Colorado River Headwaters Byway


  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2005)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric
  • LocationCO
  • Length69 miles
Byway Visitor Information
Grand County Colorado Tourism Board
Statewide Byway Partners
Downloadable Colorado Byways Guide
Colorado Tourism
Colorado River Headwaters Byway
Jean Landess of Middle Park Times Photo


Dropping 1,700 feet in elevation from end to end, the Colorado River Headwaters Byway follows the Colorado past reservoirs and lush ranchlands, and through narrow canyons flanked by the railroad. Wildlife abounds and access to miles of public land offers year-round recreation and views of mountain landscapes and geology.

Local Byway Partners
  • Care for Colorado Coalition
  • Colorado Byways Map Download

Story of the Byway

Colorado River Headwaters, designated as a National Scenic Byway in 2005, is a stretch of water between Grand Lake and State Bridge that offers world-class fishing, rafting, canoeing, and family recreation. This byway is a Rocky Mountain waterway, situated between lush meadows and red rock gorges, yet known as the source that provides power to the Southwestern United States. The route starts at Grand Lake, an old resort town named after the lake where it resides, and ends in the scenic yet gravelly Upper Gore Canyon. In the winter, Grand Lake transforms into a winter wonderland, offering snowshoeing, skiing, and snowmobiling.

Known as the “Western Gateway,” Grand Lake also connects to the Rocky Mountain National Park, a 415 square mile protected land, with peaks that feature subalpine and alpine areas. The park offers hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, and clear sky views. Relax in Hot Sulphur Springs, the county seat of Grand County, which lends itself to hiking, camping, fishing, or simply soaking in the famous hot sulphur springs in nearby Kremmling. Here there are 23 pools of healing waters. This spectacular byway drops 1,700 feet from top to bottom and reveals endless natural wonders on its decline.

Driving Directions

From Grand Lake, take US-34W for 43 miles to CO Hwy 1, and follow Co Rd 1 for 25 miles until you reach State Bridge.

Points of Interest

  • Rocky Mountain National Park

    Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado spans the Continental Divide and encompasses protected mountains, forests and alpine tundra.

  • Hot Sulphur Springs

    Hot Sulphur Springs is a statutory town and the county seat of Grand County, Colorado.

  • Colorado River Headwaters

    The Colorado River, or Río Colorado, is one of the principal rivers in the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

  • Grand Lake

    Established in 1881, Grand Lake sits at an elevation of 8,369 feet, named after the body of water where it resides, the largest natural body of water in Colorado.


  • A Day in State Bridge

    Located at the base of the Yarmony Mountain on the Colorado River, the small town of State Bridge is a great place to spend a day. First check into a cabin or yurt at the State Bridge Lodge—one of the area’s first structures. Stop in town for a quick bite at one of several bakeries or diners before heading to the river. This section of the Colorado River is ideal for amateur boaters, where you can spend the day relaxing on the water. Head back to the lodge to prepare for a night of live music. A huge deck overlooks the river and hosts national and local talent alike. Settle in for a cozy sleep before continuing west on the Colorado River Headwaters byway.

  • A Detour to Granby

    Day 1
    Starting from the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, head to the small town of Granby for a day of recreation. Check into the many guest ranches, where you can make a plan for your stay. Be sure to reserve a table at one of many local gourmet restaurants, often positioned within the ranches, or book a tee time at one of four golf courses in town. For anglers, set out early for trout and salmon fishing at Fraser Lake.

    Day 2
    Starting from Granby, travel 12 miles west to Hot Sulphur Springs. Start your morning by relaxing in any of 23 pools, followed by a healthy meal at the Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa. Next visit the Pioneer History Museum to view local artifacts and to learn about pioneer life in the area. Continue into the Arapahoe National Forest for year-round recreational activities. Take advantage of camping opportunities within the forest, or return to your ranch in Granby for a leisurely evening.

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