Colorado's Scenic Highway of Legends, Silver Thread added as scenic byways

The Centennial State has two new Scenic and Historic Byways to explore.

Called the Scenic Highway of Legends and Silver Thread, the newly designated roads are two of 13 across the state — more than any other in the country — designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as America’s Byways. In total, Colorado has 26 byways, including the ones defined by the state itself.

Already a part of Colorado’s Scenic and Historic Byways, these two roads are now part of the National Scenic Byway System. Both are in southern Colorado.

“These new designations are a tribute to this great state and characterize the breadth of its beautiful landscapes, history and culture,” said Shoshana Lew, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation. “In addition to providing new and exciting adventures for travelers, our Scenic and Historic Byways help protect these much-valued areas of Colorado.”

RELATED: 6 beautiful Colorado highways that are great for summer road trips

They also bring money to sometimes far-flung parts of the state. The most recent CDOT analysis shows byways have a cumulative statewide economic impact of nearly $4.8 billion over six years. The Scenic Highway of Legends provided almost $180 million in economic benefit and the Silver Thread more than $67 million, according to CDOT. 

“What a remarkable nod to our state’s timeless beauty and a well-deserved recognition for the efforts of Colorado citizens to share it with everyone,” said Nathan Boyless, chair of Colorado’s Scenic and Historic Byways Commission. “The open road beckons, scenic travels!”

The Scenic Highway of Legends is an 82-mile route along Colorado Highway 12 and U.S. Highway 160. It features the Spanish Peaks and connects Trinidad, La Veta, Walsenburg and Aguilar.

 “Enjoy the dramatic settings that have inspired tall tales among Native American nomads, Spanish explorers, and Anglo and Hispanic settlers for hundreds of years,” CDOT says of the road. “From the impenetrable heights of the Sangre de Cristos and Spanish Peaks to the ominous redrock abutments of the Dakota Wall and the Devil’s Stairsteps, this land is truly larger than life”

Silver Thread is a 117-mile route along Colorado Highway 149 and U.S. Highway 50. It trucks through the San Juan Mountains linking South Fork, Creede, Lake City and Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison.

“The colorful old mining camps of the Silver Thread byway offer history, scenic beauty, and a heavy dose of authenticity,” CDOT notes. “The heights around Creede and Lake City remain strewn with abandoned mining structures, most of them accessible via rugged backcountry roads.”

This part of the mountains, CDOT notes, can be “unforgiving.”

“In 1848, explorer John C. Fremont lost a third of his men — and a quarter of a century later, the infamous Alferd Packer cannibalized his companions — in two ill-fated winter expeditions,” according to the release. 

CDOT established the Scenic and Historic Byways program in 1989. It supports the state’s 26 byways, two All-American Roads, 10 National Forest Scenic Byways and two Bureau of Land Management Backcountry Byways. The Colorado system comprises nearly 2,600 miles of roadway through 48 of the state’s 64 counties.

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