This two-day trip took us to some beautiful places we haven't seen
We've traveled several previous times from Leadville to the
Reunion Flat Campground in Teton Canyon on the western side of the Grand
Teton mountain range but this is the first time we've taken the route
I'll be describing in this and the next entry.
A couple other times we got to Teton Canyon via a more westerly route
through Salt Lake City and Logan, UT so Jim could train on The Bear 100
course in the northeastern corner of the state. Those years we went up
to the Grand Teton Race (GTR), which is held at a ski resort above Teton
Canyon, before and during Labor Day weekend. Jim used the GTR 50-miler
as training for The Bear, which is held later in September.
One last view of Mt. Massive from
US 24 north of Leadville
Now that Jim's bum knee prevents him from running he didn't enter
those two races this fall.
But we love the Teton area so much that we decided to keep our
reservation at Reunion Flat. Late summer/early fall is a beautiful time
of year to visit either side of the Tetons -- and they are cooler
than many other places right now.
We modified our Reunion Flat CG reservation with the National Forest
Service more than once because we thought we might like to camp near
Dinosaur National Monument and/or in the Flaming Gorge National
Recreation Area for a few days on the way to Teton Canyon.
We changed our minds about that, however, mostly because the
temperatures are hotter this week than we like for boon-docking. We can
run one AC unit with solar power and the generator but it's a strain on
the system. We need to do more on-site research of the Forest Service campgrounds in
the Flaming Gorge area before spending several days there. Some of the
sites are in forests at higher altitudes where it is cooler;
many of them aren't big enough for a 36-foot 5th-wheel, though.
CO 13 north of Rifle, CO
At the last minute we decided to just head for Teton Canyon and not
stay overnight at the Gorge or the national monument. Along the way we'll
eyeball some of the camping opportunities for a future visit.
On this route we will get to see some territory that is
new to us between Rifle, CO and Green River, WY. We've been on the other
parts of the route at least once before and we know they are
This is a shorter but possibly slower route than we took last year when we
went through SLC to the same destination because we'll have more
Hay bales on CO 64 west of Rangely, CO
Although I'll point out some specifics for RVers in these entries,
most of the information about routing, road conditions, and scenery is
applicable to other vehicular travel, too.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Our goal today was to
reach Vernal, UT. We weren't
in any hurry to leave Jack's place in Leadville this morning because the predicted temperature in
Vernal was 90 F. today. Since we planned to stay overnight in the Walmart
parking lot we didn't want to arrive until it started to cool down in
The hillsides along I-70 between Minturn and Rifle
come in a variety of colors.
Jim had plenty of time to get breakfast at the Subway in Leadville after he got up.
He’s been there so many times in the last three weeks that the young fella
who works there has started asking him if he wants “the usual.” Ditto with
the gal at Kringos, a little restaurant where Jim stopped on the way out
of town to get a sandwich to eat later for lunch.
headed out the north side of town a little before 11 AM.
Despite our late
departure time and several stops during the afternoon we got to Vernal about 5 PM --
and it was still in the mid-80s F.
We shoulda killed even more time!
Crossing the Colorado River on I-70 near Rifle, CO
The weather was good
all day, sunny with lots of billowy clouds. We thought we might be
driving into a thunderstorm in Vernal but we didn't get into any rain.
Temperatures were in the 80s and 90s F. in the afternoon even though we
were still about a mile high in elevation most of the way after we
descended from Leadville (elevation 10,200 feet) to I-70.
US 24 north to Minturn, CO (I-70 exit 171)
I-70 west to Rifle, CO (exit 90)
CO 13 north to the intersection with CO 64
west to Dinosaur, CO
US 40 west to the Walmart in Vernal, UT.
LEADVILLE TO MINTURN, CO
US 24 between Leadville and I-70 had several construction zones. The
only one where we had to wait a couple minutes was about five miles north
Peaks to the west of US 24 in the Holy Cross Wilderness north of
Heading north on US 24 toward Minturn, CO
Otherwise, US 24 was fine. It’s hilly and curvy but very scenic through
Leadville and Minturn are the only small towns with narrow streets where
we had to drive slowly. It took about an hour for us to get to the freeway.
MINTURN TO RIFLE, CO
I-70 from Minturn (exit 171) to Rifle, CO (exit 90) is very colorful and
scenic. We just did this stretch a couple months ago when we went from
Colorado Springs to Silverton and I showed some other photos then.
There are lots of sunflowers in bloom along the freeway (and all the way
to Vernal, UT).
The rivers are lower now; they were pretty high in June from all
the snowmelt. We followed the Eagle and Colorado Rivers on I-70 and the
White River for quite a while along CO 64, farther to the north and
I love the ride through Glenwood Canyon – winding, curvy, next to water,
One of three tunnels in this section
Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon
RIFLE TO DINOSAUR, CO
This was the beginning of the stretch that is new to us.
I drove from Rifle to Rangely so Jim could get on the computer and take
a break. We stopped at the rest area at exit 90 in Rifle for a few minutes, then
headed north on two-lane CO 13. We followed the longer truck route around Rifle
inadvertently; it would’ve been shorter -- and OK with an
RV -- to go through town. I remember we did that last year when
we were hunting for diesel, but we continued west on I-70 then.
CO 13 is a “red” road on the AAA map. It’s wide, smooth, and scenic.
Although it’s hilly and has a lot of curves I was able to go 55-60 MPH with the
camper most of the time (we don't go much over 60 on freeways, if that tells you
anything about CO 13).
about a dozen RVs going southbound in 38 miles on this road.
CO 64 is a “black” road on the AAA map. It is more narrow and not as
well maintained as busier roads but OK in an RV.
There was less traffic than on CO 13. I went slower (mostly 50-55)
because of the curves and bumps. The speed limit was 65 MPH on a lot of
it. This road follows the White River Valley for about 66 miles so it
was very green and more agricultural than the other roads we were on
today. I took the hay bale shot farther above on this stretch of
We passed scenic Kenney Reservoir, which pleasantly surprised me because
it wasn't on our AAA map:
We stopped again in Rangely to switch drivers, get something to eat, let
Cody eat supper, etc. Jim drove the rest of the way to Vernal.
The scenery wasn’t as nice here – oil rigs, gas pipes,
brown rangeland, brown mesas. We could see a storm to the northwest but
we didn’t get into it.
In Dinosaur I wanted to go east on US 40 just a bit to see the Dinosaur
National Monument visitor center. We thought it was closer to the junction of CO 64 and
US 40 but it's two miles east. When we didn’t see it after a mile, we turned around and I
went into the welcome center at that intersection instead.
Most of the streets in this town are named for dinosaurs.
I was able to get the National Park Service brochure for the national
monument at the visitor center. A loquacious
gentleman named Melvin told me lots of things about the national
monument, campgrounds in the area, a
“great” natural resources museum in Vernal, and other useful
DINOSAUR, CO TO VERNAL, UT
US 40 is much smoother and wider and had more traffic than either CO 13
Shortly after leaving
the town of Dinosaur we entered Utah. We had expansive views of the
mesas in and near Dinosaur National Monument to the north:
As we drove west we could see a large storm ahead of us:
Fortunately we didn't get any rain on US 40. That might have cooled
things off, though.
Between Jensen and Naples we crossed the Green River:
This colorful landscape is near Vernal:
Among other tidbits of information, the man at the visitor center in
Dinosaur told me that seven people work for the city of Vernal in the
summer to keep all the petunias alive . . .
Minturn, CO had loads of pretty baskets-full of flowers on stands through
town, too, but not as many as Vernal. The guy at the visitor center in
Dinosaur promised me I’d be impressed with all the petunias for
which Vernal is apparently renowned.
He’s right – there are a BUNCH of petunias along a four- or five-mile stretch of
town. They’re in hanging baskets and baskets on stands all
along US 40:
I love flowers . . . but if seven people are really on the city payroll to maintain petunias in the
glad I'm not a taxpayer living in that town!
Vernal, UT is an
attractive high desert town bordered by the Uinta Mountains on the
north. Many dinosaur fossils have been found nearby and it's close to
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and Dinosaur National Monument.
It looks like a nice place to visit.
Although the town
has a population of fewer than 10,000 people the business area is very long because it morphs
into the town of Naples to the east.
We had to drive several miles at low speed through both towns to reach Walmart
on the west side of Vernal but the store was easy to find on US 40.
We parked at the pharmacy end of the store temporarily, then went inside
to shop. We loaded up on supplies because we won’t be
near another Walmart for a while. Jim asked where they preferred we park
-- at the other end of the store, near the back, was the answer.
Here's the view out my desk window this evening:
This is a good spot for Cody because of the grass. We aren't in a
busy truck or entrance/exit lane so it's quiet, too. There were a couple of other RVs in the lot when we
arrived and a few more came in later.
We were able to get the camper cooled down from 86 F. (same as the temperature
outside when we arrived) to 75 F. by 8 PM. That's comfortable for
This is a large Super-Walmart; it had most everything we wanted.
I went back later in the evening to get more stuff I thought of.
Jim's happy. Not only do we have good TV reception, he also found our
favorite radio talk-show host, Neal Boortz, when he unhitched the truck and went
down the road to top off the fuel tank (this Walmart doesn’t have gas or
diesel). Prices in town range from $3.91 to $3.95/gallon for diesel.
Diesel was $3.84-3.87/gallon in Leadville this morning. Jim filled the truck tank yesterday
because we knew prices along the way would be higher all the way to
mileage ranged from 13-14+ MPG today (net downhill to freeway, then up
and down but no high passes after US 24).
Next entry: even better scenery through the Flaming
Gorge National Rec Area
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil