Mountains and Mesas
6 Days
Ancient History Meets Modern Fun in Mountains & Mesas
Colorado.com
 
Get ready to take the kiddos' learning to new heights with Colo-Road Trips Educational Itineraries, trips crafted with plenty of hands-on learning, educational adventures and, of course, stops for ice cream. Each was designed with kids from kindergarten to 5th grade in mind, but the activities, outings and accommodations will be enjoyed by children of all ages — yes, that’s you, moms and dads. Supplement your trip with trivia, educational videos and games — or just hop in the car and go!
 
Fantastic experiences await you in the Mountains & Mesas region. Discover our earliest living creatures and humans, while immersing yourself in beautiful settings and awesome adventures. Watch history and science come alive in this area as you explore the remnants of dinosaurs and prairie dogs. So, get ready to load up the kids, strap in your bikes, pack your hiking boots and hit the road!
 
Grab Your Supplies

Pencils Up!

While all that is truly needed is your kids' sense of adventure, a notebook, a writing utensil and plenty of colored pencils will come in handy.

Day 1

activity

Welcome to Fruita: Fruita Welcome Center

The Fruita Welcome Center is a great place to get an overview of the places you will go. The kids will love checking out the helicopter memorial…

Educational Activity

All the Places You Will Go!

Where will your adventures take you? Explore the path you will take during your road trip at the Fruita Welcome Center. Get activity.

lunch

Hot Tomato Pizza

Get in line and order your pie, then snag a seat on the sunny patio. The vibe at this Western Slope staple is part energetic buzz, part laid back comfort…

activity

Dinosaur Journey

History comes alive at Dinosaur Journey where real fossils, cast skeletons and robotic reconstructions of dinosaurs tell the story of life in prehistoric…

Educational Activity

Age of the Dinosaurs

Discover the differences between various dinosaurs at Dinosaur Journey, a great place to learn all about paleontology. Get activity.

Extra Credit

Adventure on Riggs Hill Trail

Looking for adventure? Hike a dinosaur trail! Riggs Hill Trail offers opportunities to learn about the paleontology, history, geology and geography of the area. Get extra credit activity.

Itinerary Tip

It’s time to ride out!

Make your way east toward Grand Junction from Fruita.

dinner

TacoParty

Everyone in your family group will love munching on tacos at locals'-favorite TacoParty. From fish to fried chicken, there's a taco with your your name…

activity

Get Air at the Silo Trampoline Park

Bounce away pent-up energy at this incredible indoor playground. In addition to thousands of square feet of trampolines, the whole family will have…

Itinerary Tip

Imondi Wake Zone

Visiting in the summer? Learn to wakeboard at Imondi Wake Zone, Colorado’s only wakeboarding park. The unique cable-wakeboarding system means no boat required! Splash around at the aqua park with bouncy floats, jumps, slides and more. Then try your hand at paddleboarding, or just cool off in this unique water park.

lodging

Hotel Maverick

Give the kiddos an early taste of college life with a stay at the Hotel Maverick, right on the Colorado Mesa University campus. You’ll feel inspired…

Day 2

breakfast

Main Street Bagels Artisan Bakery & Cafe

Linger over coffee, bagels and baked goods while the kids are busy having fun in the play area. This family-run, downtown breakfast spot is popular…

activity

Colorado National Monument

Marvel at the giant boulders, balanced rocks, steep canyons and wonder-inducing tunnels of the Colorado National Monument. Leave plenty of time to stretch…

Educational Activity

A Changing Landscape

Just how did all those geologic features get created in Colorado National Monument? Learn the answers and more while enjoying art time as you sketch the monument’s fantastical geological features. Get activity.

Itinerary Tip

Entering Mountain Bike Territory

The Mountains & Mesas region of Colorado is world-renowned for its mountain biking trails. Don’t miss a chance to check out the wide variety of trails from Fruita to Grand Junction to Palisade and beyond. You’ll find something for every skill set, but Rustler’s Loop is not to be missed! Interpretive signs along this beginner-to-intermediate trail educate new and seasoned riders about everything from cornering and climbing to trail etiquette and the local ecology.

lunch

Palisade Brewing Company

Grab a table on the huge patio and start your lunch with an order of Joe’s Smoked Bones. The kids can nosh on grilled cheese or quesadillas, while the…

Itinerary Tip

Grand Mesa & Land's End

Drive to Delta via the Grand Mesa scenic byway, where you’ll pass through old-growth forests, lush meadows and huge stands of aspen trees. Can you count how many lakes you see? There are more than 200 on the Grand Mesa!

If there’s time, take a slight detour to the historical ranger observatory at the Land’s End area. You will be able to see all the way to Utah and central Colorado from this view point. The Land’s End Observatory is approximately 10 miles off the main Grand Mesa scenic byway.

activity

Fort Uncompahgre Interpretive Center

Imagine standing in the exact spot where trappers and Native Americans traded furs for guns, knives, beads and other goods along the Old Spanish Trail…

Educational Activity

Stone Age to Iron Age

Travel back in time at Fort Uncompahgre and learn about the trading that took place in the area years before Colorado was a state. Get activity.

dinner

Daveto’s

Who’s hungry? Get started with an order of garlic pizza strips, then sit back and browse the extensive menu for pizza, pastas, salads, subs and calzones…

Trivia

How Much Do You Remember?

As you wrap up the day, see how much you remember from Colorado National Monument and Fort Uncompahgre. Get trivia activity.

activity

City of Delta Murals

Head out on a scavenger hunt to see how many murals you can find in Delta, nicknamed “The City of Murals.” Can you find the hardware store? You’ll do…

Itinerary Tip

Playtime in Confluence Park

Check out Confluence Park in Delta and explore its brand-new bike-pump track and miles of riverside trails for biking, hiking or simply strolling. Cast a fishing line or put in for a paddle on the 70-acre lake.

lodging

Riverwood Inn

Play a game of tag on the large lawn before settling in for the night at this classic road-side motel situated on the banks of the Gunnison River.

Day 3

breakfast

Doghouse Espresso

You’re in the doghouse — but this time it’s OK! This cozy and eclectic coffee shop is very welcoming to families and kids. Indulge in home-baked pastries…

Itinerary Tip

Let’s head to Black Canyon of the Gunnison!

Drive to the main (south) entrance of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park via Hwy. 50.

activity

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

One of the country’s newest national parks, Black Canyon of the Gunnison wows visitors with its steep canyon walls, dark rock formations and the roaring…

Educational Activity

Poetic Canyon

Capture this shockingly beautiful geological wonder through words by writing a poem about the vistas at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Get activity.

Extra Credit

Talking Dogs at Curecanti National Recreation Area

Curecanti National Recreation Area is home to some amazing animals, including the very communicative Gunnison Prairie Dogs. Get extra credit activity.

Itinerary Tip

Get Some Grub in Gunnison

Head over to Gunnison for some serious grub after your expedition through the national park.

lunch

Backcountry Cafe

Relax on the shady patio while you plan your afternoon adventures. The kids will love the choices on the Little Shredder’s menu, and the grownups can’t…

Itinerary Tip

Gunnison Whitewater Park

If you’ve never seen river surfing, it is a sight to behold! You’ll all be amazed watching kayakers and surfers navigate the obstacles at Gunnison Whitewater Park. Stretch your legs on a walk along the nature trail that meanders through the riparian habitat. Be sure to pick up a brochure at the start to help you identify the various trees, shrubs and wildflowers.

Itinerary Tip

Cruise to Crested Butte

Once you’ve explored the park, hop in the car and head over to Crested Butte.

activity

Lower Loop Trail

What happens when all the snow melts and the sun shines bright and warm? Wildflowers! Crested Butte is known throughout Colorado for its spectacular…

Educational Activity

Care for Colorado — Emoji Style

So much natural beauty greets a visitor on Lower Loop Trail. How can we protect this trail, as well as ALL of Colorado’s outdoors, now and in the future? By following the seven Care for Colorado Principles. Get activity.

dinner

Secret Stash

What exactly is Stashmosphere? Find out at this award-winning restaurant where the pizza is the talk of the town — and for good reason. Kids can also…

activity

Crested Butte Summer Adventure Park

Soar as high as the mountains on the park's zipline and bungee trampolines and get an extra rush of adrenaline on the bag jump. Even the little ones…

Itinerary Tip

Summer Chairlift Rides

Soak in the summer views with a scenic ride on the Silver Queen Express chairlift. Travel round trip, or unload at the top for a family-friendly hike.

lodging

Old Town Inn

Have fun exploring historic downtown Crested Butte from this family-owned and -operated inn. You’ll have access to cruiser bikes in summer and sleds…

Day 4

breakfast

The W Cafe

How will the kids ever choose from the Mickey, M&M or chocolate-chip pancakes? If it makes you feel just a tiny bit healthier, order up a side of…

activity

Ute Indian Museum

Kids and adults will be amazed to discover how our present culture is uniquely and intricately connected to the past through thoughtful exhibits and…

Educational Activity

Nomadic Life

One of the most popular exhibits at the Ute Indian Museum is the hands-on teepee exhibit. Explore the display and compare the nomadic life of living in a teepee to your life today. Get activity.

lunch

Eatery 66

Please join us for some old time favorites, delicious seasonal specials, craft beers and kombucha on tap, and delicious cocktails and drinks. We can't…

activity

Ridgway Railroad Museum

The birthplace of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, Ridgway is dedicated to preserving the history of railroading in the area. Get up close and personal…

Educational Activity

Galloping Goose

Ridgway Railroad Museum has three of the seven original Galloping Geese on-site. Find out what makes these one-of-a-kind railcars stand out. Get activity.

Itinerary Tip

Box Canyon Falls Park

Take the kids on an easy hike to these stunning waterfalls. Interpretive trails throughout Box Canyon Falls Park will guide you through learning about snowmelt, flora and fauna. Stop in the visitor’s center for more information.

dinner

The Outlaw

Go back in time and enjoy all the Western memorabilia on display at The Outlaw, including old family photos and even The Duke’s (a.k.a. John Wayne’s…

Trivia

How Much Do You Remember?

Now that you’ve visited the Ute Indian Museum and Ridgway Railroad Museum, let’s see how much you remember. Get trivia activity.

activity

Ouray Hot Springs

Be as lazy or lively as you like at the Ouray Hot Springs pool! Feeling lazy? Soak in the geothermally heated pools while gazing at 13,000-foot snow-capped…

lodging

Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs

Hit the playground before calling it a night at this pet-friendly hotel on the river. If you didn’t make it to the Ouray Hot Springs Pool, not to worry…

Itinerary Tip

Telluride Day Trip

Consider adding on a day trip to Telluride. Once a small mining community, the town is now famous for its slopes and peaks. You’ll also enjoy a spectacular drive before learning about the town’s rich history. Delve into the past at the Tomboy Ghost Town or take a free scenic gondola ride. Bonus points if you can find out how Telluride got its name!

Day 5

breakfast

Artisan Bakery

You’ll want to leave plenty of time for the drive to Durango on the stunning Million Dollar Highway. Load up on homemade scones, muffins, pastries and…

activity

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Create family memories sure to last a lifetime as you travel through unbelievable scenery on this historic narrow-gauge railroad that takes you back…

Educational Activity

Scenic Letter

As you immerse yourself in the mountain scenery and the magic of traveling by train, capture the experience by writing a letter to friends and family detailing the highlights of your trip on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Get activity.

Extra Credit

Panning for Gold at the Old Hundred Gold Mine

Learn about gold mining in the area during a tour of the Old Hundred Gold Mine. At the end of your tour, try your hand at gold panning and take home what you find! Get extra credit activity.

lunch

2nd Deli & Spirits

Order sandwiches, chips and drinks to go from 2nd Deli and head to Santa Rita Park. Grab a picnic table or spread out on the grass and watch the rafters…

activity

Santa Rita Park

You choose the adventure at Santa Rita Park in Durango. Hop on your bikes to explore the mountain-bike trails, hike the Animas River Trail or try your…

Itinerary Tip

Side Trip in Pagosa Springs

Extend your stay with a side trip to Pagosa Springs. The kids will love tubing on this gentle stretch of the San Juan River while parents soak in the natural hot springs.

dinner

Steamworks Brewing Co.

Talk about kid friendly! The little ones will be kept busy with the kids’ menu complete with coloring, mazes and word searches, while the grownups can…

activity

The Powerhouse Science Center

Is someone in your family always asking the question “why?” They never knew they were using the scientific method to understand the world around them…

Educational Activity

Scientifically Speaking

There’s so much to explore at the Powerhouse Science Center. This K-W-L activity helps narrow your focus to one or two exhibits you want to learn more about. Not familiar with K-W-L? It’s an easy way to identify what you already know, what you want to know and what you learned! Get activity.

lodging

Doubletree Hotel

Take a spin or stroll on the Animas River Trail, splash in the indoor pool, then settle into your room with beautiful river views. Road-weary kiddos…

Day 6

breakfast

Absolute Bakery & Cafe

Stop in Mancos at the Absolute Bakery & Cafe for a delicious breakfast and homemade treats for your trip to Mesa Verde National Park. The…

Itinerary Tip

Early birds get the worm!

Get up bright and early and make your way toward Cortez.

activity

Mesa Verde National Park

Established in 1906 as a national park to interpret and preserve the 700-year-old Ancestral Puebloan heritage, this World Heritage Site includes 600…

Educational Activity

Spruce Tree House

Learn what the notable features of Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings are and how the Ancestral Puebloans lived at Spruce Tree House in Mesa Verde National Park. Get activity.

lunch

La Casita de Cortez

Dig into kid-sized portions of authentic Mexican favorites like quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos and burritos. For the more discerning palates, there’s…

activity

Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum

Travel back in time at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center as you explore the museum focusing on Ancestral Puebloan, Native American and other…

Educational Activity

Native Plants

Find out which native plants can be found in the area and how they were used by Ancestral Puebloans at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum. Get activity.

Trivia

How Much Do You Remember?

Now that you’ve experienced Mesa Verde National Park and Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum, it's time to see how much you remember. Get trivia activity.

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dinner

Montezuma Mexican Restaurant

Food tastes better on the water. Slow it all down to the sounds of the river while you dine on classic Mexican eats like refried beans, tacos and fajitas…

activity

Phil’s World Trail System Mountain Biking & Hiking Trails

Here there's plenty of trails to thrill every little ripper in the family, as well as the bigger ones. It's a great opportunity for the whole family…

Itinerary Tip

Pedal the Peaks Bike Rentals

Didn’t bring bikes? That’s OK. Pedal the Peaks has everything you need!

Sustainability Activity

Care for Colorado: The Etiquette of Trails

These trails are open to hikers, too, so be sure to share the trail. Need a trail etiquette refresher? Check out this fun Care for Colorado video. You’ll find a handy bike-tool stand at the trailhead, along with picnic tables, porta-potties and a donation box. Many trails are built and maintained by volunteer trail groups, such as the Southwest Colorado Cycling Club, so consider making a donation. Every little bit helps!

lodging

Holiday Inn Express Mesa Verde

Book the King Kids Suite where the kiddos can play and sleep in their own separate area, modeled after an Old West fort. They’ll likely spend hours…

Itinerary Tip

Four Corners National Monument

Take a side trip to Four Corners National Monument, where you can stand in four states at once or race between the states. You can also learn more about the Navajo Nation. It’s a unique experience the kids will never forget.