THE AMAZING COLORS OF COLORADO
According to locals this has been an unusual Colorado fall. Warmer temperatures stayed through late October and the leaves hung around a bit longer on the trees. One woman even told me she can’t remember the last time she wore shorts in October. We soaked in all the sunshine and color as we explored southern Colorado.
Up in the mountains, not too far from Salida, is a gorgeous campground nestled among the mountains and along the Arkansas River called Helca Junction. It’s a primitive campground without amenities but who needs amenities when you got gorgeous views and your own bed, kitchen, and bathroom, in the RV. 😉
The Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation area is one of the most popular white water rafting and kayaking locations in the United States. The season appeared to be over for water sport but we still dipped our toes in….BRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!
The sunset our first evening was beyond breathtaking.
Not far from our campground is the lovely historic town of Salida.
Originally settled by the Ute Indians and later a railroad town founded in 1880, present day Salida is a welcoming town bordered on all sides by mountains. The Arkansas River flows right through town adding to its charm and natural beauty.
Salida’s downtown is a creative blend of old west, art, and adventure sports. Sporting goods stores, restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques line the streets.
Continuing our journey to explore southern Colorado we headed southeast to Pagosa Springs. We set up at small campground just outside of the city.
Pagosa Springs is most famous for its hot springs, which we’ll get to in a minute, but it’s also a great place for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. (Is there a place in Colorado that isn’t?!) We took a short hike to Treasure Falls.
Thing 2 insisted on carrying Thing 3 in the backpack. There are about a million things I love about RVing but if I had to give you just one, it would be the bonds our boys have formed through our travels. They may not always get along, but at the end of the day I know this time together is priceless and they will have memories to share for the rest of their lives.
Pagosa Springs is located in the San Juan National Forest surrounded by the San Juan Mountains with the San Juan River flowing right through downtown.
Pagosa or “Pagosah” is the southwest Ute word meaning “healing waters.” The springs of Pagosa have long be touted as one of the hottest and largest mineral water outflows in the world. Travelers have come for many years seeking its therapeutic healing waters.
There are three public bathhouses to choose from if you would like to soak in the springs. We decided to go to The Springs Resort located right on the river.
The views from The Springs Resort were lovely, but the best part was the springs themselves.
Twenty three mineral soaking pools of different temperatures are terraced along the river. The pools range from 89 to 114 degrees making it an ideal stop for the whole family. Thing 3 and I enjoyed the lower temperature pools, while Brent and the older boys braved a few of the warmer pools.
The springs are open year round but if you can, I’d suggest going in mid to late September or October. It’s some of their least busy months making it extra peaceful. They say spring is also a great time to visit if you enjoy avoiding the crowds!
Next on the itinerary was Durango. Most of the time we stay in traditional campgrounds like state parks or RV parks. We enjoy the natural beauty of these places but sometimes convenience outweighs natural beauty as it did when we decided to stay at La Plata County Fairgrounds. While the sites might have not been much to look at, the in-town location was unbeatable! To top it off the fairground staff was exceptionally nice! If you are looking for in-town convenience, don’t forget to check out local fairgrounds.
Talk about convenient, the campground was a short drive away from Durango’s great downtown. Actually it wouldn’t have been that long of a walk, but it was chilly the evening we went, so we drove. 🙂
Durango’s Animas River Trail was a mere 2 minute walk from the campground. The trail stretches 7 miles along Durango’s Animas River Greenway and allows easy access to downtown, the library, and neighborhoods.
A popular attraction in Durango is the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Durango was founded by the Denver and Rio Grande Railway in 1880. The railway was constructed to haul mainly mine ores but has been promoted as a scenic route for passengers since the beginning. We really wanted to ride it but it’s an all day affair and we didn’t think Thing 3 would hold up that long. However he loved to watch it. In the evenings, we’d walk down the trail when the train was supposed to pass.
On our way to the Animas River Trail we would pass by a playground right next to the campground. The fairground campground was working out great!
The older boys wanted to play too, so we took them zip lining for the first time. They had a short lesson and then they were off.
They both had so much fun whizzing through trees.
At the end of the course they did a short tethered jump off of the platform.
Thirty five miles west of Durango is Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde is Spanish for “green table” and it was home to thousands of Ancestral Pueblo people for over 700 years.
Our first stop in the park was the visitor center where we started learning about the park and a ranger helped us make a game plan for the day including a tour.
The park protects nearly 7000 archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings. The Cliff House is an exceptionally large dwelling that housed approximately 100 people in 150 rooms. To give you an idea on how large it is, over 75% of the dwellings in the park contain only 1-5 rooms and many of those are single room dwellings. Unfortunately, the Cliff House was already closed for the season, so if you really want to see this one up close, check the park calendar and plan accordingly.
We did a self-guided tour of the Spruce Tree House and a ranger led tour of the Balcony House. The Spruce Treehouse is the 3rd largest dwelling in the park. It contains about 130 rooms. Ranchers discovered this dwelling in 1888 while looking for stray cattle. Can you imagine?!
The Balcony House is considered a medium size dwelling with 40 rooms.
While it may be medium in size, it’s big on fun with ladders to climb up and tunnels to crawl through. The Balcony House tour is considered the “adventurous tour.”
If you go to Mesa Verde, plan on staying at least half a day. It’s an hour drive back to the dwellings from the entrance and you’ll want time to explore. A full day or two is ideal!
Last but certainly not least, we headed to Telluride. The drive through the mountains was spectacular.
We passed gorgeous mountain lakes and golden mountainsides.
Our site in Sunshine Campground among the changing Aspens was perfect.
It was quiet and secluded. I could have sat there outside for days just looking at the leaves and breathing in the fresh fall air, but we wanted to see the town of Telluride.
Telluride is a charming old west mountain town with phenomenal views, restaurants, and shopping. It’s most famous for its film festival and ski resort.
After walking around the town, we rode the free gondola to the top of the resort.
The views were even better than we expected!
The mountain on the right is the same mountain you see from down below on main street.
The following morning we followed the trail along a ridge above the campground.
The trees, the mountains, the squirrels, the fresh air…all of it…this is why we Go RVing!
Have you ever camped at a fairground’s campground? How was it? What is your favorite thing about RVing in the fall?