Arapaho Scenic Drives - Colorado Scenic Drives

The National Scenic Byways in the Arapaho National Forest are designated for their spectacular scenery, wildlife or history.

Guanella Pass

Where: 40 miles SW of Denver, off I-70 or U.S. 285
Length: 22 miles
Road Surface: partly paved/partly gravel
Elevation: 10,975' at the Pass
Remarks: Tight curves on the Pass make RV travel difficult. Closed in winter.

The Guanella Pass Road is located 40 miles southwest of Denver, with access from both I-70 and U.S. 285. The 22-mile byway provides a scenic drive between the historic towns of Georgetown to the north and Grant to the south. "Something for everyone" could be the motto of this road: distinctive geologic features, unique vegetative communities, and exceptional fish and wildlife can all be found here.

A few of the highlights encountered along Guanella Pass from Georgetown to Grant are: the Historic Georgetown Loop Railroad, the site of the old Silverdale mining camp, and access to the chimney remains of Pavilion Point.

Partly paved, partly gravelled, the entire byway is suitable for passenger cars. Tight curves on the Pass make RV travel difficult.

Peak to Peak

Where: Colorado Hwys 7-72-119, from Estes Park to Black Hawk
Length: 55 miles
Road Surface: paved
Elevation: Up to 9,300'

The Peak to Peak Highway from Black Hawk to Estes Park (Colorado State Highways 119, 7, and 72), is a paved road surrounded by scenic beauty, numerous recreation opportunities, and a rich history. All of this is less than an hour's drive from Denver, Colorado.

The 55 mile road is well known as a route to view spectacular fall foliage, snow-capped peaks in the winter and early summer, and beautiful mountain vistas all year long. The area is rich in human history that typifies the settlement of Colorado and the West. Central City and Black Hawk were mining communities in the late 1800's and are now historical districts with preserved period architecture.. Rollins Pass was the first real wagon road running directly west of Denver. At the northern terminus, Estes Park is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Mount Evans

Where: 30 miles W of Denver, off I-70 to state road 103
Length: 14 miles
Road Surface: paved
Elevation: 14,264' at summit
Remarks: Route 5 is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day only. The Forest Service Visitor Center in Idaho Springs offers a self-guided tape tour. Beginning 7/7/97 There is a $6.00 entrance fee to travel to the top of Mt. Evans

Visitors to Mount Evans enjoy prime views of Rocky Mountain scenery as they drive up the country's highest paved road. Along the 14 mile route is Summit Lake, the highest wheelchair-accessible lake in the United States.

The drive passes through sub-alpine forests and the arctic-like alpine tundra. Wildlife, including bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats, are often seen near the road.

The Forest Service Visitor Center, at the Clear Creek Ranger District office in Idaho Springs, offers a self-guided tape tour. An interpretive trail at the Visitor Center takes visitors to the site of Jackson's discovery, where the first placer mine operation began during the Colorado Gold Rush.

Except for route 5 to the top of Mount Evans, the road is open and maintained year-round. Highway 5 is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Intense winters keep the road closed during the winter months.

Cache la Poudre-North Park Byway

Where: Highway 14, north of Fort Collins
Length: 101 miles
Road Surface: paved
Elevation: 10,276' at Cameron Pass

Located between the historic towns of Fort Collins and Walden, this 101 mile long byway winds from plains to peaks. Travel through hogback ridges into the Poudre Canyon, over Cameron Pass and into North Park to Walden.

This area loomed large in the lives of Native Americans, trappers, explorers, miners, settlers, soldiers, stage-travelers, outlaws, farmers--in short, the whole pageant of the settlement of the Great West.

The Cache la Poudre, Colorado's first National Wild and Scenic River, winds up the canyon for two-thirds the length of the byway. Along the way, travelers en-counter picturesque historic resorts and communities, trails, campgrounds, geological sites, trout fishing, a 10,276-foot mountain pass, sweeping views, and bountiful wildlife including Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, deer, elk, black bear, and cougar.

Pawnee Pioneer Trails

Where: Beginning about 10 miles west of Fort Collins and along Highway 14 and various county roads
Length: 125 miles
Road Surface: part paved, part gravel
Elevation: 5,000'
Remarks: Avoid travel on gravel county roads after rain or snowfall. Take a full tank of gas due to limited area services.

Colorado's northeastern high plain offers travelers an opportunity to discover the more subtle diversity of the prairie. The Pawnee Pioneer Trails route follows the old Native American and pioneer trails from the fertile South Platte River Valley to one of the few preserved remnants of shortgrass prairie, the Pawnee National Grassland. The 125-mile route through the agricultural towns of Sterling, Fort Morgan and Ault along State Highway 14 and various Weld County roads takes the visitor through a gentle landscape of prairie and rock bluffs. A short detour accesses a scenic overview of the Pawnee Buttes.

The byway provides opportunities to view and interpret the history, environment and land management of the area. There are museums in Sterling, Fort Morgan, and Greeley. Visitors can explore tree sculptures, historical sites, Native American battlegrounds, and ghost towns.

Move on to:
Arapaho National Forest

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 18 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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