Our summer journey began at the end of May. We finally lifted the jacks on the RV and got those wheels rolling again. It felt great being back on the open road. After sitting stationary for nearly seven months, we felt like total RV newbies but after a couple of hours of driving, we quickly found our groove.
Never too old to change!
Aren’t most people creatures of habit? I know Al and I are. He and I have been doing this full-time RVing thing for over six years now (so much for a year or two), and as such, we have a basic routine when it comes to a day of travel which includes hitting the road in the morning usually around 8:00 a.m. … nine at the very latest and driving no more than five hours. A drive of three to four hours is preferable.
Our original plan was to start our summer excursion on the Wednesday after Memorial Day (May 29th). Over the long holiday weekend, we bid farewell to our children who both live in Phoenix which then gave us the flexibility to leave town when it best suited us. We were able to adjust the schedule if needed.
Although we had a well-planned itinerary, the plan kept changing at the last minute. Obviously, we were anxious to be on the road again with a firm destination in mind.
Plan A – Leave early Wednesday morning and take three days to get to Cotopaxi, CO.
Plan B – Leave late Tuesday afternoon, drive two hours and spend the night at the Twin Arrows Casino east of Flagstaff. This would shorten the next two days.
And then there’s what we actually did, which is so out of character for us and something we’ve never done before, ever. Guess we aren’t too old to change things up a bit and step out of our comfort zone. We did end up leaving around noon on Tuesday, but once we neared the exit for the Petrified Forest, we weren’t ready to stop for the night. Plus, the Arizona / New Mexico border was just a little over an hour away. We figured, the more driving we did that day, the less we’d have to do the next two days.
In lieu of spending the night near the Petrified Forest, we decided to stop at any number of Indian Casinos along Interstate 40 in New Mexico, which we’ve done frequently in the past. As our day progressed and with each passing casino, Al and I would agree to keep on rolling. We eventually made it to the Route 66 Casino on the western edge of Albuquerque. The sun was about to set. It was around 8:30 p.m. We’d had a very long day of driving and were feeling ready to stop. We filled up with gas and began talking about spending the night. We planned to call it a day and boondock here, but then we discussed the next morning.
Grrr, we needed to think about morning rush hour traffic. We used to love overnighting at the beautiful Sandia Casino located on the north end of Albuquerque which would solve the problem of navigating rush hour traffic in the morning, but inconsiderate RVers ruined that privilege. We’ve noticed this ongoing theme as more and more companies are banning overnight RV parking. Some RVers don’t understand boondocking etiquette 😪. Ah, it is what it is and with the Sandia Casino not an option, we decided to go for it and continue driving another hour up the road to Santa Fe.
So much for the travel itinerary
485 miles / 775 km and nine hours later, we pulled into the parking lot at the Elks Lodge in Santa Fe (for members only). It was 10:00 p.m. with pitch dark skies. We were grateful that we had stayed here previously and knew the lay of the land. We quietly (well, as quietly as a diesel truck can be) pulled alongside a grassy area while trying not to disturb the other RVs already parked nearby. We didn’t disconnect, didn’t bother leveling, and didn’t put our slides out. We merely climbed into bed, clearly exhausted from the long day of driving, and quickly fell asleep. We both slept great. The next morning, with coffee in hand, we were once again rolling. This time, we were watching the sunrise.
So much for planning and putting together a perfect travel itinerary! We don’t normally make it a habit to drive after dark let alone put in a nine-hour day of driving, but Al and I stopped often and switched drivers regularly. Not that we were keeping track, but I believe I spent more time behind the wheel than Al did 😁
In the end, we both agree, it turned into the perfect travel day for us. Sure we were tired, but the beauty of traveling with your home in tow was we ate healthily and stayed hydrated … a must for any long day of travel. And of course, we took plenty of breaks to stretch our legs.
The main reason behind the quick travels was we had a goal and a mission to accomplish and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible so we could get on with our summer fun. The weight on our shoulders needed to be lifted asap. We had two storage units in southern Colorado full of crap momentoes that we needed to widdle down and eventually get moved to Phoenix.
Next up, moochdocking on a gorgeous property in Colorado while we tackle those storage units.
Traveling can be enlightening, adventurous, exciting, yet sometimes boring, especially when the landscape we’re driving through is mundane. This past week while rolling through America’s Great Plains, Al and I found ourselves reminiscing about past travels and discussing future travels.
We’ve always enjoyed traveling. After all, Al and I met while working in the airline industry. These days we prefer RVing, but back then, we couldn’t wait to jump on an airplane and travel to some new to us location. One city we often visited was New York City. There were times, we’d hop on the first-morning flight out of Chicago, land at LaGuardia Airport and shop and explore the city before taking a late night flight back home. Ah, memories! There are times I’d love to go back and even explore more of New York State.
We recently enjoyed a lengthy conversation with new RV friends who travel predominantly in the east. They shared some of their favorite RV spots in New York …
Visiting New York in an RV
Traveling in an RV is a great way to bring a little piece of home with you while seeing everything the country has to offer, and there’s no destination more exciting than New York City (NYC). While Hello Big Apple reminds travelers that RVs aren’t allowed to park in NYC’s city spaces for more than 24 hours, there are ways to work around this rule if you want to see the Big Apple in your RV — especially as it is a cost-effective way to see the best of the U.S.
And when it comes to costs, it’s no surprise that NYC has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. In fact, a feature by Yoreevo notes that the current average price of a Manhattan apartment is $2 million, a hefty price tag that trickles down to its hotels and restaurants, and makes it less accessible to some budget travelers. However, this reputation also means that tourists are now looking to what New York, as a state, also has to offer. Indeed, the number of natural parks and hiking paths within New York State make it a top travel destination even for those who prefer a more outdoorsy getaway. NYC’s accessible public transportation means that you can park your RV outside the city center and still be able to roam around the Big Apple before exploring the rest of the state. Meanwhile, these RV parks also offer lots of adventurous options. Here are some top recommendations:
You don’t have to travel very far from this RV park to get to NYC – Camp Gateway is located in Brooklyn. The park is set in a rustic, wooded area within the Gateway National Recreation Area. Since the park is located next to Jamaica Bay, you’re just a bus ride away from the epicenter of NYC.
Liberty Harbor RV Park
Located in Jersey City in nearby New Jersey, this particular park is the go-to for visitors who want to see as much of NYC as they can. The PATH train connects New Jersey to Manhattan and is a mere 15 minutes away from Liberty Harbor. The park also offers great amenities, with full electric, water, and sewage facilities alongside 24/7 security on the premises.
Nickerson Beach Campground
This is the RV park for those who want a relaxing beach escape after exploring NYC, as you can park your RV just 2 minutes away from the shore. The campgrounds are located by the South Shore of Long Island. Moreover, visitors have long hailed the camp’s serene atmosphere, which provides the perfect setting for watching the summer sunset with the city behind you.
Robert H. Treman State Park
While NYC might be your main destination, one of the best parts about traveling in an RV is exploring the greater area around your RV park. Save up one free day to go around the Robert H. Treman State Park on a bike or on foot, or venture on the more exciting side and tackle one of Robert H. Treman’s nine hiking trails. When you’re done exploring, take a dip in the many waterfalls that the park has to offer — there are twelve, to be exact.
Branches of Niagara Campground and Resort
This RV park offers the best of both worlds, with Buffalo, New York being 15 minutes away on one end and the Niagara falls being 10 minutes away on the other. This is a great option especially for families who prefer to have an outdoorsy vacation; the Buffalo Zoo and Buffalo Museum of Science are nearby options in case you want to see something else.
Thank you, Julie and Josh, for sharing your favorite New York RV Parks and beautiful images!
When I think about the high-altitude mountain town of Steamboat Springs, I think of picturesque ski slopes and stunning mountain views. Although this beautiful mountain town does indeed offer powdery slopes, there’s an abundance of summer activities not to be missed.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado offers an Old West vibe rich in history. It’s about a three-hour drive from Denver and a bit out of the way but so worth the drive.
Continuing with my Top 5 Must-Visit Colorado Mountain Towns
In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-visit Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they’re too much fun not to.
Steamboat Springs is last on my list partly because one of these mountain towns had to be last, and secondly, it’s the town we’ve visited the least. However, it is the first place in Colorado that we traveled to with our new 5th wheel back in 2012, and we have very fond memories of that trip … well, except for the RV flat tire on our return home, but that’s another story.
15 Things to do this summer in Steamboat Springs
1. Camping – Camping options around here are awesome. We loved camping at Steamboat Lake State Park which is located 27 miles north of town. Not only were we surrounded by stunning views in all directions, but it also made a great home base to explore the neighboring area. Anytime I can park near the water, I am one happy camper.
This state park can accommodate most RVs and offers both dry and electric sites. Al and I chose to camp on the peninsula where the sites have no hookups, are definitely smaller, and there’s a large area designated for tents only.
Stagecoach State Park is another big RV friendly campground and is located 17 miles south of town and is a very popular boating lake. I recommend making a reservation for a campsite anywhere near Steamboat Springs. For a full list of campgrounds in the area, here’s a list with a breakdown of all the amenities offered.
Out of all the mountain towns we’ve visited, Steamboat Springs offers some of the best camping options. Frisco (around Lake Dillon) comes in at a close second.
2. Go for a paddle – With numerous lakes in the area and the Yampa River running right through Steamboat Springs, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding are popular and fun activities. No problem if you don’t have your own water vessel, there’s plenty of rentals around.
Several outfitters even offer rental tubes, so you can relax and float on Steamboat’s natural waterway and then catch a shuttle back to your car.
3. Soak in hot springs – Looking for more relaxation? Old Town Hot Springs is in the heart of downtown Steamboat and is one of the reasons the town is here. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is a bit more of an adventure located on the edge of the Yampa Valley. Both offer a relaxing soak and a dip into Steamboat’s colorful history.
4. Alpine Slide – The first time I ever road an Alpine Slide was on a trip with my daughter to Winter Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I had never heard of an Alpine Slide before, and let’s just say, one ride is not enough. So much fun! Nothing like taking a chairlift up the mountain and then shooshing down it on a sled like contraption. It’s a thrill!
I’ll admit, I was a little scared and timid the first time, but you can control the speed of your sled as you fly down the mountain. Did I mention how much fun this is?
Steamboat offers two exhilarating slides. The Outlaw Mountain Coaster is the longest coaster in North America at more than 6,280 linear feet. The track near Christie Peak Express descends more than 400 vertical feet and features dips, waves, turns, and 360-degree circles. The Howler Alpine Slide will wind you down a 2,400-foot track through the bends and curves of the natural landscape of beautiful Howelsen Hill. You’ll love the scenic views of downtown Steamboat as you ride the chairlift to the top.
5. Take a hike – I fell in love with the alpine forests, open meadows, beautiful aspen groves, lakes and streams around Steamboat, and my favorite way to enjoy these surroundings was via hiking. Numerous options range from a pleasant stroll along the Yampa River Core Trail, a short jaunt up to roaring Fish Creek Falls, or a couple hours on the Spring Creek Trail. For those more adventurous, you’ll be able to hike a full day or multi-day adventure in the Mount Zirkel or Flat Tops wilderness areas.
6. Mountain biking – The area boasts more than 500 miles of singletrack. There are so many different places to go biking that it can be hard to narrow down. For casual cruising, the Yampa River Core Trail is a 7.5-mile paved multi-use route connecting the mountain and downtown areas.
Scenic road-riding options range from easy pedaling along River Road or Twentymile Road to a challenging hill climb up Rabbit Ears Pass. Then there’s the Emerald Mountain trail system accessible from downtown or the Steamboat Bike Park, which boasts better than 50 miles of gondola-accessible trails on the ski mountain, with rentals available at the base. You can mix and match the area’s various trails to make the right length and challenge for your personal needs.
7. Fishing – The Steamboat Springs area is renowned for its world-class fly fishing. Beginners can take a lesson with any number of outfitters and learn about fly casting, knots, entomology and more. In addition to the Yampa River, there’s an abundance of streams, lakes, and reservoirs for the more experienced angler to check out.
8. Shopping, art galleries, concerts, and events – Browse fine art. Steamboat is a creative and artsy town. A leisurely stroll through shops and art galleries is always entertaining. You’ll find paintings, sculptures, blown glass, jewelry, and more. Usually, in early July there’s an art event set at the base of the ski area; Art on the Mountain.
The town is also host to events, concerts and theatrical performances.
9. Visit a museum – Steamboat Springs is known for its great appreciation of cultural heritage. The newly expanded and renovated Tread of Pioneers Museum offers something for everyone. The heart of the museum is a 1901 Queen Anne-style Victorian home with turn-of-the-century furnishings. The Western Heritage Exhibit, home of an extensive firearms collection, traces the areas agricultural history and the story of an infamous outlaw, Harry Tracy. The Tread of Pioneers Museum collects, preserves, exhibits, and shares the history and heritage of the Steamboat Springs area.
10. Golf, Mini Golf, Disc Golf or Sporting Clays – Steamboat Springs has three 18-hole golf courses that challenge every club in your bag. Then there’s mini golf, disc golf, and even golf with a gun aka Sporting Clays.
11. Visit the Yampa River Botanic Park – Go for a walk in the park while enjoying beautiful flowers, trees, and more. Every garden has a different focus with a unique setting … its own slope, sun exposure, soil chemistry, trees and shrubs which determine what will grow. Since 1992 the Yampa River Botanic Park has grown from a flat, horse pasture into a six-acre gem of over 50 gardens with ponds, benches, and sculptures.
The Park is free and open to the public from May to October. It serves as a place of serenity, as a venue for a summer music and theater festivals, as a site for weddings and similar events, and a resource for individuals. The Park sits at 6,800 feet above sea level, but through the use of carefully developed microclimates supports plants from the entire Yampa River Basin, which runs from 12,000 feet in the Flattops Wilderness to 4,000 feet where it enters the Green River.
12. Horseback Riding – Single-day horseback trail rides and multi-day pack trips are an everyday event for local cowboys around here. Visit the Flat Tops Wilderness, Mount Zirkel Wilderness, Routt National Forest, or Howelsen Hill on horseback or ride for two hours or an all-day photo safari or dinner on the trail. You can even ride a horse-drawn wagon for dinner on a ranch.
13. Farmers Market – Fill up on food and fun when you shop, eat and browse at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market. This will give you a great taste of the local culture and unique personality of Steamboat. The farmers market runs from 9 to 2 on Saturdays starting in early June through mid-September.
It’s also a great place to pick up a meaningful souvenir that’s not just regular tourist trap kitsch.
14. Go on a scenic drive –
Al and I love exploring the backcountry. So, a scenic drive is a great way for us to take in the surrounding beauty. During our stay, we didn’t venture down any 4×4 roads but did explore the different lakes, campgrounds, and small towns.
One day, during our return to camp, we witnessed a sheepherder and his flock. I asked if it was okay for me to photograph him, but he spoke no English. If I had to guess, I’d say he was probably from South America. I did take a couple of quick snapshots and offered him a cold bottle of water which he seemed thrilled to receive.
You never know what you’ll see when you go off the beaten path exploring.
15. Dining – The dining options are endless. You’ll find everything from breweries to coffee shops to casual dining to fine dining.
This concludes my posts on my top 5 favorite mountain towns. I assure you, one visit to Colorado is not enough. The Centennial State’s crisp air, endless walking trails, inimitable Western culture, and stunning mountain beauty are just a few reasons to return time and again. I feel very fortunate that I was able to call Colorado home for over twenty years.
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like Telluride, Colorado. If I had to recommend one Colorado mountain town to visit, it would definitely be Telluride. There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy. Besides, how could anyone resist a place where there’s usually a herd of elk in a meadow on the edge of town welcoming visitors to the area?
We’ve had the pleasure of visiting this charming mountain town a few times over the past several years, and we were never disappointed. First off, Telluride is beautiful. It sits in a canyon surrounded by steep forested mountains and cliffs with the impressive Bridal Veil Falls seen at the far end of the canyon.
Telluride was founded in 1878 as a mining settlement. By the 1970s, the extensive mining in the area was replaced by ski tourism, and by the mid-1990s, Colorado’s best-kept secret was discovered by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, and Oliver Stone.
Although Telluride is well-known for outstanding ski slopes, the summer months have become even more popular with tourists as the town hosts a variety of festivals all summer long, including film festivals and endurance events.
Continuing with our Top 5 Favorite Colorado Mountain Towns
In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-see Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they are just too much fun not to.
Telluride’s festival season kicks off at the end of May and is host to a variety of festivals held each weekend. The diversity of festivals range from Music to Brews to Wine, Yoga, Film, Sports, and more.
There’s also no shortage of summer activities available for individuals and families alike. One of my favorite things to do is hike to Bridal Veil Falls. There’s a hiking trail that takes hikers from town all the way out toward the falls. The trail allows me to admire the beautiful architecture along the way, which is a unique blend of old and new.
The colorful Victorian-era homes that I pass always captivate my attention. These Victorian-era homes help preserve Telluride’s historically significant architecture. The town of Telluride is just eight blocks wide and twelve blocks long and is designated a National Historic Landmark District due to its role in the history of the American West.
A row of colorful Victorian-era homes.
Newer homes in Telluride.
A view of Telluride from the gondola.
Elk greet us as we approach Telluride
me hiking toward the top of Bridal Veil Falls
At the base of Bridal Veil Falls
Tidbit: The famous bank robber, Butch Cassidy, committed his first recorded major crime in Telluride by robbing the San Miguel Valley Bank in 1889 and exiting the bank with over $24,000.
One of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat is at the Smuggler’s Brew Pub. Al particularly enjoys their brew called Debauchery. I think the name speaks for itself and considering its high alcohol content combined with Telluride’s high elevation, one drink is usually enough … that is, if your goal is to be able to still walk straight. Picking up a bite to eat at the Friday morning farmers market is also a fun option, and of course, we never head home without picking up a few fresh items. And I never miss the opportunity to take the gondola ride up and over to Mountain Village … a bonus not to be missed.
The Town of Mountain Village is a European-style village that was founded in 1987 and sits at an elevation of 9,500 feet.
The architecture and feel between the two towns of Telluride and Mountain Village are vastly different. Where Telluride offers that old town historical western feel, Mountain Village offers a feel of polish and elegance that reeks of money – in a good way. I absolutely love the architecture around here.
The two towns are connected by a 13-minute gondola ride that is the only free public transportation system of its kind in the U.S. This popular scenic attraction provides access to hiking and biking trails during the summer and the ski slopes during the winter.
But Telluride isn’t the only mountain town worth visiting in this part of Colorado. Nestled in the San Juan Mountains are three more quaint and scenic towns, each with its own vibe and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them as a must-visit.
Other must-visit mountain towns near Telluride; Ouray, Silverton, and Ridgway
No visit to this part of Colorado and the San Juan Mountain range would be complete without visiting the beautiful little mountain towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Ridgway. As the crow flies, Ouray and Telluride are less than twenty miles apart, but taking the shortcut would require a four-wheel drive vehicle and a few hours to spare. The regular car route between Telluride and Ouray is around 50 miles and will take about an hour.
Not only is Ouray known as the Switzerland of America, but it’s also considered the Jeeping Capitol of the World with over 500 miles of accessible high country 4WD trails.
Tidbits: Ouray is pronounced ‘your-ray’ … hurrah for Ouray! I don’t recommend using a GPS in this part of Colorado. First, these three mountain towns are located along Highway 550 and as long as you stay on the paved road, you won’t need a map let alone a GPS to find your way around. Second, with miles and miles of former mining roads, some GPS view these roads as accessible, leading many a visitor astray. Don’t be fooled and turn off that GPS!
So, with all these former mining roads to explore, renting a 4×4 vehicle in Ouray won’t be a problem, but you’ll need to wait until the month of July before these roads are somewhat clear of snow. I highly recommend stopping in at the visitor center in Ouray and picking up a map of the backcountry roads and checking up to date road conditions.
During previous visits, Al and I have taken the Toyota Tacoma on a couple of the “easy” 4×4 roads. The map info is very helpful in rating these roads and we wanted to start easy and work our way up. We’ve taken Last Dollar Road to Telluride and Owl Creek Pass to Silver Jack Reservoir. Both drives were enjoyable and neither road took us above tree line. During our explorations, with the exception of a couple of rutted areas, a Subaru or CRV could handle these two 4×4 roads. BUT please check recent road conditions before attempting. Weather can and will affect road conditions drastically.
If hiking is more to your liking, Ouray has no shortage of trails to choose from. The most popular is the Perimeter Trail. It’s a five-mile well-marked trail that circles the town of Ouray. Al and I have hiked portions of this trail and look forward to returning to hike the total perimeter. May and June you’ll need to keep snowmelt in mind as all creeks and streams run dangerously fast and furious and trails can be muddy. July into August is stunning as the meadows are dotted with wildflowers. Then there’s September when gold can be seen … yellow Aspen leaves.
One section of the Perimeter Trail that we loved is the hike to Box Canyon Falls. Box Canyon Falls is known as Ouray’s own wonder of the world. The waterfall is created from the combination of Canyon Creek narrowing into a rock canyon and then plummeting 285 feet, spilling thousands of gallons of water per minute. The word ‘dramatic’ sums it up nicely. As you hike further into the canyon, the roar of rushing water becomes more deafening and the dirt trail quickly turns into a slatted iron bridge complete with rails. The temperature drops, the humidity rises, and the sun is hidden. Al and I both agree this is a unique find and experience not to be missed.
Silverton, Colorado – Is it worth the drive?
Hold on, as the only road to get to Silverton, Colorado from Ouray is not for the faint of heart. This stretch of Highway 550 is known as the Million Dollar Highway. The road twists, turns, bends, goes up, goes down, and meanders through the San Juan Mountain Range. It’ll help if you have some mountain driving experience and aren’t afraid of heights. There’s a notable lack of guardrails and you’ll want to plan on taking around 45 minutes to drive the twenty-five-mile distance between Ouray and Silverton.
If driving mountain roads isn’t your thing and you happen to be near the town of Durango, consider taking the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The rail route is even more scenic than the highway and the train pulls right into the town of Silverton.
Once in Silverton, you’ll find the town has a natural beauty that’s steeped in Victorian charm and mining history. Gold was discovered here in the 1860s. The town was platted in 1874 and by the late 1800s, the main business section was built.
On the “other side of town”, is notorious Blair Street. At one point, Blair Street was home to 40 saloons and brothels. Many of the original buildings are still standing today and have been turned into quaint gift shops and restaurants.
Tidbit: During the mining boom, Silverton boasted a population surpassing 2,000. Today the year-round population is less than 700. Although tourism has replaced mining as the current economic engine, conjecture is someday mining will return.
Silverton is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the NationalHistoric Landmark District.
With mining heavily ingrained in the area’s history, the backcountry is dotted with remnants of abandoned mines and ghost towns. If you have a high clearance vehicle (or rent one), the old mining roads are great fun to explore.
If you’re a John Wayne fan like my husband, then a stop in the little town of Ridgway is a must. During one of our day excursions from Ridgway State Park to Telluride, we took the Last Dollar Road. This gravel/dirt road takes travelers past the Ross Ranch, one of several film locations that took place in Ouray County from the movie True Grit. The road is accessed about 10 miles outside of Ridgway. Last Dollar Road is rated as an easy 4WD road. At the top of Dallas Divide, the road offers majestic views of the backcountry without traversing any extreme switchbacks or sheer drop-offs that are commonly found driving some of the more difficult backcountry roads.
Camping and lodging
Camping: Whenever we’ve visited Telluride, we love camping at Ridgway State Park, which is about a one-hour drive away. The park offers sites accommodating tents and large RVs alike. Ridgway State Park is one of our favorite campgrounds in Colorado.
For those interested in full hook-ups, the Centennial RV Park near Montrose is a consideration. When we weren’t able to find an available site at Ridgway State Park, we’ve stayed at the Montrose Elk’s Lodge (members only). There are also private campgrounds with full hook-ups in the town of Ouray, but they like to pack’em in tight … a little too close for our taste.
Much closer to Telluride is a delightful National Forest Campground; Sunshine Campground. We would love to stay here due to its stunning views and near proximity to Telluride, but unfortunately, we might only fit into a couple of sites and the turning radius to navigate into and around this campground is tighter than what we think we could navigate. The campground is super close to Mountain Village where one can park and catch the free gondola taking you up and over the mountain into Telluride.
Further down the road is the Matterhorn Campground, also a National Forest Campground and this place has several sites that can accommodate just about anyone … that is IF you can snag an open site.
For those traveling with tents, vans, or small RV’s, the perfect place to camp and really immerse yourself into the Telluride lifestyle is the Telluride Town Park Campground. Nestled in a grove of pine trees along a creek, it’s within walking distance to festival venues, restaurants, and shops. Obviously, where there are trees, there are low branches and tight turning radius’. Thus, we feel it’s not an option for us. Once again, small RV’s have the advantage. Note; during festivals, this campground is jam-packed making it difficult for even a Honda Civic to navigate.
And when it comes to other types of lodging, Telluride has it all. Click here for more info and enjoy your own Rocky Mountain getaway. I promise you won’t be disappointed 🙂
Western Colorado is definitely one of my favorite places to visit. You’ll take in some jaw-dropping beauty as you pass mountains, lakes, and streams. And when the wildflowers are blooming in July and August or the Aspen tree leaves turn golden in September … oh … my … gosh!!! Let’s just say, it’s a sight to behold and photographs rarely capture the enormity of such a spectacular and stunning sight.
Between the majestic San Juan Mountains and the small-town mountain lifestyle, it’s no wonder this area of Colorado is a favorite with many.
Life begins at … life begins whenever you want it to. That’s why more and more people over 50 are seeking new travel adventures, new destinations, and jumping into RVs. After all, you’re kid-free, hopefully, financially stable and slowing down when it comes to work. You are in a prime position to travel extensively. Here are some inspiring tips to help you on your journey.
Relax and rejuvenate
According to a recent AARP survey, 50 plus-year-olds will take 4 to 5 trips a year. They take their trips for a range of reasons. Top of their list is simply to relax and feel rejuvenated. It makes sense. After years of working 40 plus hours a week at a job and being caregivers to loved ones 24/7, there’s definitely a sense that it’s time to make your needs a priority. It’s time for a break. Time to relax, rejuvenate, and rediscover yourself.
Climb every mountain
Perhaps that’s a step too far but, as the song says, why not set yourself challenges and goals? There’s no point making a travel bucket list if it only remains a list. A recent Saga survey found that a third of over 50s felt far more adventurous than they did in their 40s. So, while your kids might raise their eyebrows at your plan to move into an RV full-time or trek the Great Wall of China, or simply learn a new skill, why shouldn’t you? Don’t allow other people to hold you back or second guess your dreams.
Being looked after
If adventure and RVing aren’t quite your thing, that’s OK. Perhaps, after years of looking after everyone else, it’s your turn to think about yourself and do something strictly for yourself? Cruises offer all-inclusive luxury and require very little planning effort. Your needs will be the priority. From entertainment to cuisine to port stops in places you dreamed of visiting, your every requirement is taken care of for you.
Prefer solid ground? There are lots of adult-only focused resorts. Companies have wised up to the fact that many 50+ do not necessarily wish to spend their vacations with screaming kids around. These places offer you a chance to unwind and meet like-minded people. You’ll feel pampered at one of these all-inclusive resorts.
It seems that the over 50s like more than just resorts and beaches. This age group cares about the impact of travel. They like to immerse themselves in the history and culture of a place. We bump into lots of fellow RVers who enjoy visiting cities for all the culture, museums, and activities found in a large metropolitan area.
If you’re about to join the roving 50s, then do some research before you go. If you plan on traveling abroad, learn a few words in the local language. Go on social media and find local groups that post events and information. I find a lot of my travel inspiration from fellow bloggers.
Plan a gap year
Gap years were not in fashion when the over 50s were students. It was all about getting qualified and starting work. Perhaps you deserve your gap year now? Before Al and I moved into our RV full-time, we tested the waters. One year we went on a 6-week road trip and loved it so much that the following year we went on a 4-month road trip.
Gone are the days when age was a barrier to work. Taking a year out is simply that. When you return, you’ll be refreshed and reinvigorated. Perhaps, your travels will inspire you to make further changes to your lifestyle.
When we moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado in the mid-’90s, we couldn’t wait to take our first trip to the mountains. I’m not sure why or how we picked Crested Butte for our first Rocky Mountain destination, but Crested Butte it was.
We packed up the vehicle, two kids, and the dog and ventured into unknown territory. I don’t remember which child said it first, but Crested Butte quickly turned into Crusty Butt. Oh dear, out of the mouths of babes … to dub, such a beautiful, pristine place with such an unpleasant title is just wrong, but to the four of us, Crested Butte was now officially known as Crusty Butt.
Continuing with our Top 5 Must-Visit Colorado Mountain Towns
In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-see Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they’re just that special.
This quaint little mountain town will always hold a special place in my heart due to fond memories that were created during several family excursions to this part of Colorado. Aside from that, Crested Butte does offer a vibrant little community and is considered Colorado’s wildflower capital. It’s home to the Wildflower Festival held each July when the mountain meadows are covered in blooms.
A stroll down the main part of town is always at the top of my to-do list. Elk Avenue is the main shopping and restaurant district and one of our favorite spots for breakfast is at McGill’s. The food is delicious but the coffee is even better. During one of our visits, we couldn’t resist asking what kind of coffee they served, and we discovered that the coffee is actually roasted right there in Crested Butte by Camp 4 Coffee. McGill’s serves their Blue Mesa blend.
Camp 4 Coffee is a locally owned coffee shop and roaster. I love supporting local businesses. We consider no visit to Crested Butte complete without a stop at this establishment. A little afternoon latte pick-me-up followed by a purchase or two of their freshly roasted coffee beans to bring back home to the RV always fits into our schedule.
As we head north of town just a little further, we come to Mount Crested Butte. This is where all the mountain action takes place. Although Crested Butte is known for its amazing ski slopes, it’s also considered the birthplace of mountain biking … well, I understand most mountain bikers might dispute this fact. The origin of mountain biking is something I’ll leave to the Colorado towns vying for that title. I’m merely repeating the Crested Butte information that I read online and at the visitor center.
Visiting the Back Country
One of my favorite things to do whenever I’m in the area is taking a little 4×4 backroad excursion. This is also where you’ll find the majority of wildflowers. During the Wildflower Festival, these backroads are active with tour companies and individual sightseers alike. The festival brings folks in from around the world, thus tourists are everywhere and it’s one of the busiest weeks of the year in Crested Butte.
Not to worry if you can’t make it for the festival. If you show up a week before or after, you’ll still be able to enjoy those blooms and with a lot fewer people around.
(This post is intended for entertainment purposes only. Please do your own research before driving any of these roads. Weather, rain, and flooding can impact the drivability of these roads and conditions can vary from one day to the next. If this is your first time to the area and you’re traveling with an RV, we recommend staying near Gunnison and explore camping options near Crested Buttefirst without the RV.)
Gothic Road, Slate River Road, and Washington Gulch Road are all worth exploring. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended as you travel further into the backcountry. A regular vehicle can traverse some of these gravel roads up to a given point and then road conditions can get a bit rough for the average car.
My Toyota Tacoma is perfect for these roads. With the exception of possibly a creek crossing, I don’t recall having to put the Tacoma into four-wheel drive. There are, however, a couple of real white-knuckle spots in the road on the backside of Mt. Baldy and above Emerald Lake. Yeah, those ledge type of roads that are the width of one lane, cut into the side of a mountain and are intended for two-way traffic are a real thrill!
During one of our first backroad excursions, we started off by heading up Slate River Road. We shared the road with other trucks, Jeeps, and ATVs/UTVs. We passed a large staging area for the trailered OHV (off-highway vehicles), as well as a camping area along the creek. We intended to make it a loop drive but decided to take a quick detour when we got to the turn for Washington Gulch Road where we decided to continue up toward Schofield Pass. At this point, we were on the backside of Mt. Baldy and the road gets narrower and more precarious. I couldn’t envision two vehicles fitting on this ledge type of road. Oh, and I initially forgot that we’d have to retrace our tracks to connect at the Washington Gulch intersection meaning we’d be driving this ledge to and from. Eek!
As we rounded a blind switch back, we encountered a pickup truck loaded with people heading toward us. The truck was lime green in color and set up kind of like an open-air safari vehicle with bench seating in the rear. My fearful thoughts had me mumbling, “Oh dear! How the heck are we going to pass each other?”
I needed to back up and get us as close to the side of the mountain as possible (thank goodness, I had the inside). The other truck and I both pulled in our outside mirrors and we slowly pass each other within inches. He was the one on the outside ledge and I could see his tourist passengers wide-eyed and a tad nervous. One slip, and down the mountain they’d roll. Once we successfully passed each other, the driver waves and comments, “Thanks, we got’er done hon”. The passengers started clapping. I’m sure, they too were as relieved as I was.
I love exploring these backroads, but not on those narrow ledges. I’m always grateful to have Al sitting next to me assisting and encouraging me. He and I decided long ago that I would drive on these exploratory day excursions due to my many photo-op stops. This way, he gets to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride and not listen to someone yelling, “Stop!” every five minutes. 😏
Al, me and Bear near Schofield Pass. Over 10,000 feet in elevation.
Heading into the backcountry
Exploring the high country
Lake Irwin, near Crested Butte, CO
Bear enjoyed our camping trip to Lake Irwin.
(To enlarge a photo in a gallery simply click on any image)
Not only do these backroads take you into some stunning countryside, but they also take you to some trailheads for some amazing hikes. Since we were traveling with an elderly dog during these summer visits, we had to pass on the hiking opportunities, but I assure you next time through, we will definitely add a little hiking into our schedule.
The itty bitty town of Gothic is also worth a short visit and a great place to use a public restroom before heading up toward Emerald Lake. I’m pretty sure the scenic drive to Gothic can be navigated with a regular car but do check at the visitor center in Crested Butte for up to date road conditions.
Lodging and Camping
Since Crested Butte is known as a tourist destination, finding a variety of lodging shouldn’t be a problem. During ski season, we usually opted for a condo near Mount Crested Butte. We’ve also stayed at the Comfort Inn in Gunnison which is about a one-hour drive south of the ski area.
Gunnison is a major town located along Highway 50 and makes a great home base to explore this area of Colorado. It’s also the perfect place to stock up on supplies.
Closer to Crested Butte are some national forest campgrounds suitable for tents and small travel trailers. Even at our modest 31 feet, we were too big and tall for most. We loved tent camping at Lake Irwin. Although we probably could’ve squeezed into a site or two with our 5th wheel, it was just much easier with the tent.
We’ve also seen some folks boondocking off CO Road 12 and 730 near Lake Irwin, but the most popular boondocking locations are off Slate River Road and Washington Gulch Road near Mount Crested Butte. The mountain meadows and views are beautiful, but this is a place for seasoned boondockers who are well acquainted with mountain travel. For first-timers, it’s best to leave the RV camped near the Blue Mesa Reservoir and take a day exploring camping options closer to Crested Butte with just a regular vehicle.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
As long as you’re in the area, you might as well head a bit further west on Highway 50 and take in the unique beauty of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. But keep in mind, if you’re camped in the town of Montrose, it’ll be even easier to access this park. And Montrose happens to be even closer to our next favorite mountain town.
Scenic overlook at Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Crusty Butt Crested Butte is the perfect place to chill and unwind. It’s lowkey, beautiful, and super dog-friendly. However, if you’re into music venues and festivals, I know just the mountain town for that. Stay tuned!