Colorado Road Trippn’: Day 4 driving to Aspen

In retrospect, we should’ve stayed an extra day in Durango. There’s so much to do and see that you really need at least three days to ride the train, go to Mesa Verde and hang out around town. Yet, on day three, we did our best to visit and take lots of pictures of the places I missed the most.

We stopped for coffee and pastries at a new cash-only bakery on Road 250 called Bread. It has a beautiful array of fresh options, including daily scones, croissants and artisanal breads. Their blueberry Danish tasted just like cheesecake, but not too sweet and it paired beautifully with my strong coffee. 

After our quick breakfast, we headed to Fort Lewis College for great views of town. This is a public liberal arts college conveniently located on a hill in the center of town. You can see all of Durango from up there! 

Then, we visited the Durango Natural Food Co-Op, the train station, the Strater Hotel, General Palmer Hotel and of course, the Durango Herald, where I used to work.

After Durango, our plan was to drive all the way to Aspen through the famous Route 550, also known as the “Million Dollar Highway”, considered one of the most dangerous roads in the US. With very few guardrails, steep cliffs and narrow lanes, this two-way mountainous highway goes from Durango past Silverton to Montrose. Once on the other side, you’re about a third of the way to Aspen if you’re going through Grand Junction. 

Our recommendation is to take it slow on the 550, but don’t be discouraged to drive through here, especially if you have a small car or SUV. It’s so beautiful and you’ll drive by Coal Bank Pass (elevation 10,640 ft.), Molas Pass (elevation 10,970 ft.) and Red Mountain Pass (elevation 11,018 ft.). You definitively want to mark those off your bucket list.

There are also so many great stops you want to make along the way. On the outskirts of Durango, for example, we had to stop by Honeyville, a family-owned business with so many great local honey products, including a honey whiskey like no other and delicious jams with local berries. Also on the outskirts, you’ll find Pinkerton Hot Springs on the side of the road. It’s a steaming calcium rock with warm water dribbling right along the highway.

The town of Silverton is another great stop for shopping, eating and sightseeing. Unfortunately for us, it was the off-season so we just walked around town for a few minutes. We also stopped at Ray's in the town of Ouray to get some jerky made from buffalo and beef. Great snacks for the road!

Once in Montrose, our lunch spot was decided randomly. We found a great little restaurant and fresh market on Main Street called The Vine Market. Their herb-crusted salmon with quinoa was excellent, as well as their spaghetti.

The road ahead was still very long, but again the constant change of scenery kept us entertained. You’ll see so many different ecosystems: mountains to desert, valley to mountains again. 

We arrived late to Aspen and checked in at the Molly Gibson Lodge, a short walking distance to the center of town. They have a warm pool and the rooms are so comfortable. And because it was off-season we got a great deal too! We felt so spoiled.

Our options for dinner, however, were pretty limited. A lot of restaurants close early. After walking round and talking to a few locals, there was still one restaurant open at 9:30pm on a Tuesday and it happened to be one of the best restaurants in town: the White House Tavern. The menu is limited and the items are a bit pricey, but the food, the wine and the ambiance were excellent. We shared a French dip sandwich and a kale salad, just enough food for how late it was. After a glass of wine, we were ready to hit the sack.

We were ready to take it slow the next day.

Don't miss a single day! Here's Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

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