Scenic Byways near Avon, Colorado: Routes to Explore

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Colorado is renowned for its incredibly diverse and stunning landscapes, from majestic snow-capped mountains to high desert plains and red rock canyons. Crisscrossing this beautiful state are numerous scenic and historic byways that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the best Colorado has to offer. These specially designated routes take you past breathtaking vistas, fascinating historic sites, and charming small towns for an unforgettable trip through the Centennial State.

TL;DR

  • Colorado has 26 scenic and historic byways, like the San Juan Skyway and Trail Ridge Road, which offer jaw-dropping mountain scenery.
  • Historic routes like the Santa Fe Trail and Gold Belt Tour give a glimpse into Colorado's frontier past.
  • Plan your road trip by region – the Rocky Mountains, Eastern Plains, Western Slope, and more each have distinct byways.
  • Time your visit for fall foliage, winter adventures, or summer wildflowers depending on your desired experience.

Taking in Mountain Grandeur Along the Scenic Byways

The Rocky Mountains dominate Colorado’s landscape, with over 50 peaks soaring to heights of over 14,000 feet. Exploring the high country by car on the Rockies scenic byway is an experience like no other. On a Colorado scenic drive you can discover the beauty of a National Park, the majesty of the Grand Mesa, Glenwood Canyon towering over the Colorado River, Pikes Peak, or winter activities through Vail Pass.

Trail Ridge Road, Mount Blue Sky (formerly Mount Evans) Scenic Byway,

and the San Juan Skyway.

These roads climb to elevations over 12,000 feet for panoramic views of craggy, snow-dusted peaks and glacially-carved valleys. Jaw-dropping lookouts allow you to take in the raw, rugged beauty of the Colorado Rockies from your car or during a roadside hike. In addition to postcard-perfect vistas, mountain driving along many scenic byways takes you past alpine lakes, thundering waterfalls, and peaceful aspen groves glowing gold in fall. Mount Blue Sky offers breathtaking views of the Continental Divide.

Independence Pass, Cottonwood Pass, and Kebler Pass

Winding their way over high mountain passes, these scenic drives offer non-stop views of the Continental Divide and some of Colorado’s most iconic peaks. Here you’ll have the chance to stop and capture photos of Capitol Peak, Snowmass Mountain, the Maroon Bells, and other famous fourteeners before descending through green valleys dotted with historic mining towns. Along the way, scenic lookouts give you a front-row seat to Colorado’s best high alpine scenery.

Step Back in Time Along Historic Byways

In addition to beautiful scenery, many Colorado byways allow you to immerse yourself in the state’s rich frontier history.

Santa Fe Trail, Gold Belt Tour, and Los Caminos Antiguos

Historic routes like these transport you back to the days of Native American tribes, early Spanish settlers, and intrepid pioneers during the Colorado Gold Rush. Interpretive signs and museums found along the way detail what life was like centuries ago while restored buildings and abandoned homesteads allow you to vividly imagine Colorado’s Wild West past.

Historic byways passing former boom towns like Silverton, Leadville, and Idaho Springs showcase Colorado’s mining heritage with preserved Victorian buildings and mines dating back to the state’s 19th-century precious metal rushes. Here you can tour a mine, pan for gold, or simply stroll streets lined with Old West-style false-front buildings.

Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byway and Alpine Loop Backcountry Scenic Byway

Byways like these highlight Colorado’s ranching history, taking you past picturesque barns and grazing cattle with the rugged San Juan Mountains as a backdrop to your scenic drive.

Tailor Your Trip Based on Region

With over two dozen specially-designated byways, Colorado offers epic road trip opportunities in every corner of the state. Here’s a breakdown of must-do routes by region:

Rocky Mountains

Awe-inspiring alpine scenery and former mining towns define the scenic drives in this region. Top picks include:

  • Trail Ridge Road/Beaver Meadow National Scenic Byway
  • Mount Blue Sky (formerly Mount Evans) Scenic Byway
  • Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
  • Guanella Pass Scenic Byway

Western Slope

Follow routes carved through red rock canyon country and the expansive high desert landscape along:

  • Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway
  • San Juan Skyway
  • West Elk Loop Scenic Byway
  • Silver Thread Scenic Byway

Eastern Plains

Travel back to the era of cowboys and homesteaders across the rolling prairie grasslands:

  • Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway
  • Gold Belt Tour Scenic and Historic Byway
  • Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway

Central Colorado

This region combines high peaks with open parklands and sand dunes, best seen along:

  • Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway
  • Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic and Historic Byway
  • Highway of Legends Scenic Byway

Experience the Byways in Every Season

One of the best aspects of road tripping through Colorado is that the byways offer entirely different experiences depending on the season. Summer showcases wildflower blooms, fall brings vibrant golden aspens, winter offers snow-dusted peaks, and spring means roaring waterfalls. Nearby towns host events that shift with the seasons as well, giving you even more reasons to explore the scenic byways .

Summer

is a popular time with long days perfect for top-down driving. Wildflowers like columbine and paintbrush bloom along the byways while high mountain passes offer cool refuge from the summer heat. Stop for scenic hikes on Vail Pass, Boreas Pass, or Steamboat Springs, and take lake swims during your drive in Loveland Pass, Grand Lake, or Fort Collins.

Fall

The blazing gold aspens and maples along the byways draw visitors to Colorado every fall. Cooler temps at higher elevations allow you to enjoy the colorful foliage show with pleasant days and crisp nights perfect for camping. September and October are peak times to see the turning leaves.

Winter

transforms the mountains into a frosted winter wonderland. Byways like Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park and Mount Blue Sky (formerly Mount Evans) close in winter but snowshoeing and cross country skiing allows you to take in even more spectacular snow-covered vistas. The solitude and silence of the high country is magical this time of year.

Spring

means roaring waterfalls, rushing creeks, and budding greenery across Colorado. Temperatures remain cool in the mountains through June but lower elevations allow you to explore comfortably. Be sure to check road conditions as some high passes remain closed into late spring or early summer due to snow.

FAQ

Where are the best scenic overlooks along the byways?

Every scenic and historic byway has stunning vistas but top lookouts include:

  • Trail Ridge Road- Rock Cut, Forest Canyon Overlook
  • San Juan Skyway- Molas Pass, Coal Bank Pass, Dallas Divide
  • Collegiate Peaks Byway- Twin Lakes, Independence Pass
  • Santa Fe Trail- Bent's Old Fort

What time of year is best for fall colors along the byways?

Fall foliage season in Colorado typically peaks from mid-September through early October. Higher elevations see the change earlier while lower areas reach peak color later. Popular byways for leaf peeping include Guanella Pass, Mount Blue Sky (formerly Mount Evans), and Peak to Peak.

Do the byways stay open in winter?

Some high mountain passes close in winter but many lower elevation routes like Highway of Legends, Frontier Pathways, and Gold Belt Tour remain open. Check weather and road conditions before traveling any scenic byway in winter.

How long do the byways take to drive?

Mileage and drive times vary greatly but most can be driven in under a few hours. However, allow plenty of time to make stops. For example, Trail Ridge Road is only 48 miles but takes 2-3 hours with stops.

What towns and activities are found along the byways?

Colorado’s regional scenic drives take you through historic mining towns like Silverton, Ouray, and Idaho Springs. You’ll also find charming mountain villages like Telluride, Buena Vista, and Salida settled along certain byways. Activities range from hiking and biking to rafting, horseback riding, and more.

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About the author

Simone Weisman

My deep appreciation for nature and active living strongly aligns with the vibrant outdoor culture of Colorado. My enjoyment of yoga, hiking, and exploring scenic trails provides me with a unique perspective that I bring to ReadyColorado.com. This personal passion enriches my ability to connect with and inspire our audience, whether they’re local residents or visitors seeking to explore all that Colorado has to offer.