Two Day Tour to Great Sand Dunes
South Central Colorado has some great places to visit, Alamosa is one of them. This is the first over-niter I’ve been able to do since the COVID-19 lock-down. The Great Sand Dunes have just Re-opened so I thought I’d go check it out. The hotels are open, I stayed at the Best Western, and some restaurants are open with restrictions.
I took the HWY 285 route all the way up to HWY 17, which took me right along the San Juan Mountain range where the Great Sand Dunes are nestled up to. HWY 17 runs right into HWY 160 and that took me right into Alamosa, CO. In route to Alamosa I road over Kanosha Pass (10,001′), which is exceptionally beautiful in the fall, and Poncha Pass (9,101′), just South of Poncha Springs. Also, on the way to Alamosa, if you like to soak your weary bones in natural hot springs, there are a few you can check out that aren’t very far from Alamosa. Of course, I’d recommend calling for reservations and be prepared for possible “clothing optional” locations also. Joyful Journey Hot Springs and Spa and Valley View Hot Springs, clothing optional, are just a couple to mention. If you enjoy watching bats leaving their cave, there is a nearby viewing area not far from Valley View Hot Springs called The Orient Mine.
I left about 8:30 AM and I arrived at the Best Western in Alamosa around 1:30 PM. Check-in was at 2 Pm but they were able to get me into my room a little early. Upon check-in is when I found out that there will be NO hot breakfast and they will be serving a “brown bag breakfast” for takeout. This was a disappointment since I called the night before to check on pool/hot tub availability (NOT OPEN) and if there was any other information I needed before I arrive. The brown bag breakfast had a banana, granola bar, water, and a mini muffin which was not the egg breakfast I would normally eat. I wish I would have checked the iHOP next door to see if I could get breakfast there. The room wasn’t as clean as I expected and the vending machine gave me a very stale candy bar. I’m not putting down Best Western, I’ve had great experience with them before, but I think the takeaway is that amenities and staffing may not be up to par yet.
The weather on the way out was perfect, except for a little rain in the afternoon (to be expected in Colorado), which made for a great ride. It was still cloudy and windy until about 4-5 PM, but when it cleared up, I decided to head out to the Great Sand Dunes! The sun was out and the temps had cooled off since the rain and clouds, so the ride to the sand dunes was great. The ride from Alamosa is only about 45 min, there was very little traffic, and the park was not charging an entry fee! The park has plenty of places to pull over and take some great pictures of the dunes, camping is open, the visitor center is still closed, and surprise, there is a river running running between the parking lot and the dunes! I’d never seen this before, never been here this early in the season, but it happens due to the snow melt runoff from the mountains (https://theknow.denverpost.com/2019/06/03/great-sand-dunes-waves-beach/216254/).
I did not trapes through the water to get to the dunes, but I did take some pictures and video, it was a pretty cool sight to see. Oh, and the mosquito’s are hungry! I have been here before and climbed up the sand dune mountains, and let me tell you, climbing a mountain of sand is a challenge, but I’d recommend it to anyone who visits the Great Sand Dunes. I rode back to the hotel and had KFC for dinner then figured out my route home.
Now that I’ve had my brown bag breakfast, I’m ready to saddle up on my steel horse and ride North for home. I found out that HWY 82 opened and I can run Independence Pass, so off I go! This turned out to be one of my better decisions! I can also see this road would be a great fall colors ride too, it has a ton of Aspen trees! Anyway, I picked up HWY 82 from HWY 24 so the first vision of natural beauty was the Twin Lakes on the left and massive snow capped mountains straight ahead! This was a beautify ride all the way up to the summit! I stopped at the summit for a little break and to take in the raw beauty. Oh, and it was COLD with a lot of snow on the ground! There was a path that went further up for a view point, but the clouds are rolling in and it can still snow up here, so I passed on the hike and headed down to Aspen.
The ride down to Aspen did not disappoint! There was very little traffic, a lot of twisties, and plenty of spectacular mountain views all the way to Aspen. Aspen was busy and it’s been threatening rain all the way down the mountain…my luck ran out and here comes the rain. Fortunately the showers are scattered and I’m not getting soaked so I kept moving through Aspen. I’ve never had the chance/time to spend in Aspen, but it looks like a great place to visit.
From Aspen I stayed on HWY-82 and headed to Glenwood Springs where I will fuel up, take a little break and then hit the road for the final stretch home. If you have the time and ever get the chance to check out this place out, I highly recommend it!
Glenwood Springs is where I picked up I-70 East to Denver. The ride through Glenwood Springs on I-70 is probably one of my favorite highway rides. Steep canyon walls, tunnels, and the rushing river all make for a beautiful ride. Be aware, there is road construction going on, so it’s not as nice as it usually is, but the traffic isn’t too bad so I’m rolling right along. From Glenwood Springs it’s about 160 miles and roughly 3 hours away from Denver. There’s some road construction just after Georgetown through Idaho Springs, other than that, it wasn’t a bad ride. But, a word to the wise, I-70 can and will get very congested during weekends, holidays and practically all summer from late morning through early evening…plan your trip accordingly if you don’t want to sit in hours of bumper to bumper traffic. Once again, if you have time on your way down I-70, there are several towns you should check out. On the way down to Denver along I-70, you’ll go over Vail Pass (10,666 feet) and through the Eisenhower Tunnel (11,158 feet).
Be Safe, Have Fun and Ride On!