July 24, 2020
There’s nothing quite as sweet as hitting the road for a beautiful drive in the heat of the summer. Colorado summers offer some of the most breathtaking drives with stunning mountain peaks and sharp views that are simply to die for. Driving through some of our state's most jaw dropping scenery is also a great way to get out and explore during these times when social distancing is so important. Another great thing? These epic drives don’t need to stop at summer! Explore throughout the spring and fall from the comfort of your very own car.
Above image is of the Million Dollar Highway, and is courtesy of Instagram via @chrisosunaa
We’ve rounded up the most epic drives and scenic byways that Colorado has to offer. Load up the entire family for a day trip or a weekend adventure full of magnificent views!
Above image courtesy of Instagram via @canoncitycolorado
Colorado’s skyline drive is one of a kind. With access to a one-way, paved road you’ll follow it up to the top of a high razorback ridge overlooking Canon City.
As the road to skyline is quite narrow, you will want to make sure you are a confident driver. The one-way road doesn’t leave much option for turning around after you’ve started, but we can guarantee that the mountain top will be worth it! You’ll enjoy views as far as the eye can see throughout this epic trip. Fun Fact: this road was created by prison inmates in 1905!
Above image via Instagram, courtesy of @all4bwb
How to get there: The road can be located from U.S 50 on the west edge of town.
Above image courtesy of @hankblumphotography via Instagram
One look at a photo of the Million Dollar Highway and we’re certain you’ll agree with us that this stunning and unique road makes the list.
The Million Dollar Highway reaches approximately 25 miles from Durango to Ridgway, offering fantastic views throughout the entire drive. You will climb up 3 mountain passes throughout your trip and will love the striking scenery it has to offer.
Be sure to drive with caution on this one as there are no guardrails and steep drop-offs. Summer will certainly the most ideal time to take on this beauty.
Above image courtesy of @mattnunezphotos via Instagram
How to get there: Take U.S. Route 550 from Bernalillo to Montrose. The Million Dollar Highway is the section from Silverton to Ouray.
Above image courtesy of Instagram via @hikinggirl5280
Above image courtesy of Instagram via @angelahopephotos
Trail Ridge Road is well known for being the highest continuous paved road in the nation. It has even been called the “Highway to the Sky”.
You will travel across Rocky Mountain National Park from east to west, coming across countless striking mountains vistas and some of the park’s best views. The road itself is 48 miles long and stretches between Estes Park in the east and Grand Lake in the west. 11 miles of the road are above the treeline, which makes for extra special views.
You’ll find plenty of options for pulling over to take in the views and snap photos that will be forever remembered! Insider tip: the pullout and short walk at "Lava Cliffs" is a great place to spot pikas.
Above image courtesy of @ag.agnini via Instagram
How to get there: You can access Trail Ridge Road from either Estes Park on the east side or Grand Lake on the west side of the park.
Above image courtesy of Instagram via @adbnaturephotos
Above image courtesy of Instagram via @cara_schweiger_photography
Mount Evans is your ticket to discovering Colorado wildlife as it’s common to find mountain goats and marmots grazing alongside this classic drive.
Gain access to Mount Evans by entering onto what is commonly called the ‘road into the sky’. You will drive approximately 60 miles along the road which takes you through nearly a 9,000-foot elevation change and find yourself as high as you can go by car in all of North America.
With plenty of spots to pull over, you can take in all the breathtaking views that the Rockies have to offer.
How to get there: Take Highway 5 to the top of Mount Evans.
Above image courtesy of Instagram via @juliehaider
Animas Fork is an incredible location just northeast of Silverton. You will discover a 65-mile loop that lets you pass through Animas Fork and discover this unique ghost town at over 11,000 feet!
This hidden gem gives an exclusive look in to the history of Colorado and provides many nooks and crannies to explore. Cabins in the Animas Fork date all the way back to 1873.
Among cabins you’ll find a post office, general store, and hotel. Definitely one of the most epic drive by locations that Colorado has to offer!
Above image courtesy of @visitsilverton via Instagram
How to get there: This road is located within a system of roads known as the Alpine Loop. It connects the small mountain towns of Lake City, Ouray, and Silverton. Keep in mind this road is unpaved, but in ideal summer weather it can be passed by 2wd vehicles.
Above image courtesy of Instagram via @larrythephotographer
Above image courtesy of Instagram via @travelcrestedbutte
As a high mountain pass with undeniable forest scenery, Kebler Pass is a must for your list of Colorado drives. In fact, it is host to one of the world's largest Aspen groves...perhaps even one of the world's largest living organisms! Learn more about that here.
Reaching from Crested Butte to Paonia, you will pass the West Beckwith Mountain, which offers one of the best views in the state. Warmer seasons offer beautiful greenery as the Gunnison National Forest skirts the road. The fall offers a special view with vibrant colors throughout the pass’s many trees.
You can also use the Kebler Pass as a great shortcut to Aspen or simply as a two-hour drive to take in all its beauty.
How to get there: Travel from Crested Butte to Highway 133 just north of Somerset. Kebler Pass is technically called Gunnison County Road 12.
Above image courtesy of Instagram via @bergatory24
If overlooks are your thing then you’re bound to enjoy the South Rim Road. It's comparable in beauty to the Grand Canyon, but it's actually one of our country's least visited National Parks. That means you can enjoy all its beauty for yourself, without fighting crowds.
Just 7 miles from Tomichi Point to High Point, undeniably striking views make this road one to remember. Be sure to give yourself ample time to enjoy the twelve different overlooks that the road has to offer as some require a short hike from the car.
You will be happy to know this road is paved and is consistent with views of the deep Black Canyon throughout. A sunset on the South Rim Road is also a very special treat to enjoy!
Above image courtesy of Instagram via @thorsenmark
How to get there: Start at the park entrance of the Gunnison National Park and follow the South Rim Road.
If you enjoyed this post on epic Colorado drives, you’ll love our posts on other local adventures and explorations!
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The majesty of Colorado's Sawatch Range. Words & photography by Wilder Ruth.