Scenic Highway of Legends
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2021)
- Intrinsic QualitiesNatural
- Length82 miles
This byway connects several southern Colorado towns and areas steeped in frontier legend and folklore. A detour from Walsenburg to Trinidad, this scenic drive reveals spiritual myths of American Indians and tales of outlaws looking for fortune or fame. This byway is an ideal diversion on your way to New Mexico.
Story of the Byway
The Spanish Peaks, a pair of prominent mountains, or geologic “stocks”, are the centerpiece and theme of the Scenic Highway of Legends. They rise up like an enormous fortress giving these twin peaks the illusion that they are considerably higher than the 13,626-foot elevation. The Ute, Comanche, and Apache tribes considered these profoundly undisturbed landmarks to be the abode of the gods. Spanish and French trappers, gold seekers, hunters, settlers, and the U.S. military used them as a reference point as they traveled the Santa Fe Trail. Among the most unusual features of the Spanish Peaks are the great dikes radiating out from the mountains like spokes of a wheel. The roadway features natural attractions such as San Isabel National Forest, Spanish Peaks Wilderness, Four Colorado State Wildlife Areas, the Gap at Stonewall, and Goemmer's Butte. The Scenic Highway of Legends marks a crossroads of cultures, where diverse peoples have responded to the land’s power and beauty by protecting its intrinsic qualities. Travelers driving the road today are astonished by how profoundly undisturbed this land remains. This natural beauty evokes inexplicable feelings, like the mysteries and the legends told along the Scenic Highway of Legends.
From Walsenburg, take US-160 W turning south onto CO-12 for 28 miles to Cuchara. Continue on CO-12 for 64 miles to Trinidad.
Points of Interest
Spanish Peaks Wilderness
The Spanish Peaks, or Los Cumbres Espanolos, are prominent landmarks along the eastern front of the southern Rockies.
Gap at Stonewall
Also known as Stonewall Gap, Stonewall is a small unincorporated mountain town located at 7,830 feet in southern Colorado.
Goemmer Butte is a small plug situated near La Veta, Colorado, in the Cuchara Valley
An Overnight with Legends
Starting in La Junta, pack a light breakfast and head to Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site to learn about the fur trade along this mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail. Return to town for a hearty ranch lunch before heading out again to hike to the Sierra Vista Overlook. Return to La Junta for rest and relaxation before continuing your tour of legends.
Grab a coffee before heading out on the Santa Fe Trail. This route will tell tales of “Wild” Bill Hickock, frontiersman Kit Carson, explorer Zebulon Pike, and more. Continue toward Trinidad, where you can set up camp at Trinidad Lake State Park. In the morning, go for a hike at Wormhole Loop Trail before continuing onward or heading home.
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