22961
Colorado

The Mighty Seven: Colorado’s Majestic National Parks & Monuments

Learn about Colorado’s natural wonders as you journey across the state exploring seven of its most stunning and diverse national parks and monuments.
Rating (5)
Program No. 22961RJ
Length
11 days
Starts at
2,999
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11 days
10 nights
25 meals
10 B 8 L 7 D
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. Check-in at hotel between 3 and 5 pm followed by 6 pm required welcome dinner and orientation. Meet in Lobby at 6 pm. Orientation and welcome dinner, introductory lecture and information.

Dinner: In the hotel, we’ll dine on 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. This is a Road Scholar On The Road (OTR) program. OTR 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, we will make a variety of stops; during some we will go on short walks at scenic pull-offs while others will involve getting off the motorcoach to take pictures and stretch legs. Some stops will also have leaders speaking to the group. There is no way to perfectly predict and describe all stops for each day because it will vary depending upon time of day, distance and time requirements, weather, group needs, etc Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
2
Fossil Beds National Monument, San Luis Valley
Monte Vista, CO
B,L
Best Western Movie Manor Inn

Activity note: Driving approximately 230 miles total; about 2.5 hours in both morning and afternoon, with stops. Walking about 1 mile total for the day; gravel or paved paths with minimal steps.

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 Fossil Beds National Monument and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve by way of the ancient inland sea now called South Park. We’ll arrive at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, which has one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world. Petrified redwood stumps up to 14 feet wide and thousands of detailed fossils of insects and plants reveal the story of a very different, prehistoric Colorado. While here, we’ll join a park ranger for a lecture in the amphitheater before accompanying us on a walk along the fossil trail to discover this amazing place. Along the way, we will come across Adeline Hornbek’s Homestead. Traveling back in time to the late 1870s, we’ll learn how Adeline Hornbek was a widow who managed to save her homestead despite her difficult circumstances, and how her story fits into the history of the National Monument.

Lunch: At Fossil Beds, we’ll enjoy the boxed lunches with sandwiches that we selected during orientation. Boxes also include a piece of fruit, chips, and dessert.

Afternoon: Our motorcoach will then travel into South Park where we’ll stop for views and breaks along the way as we pass the Sawatch Range with seven peaks over 14,000 feet high. Then, as we descend into historic San Luis Valley, we’ll learn about its rich history of Spanish exploration and today's fertile agriculture industry. Arriving at our hotel in Monte Vista, we’ll check in and soak in the nostalgia of Movie Manor, the only motel in the United States with a drive-in movie theater on the property.

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

Evening: At leisure. Take some time for relaxation and reflection on a busy day. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
3
Great Sand Dunes National Monument & Preserve
Ignacio, CO
B,L,D
Sky Ute Lodge

Activity note: Driving in afternoon approximately 140 miles total; about 2.5 hours, with stops. Walking about 2 miles total for the day; sand, gravel or paved paths, some steps and inclines. Opportunity to wade in Medano Creek.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a tasty breakfast buffet featuring a variety of hot and cold items, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After checking out of our hotel, we board the motorcoach for a scenic drive to the 38,000-acre Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Starting at the Visitor Center, we’ll watch an introductory film and view the interpretive displays to gain an understanding of the park. Then, with our Group Leader, we will walk out onto the dunes and explore this unique geographic phenomenon. Too heavy to rise with the winds that carry it north-eastward across the flat, semiarid floor of the San Luis Valley, sand settles at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Range. The deposits that have accumulated over the course of 15,000 years have resulted in a 39-square-mile dune, making it the largest in North America. We’ll enjoy hiking the constantly changing sand dunes and, if you wish, dipping your toes in Medano Creek as we watch for waves in the water, a phenomenon called "surge flow." As mounds of sand form and fall in the creek bed, water surges, similar to the action of waves at a beach.

Lunch: At a café located just outside the National Park, we will order plated meals from the menu, with soft drinks, coffee, tea, water included.

Afternoon: Continuing, we’ll travel to Ignacio by motorcoach along the scenic highway including Wolf Creek Pass, known for its rugged beauty and difficult engineering. Our on-board expert will narrate the passing area by pointing out aspects of its natural and human history. Upon arrival at the hotel, we’ll check in.

Dinner: In the lodge dining room, we’ll have plated meals with soft drinks, coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Mesa Verde National Park
Ignacio, CO
B,L
Sky Ute Lodge

Activity note: Driving approximately 68 miles total; about 1.5 hours each way in morning and afternoon, with stops. Walking about 2 miles total for the day; gravel or paved paths, steps and inclines at National Park.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have plated meals with a choice of breads, cereal, fruit, hot items, yogurt, juice, and coffee.

Morning: Setting out via motorcoach, we’ll travel to Mesa Verde National Park for our full-day field trip. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only national park dedicated to works of people, Mesa Verde (Spanish for “green table”) offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people, masters of architectural adaptation, who made it their home for over 700 years from 600 to 1300 C.E. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, which are some of the most notable and best preserved sites in the United States. After a lecture with a national park ranger introducing us to the location, we will explore the mesa top and canyons learning about some of the many facets of the Ancestral Puebloan life.

Lunch: At Far View Terrace Cafeteria in the national park, we’ll choose our meals and included beverages such as coffee, tea, lemonade, and water.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our exploration of Mesa Verde with time to visit the museum and Visitor Center through independent exploration. We’ll return to the lodge in Ignacio in the late afternoon.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like at the lodge restaurant.

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

DAY
5
Million Dollar Hwy, Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park
Montrose, CO
B,L,D
Red Arrow Inn and Suites

Activity note: Driving approximately 150 total miles; about 1.5 hours in both morning and afternoon, with stops. Walking about 2 miles total for the day; several gravel or unpaved paths, some rocky uneven surfaces, steps and inclines to overlooks.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll travel along the most scenic highway in Colorado, the "Million Dollar Highway," part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byways. During our ride, we’ll listen to expert commentary from our Group Leader and make stops for spectacular views including the picturesque mining town of Silverton.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a buffet lunch including coffee, tea, lemonade, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Our next destination is Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park. Upon our arrival at Black Canyon 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 and walk at overlooks. For over two million years, the power of water has been working to form the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The canyon combines depth, narrowness and sheerness while exposing us to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. The Canyon Rim Drive has several viewpoints, which we’ll reach by short walking trails for opportunities to see down into the canyon and experience the steep cliff walls above the Gunnison River nearly 2,000 feet below the canyon rim.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals with coffee, tea, lemonade, and water included; other beverages available for purchase.

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

DAY
6
Ute Historical Museum, Grand Mesa Scenic Byway
Palisade, CO
B,L
Wine Country Inn

Activity note: Driving approximately 150 total miles; about 1.5 hours in both morning and afternoon, with stops. Walking about 2 miles total for the day; several gravel or unpaved paths, some rocky uneven surfaces, steps and inclines to overlooks.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet will feature a choice of breads, cereal, fruit, hot items, yogurt, juice, and coffee.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll drive to the new Historical Museum dedicated to the Ute Tribe where we will enjoy a docent-led walk through the exhibits, which represent an critical part of Colorado’s history. Then we’ll travel up and along the spectacular Grand Mesa and follow the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. Along the way, we’ll make stops for informative talks, beautiful views, and cooler air on the mesa. Rising over 10,000 feet above sea level, Grand Mesa is the highest flat-topped mountain in the world.

Lunch: At Alexander Lake Lodge on Grand Mesa, we’ll have an authentic plated Polish lunch at the popular restaurant, which is run by owners from the Tatra Mountains of Poland. We’ll have several entrée choices, side dishes, and desserts, plus coffee, tea, lemonade, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Leaving the restaurant, we’ll travel by motorcoach along the edge of Grand Mesa to Palisade, the orchard and vineyard capital of Colorado. We’ll arrive and check into a vineyard-based lodge for the next two nights.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction
Palisade, CO
B,D
Wine Country Inn

Activity note: Driving about 50 miles; about 2 hours total for the day. Walking approximately 1 mile total; gravel paths to overlooks; paths are no more than 200 yards long.

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

Morning: Leaving on our motorcoach from the lodge, we’ll drive to Colorado National Monument, “a gift from the spirits,” as the Ute people refer to it. On our way, we will experience sheer walled, red rock canyons along the twists and turns of Rimrock Drive, where we might spy bighorn desert sheep and soaring eagles. Rimrock Drive is an engineering and road-building feat that was accomplished during the Depression of the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp. The 22-mile drive through the Monument will take us through several tunnels and many switchbacks as we climb to the top of the Plateau. Upon arrival, we will enjoy the Visitors Center and several viewpoints including Independence Overlook. John Otto, who worked to have it designated as a National Monument, called it the “Heart of the World.” The grandness of its mesas and towering monoliths within a vast plateau and canyon panorama separate it from other national parks as it preserves one of the most iconic landscapes of the American West.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like at Grand Junction.

Afternoon: Free time. This block of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most in downtown Grand Junction. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. We’ll rendezvous at a predetermined time and place for our return to the inn in Palisade.

Dinner: At Wine Country Inn, we’ll enjoy a special farm-to-fork plated dinner paired with wine. The Grand Valley of Colorado is known for growing some of the finest grapes and producing award-winning wines. A sommelier will explain the pairing of the wines with the dishes. Coffee, tea, lemonade, water included.

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

DAY
8
Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur Diamond Byway
Rangely, CO
B,L,D
Blue Mountain Inn & Suites

Activity note: Driving about 200 miles throughout the day; approximately 4 hours total, with several stops. Walking about 2.5 miles total for the day; gravel or paved paths, steps and inclines at the national monument.

Breakfast: Inn buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll transfer via motorcoach from Palisade and head north on Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway as we travel through remote and stunning ranch country. We’ll arrive at Dinosaur National Monument and enjoy a field trip on the Colorado side which, although visited less often, is probably the most beautiful of any of Colorado’s national parks and monuments as it preserves a true wilderness experience of stunning beauty. The Yampa River, which is designated as one of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers, flows through the Colorado side of the national monument where it joins the Green River. We’ll spend the day enjoying some of the viewpoints and overlooks as we watch for wild horses and other wildlife.

Lunch: At the national monument, we’ll have our boxed lunches.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our exploration of Dinosaur National Monument with an elective self-led nature walk. Afterwards, we’ll board our motorcoach and complete our transfer to the hotel in Rangely.

Dinner: At the Rangely Automobile Museum , we’ll have a buffet meal with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase. Following dinner we will enjoy the unusual collection of antique autos.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Dinosaur National Monument Quarry
Steamboat Springs, CO
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Steamboat Springs

Activity note: Driving about 150 miles throughout the day; approximately 3 hours total, with stops. Walking about 1 mile total throughout the day; mostly paved trails of 100 yards or less to overlooks. Additional elective trail is approximately 2 miles roundtrip on gravel path with uphill and downhill areas.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a breakfast buffet including breads, cereal, fruit, waffles, and yogurt, plus juice, milk, coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: We’ll begin by returning to Dinosaur National Monument where we will visit the world-famous Dinosaur Quarry, first stopping at the Visitor Center for an introductory film and to see the exhibits. Afterwards, we’ll transfer by motorcoach to the Quarry where we’ll gather with a National Park Service Ranger for a lecture about the amazing excavation and preservation techniques used to uncover the dinosaur bones embedded in the rock. From there, we’ll travel to the Utah side of the monument where we’ll stop at the Quarry Exhibit Hall, which contains the remains of hundreds of dinosaur fossils still imbedded in the rock. Up close to the specimens, we will see the fossils in the exact positions they were discovered. While here, Park Rangers will present a talk on the finding, excavation, and preservation of the fossils, and theories as to why the fossil wall exists.

Lunch: At the national monument, we’ll have our boxed lunches.

Afternoon: We’ll conclude our exploration of Dinosaur National Monument by driving to and visiting Josie Bassett’s cabin. Josie Bassett was born in 1892 and she grew up in Browns Park, which was one of the hideouts along the Outlaw Trail. The Bassetts were friends of Butch Cassidy and other infamous outlaws who roamed the area. In 1913, Josie decided to homestead on Cub Creek and lived in this remote rustic homestead until 1963. With our expert Group Leader, we will have the opportunity to explore the remains of her cabin, outbuildings, and orchard, which are all part of the national monument. While exploring the site, our Group Leader will narrate the life and times of the homesteaders. Afterwards, we’ll travel east to Steamboat Springs where we will check into the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have plated meals with soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

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

DAY
10
Rocky Mountain National Park, Trail Ridge Road
Denver, CO
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Denver Cherry Creek

Activity note: Driving approximately 150 miles total; about 1.5 hours in both morning and afternoon. Walking about 1 mile total throughout the day; gravel or paved paths, some steps and inclines.

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

Morning: Leaving Steamboat Springs, we’ll drive along the Yampa River Valley until it joins the Colorado River as we gain elevation on our way to Rocky Mountain National Park. While aboard, we’ll enjoy commentary given by our Group Leader about the natural and human history of the rivers as well as an introduction to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Lunch: At a picnic area during a stop in Rocky Mountain National Park, we’ll have our boxed lunches.

Afternoon: To cap off our national parks experiences, we’ll then drive Rocky Mountain National Park’s magnificent Trail Ridge Road with eight miles of the 48-mile-long highway above 11,000 feet in elevation. With its high point reaching 12,183 feet above sea level, it is the highest continuous highway in the United States and it was constructed between 1926 and 1932. It travels through several different life zones including subalpine and alpine zones, as well as the largest continuous tundra in the Continental United States. With the various different climate zones, the flora and fauna varieties are almost limitless. As we drive, keep your eyes open for deer, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, bears, marmots, pica, ptarmigan, eagles, Stellar Jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, Rocky Mountain bluebirds, and more. The magnificent vistas display unique, wild beauty and rugged summits of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. We will stop at key overlooks along the way including some short walks to view the tundra and magnificent scenery. Our expert Group Leader will add commentary during these stops. We’ll continue from the park to our hotel in Denver and check in.

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
11
Program Concludes
Denver, CO
B

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

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

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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