If you told me I could only visit two states in the summer for the rest of my life, without any question those two states would be Colorado and Utah. Between them the variety and beauty of the land is staggering! And I man that literally, if your heart is open to nature, the wonder of their gorgeous landscape can bring tears to your eyes and make your knees weak. I could easily spend the rest of my life exploring them every year and never grow weary of it. But just as important they have such a variety of elevations that I can find great weather from April to November and then return to Arizona (which is close by) for the harsh winter.
Colorado has a virtually unlimited number of breath-taking mountains and calm, pastoral valleys to explore and it’s riddled with small towns to wander around and resupply at along the way. But be warned, it’s almost all at high elevations (7000 feet would be a low area) and requires climbing many steep and winding mountain roads. It’s a constant symphony of climbing up and over one pass, then down into a valley only to climb another pass on the other side. You’ll need to be sure you can handle the elevations and your vehicle can endure the hard work on it’s engine of climbing up one side and then its brakes of descending the other.
If you you can handle it, you’ll be rewarded with a continual parade of unending magnificent scenery to stop and stare at! Leadville is a little town I would put at the top of the list of must-see places! But, to really get to know it you can’t just stay on the main roads and pass through town, you’ve got to get off the pavement and onto the dirt roads and go back into nature. You can’t just stand (or sit in your car) on the edges of it and look at it in the distance and expect it to have a deep impact on you.
Like most of the Rocky Mountain towns in Colorado, Leadville was originally a mining town. After gold and silver was discovered miners poured into the state and explored every inch of the mountains hoping to make the next big strike. Because of that there are roads criss-crossing nearly every mountain pass in the state. It’s a 4-wheel-drive enthusiasts paradise, but you don’t need 4×4 for many of the roads, they are passable by even a standard van because of our high ground clearance–especially if you add a locker to your rear differential. But even without it you can still see a huge amount of gorgeous scenery.
Leadville is no different, there are several great mountain roads emanating from it to keep you entertained for as long as you want! Because I have an extended van with a Long Wheel Base I only went down one mountain road while we were there, and even then not very far, I was just looking for some good photos and spent most of my time pulled over taking shots! A true 4×4 is far better and will take you much further back, but it’s nowhere near as comfortable as a van so I gladly give up the ability to go any further. But even with the limitations of my van, it’s still possible to go back a long way back into Colorado and be deep into nature.
The key thing isn’t that you need the extra traction a 4×4 provides (although sometimes you do) but you almost always need high ground clearance to get down the rough roads. But that’s not all, you need more clearance to the sides and above the vehicle as well. That’s why short, narrow vehicles like SUVs do so well off-road, they can fit between and around the obstacles that you almost always run into the further back you go.
People ask me all the time if an RV will work for a boondocking rig, and the answer is yes, of course it will. But you have to understand that its sheer physical size and terrible ground clearance means you can only go about half the places I want to go. I don’t want to camp with the crowd and all the other RVs, I want to go further back and be alone and a van lets me. No, it’s not a Jeep and will never take me to the places a Jeep can take me, but it’s capabilities are more than enough for me.
An RV could not have made it into our Leadville campsite (described in the previous post) and most of the photos in this post were from places an RV could not go. The only way to get these shots was in a van (or smaller vehicle) or to hike into the location. In the winter I live in a 6×10 cargo trailer, and while it does pretty well off-road it still limits me too much so it stays in storage for my summer travels.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these photo from Leadville and that I’ve inspired you to get out there and explore our beautiful country. You’ll be glad you did!
I’m making Videos on my good friends James and Kyndal’s YouTube Channel. See them here:
Thanks for supporting this site by using these links to Amazon. I’ll make a small percentage on your purchase and it won’t cost you anything, even if you buy something different.
- This is a great guide book to Colorado, I wouldn’t go without it, Photographing the Southwest–Colorado and New Mexico: http://amzn.to/1VGEBt0
- Also, you’ll want to have the Benchmark Atlas to Colorado, it’s invauable: http://amzn.to/1T6Pcgr
- You’ll need a Guide to Colorado Backroads and 4-Wheel Drive Trails. It’ll tell you where the roads are and if you can make them in your van: http://amzn.to/1MDelsb
- Finally, a book I’ve found very helpful is John Fielders Best of Colorado: http://amzn.to/1MDfwIe