Road tripping. It’s a vacation style that is popular world wide, and no wonder! So many sites to see. So much fun to be had. So much family bonding time. Come along with us on this family’s own fabulous road trip. See for yourself all the adventures to be had during a 12 day road trip across southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah.
Explore national parks and historic sites as this road trip makes it’s way through these storied lands. Hike and bike adventurous trails, sit in prehistoric dinosaur tracks, get wet on a river raft ride. Soak in all the incredible scenery along the way. Enjoy the ride!
Day 1: Great Sand Dunes National Park
First stop on this adventure packed family road trip is Great Sand Dunes National Park. It almost makes no sense, this lunar-like landscape in the middle of lush and green Colorado, surrounded by snow-capped mountains towering off in the distance
Fun awaits those who venture off the beaten path to this rarely visited gem of a national park. Challenge yourself with a run up these giant, ever-shifting mountains of sand. It’s more difficult than it appears! Rent a sand sled and slide down a sand dune for a unique experience.
Read more about our adventures at Exploring Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, CO.
Day 2: Aztec Ruins National Monument
Just across the border in New Mexico is Aztec Ruins National Monument. This archeological site contains the remains of an ancestral Pueblo society, and is believed to be part of the ancient Pueblo people’s migration journey.
Today, one can walk along ancient passageways, explore a 900 year old ancestral Pueblo Great House, and witness original timbers holding up a roof. Stop and look closely at the ancient mortar holding the walls together. You might just see fingerprints of the very Pueblos who built these structures.
Read more about our adventures at A Fascinating Experience at Aztec Ruins National Monument, NM.
Day 2: Four Corners Monument
Continue on from Aztec Ruins National Monument to Four Corners Monument. Located within Navajo Nation lands, Four Corners is the only place in the United States where four states intersect at one point. Come prepared! There’s nothing for miles around, services are limited, and the lines to reach the Four Corners medallion can be painfully long.
Yes, Four Corners is a major tourist trap. But where else can one actually “be” in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado at the exact same time? Note that body contortions are probably required to accomplish this feat.
Read more about our afternoon here at Welcome to the Iconic Four Corners Monument, USA!
Day 3: Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is a crown jewel in the U.S. National Park system. It is also a World Heritage Site, and something not to be missed when in this region. Contained within the park’s boundaries are some of the best preserved ancestral Puebloan archeological sites.
From meager pit-style homes to substantial cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde National Park provides visitors a window into life long ago along these mesas. Ancient people have traversed these very lands for thousands of years, and settlements date as far back as the late 600’s.
Today, Mesa Verde is home to 600 cliff dwellings and countless archeological sites. Hike alongside these very sites. Enter 1000 year old ancient cliff dwellings. Let the ancient world take hold of your thoughts, your imagination. It will be a day you will not long forget.
Read more about our Mesa Verde adventures at Inside The Oak Tree House Cliff Dwelling and at Mesa Verde National Park – Snapshots of an Amazing, Enlightening Experience.
Day 4: Animus Forks Ghost Town
Today it’s time for a different adventure, high up in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Our destination? The ghost town of Animus Forks, once a robust, thriving mining camp. All that remains today are a few dilapidated buildings, and gorgeous high altitude scenery that make this sometimes treacherous drive worth the adventure.
Though the last several miles of the drive to Animus Forks is not for the feint of heart, and a high clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicle a must, the rewards at the end of the road are stellar mountain vistas and the experience of a former mining town. Go for it!
Read more about our Animus Forks experience at Inside Animus Forks – A Colorado Mining Ghost Town Experience.
Day 5: Canyons of The Ancients & Hovenweep
This road trip is moving on to Moab Utah! Today it’s all about a leisurely drive, exploring along the way the many and varied archeological sites of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Good thing there’s plenty of sight seeing opportunities on these roads.
Don’t miss Hovenweep National Monument, once home to over 2,500 people. Explore it’s six prehistoric villages. Walk along the canyon rim, where multistory towers sit perched on the rim’s edge. Leave this land contemplating what skills it took for an ancient people to balance these structures upon boulders.
Read more about our adventurous day trip in A Day of Experiences In Canyons of The Ancients & Hovenweep National Monuments.
Day 6 & 7: Arches National Park
There is so much to see and do in Arches National Park that one day just isn’t enough! With over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, scenic turnouts like Park Avenue and Balanced Rock, and challenging hiking trails with dubious names like Devil’s Garden and the Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park offers everyone a fabulous view and an adventure that suits their style.
The best way to truly experience Arches is to park the car and hike it’s labyrinth of trails. What better way to explore a park filled with so many natural wonders than along its trails, to meander in between and beneath some of those incredible arches. Yes, two days are barely enough to thoroughly enjoy this ever-scenic national park.
Read more about our Arches adventures at Hiking Into The Devil’s Garden and 5 Favorite Moments – A Photo Journey Through Arches National Park.
Day 8: Moab Ziplining & River Rafting
With so much adventure and action in it’s backyard, Moab is an ideal place to bed down for the evenings. With thousands of miles of amazing red rock landscapes to experience, it’s no wonder Moab swells with adventure seekers all year long.
Many people flock to Moab for it’s incredible hiking and biking adventures. But there’s more than hiking and biking by which to experience these gorgeous landscapes. Take on the challenge of something perhaps a little out of the routine. Something like zip lining across the stunning red rock landscape high above Moab.
Get on board for a refreshingly cool rafting adventure down the Colorado River. Soak in yet another stunning visual of the surrounding red rock landscapes. On a hot summer afternoon in Moab, you will be glad you did.
Read more about ziplining in Moab at A Fab Family Zip Line Adventure High Above Moab, Utah.
Day 9: Dead Horse Point State Park
Sitting high above the twisting, turning Colorado River, is Dead Horse Point State Park. This high desert landscape makes an ideal location for an easy-going afternoon of family friendly biking and hiking adventures, as well as more challenging adventures.
Bike along it’s paved roads. Hike it’s cliff-hugging trails. Stand at the edge of immense red rock cliffs towering above the Colorado River far below. Soak in another perspective of these wild and wonderful lands outside Moab.
Read more about this adventure at Exploring Dinosaur Footprints & Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah.
Day 10: Mountain Biking & Dinosaur Foot Prints
A week in Moab isn’t complete without at least one day experiencing the incredible mountain biking opportunities that are pervasive here. The red rock landscape makes for fun mountain biking adventures for all levels of bikers, whether novice or advanced.
Then there’s Copper Ridge Dinosaur Trackways, where one can sit right down in the ancient tracks of a prehistoric brontosaurus that once lumbered through here. All that biking and dinosaur exploration sure makes one thirsty! Lucky for us there’s fun eateries in Moab!
Day 11: Sego Canyon Rock Art & Ghost Town
Sadly the time has come to call this road trip and begin the journey home. However, there’s time for one more adventure! Leave the crowds behind and head deep into Sego Canyon for glimpses into ancient life and a more recent past life of this region.
Witness an ancient people’s story scratched into canyon walls. Imagine what might have inspired these almost alien-like drawings etched in stone. Continue on past the ancient rock art, and on into a more recent bygone era.
Walk the very trails that 19th and early 20th century miners walked to the nearby mines. Step into the historic ghost town’s mercantile building, gazing out it’s massive front windows as customers once did more than 100 years ago. Oh the stories these lands could tell!
Read more about our afternoon in Sego Canyon at Exploring Sego Canyon’s Ancient Rock Art & Historic Ghost Town.
How We Arranged Our Road Trip
Our road trip began and ended at Denver International Airport, Colorado. The main driving loop was approximately 24 hours spread across our twelve days on the road. Here’s the break down of each day of our road trip, and how we spent our days.
Day 1: Arrive in Denver – Drive to Durango with stop at Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Days 2-4: Durango Base – Explored Aztec Ruins National Monument, Four-Corners Monument, Mesa Verde National Park and Animus Forks.
Day 5: Leave Durango for Moab Utah – Explored Canyon of the Ancients and Hovenweep.
Days 6-10: Moab Base – Explored Arches National Park, Moab zip lines, rafting and biking, Copper Ridge Dinosaur Tracks and Dead Horse Point State Park.
Day 11: Leave Moab for Denver – Explored Sego Canyon along the way.
Day 12: Time to head home!
Stay tuned as we explore each big adventure in future posts!
Do You Enjoy Family Road Trips?
Road tripping has long been a family favorite vacation, and something this family looks forward to each summer. How about you? Do you enjoy road trips? What has been your favorite road trip? Is there a road trip you hope to accomplish in the near future? Do share!
All image by C.Biederman