Colorad Scenic Byway: The Highway of Legends


The Highway of Legends Scenic and Historic Byway, spanning 82 miles through the captivating landscapes of Southern Colorado, was designated as a National Scenic Byway in 2021. This Colorado scenic byway not only showcases stunning vistas but also unveils the rich tapestry of history, from ancient civilizations to early settlers who have left their mark on this land.


  • The Highway of Legends scenic byway connects several southern Colorado towns steeped in frontier legend and folklore, serving as a detour from Walsenburg to Trinidad.
  • The byway offers diverse attractions, including geological formations like the Spanish Peaks, state parks, historical museums, and cultural sites.
  • This route is a gateway to understanding the geological, cultural, and historical richness of Southern Colorado, making it a must-visit for travelers seeking an immersive experience.

Exploring the Highway of Legends

Historical Significance

As you embark on your journey along this Colorado scenic byway, you’ll encounter tales of Native American nomads, Spanish explorers, and early settlers. From the story of George Simpson saving Trinidad from marauding Utes to the mystery of the lost gold vein, these legends add an air of intrigue to your exploration.

Geological Marvels

The Spanish Peaks, a pair of prominent volcanic mountains, serve as the centerpiece and theme of the Scenic Highway of Legends. These twin peaks, along with other geological features like the great dikes radiating out from the mountains, create a landscape that is both visually stunning and geologically fascinating.

Cultural Heritage

The Highway of Legends Scenic Byway is a crossroads of cultures where diverse peoples have responded to the land’s power and beauty. From the spiritual myths of Native American tribes to the influences of Spanish and Anglo-Hispanic settlers, the region’s rich heritage is preserved in local museums and cultural sites along the byway.

Natural Attractions

As you traverse the Highway of Legends, you’ll have the opportunity to explore natural wonders like the San Isabel National Forest, Spanish Peaks Wilderness, and four Colorado State Wildlife Areas. Trinidad Lake State Park and Lathrop State Park are just a couple of the many recreational areas that showcase the unique flora and fauna of the region. Other significant Colorado byways include the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Santa Fe Trail, South Platte River Trail, Pawnee Pioneer Trail, Silver Thread Scenic Byway, Trail Ridge Road, and Grand Mesa Scenic Byway.

Artistic Inspiration

The scenic beauty of the Highway of Legends has long inspired artists and writers. Local art museums and galleries along the route showcase the creative spirit of the region, making it a perfect destination for art enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Planning Your Journey

Best Times to Visit

While the Highway of Legends is a year-round destination, certain seasons offer unique experiences. Fall is a particularly popular time for “leaf peeping,” as the vibrant colors of the changing foliage create a breathtaking backdrop. Keep in mind that some portions of the byway, like Cordova Pass, may be closed during the winter months.

Travel Tips and Recommendations

When navigating the Highway of Legends, be prepared for some gravel portions and accessing remote areas. Consider enhancing your experience with audio tours or guided hikes to fully immerse yourself in the history and natural beauty of the byway.

Accommodations and Amenities

Towns along the Highway of Legends, such as Aguilar and Trinidad, offer a variety of lodging options and amenities. Be sure to explore local dining and shopping opportunities that reflect the unique culture and cuisine of Southern Colorado.


What makes the Highway of Legends a National Scenic Byway?

The Highway of Legends was designated as a National Scenic Byway in 2021 due to its exceptional scenic, recreational, historical, educational, scientific, geological, natural, wildlife, cultural, and ethnic features.

Can you explore the Highway of Legends year-round?

While the Highway of Legends is accessible year-round, some portions, like Cordova Pass, may be closed during the winter months.

What are some must-see attractions along the Highway of Legends?

Must-see attractions include the Spanish Peaks, Trinidad Lake State Park, Lathrop State Park, and local museums showcasing the region’s cultural heritage.

Are there guided tours available for the Highway of Legends?

Yes, guided tours and audio tours are available to enhance your experience and provide a deeper understanding of the byway’s history and natural wonders.

How can travelers best prepare for a trip along the Highway of Legends?

Travelers should be prepared for some gravel portions and remote areas, pack appropriate clothing for the season, and consider making reservations for lodging and guided tours in advance.


About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.