Southern Colorado Road Trip Itinerary: 7 Days of Adventure

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Did you know that Southern Colorado is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America? Embark on an unforgettable 7-day road trip through this diverse region, where you’ll encounter stunning landscapes, rich history, and endless outdoor adventures.

TL;DR

  • Southern Colorado offers a unique blend of geographical wonders and cultural experiences, from sand dunes to hot springs and ancient cliff dwellings.
  • Careful planning and preparation are essential for a successful week-long road trip, including researching destinations, booking accommodations, and packing appropriately.
  • Selecting the right accommodations and activities will help you make the most of your Southern Colorado road trip experience.

Preparing for Your Southern Colorado Road Trip

Before hitting the road, take the time to research your destinations and map out your route. This will help you optimize your time and ensure you don’t miss any must-see attractions. Consider booking accommodations in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure your preferred lodging options.

When packing for your Southern Colorado road trip, keep in mind the diverse weather conditions and activities you’ll encounter. Be sure to include:

  • Layers for cool mountain evenings and warm desert days
  • Sturdy hiking shoes and outdoor gear
  • Sun protection, including hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen
  • Camera or smartphone to capture the breathtaking scenery

Don’t forget to give your vehicle a thorough safety check before departing, including inspecting tires, brakes, and fluid levels.

Day 1: Starting Point – Pueblo

Begin your journey in Pueblo, a city rich in history and culture. Explore the El Pueblo History Museum to learn about the region’s past, and take a stroll along the scenic Pueblo Riverwalk. For a taste of local cuisine, try one of Pueblo’s famous green chile dishes at a restaurant like Gray’s Coors Tavern or Shamrock Brewing Company.

Accommodation options in Pueblo include the Courtyard by Marriott Pueblo Downtown or the Wingate by Wyndham Pueblo.

Day 2: Pueblo to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Depart Pueblo and make your way to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. Upon arrival, explore the park’s unique landscape by hiking, sandboarding, or capturing stunning photographs.

For an immersive experience, camp under the stars at the Pinon Flats Campground or stay at the nearby Great Sand Dunes Lodge.

Day 3: Great Sand Dunes to Pagosa Springs

Embark on a scenic drive from the sand dunes to Pagosa Springs, a charming town known for its world-famous hot springs. Soak in the mineral-rich waters at The Springs Resort & Spa or Healing Waters Resort & Spa, and let your stress melt away.

Dine at local favorites like Riff Raff Brewing Company or Alley House Grille, and spend the night at the luxurious Pagosa Springs Resort or the cozy Fireside Inn Cabins.

Day 4: Pagosa Springs to Durango

Continue your journey to Durango, a historic town with a vibrant downtown area. Take a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a scenic train that winds through the San Juan Mountains. For outdoor enthusiasts, Durango offers excellent mountain biking trails and rafting opportunities on the Animas River.

Choose from a variety of accommodation options, such as the historic Strater Hotel or the modern Durango Downtown Inn.

Day 5: Exploring Mesa Verde National Park

Dedicate a day to exploring Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. Take a guided tour or embark on a self-guided exploration of the park’s fascinating archaeological sites, such as the Cliff Palace or Balcony House.

In the evening, return to Durango for a relaxing night at your chosen accommodation.

Day 6: Durango to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Set out from Durango towards the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a stunning natural wonder featuring steep cliffs and dramatic rock formations. Along the way, stop at scenic viewpoints and charming small towns like Ouray, known as the “Switzerland of America.”

At Black Canyon, engage in activities such as hiking, fishing, or stargazing under the park’s dark skies. Stay at the Curecanti National Recreation Area’s campgrounds or nearby lodges like the Arrowhead Mountain Lodge.

Day 7: Black Canyon to Colorado Springs via Royal Gorge

On the final day of your Southern Colorado road trip, visit the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, home to America’s highest suspension bridge. Walk across the bridge, take a thrilling zipline ride, or enjoy a scenic aerial gondola tour.

Continue to Colorado Springs, where you can explore the stunning Garden of the Gods, a park featuring towering red rock formations. Reflect on your memorable road trip and spend your final night at a comfortable hotel like The Broadmoor or the Garden of the Gods Resort and Club.

FAQ Section

What is the best time of year to embark on a Southern Colorado road trip?

The best time for a Southern Colorado road trip is from late spring to early fall (May to October) when most attractions are open and the weather is mild. However, keep in mind that summer months can be busy, so book accommodations in advance.

Are there any specific vehicle requirements for a Southern Colorado road trip?

While a standard car is suitable for most of the route, some areas like the Great Sand Dunes may require a high-clearance or 4WD vehicle. Check park websites for specific recommendations and road conditions.

What are some must-visit attractions in Southern Colorado?

Must-visit attractions include the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Colorado National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Grand Junction, Blue Lake, Grand Lake, the San Juan Skyway, and the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park.

Can you recommend any unique dining experiences in Southern Colorado?

Try local specialties like Pueblo’s green chile dishes, farm-to-table cuisine in Durango, or craft beer at one of the many breweries throughout the region.

How can travelers be respectful of the natural environments they visit in Southern Colorado?

Practice Leave No Trace principles by disposing of waste properly, staying on designated trails, respecting wildlife, and minimizing campfire impacts. Always follow park guidelines and regulations to help preserve these natural wonders for future generations.

James-Ranson

About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.