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Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Central Valley...
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Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Thank you for all of the help thus far in planning our itinerary. The difficult thing is knowing we won't be able to see it all. With that in mind, we are a family of five on a road trip with children ages 10, 8, and 5. We will be coming from Mesa Verde Nat'l Park en route to Colorado Springs. Should we take the route through Great Sand Dunes Nat'l Park? Or, opt for the route through Ouray. Keeping in mind that due to cost we will not be able to take the Narrow Gauge Railroad trip.

WestSlope,CO
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1. Re: Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

If I put the question to a vote with my family, it would be unanimous for Ouray, especially in the summer. And the Black Canyon NP would be an added plus along the route; but others feel the same way about the Great Sand Dunes! Tough decision! What's the rest of your itinerary? What is your route to Mesa Verde? It might be possible to do both.

If you take the route from Durango>Silverton>Ouray, you'll see awesome mountain views and you could explore Silverton and maybe drive out to Animas Forks ghost town. If no time for Animas Forks, then Ironton is just off the highway. Ouray is a historic district & fun to walk around, and there's the nice easy waterfall hike right at the edge of town. Would a dip in the hot springs pool be in the budget? (Or maybe a stop at the swim beach at Ridgway State Park?) There's a small railroad museum in Ridgway and an old jail wagon used in the original True Grit movie that's a popular spot for family photos.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PCnkWWAH7s

ouraycolorado.com/ouray-activities/Ghost-Tow…

Charleston, South...
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2. Re: Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

I personally, would pick Ouray. The scenery is just gorgeous, you can walk around town, maybe go to the hot springs for a dip. Will you be simply passing thru? or spending a night in the area?

The sand dunes are great, but to me, bottom line is it's just a bunch of sand. Not nearly as scenic as the mountain areas around Ouray.

Central Valley...
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3. Re: Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Thank you for the quick replies. I thought there might be more votes for the Ouray route. We will be doing A LOT of sight seeing as well as A LOT of driving on this trip and so I just wasn't sure if the "entertainment" factor at the dunes outweighed the sight-seeing of the alternate route (for the kids).

We will be traveling to Mesa Verde from Bryce Nat'l Park and then headed from Colorado Springs to RMNP. Which is why it becomes an either/or.

Thank you for the suggestions for activities along HWY 550. We will have time for a one night stop-over. So suggestions of which town to stay would be appreciated. A great majority of our trip will be spent tent camping, so if you have suggestions for campites here or anywhere else in CO that would be great!

Fruita, Colorado
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4. Re: Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Ok, I will throw in the sand dunes just because my kids absolutely loved them. They are like a huge sandbox and for kids (especially teens) that have been in the car a lot there is nothing like running through huge sand dunes and sliding down huge sand dunes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQ319JeyGek

nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/sandboarding-skii…

If Medrano Creek is running it is so fun to be there - you can actually skim board on the water. And Zapata Falls is a beautiful hike in the forest nearby.

http://www.nps.gov/grsa/index.htm

WestSlope,CO
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5. Re: Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Oh, I see. Your trip sounds familiar but I looked to see if your itinerary is posted and couldn't see it anywhere.

Is there any way you can squeeze one night or even a half day from somewhere along the way? The Great Sand Dunes would be fun for the kids, I'm sure, but I hate to tell you to head from Mesa Verde to the Great Sand Dunes without spending at least a little time in the mountains of Southwest Colorado. Seriously, you'd be missing some of the best of Colorado (IMO some of the best of your summer trip! and you'd be so close!) Maybe you could at least drive to Silverton and back to Durango before heading for Pagosa Springs or South Fork for the night. Then on to the Sand Dunes for a couple of hours (it will likely be very hot if this is a summer trip and Medano Creek has already peaked, they say) and then to Colorado Springs.

If you can't steal a little time from somewhere else...Here's a thought: You could take the long way 'round to Durango from Mesa Verde and then to the Sand Dunes and Colorado Springs the next day. It would be a pretty full day but the driving would be broken up with several activities along the way. Head out early for Telluride from Mesa Verde. Ride the free gondola between town and Mountain Village, hike a bit or explore town, and then head for Ridgway for lunch at Kate's Place or True Grit Cafe and a quick peek at the train cars. Then on to Ouray. Take the short hike to Cascade Falls, plus maybe a dip in the hot springs or just a break to play at the playground in the park and enjoy the scenery. Then drive on to Ironton ghost town to poke around a bit. Stop in Silverton for an ice cream cone or a snack and maybe a stagecoach ride, and then on to Durango, stopping at the overlooks when you wish.

Uden, The...
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6. Re: Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

I see you're from the Central Valley so Seki and Yose aren't too far away. Can't remember huge sanddunes in your neck of the woods so maybe that's something special for the kids.

For your whole trip you also can use the Road Trips forum.

tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g1-i12567-Road_Tri…

The San Juan Skyway trip is gorgeous as MissP said but it will take a long day to drive the whole way with the stops.

Tet

Ohio
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7. Re: Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

with kids-- I'd head to the sand dunes. Considering you'll be going to RMNP and have the opportunity to experience the mountains there-- another reason to lean towards the dunes. Ouray area is different than RMNP, but... similar that it's mountainous. The dunes would give you more diversity. The San Juan skyway is one of my favorite places-- but so is Trail Ridge Rd. (and Mt Evans and... many other places) :)

SusieLou makes a good point-- I really think the kids will prefer some time at the dunes.

Central Valley...
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8. Re: Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Man, you guys don't make this easy on a girl :) Actually, I really appreciate your thoughts and opinions...and now it seems the only option is to find another day so we can squeeze in both. If this is our only trip to Colorado I don't think we should miss the San Juans and the dunes just sound like too much fun (and something different) for the kids. So, if we travel from Mesa Verde Nat'l Park to Black Canyon of the Gunnison then on to the Great Sand Dunes, where would you suggest the best stopover to be? Any good spots for camping?

I will post the overall itinerary soon for feedback.

Missp thanks for the great suggestions. Keep them coming.

Tet, I'm embarassed to admit I'm not hip on travel forum lingo and it took me a few seconds to realize what Yose and Seki were. But yes, you are correct we are close to Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings and feel blessed because of it! The closest sand dunes are probably at Pismo Beach, not quite sure they're the same.

Uden, The...
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9. Re: Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

It already took us most of the day between Mesa Verde and Montrose with the stops in Durango, Silverton, Ouray and Ridgway. Suggest to sepnd the night in Montrose. Then early next morning head to Black Canyon. Very close to Montrose and continue via Gunnison to Great Sanddunes.

Not a camper myself but I remember a campingground very close to the Dunes.

And no, you can't compare the sanddunes at Pismo Beach to the sand"hills " in the NP.

Btw, if you are in Silverton at noon you can see the train from Durango arrive. really cute!

Tet

Ohio
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10. Re: Ouray vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park

there's a small campgrounds at the Sand Dunes park, I recall. Also spots for RVs next to the little motel and restaurant right outside of the park.

Yes-- if this is the only time you'll be in Colorado, steal another day to do both :) Colorado is one of my favorite places. Mt Evans is VERY cool too. We opted to do that instead of Pikes Peak. Just as high and covered under the America the Beautiful pass (as opposed to Pikes Peak) Mountain goats at the top... my favorite drive in all of Colorado.

Yeah-- there's alot to see in the state. It's hard to whittle it down.