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9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado

09.07.17

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9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado

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  • Sheep on Last Dollar Road with Wilson Peak (14,252 ft) in the background.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • Sunrise with a view of Wilson Peak (14,252 ft), Lizard Head, and other peaks from Last Dollar Road.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • Sunset over a carpet of leaves on Last Dollar Road.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • Beautiful vistas of the Sneffels Range from the Dallas Divide.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • Dallas Divide from Highway 62, part of the San Juan Skyway.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • The USA Pro Challenge cycling race heads over Kebler Pass each year.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • The road to Kebler Pass. - 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • Fall color on Kebler Pass. - 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • The View Hotel in old Ashcroft.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • Pearl Pass from the end of Castle Creek Road.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • One of the iconic views of Trail Ridge Road with Longs Peak looming in the distance.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • These temporary elk roadblocks on Trail Ridge Road are quite common throughout Rocky Mountain National Park, but more often during sunrise and sunset.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • Chasm Falls on Old Fall River Road.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • Steep grand and switchbacks on Old Fall River Road.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • The demanding grade along Pikes Peak Toll Road.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • View east from the summit of Pikes Peak (14,115 ft).- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, seen from the Painted Wall Overlook.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
  • View from the Skyway south of Lizard Head Pass.- 9 Stunning Scenic Drives in Colorado
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With a nod to the Boss, we’re going to gush yet again about the wild and wondrous outdoors of the great state of Colorado, whose "highways jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive" unfurl with wild and wondrous scenery accessible to anyone with a set of keys and a full tank of gas. Indeed, the scenic drive is the most democratic of outdoor opportunities, and the Bicentennial State has many of them, infinitely many—throw a dart anywhere the map is green and start your engine.

Traveling by car has its perks, and the incomparable Rocky Mountain and Colorado Plateau scenery we’ve written about so many times scrolls past the passenger like it would a hiker—just more of it and faster. Colorado has many scenic drives. Among them are paved highways, long single-lane dirt roads, and 25 nationally recognized scenic byways. String them together into a week-long road trip or a long weekend in the Sawatch Range.

These are adventures worth the madness of love.

San Juan Mountains

  • San Juan Skyway: Perhaps the most beautiful scenic drive in Colorado, the San Juan Skyway is a harrowing journey more than 100 miles long that summits mountain passes and hangs from cliffs in the San Juan Mountains. Go in the fall when the mountains are painted by golden aspen, yes, but also by the cerulean of oxidized copper and the ruddy carmine of iron. Also: mines. Old mines. Photogenic, awe-inspiring, distance driving doesn’t get any better.
  • Last Dollar Road: The San Juan Mountains are a paradise for the off-road enabled, and Last Dollar Road showcases views of Wilson Peak and golden aspen in the fall along a 20-mile dirt road. Four-wheel drive recommended.
  • Dallas Divide: A scenic alternative to Last Dollar Road, the Dallas Divide showcases the Sneffels Range rather than Wilson Peak to accompany those fall colors. Four-wheel drive and high clearance are recommended.

Sawatch Range and the Elk Mountains

  • Kebler Pass: Mixed dirt and pavement characterizes Kebler Pass, connecting Paonia State Park to Crested Butte. Along with the ubiquitous explosion of color in Colorado every fall, wildflowers come out on Kebler Pass beginning in late May.
  • Ashcroft and Castle Creek Road: Near Aspen and the Maroon Bells, Ashcroft and Castle Creek Road includes a visit to a ghost town.
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison: Two routes follow the course of the Gunnison River as it drills deeper into the Black Canyon. South Rim Road features more overlooks and paved roads, plus a descent into the canyon into the East Portal. The North Rim Road is unpaved and less popular—and much of the south rim remains shrouded for much of the day.

Front Range

  • Trail Ridge Road: North America’s highest road crosses the Continental Divide at 10,120 feet and features overlooks and short hikes in one of the continent’s most beautiful national parks and abundant alpine tundra wildlife, like elk, marmots, and bighorn sheep.
  • Old Fall River Road: An alternate route to Trail Ridge Road, Old Fall River Road was once the access road to the high country. One way only, it climbs much quicker than Trail Ridge Road, offering a unique glimpse into how the environment changes between elevations. It makes for an excellent loop option when combined with Trail Ridge Road.
  • Pikes Peak Summit Highway: The 19-mile course to the summit of Pikes Peak (14,115 feet) is lined with overlooks, and you won’t find better views of the southern Front Range. Every year, the Race to the Clouds takes place on the Pikes Peak highway.
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