3 Day Getaways / Explore Colorado / Explore The Outdoors

How I Spent 3 Days in Southwest Colorado for the Annular Solar Eclipse

With the Four Corners in the path of totality for the October 14th annular solar eclipse, I wasn’t missing my chance to view it from Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde is one of my favorite national parks and I’ll jump at any chance to spend time there. Here’s how I spent 3 days in Colorado’s quadrant of the Four Corners.

Thursday Night: One Night in Mancos

I drove over from Denver late on Thursday afternoon. My first stop was dinner at The Boathouse on Grand in downtown Mancos with Peggy and Lee Cloy, owners of Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve and Education Center. The restaurant is fairly new and was buzzing with activity in the small town. The small menu is elevated with unique combinations of local ingredients. I went for the squash and leek risotto and it was delicious. After our early dinner, Peggy and Lee got me squared away in the Lake House. The charming three-bedroom cabin is big for one person, but I delighted in the colorful decor, antiques, vivid artwork, and uniqueness of the space. In the fully stocked cute kitchen, Peggy and Lee made sure I had beans to grind for coffee and left me fresh bread from the local bakery along with butter and homemade jam for the morning. I went to bed shortly after settling in because I had a pre-eclipse live segment on fun in the Four Corners very early Friday morning for The Weather Channel.

Friday: Willowtail Springs to Star Party

Getting up at 4:30am for my early live shot meant I got a jump on the day and gave me time to really enjoy the sounds of sunrise in a picturesque setting. As the sun was rises I bundled up and walked out on the small dock to listen to the sounds of sunrise as the birds, insects, and other animals were saying hello to a new day. Once a retreated back inside I devoured a hearty slice of sourdough bread topped with the homemade raspberry jam Peggy and Lee had left for me before retreating back to the cozy bed to work for a bit. About 8:30am, I headed out for a short walk with Beau, Peggy and Lee’s senior dog, leading the way. I spent the rest of the morning having coffee with Peggy and Lee in their home, wandering around the property, chatting with an artist in residence, and wishing I could stay longer at Willowtail Springs.

I headed out midday and headed to Fahrenheit Coffee Roasters for a late lunch while working before heading into Cortez. Every accommodations in Cortez booked out weeks before the October 14th annular eclipse. When I looked for a place to stay back in early August, the Super 8 in Cortez was one of the only places with any availability. My friend Mindy arrived late afternoon after catching a ride with a couple of other friends from Denver to Mancos. After I picked her up, we grabbed an early dinner at Chavolos Mexican Restaurant before heading over to Mesa Verde National Park for a star party featuring NASA scientists, NPS park rangers, and multiple large telescopes to view planets, nebulas, and galaxies far, far way. While we were waiting in line to view Saturn, we caught part of a night sky presentation as someone pointed out constellations to a growing group of stargazers.

Saturday Morning: Eclipse at Mesa Verde

Mindy and I were packed up and heading to Mesa Verde National Park before sunrise. We went through the gate about 6:30am which gave us time to enjoy sunrise during the 21-mile drive up the mesa before stopping at Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America. Surprisingly at 7:30am on a prime morning to be in Mesa Verde, Cliff Palace wasn’t packed. We continued the loop and since we had time, we decided to drive the 6-mile Mesa Top Loop which takes you through 700 years of Ancestral Pueblo history including pithouses and views of multi-storied cliff dwellings. Originally we were going to watch the eclipse from Sun Point View or Sun Temple, but I was doing a pre-eclipse live segment for Fox 31 Denver, so we headed over to park headquarters and museum so I had Wi-Fi. After my 9:30am-ish segment, we found our spot to watch the annual solar eclipse over Spruce Tree House Ruins. The parking lot was packed but we found a comfortable spot and enjoyed watching the annular solar eclipse show, especially as folks cheered at peak time and when the group next to us sang happy birthday to one of their friends. We stayed until about 11am and started our drive down making a couple of stops to enjoy the view and end of the annular solar eclipse.

Saturday Afternoon: Lunch in Mancos and Soak in Durango

We just beat the crowd to Absolute Bakery and Cafe in Mancos. A Durango local introduced me to this wonderful spot several years. It’s a must for me when I’m in the Cortez/Mancos/Mesa Verde area. I ordered a build your own half sandwich with sides of potato salad and creamy citrus coleslaw. We took advantage of a nice fall afternoon and ate outside. We did treat ourselves and got a chocolate chip cookie and a ginger molasses cookie to split as we drove. Both of us were wishing we had gotten more ginger molasses cookies!

Our next stop was for a little R&R in Durango. Originally Trimble Hot Springs, new owners bought it in 2019 and renamed it. I visited Durango Hot Springs Resort and Spa during their soft opening in August 2020. I was pretty excited to see the property now with 32 mineral soaking pool, 5 private Ofuro tubs, 2 cold plunges, and a 25-meter, and saltwater resort style pool. It was such a treat to relax for a bit and enjoy the fall colors. There’s something reall y cool about Durango Hot Springs Resort and Spa. It’s the only hot springs in the world using an AquaGen water system infusing the pools with nano-meter and micro-meter oxygen bubbles. You can see the tiny bubbles on your skin as you soak. They do not have towel rentals so take your own or purchase one on-site. They are into Phase 2 of renovations which includes updating the spa. I can’t wait to return for another oxygen-infused soak in one of my favorite towns in Colorado. It was really hard to pull ourselves away from this fabulous soaking experience but we had to drive east for our last night.

Saturday Night: One Night in Pagosa Springs

We spent Saturday night in Pagosa Springs, another one of my favorite Colorado towns. I was dying for a return visit to The Springs Resort and Spa and we got lucky with a last minute change to our plans, which were to orignally stay 2 nights in Cortez. As expected for a busy weekend in Southwest Colorado, the resort was completely booked. But the owner’s condo was available and we got the ultimate VIP experience at The Springs. After settling in we headed to Kip’s Grill because I was craving their fish tacos, which I paired with a margarita. Mindy went for their nachos. Neither of us really had room for dessert but we decided to order the dessert special chocolate peanut butter landslide cake for a couple of sweet bites to end our meal. Kip’s is a casual joint that’s always packed. We had a great time people watching from our high top table in the bar. Stuffed from dinner, instead of an evening soak as we had planned, we called it an early night and took advantage of the sleep amenities left for us on our beds.

Sunday Morning: Sunrise Soak and Aqua Yoga

We were up early on a cold Sunday morning so we could enjoy a sunrise soak. One of the benefits of staying at The Springs is hotel guests get 24-hour access to the 25 mineral pools feed by the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring aquifer certified by Guinness World Record. A sunrise soak is sheer bliss, especially when you’re soaking in 102°F Clouds in My Coffee pool enjoying the quiet of an early Sunday morning. After soaking for about 45 minutes in my favorite pool, we headed over to wellness studio to meet our instructor for aqua yoga. This was something I had done on a previous stay at The Springs and was thrilled to do it again. While we were getting our zen on several hot air balloons took flight added to the already picturesque setting from our aqua yoga class in 101°F thermal water of the Sunset Social Club pool. Not quite ready to leave, after class we headed over for a quick soak in the 106°F Waterfall pool.

Sadly our time to hit the road back to Denver was quickly approaching. After changing, we decided to rehydrate with vitality tonics from the Canteen at the resort. I went for the Headwater Rescue with a KOR shot and coconut water and Mindy tried the Ever-Greens with green up KOR shot, apple juice, and sparkling water. Our colorful non-alcoholic tonics were refreshing and gave us an extra boast for our road trip home, which included a last stop to savor the fall colors on Wolf Creek Pass.

Author Jennifer Broome has spent a lot of time in Southwest Colorado and returns any chance she gets. Check out posts Wellness Getaway at Springs Resort, How to Spend a Winter Day in Pagosa Springs, Hike to Ice Caves Near Pagosa Springs, Drawn Back to the “Deserted Valley,” Hike to Colorado’s Only Geyser, Hiking Petroglyph Point Look at Mesa Verde National Park, and Four Nights in Durango for more things to do in Colorado’s quadrant of the Four Corners.

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