Updated: May 18, 2014 at 5:42 pm
- Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway, tinyurl.com/lwffhka: Follow this road to glimpse the headwaters of the Colorado River. The 80-mile route begins at Grand Lake, an old resort town on the shores of Colorado's largest natural lake, and ends on a gravel road through spectacular Upper Gore Canyon.
- Grand Mesa Scenic Byway, grandmesa byway.com: Experience a Western Slope sunset while tracing the largest mesa in the world on the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway from Mesa to Cedar Ridge, where apple orchards and fruit stands lure curious travelers. Visitors also can take in spectacular views of forests and lakes.
- Highway of Legends Scenic and Historic Byway, trinidadco.com: Make your next trip to New Mexico count by skipping Interstate 25 between Walsenburg and Trinidad in favor of this tour of crumbling coke ovens and views of Lake Trinidad State Park. It's especially scenic in the fall when the aspen groves turn golden.
- Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway, lariatloop.org: Don't let Colorado's dizzying elevations distract you from the foothills. This road in Golden offers sharp curves and splendid views - not to mention the opportunity for pit stops including Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
- Mount Evans Scenic Byway, tinyurl.com/nndjenf: See what's billed as the highest paved road in America, but be sure to check on seasonal closures before making the trip. This 28-mile route, which climbs above 14,000 feet, offers incredible views. Keep your eyes open for Rocky Mountain goats and marmots.
- Phantom Canyon Road, goldbeltbyway.com/phantom-canyon-road: Take in sweeping vistas, striking rock formations and remnants of a once-booming mining industry on this detour on the Gold Belt Tour Scenic and Historic Byway. The road is an hour's drive from Colorado Springs and can be accessed from Colorado 67.
- Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byway, southfork.org/silver-thread-scenic-byway: Glimpse the boisterous Clear Creek Falls on this charming drive between Creede and Lake City in the Rio Grande National Forest. The byway traces the routes of old toll roads, stagecoach lines and railways.
- South Platte River Trail, rivertrailonline.org: At 19 miles, this drive near the Wyoming border is the shortest of Colorado's 23 scenic and historic byways, but it's packed with history, following a route once traveled by pioneers, the Pony Express and the first transcontinental telegraph, railroad and automobile road.
- Top of the Rockies National Scenic and Historic Byway, topoftherockiesbyway.org: Wildflowers, thick forests and wildlife abound on this climb over 12,095-foot Independence Pass. The 115-mile stunner near Leadville twice traverses the Continental Divide. It takes about three hours to drive, but plan to spend more time.
- Trail of the Ancients, trailoftheancients.com: Cutting through the arid desert landscape of southwestern Colorado, this 116-mile stretch near the Four Corners area takes visitors past the former home of ancestral Puebloans, Mesa Verde National Park, Howenweep National Monument and Ute Mountain Tribal Park.
Lance Benzel, The Gazette