Plan a Colorado Road Trip: Explore the Scenic Byways

It is likely that 2021 will be another big year for the road trip. With so many unknowns in regarding to vaccines and the airlines, jumping in the car just may be a lot easier. But where will you go?

Plan a Colorado Road Trip Explore the Scenic Byways (3).

Colorado is not short on beauty and it is best seen during a road trip. Thankfully, there is a website dedicated to some of the most scenic drives in the state, Colorado Scenic & Historic Byways, to be exact. What is a scenic byway? Since 1989, these routes around Colorado have been deemed worth the drive to see historic sites and expansive views. Basically, the state has done the hard work, now you just have to drive.

There are 26 of these routes around Colorado, and each provides views as well as having appeal to the history buff. They also take the driver through charming little towns along the way. These scenic byways are an excellent way to see the state. Thankfully, there’s a way to check them out online.

At, you can see all routes and read a little about each one. Each route is outlined (literally) and there is a bit written about each one on the site. There are also hyperlinks to more information. Some byways are quite famous like Peak to Peak that is not only the oldest byway in Colorado but also links Estes Park to Black Hawk and is one of the prettiest fall drives in the west.

Plan a Colorado Road Trip Explore the Scenic Byways (4).
Canyon of the Ancients

Mount Evans has the distinction of being Colorado’s highest byway and the highest paved road in North America. The San Juan Skyway links famous towns such as Telluride and Durango.

RELATED: The Mayor’s Travel Memories from the Road

While these better known routes are worth taking, there are a few “off the beaten path” byways that I believe you should consider in 2021.

Plan a Colorado Road Trip Explore the Scenic Byways (0).
Picking my own pepper on a tour with Frontier Pathways in Pueblo, Colorado.

For example, Frontier Pathways byway is a route that should be considered and not only because the best green chiles can be found in Pueblo, although I think that’s reason enough to go. We found an excellent and well-priced Airbnb during our last trip to Pueblo and there’s lots in this town to keep you busy.

RELATED: A Road Trip in Southern Colorado

Hook up with Frontier Pathways Scenic & Historic Byway to add one of their tours to your agenda. This will massively broaden your understanding of this part of Colorado. By the way, Pueblo is home to 83 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. If you are traveling with a history aficionado you may want to spend a little extra time here.

A morning soak. Experience the magic of Avalanche Ranch.
Avalanche Ranch Cabins & Hot Springs

I must also recommend the West Elk Loop. This is a region that I have grown quite familiar with over the years. This scenic byway has it all: adorable towns, huge bodies of blue water, deep canyons, a Colorado castle and hot springs. What more can one ask for?

Start in Carbondale, fueling up at White House Pizza, and then make the drive past Redstone Castle, over McClure Pass and drop into one of my favorite areas of Colorado, the North Fork Valley which encompasses Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford. Stop here for photos of sheep or to browse a market like Berg Harvest for farm fresh cherries.

Plan a Colorado Road Trip: Explore the Scenic Byways
The Living Farm, Paonia, Colorado
Plan a Colorado Road Trip Explore the Scenic Byways (2)
Hotchkiss, Colorado. Taken from Big B’s Orchard.

From here drive the North Rim of the Canyon of the Gunnison National Park toward Blue Mesa Reservoir. Stop in Gunnison for a sandwich at Firebrand Delicatessen and then, keeping your eyes peeled for bald eagles along the river, drive into Crested Butte, one of Colorado’s cutest towns.

RELATED: A Delicious 3-Day Dining Guide to Crested Butte

I can’t write about all 26 of the scenic byways. I can tell you that the Grand Mesa byway is covered in wildflowers during the summer, the Los Caminos Antiguos byway has views worthy of a magazine spread, and The Trail of Ancients byway is an out-of-this world experience.

Road Trip Colorado Scenic Byways. HeidiTown (Blue Mesa Reservoir 2019)
Blue Mesa Reservoir, 2019

Go to the website,, and start planning your road trip today. I have traveled many of these roads so if you have questions, leave them here in the comment area. If I can’t help you, I’ll find someone who can.


  1. I appreciate you feathering this beautiful part of Colorado once again. If you live in Colorado and have not made the West Elk Loop, you have missed some of the nicest Colorado has to offer.
    Love what you are posting during the Pandemic!


    1. Thank you so much.

      I do love the West Elk Loop! No hiding that!

      I have posted a little during the pandemic. I find it difficult to be creative when I’m not traveling, but I do need posts! That’s why they have been a little sparse.

      I appreciate your comments! Makes it feel worthwhile if someone is reading what I write. Haha!


  2. Coloradans have sought out scenic drives during the pandemic and the Colorado Byways have seen the surge in rural areas. Towns still need the economic benefit of people dining and shopping, and that is difficult with the local and ever-changing restrictions. Thank you for featuring our wonderful collection of road-trips. It’s a good pick me up just to start thinking about summer travel! Thanks, Heiditown!


    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Lenore.
      We are lucky to live in such a gorgeous state and the byways put an emphasis on that fact!


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