Colorado is justly well-known for its breathtaking landscapes: mountain vistas, sun-drenched plains, purple rock mesas and excessive deserts. The state merely wows. All through it all are surprising historic websites, charming cities plus outside recreation of each kind. Miles and miles of well-maintained Scenic & Historic Byways wind by means of the state’s various points of interest, offering quick access to all of it. So, seize your keys and energy up, Colorado awaits!
Editor’s word: throughout COVID-19 there could also be extra journey restrictions. Examine the most recent steerage in Colorado earlier than planning a visit, and all the time comply with native authorities well being recommendation.
Begin– Twin Lakes; Finish – Aspen; Distance 27 mi/44 km
The ribbon of highway between the historic group of Twin Lakes and the swanky city of Aspen is the spine of one in every of Colorado’s most epic drives. A part of the Prime of the Rockies Scenic Byway, views right here are cinematic and spectacular – swatches of snow seen alongside the ridges slightly below the knife fringe of peaks, tundra blooms on the high of the cross, the place at 12,095ft you’ll be on the sting of the Continental Divide. This is your individual IMAX second.
Although the cross is closed within the winter, the remainder of the yr the drive is brief and candy. Contemplate exploring it a bit. Try Twin Lakes Reservoir, an angler’s and paddle-boarder’s dream; its shores are dotted with historic ruins, together with Interlaken, as soon as Colorado’s largest resort, inbuilt 1879. Or head for a hike on Mt Elbert, one of many ‘simpler’ 14ers within the state (begin your hike early!). And don’t miss Independence close to Aspen – a ghost city dotted with weathered wooden cabins, the primary mining web site within the Roaring Fork Valley, providing a window again in time.
Prime of the Rockies
Begin – Minturn; Finish – Aspen; Distance – 115 mi/185 km
When you preferred Independence Go, prolong it to incorporate this Scenic Byway. One of many highest within the US, the highway seldom drops under 9,000 ft – actually, scratching the highest of the Rockies. It takes you over three spectacular mountain passes, crosses the Continental Divide, takes in two Colorado giants (Mt Elbert and Mt Huge) and rolls by means of historic Coloradan cities. And if outdoor recreation is your factor, the route passes by means of three Nationwide Forests providing numerous alternatives to hike, climb, fish and ski. Not dangerous for a day’s drive.
Alongside the way in which, tiny Minturn is large on small city attraction; in the summertime, choose up highway provisions on the bustling farmers market – the children can pet goats whilst you store. In Leadville, study all about Colorado’s rags-to-riches mining beginnings in its Nationwide Historic District, together with the National Mining Hall of Fame, whereas Twin Lakes presents alternatives to wander by means of a historic mining camp. At finish of the tour is Aspen, one of many state’s most posh and cultured locations – a should cease.
Path Ridge Rd
Begin – Estes Park; Finish – Grand Lake; Distance – 47 mi/76 km
Rocky Mountain National Park’s signature drive, Path Ridge Street is the very best constantly paved through-road in North America, climbing to 12,183 ft in a matter of minutes. It follows the identical path that generations of Ute, Arapaho and Apache used as a commerce route to traverse Milner Go. Anticipate outrageous views: snowcapped peaks, meandering streams, tight switchbacks throughout the Continental Divide, high-country meadows, wildflowers galore and, with luck, some wildlife too. Make sure you cease at a number of the numerous turnoffs to discover tundra trails or, no less than, to take selfies from the highest of the world. Closed in winter and spring, attributable to snow.
Peak to Peak Hwy
Begin – Estes Park; Finish – Nederland; Distance – 42 mi/68 km
Colorado’s first Scenic Byway, Peak to Peak Freeway is a year-round hit, winding previous towering mountains like Longs Peak (14,255ft) and lush alpine valleys, plus a handful of one-horse cities. Well-known for its fall colours, autumn envelopes the mountains in a quilt of gold, yellow and orange and brings bugling elks looking for mates…to not point out carloads of leaf peepers.
Put aside a pair hours for the drive. Earlier than leaving Estes Park, get pleasure from the riverwalk or take a spooky ghost tour of the historic Stanley Resort. Alongside the route, take into account stopping in Ward, a former growth city and bohemian magnet that has settled into an artfully ramshackle state of disrepair or Peaceable Valley, notable for its little onion-domed church perched on a hillside. Or hike in one of many nationwide forests and wilderness areas (the route passes three: Arapaho, Roosevelt and Indian Peaks). On the finish, stroll by means of Nederland, a hippie holdout identified for its quirky retailers and colourful cafes.
Santa Fe Path
Begin – Bent’s Previous Fort Nationwide Historic Web site; Finish – Trinidad; Distance – 116 mi/187 km
Historical past buffs will love this day-long drive alongside the Santa Fe Trail, the Previous West’s first ‘freeway,’ as soon as extending from Missouri to New Mexico. It’s an unimaginable alternative to study concerning the complexities of the Southwest. Solar-drenched prairies and wheat fields, sugar-beet farms and railroad yards unfurl on this open two-lane freeway, offering a wealthy mixture of historical past and pure marvel.
The Path’s signature sight is the outstanding Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site. Perched on the Arkansas River and the erstwhile US-Mexico border, the fort marked a cultural crossroads the place Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Mexicans and Individuals met, mingled, traded and co-existed. Whereas it was initially constructed for commerce, Bent’s fort was later conscripted by the US army and is a robust reminder of this presence in Coloraodo. Commerce declined as 1000’s of settlers poured into the frontier after the Louisiana Buy, and specifically after a cholera epidemic negatively impacted the area’s Indigenous tribes.
Close by in Comanche National Grassland, homestead ruins and genuine Santa Fe Path wagon ruts are nonetheless seen; Picketwire Dinosaur Tracksite, the biggest documented dinosaur tracksite in North America, is a spotlight of the park (4WD and reservations required). Make time to verify out Trinidad too. Tucked right into a chimney-top mesa, the city was as soon as an essential limb of the Santa Fe Path; the fabulous Trinidad History Museum tells the nitty gritty.
Freeway of Legends
Begin – Trinidad; Finish – Walsenburg; Distance – 82 mi/132 km
Steeped in mining folklore and Native American legends, the sleepy cities and majestic mountain passes of the Freeway of Legends present a gorgeous detour from the I-25 throughway, escorting guests by means of a few of southeastern Colorado’s most superb countryside. Funds two hours to drive the route, extra if you happen to cease to soak up the sights.
Historic Trinidad is one in every of the shining stars of the route, its Foremost Avenue an essential cease on the Santa Fe Trail and later, the positioning of Mom Jones marching with hanging miners – the Trinidad History Museum presents a superb primer. Passing by means of Cokedale, the rows and rows of coal ovens are unmissable, standing like forgotten sentinels alongside the highway. Two charming cities are value a cease too: Cuchara for its views of the Spanish Peaks and the Nice Dikes that jut from meadows to mountains, and La Veta, the place there are extra church buildings than paved roads. And this being Colorado, there are loads of leisure alternatives available: Cucharas River presents terrific fishing, whereas the mountaineering within the Spanish Peaks Wilderness is a number of the greatest within the state.
Path of the Ancients
Begin – Mesa Verde Nationwide Park; Finish – Ute Mountain Tribal Park; Distance – 113 mi/182 km
Path of the Ancients is the one Nationwide Scenic Byway devoted to archaeology. A phenomenal and eye-opening route, it winds by means of the canyons, mountains and plains as soon as inhabited by Ancestral Puebloans and later nomadic Navajo, Apache and Ute tribes. Although the route is simply over 100 miles, the websites themselves are fascinating and value lingering over, making this a very good multi-day journey.
Mesa Verde National Park is the crown jewel of the route, dwelling to over 5,000 archaeological websites, together with 600 Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings – a guided ranger tour is very beneficial. Simply north, the Anasazi Heritage Center has attention-grabbing movies, hands-on displays and artifacts courting to AD 400. Canyon of the Ancients and Hovenweep National Monument are Ancestral Puebloan treasures which were largely left alone for lots of of years – good for DIY exploration. And Ute Mountain Tribal Park homes a variety of lesser-known cliff dwellings; petroglyphs and even shards of authentic pottery may even be seen right here (Ute information required for all visits).
This text was initially printed in February 2012 and up to date in 2021 by Liza Prado.