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3 Scenic Colorado Drives

People who truly appreciate a scenic drive are normally people who attest to the fact that life is about the journey, not just the destination. Colorado boasts some seriously scenic drives, with 26 routes designated as national scenic byway. Here are three byways in Colorado, each perfect for a scenic drive that you won't soon forget. 

Cache la Poudre - North Park Scenic and Historic Byway

Image via Flickr by pdsphil

In French "Cache la Poudre" means "hide the powder." Legend tells that fur trappers during the mid-1800s buried their gunpowder here during a heavy snowstorm to lighten their load, retrieving the gunpowder the following spring. Starting in Fort Collins, this 101-mile drive takes around three hours. 

From Fort Collins, head west on CO-14. For much of the trip, you'll be driving parallel to the foamy Cache la Poudre River. Leaving Bellevue, you'll go through Roosevelt National Forest and then up the Cache la Poudre Canyon. 

You'll find many adventure opportunities along this route, such as rock climbing, hiking, camping, and rafting along the raging river during the summer months. Look out for the Bighorn sheep, Colorado's state mammal. From the top of Cameron Pass, you'll see amazing views of the bowl-shaped basin of North Park. Pack in your binoculars, as North Park is a bustling habitat for wildlife. The drive officially ends in Walden.

Lariat Loop Scenic Byway

The Lariat Loop Scenic Byway is the only urban byway in Colorado. This area is full of historical landmarks, culture, and nature. You'll find museums, entertainment, activities, and good food along this byway. Starting in Golden on Highway 6, you'll travel up Lookout Mountain Road and then southwest down I-70 at Genesee. Look out for bison on the I-70; they roam in a large natural setting. Continue on Highway 74 through Evergreen, centered around Evergreen Lake and carry on to Morrison, the tiny foothill home of Red Rocks Amphitheater, returning on Highway 6 to Golden.

This 40-mile loop retraces the routes of the 1920s driving in the foothills. This route was one of Colorado's original gateways to the Rockies. Be prepared for an exciting drive with sharp corners, winding roads, and plenty of spots to stop and take a photo of the beautiful scenery.

Pikes Peak Highway

Built in 1915, this is the perfect scenic drive to enjoy lake views, wildlife, and climb one of Colorado's famous peaks the easy way. Starting in Colorado Springs, go west on Highway US-24, turning left onto Fountain Avenue. Follow the signs to Pikes Peak Highway. This roundtrip scenic drive will take about two to three hours depending on how often you stop to enjoy the sights. 

Along the way, pull off and enjoy the scenery, including three lakes where you can kayak or fish. Be sure to take along a jacket, as when you get to Pikes Peak Summit House on top, you'll be 14,115 feet above sea level, and it's always chilly up there. On top, check out the "meet the ranger" program to learn more about the geology, history, and wildlife of the mountain. 

Whichever route you chose to follow, take a deep breath, and enjoy every moment because Colorado is magical.