Scenic & Historic Byway
Length: 103 miles Driving Time: 3.5 hours
Special Features: Colorado Scenic Byway,
San Isabel National Forest,
Lake Pueblo State Park,
El Pueblo Museum (Pueblo)
Looking towards Westcliffe and the Sangres
This old frontier zone marks the intersection of Native American, Spanish, French
and American territories. First were the Utes, then the European explorers, then
traders, trappers, homesteaders, ranchers, and prospectors came through and left
their marks on the land. Historic buildings from mining operations, Victorian towns
and long lost cattle empires line the route. And the snow-capped mountains, carpeted
meadows, jagged canyons, and aspen-covered hillsides have not changed.
Most folks start the drive out of Pueblo. I usually begin at Westcliffe. From Westcliffe
I take State Highway 96 east, towards Pueblo. I usually just go as far as McKenzie
Junction in Hardscrabble Canyon (the photo on the right) and then turn right and
take State Highway 165 to Rye and Colorado City. It’s a beautiful drive through
forested mountain countryside. Some great rock formations, nice meadows, good views.
At Ophir Creek there’s a hairpin turn in the paved road. In the middle of the turn
there is a dirt road leading westward to Ophir Campground, Deer Mountain and the
Greenhorn Mountain Road. Just south
of Ophir Creek is Bishop’s Castle. The road is excellent and, if anything, is too
short. Shortly after Bishop’s Castle the road passes by Lake Isabel and then leads out onto the flatter grassy slopes of Rye and
then down the Greenhorn Canyon to Colorado City and the I-25.
Farley Ranch, just west of Wetmore
The drive from Pueblo to Wetmore takes you out of the high plains climate zone and
into the low montane zone. This is seen by the effects of the increase in precipitation:
the grasses and cacti give way to the junipers and pinons of the foothills. There
are several ranches along the way that qualify as Centennial Ranches: they’ve been
held by the same family for over 100 years. When they look like this, it’s easy
to see why the original homesteader’s descendants have not moved on.
To see more of the journey take a look at: Wetmore to McKenzie Junction and McKenzie Junction to Colorado City. And then there’s the sections of road between Gardner and Westcliffe and between Westcliffe and McKenzie Junction.