Last fall, my family and I hit the highway southwest on a last-minute road trip from our home near Aspen to Montrose. We figured we’d spend the weekend exploring a part of the state we didn’t know that well, hike the nearby Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and maybe learn a little about the area’s Native American history at the Ute Indian Museum.

What we found, to my kids’ chagrin, was a crazy concentration of antique stores. With items ranging from rustic barn décor and old gas pumps to dainty tea cups and estate jewelry, the dozen or so shops in downtown Montrose and along the highway south of town offer antiques enthusiasts an amazing array of options for browsing, shopping and collecting.

I managed to snag a couple of hours to myself to check out the treasure-filled stores. But to fully embrace a vintage shopping experience over the course of a full weekend, I’d recommend a stay in Montrose with similarly minded friends and a trailer in tow. Here is how I’d do it:

The Uncompahgre Bed & Breakfast makes a great base camp for a weekend of shopping in Montrose.

Where to stay

A weekend dedicated to shopping for historic collectibles warrants similarly themed accommodations. The Uncompahgre Bed & Breakfast, six miles south of downtown Montrose, served as a local schoolhouse from 1915 to 1989. The current B&B owners took over the building in the early 1990s and renovated it inside and out while retaining much of the building’s charm. The large dining and gathering room houses the school’s old stage, and the bell tower still stands.

The eight uniquely decorated rooms have private baths, and some feature microwaves and small refrigerators. A hot breakfast, served in the dining room at a table set with lace and stemware, is included each morning.

What to do

Upon arriving in Montrose, stop by the Visitor Information Center on the east end of Main Street. The friendly folks here can recommend area restaurants. (My family had a yummy meal at Smuggler’s Brew Pub & Grill, though you might want to go a bit more upscale if your group is grownups only.)

The Rusty Moose, Tumbleweed and Coalby Canyon Trading are three must-visits within the Boardwalk Shops.

The staff will also set you up with local street maps and a plethora of brochures, from hiking trails to museum information, if you’re looking for things to do besides shop. A “Montrose County Antiques & Collectibles” pamphlet has a handy map on one side, detailing the whereabouts of the area shops. Beware, though, that some of the merchants listed on the 2006-2007 brochure I picked up were out of business; you may want to confirm that the information has been updated (or call ahead to confirm the shops’ existence and their open hours) before you make your plan of attack.

For example, the mother lode of antique shopping, Tracy’s Antiques, isn’t open on Sundays. Its location south of town, just a few minutes’ drive from the Uncompahgre B&B, makes it a nice place to start a shopping expedition on Saturday morning.

At Tracy’s, you could spend hours browsing the grounds, where wagon wheels, windmills, horse-drawn carriages, road signs, even tractors and vintage cars can be found. Inside, there’s everything from old wooden skis and snowshoes, guns and gumball machines, playing cards and pottery.

Farther north toward town, on the other side of the highway, are the Boardwalk Shops. This row of stores is another spot where you could easily wile away an afternoon. The Rusty Moose (also usually closed on Sundays) and Coalby Canyon Trading (which features handcrafted pottery and sculptured art) are must-visits.

On your second full day of shopping, consider the stores downtown. There’s a group of shops on Townsend Avenue , near 5th Street. Here you’ll find Maddy’s Coop, with a little bit of everything, and Pinecone Antiques, where more than a dozen vendors sell their wares.

If two days of shopping has worn you out, soothe weary muscles at Ridgway’s unusual hot springs before you head for home. About a 40-minute drive south on U.S. 550, the Orvis Hot Springs features four outdoor, clothing-optional soaking areas. (Guests do take advantage of the nude option, so be prepared!) The mountain views, cascading waterfalls and natural mineral pools set the scene for relaxation — not to mention it’s a serene environment to rehash your antique-shopping weekend and delight in all your fabulous finds.

If You Go

The Boardwalk Shops, 17656 U.S. 550 South Highway 450, Cedarridge, Colo.

Stores include Coalby Canyon Trading, 970-240-5087; Rusty Moose, 970-249-3933; Maddy’s Coop, 438 S. Townsend Ave., 970-252-1039

There’s no shortage of random stuff at Tracy’s Antiques.

Montrose Visitors and Convention Bureau, 1519 E. Main St., 970-249-5000, www.visitmontrose.net

Orvis Hot Springs, just off U.S. 550 on County Road 3, Ridgway, 970-626-5324, www.orvishotsprings.com

Pine Cone Antiques, 501 S. Townsend Ave., 970-252-1251

Tracy’s Antiques, U.S. 550 South & Solar Road, 970-249-1954

Uncompaghre Bed & Breakfast, 21049 Uncompaghre Road, 970-240-4000, www.uncbb.com

Freelance writer and married mother of two Kara Williams makes her home in Carbondale. Her web site iswww.karaswilliams.com.

From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.

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