Some of Colorado’s Most Scenic Drives

May 21, 2013 - Statewide Transportation Plan - The Memorial Day weekend begins the summer travel season and one of the best ways to see Colorado is to explore one of the state’s 25 Scenic and Historic Byways.

Whether by car, bicycle, motorcycle or tour bus, these Byways offer travelers some of the highest, longest, and most picturesque routes available, along with a good dose of historical information.

Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways possess the archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic intrinsic qualities that set these roads above all.  These protected routes can visually tell the story of the mountain formations (San Juan Skyway), dinosaurs (Lariat Loop & Dinosaur Diamond), and people (Trail of the Ancients & Santa Fe Trail).

Travelers can begin planning their journey by obtaining a map, which are available in Colorado Welcome Centers or by emailing [email protected].  In addition, most Scenic Byways offer brochures, maps, websites and roadside interpretive signs to help tourists understand the background of an area. Some Byways also offer driving tours, other maps, and publications. And several are working on mobile apps to share information through new technology. The state program has a dedicated “Colorado Byways” channel on the mobile app Tagwhat©, offering close to 500 stories.

The following Byways are featured due to their enhancement efforts and events:

  • Mount Evans:
    With start points in Bergen Park or Idaho Springs, it is close to the Denver area and recently ranked by tripadvisor® as the top area attraction for tourists.  Some key points of interest include the Idaho Spring’s Heritage Visitor Center, which includes a free museum, exhibiting the area’s mining history.  Another stopping point to fish or picnic is Echo Lake, owned by Denver Mountain Parks. On the way up to the Mount Evans summit, the Mount Goliath Research Natural Area has a short interpretive trail through the trees as well as a 3-mile trail Pesman Trail that allows visitors to see, smell and photograph the Bristlecone Pines, which are only 1,750 year old, while others have been dated to 4,900 years old.  At 14,130 feet above sea level, Mount Evans provides an opportunity to spot mountain goats, pikas, marmots, and big horn sheep.
  • Unaweep Tabeguache:
    This Scenic and Historic Byway is managed by the Interpretive Association of Western Colorado and has several milestones to proclaim. The historic Hanging Flume is located on the San Miguel River in Montrose County. A section of the flume has been restored and the documentary, “Flume Fever” recently won awards for Best Documentary, Best Cinematography and Best Overall Film at the Paonia Film Festival. Another historic treasure, the Driggs mansion between Whitewater and Gateway, has been stabilized and a pullout overlooking the mansion was upgraded with interpretive signs and new fencing. Other aspects of the byway’s history and culture have received additional protection through the land acquisitions efforts of the Rimrockers Historical Society and others. A revised Corridor Management Plan will be available in August and stakeholders are fully engaged in projects that protect the byway’s resources.
  • Guanella Pass:
    Traveling through Clear Creek and Park counties, this byway celebrated its reopening last year, with the paving of the northern part of this pass between Georgetown and the summit.  This project not only improved the road, but provided interpretive sites, parking, and restrooms for visitors. From the summit south to Grant on U.S. 285, this unpaved segment of mountain road offers many opportunities for hiking and camping in the Pike National Forest and the Mount Evans Wilderness area. Visitors also can climb a fourteener by taking the trail from the top of Guanella Pass to Mount Bierstadt.

Travelers also are welcome to attend the following events on these three byways this summer:

  • June 1 – Idaho Springs Summer Kick Off Parade & BBQ – Mount Evans
  • June 8 – West End 4 X 4 Poker Tour – Unaweep Tabeguache
  • June 30 – Guanella Pass Hill Climb
  • July 6 Nucla Water Days - Unaweep Tabeguache
  • July 20-21– Tommy Knockers Mining Days Festival – Mount Evans
  • July 23 – Superfest 2013/Superformance 20TH Anniversary – Guanella Pass

Eleven of Colorado’s 25 byways are designated as America’s Byways®, the highest number in the nation.