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      Close to Heaven… Down to Earth

 



The Scenic Highway of Legends
A Colorado & National Forest Service Scenic Byway

From Aguilar to San Isabel National Forest

Aguilar, Colorado

Aguilar, Colorado

The Apishapa Road was incorporated into the Scenic Highway of Legends, a National and Colorado Scenic Byway, on September
29, 2001. The road begins in Aguilar and heads west out of town through Gulnare
and up along the Apishapa River Valley to the San Isabel National Forest.

Bighorn sheep
Bighorn Sheep in Mauricio Canyon

The Scenic Byway follows Main Street in Aguilar west to the end of the business
district and then turns left. Stick with the pavement and in 8 miles you’ll be in
Gulnare. Along the way to Gulnare, you’ll pass the roads leading northwesterly into
Mauricio Canyon and Trujillo Creek Canyon.

Elk along the road

Elk Feeding by the road

As you approach Gulnare you’ll notice that the trees are changing: as the elevation
rises the pinons and cedars give way to Ponderosa pines. You’ll also begin to see
more wildlife.

Gulnare, Colorado

Old Gulnare church

Gulnare was a farming and ranching community for many years, selling their meat
and produce to the coal miners around Aguilar, and points north and south. But when
the mines were all closed, that market fell out and most of the folks headed for
jobs in the cities. Gulnare today is almost a ghost town, although a couple of 35-acre
subdivisions have brought more people back into the area. The old Gulnare Public
School is still standing but these days, school children are bused to the schools
in Aguilar.

Spanish Peaks

Along the way westward, there are many vistas that include the Spanish Peaks. This
one is from just north of Gulnare. As you travel further west, the terrain gets
more rugged with deep canyons cut in the layers of sandstone and with many spectacular
rock formations on display, formations carved by wind and water over the millenia.
Also, as you get closer to the Peaks, you come across more and more of the granite
dikes.

More elk

And there are more and more critters along the way. Between Gulnare and Twin Peaks
Ranch, the road is only a couple miles north of the Spanish Peaks State Wildlife
Areas. While there’s usually lots of elk and mule deer and the occasional black
bear to see, the real thing to look out for is the fork in the road just west of
Gulnare. If you go left you’ll be traveling up Jarosa Canyon and crossing the ridge
as the road goes south onto Wet Canyon Road, about 18 miles north of Weston and
the Scenic Byway between Trinidad and Stonewall. It’s a beautiful drive but it’s
not part of the Scenic Byway. If you go right at the fork, you’ll stay on the Scenic
Byway and eventually reach Cordova Pass and the paved portion of the Scenic Byway
at the summit of Cuchara Pass. Watch for the signs.

Twin Peaks Dike

Traveling west you’ll soon see signs letting you know that you are crossing Twin Peaks Ranch. They are a large cattle and hunting ranch directly abutting the south side of San Isabel National Forest near the East Spanish Peak. The views here just get bigger and bigger. You also cross that 8,000-foot threshold and come into aspen and spruce territory. At one point you’ll pass through a large dike wall and find yourself in a gorgeous valley. Looking back (to the east) you’ll see the Twin Peaks Dike, with the ranch headquarters just below it. This dike is exposed for miles, sticking out above the surrounding countryside.

Aspens along the way
CR 21.7, at its intersection with the Apishapa Road
at the top of this hill is an incredible view of the Spanish Peaks

Shortly after passing Twin Peaks Ranch you’ll see a sign on the right saying “Entering
God’s Country.” That signals the beginning of the Spanish Peaks Ranch. The next
sign of the ranch is a white, concrete arch over one lane of the road proclaiming
“Spanish Peaks Ranch.” A little further is a set of mailboxes for the ranch and
then the road heads straight into San Isabel National Forest. In the winter, the
county only plows the road to just past those mailboxes. From that piled-up snowbank
on, the road may not be open again until the end of next May.

You are in the “Aguilar to San isabel NF” section – follow the links below –
The Scenic Highway of Legends – Map and descriptions of sections:

Scenic Highway of Legends Map
Trinidad to StonewallStonewall to Cuchara PassCuchara Pass to La Veta
La Veta to WalsenburgWalsenburg to Trinidad
Aguilar to San Isabel NFSan Isabel NF to Cuchara Pass