From majestic Pikes Peak to the depths of the Royal Gorge, the Gold Belt Scenic Byway is a nature lover's delight. The dramatic changes in terrain and the majestic Rocky Mountains are the elements that give this byway its unique flavor.
The territory echoes with the Old West and the days when gold miners filled the countryside. Historic buildings, scenic roads, and natural splendor give the Gold Belt Tour even more scenic qualities.
Red Canyon Park, along Shelf Road, is filled with spires, windows, and other amazing rock formations eroded from red sandstone monoliths. The park roads provide easy access to a variety of scenic viewpoints.
Skyline Drive, located on the western edge of Canon City, climbs a 600-foot-high tilted sandstone ridge called a hogback. It offers a panoramic view of Canon City and the lower Arkansas River Valley.
The Royal Gorge, located along the High Park segment of the byway, is one of Colorado's most famous tourist destinations: You can cross the bridge in a car or on foot or take the incline railway to the bottom of the gorge.
Historic buildings and museums are part of the picturesque towns you drive through along the Gold Belt Tour. You might drive past an old homestead framed against a Colorado grassland and imagine yourself in the days when gold glittered in the hills and the railroad brought new and interesting people every day.
Plains and grasslands characterize the southern portion of the Gold Belt Tour Scenic and Historic Byway near Canon City. Phantom Canyon and Shelf Roads climb out of the valley to the high country, following creeks or clinging to canyon walls hundreds of feet above the canyon floor.
As you make your way up the canyons, the plains give way to the forest. As the road nears Cripple Creek and Victor, the scenery opens up to a view of high mountain ranges and majestic Pikes Peak. The area is covered with subalpine forests of Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, and quaking aspen. Travelers driving through this area are very likely to catch a glimpse of some of the best wildlife the Gold Belt Tour has to offer.
In addition, High Park Road and Teller 1 travel through rolling mountain parkland, offering awe-inspiring views of two of Colorado's highest mountain ranges: the Wasatch and Sangre de Cristos ranges.
As you travel the Gold Belt Scenic Byway, consider following this itinerary.
Royal Gorge Bridge: The first place you'll want to stop is the Royal Gorge Bridge. Travel west out of Canon City on High Park Road for about eight miles, turn right, and you'll come to the bridge (and the park) in about half a mile.
Dinosaur Depot Museum and Garden Park Fossil Area: As you drive back through Canon City, take time to stop at Dinosaur Depot Museum on Royal Gorge Boulevard. Dinosaur Depot Museum shows some of the fossils found at the Garden Park Fossil Area. You can take a guided tour of the museum that includes an informative video showing the removal of famous dinosaur fossils.
This is also the place to set up a tour of Garden Park Fossil Area, located just north of Canon City. Garden Park Fossil Area has been the location of some of the most important discoveries of dinosaur fossils in North America. Tours should be made in advance; self-guided trails and exhibits are also available at the Garden Park Fossil Area.
View of Pikes Peak: As you travel Shelf Road north to Cripple Creek, you will be treated to a beautiful vista of the west slope of Pikes Peak, named for explorer Zebulon Pike. Pikes Peak towers 14,110 feet.
Cripple Creek: Take U.S. 50 west and then Shelf Road north 26 miles to historic Cripple Creek, the center of the Cripple Creek Mining District. Cripple Creek is a National Historic Landmark, and many of the buildings that were built during the early 1900s have been restored.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument: From Cripple Creek, travel west on Bennett Avenue to Teller 1. Seventeen miles from the junction on Teller 1, stop at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, which offers walking and guided tours. The fossils found here are renowned for their variety of species: More than 80,000 fossilized specimens of tree stumps, insects, seeds, and leaves have been catalogued. The historic Homestead is also located here. Picnic areas, a visitor's center, and hiking trails are available.
You'll have a hard time finding a road as rich in history and natural beauty as the Gold Belt Scenic Byway.
Find more useful information related to Colorado's Gold Belt Scenic Byway:
- Colorado Scenic Drives: The Gold Belt Scenic Byway is just one of the scenic byways in Colorado. Check out the others.
- Cripple Creek, Florence, Victor: Find out what there is to do in these cities along the Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway.
- Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Colorado? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
- How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.