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Colorado Scenic Drive: Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway

        Adventure | West

Highlights of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway
The last blossoms of wildflowers flourish before yielding to the timberline and the majestic peaks of the Rockies.
The last blossoms of wildflowers flourish before yielding to the timberline and the majestic peaks of the Rockies.

Driving the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway is an adventure set among some of the highest country in Colorado. With Leadville located at just more than 10,000 feet and Mount Elbert and Mount Massive both more than 14,000, you are literally at the top of the Rocky Mountains.

Both Tennessee Pass (10,424 feet) and Fremont Pass (11,318 feet) take you over the tops of these grand mountains, offering never-ending views of mountaintops and deep canyons. Cool air, even in the summer months, provides a perfect environment for exploring the many attractions along the byway.

Every turn on Highways 91 and 24 going to Leadville yields another view of a peak jutting into the sky. The forested mountainsides offer you a chance to witness the many shades of green that can be seen within the forests.

Within each of the four national forests, woodland creatures, such as deer, may be spotted alongside the road. Clear mountain lakes and tumbling streams are easily accessible and seen from the road.

The open valley around Leadville is flanked on the west side by the Sawatch Mountain Range, with Mount Elbert and Mount Massive standing guard over the valley. Colorado's largest glacial lake, Twin Lakes, is set at the base of Twin Peaks and offers a peaceful and tranquil setting for the byway traveler.

The Top of the Rockies historical tour begins in the town of Dowd, which is about five miles west of Vail along Interstate 70. If you're beginning the tour from Leadville, simply start at the bottom of the list and work your way up.

: The Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway passes briefly through these small mountain communities and then quickly gains elevation as it winds its way up and over rugged mountain passes. Be sure to bring a camera because views from the road to the valleys below are incredible, especially in the fall.

Camp Hale Memorial and Historic Interpretive Site: This site is located on the byway near milepost 160 and features several plaques detailing the history of the 10th Mountain Division that trained here before serving in Europe in World War II.

National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum: Located in Leadville, visitors can see displays of hundreds of fine specimens of gold, silver, ore, and minerals, including spectacular examples loaned from the Smithsonian Institute and the Harvard Mineralogical Museum.

Tabor Opera House: When it opened in 1879, the Tabor Opera House was said to be the finest theater between St. Louis and San Francisco. This building is one of only a few Tabor-associated buildings still standing in Colorado.

Annunciation Church: Started in 1879, this historic church in Leadville was dedicated on New Year's Day, 1880. The church's steeple has become a prominent landmark of this area. It houses a 3,000-plus-pound bell.

Aim high and take a journey along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway. You'll discover amazing scenery, interesting facts about the mining history of this area, and much more.

Find more useful information related to Colorado's Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway:

  • Colorado Scenic Drives: The Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway is just one of the scenic byways in Colorado. Check out the others.
  • Leadville, Minturn: Find out what there is to do in these cities along the Top of the Rockies 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..
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