Albuquerque's Best Weekend Trip
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
The 9 to 5 job is wearing you down, you feel like a hamster running the endless wheel, and your world feels like one big repetitive loop that grinds your soul into dust. Chances are you need to get out of town, but you blew all your vacation time driving across the country to watch your family fight during Thanksgiving. At the same time, your alcoholic uncle educated you on the newest conspiracy theory. With no options to legitimately excuse yourself from work, you are only left with one option….The Weekend Trip.
Now, in Albuquerque, it is common to use the weekend trip to see even more desert than average at White Sands, commit unforgivable acts of debauchery in Las Vegas only to come back with no money or pride, or rent an overpriced Airbnb in Santa Fe and witness an ungodly amount of people wearing turquoise and $300 hipster cowboy hats. None of those trips sound like fun to me.
But what if I told you there was hope? What if I told you I have mapped out and planned a trip that will revitalize your soul, bring you back to life, and allow you to tolerate the sound of your boss’s voice for at least the next month? You might think it is too good to be accurate, but believe me, this trip exists, and I am about to give you my secret.
Weekend Trip Criteria
A good weekend trip consists of a reasonable drive (below six hours one way) and plenty to do between point A and point B. With only having time between Friday night and Sunday night, you have to pack as much entertainment as possible into the trip to allow you to forget about your life and stresses in the real world while bringing you the sweet relief you dream about every day you wake up to start a new work day.
So what is this trip, you ask? Well, I like to call it the “Rocky Mountain Slide.” A quick trip that not only feels like you escaped reality but also gives you the beauty of nature, a taste of different cultures, and creates memories that will last a lifetime in only two days. Still unconvinced? I would be a little skeptical too. So without further ado, I introduce you to the “Rocky Mountain Slide.”
The Rocky Mountain Slide
The trip begins bright and early at 4 am. I know….many of you haven’t seen that time since you stumbled home obliterated from a kegger in college, but trust me, you want to leave early to maximize your weekend vacation. Plus, you can sleep in the car if you can’t handle it. The goal is to be in the car and driving by 5 am. So make sure to pack your bags and load the car the night before. Then load the directions to Durango on your phone and begin your drive to bliss.
STOP 1: Durango
As you approach Durango, the Rocky Mountains begin to reveal themselves, giving you the first glimpse of their splendor. You gaze upon their beauty and grandeur, feeling a little burst of joy inside as you watch the sunrise paint the mountains with light like Bob Ross’s brush revealing a happy accident. In this moment, beauty has taken hold, and it’s the first time in the trip that you begin to drift away from reality and revel in nature’s abundant beauty. You feel free.
If you leave in time, you should be arriving in Durango between 8-9 am. It will be time to fix your coffee fixed grab a bite to eat. There is only one place to stop for breakfast: Doughworks.
Outside downtown Durango, Doughworks is a little diner specializing in breakfast. With a large menu of staple breakfast items, fresh bagels, and specialty donuts, you will be sure to appease your gluttonous desires and leave fuller than the Taylor Swift ticket queue on Ticketmaster. If I had to pick my favorite item, it would be the jalapeno cheddar bacon bagel sandwich. It’s a classic.
Make sure to get your order to go, so you can eat by the river, enjoy the rushing water's sound, and savor a little slice of nature’s beauty.
After breakfast, it’s time to hit the road and head north. Drive north out of Durango and head toward the ski resort. Once you pass the ski resort, get ready because you are about to witness one of the most marvelously splendid drives…..The Million Dollar Highway.
STOP 2: The Million Dollar Highway
A few miles after you pass the ski resort, the road will slowly inch upward, merging from four lanes into two. As you reach the top of the mountain road, you will be smacked in the face by nature’s majesty. Welcome to the Million Dollar Highway, America’s most beautiful street.
Massive peaks, endless forest, and one of nature’s finest creations will be on full display. As far as you can see, you will witness nature’s poetry. You forget all your troubles, breath in the mountain air, and experience unspeakable joy because nature makes the best art.
About ten miles into the Million Dollar Highway, the land on the right-hand side of the road disappears, turning into sheer cliffs with little to no shoulder beyond the white lines. At this point, you will have a combination of both joy and terror as you stare down the cliffs from your window, encounter multiple hairpin turns, and panic every time you get above 30mph. Just drive the speed limit, no matter how tempted you might be to push a little harder on the gas. You don’t want to end up like a car stunt in the Fast and the Furious, which, if caught on camera by the person driving behind you, will eventually become a viral video on YouTube. Just don’t test your luck on this one.
As you wind down the road gawking at all the sights, make sure to take time to stop at your favorite spots, take pictures, and post to the gram to make all your friends jealous. There are lakes, camping sites, and rivers throughout the drive for you to enjoy.
Eventually, you will drop down into the old mining town of Silverton. Smack dab in the middle of a small mountain valley, Silverton is surrounded by towering mountains that limit the expansion of the small town. Occupied mainly by locals, Silverton only has a few tiny restaurants and is a pit stop hangout for motorcycle clubs joying riding the Million Dollar Highway.
At this point, I usually fill up on gas at the station right as you enter town(the only gas station), snap a couple of pics, and continue on my journey on the million-dollar highway to Ouray, the Switzerland of America.
STOP 3: Ouray: The Switzerland of America
As the Million Dollar Highway ends, you enter Ouray, a small town nestled between mountains and one of the loveliest places you will ever visit. This will be your home for the night, so make sure you book a hotel beforehand.
Ouray has a lot to offer, depending on what you want to do. There are hiking trails, some of the most incredible ice climbing during the winter, many shops to buy trinkets, and a few good restaurants for your dining experiences.
I suggest using the afternoon to explore, walk the main street, and get yourself situated. Places recommend to visit are the Ouray Brewery, Mouse’s Chocolates & Coffee, and the hiking trail that leads to a waterfall.
Most people will spend the night at restaurants, getting drunk with tourists and locals at the brewery, or watching reruns of Jeopardy at the hotel. But I want to tell you a little secret that only the locals and a few outsiders have been lucky enough to stumble upon….Orvis Hot Springs.
STOP 4: Orvis Hot Springs
When night rolls around, it’s time to head to the hot springs. No, it’s not the hot springs located on the edge of town. I would not recommend going there unless you want to wade in years worth of hot urine and listen to screaming children splash around as their parents make no effort to discipline them. Trust me, don’t go there. Though it has been recently renovated and has good views, the experience is akin to going to a public pool in the middle of summer. You get the point.
Instead, drive exactly ten miles outside of Ouray to Orvis Hot Springs. Orvis Hot Springs is a private spa that houses seven different hot spring pools, indoor private hot spring rooms, an indoor pool, a sauna, massage appointments, and a cold water plunge. If they have reservations available, you can also book a bed-and-breakfast-style room. I suggest getting there before six so you can buy an all-day pass which will give you a code to the gate so you can access the hot spring garden after they close.
The Hot Spring Gardens offer a variety of pools with different temperatures and sizes. The hot spring pools are famous for their lithium waters, which improve blood circulation, relax muscles, and promote peaceful sleep. The best part is lithium doesn’t smell, so you won’t stink like rotten eggs when you leave.
It’s best to go after hours when very few people are there if any, because this place is clothing optional, and you might witness something you can never unsee if you go during the day. This is why I recommend you buy your ticket in the afternoon and come back later to soak. But if you can handle the die-hard nudists strutting around during the day isn’t so bad either.
The beauty of the hot springs at night is the stars and the absolute quiet. Ouray has no light pollution and no traffic at night, so all you hear is the running waters of the hot springs while you look up into a sky full of stars. If there is peace in life, it is here.
STOP 5: Telluride
After a day in Ouray, it’s time to head to your final destination before you head home, Telluride. You want to get up early because it’s an hour’s drive from Ouray, and you want to spend as much time there before you will have to drive back to Albuquerque in the afternoon. If you have never been to Telluride, get ready because if I had to pick one of the most beautiful cities in the world, this would be in my top ten, if not my top five. It is quite a sight to behold. There is only one way in and out of Telluride unless you have a lifted four-wheel drive vehicle, then you can take the Imogen Pass, but that’s a different adventure. As you turn on the road into Telluride, you are surrounded by mountains with a view of a mountain waterfall at the edge of town. As you finally hit the main street, you are overwhelmed by the mountains towering high above you everywhere you look. The San Miguel River runs outside Telluride and along the main road towards the eastern end of town through one of the most beautiful public parks you have ever seen. During the summer, Telluride holds festivals at this park almost every weekend. After you take in the views, it’s time to get your morning coffee. I suggest checking out the coffee shop on the main street, sitting outside, and sipping on delicious brew as you stare up at the mountain range. This is another moment of peace. After you finish your coffee, explore Telluride. Go to the bookstore, wander through the park, and take the free tram up to Mountain Village, which happens to be an independently operated ski villa filled with condos, weekend rentals, and costly clothing stores. Celebrities such as Oprah, Tommy Hilfiger, and Tom Cruise all own homes up there, and when you get to the top of the mountain, you will see why. Between 1-2 pm, you want to start wrapping up your adventure and return to your car to head home. This an excellent time to leave because you have a five to six-hour drive back, and you want to aim for getting back around 7:30 pm. Leaving Telluride, you have two options to head back. Either you can go back through Ouray, hit the Million Dollar Highway again, and go through Durango. Or you can take a quicker route that bypasses the mountain range to the city of Cortez and drops you off on the southern edge of the Durango city limits.
As you get back on the road to Albuquerque, you will reminisce about the adventure you had, the beauty of Colorado, and the quirky little places you found. You will return refreshed, relaxed, and ready to tackle reality again. Around the time you hit the road leading to Bernalillo, the sun will be setting on the Sandia Mountains, and you will be reminded why you call Albuquerque home. When you arrive home, you will have enough time to unpack and get situated before bed. You return to reality and remember you have work in the morning, but this time you don’t mind because you are carrying a little piece of Colorado heaven in your heart, and everything is going to be just fine.
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