Best Drives in Colorado

Colorado’s magnificent scenery is one of the reasons that outdoors enthusiasts and tourists alike come to enjoy this great state. From majestic mesas, sprawling plains to rushing rivers and soaring mountains, Colorado seems to have it all. Looking for a way to enjoy the views? Consider taking one of the best drives in Colorado listed below.

On one of these scenic mini road trips through Colorado, you’ll see it all. Breathtaking landscapes, rich history and up-close experience with Colorado’s wildlife await you. Gas up your vehicle and get ready for an adventure!

Cache la Poudre Byway

What to see:

  • Poudre River Canyon
  • Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
  • Mountain Ranges: Medicine Bow, Never Summer, Rabbit Ears

This byway dates back to the days when settlers used to traverse it from Northern Colorado to the Green River Settlement in Utah. Starting in Fort Collins, on Hwy 287, travelers will catch Hwy 14 in Bellevue and begin the journey into the Cache la Poudre River Canyon.

Keep your eyes peeled as you travel alongside the Cache la Poudre River. The rocky canyon is teeming with bighorn sheep, although you may need binoculars to see them. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the diversity of the Colorado landscape. Enjoy the rocky canyon, alpine meadows, sprawling grasslands and the views of the mountain ranges as you climb out of the canyon. The entire journey from Ft. Collins to Walden is approximately 101 miles.

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

What to see:

  • Highest Elevation Point: 12,183
  • See elk, pikas, marmots, ptarmigans and bighorn sheep
  • Views of Wyoming, Great Plains, Rocky Mountains

This scenic drive is between Estes Park and Grand Lake, and offers the driver glimpses of the Continental Divide. It is hands down one of the best drives in Colorado. The road is also famous in its own right, with a place on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the highest continuous auto road in the nation, and the highest byway in the nation.

Along the route through Estes Park, the Rocky Mountain National Forest and onto Grand Park, there’s plenty to see. You’ll view soaring mountains, thick forests, glacier valleys, and lakes. Make sure to keep an eye out as you make your way past Fall River. There is a huge population of elk that use the area for their mating season. The route is 48 miles and is only open in summer and early fall months due to heavy snowfall.

Trail of the Ancients to Mesa Verde

Trail of the Ancients to Mesa Verde

What to see:

  • Cliff Dwellings
  • Ute Mountain
  • Ancients Visitor Center & Museum

This southwestern Colorado drive connects Mesa Verde National Park to the Hovenweep and Canyon of the Ancients National Monuments. The national monuments are the preservations of the ancient Pueblan people and contain cliff dwellings, dams, and more structures. You’ll also encounter Four Corners and incredible, one-of-a-kind ancient cliff and tree dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. Travel distance in entirety is 116 miles.

Peak to Peak

Peak to Peak Highway

What to see:

  • Golden State Canyon & Rocky Mountain National Parks
  • Indian Peaks Wilderness Area
  • Eldora Ski Resort

Colorado’s Peak to Peak Highway runs along the edges of the Front Range, Rocky Mountain National Park and through diverse towns like Black Hawk, Central City and Estes Park. The road offers scenic views of the Indian Peaks and is a wonderful balance between the lonely, tranquil views of Colorado scenery and the bustling historic towns of its many legends. The drive encompasses approximately 55 miles.

Dinosaur Diamond

Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway

Things to do:

One of the bests drives in Colorado includes one that’s wonderful for the entire family! From Grand Junction, Colorado to the town of Dinosaur, this road trip is dedicated to… you guessed it… dinosaurs. Next to Grand Junction, the trip will take you through the famed Colorado National Monument. Rim Rock Drive will lead you along the edge of the massive sandstone gorge, where you can take in the deep red and ochre hues of the natural rock formations in this famed landmark. The 486 mile trip through Colorado then wends through Pintado Canyon, where you can admire the kokopelli and other cave paintings of the Fremont Indians. You’ll end your journey at the Dinosaur National Monument where you can admire the fossils of these prehistoric reptiles.

Guanella Pass

best fall drives and aspen trees

What to see:

  • Wildlife and birds
  • Scenic Aspen in the Fall
  • State’s best-preserved mountain towns: Georgetown and Silver Plume

From the town of Grant to Georgetown, this short yet scenic drive through the Guanella Pass introduces you to the various landscapes and ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains. Admire views of Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt, and keep your eyes peeled for beaver in the rushing waters. Bighorn sheep are also common in the area. Travel time is just one hour to cover the 22 miles.

Mount Evans

scenic byways in Colorado

What to see:

  • Echo Lake
  • Mountain Goliath Trail & Summit Trail
  • Big Horn Sheep and Rocky Mountain Goats

This road up through the mountainous region of Mt. Evans has another distinction. Evan Mountain Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in America! Portions of the 49-mile trail are closed in winter due to snowfall, but on a summer trip, you can expect to see gorgeous sights.  You’ll see jaw-dropping views of Mt. Evans, stoic granite walls, alpine lakes, and stands of trees as well as cheerful basins of wildflowers along the way. Drive with caution, as bighorn sheep and mountain goats cross the roads frequently.

South Platte River Trail

colorado's best drives

Things to see:

  • Self-guided tours
  • Wildlife and Recreational Locations
  • 19-mile byway circles between Ovid and Julesburg

Another of Colorado’s best drives is South Platte River Trail byway. It is short and sweet — only 19 miles! It’s a great journey for history buffs, and the scenic views of South Platte River are particularly gorgeous in Autumn. See the only Pony Express station in Colorado and hop on Lincoln Highway. This famed highway was the first coast-to-coast car route in the nation.

West Elk Loop

colorado most scenic drives

Things to see:

  • Gunnison National Forests
  • Curecanti National Recreational Area
  • Blue Mesa Reservoir

Among the best drives in Colorado is West Elk Loop. This 205-mile loop shows you some of the best experiences Colorado has to offer. It connects three mining towns, borders diverse national monuments and parks and its scenery cannot be beat. Admire views of Mt. Sopris, the plunging depths of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and the Wildflower Capital of Colorado on the way.

Top of the Rockies

best drives in colorado

Things to see:

  • Small towns of Redcliff, Minturn, and Twin Lakes
  • 13,000 feet peaks including Mt. Champion, Geissler Mountain, Twining Peak, Grizzly Peak and Casco Peak
  • Independence Pass

Enjoy stunning views of the Rocky Mountains on this 82-mile trail. It is one of the best drives in Colorado, most definitely. Mount Elbert and the aptly named Mount Massive are the tallest and second tallest mountains in the state. In this region known for its excellent skiing and snow sport, you’ll also see the beginning of the Arkansas River and view several crystalline alpine lakes.

All that made this list of best drives in Colorado are a must-see. Be aware that snow totals in Colorado are higher than the average. As a result, some of these byways are not open all year-round. Be sure to check with CDOT on weather conditions and road closures!