This page provides current information provided by Lou Mraz regarding the proposed 2016 National Tour in and around Colorado.
According to Lou the tentative dates are Tuesday September 13 to Tuesday September 20th.
PROPOSED 2016 NATIONAL TOUR
Portions of the Second and Third Full Weeks of September
The week-long tour would begin in Canon City and end in Monument Valley or western Colorado. Why Canon City? Because it has good accommodations, nice restaurants, offers easy and scenic access to the mountains, is less complicated and intimidating than the Denver metro area, and avoids the ugly messiness of Denver area traffic. The National Tour will be presented by the Hi Country Regional Group.
· Arrival Day in Canon City: The principle activity would be to greet arriving folks and to distribute the detailed tour materials. A simple welcome-in party (wine and cheese or similar) would be a nice touch and would help to introduce the group to one another.
· Day One: Touring and visiting the Canon City area. Attractions are the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, The Royal Gorge Train (1950’s equipment, including Vista Dome cars), The Museum of Colorado Prisons, the interesting and historic downtown area, Florence (antique shopping), The Abbey Winery, as well as just relaxing, recharging, and visiting with other tour participants. Most of this would probably be pretty much self-directed visiting and touring, but we will offer suggestions and maybe lead the group to do something like the train ride. For those interested, there really is plenty to see and do. (50 miles)
· Day Two: Canon City to Gunnison via Fairplay, Buena Vista, Poncha Springs, and Monarch Pass (on the Continental Divide). The routes used would be US 50, SR 9, US 285, and US 50 again. Please note that a reasonable alternative exists (south on US 285 from Poncha Springs to Saguache, then SR 114, and US 50 again to Gunnison) for those who may not want to experience Monarch Pass, but at the price of being a bit longer in driving time and mileage terms. The suggested route features great Colorado and mountain scenery, enjoyable driving, as well as interesting stops. SR 9 is a great drive, with low traffic and good pavement ---a back country road that will take us up to South Park, with mountains all around and great vistas. Fairplay and Buena Vista are interesting stops, well worth your time. US 50, a really good highway, will take us over Monarch Pass (11, 312 feet). For the adventurous, the crest of Monarch Pass features an enclosed tram ride, which tops out at a bit more than 12,000 feet. Gunnison has an interesting downtown area as well as the Pioneer Museum, which has a very nice collection of vintage cars and trucks, in addition to lots of other interesting exhibits. It will take you back. The museum is well worth a visit. (200 miles)
· Day Three: Gunnison to Grand Junction, via Crawford, Hotchkiss and Delta. The route would follow US 50, SR 92, and US 50 (again). This is an eye popping scenic drive thru beautiful country, with interesting stops possible. We will pass Blue Mesa Reservoir, and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is nearby (which could be an independent stop if you are interested). Hotchkiss is a fascinating small town well worth a visit. Arriving in Grand Junction in the early afternoon would present some interesting visitation possibilities for those interested. Very nearby and within easy driving distance are two great attractions. One would be Colorado National Monument (big, bold, and brilliantly colored canyon country, and well worth your time. Rim Rock Drive is one of the grandest scenic drives in the west). Colorado wine country (at least six wineries are in the immediate vicinity) is the second attraction. It might even be possible to combine visits to both attractions. (175 miles)
· Day Four: Grand Junction to Bluff (UT), via Gateway, Natarita, Monticello, and Blanding. The route would follow US 50, SR 141, US 491, and US 191. While there will be a bit of driving today (great views and a different part of the west), the premier attraction to visit will be the Gateway Auto Museum, which is a part of the Gateway Canyons Resort. The museum is a fascinating collection of vehicles and related exhibits that you will not want to miss. For those not especially interested in the auto stuff, there is an alternative --- the Gateway Canyons Resort (a high end establishment) is a treat to experience. (225 miles)
· Day Five: Bluff. This will be a local touring day using Bluff as the base. Driving will use US 191, SR 95, SR 275, SR 261 (or SR 95, US 191, and US 163), and SR 316. The premier attractions nearby are Natural Bridges National Monument, and Goosenecks State Park. Natural Bridges NM features the winding corridors of White and Armstrong canyons, where water has eroded the canyon walls to form three massive stone bridges. All three bridges can be viewed from overlooks on the nine mile long Bridge View Scenic Loop road. For the adventuresome, trails lead down to each bridge. This is great Utah canyon country. Goosenecks State Park provides a cliff top overlook into the very scenic and winding “goosenecks” canyon of the San Juan River far below. Pictures simply do not do justice to this scenic marvel --- you really have to see it person, while also absorbing the fascinating atmosphere of the surrounding countryside (canyons, escarpments rising high above you, and mountains). Connecting the two attractions (the short way) is another scenic attraction all by itself --- the Moki Dugway Switchbacks. This is a spectacular set of low speed gravel road switchbacks on SR 261, winding down the face of a 2000+ foot escarpment. The views and experience is unforgettable, but the descent is not for the nervous. I’ve driven down the Moki Dugway in my stock ’51 Mercury (second gear). As noted, it is quite the experience, but an acquired taste. For those not wanting to leave the pavement, there is a very enjoyable and scenic alternative that will also take you to the goosenecks from the national monument. In addition to these major attractions, the area around Bluff has petroglyphs and other signs of early American habitation. Visits to sights can be arranged locally. (140 miles)
· Day Six: Bluff to Goulding’s Trading Post and Lodge (guided tours of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park). The drive to Goulding’s will use US 191 and US 163. Today is the real introduction to magnificent red rocks country. You may have seen some before, but today is the real thing. Again, mere pictures and photographs do not begin to do the area justice. You really must experience it up close and personal, and this is what the day is all about. One of the most magnificent and eye popping roadway vistas in all of the USA appears as you approach Monument Valley from the north (the way we will be traveling), following US 163 south towards Goulding’s. This is bigger than life, in your face John Wayne country red rocks country. You’ve seen it in the movies --- now see it in person. The main attraction for the day will be guided tours (Monument Valley and other nearby areas, as your interests dictate). A variety of these tours, designed to fit all interests and capabilities, depart from Goulding’s (which is a very interesting place all by itself, with plenty of movie making history). They supply the 4-wheel drive vehicles, the guide, and the driver. This is a situation where “leave the driving to us” is the way to go. I’ve taken the all-day tour option, and loved every minute of it. You will be able to visit areas not otherwise readily accessible. As noted, this is bigger than life John Wayne and red rocks country, up close and personal. These are sights not to be missed! The formal National Tour concludes here, and we hope to have the “official, but informal” concluding tour dinner/gathering at Goulding’s. As mentioned, the trading post was home to many of the film crews that shot movies in the Valley back in the day. By itself, it has a fascination history. Director John Ford stayed here, as did the “big guy” himself. The Movie Days Film Gallery presents area film memorabilia. (50 miles)
For those of us driving back to Denver or Canon City, from Goulding’s it would be a two day drive in an old car (more if you want to stop and visit other attractions that are on the way back). The overnight stop could be in Cortez (Mesa Verde National Park anyone?), Durango (a steam powered train ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Scenic Railroad?), or possibly Pagosa Spring (consider a hot springs soak). From any of these stops, Wolf Creek pass beckons to be crossed on the trip back. From Goulding’s, Cortez is 170 miles, Durango is 210 miles, and Pagosa Springs is 260 miles.