Want to be awed and amazed? Head out to Colorado and Utah. The sweeping vistas of Canyonlands, the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings, the sand dunes, and the curious rock formations in Needles and Arches are phenomenal. Rent a car at the Denver airport and set off on a 1,100 mile adventure.
Hanging Lake is a stunning waterfall cascading into a crystal clear turquoise lake. The trail is a little over a mile but quite steep and rocky in some places. The last part before you hit the lake is very steep. There are stairs with a railing but if you struggle with heights this may be tough for you. It’s a 2-3 hour loop at an easy/ moderate pace. There’s an additional waterfall if you follow the path to the left before reaching Hanging Lake.
There is a parking lot, but it was filled by the time we got there at noon. Consider arriving early to have a better shot at getting a spot.
Spend the night in Glenwood Springs. Take a nice long soak in the hot springs, the world’s largest outdoor mineral pool.
Arches is a wonderland of unique red rock structures with over 2,000 natural stone arches just outside of Moab, Utah. There’s a paved two way road to easily drive through the park and plenty of walking trails.
Go to Delicate Arch for sunset. It’s breathtaking. The three mile loop takes about 2-3 hours. Bring a flashlight/headlamp for the walk back. Consider staying out to watch the star drenched night sky. Perhaps you could plan your trip to coincide with a meteor shower.
Fee: $10/ vehicle
Canyonlands is a wild phenomenon of canyons and buttes formed by the Colorado River and its tributaries 30 miles north of Moab. An easy drive through the park will awe you with stunning vistas.
Check out Mesa Arch, Island in the Sky for sunrise and Grand View Point, Island in the sky for sunset. I didn’t plan well enough to make it to either but heard they were spectacular.
Fee: $10/ car
74 miles south of Moab, Needles is an immense expanse filled with colorful spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone. The day I was there the park was practically empty. Magical and eerie would be the two words that come to mind. Bring water and snacks. The Needles is in the middle of nowhere.
If you have some extra time this would be an excellent place to go hiking and camping in the back country.
Fill up on gas before you go. The closest town, Monticello, is 48 miles away.
Fee: $10/ car
In the southwestern corner of Colorado, from AD 600-1300, Ancestral Pueblo people built incredible dwellings nestled in alcoves in cliff faces. Over 600 remain. The ruins are fascinating to walk through.
Fee: $15/car (summer), $10/ car (winter)
Pagosa is halfway to the sand dunes and has hot springs. Consider stopping to take a dip.
The last thing I expected in Colorado were sand dunes. They’re vast and brilliant, reaching a towering 750 feet. Take a walk through the dunes or rent a board and cruise down. The night time astronomy program is supposed to be incredible.
Fee: $3/ adult
Enjoy a leisurely stroll on a paved pathway through striking sandstone formations. Allow an hour or two.
Any questions? Leave a comment!