Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (1998)
- Intrinsic QualitiesScenic
- Length103 miles
Mirroring the paths of Zebulon Pike, Charles Goodnight, Juan Bautista de Anza, Arthur Carhart, and Cuerno Verde, Frontier Pathways showcases rugged mountains, carpets of wildflowers, piñon-dotted foothills, and clusters of golden aspen. Visitors can experience the Sangre de Cristo Mountains -- 22 peaks over 13,000 feet.
Story of the Byway
A tour of the Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway is like taking a trip back to the Old West. This area, full of high-country ranches and serene meadows, was once filled with American Indians, explorers, trappers, traders, settlers, miners and farmers. This roadway is also known for hosting the first auto recreation in a National Forest, as well as serving as the first settlements, colonies, and churches in the state. The Utes, Arapaho, Comanche and Cheyenne traveled the pathways that would later be claimed by explorers. France and Spain declared the land, as did the first American explorer, Zebulon Montgomery Pike. An abundance of beavers drew trappers and traders, who connected with native tribes and the settlers in Taos and Santa Fe—both part of New Spain at the time. The Arkansas River acted as the Spanish Border, which later became Mexico in 1821, until the Mexican American War (1846-1848).
Starting at an elevation of 4,600 ft and climbing to 9,400 ft, the route offers close-up views of surrounding peaks. It begins in Pueblo ascending to the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, through San Isabel National Forest, the Wet Mountains to Colorado City. In the spring and summer, the meadows are full of flowers, teaming with golden aspens in the fall; pronghorn graze the land year round. Winters invite cross-country skiers and snowmobilers to a snowy mountain setting. The byway is shaped like a wishbone—103 miles on a paved 2-lane highway.
Among highlights of the route is the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, a popular location for whitewater rafting and kayaking on the Arkansas River. San Isabel National Forest contains 19 of the state’s 53 fourteeners and includes the highest point in Colorado—Mount Elbert. Visitors can take heritage tours of the route, learning about cowboys, farms, a bridge and a castle. The Royal Gorge Bridge spans a half-mile across the gorge, with the Arkansas River roaring below. Bishop Castle serves as a fascinating medieval artifact. In South Pueblo, visit the rural site of the Charles Goodnight Barn, home of the famous cattle baron who invented the iconic chuck wagon. The byway is an easy destination for hiking, biking, kayaking and bird watching, with areas for fishing, rock climbing, and backpacking.
From Pueblo, take CO-96W for 54 miles to Westcliffe.
Points of Interest
Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area
The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area is one of the United States' most popular locations for whitewater rafting and kayaking on the Arkansas River.
Lake Pueblo State Park
Lake Pueblo State Park is a state park located in Pueblo County, Colorado.
Lake Beckwith State Wildlife Area
The 70-acre lake is operated in conjunction with the Colorado City Metro District and the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
San Isabel National Forest
San Isabel National Forest is located in central Colorado and contains 19 of the state's 53 fourteeners, peaks over 14,000 feet high, including Mount Elbert, the highest point in Colorado.
Camping Near a Castle
Starting in South Pueblo, this day begins at the rural site of the Charles Goodnight Barn. This barn is the home of the famous cattle baron, who was known for the iconic chuck wagon and famous American cattle drives. Continue to Westcliffe, a mountain valley town surrounded by 23 peaks, where you can witness high-valley cattle ranching. Stop for lunch at Music Meadows Ranch before reaching Bishop Castle, a 160-foot tall structure replete with a fire-breathing dragon. Set up camp in nearby San Isabel National Forest, or return to Pueblo where you can continue your drive along the byway.
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