3 days in Beautiful Southwest Colorado

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Tiny Van Big Living | Southwest Colorado

3 Days in Beautiful Southwest Colorado

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I have lived in Colorado for a year now, and am beginning to reflect on how amazing this place is. To be blatantly honest, I was a little bummed to be leaving Alaska last summer, after living there for a year. I have to say, I think Colorado might be the next best thing. After a long weekend in the Southwest part of the state, it quickly became my favorite. This post is dedicated to my favorite part of the state.

I live in Denver now, but when I first came to Colorado, I worked in Montrose, CO. I was there for a 3-month travel therapy contract, living in my van full time. I quickly became obsessed with this part of Colorado. I have visited this region in all seasons, but for this post, I will focus on summer and early fall. Check out one of Colorado’s most beautiful places in just 3 short days!

Tiny Van Big Living | Southwest Colorado

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Why Southwest Colorado?

It seems that Denver and Summit County/Vail/Aspen get most of the attention, and rightly so. These places are absolutely stunning to visit, and they are all within a reasonable distance from each other. The southwest region is more isolated and takes more time to travel to. In this region of Colorado, there is bountiful national forest, quaint mountain towns, and beautiful mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, and streams. Due to the distance, it also tends to be a lot less crowded. I have never had trouble finding a secluded camping spot in the part of Colorado.

Tiny Van Big Living | Southwest Colorado

Day 1: Montrose, CO

I definitely have a true love for Montrose after living at this location for three months. Montrose is the largest town in this part of the state, and I would recommend stocking up on food and gas here. This being because basic needs can be way more expensive in the mountain towns. When in Montrose, I HIGHLY recommend checking out the BEST pizza in Colorado. My favorite is the classic Margherita and Buffalo Chicken at Colorado Boy Brewery.

Montrose’s claim to fame is Black Canyon National Park. The park is a few miles from Montrose and is worth a visit. A visit to this park can range from a simple drive with a few lookouts to a hike down into the canyon (permit only). Black Canyon National Park is a certified dark sky. I would recommend checking out the park at night to get a glimpse of the milky way and tons and tons of stars.

Tiny Van Big Living | Southwest Colorado

Black Canyon National Park

Day 2: Ouray and Red Mountain Pass

Ouray, CO has the nickname of “Switzerland of America.” It is a gorgeous mountain town with hot springs and a view of Mt. Sneffels. I always enjoy hanging out at  Ouray Brewery on their swing bar seats! The beer and food can’t be beat here. After your bellies are full , check out the Perimeter Trail. It is a 6.5 mile trail that surrounds the city. There are a few options to cut the trail down shorter and only hike certain parts. My favorite is the bath tubs and box canyon!

If you are up for an adventurous drive, Red Mountain Pass aka “the million dollar highway,” is the perfect place. Fair warning, this road is pretty gnarly. It is seriously carved through a mountain pass with steep drop-offs and minimal guard rails. This pass is the dividing line from Uncomphrage and San Juan National forests in Colorado

Tiny Van Big Living | Southwest Colorado

Red Mountain Pass

The road connects the towns of Ouray and Silverton and has a beautiful old mine along the way. There are even more spectacular places continuing south, but for the sake of keeping this post about a short weekend, I will stop in Silverton. Please check the weather before taking this road, heavy rain and snow can make conditions unsafe very quick.

Day 3: Ridgeway and Telluride

Ridgeway is another quaint town nestled just north of Ouray, coined the “gateway to the San Juans.” There are some out of this world views of the various large peaks in southwest Colorado from this town such as Umcomphrage and Sneffels. On route from Ridgeway to Telluride there are some amazing hikes in the Uncompahgre hike.

I highly recommend the Blue Lakes hike, and so does the rest of Colorado. It is definitely worth it to get to the trailhead very early to beat the crowds! Note: this is the only hike in Colorado that I have ever seen a large black bear, so always be mindful of wildlife when venturing out into the wilderness.

Tiny Van Big Living | Southwest Colorado

Next, I recommend a drive to my absolute favorite city in Colorado, Telluride! This place is just ridiculously beautiful. I whine and complain every time I visit and have to drive away. I highly recommend, visiting this spot in the fall, due to the abundance of aspen forest. There is nothing better in fall in Colorado then aspen peeping! One of my favorite parts about Telluride is the FREE Gondola ride. It is actually used as public transportation in the town, and even allows dogs! Drive to the end of town to get a glimpse of Bridal Veil falls. I recommend hiking on the many mountains that surround the town. For something casual more take a hike or bike ride along the San Miguel river.


One of my favorite parts about southwest Colorado is the abundant free camping. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I LOVE free and dispersed camping. Southwest Colorado is less crowded than other parts, leads to less competition for free camping. With abundant national forest in the area, there are plenty of options. Remember national forest allows free camping outside designated campground spots. Please be mindful of fire bans, this summer no fires have been allowed in almost all parts of Colorado.

What is your favorite part of Colorado to visit?

About the Author


Hi there! My name is Sarah and I am the creator of Tiny Van Big Living. I am a former traveling Occupational Therapist who lived in a converted camper van (Vanny Devito) full time for almost two years. I am collecting experiences, not things while slowly climbing out of the giant hole that is student loan debt.

2 Comments on “3 days in Beautiful Southwest Colorado”

  1. Still in denver? You’ve got to try creede, and lake city. Paonia, and crestone. I live in buena vista and to escape the weekend warrior crowds my dog and I go to these places and chill!

    1. We are based out of Denver but currently in New Mexico. We have spent some time in Buena Vista in the past and love it. Thanks for the tip tho we will have to check out those places!

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