I suppose that when one arrives in a new city, the natural tendency is to get out in it and explore. And normally, that is exactly what we do. But Denver is different. It is situated temptingly close to the snow-tipped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. For people like Jay and me, who would choose The Great Outdoors over the urban experience any day, the pull to explore the rugged natural world was just too great. We spent most of our free time while we were in Denver exploring the neighboring mountains that dominated our view to the west.
The Peak to Peak Scenic Byway was our first foray into the Front Range of the Rockies. The byway begins at Central City and Blackhawk and winds its way 55 miles through Indian Peaks Wilderness and Roosevelt National Forest on Rts. 119, 71, and 7. It ends in postcard-perfect Estes Park, the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. We didn’t have time to drive the entire byway so we grabbed Rt. 119 in Boulder and then joined Rt. 72 at Nederland, a small mountain town know for its festivals: Frozen Dead Guy Days in March, which we missed by a few days and Nedfest, a music and arts festival held in August.
Rt. 119 from Boulder is also appropriately named Canyon Boulevard. It winds through a small rugged canyon which surprised me with its intimate beauty. Unfortunately, I was too busy enjoying the surroundings to take any photos, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Once on Rt. 72 and then Rt. 7, the scenery becomes even more amazing…
[ The orange plow was stuck up to its axles in snow ]
[ Mount Meeker ]
[ The Chapel on the Rock (also called St. Catherine’s of Siena Chapel) with Mount Meeker in the Background ]
[ Lily Lake, part of Rocky Mountain National Park that can be easily accessed from Rte. 7 ]
[ Heading into Estes Park, Colorado ]
[ The Stanley Hotel is considered to be one of the most haunted places in the United States and was part of the inspiration behind the book The Shining by Stephen King. It doesn’t look very scary, does it? ]
For us, The Peak to Peak Scenic Byway was a perfect introduction to the Rocky Mountains. My only regrets are that we didn’t have more time or the appropriate gear to do more exploring outside of the car.