Road Trip on the Western Slope

Updated: Feb 11

There are times in life when everyone could use a break from their normal routine, a vacation or simply getting away for some quiet time away from it all. This past June (2020) I was ready to do just that so I took the Amtrak to Glenwood Springs Colorado, picked up a rental car and started my road trip around the western slope of Colorado. This area west of the continental divide holds 38% of Colorado's land but just over 10% of its population. So you don't have to worry about traffic or overcrowded destinations. But you can expect some of Colorado's best natural scenery and unique cities/towns that seem to take you back 50 years when main street was filled with small business, great diners and friendly people walking the streets. My first stop on the slope was Rifle Falls State Park, about 30 miles from Glenwood Springs. Home to a 80-foot triple waterfall surrounded by lush green vegetation the park is one of the most photographed areas on the western slope.

Colorado
Rifle's Triple Falls
Rifle Falls
Sunset View from Campsite

Double Your Pleasure


After camping at Rifle Gap, I left early for my next stop the Colorado National Monument just outside of Grand Junction CO. I arrived shortly before sunrise and was treated to a breathtaking sunrise. The 20-mile drive through the monument is one of the best drives you will experience anywhere in the country. With over 15 stops with overlooks and many trails to adventure on, this monument is world class. After spending a long day at the monument, I started my 100 mile journey down highway 8 headed for Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park. Again, I arrived shortly before sunrise and to another beautiful sunrise over the black canyon walls. The Gunnison River cuts through the 2,000-foot canyon walls in some sections and is home to Painted Rock, the highest wall in Colorado towering at over 5000 ft. Before leaving the park, I took a nice nap alongside the Gunnison River to recharge before leaving for my next destination, Grand Mesa National Forest.


Sunrise at Colorado National Monument
Overlook View
Sunrise over Black Canyon
Black Canyon
Painted Rock
Nap Time next to the Gunnison River

On Top of the World


The Grand Mesa is about 40 miles east of Grand Junction. It's the largest flattop mountain in the world covering over 500 square miles and standing over 11,000 feet above sea level. I decided to hike up the overlook trail, known for its spectacular views. Once I got there, I wasn't disappointed. As I was looking over the beautiful lakes that surrounded the area the sun started to fade quickly as ice began to fall from the sky. I ran to find shelter under a pine tree as golf ball size hail was coming down all around me. Fortunately, the storm only lasted about 20 minutes and only a few of the ice balls hit me before I found the shelter of the trees. After the storm, I checked out some of the 300 lakes and reservoirs on the mesa all with crystal clear water surrounded by gorgeous green pines.

Overlook Trail View
Island Lake on the Mesa
Fishermen on Island Lake

Alone


My last stop was Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area; after a scenic 60 mile drive to the canyon from the Mesa I started my hike at the Bridgeport Trailhead. After following the trail to the footbridge to cross over the Gunnison River I headed down the Canyon following the river. The sights were spectacular as the red rocked canyon walls towered over the gentle waters of the river. After spending 2 days in the quiet Canyon wilderness completely alone I felt grateful for this time but also, I realized I was ready to get back home. It was time to see my friends and family again. I missed them!

Calm Gunnison River
Trail View

Sing a Song


I started my trip with a goal of getting away to spend some time on the road and in nature

to recharge. After driving over 400 miles to 4 of Colorado's amazing parks with some of the best sceneries on the planet, my spirits were rejuvenated. As I was driving back to catch my train home, a song came on the radio from my high school days. I turned up the volume, rolled down the windows to enjoy the fresh air and sang out loud just like I did in my younger days. When the song ended, I realized this trip was just what I needed to lift my spirits and realize how blessed I really am!


Watch this video and see if you remember this song and if it makes you sing out loud too!


Breathe in. Breathe out. Move on.


Mark




 

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