A few years ago, I decided to embark on a “grand adventure” and take my kids cross country for a summer family road trip. We covered 8000 miles and 14 states in 4 weeks- and it was an amazing experience! This post is part of the series of Road Trip Diaries from that Great American Road Trip!
St. George Utah and the Grand Canyon North Rim were as far West and South as we were going to go on this road trip. So that time came for us to start heading back North and East, still a long way from- but in the general direction of home. Our first stop on the return leg of our road trip was the Four Corners Monument area where the states of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado meet. This monument is actually on Native American land, and so you do pay a small fee to go and stand on the medallion that represents where the four states meet.
What we really loved about our visit to the Four Corners was the chance to shop for Native American handicrafts. The boys (being boys) shopped for arrows made with authentic arrowheads (for display only!) and slingshots carved in the shape of animals (okay- maybe I'll let them shoot at targets in the yard with these). And the girls (being girls) shopped for jewelry- myself included.
I purchased this beautiful cuff bracelet made from nickel with turquoise stones, and I met the man who created the bracelet, and he and I had a nice discussion about where the turquoise came from and how we created the cuff. He told me that he used to sell to some jewelry shops in New York City and it was really cool to connect with the person that made the bracelet that I fell in love with!
We continued on to Mesa Verde, CO, a national park that showcases the ancient Pueblo Indians cliff dwellers. Tours are offered to several of the cliff dwellings that have been preserved, and feeling kind of adventurous, our family signed up for the Balcony Tour- which gave us the opportunity to climb up the 32 ft ladder to enter Balcony House (and we were way up on the side of a mountain while we did this!)
There we listened to the Ranger explain how the cliff dwelling was built and accessed, and what life would have been like living here. We had to crawl through tunnels within the dwelling and to exit we had to climb 2 more 15 ft ladders and scramble over a huge granite boulder that had steps carved into it.
This tour of Mesa Verde was certainly really exciting, and my kids enjoyed it- but what I really liked was learning about the historic Native American people who lived there.
Sadly, Sunday was Steve's last day with us on our road trip, so we got up bright and early (at 2 am!) to drop him off at the Durango airport before continuing on to the Mount Princeton area in central Colorado to visit their hot springs.
The Mount Princeton Resort is a great lodge and cabins with a collection of pools that are warmed to different temperatures based on how they are fed by the adjacent hot springs. The upper pool has a beautiful long, meandering, waterslide that gently rolls down the hillside before depositing its riders into the warm hot springs pool. The day we were there it was a little overcast, and while I would have preferred to sit in one of the really warm pools down near the historic bathhouse, my kids did not want to be torn away from that waterslide- and I think they went down in about 4583 times! They had a blast!
My kids also loved playing in the hot pools that fed into the creek.
The next day we ventured up to Breckenridge, CO with the sole intention of visiting the Country Boy Mine. My oldest son, who is a big fan of the TV show “Gold Rush”, had requested that we visit a gold mine and do a little panning for gold when we were in Colorado, so we were all excited to go up there and give it a try.
We had visited Country Boy Mine about eight years ago when the boys were really little, and of course they didn't remember it, but I knew it would be a huge hit! We took the gold mine tour which allows you to venture 1100 feet into the mountain and learn how they mined for gold in the late 1800s. Our tour guide Tony was a fantastic storyteller and he really conveyed to the kids what it was like to be a miner, working only by candlelight. It was really cool!
After our tour, Tony showed us how to pan for gold on the property and although we tried for more than 1 1/2 hours, sadly we didn't find a single flake. But since we didn't want to go home empty-handed, we purchased some vials of gold flakes from the gift shop and our own panning kit, so perhaps we can try our hand at panning for gold during other parts of our Colorado vacation!
The drive down to Colorado Springs from Breckenridge was absolutely beautiful- traveling through mountain passes that reached more than 11,000 feet!
We even spotted a rainbow along the way- it was just magnificent. And the kids are thrilled by our huge rental home in Colorado Springs- where we are also meeting up with my parents who have flown in from Florida to spend five days with us on this Great American Road Trip! (I'll share details of our Colorado Springs adventure in my next Road Trip Diary post!)
Here's a video I created of 5 great things to do with families when visiting Colorado!
*My family and I received a complimentary stay at the Mt Princeton Lodge and complimentary admission at the Country Boy Mine. But as always, all opinions expressed here are my own.