9 Days/8 Nights – Gateway: San Francisco

1, 2 & 3: Denver, CO

Welcome to the “Mile High City”, gateway to the spectacular Rocky Mountains! Denver is a vibrant city with 300 days of annual sunshine and the breathtaking Rocky Mountains in its backyard. See the Colorado State Capitol, modeled after the U.S. Capitol, with a step that is exactly one mile above sea level and spectacular views from the rotunda. The Denver Art Museum is itself a masterpiece of sculpture. Nearby, the Colorado History Museum tells the colorful story of the gold miners, cowboys, sod busters, railroaders, soldiers and explorers who have called Colorado home. Stroll the 16th Street Mall, with its outdoors cafes, shops, fountains, open plazas and parks.

3 nights Denver, CO

4, 5 & 6: Grand Junction, CO (245 mi/408 km)

Drive to Central City, a mining town that in its heyday was called “the richest square mile on earth” because of the gold found there. Then head west through the mountains to Grand Junction. Spend a day doing a Dinosaur Dig with a real paleontologist and discover fossil treasures on a dinosaur quarry expedition. Perhaps take a half day raft trip on the Colorado River and visit the Dinosaur Journey Museum with its robotic dinosaurs!

3 nights Grand Junction, CO

7 & 8: Moab, UT (114 mi/190 km)

Head for Moab, Utah and visit Arches national Park, with over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, like the world-famous Delicate Arch, as well as many other unusual rock formations. In some areas the forces of nature have exposed millions of years of geologic history. Perhaps take a hike in Canyonlands National Park, where you can take a naturalist-guided walk and visit the Island in the Sky.

2 nights Moab, UT.

9, 10 & 11: Mesa Verde National Park/Durango (160 mi/256 km)

Visit Mesa Verde National Park, where a virtual city of ancient Indian cliff dwellings sits on the cliffs in the mountains. Take a ranger-guided tour to the Cliff Palace, the largest “building” there, and climb five,

8-10ft ladders on a 100ft (30m) vertical climb. Later drive to Durango with its charming downtown and great restaurants. Take a ride on the Durango Silverton Railroad, which travels through spectacular and breathtaking canyons in the remote wilderness of the two-million acre San Juan National Forest. The coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive travels the same tracks miners, cowboys and settlers of the Old West took over a century ago.

3 nights Durango, CO

12: To Leadville/Vail (298 mi/493 km)

Your drive takes you virtually over the top of the Rockies, as you climb to Leadville. The famous Younger Gang lived here; Doc Holliday had his final shoot-out here, and the Earps were here. It was a rollicking, rowdy mining town and today Leadville is a National Historic Landmark District encompassing 70 square blocks with most of the buildings built between 1880 and 1905. Later travel to Vail.

1 night Vail, CO

13 & 14: Rocky Mountain National Park (146 mi/243 km)

Spend your last two days exploring Rocky Mountain National Park. American explorers had considered the Rocky Mountains impenetrable but native peoples of the Ute and Arapahoe tribes had long passed back and forth over the range. The two roads now crossing the mountains follow their general routes. Take a horseback trail ride and really feel as one with the magnificent scenery!

2 nights Estes Park, CO

15: To Denver and Home (70 mi/112 km)

End a fascinating tour at Denver Airport for your flight home.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email