Check out the snow in Telluride.
Check out the snow in Telluride.

BOULDER, Colo. –

With spring break mere days away, it’s prime time to plan a vacation.

While some University of Colorado students might be flying to exotic destinations, things could look grim for their cash-strapped classmates.

For them, one solution is a Colorado road trip.

CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said that “cheap” is a factor today, and for that reason, students should check out local attractions.

“There is a whole flavor of Colorado in other areas of the state,” he said.

Western Slope

The Western Slope gives visitors a chance to get in touch with Mother Nature.

Boasting historic towns such as Durango and Telluride, national parks like Mesa Verde and miles of mountain biking trails, the Western Slope is a scenic four- to seven-hour drive on Interstate 70.

Scott Roach, an open option sophomore, said he is spending spring break in Durango and Telluride with family and friends.

“In Durango, I’ll probably just stay with my family, but in Telluride, I know someone who has a house out there, so hopefully I’ll get to stay there and get to use it for free,” Roach said.

Roach, whose family moved to Durango from Dallas, said the yearlong festivals and proximity to his family’s home in Durango are major appeals of Telluride.

“Oprah having a winter house there is definitely a plus, too,” he said.

About 60 miles west of Telluride is Mesa Verde National Park, an archeological site with more than 4,000 well-preserved ancient dwellings. Representing 700 years of cultural history, Mesa Verde is an affordable and pleasing attraction.

Elaine Simo, a front desk park information guide, said Mesa Verde offers an excellent opportunity to find out about the Four Corners area, the only place in the United States where four states — Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado — meet at one point.

Simo said it is less expensive to visit the park now because some of the cliff dwellings, and facilities are closed due to weather conditions, but that it can be just as enjoyable.

The entrance fee is $10 per vehicle in the winter season, and welcome centers in the Mesa Verde area can help spring breakers find reasonably priced lodging options.

“Many college students and international visitors come to the park this time of year,” she said. “The Spruce Tree House is a popular and must-see attraction.”

Colorado Plateau

Although Mesa Verde National Park doesn’t offer bike trails, the Colorado Plateau, a region centered on the Four Corners, does.

The Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association (www.copmoba.org) developed and maintains regional mountain bike trails on the Colorado Plateau and is a source for a bounty of trail information.

Jennifer Taylor, a board director for the group, said the Colorado Plateau has 1,500 miles of diverse trails and loop rides for all levels of riders.

“The trails are free to use and renting a bike is a viable option for many and doesn’t require a vehicle rack system for traveling,” she said. “Practically all of our bike shops have mountain bike rental fleets, including cross-country and downhill options, and can be rented for a day or multiple days at a time.”

Camping and accommodation options are ample and facilities often offer special rates for mountain bikers, Taylor said.

Taylor said the Colorado Plateau trails have been drawing more out-of-town students than local Mesa State College students.

“Mesa State hosts competitions on our trails, inviting and exposing our trails to students from all over. They return to play,” she said.

Other options

Wave Dreher, who works for the American Automobile Association, said there are many other fun and affordable Colorado destinations for traveling students.

The Pagosa Hot Springs, heated by an underground aquifer, and the Narrow Gauge Railroad, a train that travels from Durango to Silverton, are two options.

For nature lovers, Dreher said that Canyon of the Ancients near Dolores and the Hovenweep National Monument along the Utah-Colorado border offer camping at a low price.

“March is one of Colorado’s snowiest months, but camping is still possible,” she said.