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Scenic Autumn Drives in Colorado with a destination

It seems that every Colorado travel writer has authored an article about scenic fall drives around our beautiful state. I’ve decided to do the same, but with a twist. With gas prices going back up (again), it’s hard to justify driving miles and miles simply to take photographs of aspens, however, I’m going to share with you three scenic autumn drives around Colorado that include an endpoint with a purpose.

Kenosha Pass Sept 19 2009

The view from Kenosha Pass, Colorado on September 19, 2009. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer

Route: Guanella Pass Scenic & Historic Byway

Destination: South Park City Museum in Fairplay, Colorado

Accessible either from I70 at Georgtown, or via Grant at US 285, this 23-mile alpine route takes you through Pike and Arapahoe National Forests. My recommendation is to start in Georgetown with a delicious breakfast at The Happy Cooker.

After breakfast, take this lovely fall drive to the town of Grant, where you will turn right on US 285 and take the highway 15 minutes to the top of Kenosha Pass. At the top of the pass you get a breathtaking view of the South Park area. I’ve seen it often because my in-laws have a home outside of Fairplay, Colorado. It’s a truly gorgeous scene at any time of year, but during autumn the mountain and valley glow with huge groves of yellow aspens.

On Saturday, September 8, the South Park City Museum is holding an antiques, relics and artifacts sale, so this is the perfect opportunity to visit this museum and check out the sale at the same time. South Park City is a re-creation of a Colorado mining town using real structures from around the area that have been relocated to the museum’s property. I’ve written about the museum HERE on HeidiTown. You can visit them online at SouthParkCity.org  or find them on Facebook.

Recommended Stay:   Hand Hotel B&B, every room is said to be haunted. On my stay, I didn’t see any ghosts, but I closed my eyes every time I walked by “Grandma’s Room,” where a rocking chair is said to rock periodically without anyone in it.

Leadville is an historic mining town with a colorful past. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer.

Route: Independence Pass, Hwy 82 from Aspen to Twin Lakes

Destination: Leadville

Independence Pass is the 32 miles on Hwy 82 that connects Aspen to Twin Lakes, Colorado. At 12,095 feet, the summit of the pass marks the Continental Divide. This byway offers amazing scenery during the spring and fall.

The road traverses through the White River and Pike & San Isabel National Forests. The route takes you through aspen groves and towering granite walls, tundra and meadows. Those with a fear of heights may find their hearts in their throats at times, but the views will be worth it.

There are lots of campsites and hikes along this stretch of highway along the slopes of the Sawatch Range.

Once you pass Twin Lakes, Colorado, turn north on US24 and in approximately 15 miles you’ll arrive in Leadville. On September 14-16, 2012, visitors can experience Explore Historic Leadville.

During this three-day event, the Wild West will come alive. Leadville has a colorful history filled with memorable characters. Historical tours begin on Friday at the Colorado Mountain College Campus, and the weekend will educate participants through group tours, performances, presentations and more.

For reservation information contact Colorado Mountain College in Leadville at (719) 486-4292 or jgreen@coloradomtn.edu or visit HERE. For everything happening in Twin Lakes/Leadville go to VisitLeadvilleCo.com.

Peak-to-Peak Scenic & Historic Byway

Destination: Black Hawk, Colorado

This 71 mile route, from Estes Park to Black Hawk will take you through an aspen dotted landscape and past the 14,255-foot Longs Peak. From Estes take CO-7 East to CO-72 East (eventually becomes Hwy 119) into Black Hawk.

Take time to stop over for coffee in the adorable town of Nederland, best known for Frozen Dead Guy Days. If you’re hungry for lunch, I recommend the historic Millsite Inn along the Peak-to-Peak Hwy in Ward, Colorado. I have fond memories of stopping there for soup after a long day of snowshoeing in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Once you reach Black Hawk,  I don’t have to tell you what to do there! Cha ching!

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If you have a favorite Colorado scenic autumn drive, feel free to leave a comment here and tell us about it.

Please note: Colorado  news outlets are reporting that peak color viewing in 2012 will be during the third week of September.

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