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12 Epic Scenic Drives Colorado (Map + Tips + Photos)

Home to some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the country, Colorado is a true gem in the US. The incredible Rocky Mountains are in the heart of the state, and the dramatic landscapes create the best road trips! But there’s so much more to see: these are the best scenic drives Colorado.

scenic drives Colorado view of road with trees and mountains with snow up ahead
Views along the best scenic drives Colorado 😍

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my disclosures.

Colorado is home to 4 national parks and 11 national forests, so you know this scenery is going to be amazing! But perhaps more impressive are the spots you haven’t heard of yet. After all, sometimes the best vacations and road trips are exploring underrated destinations.

Best scenic drives Colorado

This list of Colorado drives includes a bit of everything – alpine lakes, jagged cliffs, winding roads, sand dunes, frozen tundras and of course, some of the best drives for fall foliage in the USA.

This guide includes maps of the best Colorado drives, a packing list to make sure you have the essentials and details on the top 12 scenic routes in Colorado.

red rocks and trees with mountains in background with blue sky
View of Pikes Peak (see # 11 below)

As someone who’s been to Colorado more times than I can count, I’ve loved exploring this beautiful state. Unfortunately, I haven’t been everywhere (yet), so I’ve asked a few fellow travel writers to help out with this list.

Let’s dive in!

Scenic drives Colorado map

Here’s a map of the best Colorado drives. Because there’s 12 awesome scenic routes on this list and the map only allows 10, I’ve created a map for scenic drives Denver and scenic drives Colorado Springs in the sections below, too.

Pinch and zoom to find more details on these routes. Save the map offline before you head out in case you don’t have reception as you drive.

What to pack for these beautiful Colorado drives

scenic drives colorado view of road with orange yellow and green leaves on foggy day
Driving the Mount Evans Scenic Byway on a moody fall day

Let’s go over a few essentials to make the best experiences for your adventures!

  • Food and snacks. Whether you’re planning 2 hours or 2 days on these fun scenic drives around Colorado, you’ll want to be prepared with food. Check out these road trip food ideas. Oh, and don’t forget to pack a reusable water bottle!
  • Collapsible cooler. You know you’ll need it for the snacks and beverages! I like this collapsible cooler because it folds down for traveling and storage, plus keeps food and drinks cold when you need it.
  • Extra layers. Many of these scenic drives Colorado go up in elevation, where the weather can change dramatically very quickly. Take a rain jacket and medium coat or heavier depending on time of year.
  • Sunblock. At 10,000 feet, the sun can be 50% more powerful due to the thin air. Wear sunscreen when you’re venturing out of the vehicle to protect your skin.
  • Hiking gear. There’s so many phenomenal sights in Colorado and stretching your legs during a road trip always feels good! Some of these guides include hiking trails. Be sure to pack the right hiking shoes with traction, trekking poles (always helpful) and a hiking backpack to carry water, first aide kit and any other items you need.
  • Bear spray. The Rocky Mountains are home to black bears and grizzly bears. Some of these scenic drives go through areas that are bear habitats. This is the bear spray I take with me to Colorado (and I’ve taken to Mt Rainier National Park, on hikes like Avalanche Lake in Glacier NP and more). You can’t fly with it so pack it if you’re driving in, or grab some in Colorado before you venture out.
  • GoPro for epic photos and videos. I used to think a phone on my camera was sufficient when traveling. But then I a GoPro and started recording epic road trips, snorkeling with sea turtles and so much more. This is the GoPro I use and it works perfect for traveling!
  • Kids road trip activities. If you’re traveling with kids of any age, make sure to bring games, snacks and screens to keep the boredom to a minimum. We always travel with Fire tablets, pre-loaded with games when my kids were young and even now.

Best Colorado drives

Eeek! I’m so excited for you to go on these amazing adventures. Gorgeous views are everywhere in Colorado.

Let’s dive in!

1. Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (one of my favorite scenic drives Colorado)

view of mountains and valley with snow peaks blue sky and green valley
Stunning views of Rocky Mountain National Park via Trail Ridge Road

Distance: 48 miles
Estimated time: 4 – 6 hours
Route open: summer, typically Memorial Day to mid-October

It’s one of the best Colorado drives on this list! The Rocky Mountain National Park is a perfect vacation destination in Colorado, and one of the state’s top tourist destinations.

Note: because of its popularity, you’ll need a timed entry reservation through the NPS.

Connecting Estes Park to Grand Lake, The Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is a must-see for anyone looking for mountain views. You could technically do this drive in a day trip from Denver, but it’s best done over 2 or 3 days.

Start your drive on the Trail Ridge Road in Estes Park and end in Grand Lake. You can plan a day in Estes Park and a day in Grand Lake, with endless things to do in either city!

In Estes Park, get amazing views of the Rocky Mountains by riding the Estes Park Aerial Tramway. Or for adrenaline lovers, check out the Open Air Adventure Park.

Grand Lake is more of a hidden gem in Colorado, and one of the most underrated travel destinations in the US! Its cute downtown is great for grabbing food and boutique shopping. And of course, lake activities like kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding are the area’s main draw.

Driving Trial Ridge Road really only takes 1.5 hours if you’re going straight through. But of course you’re going to stop at lookouts and even take a hike our 2 – if you’re up for it!

Of the 48 miles, 11 of them are above the tree line. So it gets really cold!

The first time I visited Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) it was July and we saw tons of snow and needed coats! This medium coat is excellent for hiking and sightseeing in the mountains.

scenic drives colorado view from trail ridge road of mountains with snow and valley with blue sky
Snow-capped mountains in July in RMNP along Trail Ridge Road Scenic Drive

Best drives in Colorado: Trail Ridge Road stops

  • Rainbow Curve Overlook, for expansive views of the Hidden Valley below.
  • Forest Canyon Overlook, for incredible views of Mt Ida and Long’s Peak.
  • Lava Cliffs. You’ll want to stop for out-of-this-world views!
  • Alpine Visitor Center. Hike the Alpine Ridge Trial or grab hot cocoa and enjoy the view.
  • Gore Range Overlook, for some of my personal favorite views of RMNP.
  • Farview Curve Viewpoint. If you’re lucky enough to see snowy peaks, this stop is postcard worthy.
  • Coyote Valley Trailhead, if you’re up for a scenic walk surrounded by mountains.

Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to Grand Lake is located on Highway 34 in Colorado.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes – follow on Pinterest

2. San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway (including Million Dollar Highway)

scenic drives colorado view of curvy road with mountains in background blue sky lots of greenery
Hairpin turn along the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway

Distance: 236 miles
Estimated time: 7+ hours
Route open: year-round

The San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway is one of the best Colorado drives! It’s a 236-mile-long loop and takes about 7 hours to drive the entire thing. You’ll definitely want to spend more time seeing the incredible sights along the way.

Make it 2-3 days, or even longer to make drive this incredible Colorado scenic byway. The route is open year-round but can be temporarily closed in the winter due to snow and dangerous driving conditions. 

There are plenty of things to see and do along the way. Some of the popular towns are Durango, Silverton, Ouray and Telluride.

Drive the historic Narrow Gauge Railroad to Silverton and back to Durango. Ski or ride a mountain coaster and alpine slide at Purgatory Resort. Drive up to Silverton to tour the Old Hundred Gold Mine and explore the town. 

Million Dollar Highway Colorado

view of the million dollar highway mountainside with snow and orange red yellow fall foliage with road
Stunning views along the Million Dollar Highway

Next, drive the famous “Million Dollar Highway” to Ouray. This part of the route takes you through 3 mountain passes and offers incredible views!

Ouray is a charming mountain town. It has hot springs, hiking trails, waterfalls and an ice park for climbing in the winter. 

Continue on the loop to Telluride. Hike to Bridal Veil Falls, ride the free gondola to Mountain Village, and do a little shopping. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is along the next leg of the journey.

The last stop is Mesa Verde National Park. Explore the cliff dwellings, go for a hike and take in the scenic views from the mesa. Finish this incredible loop by driving back to Durango. 

Recommended by Caitlin of Twin Family Travels – follow on Instagram

3. Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway

best drives in colorado views of the valley peaks and meadow with cloudy skies
Gorgeous views along Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway 😍

Distance: 113 miles
Estimated time: 4 – 5 hours
Route open: spring, summer and fall

Steamboat Springs to Meeker via the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway is one of the best Colorado drives!

Begin by heading south out of Steamboat Springs, and passing through the quaint towns of Oak Creek, Phippsburg and Yampa. Then you’ll reach the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway located on County Rd. 8 in the White River National Forest.

The Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway connects the ranching towns of Yampa and Meeker, Colorado. This
secluded area is chock-full of hiking, camping, fishing, wildlife viewing and other opportunities to enjoy nature.

Along this route you’ll find some of the most hidden, picturesque views in the Rockies. The road winds through the greenest river valleys in the summer, while the fall provides a never-ending view of the most brilliant shades of yellow and gold as the Aspens change colors.

From Steamboat to Meeker via the byway is approximately 4 to 5-hour drive. The road is a mix of gravel and dirt but is well maintained. The majority of the byway is closed during winter. During spring and fall, check road conditions.

fall foliage with yellow trees and sunburst coming through with blue cloudy skies
Can’t get over these scenic Colorado drives!

Best scenic drives in Colorado: Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway highlights and tips

  • Fuel up on gas, and stop at Franciosi Brothers in Oak Creek for a homemade Neapolitan pizza before getting on the byway.
  • Ripple Creek Overlook or the scenic overlook at Dunckley Pass are great options to enjoy a picnic with spectacular views. 
  • Trappers Lake Lodge is a 7-mile detour (one-way) off the byway. The lake is one of the largest natural lakes in Colorado, and the lodge offers many summer activities, cabin rentals and a restaurant on site.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for cattle, sheep and other wildlife on the byway as it is primarily open range.

Whether you’re looking for an adventure or just a leisurely drive through some of the most beautiful scenery in the west, the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway in Colorado is a must!

Recommended by Morgan of The Home That Roams – follow on Instagram

4. Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway: Leadville to Aspen via Independence Pass

views of the colorado drives with valley and green trees with mountain peaks in the distance
Scenic views on one of the best drives in Colorado

Distance: 60 miles
Estimated time: 3 – 5 hours
Route open: Memorial Day through October

Leadville to Aspen is one of the most popular Colorado scenic byways that takes you over Independence Pass with stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. This stretch of road is part of the larger route, named the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway.

Begin your road trip in Leadville, the highest town in North America by elevation that sits at 10,152 feet and is a former silver mining camp. The frontier history is alive and well in Leadville. You could spend some time wandering around its downtown, made up from the Victorian-era buildings after grabbing some food. 

National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum is one of the most popular museums in town and you can learn some interesting history here. 

You can also spot several “fourteeners” from Leadville, like Mount Elbert and Mount Massive. 

Next, drive toward the Independence Pass where you’ll want to make a couple of stops to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and take some photos. This is really one-of-a-kind experience, so take your time enjoying the drive!

When you arrive in Aspen, you’ll enjoy one of the best places to visit in Colorado that has become renowned for its ski resorts and year-round outdoor opportunities.

Spend at least a couple of days in Aspen to explore its wonderful hikes such as Sunnyside Trail or the Rio Grande Trail that can be accessed from downtown Aspen. 

After enjoying the scenery, make sure to visit the city’s quaint downtown with its brick buildings from the mining era and get on the Silver Queen Gondola to get a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.

Recommended by Daria of The Discovery Nut – follow on Pinterest

5. Ouray to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

scenic drives colorado view of a huge canyon with jagged cliffs looking down to river below
Incredible views at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Distance: 55 miles
Estimated time: 4+ hours
Route open: Ouray to BCGNP is open year round, but expect some park closures during winter

One of the best scenic drives in Colorado is from Ouray into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, passing through the Uncompahgre National Forest and the San Juan Mountain range. The San Juan Mountains are the southern part of the Rockies, with many peaks towering above 14,000 feet.

The drive begins in Ouray, known as the “Switzerland of America” since it sits in a box canyon almost completely surrounded by jagged snow-capped mountains.

This quaint town offers mountain biking, hiking and 4WD off-road trails in the summer. In the winter there is skiing, ice climbing and ice skating. And with all the natural hot springs in Ouray, you can easily warm up after spending a day in the snow!

After enjoying a hearty breakfast at one of Ouray’s cute B&B’s, begin the 1 hour drive north to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on US-550.

Feel free to plan a stop at one of the pubs or cafes in Ridgway, a cute rural town right off the highway. If you’re planning this scenic Colorado drive for the fall season, you’ll be surrounded by bright gold and orange Aspen trees the entire route which is breathtaking! 

Plan on spending several hours inside Black Canyon National Park. Many of the trails are short and you can drive through the park starting at the South Rim Visitor Center, which is open daily throughout the summer and most days of the week the rest of the year.

The South Rim Road beyond Gunnison Point is closed to vehicles in winter. The South Rim Drive is 7 miles starting from Tomichi Point to High Point and has 12 overlooks. Allow a 2-3 hour drive to view the main overlooks, since every turn gives you a new view of the gigantic canyon!

After a day exploring the canyon, head back towards Ouray for the night. And if you’re looking for more road trip ideas, Ouray marks the beginning of the Million Dollar Highway, one of the most beautiful and dangerous drives in the U.S.!

Recommended by Erin of Super Simple Salty Life – follow on Instagram

6. Dillon to Leadville (one of the best scenic routes in Colorado)

lake with trees and mountains in distance on partly cloudy sky
The stunning Lake Dillon😍

Distance: 35 miles
Estimated time: 1 – 4 hours
Route open: all year

Probably one of the shortest on this list of scenic drives Colorado, but it sure packs a punch! You’ll see some of the best scenery in Colorado from this short route.

Starting in Dillon, you’ll want to visit Lake Dillion. Full of recreation opportunities, it’s a great spot for biking, kayaking, hiking, boating and so much more.

For amazing views of the lake, hike the 0.6 mile Sapphire Point Overlook, one of my favorite things to do in Dillon.

On this Colorado scenic drive from Dillon to Leadville, your next stop is Frisco. It’s the most adorable downtown for shopping, dining, museums and live music. Be sure to try some local flavors at I Scream Gelato. It’s delicious!

After leaving Frisco, hop on I-70 until you get to Copper Mountain, Colorado. In the winter, it’s a snow-lover’s paradise. Skiing, snow boarding, snow tubing, ice skating and more – there’s so much to do here!

During the summer, Copper Mountain has scenic chair lift rides, golfing, mountain biking, a Rocky Mountain Coaster and more.

Next hop on Highway 91 south to Leadville. Along the way, there’s beautiful scenery and hiking without the crowds!

My favorite hike is the Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse trail. This 6.1 mile hike is rated as moderate and it’s home to stunning views! Add snowshoes in wintertime for a winter wonderland hike.

Further down Highway 91 is Leadville. There’s so much to do in this picturesque Colorado town!

From hiking Mount Elbert (a 14er) to stand-up paddle boarding or going snowshoeing and snow tubing in the winter, the possibilities seem endless. Definitely check out Turquoise Lake on the west side of town for more scenic views!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

7. Great Sand Dunes National Park to Mesa Verde National Park

Distance: 200 miles
Estimated time: 8+ hours
Route open: year round

One of the best scenic drives in Colorado and full of tons of things to do, you’ll love the route from the Great Sand Dunes National Park to Mesa Verde National Park.

Great Sand Dunes National Park is just located in southern Colorado, just north of Alamosa. Home to the largest sand dunes in North America, this park offers a dramatic change of scenery from the other spots on this list. It’s also a unique national park and is much fun to visit.

One of the top activities in the park is sliding down the sand dunes, just like snow. You can also hike anywhere on the dunes, as there are no official trails on the sand. It’s an open hike park, which reminds me of visiting Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

Pro tip: plan to be at the Great Sand Dunes National Park early in the day in the summertime, because sand temperatures reach well over 100 degrees and it can be very uncomfortable.

Next, take the incredibly scenic drive along Highway 160 west towards Mesa Verde National Park. It’s about 4 hours straight through, but considering the activities at both parks, plan to spend at least 2 days on this drive.

Passing through the southern side of the San Juan National Forest is breathtaking! Enjoy the hot springs at Pagosa Springs, and see the Chimney Rock National Monument, which features ancient Ancestral Puebloan dwellings.

Further along Highway 160 is Durango, which is the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat. The historic downtown district has boutique shops, museums, restaurants and so much more.

The final destination on this scenic route is Mesa Verde National Park. It’s home to well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, which housed communities for over 700 years.

The park’s most predominant feature is Cliff Palace, which can be seen from a distance or with a ranger-led tour. Take the 6 mile drive to get there, and walk to Soda Canyon Overlook Trail to see the largest archeological site within the park.

Seeing the cliff dwellings up close provides a different experience, and helps put the size and detail into perspective. Tours are available for Cliff Palace, Long House, Balcony House and more. Make tour reservations in advance and be prepared for a lot of hiking!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

Scenic drives near Denver

These next few Colorado drives are great for a day trip from Denver. Or, if you want to really take your time, you can depart from Denver, stay overnight in a town along the route then return to Denver.

Here’s a map of the best scenic drives Denver. Pinch or zoom and read the info below for more details!

Let’s keep going with this list of the best drives in Colorado!

8. Mount Evans Scenic Byway

mount evans scenic byway view of rocky cliffs with lake and mountains in the distance
Can’t get over these views along Mount Evans Scenic Byway

Distance: 28 miles
Estimated time: 2 – 3 hours
Route open: mid-May through mid-October

It’s the highest paved road in North America and one of the greatest Colorado drives on this list!

Mount Evans Scenic Byway is an incredible view to some of the tallest peaks in North America. Being well above the tree line, the sights even look out-of-this world, with alpine lakes nestled between rocky cliffs.

As of the time of publication, you’ll need a timed ticket entry reservation to drive the road, to protect the fragile ecosystem from over tourism.

You’ll start in Idaho Springs and climb upwards for 28 miles until you reach the summit. On the way there, be sure to stop by Echo Lake and Summit Lake. Echo Lake is close to Idaho Springs and the trees and surrounding area are stunning. Summit Lake is above the tree line (at 13,000 feet) so the area looks a bit more harsh, but still beautiful in it’s own way.

After parking at the Mount Evans summit, there’s a short hike (0.25 miles) to reach the highest spot you can go – 14,271 feet in elevation.

Note: altitude sickness is a real deal here, so be sure to hydrate really well before you go (up to 48 hours in advance) and bring headache medicine with you. It’s strongly recommended to get used to the altitude in Denver or the surrounding area for a few days before doing the Mount Evans Scenic Byway adventure.

If you’re feeling lightheaded or dizzy, there’s nothing wrong with turning back around. Be safe while driving!

Pro tip: the weather can change in an instant on the mountain. Rain clouds typically come in the afternoon during summertime, so try to avoid them by going early.

And wear lots of layers as it’s cold at the top! During one trip in August, we were caught in a random lightning snowstorm and had to take shelter at the summit. It really is crazy weather that high up!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

9. Peak to Peak Highway (a favorite on this list of Colorado scenic byways)

road with creek and yellow trees in sunlight
Views along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway

Distance: 55 miles
Estimated time: 2 – 4 hours
Route open: year-round

Peak to Peak was actually the first scenic byway in Colorado! It’s gorgeous anytime of year, but especially beautiful in the fall with the changing Aspen trees.

There’s so many things to see and do along Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. You could take this as a day trip from Denver, or spend some more time and visit nearby attractions, adorable small towns and the natural landscapes along the way.

To drive the Peak to Peak Highway, you’ll want to take Highway 7 south from Estes Park to Allenspark. From there, take Highway 72 to Nederland, CO. Then take Highway 119 and end at I-70 after Black Hawk. What a beautiful drive!

Allenspark is a cute little town at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a resort town these days with art galleries, cafes and concerts, but was once the site of the international ski jumping competition – so cool!

Between Allenspark and Nederland is the Brainard Lake Recreation Area off Highway 112. It’s an awesome spot for canoeing, kayaking and fishing, if have time to spend an afternoon there.

A little further on Highway 112, stop in Indian Peak Wilderness Area. It’s situated on the Continental Divide and has over 50 lakes and 133 miles of hiking.

If you’re looking for an easy trail, try the Rainbow Lakes Trail at just 2.6 miles. A bit more challenging at 5.5 miles is the Lake Isabelle via Pawnee Pass Trail, offering stunning views!

In Nederland, be sure to visit the town’s main attraction, the Carousel of Happiness. If you’re traveling with kids or are young at heart, this amazing story of hand-carved animals helped to revive this town’s tourism. There’s also shopping and dining in Nederland, which could be perfect depending on the time you make it through town.

Black Hawk is the official end of the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. This once mining town has been converted to a popular casino destination. So whether you’re planning to try your luck at gambling or need something to eat, Black Hawk is a great stop along this scenic drive in Colorado.

Peak to Peak Highway is one of the best Colorado scenic byways, and one that’s perfect for a day trip or combine it with a larger Colorado road trip.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

10. Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway

best drives in colorado view of lake with bridge and small mountains in distance
Evergreen Lake views

Distance: 40 miles
Estimated time: 2 – 4 hours
Route open: year-round

One of the best scenic drives near Denver, the Lariat Loop is a National Scenic Byway that’s just bite-sized for an afternoon adventure! It’s the most ‘urban’ of the scenic byways in Colorado, but still offers plenty of nature opportunities.

You can start in Golden or Denver, but for the purposes of this post I’m recommending to start in Denver.

Take I-70 west out of Denver until you get to Highway 74 / Evergreen Pkwy. Once you hit Evergreen you’ll take Bear Creek Rd / Highway 74 which loops back up and connects back up to Highway 470 until you connect your loop in West Pleasant View, CO at I-70.

Your first stop is at Dinosaur Ridge. It’s one of the top tourist attractions for paleontologists and dinosaur lovers across the US. See and touch real fossils on one of the tours. Check out the entire property, and with over 250 dinosaur footprints, it’s a fun spot to explore.

As you drive south, the next major attraction on this scenic drive near Denver is Evergreen. Home to Evergreen Lake, it’s the perfect spot for kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding in the summer, or ice skating in the winter! Or, if you just want to stretch your legs after the drive, take the walking path around the lake.

While in Evergreen, be sure to stop by the Shadow Mountain Gallery, which has all kinds of artwork on display and then head to the Lariat Lodge Brewing Company for lunch or dinner.

As you loop back up north to Denver, you’ll pass Morrison, Colorado where the world’s only naturally acoustic amphitheater, Red Rocks Park and Ampitheatre is located. It’s one of the premier music venues in all of the US! Check the show schedule or stop by for a view of the cool theatre with the Rocky Mountain background.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

Scenic drives Colorado Springs

These next 2 scenic routes in Colorado are leaving from Colorado Springs. There’s so much to do and see in the area.

Here’s a map of the scenic drives from Colorado Springs. Pinch or zoom to see more details.

11. Pikes Peak Highway

looking down mountain at curvy road with snow
Driving up the Pikes Peak Highway – top scenic drives Colorado Springs

Distance: 38 miles round trip
Estimated time: 3 -4 hours
Route open: year round

Looking for one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Colorado of all time? If so then try out the Pike’s Peak Highway near Colorado Springs. 

In fact, this gorgeous drive is just 26-minutes from Colorado Springs and you can easily use US-24 West to access the entrance. 

It will enable you to enjoy sweeping views from atop a 14,000-foot mountain and all without breaking a sweat on one of the most strenuous Colorado Springs hikes of them all. 

Prepare for 156 turns as you ascend 6,715 feet to the top of this immortal Colorado 14er – which comes complete with its very own cog railway too. 

Just don’t forget to explore Santa’s Village at the start and then inhale a donut at the Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center once you make it to the summit. 

Pro tip: be sure to check the weather before starting out. Because while this road is open all year long, it may close if driving conditions prove to be unsafe. Therefore, you’ll never have to worry about whether or not this road is safe to drive. 

Note: You’ll also need to pay $10 per adult and $5 per child to use this road, so be prepared. Additionally, guests are asked to limit their time at the top to just 30-minutes so that everyone can enjoy the stunning views. 

Parking since it’s quite limited at the top so you may want to start early, to avoid the crowds so that you can grab yourself a spot at the top. Check Pikes Peak hours before you go.

Lastly, be sure to have plenty of gas in your car since there is no place to buy it once you get on the road. You’ll also want to downshift on the way down so that you don’t ruin your breaks.

Recommended by Meg of Fox in the Forest – follow on Pinterest

12. Colorado Springs to Royal Gorge Bridge

best drives in colorado view of suspension bridge over gorge with mountains in distance
Royal Gorge Bridge and Park near Canon City, CO

Distance: 116 miles
Estimated time: 3 – 4 hours
Route open: year round

It’s one of the most unique things to do in Colorado – visit the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. It’s actually America’s highest suspension bridge, sitting 956 feet above the Arkansas River.

On this list of the best scenic drives Colorado, this is just an hour each way to and from Colorado Springs. You’l take Highway 115 south from Colorado Springs until you get to Penrose. From there, head west on Highway 50, about 9 miles past Canon City.

On the way from Colorado Springs to the Royal Gorge Bridge, be sure to stop at Cheyenne Mountain State Park for some great views and hiking.

If you’re looking for a light walk, try the Zook Loop, at just 1.1 miles. For more of a challenge, hike Cougar’s Shadow and Blackmer Loop, which is considered moderate hike at 3.6 miles.

Back on the road, head to Canon City. Originally settled during Pikes Peak Gold Rush during the 1860’s, the town is now an adorable downtown scene.

Walk around for shopping and dining. Or if there’s a dinosaur lover in your group, check out the nearby Garden Park Fossil Area.

But of course the main attraction on this scenic drive near Colorado Springs is the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. You’ll need to buy tickets to see the bridge, but it’s worth it to cross the large suspension bridge or ride the gondola.

The park also offers ziplining, a sky coaster and rock climbing! And if you’re looking for unique views of the canyon, try your turn at white water rafting. I actually did the rafting during one of my first Colorado road trips and fell in love with the state.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

Scenic drives Colorado

road with yellow and green trees winding through the mountains
One last view of the gorgeous views on these Colorado scenic byways😍

Gah! Can you believe this list? With so many incredible adventure across the state, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in Colorado.

Let’s go through that list again, in a quicker fashion…

Best Colorado drives

  1. Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park
  2. San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway (including Million Dollar Highway)
  3. Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway
  4. Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway: Leadville to Aspen via Independence Pass
  5. Ouray to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  6. Dillon to Leadville
  7. Great Sand Dunes National Park to Mesa Verde National Park
  8. Mount Evans Scenic Byway
  9. Peak to Peak Highway
  10. Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway
  11. Pike’s Peak Highway
  12. Colorado Springs to Royal Gorge Bridge

By now you’ve likely found a scenic route in Colorado to discover (or even more than one!) So grab your gear and hit the road. Enjoy seeing the sights and activities across Colorado!

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12 amazing routes Colorado scenic drives 3 mountain pictures with colorful scenes

Rachael

Saturday 28th of May 2022

Colorado looks amazing! I hope to visit one day.

Nikki

Sunday 29th of May 2022

Rachael you absolutely should! It's an awesome state with endless things to see and do 💛

Lisa

Saturday 28th of May 2022

Colorado truthfully has to be one of the most stunning states in the USA! I can't believe all of the great views you can see just from the road!

Nikki

Sunday 29th of May 2022

Totally agreed Lisa! It's truly stunning!

Christina

Saturday 28th of May 2022

Love Colorado. It is so beautiful. Can't wait to have a chance to take some of these drives.

Nikki

Sunday 29th of May 2022

Right?! Colorado is the best! Hope you make it back out there to experience some of these scenic roads :)

Patricia - Savvy Exploring

Saturday 28th of May 2022

Wow, so diverse, looks like they should be different countries or continents! Thank you for sharing! Colorado has been on my list for some time and I just flew over it on my way home wetting my appetite again. I'm definitely bookmarking this one for when we finally make it out there.

Nikki

Sunday 29th of May 2022

Yesss! You absolutely should make a trip ASAP - it's an incredible state to visit with tons to see and do!

sue

Saturday 28th of May 2022

These all look stunning! I've not visited Colorado before but clearly it now needs to go on my list! Love a road trip.

Nikki

Saturday 28th of May 2022

Ah yes, Sue! Sounds like it's time to plan a trip :)