South Platte River Trail

Take a sunrise or sunset ride on the shortest of Colorado's byways, the South Platte River Trail. The crisp light shows the vibrancy of the prairie and the South Platte River, with the river corridor particularly colorful in autumn.

By: Staff Writer
Updated: March 14, 2024

• This scenic byway, while the shortest in the state, packs a wallop for those who enjoy the true grit of Western history. It's a 19-mile loop that takes you through everything from Colorado's only Pony Express station (in Julesburg) to the Lincoln Highway — the first coast-to-coast car route in the nation.

• History buffs will enjoy the site of what was once Fort Sedgwick in Ovid — an important post established in 1864, and constructed for the protection of early telegraph lines and pioneers bound for the "untamed West." 

• Ovid found its niche in Colorado industry as a sugar-beet-producing burg established in the early 1880s. Sugar production isn't what it once was there, but a small steam engine once used to transport it has been fully restored and put on display in the town's park.

• Informative placards are found throughout the route to provide additional insight into the area's storied history. And stop into the Colorado Welcome Center in Julesburg for Colorado travel tips and vacation ideas. Nearby South Platte River access offers a chance to dip your toes in the water, and sharp-eyed visitors may be able to spot a bald eagle, waterflow, deer or antelope in this riparian environment.

The History: Since it was located en route to the mining towns, Julesburg is naturally rich with history. Move from historic marker to historic marker to learn about the Transcontinental Railroad, the Pony Express and Fort Sedgwick. 

Distance: 19 miles
Suggested Time: Allow 1 hour 

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 new Colorado byways microsite with videos, trip tips and more; or view our virtual Colorado Byways Guide.