Though the passage is stunning in summer and spring, the fall foliage is when the byway is covered in gorgeous oranges, reds and yellows.
This byway only requires 2WD drive, but the route is half gravel road, half state highway; check latest road conditions here.
Plan ahead if you are staying the night; Julesburg and Ovid have limited accommodations.
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 being particularly colorful in autumn.
While this byway is the shortest in the state, it 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 near Julesburg to the Lincoln Highway — the first coast-to-coast car route in the nation.
History lovers will appreciate the site of what was once Fort Sedgwick in Ovid — an important military post settled in 1864, and constructed for the protection of early telegraph lines and pioneers bound for the “untamed West.”
Ovid, just a few miles from Julesburg on the South Platte River Trail, found its niche in Colorado industry as a sugar-beet-producing town established in the early 1880s. Sugar-beet production isn’t what it once was, but a small steam engine once used to transport them has been fully restored and put on display in the town’s park.
Informative placards are found throughout the journey to provide additional insight into the area’s storied history. And stop at the Colorado Welcome Center in Julesburg for Colorado travel tips and vacation ideas.
Stroll through the charming downtown of Julesburg and catch a show at the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties-listed Hippodrome Arts Centre, a 1919 theater that still shows movies and provides accessible arts and culture. Grab an apple turnover at D&J Cafe before turning in for the night.
The nearby South Platte River access offers a chance to dip your toes in the water or cast a line, and sharp-eyed visitors may be able to spot wildlife like bald eagles, waterfowl, deer or antelope in this riparian environment.
Continue your outdoor pursuits at Jumbo (Julesburg) Reservoir State Wildlife Area for dove, pheasant, rabbit and waterfowl hunting, fishing, camping and boating. Make sure you stay for the sunset, which stretches out across the open plain’s sky.
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.
Then head into The Depot Museum, housed in a retired Union Pacific Railroad Company depot building, to learn even more about the railroad’s influence on the area. The Fort Sedgwick Museum features relics and artifacts that contribute to the town’s history.
An hour southwest of Julesburg, Sterling has the Overland Trail Museum, named for the trail which brought the first pioneers to the area.