With a week off of school and both of us having flexible schedules currently it was due time for some adventure. It has been since our Northwest trip last summer that we have been on an extended road trip. We were in desperate need of some time wandering. We planned out a trip that would take us through the Western side of the Rockies and down into Southwestern Colorado and Southeastern Utah. We would get to some great places that we have not been to yet. We planned a tentative route that would take advantage of some free Warren Miller Films ski passes at Steamboat Resort and then warm fun in the desert. Below you can see what the trip finally ended out to be.
Day 1 – Monday
We wanted to spend the weekend at home so that we could pay attention to LDS General Conference and get a spiritual uplift before embarking on our journey. Because of this we had the van loaded and ready to go for a Monday morning departure. Our first stop was a quick swing by the Vernal Temple and then on to Dinosaur National Monument. It is always cool to check out the quarry in the monument. However, the monument is so much more than just old dinosaur bones. There are some great places to hike, canyons to raft through, fly fishing, and some cool archeology sites.
After spending some time driving through the Utah section of the Dinosaur National Monument we continued onward. We arrived in Steamboat in the early evening and checked into our condo. We were located just down from the resort.
Day 2 – Tuesday
After a sunny Monday we woke up this morning to snow falling. We had anticipated spring slurppee skiing at Steamboat Springs, but with the snow it changed the game. Late April on a weekday we seemed to have the resort all to ourselves. With a few fresh inches, cooler temperatures, and few people on the resort made for an excellent day skiing. This was unexpected, but very fun. We had a great time going about exploring a new resort.
Day 3 – Wednesday
We took it slow this morning so that the kiddos could enjoy the condo a little bit more. After loading up we headed down towards I-70. With only a few days left in the ski season I wanted to put my Epic Pass to good use to finish things out. We made a quick detour out to Breckenridge and I was able to get in a couple solid runs at Breck. I think that I really like this resort. There were some great runs through the trees. Breck got nearly a foot of snow in the previous day and there were some great untouched turns through the trees.
After skiing Breck we headed along I-70 to get to Vail just in time to get in two excellent runs at Vail. I didn’t have time to get into the famous back bowels, but skiing through the tight trees on some freshly fallen powder was a ton of fun. After some turns at Vail we hit up the ice cream shop for some expensive but yummy pistachio ice cream. It was now time to hit the road and head towards Glenwood Springs.
Our goal for the evening was to make it to Hanging Lake and be able to do the hike before dark. We seemed to be pushing that window, but decided that we ought to risk it since it would be an hour plus detour to try to come back the following morning. We arrived shortly after 5pm at the trailhead and knew that we would have to push, but we also knew that we could at least make it up the 1.5 miles within the next 2 hours. We grabbed headlamps just in case. There were many that were coming down that questioned our decision, but we knew that we were capable. The hike to hanging lake is a good uphill climb, but very doable. You take a paved path along the Colorado River for about a half mile before turning up the canyon on the singletrack dirt trail. The trail is pretty well kept. At the top of the canyon you turn up some rock steps at the waterfalls to make the final climb up to the lake. This lake is worth the detour for anyone driving past Glenwood Springs on I-70.
Day 4 – Thursday
We stayed in a small hotel about 45 minutes east of Grand Junction. We got up early, ate breakfast, played in the pool for a minute, and then casually hit the road. Off towards Durango and the Four Corners area. We wanted to take the trip through Ouray and Silverton to check out the San Juan Mountain area. Along the drive we came across a sign for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We looked up how long it would take us to get there and noticed that it was only about 20-30 minutes off of the highway that we were on. Well, why not. We took the detour and didn’t regret it.
Looking down the caverns of this great canyon brings new perspective. It shows the power that water can have as it cuts its way through the land. God’s hand is divinely shown through all of His creations. This was a quick side detour that we decided to take after seeing a sign for it on the highway. We didn’t map this destination initially, but noticing that it was only about a 45 minute detour in total, we decided to do it. We are glad that we did. They have a really cool rim trail that goes along the south rim and gives some excellent views into the canyon. Les and Ella did it going one way and I did it on the way back.
Even though we only spent a short time hiking along the overlooks and visiting the visitor’s center, it was neat to see this little river cut out this great canyon. My son made the comment that we are just building up to the Grand Canyon. Glad that we took this little side trip.
The drive down to Ouray was nice, but the views of the San Juan Mountains were astounding as we approached. What an unbelievable place. This was the first time that we had been down there.
The town of Ouray was really quant and pretty cool. We only drove through. The drive up along the road in the sky was amazing. A series of tight switchbacks until we got up into the mountains themselves. The surrounding peaks were a sight to behold. I am so glad that we took this little bit longer route.
As we came down off the mountain pass we made our way towards Silverton. Silverton is about 5 minutes off the highway so we took the quick detour over to check out the start/finish of the renowned Hardrock 100.
Silverton is an awesome little mining town. It still has an old west vibe with its dirt streets through town. The only paved road was the main street through the center of town. We paused to grab a quick picture with the Hardrock rock and then kept going.
Once reaching Durango we grabbed dinner and then walked along old Durango’s Main Street.
We kept pushing past Durango to get to where the highway came across some Forest Service access roads. We pulled off one of these roads where there were some RVs pulled off for the night. We pulled back behind some trees and set up camp.
Day 5 – Friday
When we woke up this morning we discovered that our campsite was along the drive up to someone’s house. Oh well. We were camping on forest service land so I figured we were alright. We ate breakfast and packed up camp and headed out. First stop this morning was Mesa Verde National Park.
An amazing feat of human ingenuity. Arriving at Mesa Verde you climb from the valley and ascend into the hills. You then drop down to the “Green Table”. As we approached it it was neat to see the tree filled table with the rock bands below.
We toured the museum. We all love learning. Its great to tour museums and visitors centers. There is so much culture, history, geology, and more to be learned in this world. Great to be able to take it with us in the world to come as well. Lately, I’ve been in this interesting study of history and the evolution of man and reconciling it to the history of the biblical account. I’ve been reading the book Sapiens and these items have been weighing on my mind a lot. I know the facts are that Adam and Eve were placed in the garden and there was no death until after the fall and that there has only been about 6000 years since the Fall. How though do I reconcile the theories of millions of years and even tens of thousands of years of human life? Touring this museum brought these questions back up.
After touring the museum we drove around the park to see a few of the dwellings. We were only able to view them due to the season. They were not yet doing tours. Even taking in the views was impressive. For these dwellings to be preserved as well as they have been is impressive. Unfortunately, we were a few days early to be able to do any of the tours. They don’t start them until this Sunday. We will have to come back when we can tour them. We got to as many of the viewpoints as we could to see what we could though. Wow!
After touring around Mesa Verde we stopped in Cortez to fuel up and grab groceries for the next couple of days.
Making the loop back up to Utah required the highlight of the trip. At least the highlight for the “been there done that” accomplishment. We headed over to the only place in the United States that you can be in four different states all at one time. I don’t recall having ever been here, but I’m sure I have. However, what a great place to bring the family! They loved the idea of being able to be in four different states at once. It was a bit pricey to get in ($25 for all of us) and not too much to see. Key note – they only take cash so make sure that you hit an ATM in one of the towns on your way down or else you will be out of luck. There isn’t a cash machine for miles. It was worth the memory and experience though. Our oldest claims that this was the best part of the trip so there ya go. Really neat that we are able to get to these cool places so close to home.
After hanging around walking through four different states within a matter of seconds and minutes we hit the road again. We were a little undecided as to where the rest of our trip would take us. We wanted to get to Goosenecks State Park, Valley of the Gods, Natural Bridges National Monument, and Bears Ears. Our plan was to camp at Goosenecks tonight but after a brief drive through Valley of the Gods and stopping at the entrance we discovered that we had no checkbook and all of our cash went to the Navajo at Four Corners. It is still shocking to me that our state park system doesn’t take credit cards. So our stay there did not happen. So instead we got to drive up an awesome road that looks like it was about to run into the mesa. See below.
Atop the mesa we drove along the highway to find a good pull off. We were a little fearful of roads getting washed out if it rained at night so we found a nice place where we could keep the van near the road and hide our campsite behind some cedar trees. It was perfect.
Day 6 – Saturday
Being the first to awake in the desert has its perks. As my family lies asleep in the tent I have this moment of tranquility to pray, ponder, and soak in the blessed feelings of being on this great earth. We have been blessed to take this trip as a family and be able to see so many new places that we have not been to before. Traveling around this country by car has become a fun adventure that I look forward to each time that we get to do it as a family. I hope that we can continue to have schedules and jobs that allow us to be able to have these opportunities.
We broke camp and headed off through the desert. Our first stop would be Natural Bridges. After visiting the visitor’s center we discovered that the road to Bears Ears would be impassable so that had to get nixed off our agenda for this trip.
The trip to Natural Bridges did not disappoint. Though it is a ways off the beaten path it is worth the adventure and exploration. First we hiked the 1.3 miles down and back from Sipapu Bridge. Our oldest stubbornly stayed in the car while the rest of us did this hike. It is a fun hike down from the mesa along a winding trail that includes stairs, ladders, and railings. The younger three had a great time hiking down. Our nine year old was disappointed that we couldn’t keep going down in the river bottoms. I wish that we could have but trying to make a baptism session at the Monticello Temple put a time crunch on our activities.
We got the whole family down the tenth of a mile to view Owachama Bridge. This is the widest in the park and well worth the easy walk down. Thankfully no one complained and we did it pretty quickly. Then using a gnarly tree we set up the phone to grab some good family pics.
On the way up to Moab our nine year old really wanted to stop and take a run up to this bridge we passed by. I’m so proud of this active little girl. She loves being outside and doing active things. She’s found a passion for gymnastics and climbing all over rocks. She’s been disappointed that she’s not allowed to climb on the top of these bridges and arches, but loves to climb around the rocks near them.
After passing through Moab we stopped to let the kids play on the Moab Dunes just outside of town. They have been wanting sand dunes since we were last down in Snow Canyon State Park a couple of years ago. This was bliss for them. Mom even got out and got a little crazy running up and down the hill.
We ended our trip with a dinner stop in Price and then arriving home late. What a great weeks worth of adventure with snowy mountains, desert, and a whole lot of fun.