes. Once you start climbing out of the valley on the west side of RMNP, there are 5 very tight hairpin curves to deal with and they are blind curves. Also, going the EASTBOUND route, you will be on the "outside"/drop off side for a goodly amount of time and there are steep drop offs and no guard rails for probably a good 15 miles. Once you drop down below treeline on the east side it's not so bad. It's just the getting there part. You also have to contend with a lot of traffic, especially around the Alpine Visitor's Center. Also have to contend with the "lookie loos" that will stop in the middle of the roadway to try to get that perfect picture of the elk up waaaay too close than they should be. Traffic can frequently back up due to this inconsideration. There are pull offs but the Karens and Chads don't think that they need to use them.

Alternative would by to go from Stillwater back to Granby, go west briefly on US 40 to CO 125 and take that north to Walden. Then take CO 14 east up and over Cameron Pass (fairly easy pass) and then down the Poudre Canyon to US 287 into Fort Collins. On the north end of FC, take Shields St southbound thru FC, and stay on it all the way down to Loveland (it becomes Taft Ave in Loveland), to US 34, and then US 34 west to Estes Park.

There are other ways to go, but this is, in my opinion, the best scenic route.

Also be aware of the "timed entry" reservations needed to enter RMNP. Those reservations are made thru recreation.gov just like camping reservations. They WILL turn you away if no reservations. H E R E - Timed Entry Info is the current info available for 2023 entry to RMNP. Timed entry starts May 26, 2023.

* This post was edited 01/28/23 03:25pm by Thom02099 *


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BackOfThePack

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Posted: 02/21/23 11:53am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

RAS43 wrote:

I would not take C as there is major road work on I25 on the south side of Colo. Springs including replacing bridges. Completion is 2024. What a mess!


I go through here 2-3X monthly pulling a 53’ trailer. It’s not bad. Run 52 in the 55. It’s about 8-miles or so in length. Occasional lane closures. Starts near Fountain.

Denver traffic isn’t on the scale of a dozen other metros. Just plan to get thru between 0900-1100 for least traffic, and before 1400 at worst. That said, getting diesel is a pain as CO not well-served in comparison to other places. Coming from the south I’d use the Exxon at Fountain next to TRANSWEST RV Truck X128 as final choice. Buy farther north if you enjoy crowds.

The road up to Salida (La Veta Pass) is certainly scenic. 47-years ago during the Bicentennial were wreckers stationed to get the Ford and GM mohos over the crest (Dodge rules).

Mountain driving is not only slow, it’s exhausting. That’s a clumsy rig when oncoming is encroaching your lane. There’s not any way in hell I’d run the mountains to avoid a little metro traffic UNLESS that were on my itinerary.

If you’re going to Granby, take IH-70.

If you’re going to Estes Park, take US-34 up the Big Thompson (that’ll satisfy the scenic drive itch).

Both are approved big truck routes.

Colorado is king of day trips.
Park the wagon and saddle the horse.

.

* This post was edited 02/21/23 12:14pm by BackOfThePack *


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texasjayco

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Posted: 04/29/23 08:01pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for the input everyone!!

Mark

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