Even though we Life Busers definitely like visiting far-flung corners of the globe, we often say that there is still so much yet to discover just in our own Colorado backyard. This was the motivation behind a recent getaway trip Todd and I took to the western slope of Colorado. We set out to put a little gravel in our travel and discover a lesser known part of Colorado (at least to most of us on the Front Range.) The destination of this road trip was a four day getaway to the Gateway Canyon Resort in Gateway, CO. Gateway Canyons
When this was presented to me as my birthday present, I had never heard of Gateway, CO or of the resort. I quickly got on line to do some research. The resort looked like Todd had done well in choosing this place. The secluded location, the soaring canyon scenery, and the fact that you have to drive along the Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway to get to the resort all really peaked my interest to explore this part of our state. The byway is a 140 mile route that cuts through some of the oldest rock on the planet (1 billion year old pre-Cambrian to be exact) and runs from just north of Delta to Ridgeway. Unaweep and Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway
We arrived at night so didn’t have a chance to see our surroundings until the morning. When we woke up we had a beautiful view of the Palisade right outside our window. For those seriously ambitious folk, the Palisade is a narrow fin of sandstone surrounded on all sides by vertical walls and can be climbed. The leaves on the cottonwoods were still a vibrant golden yellow in the sunlight. The sky was a beautiful, intense, Colorado blue. I would, however, suggest going in early to mid-October to experience peak seasonal colors. This area does have quite a bit of scrub oak which is one of the few plants in Colorado which has that deep fall red color. Unfortunately, all of the scrub oak leaves were already off by the time we were here.
On our first day we went for one of those drives that we call “discover your world.” We headed out onto a dirt, canyon-hugging, road towards an area called Sinbad Valley. On the map, at the Adventure Center, Sinbad valley looked like a really cool depression in the surrounding, unrelenting walls of red rock. We had been told there was a good 4×4 road there and a few years ago Gateway Resort had actually held a trail marathon on this dirt road. The drive in was beautiful vertical canyon walls with a salt wash along the side of the road the entire way. We finally arrived at the turn off (with only one misstep) and pulled over to try our mountain bikes on this road. Of course, Todd had no problems. I found it somewhat challenging as it was misleadingly steep and had very rocky, technical washes one after the other. After going about 3 miles up and back, we headed out to check out the Hanging Flume Historic Site.
The Hanging Flume is perhaps one of the most risky and lofty plans in mining history. The Flume, built on the side of a cliff over the San Miguel RiverIt, is now on the National Historic Register and slated for renovation. It is quite an engineering feat, especially given that it was built between 1889-1891. Even if you’re not a history nerd like I am, visiting the Flume is an effortless pit stop worth making while you’re on the Unaweep Tabeguache Byway. It will truly make you wonder how did they do that!! The Hanging Flume
Given that the Canyons has such beautiful horse stables, we decided to take advantage of this and go horseback riding … even if only for a good laugh. Our guides, Amy Wilkinson Equestrian Manager and her side-kick Cheyenne, were AMAZING!! To call Amy the horse whisperer would be an understatement. She had a wonderful way with both horses and clients. You can see she is a woman who is passionate about her horses and, in turn, they ensure her clients have a great time. Our horses were gentle and yet did show us some spunk as well. Todd’s horse, Frog, got a little feisty which caused my horse and another to get a little feisty and the next thing I knew my horse was up and running … albeit for a short distance. Amy was great at assuring everything was always copacetic!! We rode the horses on some sweet single track trails through scrub oak and cottonwood groves. Cheyenne is a great young girl who helps out at the ranch. Her horse-handling skills were so impressive for someone of her age. Gateway Canyon Stables
From here, we continued the pursuit for gravel and backroads up and over John Brown’s canyon on to the La Sal Mountain Forest Area. We stopped where the dirt road met the paved road. If you continue on, it’s only about another 30 miles to Moab. This back road option to Moab is a much shorter route than driving back up to Grand Junction and on into Moab via 1-70. A nice way to fit some really epic mountain biking in if you’re staying at the resort. At the location where we stopped, there are some magnificent dinosaur prints pretty much right off the road. This area also has some gorgeous scenic overlooks. The edge of these overlooks is not for the faint of heart. The drop is a good several thousand feet down.
The last day I got in a great 8 mile trail run and Todd road mountain bike on the BLM trails a hundred yards or so from the resort grounds. Some beautiful views to be had while running or riding.
On the way home, we drove over the Grand Mesa. There will definitely be posts on the Mesa this coming year. At the bottom of the Mesa we wanted to continue with our backroad theme and wound up on 40 miles of beautiful, uninhabited Colorado wilderness area!!
Oh Colorado, you still have so much for the Life Bus to explore … how are we going to fit it all in?