Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway
Looking towards Westcliffe and the Sangres
This old frontier zone marks the intersection of Native American, Spanish, French and American territories. First were the Utes, then the European explorers, then traders, trappers, homesteaders, ranchers, and prospectors came through and left their marks on the land. Historic buildings from mining operations, Victorian towns and long lost cattle empires line the route. And the snow-capped mountains, carpeted meadows, jagged canyons, and aspen-covered hillsides have not changed. No Colorado vacation would be complete without a drive and a few stops along this beautiful and historic Scenic Byway.
Most folks start the drive out of Pueblo. I usually begin at Westcliffe. From Westcliffe I take State Highway 96 east, towards Pueblo. I usually just go as far as McKenzie Junction in Hardscrabble Canyon (the photo on the right) and then turn right and take State Highway 165 to Rye and Colorado City. It's a beautiful drive through forested mountain countryside. Some great rock formations, nice meadows, good views.
At Ophir Creek there's a hairpin turn in the paved road. In the middle of the turn there is a dirt road leading westward to Ophir Campground, Deer Mountain and the Greenhorn Mountain Road. Just south of Ophir Creek is Bishop's Castle. The road is excellent and, if anything, is too short. Shortly after Bishop's Castle the road passes by Lake Isabel and then leads out onto the flatter grassy slopes of Rye and then down the Greenhorn Canyon to Colorado City and the I-25.
The drive from Pueblo to Wetmore takes you out of the high plains climate zone and into the low montane zone. This is seen by the effects of the increase in precipitation: the grasses and cacti give way to the junipers and pinons of the foothills. There are several ranches along the way that qualify as Centennial Ranches: they've been held by the same family for over 100 years. When they look like this, it's easy to see why the original homesteader's descendants have not moved on.
To see more of the journey take a look at: Wetmore to McKenzie Junction and McKenzie Junction to Colorado City. Then there's the section of road from McKenzie Junction to Westcliffe and that gorgeous stretch from Westcliffe to Gardner.
Farley Ranch, just west of Wetmore
Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway area map