Posted: March 8, 2022
The Gold Belt Scenic Byway is a national scenic byway running through Colorado’s gold country.
The Colorado Springs area encompasses a wide variety of scenic drives in the region from pristine pine and aspen forests along Pikes Peak to twisty canyons and winding mountain passes.
It’s not as spooky as it sounds, though there will be some thrills along the way.
The first stop of this loop is the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. You have plenty of options to enjoy the park, such as exploring the suspension bridge, riding the gondola or Skycoaster, ziplining and braving the Via Ferrata – a gorge-side, horizontal climbing path comprised of steel cables. You can also capture amazing views of the gorge on hikes like the Royal Gorge Rim Trail or others in the area.
Pit Stop Recommendation – The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey: Stop by the local winery on the grounds of the historic Holy Cross Abbey. Check out the tasting room and bring a bottle or two home with you from the gift shop.
After exploring the Royal Gorge, experience a little thrill on Skyline Drive. With sweeping views of Cañon City, it’s an unbeatable adventure – but be ready for cliff drops on both sides of the road! It’s like riding a rollercoaster that’s weaved into the mountains.
Historic Phantom Canyon Road will take adventurers on a scenic route all the way to Victor where they can hop on CO-67 and then take US-24 E back to I-25. The gravel road follows the route of the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad built in 1894 and features tunnels and unique bridges.
Fun Fact: Phantom Canyon Road not only has stories of being haunted, but it also is lined with remnants of ghost towns of years past that add to its mysterious reputation. You’ll pass signs for towns like Wilbur, Adelaide and Glenbrook that were washed away in flashfloods or dissipated as a result of the slowing economy after the railroad closed in 1912.
Pit Stop Recommendation – historic gold mines: Once you make it to Victor, there is plenty to do in the area if you have time before heading home. Check out Vindicator Valley Trail, an interpretive trail that takes you past abandoned 1890s gold mines.
It follows a former railroad from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek. Enjoy beautiful mountain views and peaceful, calm vibes along the way.
Once through Bear Canyon and on Gold Camp Road, it will wind up the switchbacks past some residential housing and overviews of downtown Colorado Springs. The road will take you through two tunnels heading into North Cheyenne Cañon Park and turning into Cheyenne Cañon Road. The views along the way are spectacular, and you’ll pass plenty of options for hiking in the park. Keep your eye out for views of Helen Hunt falls on the way down!
Fun Fact: Gold Camp Road’s tunnels are said to be haunted. The road opened in the 1920s and was a car toll road. In 1988, the third tunnel collapsed and was never repaired. Legend says a school bus collided with it, killing the driver and those aboard. Nearby hikers claim to hear laughter in the area, as well as other eerie experiences.
Pit Stop Recommendation – Mt. Cutler Trail: If you’re looking to go on a short, rewarding hike and take a break from the car, Mt. Cutler is a great option. On the way down Gold Camp Road and through North Cheyenne Cañon Park, you’ll see the trailhead for Mt. Cutler on your right. Rated as an easier trail, it’s a little under 2 miles roundtrip. Along the way, you’ll see great views of the Stratton Open Space, The Broadmoor Seven Falls and Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun.
Pit Stop Recommendation – Sacred Ground Café: Need a bite to eat or caffeine booster once you exit North Cheyenne Cañon Park? Sacred Ground Café is located right along Cheyenne Blvd and nestled into the mountains. You’ll see it on your right as you head out.
One on Old Stage Road, it will wind up past some residential housing and turn into a dirt road. You’ll almost instantly be high enough to see an overview of Colorado Springs. The road will wind into the mountains, passing hiking trails, shooting ranges, reservoirs and more. A well-known, challenging hike along the way is Mt. Rosa. You can reach it via Forest Road 379, which intersects with Old Stage Road (368). If you decide to continue on Old Stage Road, it will eventually connect back with Gold Camp Road and take you all the way into Cripple Creek.
Pit Stop Recommendation – Historic Cripple Creek: If you make it all the way to Cripple Creek, there are plenty of activities to do once there. From the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railway, to Cripple Creek District Museum and Jail Museum, you’ll be kept busy (double check with these attractions for reopening plans before venturing out). Don’t forget to keep your eye out for the famous Cripple Creek donkey herd downtown!
From Cripple Creek, you can take US-24 E back to I-25.
Enjoy breathtaking views, animal sightings like Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep and marmots and more.
The ride up Pikes Peak is an experience unlike any other. Through mid-October, at Mile 14 and 16, you’ll find ample parking and free shuttles that depart from Devils Playground every five minutes to take visitors to the summit while the highly anticipated new Summit Complex is built. Masks are required. The current Summit House is open as of June 1, so when you get to the top, you can enjoy its world-famous hot and fresh donuts, hot coffee, fudge and gift shop. You may spot some explorers hiking or biking up the mountain!
Pit Stop Recommendation – North Slope Recreation Area: In this area, licensed fishermen can fish in three different lakes from May to October, and adventurers can hike and bike on nearby trails. You’ll also pass by Crystal Reservoir Gift Shop and the Historic Glen Cove Inn.
Fun Fact: On the clearest days, you can see five states (Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Kansas) and the curvature of the earth fading into the distance.
This short, scenic drive packs a punch of gorgeous views in just 20 minutes.
The vibrant red canyons of thick pine and oak guide you up the pass and open to lush rolling hills and mountain range that look like they came straight out of Jurassic Park. Though it’s just a short drive up to the 8,465’ City Above the Clouds, it’s hard to choose a favorite between the journey up the pass and the quaint, welcoming destination of Woodland Park. This picturesque mountain town is full of local mom and pop shops, restaurants and trails to explore. Check out The Donut Mill in the heart of downtown and reward yourself with a donut or biscuits and gravy after a day of hiking and exploring.
Pit Stop Recommendation – Wines of Colorado: Pop into the tasting room and enjoy a glass of wine on the creek-side patio. Be sure to grab a bottle of your favorite as a souvenir.
Pit Stop Recommendation – Gazebo Lake at Green Mountain Falls: Pack a lunch and enjoy a leisurely stroll around a picturesque lake before getting to Woodland Park.
Pit Stop Recommendation – Pickle Shack: A MUST for all pickle enthusiasts. This rustic little shop is located at the base of Pikes Peak Highway and has over 40 varieties of delicious products.
Fun Fact: Woodland Park is nearby plenty of epic hiking trails and parks like Pancake Rocks, The Crags and Mueller State Park.
Our most famous route is the Gold Belt Scenic Byway. This scenic drive takes you along the historic railroad and stagecoach routes where the most prominent, populated mining towns were located: Florissant, Victor, Canon City, Florence and nearby Cripple Creek. These scenic drives can take anywhere from two to eight hours and is about 135 miles total. Drive part of it or drive it all, but don’t forget to stop and take in each of the areas main attractions.
We also recommend the Golden Loop Historic Parkway, which was made famous during the gold rush in the 1890s. This area includes the Cripple Creek and Victor mining areas and takes you through historic mining backcountry roads.
Another one of our favorite scenic drives near Colorado Springs is the Pikes Peak Highway. Take the trip up to the mountain’s summit and overlook the city. This 19-mile road starts at 7,400 feet and climbs up to 14,115 feet at the top of the mountain. On your way up, you’ll see beautiful trees, serene lakes, hills and mountaintops.
Drive your passenger car on a road that ascends and follows the top of a high razorback ridge overlooking Cañon City. Skyline Drive is a one-way, paved road from US 50 on the west edge of town. Soon the landscape falls away hundreds of feet on both sides, which is just a bit hair-raising. The city spreads out on both sides of you and there are pullouts to enjoy the view. Towards the top, there is an interpretive display to help you see the ancient dinosaur tracks embedded in the cliff face.
A "hidden gem" is the Russell Tutt Scenic Highway. It takes you to the Will Rodgers Shrine inside the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. It's only a 1.4-mile drive up the mountain and it provides amazing views of Colorado Springs. The cost is included in your zoo admission for that day.
The fall months are especially pretty for these Colorado scenic drives, so be sure to bring your camera to capture the golden hues of the trees and other foliage.
Enjoy these breathtaking drives near Colorado Springs!
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