Scenic Travel Corridors

photo of Needle Rock near Crawford


The Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways Commission has designated 17 of Colorado's most spectacular roadways as Scenic and Historic Byways with exceptional scenic, historic, recreational, ecological, and/or cultural values. These roads are marked by distinctive highway signs featuring a blue columbine. The GMUG National Forest has six of the byways (photo credit: P Owens).

National Scenic Byways (Federal Highways Administration)

  • Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway, is a paved state highway between I-70 and Cedaredge. The spectacular 63-mile route begins in the scenic Plateau River Canyon, then climbs through forests and meadows full of wildflowers, to offer panoramic views from the top of Grand Mesa. It was designated for its historical qualities. Grand Mesa was designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as a National Scenic Byway in 1996 (the highest level of designation).  It is one of eleven America's Byways® designated in Colorado.
  • San Juan Skyway (All American Road), is Colorado's first scenic byway and dubbed the million dollar highway. This paved state highway winds for 236 miles through the heart of 5 million acres on the San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests offering views of spectacular, rugged, and primitive country as well as cultural and historical sites. The entire loop takes you through Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Ridgway, Telluride, Ophir, Rico, Dolores, Cortez and Mancos. An interpretive site and accessible restrooms are available on Hwy. 145 at the top of Lizard Head Pass. There is plenty of recreational activities along the way: four-wheel-driving, hiking, backpacking, bicycling, hunting, photography, fishing, kayaking, rafting, dirt biking, all-terrain vehicles and motorcycle touring. See waterfalls in spring, wildflowers in summer, golden aspen in fall or a snowy wonderland in winter. Enjoy browsing through town shops, soaking in historic hot springs, staying in a Victorian lodge, or sleeping under the stars in a Forest campground. The San Juan Skyway was designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as a National Scenic Byway in 1996.  It is one of eleven America's Byways® designated in Colorado.

State of Colorado Scenic Byway

  • Alpine Loop Back Country Byway  is a backcountry-wanderer�s delight. The Alpine loop crosses the remote, rugged, spectacular heart of the San Juan Mountains connecting the towns of Lake City, Ouray, and Silverton. The 63-mile route winds its way to an elevation of 12,800 feet, crossing Engineer and Cinnamon Passes among five of Colorado's spectacular 'fourteeners'. This is a rugged high elevation four wheel drive road designated as a backcountry byway. Portions of this route require high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles.  Motorist reaps unparalleled rewards: pristine mountain views, hiking and biking trails, great camping opportunities, and ample solitude. Check out the Alpine Explorer (2016)- A guide to the natural and cultural resources on the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway Loop.
  • Silver Thread Byway is a paved state highway stretching from South Fork to Lake City. This 75-mile route offers history, scenic beauty, and a heavy dose of authenticity. The heights around Creede and Lake City remain strewn with abandoned mining structures, most of them accessible via rugged backcountry roads. Between the two towns, Highway 149 shadows the upper reaches of the Rio Grande, serving up a bounty of natural wonders - sparkling North Clear Creek Falls, the Slumgullion earth slide, and the shark-like fin of Uncompahgre Peak. The byway was recently extended on the north end from Lake City to Blue Mesa Reservoir. This new section provides access to a diversity of scenic wonders, historical landmarks, and extensive recreational opportunities for hiking, camping and fishing.
  • Unaweep/Tabeguache Byway, between Whitewater and Placerville, the 138-mile paved byway follows Colorado 141 from Whitewater over the Uncompahgre Plateau to Gateway, where it winds up the Dolores River Canyon. Above the confluence of the Dolores and San Miguel Rivers, the byway follows the San Miguel. Past Naturita, the byway takes Colorado 145 up onto Wright�s Mesa through Norwood, and back down into the San Miguel River Canyon to Placerville.  It is afabulous journey through history, geology, culture and nature.  Visit the historic Driggs Mansion or the Hanging Flume and step back into history to a much simpler time. This ageless desert region offers sheer scenic wonder - striated cliffs towering a thousand feet overhead, raging streams, and boundless skies – truly inspiring!
  • The West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway circles the rugged West Elk Mountains. It has been described by a forest ranger as "the closest you can come to a wilderness experience in a passenger car." The 204 miles of two-lane roads through rural western Colorado touches three designated Wilderness Areas and passes through thousands of acres of National Forest. The Byway follows the narrow alignment of long gone railroad grades, the faint wagon tracks of the earliest explorers and the ancient pathways of Ute Indians. Recreational opportunities abound with skiing, hiking, backpacking, photography, cycling, rock climbing and wildlife viewing. 

Other Forest Scenic Travel Corridors that do not hold special designations:

  • Lower Taylor Canyon Road, paved road in the Gunnison Geographic Area (Gunnison Ranger District). Taylor Canyon is a little-used side road from Cochetopa Pass Road. It offers an endless selection of good backcountry camping spots. The route commences at the intersection of FR 770 and Cochetopa Pass Road and stretches through rolling grasslands and pine and aspen forest before traveling through the very scenic rock formations of the canyon. The area is carpeted with wildflowers in late spring and early summer.
  • Ohio Pass Road, surfaced road in the Gunnison Geographic Area (Gunnison Ranger District). Part of the route followed by FR 730 runs along the old railway grade. The route is an easy 2WD road that offers excellent views of the West Elk Mountains. The road travels through a forest thick with aspen, which turns into a sea of gold in the fall. After nearly 9 miles, the road passes the old town site of Baldwin just before becoming a paved surface. It follows the Ohio Creek into the valley before connecting to Colorado 135 about 3.5 miles from Gunnison.
  • Owl Creek-Cimarron Road, surfaced road in the Uncompahgre National Forest- Mountain Division (Ouray Ranger District). This beautiful cruise through forest and pastoral landscapes is particularly appealing in late summer or early fall, when the aspens are turning. Great views of high and jagged Cimarron Ridge, the 12,152-foot monolith of Courthouse Mountain and 11,781-foot Chimney Rock. Owl Creek Pass is 10,114 feet. Owl Creek Pass Road should be open by June.
  • Canyon Creek- Yankee Boy Road, high clearance four-wheel drive road, in the Uncompahgre National Forest - Mountain Division (Ouray Ranger District). Spectacular alpine scenery, abundant wildflowers, waterfalls, a high-walled canyon and old town sites in a once-booming mining area. This great drive, which is usually open by mid-June, can be combined with a side trip to Box Canyon Falls and Park early in the drive and the drive over Imogene Pass.
  • Imogene –Black Bear Road, high clearance four-wheel drive road, in the Uncompahgre National Forest - Mountain Division (Norwood Ranger District). This is one of Colorado’s top 4WD routes, with some of the best alpine scenery in the state. Named for a prospector’s wife, 13,114-foot Imogene Pass links two old mining towns that now rank high on tourists’ itineraries. The views of Telluride, Black Bear Pass (Tour 55), Ingram Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are fantastic. Great wildflowers, too, but don’t pick them so that other visitors can enjoy them. Tomboy mine and town site, 3,000 feet above Telluride, are interesting.
  • Ophir Road, high clearance four-wheel drive road, in the Uncompahgre National Forest - Mountain Division (Norwood Ranger District). Terrific vistas of glaciated mountains, basins and valleys, especially on the west side, where you can gaze at the San Miguel Mountains; the crossing at 11,789-foot Ophir Pass; wildflowers; a fun drive between two popular destinations, Telluride and Silverton.
  • Lands End Road, surfaced road on the Grand Mesa Geographic Area (Grand Valley Ranger District). This drive includes much of the 55-mile Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway, a fine tour of one of the world’s largest (368,418 acres) flat-topped mountains, more than 11,000 feet high. Look for wildflowers in late spring and summer. It’s a fine autumn drive, too. The vistas take in the Grand Valley, San Juan Mountains, Uncompahgre Plateau, Book Cliffs and Utah’s La Sal Mountains. The mesa’s 300 lakes provide good trout fishing.

Untraveled Roads - a virtual photo tour of Colorado lesser travelled roads - Unaweep Canyon, Dolores River Gorge, San Miguel River