This 9 hour drive will take you on a road trip through the heart of Colorado. As you drive, you will notice the landscape slowly changing from high mountain peaks to rocky canyons & gorges. Finally ending in a desert landscape that is backdropped by the Rocky Mountains. This trip starts out in the hip college town of Fort Collins. Eventually making its way down to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, located on the southern edge of Colorado.
Central Colorado Road Trip Stops
Fort Collins, in the north eastern part of Colorado will be the first stop. In 2019, Fort Collins was on Forbes list of 14 Best Places to visit. Along with having an eclectic art scene, there are quite a few trails and parks to visit. Parks include: Lory State Park, Arapaho National Forest, Roosevelt National Forest and the Pawnee National Grasslands.
“Fort Collins, nicknamed FoCo, is a happening new travel destination whose energetic art scene and entrepreneurial spirit makes the hour-long drive from Denver well worth it. I strolled its streets as if it were a movie scene. An invigorating creative spirit permeates its quirky, niche culture and spreads across to the pristine natural landscape that frames the area.”Olivia Balsinger
Denver’s nickname is “The Mile High City”. A fitting name, as it’s capitol sits one mile above sea level.
The city of Colorado Springs has so much to offer. Just a short drive from Denver, the two cities compete over spots on the list of best places to live in the United States.
Phantom Canyon Road
The gravel road follows the route of the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad built in 1894 as a connection from Florence to the goldfields of Cripple Creek and Victor. The unique bridges and tunnels offer a visual link to the area’s historic past.Gold Beltway
While the amusement park costs $25/person, there are still free overlooks where can see the fantastic structure
Follow 3a, the well-marked road to Royal Gorge. You’ll get to the parking lot for the park. While in the actual parking lot, you’ll see a trail that leads off toward the gorge. Follow this some 50 feet. From here you get a pretty decent view. There are also the pay-binoculars but we didn’t use them. You won’t get the same view as on the bridge, but you’ll save $20 something per person.Trip Advisor User
Scenic & Historic Byway
The wishbone-shaped Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway is 103 miles long, including a 16-mile backtrack. The entire route is a paved, 2-lane highway that is accessible to recreational vehicles.Frontier Pathways
Points of Interest
Mile marker 28.6, Highway 96
Directions: From Highway 96, watch for a pipe going over the highway. Turn east on County Road 399 near the pipe.
Mile marker 12.6,
Free and open 24/7
Mile marker 23, Highway 96
A variety of wildlife can be seen such as Big Horn Sheep, Spotted Owls, or Lizards.
Mile marker 5.5, Highway 96
Great Sand Dunes
🕗 Open: Park & Preserve open 24 hours a day 💸 Cost: $25.00 per car, valid for 7 days 🐕 Dogs: Allowed with a 6 ft leash, in certain areas of the park
🗺 Address: 11999 State Highway 150 Mosca, CO
The dunes sprawl across part of southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a broad, arid plain between the San Juan Mountains on the west and the Sangre de Cristos on the east. Streams and creeks flowing out of the San Juan Mountains over millennia carried gravel and sand into shallow lakes in the San Luis Valley. During drought periods, these lakes dried, releasing the sand particles to the action of the wind. Strong prevailing southwesterly winds carry the tiny grains toward the Sangre de Cristos, piling them up against the foothills. The resulting dunes are the tallest in North America, covering more than 30 square miles.National Geographic
Keeping yourself safe
Carry a paper map
The park covers a whopping 149,137 acres & cell phone service is very spotty throughout the entire park. Carrying a paper map could be the difference between life or death if you wander off!
Keep an eye on the weather
Cell Phone Service: Service is spotty. The NPS website reports that most Verizon users are able to get signal in the main visitor area of the National Park. (NPS)
Bringing Pets to the Sand Dunes
Where pets are allowed
The areas that are shaded in blue indicate places where pets are not allowed in the park.
Safety Precautions for your Pets
Watch out for wild animals
Deer may kick, mountain lions or bears may attack, coyotes may chase, badgers may bite, and porcupines may release quills. On rare occasions, coyotes or other animals may approach your leashed pet. Raise your arms and shout loudly; coyotes will typically run away. Please report any unusual encounters to a park ranger. Never leave pet food out in your picnic site or campsite, as it may attract wild animals.National Park Service
Protect Paws from hot sand
In hot weather, sand can burn your dogs paws. Be sure to protect them with dog socks or booties, or if they are small enough you can carry them.
When walking through the grasslands be on the lookout for the prickly pear cactus that lines the path. Carry tweezers in case your dogs, our yourself get pricked accidentally.
Forbes. “Where to go Next: 14 Best Places in the US to travel in 2019”. https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurabegleybloom/2018/12/06/where-to-go-next-best-places-us-travel-2019/#604c3e196928. Dec 6, 2018.
National Parks Service. “Great Sand Dunes”. https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm
National Park Service. “Plan your visit. Pets.” https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/pets.htm