Since neither of us has to report to work any more, we had been planning a longer road trip for the beginning of the summer. Our garden and chickens can’t be left unattended too long however, so we decided on a 2-week road trip. We thought we would simply do an easy road trip down the east coast visiting friends, but a few weeks before going, I found direct flights from JFK to Denver that I could travel hack. So we decided to plan out a Colorado and New Mexico Road trip.
Choosing a scenic route for a Colorado and New Mexico Road trip
We chose our destinations with a glance at the map and minimal research. Our stops were: Colorado Springs, Taos NM, Pagosa Springs, Durango, Rico, Grand Junction, then back to Denver. Each stop would be 2 nights with the exception of our one-night stay in Rico. We decided to stay in all Airbnbs except for the last two nights in Denver, for which we got a hotel convenient to the airport with points. (Details of miles/points use in this article)
After landing in Denver and picking up our rental car, we headed to our first stay in Colorado Springs. This area turned out to be much more sprawl than we expected. Like most people in the area, our Airbnb host was working for the Air Force which has a huge presence in Colorado Springs. It was a sobering reminder of my own time spent doing work for the DoD. Condo after condo piled upon each other – following along newly built shopping strips with every big retailer one can imagine. On the plus side, the condo we were staying in did have a excellent view of Pikes Peak, so we made dinner and took in the view with a few beers.
Save money by packing picnics
The next morning, we packed some sandwiches and started heading towards Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. We quickly discovered that Garden of the Gods is a really neat natural feature which is swarmed with tourists even during the weekdays. After seeing one too many tourists, we opted to skip Pikes Peak and quickly moved on – deciding instead to drive a bit further into the mountains, we headed toward Buena Vista. Now we were starting to see the natural beauty of Colorado we wanted to see. After looking for a nice lunch spot, we stopped on Tarryall Creek, climbed up to some trees for shade, and had a nice picnic.
As we crossed through our first mountain passes from Pikes National Forest, we were stunned as we came around a turn to the view of the snow capped peaks that are part of San Isabel National forest. Then, as we passed through those peaks into the valley where Buena Vista is located, we were greeted with even more impressive views. Apparently this was just about how the whole trip was going to go – one marvel after another.
Consider doing some whitewater rafting
Driving into the valley toward Buena Vista, we came across the Arkansas River. Our rivers on the east coast are lazy and warm. The rivers in Colorado, we came to learn, move fast and cold. Supplied with fresh melted snow, and brown with the sediment picked up while traveling quickly through the mountains, these rivers make for exciting rafting and kayaking.
While we did not have time this day, the rafting looked like a blast, maybe at some point on this trip we would need to get out on the water. For now though, satiated with all the stunning views, we packed up and headed back to Colorado Springs. We would have to get up at a reasonable hour to head to our next stop – Taos, NM.