Colorado’s Scenic and Historic Byways: Colorado River Headwaters

Our series travelling Colorado’s Scenic and Historic Byways continues along the Colorado River Headwaters! As its name suggests, the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic and Historic Byway follows the Colorado River for 80 miles as it transforms from a clear mountain stream into a major river that provides water and power to millions of people.

Cars drive down a paved portion of the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic and Historic Byway towards high mountain peaks covered in snow.
Photo from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The Colorado River Headwaters Scenic and Historic Byway spans over 80 miles in north-central Colorado from Grand Lake to State Bridge, showcasing the breathtaking beauty and rich history of the region. The byway’s Framework for Wayshowing report lists several highlights along the byway, including fishing spots, rafting opportunities, views of the Continental Divide, and great spots for winter sports like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. One notable historical landmark is State Bridge, named for one of the first bridges built by the State of Colorado in 1890. Although it was rebuilt in 1966, visitors can still see the remnants of the original bridge spanning the Colorado River.

The Colorado River Headwaters Byway was designated a National Scenic Byway by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation in 2005, one of 13 in Colorado. Becoming an “America’s Byway” is no small feat – to achieve this recognition, a team must complete a 14-part Corridor Management Plan and demonstrate that the byway meets specific criteria, including cultural, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities that set it apart. The Colorado River Headwaters Byway has done just that!

But the Colorado River Headwaters Byway doesn’t stop at being just an “America’s Byway.” It also holds the distinction of being a Colorado Electric Byway. One of the priorities outlined in the Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan 2020 includes electrifying Colorado’s 26 Scenic and Historic Byways to help visitors appreciate the beauty of Colorado while lowering their environmental impact. Electrified byways must have sufficient charging infrastructure in place to allow travelers to complete the journey, which includes:

  • fast charging stations located at least every 100 miles within the start and terminus of the byway; and
  • a fast charging station available within 15 miles of the start or terminus of the byway if the route is less than 100 miles.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an outdoor adventurer, or an eco-conscious traveler, the Colorado River Headwaters Byway is a must-visit destination!