As we enter into this year’s summer traveling season, Colorado Byways is celebrating its twenty-seventh year of providing a good option for highway travelers who want exceptional scenic, historical, cultural, and recreational opportunities. Uniting communities under a common project, the byways continue to bring people together (both locals and travelers) and connect them with the land. In addition, eleven of Colorado’s twenty-six byways are
designated by the U.S. Secretary Transportation as America’s Byways®, meaning they are nationally recognized for their outstanding scenic and historic attributes. Colorado has more national designations than any other state.
America’s Byways® in Colorado include:
• The Colorado River Headwaters National Scenic and Historic Byway traces one of North America’s mightiest rivers to the source. Along the way you’ll pass through the yellow-hued Gore Canyon, lush ranch-land and, ultimately, the peaks looming over Grand Lake, where snowmelt forms the Colorado River headwaters.
• Northwestern Colorado’s Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic and Historic Byway takes drivers through landscapes that once shook under the footfalls of titans. Dinosaurs were prolific in this area and have since left their mark on the land in the form of fossils and footprints. Long after these massive animals disappeared from the area, the Fremont Indians settled its arid landscape.
• The area covered by Colorado’s Frontier Pathways National Scenic and Historic Byway is heavily steeped in Colorado history. The land near Pueblo holds great importance to past inhabitants. Fur traders and trappers made a living in the Rocky Mountain foothills, Ute Indians made their homes in the region and Spanish conquistadors explored the area in search of precious minerals.
• Settlers of this area that now encompasses Colorado’s Gold Belt Tour National Scenic Byway had written “Pikes Peak or Bust” on the side of their wagons — a sign of their optimism for gold and the desperation they felt after crossing America’s frontier. What a handful of them found in Cripple Creek, Victor and the hills surrounding these two towns ended up being Colorado’s biggest gold payload.
• Colorado’s Grand Mesa National Scenic and Historic Byway leads through old-growth forests, aspens, meadows and so many lakes you’ll lose track. That’s Grand Mesa in a nutshell. A must-see on the world’s largest flat-topped mountain is the Lands End Overlook, which clings 6,000 feet above the valley and takes in views as far-reaching as the Sneffels Range near Ridgway.
• Drive one of the first routes, Lariat Loop National Scenic and Historic Byway, developed by the City of Denver to help Coloradans experience its mountain parks. Taking its name from the historic Lariat Trail, this route connects two roadways on the National Register of Historic Places (Lariat Trail and Bear Creek Canyon) and includes a stop at Hiawatha Homestead and Buffalo Bill’s Museum and Grave.
• Traveling through the dazzling multihued San Juan Mountains and making stops at historic towns of great significance Colorado’s San Juan Skyway All-American Road is often considered an essential journey for road trippers, traveling through popular mountain towns.
• The Santa Fe Trail, now the Santa Fe Trail National Scenic and Historic Byway, ran through the southeast corner of Colorado. This reliable route was traversed by a bevy of fortune-seeking individuals, including “Wild” Bill Hickok, frontiersman Kit Carson, Jedediah Smith and explorer Zebulon Pike.
• Scenery reaches new heights on the Top of the Rockies National Scenic and Historic Byway in Colorado — Mount Elbert and Mount Massive are the tallest and second tallest peaks in the state. Follow the beginnings of the Arkansas River, and be sure to stop by one of the many lakes in the area and spend some time on Leadville’s main street.
• Colorado’s Trail of the Ancients National Scenic and Historic Byway travels between remote national monuments and Mesa Verde National Park. Witness the centuries-old cliff dwellings and petroglyphs of the Ancestral Puebloans along the first byway designated for archaeological significance.
• Make your way above tree line inside Rocky Mountain National Park along the sky-scraping expanses of North America’s highest paved through-road. Trail Ridge Road-All American Road, passing through Rocky Mountain National Park between the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake, is one of the best ways to see the Continental Divide as it cuts through Colorado.