While there's plenty of outdoor activities to explore spread across the entire state of Colorado, the easiest way to see an abundance of the diverse scenery is to get behind the wheel and hit the road. There's something so satisfying about a drive saturated in picturesque views, wildlife sightings, and exciting twists and turns, something most people don't get to enjoy on their daily commutes.
Colorado knows a thing or twenty about scenic drives, paving the way for road trippers eager to take in as many sights as they can during their adventures. These byways in the Mile Higher State are guaranteed to give visitors an enhanced perspective on a state consistently recognized for its striking beauty.
9 Boreas Pass
Alpine lovers won't be able to keep their mouths closed as they drive down Boreas Pass, a scenic drive spanning for miles through the central Rocky Mountains. Towering tree tunnels set an enchanting tone, the rising mountains kissing the clouds in the distance. The route connects historic Como to the popular resort town of Breckenridge and goes up and over an impressive summit. The gravel road can be treacherous, which means a healthy adrenaline rush while slowly, safely navigating the spectacular drive.
8 San Juan Skyway
This drive is better described as a journey. It will take several hours to complete the entire San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway, and that's not figuring in the countless moments drivers will feel compelled to stop along the way. Many travelers take a couple of days to enjoy the whole experience. Visitors can stop in the charming small towns, admire the high mountain passes and cascading Bridal Veil Falls, and go back in time to the historic archaeological sites, Mesa Verde National Park and Chimney Rock.
Those who are short on time can drive the part of the byway known as the "Million Dollar Highway," a visually rewarding stretch of winding roads surrounded by dense aspen and alpine trees rising from the mountains. The highway passes through the old mining towns of Ouray and Durango, allowing travelers to witness residents who continue to honor their gorgeous natural environment.
7 Schofield Pass
Schofield Pass is reserved for drivers who feel comfortable navigating 15 miles of rocky terrain in a 4x4 vehicle. It's a dangerous drive that rewards the daredevils who conquer it with intimate views of the Colorado wilderness, including lush wildflower dotted meadows and a gorgeous turquoise-colored lake. Adventurers will also come across the ghost town of Crystal and its abandoned mill, a bit of history that's part eerie, part fairytale, and 100% worth it (in the right vehicle).
6 Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
Though this drive is dazzling any time of the year, the foliage in all its autumn glory makes early to mid-October the prime time to roll through the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. The aspens take on a glorious golden hue that pops against the richly toned evergreens, bright blue sky, and snow-capped mountains. Fall also happens to be mating season for elks, who perform their rituals in front of awe-stricken onlookers in Estes Park. Stops worth making along the way include the Continental Divide that separates North America's river systems and the creeks near old goldmines where hopefuls still pan for treasure.
5 Skyline Drive
A simple internet search will unveil the number one reason to complete the short Skyline Drive. The narrow road, hugged by colorful rock formations, is situated along the steep cliffs of the Hogback Hills. Hearts will be pumping all the way to the top, with no guardrails in sight and only panoramic views of the spectacular Arkansas River Valley below. The white-knuckled ride climaxes with the opportunity to snap the obligatory Skyline Drive photograph that gives off the same energy as reaching the top of a rollercoaster before the drop.
4 Kebler Pass
Located near Crested Butte, Colorado, in the Gunnison National Forest is Kebler Pass, a highly elevated mountain road open during the spring, summer, and fall. The 30-mile route is accessible to all vehicles, making it an ideal scenic drive. Spring and summer visitors will notice a stunning array of wildflowers, and fall drivers will be blessed with the colorful changing leaves against a majestic mountain backdrop. Wildlife sightings are common and include elk, mountain goats, and birds of prey circling high in the sky.
3 Phantom Canyon Road
It's remarkable to imagine trains traversing the narrow mountain passes along Phantom Canyon Road, a feat that can be accomplished by most standard vehicles today. The former railroad is considered a hidden gem located off the larger Gold Belt Tour scenic byway. Guests will go through several tunnels meticulously carved out by gold mine workers during the 19th-century. Sharp curves surrounded by green-speckled rock walls color the drive, giving way to impeccable mountain views that will have visitors asking themselves once again, "how did a train do that?"
2 Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road runs through Rocky Mountain National Park and is a designated "All American Road," an honor it wholly deserves. The paved road is brimming with mountain overlooks from over 10,000 feet of elevation. Along the way, guests will notice vibrant meadows and heaps of rocky earth left behind by melting glaciers. The alpine forests come to an abrupt stop near the top, presenting drivers with a vast tundra and sweeping views of the mountains in all directions.
1 Alpine Loop
Alpine Loop is another drive that offers a unique tundra experience. The circular route is high in the San Juan Mountains and best tackled with a 4x4 vehicle or ATV. The treeless road has an otherworldly appearance, and guests will enjoy the strange fulfillment they'll get from navigating the rocky emptiness. Along the way, visitors will notice splashes of color that look almost like a painter made a mistake while composing a landscape piece. Aside from the dust created by tires, the air is fresh and clear, bringing out the sharpness of the craggy mountain faces.