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8 Exciting Destinations in Colorado
The beautiful state of Colorado is characterized by its vast sand dunes, ancient American native ruins, and the splendour of the Rockies. Here are eight interesting destinations to check out in the “Centennial State”
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
5. Bishop Castle
Location: 12705 CO-165, Rye
On a mountainside in central Colorado, a Gothic castle rises unexpectedly into the sky. Its window-pierced walls and tall tower are supported by authentic flying buttresses, like a medieval monument. A dragon’s head, its modern “gargoyle” puffs smoke from a chimney fire, more to greet today’s visitors with cheery warmth than to ward off evil spirits.
For almost 40 years, Jim Bishop has single-handedly gathered and set over 1,000 tons of stone and steel to create his castle, and he’s not finished yet. According to Jim, this one-person construction project, the largest in the nation, is his tribute to the hardworking American Everyman, whose home is their castle. Visitors can explore, an adventure in some places, because the tour continues through wrought-iron platforms high in the rafters.
More info: eagleriverpewter.com/bishop.html; (719) 485-3040
(Pictured: Bishop Castle; Photo by Hugo90 / Flickr Creative Commons)
6. Colorado National Monument
Location: Rim Rock Dr, Fruita
The wild vastness and beauty of this series of canyons and mesas have been preserved, thanks to local Grand Valley residents led by John Otto, a turn-of-the-century maverick who campaigned tirelessly for a national park.
Sculpted by flash floods, freezing and thawing, rainwater and wind over millions of years, the magnificent formations of orange, yellow, and red sandstone can be enjoyed not only by campers and backpackers but also by day visitors. The 23-mile Rim Rock Drive that snakes through the park can be covered on a short outing. The historic road offers excellent vantage points for motorists and bicyclists.
Forty-three miles of long and shorter trails proceed across mesas and zigzag up and down the canyon walls. Golden eagles, turkey vultures, and several hawk species are among the birds that swoop overhead. Spring and fall are the best times for hiking. In the summer heat a hat and a supply of water are essential.
Overnight backpackers are required to register at the visitors centre.
Open year-round. Admission charged.
More info: nps.gov/colm; (970) 858-3617
7. Kit Carson Museum
Location: 302 Park St, Kit Carson
This museum’s name is somewhat misleading. It is not dedicated to the legendary Western hero but rather to the town here that was named after him. In its glory days more than a century ago, Kit Carson was a thriving railhead, a town of Western legend. But little survives from that town, which burned to the ground, and the museum’s collection concentrates on the farming and grazing centre that replaced it.
The museum is housed in a 1904 Union Pacific depot and stationmaster’s house, still furnished with an old-fashioned telephone, a telegraph key, and signal levers. Several displays recreate late-19th-century rooms. There is a small doll collection and another of farm implements.
Among the other diverse items that outline the community’s history are arrowheads and grindstones, a bear trap, branding irons, and a caboose stove.
Open daily Memorial Day to Labor Day.
More info: ourjourney.info; (719) 962-3306
8. Santa Fe Trail
Location: Closely parallels 1-25, CO-350, and US-50
The historic Santa Fe Trail was the main 19th-century route connecting Independence, Missouri, at the eastern end with Santa Fe, New Mexico, at its western terminus. The modern Santa Fe Trail National Scenic Byway roughly follows the old trail’s path. The section of the trail that traverses Colorado is known as the Mountain Branch.
Pioneer William Becknell first cut the trail in 1821. This 184-mile corridor through Colorado and northern New Mexico saw merchants, cattlemen, railroad workers, miners, and eventually settlers ply their goods and work their trades along its way.
Wagon trains carried manufactured goods westward and freshly-mined silver and trapped furs eastward. U.S. troops travelled over it as the invaded New Mexico in 1846. Traffic along the trail shifted to railway cars when the Santa Fe Railroad opened in 1880. Economic development and settlement in the area then progressed even more rapidly.
Today travelers can retrace the journeys of Old West celebrities like Kit Carson along the historic route and view Pike’s Peak from the same vantage point as did explorer Zebulon Pike. Wide bands of wagon ruts across the prairie are still visible.