Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway

Quick Facts

Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway

Colorado

(719) 486-4118

Map Directions

Things To Do

     

Overview

With altitudes rarely falling below 9,000 feet, Top of the Rockies is worthy of its name. Travelers cross the 10,424-foot Tennessee Pass en route to the booming mining town of Leadville, the highest incorporated community in the U.S. This historic town is the ideal resting place for mining buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Leadville's history is spiced with stories of real people who made, and lost, fortunes. Andrew Carnegie, Susan B. Anthony, Doc Holliday, and the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown are just a few of the characters who crowd its past. With 70 acres of Landmark District brimming with Victorian charm and architecture, it's no wonder Leadville is one of the ten Prettiest Painted Places in America. Admire Colorado's heritage at the National Mining Hall of Fame, or brave the nearby ghost towns of Lake County. As you explore this 75-mile route of towering peaks and broad valleys, keep your eyes peeled. Sharp eyes may spot robust wildlife, like the agile Big Horn Sheep, among the rocks. Slashes of gold, red, blue, and white wildflowers adorn the snowy mountainside each spring. Nestled at the foot of Mt. Elbert, the Twin Lakes area bursts with picture-perfect views of soaring peaks and lavish foliage around the state's largest glaciated lake. More physically adventurous travelers can choose from four-wheeling, mountain biking, horseback riding, or hiking on Colorado's highest mountains, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, both reaching over 14,400 feet. The national forests surrounding Leadville is a mecca for other outdoor activities such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing, fishing, golf, and more. Natural beauty and rich history are showcased perfectly in this living landscape. The GPS points to Fremont Pass.

Map of Top of the Rockies Scenic & Byway

Latitude, Longitude: 39.366057, -106.186200

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Activities

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Best Time to Drive is from late May to October, against a backdrop of vast snowcapped peaks, visitors conquer the "Top of the Rockies" as they cross the Continental Divide. Byway visitors attracted by the spectacular fall colors may experience higher traffic in September at the height of the annual fall color change. Summer is a pleasant time to drive the byway; it's filled with cool temperatures, thick stands of pine trees, shining mountain lakes, and numerous activities in Leadville.

  • Camping

    There are a variety of campgrounds along the byway, including many around the Leadville area, Twin Lakes, and Turquoise Lake.

  • Historic Sites

    There are many historical sites worth visiting along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway. Some of these include Camp Hale Memorial and Historic Interpretive Site, National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, the Tabor Opera House, and the Annunciation Church.

Seasonality/Weather

This state-maintained paved road climbs from 8,000 feet to over 11,300 feet above sea level where snowfall can exceed 360 inches per year. Under these conditions you might expect significant accessibility limitations, but actually the roads are hardly ever closed. The only part that usually closes is the Vail Pass segment of I-70. When this happens, you can bypass it by taking State Highways 24 and 91, which does take a little more time to travel. Highway 82, the Independence Pass Road between Twin Lakes and Aspen, is closed during the winter months at a point some 5 miles beyond the southwestern terminus of the byway. This segment is open from Memorial Day weekend to when snow falls in late October or early November. Signs along the pass indicate if the road is open. Due to the amount of snowfall along the byway, use normal winter precautions when traveling this route. Most facilities remain open year-round, with the exception of some of the pullouts and displays located at higher elevations. They disappear under plow-caused snow banks.

Directions

Driving

From Denver, CO: Travel west on I-70 to the Copper Mountain exit at the intersection of I-70 and CO-91 (Milepost 195). Exit at Copper Mountain and travel south on CO-91, the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway.

This byway branches out in three directions from Leadville. To reach Eagle's Nest Wilderness Area, from Leadville take CO-91 north past Copper Mountain Ski Resort to the border of Eagle's Nest Wilderness Area, where this leg of the byway ends.

To reach I-70, from Leadville take on US-24 north to Minturn. Continue north on US-24 to I-70 where this leg of the byway ends.

To reach Aspen, from Leadville, travel south on US-24 and turn west on CO-82 (Independence Pass Road). This road takes you just past Aspen to Maroon Creek Bridge, where this segment of the byway ends.

Flying

Located within a two-hour drive of Denver,CO.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(719) 486-4118

Links