Traveling west between the steep canyon walls and up the mouth of Ute Pass west of Colorado Springs, it's difficult not to relax as you escape the fast pace of the city below.

The four-lane U.S. 24 that leads into the mountains to the west was a narrow, dirt wagon road known as the Ute Trail in the 1860s. The highway provides one of only a few conduits from the Front Range into the higher Rocky Mountain elevations.

The drive into the High Country from Colorado Springs winds past or through Cascade, Green Mountain Falls, Chipita Park, Woodland Park and the four-corners town of Divide, at more than 9,000 feet above sea level.

Tourists have traveled to Cascade for more than 120 years, making their way to the Pikes Peak Highway that was built in 1888. Just past the highway, you'll find Green Mountain Falls (population just over 600) and a true mountain town atmosphere. The gazebo on the small lake is a popular setting for photos and even an occasional wedding.

Further west sits Woodland Park, the largest municipality in Teller County. With more than 7,500 residents the city has welcomed more modern amenities like fast-food restaurants and a Walmart store.

Woodland Park celebrates the 125th anniversary of its incorporation in 2016 with events and festivals almost every weekend, including the Cruise Above the Clouds car show and the 19th Annual Rocky Mountain OktoberfestPlus in September.

Dubbed "The City Above the Clouds," Woodland Park has come a long way since the Midland Railroad brought visitors to town in the early 20th century to enjoy the perpetual sunshine, dude ranches and sometimes even illegal gambling for the not-so-pious who made the trip.

The railroad that wound its way from Colorado Springs through Ute Pass and to mining towns like Leadville beyond would also stop in Woodland Park to pick up lumber, which once dominated the area in which residents still used horseback as an important mode of transportation well into the 1900s.

The entire Ute Pass area continues to grow with housing developments, jobs and hotels as locals fight to save their small town way of life.


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