From the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains, Colorado offers a myriad of scenic sights to soak in by car. From any of its most popular tourist destinations, there’s always a beautiful drive nearby waiting to be explored.
Colorado boasts more than two dozen designated national scenic byways, spread across the state. All of them except one are open to 2WD vehicles, and most are open year-round. Some include seasonal routes that are closed in the winter, such as the Mount Evans Byway.
Cottonwood Pass. Photo: CL.Baker
In addition to its scenic byways, Colorado has a myriad of old mining roads dotting the hillsides. If you have a high-clearance, 4×4 vehicle, the Rockies are your oyster. Otherwise, there are still plenty of high mountain passes to experience with two-wheel drive, weather depending.
We’ll cover all the closest national scenic byways, mountain passes, and auto tours to the most popular towns. If the mileage isn’t given or is listed as zero, it means the byway passes directly through the town, otherwise, the mileage is typically calculated to the top of the pass or middle of the route. The following road trips are just the tip of the iceberg, there are plenty of other gorgeous drives.
Here are the scenic drives near ________, CO, in alphabetical order: (click anchor link to jump to town)
Boreas Pass, Colorado. Photo: Marko Forsten
Scenic drives near Alamosa
The hub of the San Luis Valley, Alamosa is surrounded by one-of-a-kind attractions. The Los Caminos Antiguos Byway translates to the “ancient roads” and goes south to Antonito. There you can board a coal-fired narrow gauge railroad, the Cumbres & Toltec train ride to Chama, New Mexico. The closest scenic drives to Alamosa, CO are:
Scenic drives near Aspen
The dazzling Highway 82 leads you from the start of the Roaring Fork Valley, in Glenwood Springs, southeast to Aspen, where it seasonally dead ends. It’s a lovely one-hour drive, open year-round. In the summer, you can continue east over the continental divide via Independence Pass to Twin Lakes, in-between Leadville and Buena Vista. The closest scenic drives to Aspen, CO are:
Scenic drives near Avon/Beaver Creek
The charming village of Beaver Creek and ski town of Avon are lovely places to base from. Just a few miles east towards Vail, via US-6 or I-70, you’ll reach US-24, the northern start of the Top of the Rockies Byway. This loop starts from Minturn, heading south past Red Cliff, Camp Hill, and Leadville, before either heading back to I-70 at Copper or over Independence Pass to Aspen.
The closest scenic drives to Avon, CO are:
Scenic drives near Boulder
Nestled against The Flatirons, Boulder is one pretty place. From its location in the foothills, you can head west to join the Peak to Peak Byway in Nederland. Take that north to Trail Ridge Road for a longer journey, or south to the Lariat Loop starting in Golden. Lookout Mountain Road is found along this route. The closest scenic drives to Boulder, CO are:
Scenic drives near Breckenridge
One of Colorado’s most visited mountain towns, Breckenridge sits at the base of the Tenmile Range. There are several rugged 4×4 roads close by, including Boreas Pass, Georgia Pass, and Mosquito Pass. The first two lead south into the South Park basin directly from town while the last starts in Alma and goes to Leadville. You’ll cross the 2WD Hoosier Pass, to access Mosquito.
The closest scenic drives to Breckenridge, CO are:
Scenic drives near Buena Vista
The Collegiate Peaks rise behind Buena Vista providing a beautiful view and plenty of incredible routes. Directly west from town, Cottonwood Pass is the summer shortcut to Crested Butte. Head north a little to Twin Lakes and you can take the summer shortcut to Aspen. Both are paved roads. For a challenge, the 4×4 Tincup Pass also crosses the divide into Gunnison County.
The closest scenic drives to Buena Vista, CO are:
Scenic drives near Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs is the beautiful basecamp for most people when taking on Pikes Peak. This paved journey up to over 14,000 feet is one stunning drive. In-town you can explore Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. There, take an auto tour up the Russell Tutt Scenic Highway to the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. The closest scenic drives to Colorado Springs, CO are:
Scenic drives near Copper Mountain
Copper Mountain sits nearby several pretty routes. Continuing west on I-70 leads you over Vail Pass, or you can detour towards Leadville on the Top of the Rockies Byway. This journey on CO-91 crosses a few passes, the first being Fremont Pass. The closest scenic drives to Copper Mountain, CO are:
Scenic Drives near Crested Butte
Crested Butte is found in the middle of Colorado’s Rockies, surrounded by stunning scenery. The Kebler Pass is CB’s summer route over to Paonia and the nearby Roaring Fork Valley. It’s part of the West Elk Loop, but so is Highway 135 south to Gunnison. Schofield Pass is a 4×4 only route to Marble, passing the notoriously-photographed Crystal Mill.
The closest scenic drives to Crested Butte, CO are:
Scenic drives near Denver
Because of the Mile High City’s flat plains east of the Rockies, you’ll need to head west in order to gain some elevation to see over the surrounding lands. The drives around the metro are pretty but limited usually to what’s directly in front or around you. Lariat Loop traces along the foothills between Golden, Morrison, and Evergreen.
While in Golden, it climbs Lookout Mountain Road, which is one of the best auto routes overlooking the metropolitan area. The closest scenic drives to Denver, CO are:
Scenic drives near Dillon
US 6 from below Loveland Pass, Colorado. Photo: Steven Martin
Anywhere you drive in Summit County will be lovely. It’s named so for its high peaks that hover outside of the bustling little mountain metro. A short, but incredibly sweet drive is over the Dillon Dam. You’ll get views of the reservoir on one side and a thrilling overlook to Silverthorne and I-70 down below. The closest scenic drives to Dillon, CO are:
Scenic drives near Durango
This San Juan Mountain town is one of Colorado’s best destinations. Nestled in the southwest, it lies at the crossroads of Highway 160 and Highway 550, both part of the San Juan Skyway. There are pretty routes to take in a number of directions, including an auto tour along Mesa Verde NP. The closest scenic drives to Durango, CO are:
Scenic drives near Estes Park
Blessed with Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in its backyard, Estes Park is a gorgeous destination. It sits at the northern start of the Peak to Peak Byway, which goes south past Nederland to Black Hawk. And one of the best routes in the state, Trail Ridge Road, also starts right from town.
It’s a seasonal two-way drive between Estes and Grand Lake, so you can opt for the one-way Old Fall River Road to reach Grand Lake, before returning on Trail Ridge Rd. The closest scenic drives to Estes Park, CO are:
Scenic drives near Fairplay
Perched at close to 10,000 feet in the northern South Park basin, Fairplay has some unique views. There are numerous mountain passes to access, with some suitable for only 4x4s. Mosquito Pass is considered a difficult 4 wheel drive road that leads from Alma over the divide to Leadville. The closest scenic drives to Fairplay, CO are:
Scenic drives near Fort Collins
The flagship city of northern Colorado, Fort Collins is home to both Colorado State University and more than 165,000 residents. Heading west leads upstream along the Cache La Poudre River, on CO-14, a national scenic byway. Or venture southwest to Estes Park, the eastern gateway to RMNP.
The Great Plains are a viable option, with the Pawnee National Grassland starting only an hour east. The closest scenic drives to Fort Collins, CO are:
Scenic drives near Frisco
From Frisco, you can head to Keystone via Swan Road, which runs parallel with the southern shores of Dillon Reservoir. The views overlooking the lake are outstanding, and you can circle back via the Dam Rd. The start of the Top of the Rockies Byway lies just down the interstate at Copper Mtn. The closest scenic drives to Frisco, CO are:
Scenic drives near Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs is the gateway to the Roaring Fork Valley, which stretches forty miles southeast to Aspen. This delightful drive along CO-82 continues past Aspen in the summertime to summit Independence Pass and onto Leadville or Buena Vista (you come out between the two). Outside of town, the interstate passes through Glenwood Canyon, a nice stretch of highway.
The closest scenic drives to Glenwood Springs, CO are:
Scenic drives near Granby
Granby sits at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level in Middle Park. This high elevation basin offers some expansive views and a few nice tours. It’s located along the CO River Headwaters Byway, which connects Grand Lake and Kremmling. The Arapaho National Recreation Area covers multiple lakes just north of town. The closest scenic drives to Granby, CO are:
Scenic drives near Grand Junction
Grand Junction is surrounded by wonderful western views, with mesa tops in all directions. Take the twenty miles or so auto tour from GJ to Fruita to the Colorado National Monument. The town is also the start of the Dinosaur Dimond Byway, which goes north to Rangely and Dinosaur. The Unaweep Tabequche Byway is another off-the-beaten-path route that offers solitude.
The closest scenic drives to Grand Junction, CO are:
Scenic drives near Grand Lake
The western gateway to RMNP, Grand Lake provides quick access to Trail Ridge Road over to Estes Park. This route will cross over a few mountain passes, including Milner and Iceberg. RMNP is also the headwaters of the Colorado River, so you can take this stunning byway western out of Grand Lake to Kremmling. The closest scenic drives to Grand Lake, CO are:
Scenic drives near Gunnison
Gunnison is isolated in a vast valley in the middle of the Rockies. Coming in from the east on Highway 50, you’ll descend Monarch Pass to enter Gunnison County. A side trip over Waunita Pass is a fun detour across some semi-ghost towns, of Ohio City and Pitkin. The Blue Mesa spans more than 20 miles west of town.
Near the start of it, you can detour south on Highway 160 on the incredible Silver Thread Byway. The closest scenic drives to Gunnison, CO are:
Scenic Drives near Idaho Springs
A popular stopping along the mountainous interstate west of Golden, Idaho Springs offers close proximity to a number of front range routes. Take Squaw Pass north to the Mount Evans Byway, which operates seasonally, usually closing in early fall. Berthoud Pass is just west of town at the Empire exit and leads to Winter Park. Further west, Loveland Pass takes you to Summit County.
The closest scenic drives to Idaho Springs, CO are:
Scenic drives near Keystone
Hidden just around the bend from Lake Dillon, the resort town of Keystone invites tourists to visit throughout the year. From festivals to mountain biking to downhill skiing, there’s always something happening. The county is very scenic, from Loveland Pass minutes away to the ghost town of Montezuma and 4×4 routes like Webster and Redstone.
The closest scenic drives to Keystone, CO are:
Scenic drives near Leadville
One of Colorado’s highest mountain towns at nearly 10,200 ft., Leadville offers views of the two tallest peaks, Mt. Elbert and Massive. It’s located along the Top of the Rockies Byway, which you can take in either direction from town. Located close by is Turquoise Lake, a wonderful summer loop around the body of water, suitable for 2 wheel drive vehicles.
The closest scenic drives to Leadville, CO are:
Scenic drives near Ouray
Naturally, the “Switzerland of America”, located on the San Juan Skyway at the start of the Million Dollar Highway south to Silverton, has some stunning roads to ride. If you’re equipped with high clearance and 4-wheel drive, opt for the Alpine Loop to Lake City, Silverton, and back to Ouray. Last Dollar Road is a back way to Telluride. The closest scenic drives to Ouray, CO are:
Scenic drives near Pagosa Springs
The top of Wolf Creek Pass is a mere 23 miles east of town on Highway 160. The Wolf Creek Ski Area is a popular draw in the summer. On the opposite side lies South Fork, which is the southern gateway to the Silver Thread Byway. This road-less-traveled leads along CO-149 to Lake City, Creede, and Gunnison. The closest scenic drives to Pagosa Springs, CO are:
Scenic drives near Pueblo
Pueblo sits about 45 minutes south of Colorado Springs, making Pikes Peak Highway a viable day trip. Otherwise, Pueblo sits at the start of the Frontier Pathways Byway, which leads to Westcliffe and Colorado City in front of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Directly west of Pueblo on Highway 50 lands you in Cañon City where you can board the one-of-a-kind (and one-way) Skyline Drive.
The closest scenic drives to Pueblo, CO are:
Scenic drives near Salida
Salida is surrounded by scenery. The College Peaks Byway is an easy 45-minute drive north to Buena Vista, offering several fourteeners to view. From there you can go west over Cottonwood Pass to Almont in Gunnison Co. There’s also Tincup Pass before BB for 4×4 drivers that lead over to Gunnison County as well.
Or a little further north to Independence Pass and over to Aspen. Poncha Pass is just south of Salida and Monarch Pass just west. The closest scenic drives to Salida, CO are:
Scenic drives near Silverthorne
Silverthorne is located at a scenic crossroads, with several popular passes and byways within an easy day trip. Loveland Pass is found right around the corner of Highway 6 from Keystone. The Eisenhower–Johnson Tunnel is located just east of town. It’s one of the highest and longest auto tunnels of its kind, crossing through the continental divide.
The closest scenic drives to Silverthorne, CO are:
Scenic drives near Silverton
Silverton has gnarly San Juan mountain views in every direction. Head north on the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray, part of the overall San Juan Skyway, which loops the whole southwest to Telluride, Cortez, and Durango. There are a lot of former mining roads to explore with the right vehicle, including the Alpine Loop behind the town. The closest scenic drives to Silverton, CO are:
Scenic drives near Steamboat Springs
The northwestern views of the Yampa Valley provide just hints of the higher Rockies beyond the skyline. The town sits at 7,000 feet, providing rolling tree-lined mountains of aspen and evergreen. Rabbit Ears Pass signifies you’re getting close to Steamboat when westbound on Highway 40 from Kremmling.
Those with a 4×4 can check out Buff Pass all the way to the top and onto Walden at Highway 14. The Flat Tops Byway is a worthy side trip, doable in one day as a loop, but better overnight. The closest scenic drives to Steamboat Springs, CO are:
Scenic drives near Telluride
Anybody who knows Telluride knows it’s located amongst some spectacular alpine scenery. Coming and going from town and Mountain Village will put you on a number of stunning paths. The San Juan Skyway connects the hot spots of the southwest on a vast loop of multi highways. And there are other routes across to Ouray, such as Last Dollar Road for high-clearance vehicles.
The closest scenic drives to Telluride, CO are:
Scenic drives near Vail
Interstate-70 descends Vail Pass into the Vail Valley offering some gorgeous views. Continuing west past Vail you can board the Top of the Rockies Byway up past Minturn, Red Cliff, and Leadville. Then take it back to Copper Mountain and up and down Vail Pass. The closest scenic drives to Vail, CO are:
Scenic drives near Winter Park
Coming from the front range you’ll cross over the continental divide via Berthoud Pass, which leads down into Grand County. Before Winter Park is turn off for the west route of Rollins Pass, also called Corona. This is a fun one-way day trip for high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles. Continuing north on Highway 40 leads to Granby and the Colorado River Headwaters Byway.
The closest scenic drives to Winter Park, CO are:
Independence Pass, Colorado. Photo: Gene
Keep on Rolling
Those are among the top scenic drives in the state. Hopefully, there’s a stunning route to take near you. Remember some of these roads are seasonal and weather pending, so keep an eye on some road conditions around the state via cotrip.org.
Here’s a look at some of our curated road trips in Colorado and beyond:
Make sure you’ve packed the essentials and your vehicle is tuned up and ready for the journey. Safe travels!