Collegiate Peaks Scenic Overlook, north of U.S. 24 in Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, is one of Colorado’s underdog scenic viewpoints. The overlook lies just north of the highway on the west side of Trout Creek Pass a mile east of Johnson Village, but it doesn’t get loads of visitors so you’ll usually have the views to yourself. And what a view it is! This vantage point on a low ridge looks across the Arkansas River Valley to the Collegiate Peaks, including 14,197-foot Mount Princeton and 14,196-foot Mount Yale as well as three more Fourteeners to the south. The overlook is a great stop to take in the mountain views, use the clean pit toilets, stretch your legs, and have a picnic at a shaded table. The site also has interpretative panels and benches.
- Find Collegiate Peaks Scenic Overlook on the west side of Trout Creek Pass by turning north on County Road 304. Drive 0.2 miles north on the dirt road and go left at a fork on a one-way road to the overlook. The restrooms and picnic tables are to the left on a ridge after the road reaches the ridgeline. To return to Highway 24, continue around the one-way loop.
- The overlook has a group picnic site at a covered pavilion with six picnic tables and two covered pavilions with one table each. This is a scenic spot for a family reunion or outdoor wedding with a view. Reserve the group site by calling Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area at 719-539-7289.
- Buena Vista, a few miles up valley from the overlook, is a wonderful mountain town with a historic downtown area, art galleries, the Buena Vista Heritage Museum, and Gold Rush Days, a celebration of the town’s mining roots. You can also go rock climbing at Bob’s Rock and Davis Face; raft down the frothy Arkansas River; take a hike on many local trails; toss a line in the river for trout; or camp for a few days at a scenic campground up Cottonwood Pass.
- Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, on County Road 162 southwest of Buena Vista, is a popular place to soak your cares and aches away in steaming water alongside Chalk Creek. The resort offers an outdoor soaking pool, lap polls and bath house. Cottonwood Hot Springs, west of Buena Vista on County Road 306, is another good soaker with pools, sauna, private spas, and a cold plunge.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green