Scenic Colorado Drives
Take a trip on some of America’s Favorite Byways
By Mary Anderson
While hiking, biking and climbing may be your first choice for experiencing our state’s beauty, you can also take in incredible views and historical sites from your car. Colorado is home to 26 Scenic and Historic Byways, including 11 federally designated as America’s Byways. Here are five of our favorites:
1. Mount Evans Scenic Byway 49 miles / 2 hours
Mount Evans Road may be the only road on this list not designated as one of America’s Byways, but it is the highest paved road in North America. Starting in Idaho Springs, you’ll climb up to the summit at 14,262 feet. Along the way, look out your window to see beautiful alpine lakes, massive granite walls and even a herd of bighorn sheep or mountain goats. Once reaching the peak, the road dead ends at Bergen Park.
2. Trail Ridge Road/Beaver Meadow Road 48 miles / 2-3 hours
Located in Rocky Mountain National Park, this scenic drive features America’s highest continuously paved road. Unlike Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the road doesn’t dead end. You’ll travel between 12,000 to 14,000 feet of elevation, with 11 miles above treeline looking over awe-inspiring views of the Rocky Mountains.
3. Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway 82 miles / 2-3 hours
The Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway features Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, the two tallest peaks in the state. You’ll pass through the Continental Divide twice, following the Arkansas River through Leadville, Colorado’s highest incorporated town.
4. San Juan Skyway 236 miles / 7 hours
The longest road on this list, the San Juan Skyway features the incredible San Juan Mountains. Beginning in the southern edge, the road loops through Durango, Silverton, Ouray and Telluride, ending at Mesa Verde National Park.
5. Lariat Loop Scenic and Historic Byway 40 miles / 2 hours
Connecting Lariat Trail and Bear Creek Canyon, Lariat Loop Scenic and Historic Byway showcases the beauty of the foothills and some interesting history. You’ll pass by Dinosaur Ridge, Evergreen, Hiawatha Homestead, Buffalo Bill’s Museum and Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. It’s also the closest drive on this list to Denver, making it a perfect drive to take visitors to the Front Range.