Colorado's Highway of Legends Scenic and Historic Byway is the perfect detour for those exploring southern Colorado. If time is on your side and you’re driving south on I-25 to New Mexico, skip the interstate stretch from Walsenburg to Trinidad and take the road less traveled — the Highway of Legends.
The lore of this area is vivid, swirling in the spiritual myths of the American Indians and the history of their clashes with Spanish explorers. Like much of Colorado, where the promises of fortune led, trouble followed and tales of outlaws “settling their differences” are common.
• Start by taking U.S. Hwy. 160 west from Walsenburg and branch off on Colorado Hwy. 12 to La Veta. Along this stretch of two-lane highway, you can view unusual volcanic formations radiating outward from the Spanish Peaks. The highway rises to Cuchara Pass on the shoulder of the Spanish Peaks. The Tarahumare Indians held these summits as sacred and believed that all life on earth originated from the area. Below the pass is the glorious Cuchara Valley, a hidden wonderland even most Coloradoans have failed to notice.
• Meandering through ranchland and forest, Hwy. 12 eventually leads to Cokedale, a National Historic District. Here you’ll find the surreal sight of what looks like is from the Roman Empire. These arching alcoves are actually the remnants of what used to be coke ovens used for smelting coal from the nearby mine.
• Back on the highway, drive just a short distance to Trinidad, where the town’s Victorian architecture preserves a civilized slice of southern Colorado’s rough-and-tumble past.
Total Distance: 82 miles
Suggested Time: 2 hours
Colorado is home to 26 Scenic and Historic Byways, 11 of which are also federally designated America's Byways. Read about all 26 in our Quick Guide to Colorado's Scenic & Historic Byways or view our virtual Colorado Byways Guide. You can also visit the Colorado Department of Transportation's Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways site.
Photos: Lake Trinidad, the ovens of Cokedale, Spanish Peaks rise above La Veta.