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      Close to Heaven… Down to Earth

 



Frontier Pathways

Gardner to Westcliffe

Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway begins in the heart of Gardner and heads
north out of town on State Highway 69. Once you leave Gardner the next town is Westcliffe,
about 49 miles away. In between is some incredible scenery and lots of history.

The northern part of Huerfano County has never really been settled. A lot of the
land is held in large cattle/hunting/buffalo ranches. Once you get a couple miles
north of Gardner, there are no more small property owners until you cross the Centennial
Divide into Custer County. That also means that the countryside is pretty pristine.
There are some old homestead remains along the highway but hardly anything new until
you enter Custer County. And out in the middle of this big nothingness are some
high mountains beckoning for your attention.

Before you leave Huerfano County, there are several National Forest and Great Sand
Dunes access roads heading off to the west. Just out of Gardner is the road heading
west to Mosca Pass, Red Wing, Malachite, and the Upper Huerfano Valley. At the south
end of Wolf Springs Ranch is the road to Medano Pass and the Great Sand Dunes. There
are also a couple of roads heading east to the San Isabel National Forest in the
Wet Mountains.

The Centennial Divide is not a major land feature, it just marks the south end of
the Wet Mountain Valley. North of here nearly the entire valley floor is hay fields
and pastures. There’s a lot of water in the ground but the growing season is a bit
short. None of that affects the views: the Sangre de Cristo’s just get more spectacular.

The airport area is just about due east of the ill-fated German Colony of 1870.
Theirs was the first attempt in America to take immigrants from the dirty factories,
alleys and cellars of an Eastern city (Chicago, in this case) and settle them on
raw farm land. These were brave people who took on an almost impossible task, and
they inevitably made mistakes. There were failed crops, mismanaged funds, poor leadership,
and a very early winter that first year. The situation was so bad that the Colonization
Company folded that first fall and most of the families left that area. Several
miles north of the airport is Colfax Road on the west (Colfax Road actually runs
south). Several miles south of the highway Colfax Road connects to the road to Music
Pass and the famous 4WD road leading into the South Colony Lakes area and Crestone
Peak, Crestone Needle and Humboldt Peak.

As you get closer to Westcliffe that wall of mountains to the west seems to turn
and head off to the northwest. At a certain point near the edge of town you can
see the Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Mountains off in the distance. Then you’re
in Westcliffe…