We headed down to the Durango area with Stacy’s parents, who were visiting from Texas, and her cousin and family from Colorado Springs. We had never been in the area before (besides being close at Ouray/Telluride), but heard good things about it. Since the parents needed hookups, we looked for campgrounds and came across Lightner Creek Campground, which is on the West side of Durango. It is a little off the highway, but is so peaceful hidden away in some trees and surrounded by mountains. The campground has basic amenities, like showers/bathrooms, pool, general store, etc. The spots are also not as close as some of the campgrounds in the area are. Pets are welcomed, but we ended up leaving our two pups at home with Aunt Amy.
The trip is approximately 7 hours (with stops) from Denver, so the first day we just traveled and then relaxed and visited at the campground.
The second day, we got up, made some pancakes, then headed out to Mesa Verde National Park, which was approximately 35 miles from the campground. We highly recommend going first thing in the morning or purchasing tour tickets online. At the visitor’s center, you see all of the guided tours you can go on, as well as the self-guided tours. The ranger guided tours were $4 each and covered four different areas of the park, ranging in time from one to four hours each. This would be a fun park to spend a couple of days in. They also have a huge campground and restaurants in the park. The entrance fee to the park is $15 per vehicle.
We decided to go on the Cliff Palace tour, since the hike did not look too difficult (considering Stacy’s parents are older and we had some kiddos with us). Prior to our tour starting, we drove to the self guided areas, including Step House and Spruce Tree House (which was closed to go look at the actual dwellings, but you could see from the trail across). The Step House was about a 25 minute round trip hike and had some amazing things to look at. The park itself is about 25 miles from the Visitor’s Center to the dwellings.
The Cliff Palace tour was also pretty amazing. Our tour guide was very enthusiastic about his job and had lots of knowledge tidbits to pass along to us. The hike down was mostly stairs and the hike back up was a bunch of log ladders. It was a neat experience to see how others have lived before us. Here is a little information from the park’s website about the history:
The next day, we headed downtown Durango to hit up their Farmer’s Market and shopping district. They had lots of cute shops to look at. We ate at Steamworks Brewing Company and ordered their veggie pizza (no cheese, sub marinara) and quinoa burger (no cheese or sauce). The pizza was just ok, but the burger was outrageously delicious. Chad also partook in their beer flight, which was way larger than any other we had seen at 4 oz. pours. He found some great beers that he liked.
On Sunday, Stacy’s cousin and family took off to go home, so the rest of us went to Four Corners Monument. It was approximately a little over an hour to drive there from our campground. The area is very interesting, in that there is not a whole lot out there. They have upgraded the monument with benches, sidewalks, flags, and bigger marker. We got there about 11 a.m. and expected a super long line, but lucked out when there were only a handful of people in front of us. Evidently it gets a little busier around noon when lots of the tour buses roll in. We took our photos at the plaque and then walked around the edge of the monument, which had stores on each of the state’s side. The vendors were all Navajo people selling homemade jewelry, paintings, etc. We headed back to Durango and hit up a Mexican restaurant in Cortez that had a couple of veg options.
Once in Durango, we went to the Ska Brewing Company. Chad had found this beer while we were camping in Ouray, and thought it would be fun to go to the actual brewery. The building is pretty cool with shipping containers added to the side for food service. We lucked out and came at the right time, because they had free daily tours at 4. The bartender/tour guide showed us around in the back as to how they made the beer. She said that they make all the beer there that ships out all over the U.S. and Sweden. The entire process of fun to see, especially for Stacy’s parents who had never seen a brewery like this.
Some of our favorite breakfast items we made during the trip were pancakes with Field Roast sausages (our go-to camping breakfast), breakfast burritos, and omelettes with the VegEgg. We did not make too much for dinners since we went out a couple of times and snacked in-between, but made some veggie burgers, meatball subs, corn-on-the-cob. We tried the Heidi-Ho smokey cheese with some crackers and loved it.
We enjoyed our time in the Durango area and would come back, especially to check out some of the Jeep trails or as we passed through to New Mexico/Arizona. Unfortunately, with the baby’s due date coming up (less than 6 weeks away!!), we think that this may be the last camping trip we go on for this year. Time to start planning out our next camping year, which will include toting around our baby!! 🙂