Colorado is beautiful in winter, but it’s absolutely sublime during the summertime. With boundless mountain peaks, wildflower meadows and breathtaking scenery Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in America. From desert terrain to forested mountains, the rich natural beauty of Colorado has something for everyone. With that in mind, here are our top five scenic drives to enjoy in Colorado summer.
1. San Juan Skyway
Want to feel like you’re on top of the world? Then the San Juan Skyway is the perfect scenic drive for you. The drive will take you through the deserts of the south to the mountain tops of the San Juan Mountains. The drive kicks off in Ridgway looping right back round to where you began. Along the way, you can soak your troubles away in the Ouray Hot Springs Pool, see an impressive 285 ft. waterfall cascade down a limestone gorge and experience remarkable panoramic views.
Starting Location: Ridgway, CO
Ending Location: Ridgway, CO
Distance: 233 miles (7 hours)
2. Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway
This glorious twisting route has indescribable views that will take your breath away. The journey follows the Dolores and San Miguel rivers cutting through a canyon most of the way and eventually opening onto the high plains, framed by the picturesque San Juan Range. San Miguel River Nature Conservancy Preserve and Gunnison Gravel Natural Research Area are perfect hiking spots to stretch your legs and take in the views.
Starting Location: Whitewater, CO
Ending Location: Placerville, CO
Distance: 133 Miles (3 hours)
3. Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
Designated in 1918, Peak to Peak Scenic Byway is the oldest scenic byway in Colorado. It passes through the Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area and Arapaho National Forest. You can even spot a ghost town or two or try your hand at mining for gold along the way. The stunning mountain scenery is full of aspen trees, which change to yellows, oranges and browns in fall, as well as an abundance of wild Elk and other wildlife to enjoy.
Starting Location: Central City, CO
Ending Location: Estes Park, CO
Distance: 55 Miles (3 hours)
4. Santa Fe Trail
The Santa Fe Trail was a trade route between Missouri and the Mexican Frontier from 1821 and 1880. Now it’s one of Colorado’s stunning historic scenic drives. This section of the Santa Fe Trail will have you feeling like you’re a cast member on Little House on the Prairie with it’s sweeping views of horse corrals, railroad yards and sugar beet farms along the way. For those who love a little prehistoric history, check out the preserved dinosaur footprints at the Iron Spring’s Picketwire Dinosaur Tracksite – just make sure to reserve or you might be prehistoric by the time you get in.
Starting Location: Trinidad, CO
Ending Location: Iron Springs, CO
Distance: 124 Miles (4-5 hours)
5. Grand Mesa Scenic Byway
As the name would suggest, this scenic drive includes the Grand Mesa, the largest flat-topped mountain in the world, which spans about 500 miles. At its peak Grand Mesa sits at 11,237 ft. The journey will see you through aspen tree forests, gorgeous meadows and crystal blue watered lakes. On top of this already gorgeous scenery, as you near Cedaredge there are bountiful apple orchards with fruit stands waiting for you to enjoy sweet apple samples.
Starting Location: Palisade, CO
Ending Location: Cedar Edge, CO
Distance: 63 Miles (2 hours)