20907
Colorado
Colorado's Scenic Byways
Discover a lesser-known side of Colorado as you journey its National Scenic Byways with experts, exploring natural monuments, local museums, mining history and welcoming mountain towns.
Rating (5)
Program No. 20907RJ
Length
8 days
Starts at
1,849
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8 days
7 nights
15 meals
7 B 4 L 4 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Denver, CO
D
Holiday Inn Denver Cherry Creek

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration. 6:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. You will then be directed to the meeting room in the hotel where we will eat dinner and, afterwards, have our Orientation session.

Dinner: In the hotel meeting room, we’ll dine with a buffet including coffee, tea, lemonade, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the schedule labeled “Free Time” and “At Leisure” offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable while going out to explore on your own, engaging in available activities independently, making new friends among fellow Road Scholars, or simply relaxing. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local ircumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. On the Road programs are journeys that take participants to multiple study sites in a region with a number of overnight stays. Lectures, talks, discussions, field trips, and on-board commentary amplify the program theme. Some journeys involve great distances and may take hours, others are much shorter. Long or short, On the Road journeys are learning experiences that make the most of our time together. Throughout the program, at some stops we will go on short (100 yards) walks at scenic pull-offs. Some stops we will be getting off the motorcoach to take pictures and stretch legs. Some stops will also have leaders speaking to the group. (NOTE: there is no way to predict/describe all stops for each day because it will vary depending upon time of day, distance and time requirements, weather, group needs, etc.) Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Cache la Poudre - North Park Scenic Byway, Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs, CO
B,L
Holiday Inn Steamboat Springs

Activity note: Walking about ¼ mile total for the day; gravel or paved paths with minimal steps. Driving approx. 230 miles total; about 2.5 hours in both morning and afternoon with stops.

Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant, we’ll have a plated breakfast including juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll begin by checking out of the hotel and boarding our motorcoach to travel to Fort Collins, then west on the Cache la Poudre – North Park Scenic Byway. This Byway provides a glimpse of Colorado “pre-interstate and pre-ski resort” legacy. Native Americans traversed Poudre Canyon, as did the fur trappers of the early 1800’s, followed by miners and lumbermen. The highlight of the east side of the Byway is Colorado’s only designated Wild & Scenic River – the Cache la Poudre. Vegetation on the east side is a little lusher with cottonwoods along the river and pine forests as elevations increase. The Byway tops out on Cameron Pass at an elevation of about 10,250 feet. The west side drops into North Park and is an entirely different world of sagebrush, grass and expansive views. North Park unfolds at an elevation of 8,100 feet in a basin carved by Ice Age glaciers. The Medicine Bow and Never Summer Mountains ring the park. The valley is home to some of Colorado’s oldest ranches, raising livestock and hay. The Byway ends Walden, a town with a population of about 750, while Jackson County is home to about 1,400 residents total. Along the way, our expert Group Leader will provide commentary on the local area and its definitive characteristics. We’ll also make stops en route at scenic pull-offs to take advantage of the views and enjoy a self-led visit at the Moose Visitor Venter to explore the exhibits, which are largely devoted to the regional flora and fauna.

Lunch: At a locally owned restaurant in Walden, we’ll have a plated lunch including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: We continue over Rabbit Ears Pass and arrive at our destination Steamboat Springs (population 12,000), home of one of Colorado’s first ski areas. We have time to relax and enjoy the hotel's amenities.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like at the hotel restaurants. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Flattops, Ashcroft, Maroon Bells
Carbondale, CO
B,L
Comfort Inn Carbondale

Activity note: Walking about 1/2 mile total for the day; gravel or paved paths,Driving approx. 200 miles total; about 2.5 hours in both morning and afternoon with stops.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a hot buffet with choice of breads, cereal, fruit, hot eggs, hot breakfast meat, other hot items, yogurt, juice, and coffee.

Morning: We leave Steamboat Springs heading South along the Yampa River and the hills on the edge of the Flattops Mountains. We will look for impressive stands of Aspen with hopeful golden seasonal colors. Wildlife may also be visible to the keen eye including Deer, Elk, and Pronghorn Antelope. We pass the old time small towns of Oak Creek, Phippsburg, Yampa, and Toponas all originally founded as Railroad hubs for mining and timber industries.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a buffet lunch including coffee, tea, lemonade, and water.

Afternoon: We enter the Roaring Fork River Valley with impressive views of Mt. Sopris ahead as we make our way to the town of Aspen. We drive to two iconic Colorado sites, the well preserved mining ghost town of Ashcroft and then head up an adjacent valley to Maroon Lake and the amazing Maroon Bells mountains.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like at the hotel restaurants. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
West Elk and Grand Mesa Scenic Byways, Montrose
Montrose, CO
B,L,D
Red Arrow Inn and Suites

Activity note: Walking about 1/2 mile total for the day gravel or paved paths. Driving approx. 90 miles total; about 2.5 hours in both morning and afternoon with stops.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a hot buffet with choice of breads, cereal, fruit, eggs, breakfast meats, yogurt, and a variety of other items including juice, milk, coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: Setting out from Carbondale, we drive along the scenic approach of the West Elk Scenic Byway and McClure Pass where we will see the largest single stand of aspen trees in the U.S. We also traverse the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway climbing to 10,000 feet on this largest flattop mountain in the world. On top of the Mesa we stop at a local Lodge and restaurant for an authentic Polish style lunch.

Lunch: Plated lunch including coffee, tea, lemonade, and water.

Afternoon: We return to lower valleys passing through orchards and corn fields on our way to our evening's destination of Montrose. These valleys are producers of some of the best peaches, cherries, apricots, apples, and sweet corn. Also the Colorado Wine Industry thrives on the grapes grown in this area. We check into our hotel mid-afternoon.

Dinner: At a local steakhouse in Montrose, we’ll dine tonight with a plated meal including coffee, tea, lemonade, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Black Canyon NP, Million Dollar Highway Ute Heritage Center
Ignacio, CO
B,L
Sky Ute Lodge

Activity note: Walking about 1/2 mile total for the day gravel or paved paths with minimal steps; steps and inclines at National Park, periods of standing in museum. Driving approx. 140 miles total; about 2.5 hours in the morning with stops.

Breakfast: At the motel, we’ll have a buffet with a variety of choices including breads, cereal, fruit, waffles, other hot items, yogurt, juice, milk, coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: We board our bus for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. we’ll be joined by a local expert who will explain to us details of the canyon’s geology and natural history as we drive. To provide real context to the geological information we are learning, we’ll also make some stops to see the magnificent canyon. Departing the National Park, our route is along the Million Dollar Highway to Ignacio will bring us through the spectacular scenery of the San Juan mountains and through the historic mining towns of Ouray and Silverton. This famous highway, marked on maps and by road signs as US-550, is loaded with sublime natural scenery. The “Million Dollar” tag is generally applied to the 25 steep and twisting miles that link Ouray and Silverton, a pair of remote gold and silver mining communities. The history of the Million Dollar Highway is rife with legend. Even the origin of the “Million Dollar” name is clouded in myth. Some say it was first used after an early traveler, complaining of the vertigo-inducing steepness of the route, said, “I wouldn't go that way again if you paid me a million dollars.” Others claim that it derives simply from the actual cost of paving the route in the 1930s. But the favorite explanation is also the most likely: When the highway was first constructed, the builders used gravel discarded by nearby gold and silver mines, only to find out later that this dirt was actually rich in ore and worth an estimated “million dollars.” We will stop for lunch in Silverton.

Lunch: We will have a plated including coffee, tea, lemonade, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We arrive mid-afternoon in Ignacio our stop for the night. Some may choose to walk from the hotel about 100 yards to the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum. The Center interprets the Southern Ute Indians history and culture, both past and present.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like at the hotel restaurants. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Take some time for relaxation and reflection on a busy day.

DAY
6
Silver Thread Scenic Byway, Creede Mining Museum, Gunnison
Gunnison, CO
B,D
Comfort Inn Gunnison

Activity note: Walking about 1/2 mile total for the day gravel or paved paths, steps and inclines at Mining Museum and in Creede. Driving approx. 230 miles total; about 2.5 hours in both morning and afternoon with stops.

Breakfast: At the lodge, we’ll have a hot buffet with choice of breads, cereal, fruit, eggs, breakfast meats, yogurt, and a variety of other items including juice, milk, coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: Along the Silver Thread Scenic Byway, we’ll travel through Colorado’s two least populated mountain counties with a combined population of about 1,500 people as we pass beautiful areas of natural wonders, all with rich geology. Geologists believe three eras of volcanic eruptions created the Byway’s terrain. One eruption about 26 million years ago, labeled the La Garita, is believed to be the single largest volcanic eruption in Earth’s history. The caldera is about 45 miles across and we’ll drive through part of it on the byway until our arrival in Creede. Located in a narrow mountain canyon at an elevation of 8,844 feet, silver was discovered here in 1889 and mining since became the area's main industry through the years until 1985. Creede now has a population of about 300 residents. After the mines closed in the 1980s it has depended entirely on tourism for survival. In its heyday, Creede was one of the roughest mining towns in Colorado. Robert Ford, who shot Jesse James, was the “boss.” He ran the saloons and brothels until he met his demise at the wrong end of a shotgun. Harsh cold and snowy winters were hard on fire trucks and the town needed a place to keep trucks so they would start in the winter. The concept for an underground facility began in 1976, when a local miner proposed building an underground fire station where the temperature remains 50 degrees year round. This project was so well accepted that in 1990 local citizens decided to build a community center and mining museum underground with the fire trucks, which we will visit while here. While the museum has never been used for the commercial production of silver, it was 'mined' from solid rock and is an authentic example of the methods and techniques used in the 'boom' days of Creede, Colorado. Local former miners are the docents who will provide the intriguing story of mining in the San Juan Mountains.

Lunch: On your own in Creede to explore the local fare. There are several very small family owned restaurants where participants can visit with local residents while dining.

Afternoon: We’ll then continue on the Byway following the Rio Grande River lined with willows and boggy meadows which provide perfect habitat for moose. Stopping at a cluster of waterfalls on North and South Clear Creeks, we’ll see the South Falls’ clean 60 foot drop from the edge of the sand colored volcanic tuff to the boulders below and North Clear Creek Falls’ drop of about 100 feet. It is possible to get views from several angles at this excellent photo stop. Carrying on, the Byway continues to the summit of Spring Creek Pass and enters dense spruce fir forests. Windy Point’s pull off offers a spectacular view of 8 peaks of the San Juan Mountains ranging from 12,821 to 14,309 feet in elevation. The Slumgullion Earthflow is another geologic wonder on this Byway and has been designated as a National Natural Landmark. The huge multi-colored earth flow (slide) occurred about 700 years ago when the cliff face collapsed and ran downhill. It moved significantly again about 350 years ago. The United States Geologic Survey (USGS) tracks the movement of the slide. We’ll also see a marker on the road marking the Alfred Packer massacre site that took place in the winter of 1873. Our Group Leader will tell us the interesting story of how Packer set out with several companions on a prospecting venture, became lost during snowstorms, and were forced to spend the winter in the mountains near Lake City. Only Packer stumbled out alive in the spring. Eventually, however, darker details surrounding these events began to surface. The tiny (population 375) town of Lake City is the only incorporated town in Hinsdale County. It was a mining and transportation center in the 19th century. The entire town is on the National Historic Register. This is the perfect community for a stop to independently explore the Victorian buildings housing unique locally owned shops. We will arrive at our hotel in Gunnison in the late afternoon.

Dinner: At a local restaurant in Gunnison, we’ll dine on a plated meal including coffee, tea, lemonade, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Gunnison is home of Western State College on the Gunnison River and in the heart of rich farming and ranching country; it’s also frequently recorded as one of the coldest places in the U.S.

DAY
7
Saguache, Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway, Denver
Denver, CO
B,D
Holiday Inn Denver Cherry Creek

Activity note: Walking about 1/4 mile total for the day gravel or paved paths, some steps and inclines. Driving approx. 240 miles total; about 2.5 hours in both morning and afternoon with stops.

Breakfast: At the motel, we’ll have a buffet with a variety of choices including breads, cereal, fruit, waffles, other hot items, yogurt, juice, milk, coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: Leaving Gunnison, a short drive along U.S. 50 will take us to Colorado Highway 114 traveling over Cochetopa and North Pass to the historic San Luis Valley and the town of Saguache. This scenic drive is a true back road of Colorado through the best of Colorado Ranch Country. Upon arrival in Saguache, we’ll visit the Saguache County Museum where local docents will lead us through this slice of small town America and share stories from early settlers of Saguache County, many of whom played a large role in the settlement of Colorado. The Museum is in three small buildings: A home built in 1870, the adobe school built in 1874 and the 1908 jail. Among the interesting items are a 38-star American flag; 1908 defibrillator; an antique gun collection; a Clariona reed pipe purchased at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair; an amazing collection of Indian rugs, ancient baskets and pottery; a mineral collection; a 1908 fire wagon and hose cart. After our visit, we’ll drive along the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and over Poncha Pass to our lunch stop in Salida.

Lunch: On your own in Salida. There are many restaurants for the participants to enjoy while visiting with locals.

Afternoon: Leaving Salida as we travel North on the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway on Highway US 285, the west side of our route will be lined with 6 peaks measuring over 14,000 feet in elevation, 3 of which are named Mt. Princeton, Mt. Yale, and Mt. Harvard - the "Collegiate Peaks." Turning east we’ll enter South Park and the mining town of Fairplay. South Park and the town are the models for the irreverent television show of the same name. After our motorcoach climbs above the Park and crosses Kenosha Pass, we’ll drive down a beautiful canyon into the Mile High City of Denver for check-in at our hotel. Started in 1859 by gold seekers who were rushing to the Rockies, Denver has evolved in to a diverse, sophisticated city. Our Group Leader will offer expert commentary on the human and natural history of the regions as we drive and make stops at scenic locations.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant, we’ll gather for our farewell plated meal including coffee, tea, lemonade, and water; other beverages available for purchase. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
8
Program Concludes
Denver, CO
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 10:00 a.m.

Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant, we’ll have a full plated breakfast including juices, coffee, tea, water. This concludes our program.

Morning: We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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