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Best Colorado road trips? Explore scenic backroads and historic byways

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Best Colorado Road Trips Alpline Look
Along the Alpine Loop through Southwest Colorado.
Credit: Colorado Tourism Office

As Coloradans look for safer travel options during covid-19, the Colorado Tourism Office is encouraging travelers to explore the state’s 26 designated Scenic and Historic Byways.

A new website features each of the byways with a collection of traveler resources including an overview video, travel itinerary, trip tips, side-trip recommendations and a photo slideshow.

The site's interactive map shows the statewide reach of byway road trip options in Colorado.

The site was developed by the Colorado Tourism Office with grant funding from the History Colorado State Historical Fund, and aims to increase preservation awareness in the byways communities across Colorado.

“This new collection of resources allows travelers to go beyond what they thought they knew about the roads less traveled in Colorado,” said Cathy Ritter, Colorado tourism office director. “We hope Coloradans find inspiration from this new collection of resources as in-state road trips emerge as a safer travel option and summer vacationers begin to hit the open road.”

As the covid-19 pandemic continues into the summer, Colorado is in the Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors Phase, which encourages Coloradans to enjoy outdoor recreation while maintaining social distancing.

Travelers embarking on Colorado road trips are encouraged to check local information before planning a trip and be aware that many communities around Colorado require face coverings in stores and other indoor spaces.

Bringing a mask is also encouraged for outdoor spaces and parks, where crowds may gather, or narrow trails may prevent social distancing. (Several communities around Boulder require masks in outdoor spaces, under these conditions.)

Sample listing - Alpine Loop

Here's a taste of what the site provides for each Colorado byway road trip:

The Alpine Loop travels through a surreal landscape of treeless tundra, wildflower meadows and the San Juan Mountains — passing over mining roads established in the late 1800s near Silverton, Ouray and Lake City.


  • Fill up your tank before you go — you won't find any gas stations along the stretch from Silverton to Lake City or from Lake City to Ouray.
  • There’s a narrow window in which the byway is snow-free (typically June to September); the road is closed in the winter and can be muddy at other times.
  • All-wheel drive or 4x4 is a must, and a higher-clearance vehicle is recommended for the highest mountain passes.

The Alpine Loop guide also includes links to many local attractions and tourism resources in the region.

Two award-winning byways to explore

Two Colorado byways received nationwide recognition from the National Scenic Byway Foundation in its Inaugural 2020 Byway Organization Awards.

Trail of the Ancients won the Private-Public Partnership Award for the restoration of the McElmo Creek Flume and construction and management of the byway’s scenic overlook of the flume.

The 116-mile Trail of the Ancients highlights both the remote archaeological sites and significant cultural and historic sites of Southwestern Colorado. In addition to Cortez, this byway links Mesa Verde National Park, the Four Corners and Hovenweep National Monument.

McElmo Flume. Credit: Colorado Preservation, Inc.
McElmo Creek Flume Interpretive Stop with Mesa Verde in the background.

Highway of Legends won Honorable Mention for a Marketing & Communications Award for the Highway of Legends TravelStorys app.

The 82-mile Highway of Legends includes unique geological and historical features, and a myriad of legends from the Native Americans, Spanish Conquistadors, miners, trappers, and ranchers who explored and settled this region. In addition to Trinidad and Walsenburg, the byway connects La Veta, Monument Lake, Trinidad Lake State Park and Lathrop State Park.

Cordova Arch along the route between CO 12 & Aguilar.
The view along the Highway of Legends on CO 12.

Get inspired to plan your own Colorado road trip and explore all 26 scenic and historic byways at

About the Colorado Tourism Office:

The Colorado Tourism Office is a division of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade and serves to generate traveler spending across the state.

In 2018, Colorado travelers spent $22.3 billion, generating $1.37 billion in local and state revenues, reducing the tax burden for every Coloradan by $659.

Tourism is the state’s second-largest employer, directly supporting 174,400 jobs.

For more information, visit

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