One of the best things to do when autumn truly starts is to take an autumn drive around to see the leaves change color. Growing up in Florida, I rarely saw many leaves change color, and it wasn’t until we started making family trips up to Pennsylvania when I really saw my first colorful autumn. It is always a lot of fun to plan these trips, and spending a weekend driving on a few scenic drives did not disappoint!
We headed west on 160 towards Cortez, Colorado because we knew there was a Best Western that actually allowed dogs. Contrary to what you may rely on, we recommend calling ahead to even known hotel chairs that usually allow dogs – we’ve been fooled in this area! We did this drive over a two day period so don’t be too ambitious if you have the time!
We started from Page with both of the dogs early so that we could have a full day of driving. Our goal was to make it up as far as Ouray, Colorado and then back down to Cortez via Durango. It was a long drive but definitely well worth it. Driving through the San Juan National Forest was amazing. We had plenty of opportunities to pull over and let the dogs explore, and not to mention the gorgeous views! We only captured a little bit of the beauty of the area. Ouray is definitely worth a drive through – really cute downtown and beautiful scenery. Telluride is as well, and is a known ski area. Maybe one day I’ll ski! San Juan National Forest contains three officially designated wilderness areas, which is land in its natural state without human impact. This makes for some really great scenic views as driving. Wilderness areas are undeveloped areas so there should be no road or easy access, necessarily. It is great because it preserves the land in its natural form, but because no roads are built to view it is not easily accessible for everyone.
We decided after such a long journey and drive on the scenic road we would spend the night in Cortez so we were close to Mesa Verde the next day. We had called earlier that morning to reserve our room, which was good that we did because by the time we got in the parking lot was almost full! Mesa Verde is a national park, so there are not many places that the dogs could roam. A leash is always required, and for the most park they cannot deviate from the paved road. There was one area we could pull off and let them out – just ask the ranger when you arrive at the booth! The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. I don’t know if pictures could do them complete justice, but Clinton tried! Mesa Verde was designated in 1906 to protect and preserve the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there for many centuries. When we went many years ago before we had dogs we were able to do a few of the hikes and tours – this time we did the drive from one end to the other and back out. It was nice switching off who drove so we both could look around while the other drove – and driving is fun on these turns, too!
Driving from Mesa Verde we headed towards Hovenweep via Canyons of the Ancients. What a cool area! The Monument contains the densest known archaeological evidence of native cultures – more than 6,000 total! It has been used by the Ancestral Puebloans for 10,000 years. While we opted to drive, it may be worth mentioning for those of you that have a bicycle that there were people out and about on their bikes, and it is a really pretty drive. But we did see snow – another reason why we decided not to camp!
We had a great adventure that was another ambitious drive through the country. Hope you enjoy the pictures!