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Colorado Road Trip: 26 Scenic Byways and Small Towns to Visit This Summer!

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Who’s in for a Colorado road trip?

In summer 2021, there’s no better way for Coloradans to explore their state than behind the wheel of a car. From Colorado’s diverse landscape of arid deserts and river canyons to pristine plains and snow-capped mountains, Coloradans can experience some of the best kept secret small towns of the state and the most scenic roads connecting them. Many of Colorado’s storied mountain passes including Independence Pass, Cottonwood Pass and Trail Ridge Road, have recently opened for the season offering breathtaking routes to the state’s mountain towns. Colorado.com has some fantastic ideas:

COLORADO SCENIC & HISTORIC BYWAYS
New for Summer 2020, the Colorado Tourism Office has launched an interactive micro-site highlighting the state’s 26 Scenic & Historic Byways. The site includes an interactive map, which clicks through to each byway and allows travelers to sort by region, interest or season. Guests can take a deep dive into each byway to discover trip tips, side-trip suggestions and more. A few highlights include: 

Southern Colorado’s Highway of Legends Historic and Scenic Byway: Travel beneath the iconic Spanish Peaks on the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway.  The lore of this area is vivid, swirling in spiritual myths of the American Indians and the history of their clashes with Spanish explorers.

Silver Thread Scenic Byway: This Byway travels through breathtaking, only-in-Colorado views and stretches of land so remote travelers will feel as though they’re trekking through uncharted territory while discovering hidden treasures in two historic districts, Creede and Lake City.

Trail of the Ancients Byway: Colorado’s Trail of The Ancients takes visitors to two remote national monuments and Mesa Verde National Park. This National Scenic Byway near Cortez and Dolores takes road trippers through the heart of the landscape and unique history of the American Southwest.

The Alpine Loop: This Byway travels through a surreal landscape of treeless tundra, wildflower meadows and the dramatic San Juan Mountains — passing over mining roads established in the late 1800s near Silverton, Ouray and Lake City.

Gold Belt Scenic Byway: Colorado’s Gold Belt Tour showcases some of the most productive gold mining areas in the world. Along the belt lies Cripple Creek and Victor, where travelers can participate in tours of old mines, as well as view active operations. Preserved in the wild landscape within the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument are fossils from an ancient ecosystem dating back 34 million years ago.

The Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway: Snow-capped mountains, jagged canyons, carpeted meadows, and aspen-covered hillsides make the Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway one of the most stunning drives in Colorado. Travelers can also pass through Florence and Westcliffe along The Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway Arts and Antiques Tour and get lost in the treasures of Colorado. 

(Alpine Loop)

 

COLORADO ROAD TRIP ITINERARIES
For more ideas on how to explore the Centennial State via car, the Colorado Tourism Office has assembled an extensive collection of more than 150 Colo-Road Trip Itineraries that take travelers on multi-day adventures across the state. Each itinerary is flexible and highlights historic attractions, adventure activities and cultural offerings, as well as places to eat and stay along the way.

Colo-Road Tripping Without a Car: Low emissions. High equity. Zero worry. Travelers to Colorado can ditch the wheels but not the adventure and utilize public transportation while exploring the state. This itinerary encourages visitors to travel Colorado’s cityscapes and mountains, while supporting local communities and minimizing their carbon footprint.

Discover the Great West: Visitors can walk in the steps of dinosaurs, indulge in a hot springs soak, hike to a waterfall, explore adorable towns and more on this six-day trip through Colorado’s Great West region.

Three Days of Fun Along The Top of The Rockies: Roadtrippers will travel along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway through Leadville, Twin Lakes and Aspen, which are known for their high alpine peaks, acres upon acres of forest land, charming Victorian architecture and Wild West history.

Tour De NoCo: Explore the natural beauty of Northern Colorado on this 150-plus mile journey that includes a genetically-pure buffalo herd, an authentic drive-in movie theater, a Colorado Scenic Byway, a Wild & Scenic River, a yurt stay, a National Wildlife Refuge and so much more.

3 Days on the Pioneering Plains: Travelers can unwind and enjoy a laid-back vacation through the history of the Colorado plains including a visit to Jackson Lake State Park, the “Oasis of the Plains.” For the history-buffs, Burlington offers a step back through time into the wild west.  

(Jackson Lake State Park)

HIT THE TRAIL IN COLORADO
Coloradans can also explore along any of the state’s impressive trails that connect communities across the state by highlighting favorite activities and pastimes.

Colorado Stargazing: Colorado Stargazing: Experience the Night connects several remote Colorado locations known for their dark skies and incredible stargazing opportunities. It also highlights dark-sky events and encourages the conservation and preservation of all of Colorado’s natural and cultural resources. 

Historic Hot Springs LoopThermal hot springs flow abundantly throughout the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Soaking in natural mineral water is a time-honored tradition to enhance wellness. There’s never been a better time to explore along the Historic Hot Springs Loop which offers stops in communities including Steamboat Springs, Buena Vista, Salida, Pagosa Springs, Ridgway, Ouray and Glenwood Springs.

(Pagosa Springs)

Colorado Spirits TrailColorado boasts one of the largest and most vibrant distilling communities in the country. To inspire the discovery of spirits pioneered by some of the most creative makers in the industry, 61 Colorado craft distilleries have joined together to create the Colorado Spirits Trail that takes travelers across the state to taste some of the best libations.

Colorado Creative CorridorFeaturing five state-certified Creative Districts nestled in the mountains of western Colorado: Carbondale, Paonia, Crested Butte, Ridgway and Salida, the Colorado Creative Corridor offers a collective experience of unique event programming and activities alongside mountain-town eclecticism, majestic vistas, outdoor recreation and authentic mountain culture.

Colorado Wine Trails: There are wineries all over Colorado, but a prime spot to enjoy their tasting rooms is the heart of Colorado’s wine country: the Western Slope. Nestled throughout the desert mountains of northwest Colorado near Grand Junction and Palisade, there are a handful of wine trails to help guide an unforgettable adventure in tasting.

Colorado Summer Vacation Guide Additional Resources

Colorado Family Vacation Guide 2021

Denver Summer Activity Guide (200+ ideas)

Crested Butte’s Mountain Paradise for Families

Royal Gorge: The Ultimate Colorado Escape for Denver Families (with the coolest lodge in Colorado)

10 Best Places to Camp in Colorado

Kids Guide to Camping in Colorado’s Mountain Towns

Colorado’s Top Five Lodging Suggestions

25 great fishing ponds in Denver

Denver’s best biking trails for kids

15 Fun and Quirky Roadside Attractions in Colorado

Winter Park in the Summertime

Best of Summer – Visit Leadville and Twin Lakes 

Top 10 Summer Adventures for Colorado Families

2019 Summer Vacation in Colorado: 75+ ideas for families

Colorado Summer Vacation Guide

2019 Denver Summer Activity Guide (150+ ideas!)

Family travel: Top 8 Family Vacations

Guide to Denver’s Splash Parks and Spray Fountains

Best Hikes for Kids in the Denver area

Where to pull of I-70 when you’re stuck in traffic (fun activities and restaurants)

10 of Colorado’s most scenic waterfall hikes

10 Beautiful Places in Colorado You Didn’t Know About

Borrow a Colorado State Parks Pass from Your Library

Yurt Village at Snow Mountain Ranch is Star-lit Fun

Cool Off This Summer at Colorado’s Best Beaches

A Local’s Guide to Gunnison’s Magical Summers

Best Denver-area Parks for Beginner Trail Runners (and hikers)

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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