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Roadtrip from Albuquerque to Colorado National Monument in 4 Days

Roadtrip from Albuquerque to Colorado National Monument in 4 Days

Every year I list places of beauty I want to see.  I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2006 and have since been dedicated to exploring the Southwest, with National Park Service sites often serving as inspiration for trips.  I’d seen a documentary about the Colorado National Monument and put that on my list this year. The best thing about traveling is the unexpected pleasures.

Day 1 - Albuquerque to Ridgway


To get to the Colorado National Monument, we drove about 300 miles mostly north to Ridgway, CO where my husband’s cousin and family live and which is on the way to the Colorado National Monument. We often try to connect with this cousin as they are the only relatives we have in the Southwest and we have a great time together. Luckily, when I found a long weekend, they were also free. Friday morning we took US 550 from Bernalillo, NM all the way to Ridgway, CO through fantastic landscape. It was a clear day with enough puffy clouds above the mountains to make the view more interesting. Highway 550 between Silverton and Ouray is nicknamed the Million Dollar Highway due to the cost of building it in 1888. It has 3 passes of 10,000+ feet with many switchbacks in the 25 miles it traverses. The next town north of Ouray is Ridgway.

 Sunset reflecting on the mountains in Ridgway, CO

Sunset reflecting on the mountains in Ridgway, CO

Ridgway has a renovated theater and someone doing a great job of booking acts.  Friday night they had the New Breed Brass Band and everyone was cutting loose on the dance floor.  I’m with Lenah in her belief that tearing up the dance floor is an activity worth seeking while traveling. 

Day 2 - Ridgway to Colorado National Monument

We were planning to drive to Colorado National Monument (about 2 hours north) but our cousin suggested we fly up in his 4 person plane – the 1975 Silver Bullet (about ½ hour with detours). 

 The Silver Bullet

The Silver Bullet

On Saturday, we flew from Montrose to Grand Junction, flying over the Colorado National Monument.  After landing at the Grand Junction Airport we got a courtesy car and drove through the area we’d just flown over.  Seeing the canyon and monuments from above and then from the land was a great way to experience the the Monument. 

 Colorado National Monument from above

Colorado National Monument from above

 The ground view

The ground view

After driving through the Canyon, we had lunch in Fruita and then headed back to the airport. On the return trip we flew over the Black Canyon of the Gunnison which is another National Park I love and have driven through and camped at a few times.

 Rim roads on either side of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from The Silver Bullet

Rim roads on either side of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from The Silver Bullet

Day 3 - Ridgway and Ouray Hot Springs

Sunday we stayed closer to home exploring the views of the San Juan Mountains from Ridgway and hiking (while the cousins dirt biked) the Ridgway Area Trails (RAT)

 View from the Ridgway Area Trail called the Big Cheese

View from the Ridgway Area Trail called the Big Cheese

In the afternoon, we had lunch at Eatery 66 Food Truck in Ridgway where some of us enjoyed the spicy margarita with jalapenos. After lunch, we changed into our suits for a trip to the Ouray Hot Springs for a soak. When I took off my cover-up over my suit I discovered I had put my bathing suit on over my bra. I said “that’s the risk of a margarita at lunch”. Ouray Hot Springs was recently renovated and it was a very relaxing afternoon, once I took my bra off.

Day 4 - Ridgway to Albuquerque

Monday morning, was back to school day for our 9 year old cousin. It was fun to have breakfast with the family with their first day of school energy before we headed south to Albuquerque. And, I thought I was going just to see the Colorado National Monument.

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