If Arizona heat has you seeing red, consider a Colorado Grand road trip for an amazing new red view. One of the most scenic byways on earth begins in Cortez, Colorado and continues north through Grand Junction and Grand County with fabulous golf along the way.
Begin by driving north from Gallup thru Shiprock in the Four Corners region to Mesa Verde Country where the city of Cortez at first glance looks like it has gone to pot, literally as legal dispensaries dot the street corners. In reality it is the gateway to adventure. The Mesa Verde National Park beckons hikers and bikers while the Dolores River and McPhee Lake welcome water lovers. The Anasazi Heritage Center and archeological finds are unsurpassed. There is a convergence of cultures cultivating fine cuisine. A yummy yak burger at The Farm Bistro and Lounge had us yukking it up along the Conquistador Golf Course, rhyming like a Dr. Seuss book. We had to track the yak back to the farmer who showed us the knack of raising yak.
Two hours of forested mountains and streams detour to Telluride, the alpine playground of the rich and famous where waterfalls on the mountain seem to drip onto main street for photo ops. Returning past a herd of elk, Highway 141 encompasses many miles of red sandstone canyons that almost minimize Sedona’s Red Rock. Jaw dropping views lead to the epitome, Gateway Canyons Resort, developed by John Hendricks, the discerning owner of Discovery Channel. His Gateway Auto Museum is a must see even if not an auto aficionado.
Grand Junction is 45 minutes north, where more natural treats abound. This is Colorado’s Wine Region. Red Fox is one of 23 vineyards with surprisingly tasty selections of whites and reds nearby Grand Mesa, the largest flat top mountain in the world for exploration and pursuit of moose and other wildlife. The magnificent red Colorado National Monument features 11 canyons, 20,000 acres of arched windows, rock spires and stone monoliths with a curvy, thrilling roadway and hiking trails for more gawking and photography. “Wow!” is the repetitive expression. USA Today names it one of the top 10 best places for solitude in the US. Near the entrance, Redlands Mesa Golf delivers extraordinary vistas and layout, managed by Sandra Weckerly, formerly of Tucson. She hand selected the exquisite menu to match the patio view and pays close attention to the needs of members which doubled in a few months. Redlands Mesa is annually awarded top billing for public courses in Colorado and ranks 17th in the states. The ultimate vermillion/cinnamon experience here might be “heligolfing” from the luxurious Gateway Canyons Resort to Redlands Mesa, but not to be discounted is the fun, flatter course, Tiara Rado at the base of the astonishing Monument.
Continue the ascent north to Grand County for a full comprehension of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High.” Stay at a Beaver Village Condo in Winter Park. From the balcony watch the circular leaves of white trunked Aspens dance in the wind like sequins on an exotic dress. Play at Grand Elk Ranch and Club next to federally protected wetlands and realize that altitude takes adjusting. Drink plenty of water and you might not run to your ball as fast. If you see clouds rolling in, don’t worry. Golf Director Mike Ritter says, “We’re in a donut hole, the weather looks like it’s coming but goes around us.”
Granby Ranch Golf Course is like free grazing on the open range. A long train whistles as it chugs by the second fairway. Antelope often roam on number 7 and white tropical pelicans with black-tipped wings fly over the course, seeming so out of place. Their long yellow beaks resemble storks’ while their bodies look like swans on the water.
A fox family greeted us on the entrance road to Pole Creek with three distinct nines, the Ridge, the Meadow and the Ranch. It’s good golf all around in Grand County and afterwards an extensive water network includes Colorado’s largest natural lake, 1,000 miles of streams, 1,000 acres of high-mountain lakes and 11,000 acres of reservoirs. Boat, paddle or fish your heart away.
Dine on trout at the historic Grand Lodge overlooking Grand Lake and shop the boutiques along the shore town. You might continue through Rocky Mountain National Park to Estes Park but when do you stop? Enchanting at every turn, Grand Colorado is colorful indeed and if you don’t wish to drive the whole way, check flights from Phoenix.