Summer in Colorado is for cruising with the windows down, the dogs head out the the window (or yours), favorite tunes on the radio, drinking in the beautiful views. In the state there are twenty-six byways and eleven have the title of America’s Byways, which gives Colorado more national designations than any other state.
So fill up the tank, pack a picnic, and spend some time seeing the sights!
5 SCENIC DRIVES NEAR DENVER
#1 LITTLETON CRABAPPLE ROUTE
7 miles, best from May, walk/bike/drive
Over 40 ago, Mayor Vaughn Gardinier in Littleton started a beautification program by planting crabapple trees along the city streets. The community followed suit and there are now over 7,000 trees along the seven mile route creating the Littleton Crabapple Route. In the spring the blossoms along the streets burst forth and rival the cherry trees in Washington DC. This is a beautiful ride, walk or bike route any time of year, but especially in May.
#2 PEAK TO PEAK
55 miles, drive/bike
Just a short drive out of Denver is the stunning Peak to Peak highway, a road traveling along and beside the Continental Divide. If you begin at Black Hawk (you can play a few slots for luck, we won’t tell) and then start along the leisurely drive for a beautiful afternoon. If you have a little time to explore along the way you might stop and visit:
- Stop for a bite to eat and if you can see a show at the Stage Stop in Rollinsville
- Ride the whimsical Carousel of Happiness in Nederland ($1 a ride!)
- See the beautiful Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel/Chapel on the Rock in Allenspark
- Visit the relocated cabin that belonged to the “Father of the Rocky Mountain National Park” at the Enos Mills Cabin just outside of Estes Park
Coming out of the mountains to Estes Park and seeing the valley below is breathtaking. Estes Park has a lively downtown, with lots of fun shops to visit for an afternoon or find a hotel and stay there for a weekend.
#3 MOUNT EVANS
49 miles – drive/bike
From Idaho Springs climb up a winding road (while keeping an eye out for the road warriors who cycle it!) to the peak of Mount Evans at a refreshing altitude of 14,130 feet. This drive takes sightseers through a variety of Colorado scenes from pine forests to high altitude meadows. Keep your eyes open for wildlife like hardy mountain goats, picas, marmots and circling hawks. The drive is known for the wildflowers in the spring and the incredible vistas of color in the autumn.
Since you start and return to Idaho Springs there are a few great places to visit:
- Soak in the incredible hot mineral water at the Indian Hot Springs.
- Built at the mouth of the Argo tunnel is the building known as the Argo Gold Mill and Tunnel. In its heyday this incredible building processed over 100 million dollars of gold ore. For the first time in 75 years the Argo is open to visitors offering tours and rides through the past.
- The Charlie Tayler Water Wheel is an original 1893 water wheel. It was used at a gold-mining site, but was relocated to this forested area for tourists to discover.
- Whether or not you believe in the mining gnomes that came over with the Cornish miners the Tommyknocker Brewery will have you raising a glass with the best of them.
Psst… Before planning a trip please note that the Mt. Evans summit is open between Memorial and Labor Day. Due to the altitude it can be cool and still give you a sunburn so remember to bring sunscreen and sweaters!
#4 LARIAT LOOP
40 miles – drive/sections for biking
Lariat Loop is one of the eleven byways that has been designated as a National Sceinc Byway. This loop meanders its way through Golden, Morrison, Kittredge, and Evergreen, past lakes, half a dozen National Parks and through Lookout Mountain Park.
On this loop you might be interested in visiting:
- If you haven’t been to Colorado iconic Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre this is the loop to stop and climb one of the most beautiful outdoor venues in the United States.
- Visit one of Colorado’s celebrity at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave near Golden. This museum is a great place to learn about the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show that helped create and sustain the legends and lifestyles of the wild west.
- Dinosaur Ridge is a National Natural Landmark that has been recognized as one of the top dinosaur track sites in the world. Lots to do here for adults and children who are enthusiastic about dinosaurs.
- Visit the The Boettcher Mansion in the Lookout Mountain Preserve and wander around this beautiful building for a self-guided tour.
- Rock climbers suggest some excellent routes at Lookout Mountain Crag.
#5 GUANELLA PASS
Guanella Pass is closed during winters, but when it opens it is worth a trip out of the city, into the wild and over the mountains. Turn on your latest music obsession and experience the beauty of Colorado. There are a number of trails, campsites and lakes on this road, so if you want to kayak, hike, or stay overnight you certainly have the option.
Psst… This road might have closures due to weather or debris! If you are planning a visit call for Guanella Pass Road information at 303-679-2422, ext. 2, for updates.