Top of the Rockies Byway. Photo: Patricia Henschen
This scenic byway is one of the highest in USA, hence the name Top of the Rockies. The altitudes of its 82-mile expanse almost never drops the 9000 feet mark.
It features incredible views of two of the greatest fourteeneers in Colorado, namely Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. It also travels through the Continental Divide multiple times, and as such perfectly outlines the great Arkansas River.
Driving the Top of the Rockies Byway
Most travelers prefer starting the journey from Aspen. The road forks upon reaching Leadville, wherein the west side leads to Minturn via US-24, and the east side goes through CO-91. Either way, it requires making a loop through the I-70, which is not included in the byway, to be able to complete the drive.
Parts of the Top of the Rockies is open all year round, but is safer during spring, summer and fall. Independence Pass closes seasonally in the winter. Driving time typically lasts for about 3 hours, but may take up to a day due to the numerous offerings this byway has.
Recreation on Top of the Rockies Byway
Major points of interest include the Camp Hale Memorial, where World War II soldiers were trained to fight on skis to prepare for the Apennine Mountains of Italy. The Tabor Opera House, which was built by Horace Tabor in 1879, signifies the relevance of Colorado’s mining industry during the 19th century. The scenic byway is also home to three national forests, namely Pike, San Isabel and White River.
The vast terrain also allows for many outdoor activities like 4WD, biking, horseback riding and camping. Nearby resorts such as Copper Mountain and Ski Cooper make it a great destination to do snow activities during winter.
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Length: 82 miles
Map: Top of the Rockies Byway (png)