Steamboat Springs Nearly everyone has one entertaining road trip story to tell.
It could be about the family jammed into a sedan for a cross-country trip. There's climbing into a car with friends for a day trip in high school. Or the epic saga of chasing your favorite band from venue to venue in a Volkswagen bus.
The act of packing up a vehicle to set out for a destination is an American pastime.
And why shouldn't it be. America was founded by people making long journeys and it grew up with pioneers packing up a wagon and coming west. And once the wagons beat a path through the West, the greatest public works project in the country paved the paths for cars.
Think of the how many examples there are of road trips popping up in literature and entertainment. Like Jack Kerouac's neurotic rantings in "On the Road" of life with Neil Cassidy and criss-crossing the United States and Mexico in a hipster blur of tea, kicks and jazz that influenced a whole generation to hit the road. Or the Joad family in the "Grapes of Wrath" packing up all their belongings and leaving Oklahoma for the promised land of California in an effort to escape the Dust Bowl and the Depression.
Even the Griswolds' National Lampoon journey to Wally World in a wood-paneled station wagon, complete with dead aunt on the roof, evokes a warm feeling for the great American road trip.
In Steamboat Springs, there's a set time of the year for a road trip, and this is it even though the early melt and warm weather has made the Yampa Valley a pretty nice place to stay in April and May. Here are a few ideas for places to visit some are close and some are far, but all can scratch an itch to trip.
The Great Sand Dunes National Monument
Possibly one of the most underrated natural attractions in Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes are 39 square miles of desert-like sand dunes, some as tall as 700 feet high, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, near the town of Alamosa. Determined hikers can make it to the top of some of the highest dunes and are rewarded with great views. There also are popular hikes in the area, including Mosca Pass trail and Zapata Falls.
How far from Steamboat Springs: 240 miles
How to get there: Colorado 131 for 60 miles to I-70 east. After about 15 miles, go south on U.S. 24. Follow U.S. 24 to U.S. 285 (still going south), then south on Colorado 17 until you get there.
More information: www.nps.gov/grsa.com or call (719) 378-2312.
Canyonlands National Park
Go past Moab, Utah, to where the Colorado and Green rivers have carved countless canyons, mesas and buttes.
Located in southeast Utah, the park sits in the heart of a vast basin bordered by sheer cliffs of Wingate Sandstone. The park is divided into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze and the rivers themselves. While the districts share a primitive desert atmosphere, each has its own character and offers different opportunities for exploration and the study of natural and cultural history.
How far from Steamboat Springs: About 320 miles
How to get there: Take Colorado 131 to I-70 west. Take I-70 west all the way to Utah until U.S. 313. Go south all the way to the park.
More information: www.nps.gov/cany.com or call (435) 259-7164
It's bright, it's big, it's there to take your money and it's less than 700 miles away. Las Vegas is a good idea for a road trip from Steamboat Springs. Don't spend all your gas money when you get there. And lodging and meals are cheap, even if the gambling isn't.
And while you are there, reserve enough time away from the blackjack table to go see Hover Dam if you haven't already.
How far from Steamboat Springs: 689 miles
How to get there: Colorado 131 to I-70 west. Take I-70 for nearly 380 miles to I-15. Take I-15 south for another 240 miles, then east on I-515.
Havasu Canyon/Havasu Falls
This off shoot of the Grand Canyon is the closest to the Garden of Eden you may find, but it's booked until mid-July, so plan ahead.
A 10-mile hike into the canyon will lead you to the Havasupai Native American tribe, the last in the United States to be living on its original soil. Past the village is amazing falls of topical-like blue and green water.
How far from Steamboat Springs: Around 870 miles.
How to get there: Take Colorado 131 to 1-70 west. Take I-70 to I-15 south in Arizona to Flagstaff. Go West on I-40, and take the Seligman exit (also called old Route 66) north toward Peach Springs. Then, 37 miles from the Seligman exit is Indian Road 18 turning only to the right. Drive on the paved road for 64 miles until you come to the edge of the canyon.
More information: Call the Havasupai Tourist Enterprise, at the bottom of the canyon, at (520) 448-2121.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
It's only a short drive, but for those wanting to get a few more turns in this season, it would be a fun day trip. Arapahoe Basin has been know to stay open through June, even some years having a closing day on the Fourth of July. However, officials say this year the closing date might be a little early.
How far from Steamboat Springs: About 100 miles
Hot to get there: U.S. 40 east to U.S. 9 south to Silverthorne. Then get on Colorado Highway 6 (Loveland Pass Road) to Arapahoe Basin.
More information: www.arapahoebasin.com or call (888) 272-7246.