Explore more than the hiking trails in Colorado with these 12 scenic drives for summer. Let’s face it, almost any road you take in Colorado leads you on a scenic journey. Fill up your bucket list this summer and get ready to experience some beautiful mountain scenery with these 12 scenic drives in Colorado. Buckle up and don’t forget your camera!

Note: all of these scenic drives take a few hours, depending on recreational activities enjoyed at each site. Please check weather conditions, current road conditions, and closures before planning your travels. Summer travel is recommended, as several of the routes listed below get closed in the winter. Don’t take photos and drive. Pull-offs along these scenic drives provide a safe opportunity for taking out your camera and snapping photographs. As always, drive safe through the mountains and enjoy the views. 

1. Pikes Peak Highway

Pikes Peak Highway Colorado Photo Credit: Adventure_Photo (iStock).

The views from Pikes Peak highway are unlike no other. Enjoy 19 miles of mountainous beauty filled with colorful blooms, alpine lakes, and wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lions, marmots, and more. When calculating your trip, set aside 2 to 3 hours or more for this scenic experience in Colorado. Note that some dates throughout the year may require the use of a shuttle to get to the top of the peak.

2. Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road Rocky Mountains Colorado Panoramic View of the road.

Trail Ridge Road features 45 miles of scenic beauty. This scenic road runs through Rocky Mountain National Park with elevations reaching over 12,000 feet. For anyone looking to catch panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, this is a fantastic option. Trail Ridge Road typically opens to vehicles from May to late October, depending on current weather conditions. There are also numerous opportunities for those looking to chase down new adventures along this route including camping, hiking, fishing, trail running, and outdoor photography.

3. Mount Evans Scenic Byway

Mount Evans: View from the summit, Photo Credit: Wally Gobetz (Flickr).

Travel up the highest paved road in North America – Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Starting in Idaho Springs, this 28-mile scenic road climbs over 7,000 feet in elevation to reach the 14,262-summit of Mount Evans. Take in the sweeping views of the Continental Divide while keeping a close lookout for mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and alpine wildflowers.

4. Loveland Pass

The scenery facing north from Loveland Pass, Photo Credit: David Herrera (Flickr).

There’s no better place to capture the perfect mountain moment than at Loveland Pass. Snag 11,000-foot views without hiking as you drive your way to the top of this iconic mountain pass. On your way back down, stop at Pass Lake for a wildflower-lined loop surrounding a small alpine lake. For skiers, take this scenic route to arrive at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.

5. Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive, Cañon City, Colorado. Photo Credit: Simon Morris (Flickr).

If it’s thrills you’re after, Skyline Drive in Canon City (just west of Pueblo) is for you. Hold your breath as make your way up this narrow single-track 2.8-mile road with 800-foot drop-offs on either side. Regardless of all the heart-pumping twists and turns, this scenic drive is totally worth exploring!

6. Monarch Pass

Monarch Pass - Monarch Crest Tramway-20
Monarch Crest Tramway. Photo Credit: Stephen Martin, @explorewithmedia; IG.

Get your fix of beautiful views at every mile by traveling Monarch Pass along US Route 50. Catch a glimpse of the Monarch-Madonna Mine, a major point of interest for Colorado history buffs. At the top of this 11,312-foot mountain pass, you’ll find a small restaurant, gift shop (open from early spring to fall), and the Monarch Crest Scenic Tramway. Swing by, pick up a few souvenirs, and ride to the top of Monarch Monarch for infinite views of the Continental Divide.

7. Garden of the Gods Scenic Loop

Garden of the Gods, Photo Credit: tonda (iStock).
Garden of the Gods, Photo Credit: tonda (iStock).

The scenic loop through Garden of the Gods is full of great viewpoints, offering picturesque vistas, towering red rock formations, and jaw-dropping views of Pikes Peak. Our favorite points of interest along the scenic drive include North and South Gateway Rocks, Gray Rock, Montezuma Tower, Scotsman Picnic Area, High Point, Siamese Twins, Steamboat Rock, and Balanced Rock. Get out and stretch your legs with over 15 miles of hiking trails in the park.

8. Red Mountain Pass

Million Dollar Highway, Photo Credit: Steven Martin (Flickr).

Red Mountain Pass along U.S. Highway 550 between Ouray and Durango is commonly known as the “Million Dollar Highway” and for a pretty good reason – it’s full of “million dollar” beauty all around (Note: It’s actually called this for a different reason). If you plan on adding this scenic drive to your bucket list, be sure to plan your trip during the summer months due to the dangers of heavy snow and ice throughout most of the winter season.

9. Black Bear Pass

Black Bear Pass - Sandy Horvath-Dori - flickr
Black Bear Pass. Photo credit: Sandy Horvath (flickr)

When it comes to finding a fun, exciting jolt of adrenaline, Black Bear Pass will give that rush. Embrace your adventurous spirit with a heart-pounding ascent up this high-altitude mountain pass, resting at 12,840 above sea level. The challenging off-roading terrain offers the perfect summer drive for the experienced Jeeper. Warning – make sure you’ve got a car that can handle this rugged route before trying to tackle it.

10. Cottonwood Pass

Cottonwood Pass, Photo Credit: Ernie (Flickr).

Witness beauty in every direction as you travel along Cottonwood Pass. This 12,126-foot mountain pass provides outdoor lovers with a scenery-packed adventure traversing from Colorado’s Front Range to Crested Butte. The scenery is unmatched, packed with mountain vistas, gold aspen groves, and beautiful wildflower meadows.

11. San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway

This 236 mile-loop serves up spectacular views of Southwest Colorado traveling from Ouray to Ridgway, Telluride, through Dolores, Cortez, and Durango, and back along Highway 550 for the classic Million Dollar Highway section between Silverton and Ouray. There are endless outdoor recreation opportunities along the way, ranging from fishing, climbing, hiking, whitewater rafting, and biking. Find more details about this scenic drive here.

12. Kebler Pass

Colorado aspens on Marcellina Mountain, off Kebler Pass, Photo Credit: John B. Kalla (Flickr).

Marvel at the beauty as you cruise down Kebler Pass, a haven for wildflower enthusiasts nestled just outside the colorful mountain town of Crested Butte. If you’re looking for quick access to fall colors, this scenic drive is a fantastic option. There are a number of scenic drives to enjoy around Crested Butte including Schofield Pass, Ohio Pass, Gothic Road, and Cement Creek Road. For more details, click here.

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