Driving from San Francisco to Denver, best route for photography?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by rich815, Aug 31, 2004.

  1. Ok, I live in SF and it looks like I might be driving with the fam'
    (wife and little boy) from SF to Denver around Thanksgiving time.
    Looking for some advice as to the most photogenic route.

    We'll have about 3 days, and while I can stop here and there along
    the way, I will have the wife and 3 year old with me, so side trips
    and out-of the-way extensions are not really an option. Just looking
    for which route might give me the best ops for some nice scenery and,
    if lucky, some good light for roadside landscapes and such.

    I've covered California pretty well so might not stop too much until
    past CA and of course the early winter snow conditions will dictate
    which way I decide to transverse the Sierras, but after that (whether
    it be through Reno, Tioga Pass or Las Vegas) I'm at a loss as I've
    never driven that part of the country.

    Suggestions, experiences and thoughts from my fellow photo-netters
    would be very welcomed.

    (Oh, and if it matters the equipment I'm considering bringing is my
    Sony F717 digicam, Contax G2, Contax RX, Rolleiflex TLR and/or Fuji
    6x9 rangefinder. Will be shooting on a tripod with both B&W and
    color.)
     
  2. Take I-40. The Steps of Utah are one of the most beautiful geological anomolies in the world. No side trips necessary.
     
  3. Wow, you've really picked a no-man's land, at least past Reno (I gew up in Reno/Tahoe area). I've done that drive over 30 times via every imagineable route.
    Not to start on a negative, but I-80 is absolutely terrible all the way through Wyoming; perhaps the most boring drive in the country. If you must take this route, turn off on 287 (I think at Rawlins, WY or therabouts) and go through Fort Collins. You can then turn up to Estes Park (home of the famous hotel from The Shining) and the Rocky Mountain National Park.
    US 50 is better than 80, but there is a reason why they call it the Loneliest Road in America. 50 to Ely is good for old gas stations and hotels and the like, but not much in the way of scenery. Check this out to get an idea (warning: it's a slow load). However, taking 50 gets you to I-70 via I-15. I-70 is great from just before Grand Junction all the way to Denver, and there are numerous places to turn off and really check out some great scenery - Aspen, Eagle (say hi to Kobe!). The best drive by far, though probably too far out of the way, would be the San Juan Skyway out of Cortez or Durango. I have family scattered all through there, and it's really beautiful, particularly around Telluride. That's one of the best drives in the country, IMO. Since you mention Vegas as a possible pass- through, you could hit the San Juan from the south end, passing through Monument Valley and/or the Four Corners area.
    Another option would be to take 80 to Winnemucca and then take 93 north through the Painted Hills and the Steens Range. This would get you into Boise and around the Snake River, which is truly breathtaking. You could tool around the Snake River area for a bit (perhaps even up into Sun Valley and Stanley on the Sawtooth Highway. You'd then take 84 down into Utah. From there, it's either 80 again (yuk) or perhaps a trip through Park City.
    If it were me and I had the time, I'd probably go south and work my way up through Southwestern Colorado via the San Juans. I'd absolutely book a night at The Peaks in Telluride, which is one of my favorite hotels in the country. Good luck.
     
  4. <<I will have the wife and 3 year old with me>>

    So you can count on hearing this a lot: "I need to go potty! I need to go potty RIGHT NOW!... and so does your child."

    Lonely two-lanes with dusty deserted gas stations are probably not the most family-friendly option, even if they do make for interesting photography.

    I love to read the threads here about how to see the big parks and other natural wonders. You know, the excellent advice concerning the 5:00 a.m. departures and the hiking to good spots before sunrise, and the planning to wait for good weather and all. Then there are the opportunities just after sunset.

    Right. If I am traveling, I have wife and kids along. No matter how beautiful the spot, no matter how magical or awful the weather and lighting, I get about 15 minutes to take pictures. I can get all the sunrise shots I want as long as I don't wake anyone else up and don't stray far enough to delay their breakfast (in other words, sunsets had better be scenic within 400 yards of the parking lot at the Hampton Inn). And the thing that happens just after sunset is not photography, it is dinner.

    As they say, your mileage may vary.

    Be well,
     
  5. If you're not used to it, the snow and ice on I-70 around Vail Pass and Eisenhower tunnel can be disconcerting. Try to hit that stretch in the daytime if you go that way. We always wound up driving from Fort Collins to Grand Junction after dark for some reason.

    I-70 is scenic enough (the part I know, east of Grand Junction), but I'm not that familiar with the other routes. Part of that stretch has real good potty stops (around Glenwood Canyon), but not so good back toward Denver. Glenwood Canyon itself is pretty scenic. But that's really not the best time of year to get little kids out of the car to look at the scenery, either.
     
  6. Here's the route I take. Go west on I-80 to Salt Lake, then south on I-15 a little ways and then take US-6 through Price to where it intersects I-70, and then west to Denver. The section on US-6 is amazing scenery, with the famous "Book Cliffs" in the back ground. This is an excellent spot for evening photography, as these desert cliffs face west. I'd spend the night in Grand Junction or Green River, and then head through Colorado on your third day in the daylight hours.

    The fastest way is to take I-80 all the way to Laramie, WY, and then take US-287 to Fort Collins, CO, and then hop on I-25 to Denver.

    Mark
     
  7. get to denver as fast as you can and go to local state parks within 1 hour of denver. castlewood canyon in franktown, roxborough in littleton, eldorado canyon in boulder, red rocks in morrison. dont torture the poor 3 year old (and wife) get here quickly and take your time locally shooting around denver. youll have more time to enjoy scenic locals and there is a bunch of stuff to do to keep the kid happy here in denver. good luck!
     
  8. There's a national monument right next to Grand Junction. I think its called Colorado NM. Maybe you could stop there for a night if you want to enjoy the rockies for a day or two.
     
  9. I have to agree with Randy. Being tied into a car seat for a 3 yr old is as close to hell as they can know at that age. But you have options with a little careful planning. This could include a set of new books fom the library/bookstore, renting a DVD player or even planning to drive mainly during normal nap/sleep hours for a 3 year old. If you can keep both of them entertained (or unconcious.!?...:)) you can stop and shoot all you want.
     
  10. Thanks for all your answers. Some great stuff. New plan: 3-year old is going with Grandma by airplane so no more issues there. Wife loves to shoot photos too and has her own camera so no issues there. Appreciate everyone's ideas.
     
  11. I can't speak to the other routes but if you should decide to drop down to go through Vegas (which doesn't seem like a good idea on the schedule you discuss), you probably are familiar with the options to get there, from Vegas east, I-15 is dull (of course) until just going through the corner of Arizona, through St. George and about Cedar City, and then it's dull until I-50. You can cut east and go through Zion and up parallel to I-15 and go through Panguitch (I think) and join the I-50 again. But that's a heavy detour better left for a more relaxed schedule.
     
  12. In that case, DO plan to circle through Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction. It is great, and will be pretty well deserted that time of year. Figure a couple of hours, or more if you shoot lots of pictures. You could spend a couple of days there, for that matter. If they had snow recently, the road may not be passable all the way through. And do call ahead and check with the park. For example, I'm not sure if they have rangers at the entrance in the off-season. And in case you're not familiar with the CNM, it is a bunch of steep canyons, with road around the tops of the canyons. Hiking trails down into the canyons (beware of steep and icy conditions). Lots of little gnarly pines, maybe 10' high and 100 years old. There is enough elevation change that it will be colder and snowier than Grand Junction, even though it's right near town.

    There is a supposedly real scenic trail to Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon, about 2 miles or so. I've never been on it, though, and the lake would likely be frozen that time of year. Watch for trains through Glenwood Canyon- the train track parallels the road, has several tunnels. The rest areas are good watching spots.

    Buffalo Bill's Grave is back toward Denver, marked with signs on the freeway. Maybe 5 miles off the freeway. In that same area is a bison ranch, although I didn't often see bison when driving through.

    The Georgetown Loop RR is scenic, but only open in the summer. There is a "Wildlife Viewing Area" near Georgetown. I don't think I've ever seen ANY wildlife there, but it is actually the overlook for that train, and can be safely skipped. The equipment is stored at Silverplume, west of Georgetown, and worth a looksee if you're into that kind of thing.

    There is a scenic viewing area somewhere out around Vail- maybe Dillon or Silverthorne? Anyway, if you see one, pull over. It's got a great view of the town there.

    As you head east from Grand Junction, there is a prominent bluff on the north called Mt. Garfield (named for the president, not the cat). Anyway, it has a flagpole on top- get your binoculars to see it. You can hike up, but it is one steep hike, and to be avoided if icy anywhere. Ask at the Grand Junction Visitor Center for a map to the trailhead if you're interested. It's about 2 miles long, 2000' up. And most of that "up" is in the first mile. The flagpole has birth and death dates for a couple of people- perhaps they jumped from there.
     
  13. My mistake. That would be I-70, not 40, that takes you through the Steps.
     
  14. Any plans to take the Tioga Road through Yosemite that time of year should have a backup, as the road is subject to snow closure, and NP staffs have been cut so much that the first decent snow might be the one that keeps it closed.

    I've vacationed all around that area for the last several years, and would generally advise I-80 to Salt Lake City, I-15 south to US 6 below Provo to I-70, BEAUTIFUL red rock country
     
  15. I like Jack's advise on Yosemite. The Colorado points are great but if you have not seen Yosemite as yet, you should not bypass it. Best
     

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