Colorado Scenic Byway: Colorado River Headwaters

The Colorado River Headwaters Scenic byway traces one of North America's mightiest rivers to the source. Along the way you'll pass through the yellow-hued Gore Canyon, verdant ranchland and, ultimately, the peaks looming over Grand Lake, where snowmelt forms the Colorado River headwaters.

By: Staff Writer
Updated: March 13, 2024

Heading west to east, the first stop along the byway is the tiny town of State Bridge. A younger crowd is often drawn to this town, and for good reason — a meandering section of the Colorado River flows gently past the town's banks, providing an ideal staging point for amateur boaters. While in town, make sure to check out one of the area's first structures, the State Bridge Lodge. While still living true to its name as a lodge, it is also a major music venue. Take in a show from both nationally acclaimed and local talent from the huge deck that overlooks the Colorado River.

Three national forests are a stone's throw from the town of Kremmling. Routt, White River and Arapaho national forests are ripe with year-round outdoor activities. In addition to three national forests, three rivers also converge near town: the Colorado River, Blue River and Muddy River. This confluence makes trout fishing excellent, so don't forget your gear.

The town of Hot Sulphur Springs is home to ... you guessed it, natural mineral-water hot springs. This small mountain town almost lost its namesake when the springs fell into disrepair. Fortunately, in the 1990s, they were bought, refurbished and reopened. Today, the springs have once again become a favorite place for residents and visitors to relax after a long day.

The small community of Granby is one of the last towns before travelers arrive at the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. This high-mountain community sits at nearly 8,000 feet, and like other towns in the area, finds much of its recreation focused on a body of water. The nearest to town is the alpine-studded Lake Granby, which offers plenty to do on its more than 7,000 acres. If you feel like fishing, try casting a line near the dam to pull in a meal-worthy rainbow trout. When you're back in town, visit one of the local businesses that run expert tours throughout nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.

Situated along the shores of Colorado's largest natural body of water, Grand Lake is home to high-altitude boating and fishing. On its usual crisp, clear mornings, you can watch the sun rise over the ranges in Rocky Mountain National Park, directly east of town. Because of its proximity, Grand Lake is a popular base for trips into the abutting national park. But if you decide to stay in town, a variety of accommodations, shopping and dining options await you.

Distance: 80 miles
Suggested Time: Allow 3 hours

Colorado is home to 26 scenic and historic byways, 13 of which are also federally designated America's Byways. Read about all 26 in our Quick Guide to Colorado's Scenic & Historic Byways; check out our Colorado byways microsite with videos, trip tips and more; or view our virtual Colorado Byways Guide.