The best of Colorado by roadColorado, USA
Canyons and rapids, the Rocky Mountains, open pastures and alpine meadows characterise the 160 kilometres that make up northern Colorado’s Cache la Poudre Scenic Byway. And there’s no better way to see it than on a road trip.
Spend a few days before you get going at Fort Collins, Colorado’s craft beer capital and one of the first National Heritage Areas west of the Mississippi. In this charming town you’ll likely see as many bicycles as cars, plus there’s the New Belgium Brewing and Odell Brewing Co (just to name a couple of bright beer spots), Poudre Whitewater Park and a full contingent of live music venues.
From Fort Collins, buckle up for a road trip that is sure to deliver jaw-dropping views as you take US Highway 287 northwest to its intersection with Colorado Highway 14 in Bellvue. From there the highway proceeds up the rugged Cache la Poudre River Canyon. Be sure to pull over and catch a view of the Cache la Poudre’s famed whitewater rapids – they’re a must for advanced kayakers to take on. Following this designated Wild and Scenic River (the only river in Colorado with this title), you’ll experience terrain alternating between wild canyons, serene pastures and alpine meadows, with plenty of spots where you can fish for brown and rainbow trout.
Progressing uphill, Highway 14 tops out at Cameron Pass, a low forested saddle between the Rawah Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park. Here, take in the views of North Park’s bowl-shaped basin and some of Colorado’s curiously named mountain ranges – Medicine Bow, the Never Summer and Rabbit Ears. Continuing into North Park will bring wildlife lovers among coyotes, moose and elk, and to the old town of Walden in the centre of the park. Known as the Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado, Walden’s quaint and historic downtown is dotted with dining options.
Driving an hour further, you’ll find Steamboat Springs tucked behind Medicine Bow, a ski resort with a distinct cowboy culture that delivers adventure year-round. Home to several hot spring pools to relax in while soaking up the views, we’d say this is the perfect place to end a day on the Cache la Poudre.
- Watch out for Colorado’s state mammal – the bighorn sheep – while you’re driving the byway
- There are plenty of spots from where you can see the awesome power of the Cache la Poudre’s rapids
- You can do this drive at any time of year and in any type of vehicle
- You can do the whole thing in three hours. You should take it slow though, and enjoy the view