Travel by Van in this Epic Colorado Road Trip featuring Mountains, Dunes, and Canyons

May 2, 2024   2 Comments »

Yes – there are tons of Colorado Road trip articles out there, but I’m going to tell you why this one is different. I live in Colorado. This is my home. I’m not going to tell you to drive I70 to the normal places, nor will I tell you to go to Rocky Mountain National Park. I want you to get off the beaten path in Colorado and support the local small towns and communities.

I have combined some of the well-known sights with the lesser-known sites. This isn’t just about the Rocky Mountains. It Includes dunes, desserts, national parks, recreation areas, canyons, high-altitude lakes you can drive to, hot springs, great green chile breakfast burritos, and yes – it includes mountain hiking. It’s a mix of the best Colorado has to offer.

Plus, I did this trip solo in a campervan, which made it perfect for these pandemic times. I was pretty self-contained and also saved money on lodging and eating out.

This Colorado road trip itinerary comes from my personal experience – and isn’t that what you are looking for…travel guidance from someone who actually travels to the places they are writing about?

Roadtripping by Campervan – Take a Colorado Van-Cation!

I felt like I was 20 years old again picking up my little camper van as if it were my first car; I was giddy. The whole onboarding process was completed digitally – so all I had to do was get my keys out of the lockbox.

The Smalls Native Campervan was going to be my ‘home on wheels’ for a whole week; it was my pathway to taking the trip I wanted to do ever since I moved here – visit Southwest Colorado.

It wasn’t flashy and colorful like many camper van rentals, it was subdued; I didn’t really want to call attention to myself when I take a road trip by myself. It was perfectly functional and comfortable for 1 to 2 people. I plugged in my first destination on google maps, pointed myself southwest and I was suddenly living a Vanlife!

Check out my article about Campervan Road Trip Tips from an experienced van owner who’s been on the road long term!

Native Campervans a Colorado Company

I decided to use the Colorado-based company – Native Campervans – because they had a competitive price and a small little van that was perfect for one or two people. They started back in 2017 as one of the first American-based camper van rental companies. The travel by campervan phenomenon is actually an Australian and New Zealand trend that made its way to America and many of the first companies here were offshoots of them.

I asked them about their name, and why they weren’t flashy vans,

There is a renewing effect to being in nature. You do your work, spend time with your family, handle the everyday details – but you need to recalibrate, and nature can do that for you. It returns you to your native self.

NAtive Camper Vans

This is how I looked at the trip that I was taking – it was a way for me to refresh and renew, get back to nature, and enjoy what my own state had to offer.

How to Pick a Campervan Company to Rent From

This is of course personal to everyone, however, in researching companies and trying to decide who to rent from there were a few things I learned to look for.

Pickup/Dropoff Times

This actually equates to money – so it’s important! Look at the company’s pick-up and drop-off times. Many of the companies I looked at had hours like a hotel – pick up had to be after 3 or 4 PM, and drop off had to be before 10 AM. This affected my ability to do the route I wanted to do – it meant I couldn’t get very far that first night, and the last night, I had to stay right outside of Denver to get the van unpacked and back in time.

Check out 22 unique things to do in Denver, Colorado, from a local

Native Campervans offered great pickup/drop-off times. You could pick your van up as early as 10 AM and drop it off as late as 4 PM. That meant that I could rent the van for seven nights – but have eight full days of travel…bonus!

Are the Extras Included?

campervan cooking crested butte

Actually, I hesitate to call these things extras…bedding, pillows, and kitchenware are not extras to me if you are renting a campervan. Make sure you check out what is included with the rental cost they are quoting – many places didn’t include these things, and they were extra. Native Campervans did include everything you needed for a kitchen (and it was good quality!), as well as two propane bottles for cooking. They also included sheets, a heavy blanket, and pillows, all squeaky clean when you picked it up. And finally, every Native Campervan rental comes with camp chairs and a table!

There are other extras you can rent that I really believe are ‘extras’ – like bicycle racks, stand-up paddle boards, and more.

Are There Any Perks Included?

One really great perk that I used all the time from Native Campervans was their 2-week Pro membership to the TheDyrt app. The Dyrt has a database of more than 30,000 campgrounds located throughout the U.S. Users can search based on their current location or look for places to camp at destinations where they intend to travel to in the future. You can also filter for specific things you are looking for, such as showers. With the Pro account, you could save maps offline (loved this!) and create and save your own route. I used the app pretty much every night as I looked for places to camp!

Discover Piney Lake, Colorado

Look at the Office Locations

Many of the campervan rentals allow one-way trips for no extra cost if they have offices in various locations. My trip was a Denver to Denver trip – so that didn’t factor into this trip – but I could’ve ended in Salt Lake City or Las Vegas if I wanted to.

Campervan Rental Companies Operating in Colorado

Native Campervans
Escape Campervans
Rocky Mountain Campervans
Boulder Campervans
Aspen Custom Vans
KuKu Campers

Need Something Bigger? Maybe a campervan is just too small for your family road trip through Colorado. Did you know that you can also rent RV’s? Get more space, go on a longer trip, or just have a bit more comfort – check out RVshare. They have a wide range of inventory to choose from, and you can pick it up in any major city.

The Ultimate 8-Day Southwest Colorado Road Trip

Let’s get this campervan (or whatever vehicle you have!) on the road! Check out the map below to see my driving route, along with my stops and campgrounds. I also provide a bit of food/drink info – but remember, my campervan had a kitchen, so most of the time, I was cooking for myself. This route starts and ends in Denver because…well…I live there.

colorado road trip campervan

Note that this was my personal trip – so I did things I like to do: hike, drive, drink, and eat. You’ll notice that I don’t shop…or go to museums very frequently (especially not during COVID-19) – so things like that aren’t included in this itinerary. Of course, though, all of these little towns have a variety of things to offer, including shopping and museums…so customize this however you want and make it your trip. It’s meant to give ideas you may not have considered before in Colorado.

Read about what it was like to do this campervan trip solo

Southwest Colorado Road Trip Route Map

Day 1 – Denver to Sand Dunes National Park – Gin and San Luis

I left Denver around noon after packing up my van with supplies. I decided to take the more scenic route through Buena Vista and Salida instead of just heading south on I-25. The time is about the same – so why not drive through pretty scenery – that’s the point of a road trip – isn’t it?

I stopped in the town of Salida to stretch my legs and to make a stop at one of my favorite Colorado Distilleries – Woods High Mountain Distillery. They carry one of my most loved gins (and I really love gin) aged in a whiskey barrel, turning it a lovely caramel color. Treeline Barrel Rested Gin is basically a gin with an identity crisis; it tastes like gin but looks like whiskey, and has a hint of whiskey flavor. Trust me on this – it’s worth stopping for a bottle!

I got back on the road and continued south, entering the famed San Luis Valley. It was flat – super flat. In fact, it reminded me of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia – a rocky, flat desert. Many say that it’s a spiritual place, and Gregory Alan Isakov captured it in his song and video “San Luis”. The landscape is expansive yet simple. As I drove through it for the first time, I fell in love with its moodiness (helped along by the pending storm in the distance).

san luis valley colorado road trip
San Luis Valley

In the flat landscape, you can start to make out the big sand dunes tucked up against the Sangre de Cristo mountains; even from such a far-off distance, you realize it’s a special place on earth.

I’ve seen my share of sand dunes, but never quite like this next to high-altitude mountains – it was a sight to see – especially when you arrive at a stormy sunset! These dunes were formed from weather patterns in the valley, which is ‘fenced in’ by the San Juan mountains in the west and the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the East.

To experience the best whiskey bars in Denver – go to Whiskey Row in Arvada

The San Luis Valley used to be a big lake where the erosion of the mountains settled at the bottom. When the lake dried up the sand was left. The strong winds from the San Juan mountains pushed the sand up against the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the sand was trapped there. The whole area has a fascinating landscape if you are a geology nerd!

I found my campsite and quickly went to go explore the park after hours just to get some pictures with the intention to spend my next morning there.

Where to Stay

I wanted to be close to the park and ideally have a bit of a view. The National Park campsite fills up quickly so I camped at the Great Sand Dunes Oasis campground – the closest campground (and they have a small lodge and cabins) to the park. The cost was around $23.

The camp spot was simple – port-o-potties only and they were a bit of a walk away. The best part was the view!

Note: It did get really windy that night I was there, so make your dinner early and hunker down!
Read Reviews of the Oasis campground on Trip Advisor
Great Sand Dunes Oasis Campground Website

What to Do

This first day was about a lot of driving for me and I made only one stop in Salida. However, there are plenty of quirky stops you can make in the San Luis Valley if you’d like!

AND…Colorado is full of hot springs in every part of the state – if you want to soak, check out how you can pick the right hot spring for you in your Colorado travels.

Tips: You can get into the park free after 6 PM. The park is open 24 hours a day as there are great star viewings in the area!

Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado

Day 2 – Greater Sand Dunes National Park to Pagosa Springs – Sand…So Much Sand

I woke up early, made a hearty breakfast, and watched the sand dunes change to a glowing orange as the sun came up. The wind had disappeared and it was a beautiful morning!

I rented a sand sled from Oasis for the day, put on my sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses, and headed for the dunes! In retrospect, I might have started the sledding on a bit too advanced of a hill, but hey – I wanted speed…and I got it. I also had a few massive wipeouts and ended up with sand EVERYWHERE!

I spent the whole morning hiking up and down the dunes, sledding, getting sand out of my ears, watching others board and sled, and I took plenty of pictures.

After a nice lunch at a picnic spot in the park, I took off for a scenic drive to Pagosa Springs. On a tip from a local friend, I decided to take a scenic route through a little bit of New Mexico via a part of the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway that takes you up and over La Manga pass.

I loved the views coming into Pagosa Springs; the quaint little town was surrounded by mountains. I stopped in town to grab some local beer and a refill of ice and then headed out to my next campground across from the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area.

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Where to Stay

Ute Campground is a USDA Forest Service Site located 17 miles west of Pagosa Springs on U.S. Highway 160. The cost was around $20, and the sites were set back in the woods with towering pine trees surrounding each site. It had water, a simple toilet, a nice campground host, and few people.

What to Do

This is your day to play in the sand dunes, so take as much time as you want! You can rent sand sleds or boards from the Great Sand Dune Oasis campground for $20. They even give you wax to put on your sled so you can go extra fast! There are also hikes in the park, and if you have a 4WD vehicle you can go deeper into the park. I also spent a lot of time driving on Day 2 and enjoying the scenery!

Sand dunes and mountains in Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado

Day 3 – Pagosa Springs to Durango and Mancos – Soaking, Biking, and Brews

This morning I arrived in Durango totally excited to explore the town. I had been hearing about Durango for years now, and I was finally there!

I started off the morning at the Durango Hot Springs and Spa for a relaxing soak in their various pools with a lovely mountain view. And I really enjoyed the locker room shower after camping for a couple of nights!

Durango Hot Springs

I took my time and walked around the historic town that had spilled out onto the Main street due to COVID-19 regulations. You’ll lose yourself for hours in the cute Main Street shops!

I stopped for some tacos and then rented a bike from Pedal the Peaks to bike the 9-mile urban bike trail that runs along the Animas river. the Animas river is the heart of Durango. You can raft, float, and kayak down the river (water is best in the spring). I biked over bridges and even stopped at a farmer’s market by the high school to pick up fresh peaches!

After my sweaty bike ride, I deserved a beer at one of Durango’s best breweries – Ska Brewing. It’s a little bit outside of the historic town, but well worth the stop.

Finally, I went towards the little town of Mancos and camped there on a friend’s property!

Weekend in Colorado Springs: where to eat, stay, and adventure

Where to Stay

There are many campgrounds around the Mancos area, which is a gateway to Mesa Verde National Park. Target Tree Campground was a nice-looking USDA Forest Service campground and where I would’ve stayed if I didn’t have friends to stay with!

What to Do

There’s so much to do in and around Durango – that’s why I stayed in the region for 2 days! I suggest when you get into the historic district stop by the welcome center on Main Street. They were a wealth of information; after 30 minutes of talking to the people there, I had planned all of my activities and where I was going to hike and camp in the region.

Durango Hot Springs and Spa: it’s undergoing a major remodel – but the majority is expected to be completed by Oct. 2020. And while they are finishing, there are 4 different hot spring mineral pools and one saltwater swimming pool that are finished and useable! The views of the mountains were lovely from the pools. And coming in October they will also have Onsen-style individual hot spring pools for adults!

In addition, they have a secret spa superpower – micro bubbles of oxygen are infused into the natural mineral water. They are the only hot spring in the world that has this feature. It not only purifies the water but allows oxygen to enter your body and increases your oxygen levels. It may just help you for hiking and adventures around the high-altitude region!

Pedal the Peaks Bike Rental – This welcoming local shop is a family-run business that is oozing with small-business charm. Established in 1992, they ARE Durango’s bike scene. You can rent bikes from 4 hours to a full day, and they have a variety of styles (including e-bikes). I rented a hybrid bike to ride along the 9-mile urban trail along the river. The shop is close to where you can get on the trail, so it’s quite convenient. They also have a wealth of information about all of the trails around the area.

The Animas River Trail is a lovely paved ride along the river with plenty of places to stop along the way for a drink or snack. Download the map of the trail here.

Mesa Verde National Park – I didn’t make it there, but if you are out near Mancos, you are really close to the park and it’s supposed to be spectacular.

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Nini’s Taqueria was a great taco stop on Main Street. I got the combo plate of tacos they recommended, and each came with a different fresh salsa – it was delicious! Plus, they also had a big shady patio in the back where you could dine.

Ska Brewing Company has a whole new outdoor beer garden where you can try their award-winning beers as well as a snack. It’s a popular place with the locals, so you may even make some new friends!

FenceLine Cidery in Mancos – I stopped by this little local Mancos Cidery to grab a bottle of their award-winning cider to bring to my friend’s house. The cidery was in a cute little outdoor setting and every cider I tried was delicious! I especially like the French-style dry cider and I loved the artwork on the labels!

Animas River Durango Colorado

Day 4 – Mancos to Vallecito Lake and Lemon Lake – Cinnamon Rolls, Hiking, and Lakes

After an urban day in Durango, I was ready to get out and hike! But first – I needed some hiking energy. Absolute Bakery in Mancos is known for their cinnamon rolls; get there early to get one and enjoy every finger-lickin’ moment of this gooey, delicious roll!

I drove out to Vallecito Reservoir, 40 minutes outside of Durango. However, I didn’t stop at the lake; instead, I went straight to the Vallecito Creek trailhead at the far end of the lake. This out-and-back trail was perfect for an afternoon hike. The trail follows the creek, so there is a constant sound of water, which I love. The trail climbs high up above the creek and then right down to its edge. I went about 5 miles total stopped for a little lunch next to the creek, and took the opportunity to dunk my feet in the cold mountain water.

After the hike, I went on to Lemon Lake/Dam, where I found a rustic campground perfect for an early night. The Florida Campground was basic but also just what I was looking for: pretty remote, small, and located right next to a river.

Where to Stay

Florida Campground, located in the San Juan National Forest, can be reached by a dirt road a few miles past Lemon Lake. It only has 20 campsites with basic toilet facilities and water. The campsites were fairly secluded, with lots of trees and shade. They had really nice picnic tables, and all sites practically had access to the river. The cost was around $20.

There are a number of other campgrounds around the Vallecito and Lemon Lake area that are great to choose from too!

What to do

Hiking – There are so many trails around the region – but I hiked the Vallecito Creek Trail. It’s a 12.7-mile out-and-back moderate trail featuring bridges and a waterfall. I only went 5 miles out and back due to pending thunderstorms, but it exceeded my expectations the entire time. The rolling trail follows Vallecito Creek, which is full of little waterfalls and perfectly crystal clear. You’ll wind through woods, up on cliffs, and down to the river. Be ready for some really cold water if you put your feet in like I did – but it was perfect for a short break! See the Vallecito Creek Trail map and more information at All Trails.


Absolute Bakery – Stop at Absolute Bakery in Mancos for a delicious cinnamon roll or pastry of your liking! I sat outside on a bench and watched the little town come to life in the morning while eating my cinnamon roll. I savored the ooooey, gooey middle of the roll where all of the delicious butter and cinnamon reside and thought about how this winter I really needed to work on perfecting my cinnamon roll recipe! It was a wonderful opportunity to slow down and soak up this small, cute town, and I tried not to think about the calories I was consuming!

Sherry Ott hiking a rocky creek in Colorado

Day 5 – Lemon Lake to Silverton – Farms and Mountain Passes

I had a leisurely breakfast and enjoyed writing by the river, not in a hurry to get anywhere. Isn’t that what Van-Cations should be anyway? I drove back to Durango and headed north towards Silverton. Based on a tip from the Durango Welcome Center, I had a small breakfast so I could stop and enjoy a big lunch at James Ranch, a must-stop restaurant/grille and market just outside of Durango.

This is a real farm-to-table experience, and it’s a lovely place to sit outside and enjoy the view of the Animas River Valley in all of its green glory! They also have a market where they sell meat, cheese, and other fresh goods from the farm. I picked up some sausage and a cookie for my next camp meal!

The rest of the day was about the drive. I didn’t have far to go; it was only 48 miles, but it took me most of the afternoon to get to Silverton! The views as you climb higher into the San Juan mountains are spectacular, and eventually, you come to Molas Pass at 10,900 ft. Segment 25 of the Colorado Trail begins at Molas Pass and stretches into the west on its way to Durango. If you are lucky, maybe you’ll see some thru-hikers!

I went down the hairpin turns into the colorful old town of Silverton to take a look around before the sun went down. The views coming into Silverton are epic, in fact, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road when there’s so much to see!

Silverton is the quintessential mining town that had 2,000 people living in it during its boom in 1883; 400 buildings – 2 banks, 5 laundries, 29 saloons, several hotels, and a bawdy red light district – Notorious Blair Street. In the present day, many of the old storefronts are still there on its dirt streets, but it’s now a hub for outdoor adventurers instead of miners. I parked and walked around the town and into a few of the stores.

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I headed back up towards Molas Pass and stayed at the Molas Lake Campground for the night. The campground is located right next to the high alpine lake and panoramic mountain views. I absolutely loved my little camping spot that night. I walked to the lake and watched the sun go down and the lake light up with incredible reflections.

Molas Lake Colorado road trip
Molas Lake

Where to Stay

Molas Lake Campground was easily worth the $21 I paid! The access to the lake was spectacular as well as the mountain peaks. The campground has everything you would ever need – warm showers (extra $), water, a little store, kayak/SUP rental, and wifi. They didn’t have any electric hookups, and generators weren’t allowed, which meant there were no big motorhomes there – yay! I loved it so much there that I actually considered staying two nights.

What to Do

Drive Highway 550 and simply enjoy the view. Stop at Andrews Lake to get a close-up view of a high alpine lake you don’t have to hike to! You can also hike around the lake if you have time. Also, stop at Molas Pass for the views.

Silverton is a great town to explore. Don’t be surprised if you see more ATVs there than cars on its dirt streets! Stop at the local brewery and check out the cute, artistic stores on Main Street.


Stop at James Ranch and try their grass-fed hamburger – it was sooooo good. And definitely stop in the market and pick up some fresh veggies and maybe even a steak to grill out!

Day 6 – Silverton to Ouray – Hiking and Beer

This was my shortest driving day – only 23 miles, but it was one of my most challenging days! I left the campground and drove to the Ice Lake Trailhead just outside of Silverton on a bumpy road just off Highway 550.

I had heard about this popular hike to Ice Lake and Island Lake in the San Juan Mountains and this was one of the main goals of my trip – to hike and photograph it. It’s a 9.5-mile heavily trafficked loop trail traversing two stunningly beautiful blue lakes, Ice Lake and Island Lake. Sounds great – but you have to really work to get there – it also climbs 3,100 feet to as high as 12,500 feet. This trail is no joke.

I got a later start than I wanted, however, when I started out at 10 AM, the skies were blue, and I looked up at the huge peaks and was excited about the challenge. I had read it was better to go counter-clockwise once you got to the loop section which takes you to Island Lake first.

However, the skies started to get dark, the wind picked up, and when I was already at 12,000 feet, it started to thunder. Thunder at that altitude is ominous as it feels like it’s right on top of your head! I was moving slowly at this point – but only had about 500 more feet to go to get to Island Lake. Sadly, the thunder kept getting more frequent and in the name of safety, I had to turn around…before I even saw a lake!

It was a hard decision but a smart one. Altitude and storms are dangerous – especially above the tree line. As I quickly tried to hustle down 3,000 ft (is that even possible…my knees didn’t think so!), I consoled myself by focusing on the incredible hike I did and the beautiful views. I had pushed myself pretty hard, and that’s nothing to be sad about, even though I didn’t make it to the lakes!

Once I got back down, I dried out from the rain and took on another daring challenge – I drove the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray.

Originally built in 1883, the highway between Silverton and Ouray is pretty legendary now. It’s known as one of the scariest drives in the US – or maybe just Colorado. It’s certainly scenic; full of switchbacks, epic climbs, and descents. Often times, there aren’t guardrails, so it’s not for the faint of heart. However, I must admit, I’ve been on scarier roads, but I also think my fear depends on if I’m driving or not; being a passenger is always more scary than driving!

Why is it called the Million Dollar Highway? According to Visit Durango – “Historians aren’t certain of why this highway has its name. One explanation is that an early traveler was so overcome by vertigo on the steep and winding stretch of road that he insisted he would never travel it again, even if he was paid a million dollars.” It could also be because millions of dollars of silver and gold traveled through these mountains…who knows…but it’s worth the drive!

Where to Stay

Once I got to Ouray, I decided to call it a day, I was pretty exhausted from the hike. In addition, I decided to get myself a cheap hotel and enjoy walking around the old historic town. I stayed at the Historic Western Hotel established in 1891! This old hotel is unique, as soon as you walk in you get a feel for its quirkiness and history. All of the rooms share bathrooms, so you really did feel like you were time-traveling!

What to do

Hike the Ice Lake Trail – but start early! Colorado is notoriously known for afternoon storms in the mountains; it’s ideal to be below the tree line by noon. See the map for Ice Lake Trail Basin and more information at All Trails

Drive the Million Dollar Highway – go slow and take it all in! I stopped for a number of photo ops as well as to see some of the old abandoned mining settlements.

Ouray also has lovely-looking Hot Springs. I didn’t have time to take a soak, but I wanted to!


Grab a drink in Ouray at Mr. Grumpy Pants Brewing Company – yes, that’s really the name, and yes, they are a bit grumpy there. But it has the best little porch on Main Street where you can drink your beer and people-watch!

I had a delicious burger at Full Tilt Saloon that night, but there are tons of great places in Ouray to choose from for good, basic food!

Million Dollar Highway Colorado

Day 7 – Ouray to Crested Butte – Canyon Land and Something Familiar

I woke up with a craving for a breakfast burrito. I said goodbye to the San Juan mountains and headed into Montrose in search of a good burrito. Google delivered me to Sunrise Burritos and made my morning. All I can say is…green chile to the rescue.

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Once I was all fueled up, I headed to the land of canyons in Colorado – the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The 2,700-foot-deep canyon is impressive to see; no other gorge in North America combines the narrowness, depth, and sheer drop-offs as the Black Canyon. I didn’t go into the National Park, instead, I went to the North Rim of the canyon to the Curecanti Creek National Recreation Area.

My first time in this area left me so surprised at how stunning the landscape was. I had suddenly driven into mesas and canyons – so different from the mountains I just left.

I stopped to hike the Curecanti Creek Trail from the north rim of the canyon down to the bottom! It’s a 3.7-mile lightly trafficked out-and-back trail that gently takes you down into the canyon. After about a mile, you are in the deeper part of the canyon and are following the creek down to the end, where a beautiful pool of water flows through the canyon. It’s the most spectacular green I’ve ever seen!

After the hike, I drove to Gunnison and then up to Crested Butte, one of my favorite towns in all of Colorado! Crested Butte also narrowed their main street and let the businesses spill out onto the street for ample outdoor seating. I stopped at Brick Oven Pizza and Bar, inhaled a pizza, and enjoyed a beer.

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I found the most incredible dispersed camping site off of a forest road and quickly snagged it. It had a view of Gothic Mountain on one side and Mt. Crested Butte on the other, with a beautiful golden valley in between. It was the perfect spot for my last night of the road trip!

Where to Stay

Lots of dispersed (Free) camping in Gunnison National Forest around Crested Butte. No facilities.

What to do

Drive a part of the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway by Blue Mesa Lake and take in the scenery.

Hike the Curecanti Creek Trail down to the bottom of the canyon. I suggest bringing a swimsuit if you want to take a dip in that beautiful green water at the end! I also recommend hiking poles as it is quite a bit of up and down. See the Curecanti Creek Trail map and more information at All Trails.


Sunrise Burritos in Montrose is just a little drive-through hut in a parking lot, but it is big on taste! And the green chile is delicious!

Curecanti Creek Trail Colorado

Day 8 – Crested Butte to Denver – A Final Pass

I woke up to a pink sky and a layer of white fog hovering over the grass. The cool mountain air spilled into the open back doors as I just lay there enjoying the view. I made an incredible breakfast and finally took off from my idyllic spot in Crested Butte.

crested Butte colorado

It was time to head home via a new route back towards Denver past Taylor Park Reservoir and over the newly paved Cottonwood Pass. The summit is at 12,126 feet with incredible views from the top that show both sides of the Continental Divide.

The pass drops you back down in Buena Vista (another beautiful mountain town) and from there a few more hours to Denver.

As much as I wished I could keep driving for days around Colorado in my little campervan, I had to return it after a week. It was a great test drive of ‘van life’; it made me dream of doing this full-time one day! But for now, my Colorado road trip around the Southwest part of the state was all I could fit in!

Check out my article about Campervan Road Trip Tips from an experienced van owner who’s been on the road long term!

view of Crested Butte, Colorado

Want some great tunes for this trip? Check out this Colorado Road Trip Playlist

Escape straight into the heart of the rockies with this Colorado Spotify Playlist. Classic tunes that capture Colorado’s soul. Whether you’re driving through Colorado’s long, winding roads or dreaming of blue skies and majestic mountains, this playlist will surely make you Come to Life™ courtesy of

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Super Bright LED Tactical Torch

LE CREE LED Flashlight, Small and Super Bright LED Tactical Torch, Handheld Flash Light, Zoomable, Water Resistant, Adjustable Brightness for Camping, Running, AAA Batteries Included

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03/07/2024 07:47 pm GMT
300W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC

BESTEK 300W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Car Inverter with 4.2A Dual USB Car Adapter

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03/07/2024 09:32 am GMT
Shade Sox Universal Car Sun Shade

Shade Sox Universal Car Side Window Baby Sun Shade (2pc) | Protects Baby and Kids from the Sun| Fits All (99%) Cars Most SUV's | Travel ebook included!

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03/06/2024 11:32 pm GMT
ComfiLife Gel Enhanced Seat Cushion

ComfiLife Gel Enhanced Seat Cushion - Non-Slip Orthopedic Gel & Memory Foam Coccyx Cushion for Tailbone Pain - Office Chair Car Seat Cushion - Sciatica & Back Pain Relief

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03/07/2024 01:17 am GMT
OtterBox Venture Cooler, Hudson, 45 Quart

Use an optional Dry storage tray or separator (both sold separately) to organize the interior however you like: keep Dry or soft items separate and create custom compartments

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My top pick
VIM & VIGR Compression Socks & Sleeves

Compression socks are great for faster muscle recovery and to fight blood clots on long flights or long road trips.

PLUS - use discount code OTT15 for 15% off orders!

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Contigo AUTOSEAL Water Bottle, 24oz, Spirulina

Great for travel - at 24oz, it's small enought to fit into most backpack bottle holders or cup holders. Plus, I love that you can lock it so I can put it in my bag without fear of it leaking!

05/08/2024 05:47 pm GMT

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