The 25 Best Colorado Scenic Drives

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Last Updated on: 28th January 2022, 03:25 am

Alpine Loop

Alpine Loop is a 65-mile treeless scenic byway with a breathtaking view. Located near Ouray, one of the most magical towns in Colorado because of its high altitude, Alpine Loop winds between the high mountains of Ouray, Silverton and Lake City.

The drive through the Loop is only suitable for a four-wheel car and a sedan may find it difficult if not impossible to navigate the road, but the view is satisfying. The most preferred time to visit this byway is from June to September when the roads are snow-free and the flowers are in full bloom.

Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic and Historic Byway

Cache La Poudre is a French word that means ‘The Powder’s Hiding Place’ in English. It was a popular valley where the smuggled powder was hidden until it was safe to carry them into the towns. The River, woodlands, and valleys add to the picturesque backdrop allowing the mountains to still hold the charms they had when it was mostly used by smugglers.

This scenic byway is a perfect place for lovers of outdoor activities. There is a lot of animal watching, kayaking, backpacking, rafting, stargazing, and canoeing to do.

Collegiate Peaks Byway

Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway is situated in the heart of Colorado. It is located in Chaffee County where the National Monument and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area are located. The byway is about 57-miles long. Remnants of the past are stored along this historic byway. They include but are not limited to the Old Nathrop Schoolhouse and the 1890 Gas Creek School.

Besides animal watching and mountain climbing, you can also enjoy fishing, kayaking skiing, and rafting.

Colorado River Headwaters Byway

This spectacular byway begins at the headwaters of the Colorado River, one of the largest rivers in the Western USA. This byway is an incredible 80-miles of road that is flaunted not just by the Colorado River, but by several different lakes as well.

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Historically, the area surrounding the Colorado River was flooded with miners who thought that the Colorado River will be the best site to discover gold. Eventually, the disappointment and poverty forced them to convert the mining town into a hub for visitors seeking a relaxation center. There are ranches, hot springs, and a lot of fishing and hiking activities to enjoy.

Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway

Located in Western Colorado and Eastern Utah, this scenic byway is as fascinating as it is long. It is a stunning 512 miles of looped road flaunted by canyons, rivers, and high lands. It takes about 3 to 4 days to completely travel the road. 

The highway was constructed in 2002 and there are still dinosaur footprints that are over a hundred million years old. The best time to pass through the byway is from spring to fall as it may become difficult to drive on in winter.

Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway

Located in the Northwestern part of Colorado, the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway is about 80 miles long and is quite isolated. It takes about three hours to complete the drive. Some outdoor activities to enjoy include camping, hiking, fishing, biking, and animal watching.

The byway also has winter activities that include snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and skiing. There is a public restaurant, a lodge and the necessary facilities for visitors who plan to stay for the night.

Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway

Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic byway are located in Pueblo, Colorado. The land was mostly used by fur traders and trappers in the past. It is a 103-mile drive that passes through Lake Pueblo state park which allows visitors to explore the land.

The byway continues through Wetmore and winds through the San Isabel national forest. There is a lot of wildlife viewing along the byway. Some rare animals that can be found here include elks, gray foxes, and pronghorns.

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Gold Belt Tour Scenic and Historic Byway

It is a 131-mile scenic byway that was designated a National Scenic Byway in 2000. The byway begins from Florissant and passes through Cripple Creek and Canon city to stop at Florence.

Gold Belt Tour is not a completely smooth road, so a 4WD is more suitable. The road opens up to a stunning and rich view that is especially dazzling when you pass through the small towns that are situated in different locations by the road.

Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway

The Grand Mesa Scenic byway is a 63-mile route that connects Mesa and Cedaredge. The dazzling view looks like something out of a painting. There are lots of small lakes that can be found along the byway, the presence of these lakes makes fishing a favorite outdoor activity for many.

Hiking is also very popular as the trails are well marked. Winter recreational activities are also available inappropriate weather conditions. These activities include skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing.

Guanella Pass Road

The Guanella Pass Scenic byway is a detour from Highway 285. It is quite a short drive as compared to many other byways in Colorado. At only 22 miles, the byway is fully packed with nature and activities. Driving along the road, you get to see Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt.

To get a closer look at the scenery, you can walk or hike along the mountains or enjoy the view from one of the many hotels and restaurants in Georgetown where it is situated.

Highway of Legends

The Highway of Legends is an 81-mile byway located in Southern Colorado. This highway got its unique name after some Mexican serial killers were ambushed and killed by Tom Tobin, an Irish American bounty hunter. The highway is enclosed by high rock formations that made it quite scary to pass back in the day. Nowadays, it is a famous byway for people who are looking to explore southern Colorado.

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The road takes you through national forests, wildlife parks, and mountainous regions. You can fish, hike, visit museums and learn about the history of the American-Indians who used to live in the area.

Lariat Loop Scenic and Historic Byway

For many, the idea of getting the full experience of the wild is fascinating, yet farfetched. Lariat Loop provides a golden opportunity for just that. This byway shows you the Rocky Mountains and the difficult terrain that are characteristics of the Wild West in its authenticity and breathtaking wholeness.

A drive through Lariat Loop takes you on not just a journey, but a whole adventure.There are lots of outdoor activities that you can enjoy. And if you simply want to observe nature, you can go walking or enjoy the scenery from atop a rock. You can visit museums and art galleries too.

Los Caminos Antiguos

A combination of cultures, traditions, and people is the first thing to notice when you drive on this road. This is where the rich Mexican culture mixes with south-central Colorado. Carefully hidden in San Luis Valley, Los Caminos Antiguos is an experience that will leave you hungry for more.

The beauty of San Luis Valley is in its nature; preserved, wild, and very much alive. Natives will tell you that Colorado began in this valley and much of what you will see along the 129-mile drive on Los Caminos Antiguos, may not be present anywhere else in Colorado.

Mount Evans Scenic Byway

Mount Evans Scenic Byway is 28 miles long and begins at the Idaho Springs Visitor Center. The road was built to link Summit Lake Park and Echo Lake Park. It was designated a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1993. The road takes you from the Visitor Center through Mount Evans Wilderness to stop at Mount Evans.

The highway is only accessible on specific days from Memorial Day through Labour Day because the road zig-zags up the mountain making it a bit dangerous to drive on in bad weather conditions.

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Pawnee Pioneer Trails

Pawnee Pioneer Trails begins from Ault and passes the Pawnee National Grassland. This grassland is a large mass of dry land that goes on for miles. You will get to see deer, bears, antelopes, and even buffalos roaming the land while you drive by. The grassland is dry because rain has ceased to fall within the area.

You will also see Pawnee buttes after the Pawnee Grasslands. Pawnee Buttes is a photographer’s dream. Standing at 250 feet tall, the buttes are quite looming yet mystifying. Hikers will also find it fun as they discover what lies within the buttes.

Peak to Peak Scenic and Historic Byway

This byway is the oldest scenic byway in Colorado and it was established in 1918. Peak to Peak Scenic byway begins from Boulder, Colorado, and passes through Boulder Canyon, Nederland, Larimer, Estes Park, and Denver. The driveway is stunning, but it is most stunning in autumn when the flowers and leaves are at their most beautiful autumnal colors.

There are cabins and cottages to lodging in and outdoor activities such as backpacking and biking to enjoy.

San Juan Skyway

The San Juan Skyway is one of the longest scenic drives in Colorado. Covering a whopping 236 miles of road, the road has so many twists and turns which makes for quite an exciting ride. You can reach up to about 14,000 feet above ground level and it is quite safe to drive at any time of year.

The road was constructed in 1988 around mountain towns like Telluride and Ouray. The mountains are breathtaking, one of the most common attraction sites for travelers and lovers of nature.

Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway

This byway located in Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico passes through Colorado. It connects Lamar to Trinidad. A very popular trail then and an even more popular trail now, Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway are about 188 miles of road that stretches into various towns; old and new.

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The trail is historic and provides a lot of cultural blend between the Spanish, Native Americans, and the west. The trail used to be one of the biggest trade routes in the United States and is now one of the biggest scenic byways in the country.

Silver Thread Scenic Byway

Silver Thread Scenic Byway is a 75-mile scenic drive that is located near Almont. You get to see the beautiful San Juan Mountains and the Wheeler Geographic National Area. The road is quite rough and a 4WD car is most suitable for it. If you want to explore further, be ready to hike up sometimes tough mountains.

The North Clear Creek Waterfalls is also located around the area of the byway which means besides hiking, you can also go fishing. In winter, lovers of outdoor activities may enjoy snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

South Platte River Trail

Located near Littleton, around South Platte Park, the South Platte River Trail is only about 18 miles long and is often heavily trafficked. The trail is not as popular as many other trails in Colorado, but it is one of the most peaceful trails despite the traffic. There is a river close by that attracts birds and some wildlife.

You can go on nature trips or simply go on a hike in the mountains close by. There are wildflowers and biking trails as well as an incredibly calming view for those who may need some peace and quiet to reconnect with nature and themselves!

Top of the Rockies

This byway is an incredible 9000 feet above normal ground level. It is one of the highest byways in the USA and it connects Tennessee Pass to Leadville, Colorado. It was designated a National Scenic Byway in 1998 and has since caught the eye of many travelers and visitors because of how high it is.

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The scenery is fantastic especially in winter, but unfortunately, the road is closed in early November to prevent accidents due to the snow and slippery road.

Trail of the Ancients

Located in the states of Colorado and Utah, the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway is a geological treasure. There are beautifully colored rocks and soft sandstones. Chaco Canyon, a famous ceremonial center that was used by locals from 850 to 1250 can be seen from the trail.

The trail also opens up to two famous ruins along the byway; the Aztec Ruins National Monument and the Salmon Ruins. You can also visit the badlands or descend the canyon. Regardless of what you choose to do, the drive promises to be unforgettable!

Trail Ridge Road/ Beaver Meadow Road

Trail Ridge Road is a 48-mile road that stretches from Estes Park to Grand Lake, Colorado. The road has been in existence since 1932. The road is often closed in winter until the snow has melted to make it less dangerous for travelers passing through it.

The Ridge itself was used by Native Americans as a link or a bridge between the east and the west. Nowadays, the area is used for recreational activities that include hiking, bird watching, and biking.

Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway

If there is any perfect byway in Colorado for climbing, it is probably the Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic byway. There are many sandstones that are dotted on the large expanse of land on the sides of the road. But be careful to avoid climbing the sandstones when the weather is too hot as rattlesnakes are quite common sights in summer.

The byway stretches for about 130 miles from western Colorado to the Utah Border. If you don’t want to go climbing, you can rent an RV and camp for a few days near the Unaweep Canyons.

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West Elk Loop  

The West Elk Loop Scenic byway is one of the most fascinating byways in Colorado. The byway is shaped like a lasso and passes several towns and cities. It is a stunning 205-mile drive and stops are provided in towns like Gunnison, Carbondale, and Crested Butte.