1. Trail-Ridge Road-Rocky Mountain National Park
Location: Estes Park
With more than eight miles lying above 11,000 feet and a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet, this scenic route, which crosses the U.S. Continental Divide, is the highest continuous paved road in the nation.
Cutting through Rocky Mountain National Park, it provides a spectacular view of majestic mountain peaks, deep gorges, and rocky cliffs. In spring and summer fields of alpine wildflowers appear on the tundra above the timber line; vibrant fall colours contrast with pine trees bordering rocky outcroppings and dark-shadowed lakes. Wildlife abounds throughout the year. There is always a chance sighting of moose or bighorn sheep, or spotting smaller denizens of the forests in river valleys near the highway. Clean air and quiet stillness are bonus attractions, along with the park’s excellent recreational facilities.
Open Memorial Day to mid-October; park open year-round. Admission charged.
More info: nps.gov/romo; (970) 586-1206
(Pictured: A view of Rocky Mountain National Park)
2. Colorado Railroad Museum
Location: 17155 W 44th Ave, Holden
Railroad buffs can experience a nostalgic trip back in time at the Colorado Railroad Museum. Established in 1959 to preserve Colorado’s pioneering mountain railroads, this museum has the largest collection of narrow-gauge rolling stock in the Rocky Mountain West, with more than 100 locomotives and railcars.
On the museum’s 15 acres are the Museum Depot, a replica of an 1880s railroad depot, with exhibits about Colorado’s colourful railroad history; tracks with historic railcars; and the circular Cornelius Hauck Roundhouse, a modern facility that restores locomotives but is designed to look like a 1900s roundhouse. Outside there is a working Armstrong turntable, enabling one man to rotate a locomotive by pushing a pole. You can climb aboard locomotives, passenger cars, and cabooses.
Open daily year-round except holidays. Admission charged.
More info: http://www.coloradorailroadmuseum.org/; (800) 365-6263; (303) 279-4591
3. Tower Museum
Location: 30121 Frontage Rd, Genoa
One of the first things a visitor to this offbeat 22-room museum encounters is a puzzling array of some 20,000 artifacts. Anyone who can identify 10 in a row gets an admission refund. Few people today, however, can recognize such items as a buggy-whip holder, a buffalo cud, and a magician’s knife. But it is fun to try, and it is a good introduction to the truly eccentric nature of the collection.
The 75-foot wooden tower and the sprawling complex of rock rooms at its base are the brainchild of C.W. Gregory, sometimes known as Colorado’s P.T. Barnum. He put up the tall structure to attract visitors and dubbed it the World’s Wonder View Tower. It offers a spectacular view extending into six states on a clear day.
The museum’s chief attractions, however, are its collection of archaeological materials, antique items, and oddities. These include 75,000-year-old Native American buffalo bones, 20,000 Native American arrowheads, 1,000 paintings by the Native American princess Ravenwing, and collections of old firearms.
Open year-round. Admission charged.
More info: (719) 763-2309
4. Dinosaur Journey
Location: 550 Jrassic Ct, Fruita
More than 140 million years ago, colossal creatures thrived on the warm, humid plains of what is now the American West. Over time, however, these humungous beasts were trapped and buried under many layers of sedimentary rock, but their bones have survived as fossils.
Today Fruita, a glowing carat in the “Dinosaur Diamond” of western Colorado and northeastern Utah, is world famous for its wealthof dinosaur excavation sites.
Just 30 miles northwest of downtown Grand Junction, off I-70, explorers can find their way to Dinosaur Journey. Visitors can view the genuine bones of a stegosaurus, allosaurus, and other long-extinct species and tour a working paleontology laboratory where scientists are restoring fossils.
The adventure continues out on the nearby dinosaur trails. Riggs Hill, a mile-long trail, marks the site of the world’s first brachiosaurus. Dinosaur Hill, a half-mile trail, boasts the quarry of the 70-foot-long apatosaurus. The Trail Through Time, about 17 miles outside of Fruita within Rabbit Valley Research Natural Area, features a camarasaurus skeleton and a glimpse of quarry in action. For those who are dinosaur enthusiasts or for those who are simply more curious (and adventuresome), there is a five-day expedition, providing a crash course in geology and hands-on excavation experience. You can sign-up at the museum or call (888) 488-DINO.
Open year-round. Admission charged.
More info: dinosaurjourney.org; (970) 858-7282