I am kind of stuck half way through a long week (8 days late May) in Colorado.
The first 4 days are Garden of the Gods / Pikes Peak / Royal George / Great Sand Dunes NP.
Now I have 4 more days that I need ideas to either head North or West from Monte Vista. Heading North would end at Rocky Mtn NP and go through the ski towns. Heading west would be Telluride or Ouray & Blacks Canyon NP.
Has anyone done either of these loops? I am looking for ideas to make up my mind.
I don't think you can lose with either of those loops. CO is pretty good country...
A couple years back we did the Big Meadow and Ptarmigan Pass Loop Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. Absolutely beautiful. Could be done in 2 days but better for 3 or 4 day to enjoy the views. Check out the map on alltrails.
@cc-hackman - Sounds like you've got an amazing trip planned, and you honestly can't go wrong with either route.
There is still lots of snow here in the higher elevations, so while RMNP is always beautiful, access may not be what you had hoped it would be. I would recommend heading west from Monte Vista. There will still be snow at higher elevations, but you can head through Pagosa Springs and check out the hot springs, down to Durango which is an amazing town, and hang out in the Orvis Hot Springs near Ouray. I would also recommend stopping in the cutest little town called Del Norte (pronounced "Del Nort") and getting the best pizza and beer at Three Barrels Brewing Company. If you like fly fishing, and if the guiding services are operating right now/the river is not blown out, hire a guide to float you down the Rio Grande from South Fork.
Have fun, and check back in after your trip to let us know what you did!
If you go as far as Durango, don't miss Mesa Verde NP. Aw shucks, just throw a dart at a map of Colorado and go where it lands. You won't be disappointed.
@cc-hackman You have a really good plan for the first 4 days. Everything you have there is fantastic.
This is mud season in the ski towns and they are fairly sleepy. Hiking can be anything from snowpack to mud to dry. Today I was hiking on a dry trail, and within an hour had a 1/2 of small hail that then melted out to mud. Thunder included. And as @REI-SarahS said, RMNP will have significant snow and Trail Ridge Road is still closed for the season. There are other roads closed due to the fire last fall.
I vote for West. Close to Monte Vista is Penitente Canyon for great mountain biking and hiking. Then head toward Creede, Lake City, Ouray, Pagosa Springs, Durango, Million Dollar Highway, Silverton, Mesa Verde, Cortez, Telluride, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Grand Mesa, Colorado National Monument - as much as you can fit in.
Top choices from all of that would be Mesa Verde and Million Dollar Highway.
Orvis Hot Springs I love - but if you are uncomfortable with clothing optional it's best to stay in Pagosa Springs or Ouray.
However...be aware of the major roadwork on Hwy 50 between Gunnison and Montrose. Completely closed most of the time.
@REI-SarahS - I have a friend who grew up in Del Norte, and around others he uses Del Nort, but with family it's Nor-te.😀 And Three Barrels is great!