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Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Ouray, Colorado

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Sometimes called the Switzerland of America, Ouray (pronounced, your-ay) is one of the prettiest mountain towns in Colorado, and that’s saying something because there are a lot of them! Located on US Highway 550, aka The San Juan Skyway, which runs from Montrose, Colorado, via Silverton and Durango, Colorado, then 550 continues down to Bernalillo, New Mexico. The portion of the road from Ouray to Silverton is called the Million Dollar Highway, and is one of the most scenic drives in the United States.

Getting There

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The closest major airport city to Ouray is Grand Junction, Colorado, so that is where our trip will begin.

*Recommended hotel in Grand Junction: Hampton Inn.

From Grand Junction, take US Highway 50 south toward Delta, then to Montrose. Continue south through Montrose on US Highway 550 to Ouray. This route follows the Uncompahgre River to Ouray. Drive time between Grand Junction and Ouray: 1.75 hours.

Bonus stop: Ridgway State Park. Located just north of Ouray, this park offers numerous camping options, including yurts. Boating, fishing, wildlife watching, hiking, and birding are some of the activities found at this park. Plus the scenery here is spectacular! Here’s a link: Ridgway State Park.

Destination: Ouray, Colorado

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Here is a website link for information about lodging, food, and things to do: Ouray, Colorado

Our first stop in Ouray is Box Cañon Falls Park. Admission: $4.00 per adult and $2.00 per child. Take a nice, easy trail from the entrance to the falls. You will hear the falls before you see them – they roar! Most of the water cascades behind the walls of this slot canyon, but you will catch glimpses of the falls through gaps in the rock and at the bottom. At times, the rushing water seems to appear out of nowhere. This stop is well worth the admission price. We will let the pictures below speak for themselves.

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In addition to the easy trail to the falls, there is another trail to the top of the falls that is a little more strenuous (quite a few stairs), but the views are worth the hike.IMG_3564

Upon entering the park, you may notice pipes and sprayers arranged on the rocks along the side of the road. These are used to make ice in the winter. Ouray has become an acclaimed ice climbing destination, and the town hosts the Ouray Ice Festival every January.

Our next stop is for a short hike at Cascade Falls. Although it is only about a quarter mile to the falls, this is a moderately strenuous, steep, uphill hike. However, the waterfall is worth a little panting, and there is a nice covered area with benches at a viewpoint.

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While visiting Ouray, take a few minutes to learn about the town’s namesake: the great Ute Chief Ouray, and his wife, Chipeta. Their former farm, located on the Uncompahgre River south of Montrose, is now the site of the Ute Indian Museum. Another home, a cabin, stood near where the Ouray Hot Springs Pool is today in Ouray. By the way, the pool, which has recently been renovated, will delight the entire family! Here’s a link: Ouray Hot Springs Pool.

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Eight square blocks of the original town of Ouray are a National Historic District. We would encourage anyone visiting the town to take a walking tour along Main Street. Stop in at the Ouray County Museum for a history lesson and pick up a walking tour map, then take in the many historic sites, as well as the shops and restaurants along the way.

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The scenery is breathtaking, and just getting to spend a few hours or days in the peaceful solitude of this town makes it well worth the trip. Unfortunately, our visit was cut short by a large screw embedded in our tire.

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We hope our overview of Ouray, Colorado was informative and that we’ve inspired your wanderlust. As we always say, “Just get in the car!” With a little planning, there’s nothing more fun than a road trip, especially when you get to see scenery like this! Until next time…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2019

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Capitol Reef National Park

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  • Website: Capitol Reef National Park.
  • Cost: $15.00 per vehicle.
  • Accommodations in the park: RV and tent camping. Backcountry camping allowed with a permit.
  • Great park for hiking, biking, and climbing.
  • Lodging, additional camping, and groceries available in Torrey, Utah – 11 miles west of the west park entrance.
  • Restaurants available in Torrey. *Recommended: Slackers – good burgers!
  • When to go to Capitol Reef: Anytime. We recommend May or September.

The interesting terrain at Capitol Reef National Park was created by a 90-mile long wrinkle in the earth called a waterpocket fold. The picture below was taken from a high point on Highway 12 looking toward Capitol Reef (mid-background).

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Getting There

From Bryce Canyon National Park, take Highway 12 (recommended scenic route through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument) east toward Escalante, Utah, then north to Highway 24 through Torrey, Utah to the park’s entrance. Travel tip: use extreme caution on Highway 12 through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There are twists, turns, and high points on the two lane road with no guardrails in some places, however, the scenery is spectacular and very worth taking the route. Drive time between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef: 2.5 hours, or,

From Salt Lake City (closest major airport city), take I-15 south to Scipio, Utah. At Scipio, take US Highway 50 to US Highway 89 to Richfield, Utah then Highway 24 south(east) through Torrey, Utah and the park’s entrance. Drive time between Salt Lake City and Capitol Reef National Park: 3.5 hours.

Travel tip: if you are continuing on to Moab, Utah, top off your gas tank in Torrey before entering the park. The closest gas station (in Hanksville) is an hour east.

Destination: Capitol Reef National Park

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Stop in at the visitor center for information about the park. Then continue on Highway 24 to Fruita, Utah, which is the site of an old settlement that is now contained inside the park. Did you know that the original orchards planted by settlers in this area remain in Capital Reef today? The orchards are open to the public during the picking seasons. Check the park’s website for details about how and when the fruits can be harvested.

At Fruita, stop in at the Gifford House Museum and Store, check out the Fruita Schoolhouse, and don’t forget to take a few pictures of the Gifford Barn; it’s a classic!

The Fruita historic area is a great place for a leisurely stroll and a picnic. There is a campground here, too.

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Gifford Barn

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Take Scenic Drive south of Fruita for scenery and views of the waterpocket fold, or continue on Highway 24 east through the park. There are several places to pull out. We enjoyed seeing the petroglyphs. Parking is available in this area and there are easy trails/boardwalk to allow ample viewing of these ancient wonders.

Of course, the scenery is what we went to Capitol Reef to see, and it didn’t disappoint. Below are some of our favorite shots.

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We are quite fond of red rocks, and no, they never get old!

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Interesting Formations and Beautiful Colors

This park is where we first learned about desert varnish. The “varnish”, from minerals and metals in the rock turns the rock into a work of art. Isn’t nature amazing?

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This cliff face looks painted, but it’s not. It is just that pretty, although, the photo does not do justice to the actual view. The petroglyphs pictured above were high up on this wall.

IMG_2268Travel tip: Capitol Reef has miles and miles of hiking trails for day hikers of all skill levels. There are also many options for backcountry hiking and backpacking. Just remember that this is the desert and it can get extremely hot during the day. Take more water than you think you will need.IMG_2223We hope you enjoyed our short overview of Capitol Reef National Park. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get as much traffic or publicity as some of the other Utah national parks, but a short or long visit to Capitol Reef will be well worth you time. Leave a comment below and tell us about your trip. We love hearing from you. Until next time…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

Featured

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Five

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→Note: this post is the fifth in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Five

Destination: Theodore Roosevelt National Park – South Unit (North Dakota)

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Travel tip: Day five will be a long day of driving. We recommend getting an early start. Take along plenty of water, road snacks, and a picnic lunch. Comfortable clothes and walking/hiking shoes are a must.

Take I-90 west from Rapid City to Sturgis. At Sturgis take Highway 79 north to Castle Rock. At Castle Rock take Highway 168 west to US Highway 85 north. Stay on US Highway 85 across the North Dakota state line to I-94. Drive time between Rapid City and Theodore Roosevelt National Park: 4 hours.

IMG_1386This part of the country is beautiful rolling hills and grasslands, with an interesting rock formation or butte every once in a while. We imagine this is where the deer and the antelope play. And speaking of antelope, look for herds of pronghorns along this road. We didn’t see buffalo, or rather bison, until we got to the park, but we thought this road sign was great! Which one is it?

Take I-94 west. At Exit 32, stop at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center for incredible views of the park! Continue west on I-94. Take Exit 27 to Medora, North Dakota and the South Unit Visitor Center. Here you will see Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin (pictured below)  from his Maltese Cross Ranch, which was located near where the park is today.

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View from Painted Canyon Visitor Center
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Maltese Cross Ranch Cabin

At the South Unit Visitor Center, you will be able to pay for your park pass, pick up your park brochure/map, view the exhibits, and watch a short movie about the park. Enjoy a picnic lunch before you head out to Scenic Loop Drive. The best of the park can be seen on this ninety minute drive. Take some of the short, easy hiking trails to stretch your legs and to get up close and personal with the park. Click the park’s link above for details.

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Sweet little doe! Isn’t she pretty?

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Adorable little prairie dog!

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We we were able to see deer, bison, prairie dogs, and wild horses in the park, all from Scenic Loop Drive. The park is scenic, peaceful, and uncrowded.

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The Little Missouri River in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
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Tranquility and beauty all wrapped up in one!
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Interesting Landscape

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Take I-94 east to US Highway 85 south to return to Rapid City.

Bonus stop: Belle Fourche, South Dakota. Belle Fourche claims to be the geographic center of the United States. Stop to see the monument, although, the actual marker is located twenty miles north of the town and is (was) virtually unmarked. The Belle Fourche River runs next to the park.

Continue south on US Highway 85 to Spearfish, then take I-90 east to Rapid City.

We’re going to close this post with one final picture, simply because you never know what you’re going to see along the road. (And, you never know what you’re missing, such as this…ah, sculpture? in Bowman, North Dakota!) So get out there! As we like to say, “Just get in the car.”

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Come back to our site next week for day six of our Black Hills of South Dakota vacation itinerary. It’s going to be a good one! Until then…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018