Four Days of Bliss in Southwest Colorado
By Allison Fitts & Lillian Robinson
Colorado has so many unique mountain towns, natural hot springs, and sweeping vistas to explore. Whether you’re living in Denver or visiting from out of town, there’s nothing better than hitting the open road with nothing but a loose plan and some gas in the tank. Here are some hot spots to see and quick tips from a four-day road trip we took earlier this year throughout southwest Colorado.
Aspen and Maroon Bells
- Aspen is posh by all Colorado mountain town standards, with a plethora of upscale restaurants, shops, and parks, there’s plenty to do. We enjoyed lunch at the White House Tavern!
- Free bike sharing stations give you 30-minute rides around town—perfect for checking out all the adorable houses and sights.
- To get to Maroon Bells, we recommend taking the bus! It’s quick and painless and prevents you from having an early morning wake up call.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
- Drive the canyon rim and check out each of the vistas around the park, or plan a more in-depth hike down into the canyon.
- With plenty of NPS-approved campgrounds, this is a great place to set up camp for the night. This national park is an International Dark-Sky Park, so the night sky is absolutely stunning. The park rangers host plenty of events, day and night, so stop in at the visitor’s center to check out the day’s activities.
- On your drive from Gunnison to Telluride, stop at La Zona Colona Coffee, the cutest little coffee shop in Montrose. There are homemade donuts, cute decor, and a drive thru if you’re in a rush to get to your next destination.
- Known for its many different festivals and events, you never know what’s going on in this classic mountain town. When we were in town, it was Telluride Film Festival! We saw Melissa McCarthy and caught a movie outside in the park.
- Ride on the free Telluride-Mountain Village gondola for quick access between the towns or simply the great views.
- Free campsite: May E Campground is managed by the Forest Service and perfectly settled right outside of town.
- The Ouray hot springs are not to be missed. With 4 different pools of varying temperatures and a gorgeous view of the mountains, this is a great spot to relax after a hike.
- Restaurant options are more limited, so plan on bringing in food.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
- The main attraction in this smaller National Park is High Dune, the approximately 650-foot-tall dune in the sea of smaller dunes. We recommend packing your headlamps and a blanket and hiking to the top for some stargazing.
- Stop at Paradise Coffee in the nearby town of La Veta for a perfect morning pit stop on your way to or from the park