Scenic Drives of Southern Colorado & New Mexico

Paradise Divide jeep road, two miles south of Schofield Pass and sixteen miles from Crested Butte, Colorado.

Paradise Divide jeep road, two miles south of Schofield Pass and sixteen miles from Crested Butte, Colorado. 

  Scenic drives occur virtually any time you hit the roadway here, unless perhaps you are in the eastern plains of Colorado or New Mexico, but they have their own beauty also. The four wheel drive routes through the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado will challenge even the most skilled driver, while four-wheeling is a tad easier in New Mexico. The paved roads of both states will lead to some of the most haunting beauty of the entire Southwest. Come explore with us!

Scenic Drives- Four Wheel Drive Roads

  Oh my- the scenic drives over the four wheel drive roads in  the rugged San Juan Mountains in Southern Colorado are some of the most spectacular and most dangerous in the nation. Buckle up your seat belts and proceed slowly and cautiously. Speed is a killer here. The San Juan Triangle- Ouray-Telluride-Silverton, is a tangle of jeep roads over incredibly high mountain passes to ghost towns and abandoned mining camps. The Black Bear Pass Road from Red Mountain Pass to Telluride is one of the most spine-tingling rides you will ever take. Equally challenging is the Imogene Pass Road from Ouray to Telluride. Breathe a bit easier on the Engineer Pass Road from Ouray to Lake City and the loop back to Silverton over Cinnamon Pass as there are fewer dramatic drop-offs, but the scenery is no less fantastic. 

Silverton lies in a high valley in the San Juan Mountains with jeep roads extending to Engineer Pass and Stoney Pass.

Silverton lies in a high valley in the San Juan Mountains with jeep roads extending to Engineer Pass and Stoney Pass. 

  Four wheel drive roads in New Mexico are very scenic, but much less hair-raising than their Southern Colorado counterparts. A prime example is Road 120 from Ocate to Black Lake. Ocate is a stark almost-a-ghost-town on the high plains with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains immediately to the west. The four wheel drive road leads steeply into the mountains, before reaching Black Lake where travelers can proceed on a paved road to Angel Fire. Another example is Forest Road 289 from Cochiti Pueblo north to Bandelier National Monument. This rough four wheel drive road is very scenic, but does not generally have steep drop-offs. 

An abandoned building in Ocate at the start of the four wheel drive road leading to Black Lake.

An abandoned building in Ocate at the start of the four wheel drive road leading to Black Lake. 

Scenic Drives- Paved Roads 

  Paved roads provide scenic drives throughout Southern Colorado and New Mexico. One of the most famous is the San Juan Skyway in Southern Colorado, a beautiful loop drive from Durango west to Dolores, north to Telluride, over Dallas Divide to Ridgway, south to Ouray and Silverton, and over Molas Pass back south to Durango. This could be accomplished in one long day drive, but it is so scenic that it's best divided into segments over two or three days. Also in Southern Colorado the drive from Durango east over Wolf Creek Pass to South Fork is stunning. Finishing this eastward drive on Highway 160 from Alamosa over La Veta Pass to Walsenburg will lead to spectacular views of the Spanish Peaks. This area is covered in Mike Butler's book     https://www.amazon.com/Around-Spanish-Peaks-Images-America/dp/0738576247/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Around+The+Spanish+Peaks&qid=1613172395&s=books&sr=1-1

The Spanish Peaks rise in the distance in this view from Old La Veta Pass.

The Spanish Peaks rise in the distance in this view from Old La Veta Pass. 

  Scenic drives on the paved roads of New Mexico will take the traveler to enchanted places- Taos and Santa Fe in the north, and Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces in the south. A beautiful loop drive is the one-day drive over The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway from Taos east to Angel Fire, north to Eagle Nest, and then west to Red River and Questa, before heading south to finish the drive at Taos. Another great one-day loop drive is north from Santa Fe to Los Alamos, west to Jemez Springs, south to Bernalillo, and then north back to Santa Fe. There are so many more wonderful drives... read on!

  The rest of our Scenic Drives section is currently under construction. Please check back often, and come explore with us!

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